Friday, January 26, 2018

The Monkey House (Book #3 in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series) by Boyd Taylor

Check out my review of other books in this series!
Synopsis - 

This, the third Donnie Ray Cuinn book, pits Donnie against the old friends and new enemies guilty of land fraud and corporate greed. Donnie returns to Austin from his law practice in the Texas Panhandle to confront All-American football player Wesley Bird, his former best friend. In the company of beautiful, athletic Anna Kaye Nordstrom, Donnie experiences the "new" Austin of glitzy condos, trendy restaurants and social media. He also revisits the "old" Austin of barbecue, power politics and greens versus developers. Donnie finds that not much has changed.  

Review - 

While his foster mother Lena is gone, I love that book three in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series re-introduces us to his beloved "Papa" and his birth mother. Donnie is still happily living and running a law practice in the Texas Panhandle

Development is the driving force of this book's plot. The land across from the retirement center where his "Papa" and birth mother live formerly housed a lab where experiments were carried on out monkeys. With the lab closed because of public opinion, land developers were eager to create more condos and retail space. Residents wanted an open park where people could stroll and relax. "Papa" was leading the fight.

Danny is also lured back to Austin when he finds out his former friend - All-American football player Wesley Bird - has sweet talked Papa and his mother into investing most of their savings in a land development scheme without having him check the contract. It looks like the development has fallen through and the money's gone. Unfortunately Papa has also encourage many in his retirement community to do the same.

As Donnie moves through a twisted maze of hidden motives and backroom deals, he reconnects with a former lover - Anna Nordstrom - and explores the old Austin of his young along with the new Austin that is emerging.  Highs, lows and a bit of humor blend together in this tale of intrigue. Will Donnie find a way to get everyone's money back?  You'll have to read to find out.

Buy the Books: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Add to Goodreads

Meet The Author -

Check out a fab behind the scenes interview HERE!


BOYD TAYLOR lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and their Havanese dog Toby. Necessities is the fourth novel in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series. In a former life, Boyd was a lawyer and a corporate officer. A native of Temple, Texas, he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in government and an LL.B. from the law school.

Boyd's first novel "Hero" was prescient in its story about fake news. His second novel, "The Antelope Play," dealt with drug trafficking in the Texas Panhandle, an unfortunately accurate forecast. The third, "The Monkey House", involved commercial development of a large green space in the center of Austin, all too familiar to Austin residents. Whether his upcoming novel "Necessities" predicts future events with the accuracy of the earlier books remains to be seen.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook


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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Science of Cocktails - Celebrate the Science of Mixology (Media Preview)


2018 Media Preview Photos by Christopher Guy, Instagram - @picturelisten
Science of Cocktails 2017 Photos from the Science World Website.
Showcase Restaurant Image from their website.

Before I start I want to say - if you like cocktails and have never been to the Science of Cocktails main event, you need to go.  It's wonderful. I've attended three years in a row and have always been amazed by the creativity of the drinks and the food.  One surprise last year - a margarita served 3 ways: traditional, in jelly beans and turned into a steam that you inhaled.


On February 8, 2018, Science World will be filled with over 25 stations offering unique science-inspired cocktails created by award winning bartenders (mixologists).  Others will offer unique hors d’oeuvres prepared by locally renowned chefs, amazing science demonstrations and intriguing hand-on activities.


Attendees can also give themselves a pat on the back for doing something for the community. Science of Cocktails is a fundraiser created when the facility lost their government funding for their underfunded schools program. By attending this event, you'll be helping to send thousands of kids from underserved schools so Science World on class field trips. Each class bursary includes bus transportation, admission and a take home activity. Last year over 8,000 students participated and they hope to increase that number this year. And don't forget, general ticket holders receive a $50 tax receipt and VIP ticket holders receive a $150 receipt.


If you can afford to - I highly suggest getting a VIP ticket. Why?
  • You arrive to complimentary valet parking
  • You enter an hour earlier than the general ticket holder which means no long lineups at the stations.
  • You will receive a special themed take-away gift.
Tickets for Science of Cocktails 2018 are available HERE!

= = = = 

NOW TO THE MEDIA PREVIEW

At the media preview we were treated to a mini-version of the main event.  Held in Marriott Hotel Pinnacle's beautiful Showcase Restaurant & Bar in Coal Harbour, you could feel the excitement on entering. The energy was high and there was a definite buzz going on.  Photos were being snapped, interviews conducted, questions asked, drinks sipped and canapes consumed. Everyone was smiling.

I started at one end and worked my way round in a circle, stopping at each station - 4 cocktail, 3 food, 1 challenge, 1 demonstration and 1 hands on activity (oops, forgot to explore this one).  What I loved was that the professional in charge of each station was ready and willing to either talk about their creation in depth or explain what their challenge/demo/handson was about.  I was seriously impressed with everyone, but want to make a few awards here.

My favourite cocktail by taste (really close as they were all amazing) - Southern Ginger Belle.                         Loved the hints of citrus and ginger.
My favourite food - ‘Char Sui’ pork rillettes, recipe below. I stood talking to the chef at this table                     for quite awhile and snuck back for seconds. Fabulous!
My favourite story - At the Yuzu Sake-Tini cocktail station. Hearing the concept and all the science                 behind the creation of this drink had my rapt attention for a full 10 minutes. Bravo.

COCKTAILS

1. Guatemala Colada
| Liquor: Ron Zacapa

Bartender: Grant Sceney
Presented by Diageo
Concept: Soluble Ingredients Oils & Alcohol (Using fats /oils to make a cocktail)
50 ml Ron Zacapa rum with coconut oil
22 ml Maillard Pineapple Cordial
22 ml citric acid and lactic acid solution
Stirred, served neat

2.Yuzu Sake-Tini | Brand: Prime Vodka 
Bartender: Diana Claxton (Showcase Restaurant & Bar) with JS Dupuis (Tableau)
Presented by Showcase Restaurant & Bar
Concept: Molecular Caviar Pearls
Edible caviar flavor using Calcium Bath & Molecular Mixology
1oz Prime vodka
1oz Sake
1/2oz simple syrup
1g citric acid
Yuzu + sodium alginate pearls (in calcium bath)

3. Southern Ginger Belle | Brand: Southern Comfort 
Bartender: Brice Peressini (The Victor, Parq Vancouver) & Andrea Civettini (Clough Club) 
Presented by Charton Hobbs: Top Shelf Bar Club
Concept - Shake it til you make it! Shaker Challenge See below!
60ml Southern Comfort
30ml Lemon juice
5ml ginger juice
5ml simple syrup
1 spoon Orange Marmalade

4. Cocktail: Old Fashioned | Brand: Remy Martin
Concept: Laminar Jet Streamed Cocktail
Bartender: Gez McAlpine (Bruichladdich) & Cam Brown (Clough Club)
Presented by Makerlabs
Cocktail will be served using a Laminar Jet at the main event Feb. 8th
2oz Remy Martin
1 Sugar cube
2 Dash bitters
Water
Raisin garnish

FOOD

1. ‘Char Sui’ pork rillettes, yuzu pearls, miso sesame emulsion, rice cracker, togarashi, perilla leaf.
Chef: Jesse Hochhausen. Recipe below!


Presented by Showcase Restaurant & Bar
Char Sui BBQ flavoured pork rillettes, yuzu juice thickened with agar agar to appear like pearls or row. Miso and sesame emulsion, fried rice cracker, togarashi spice blend and wild sesame leaf (also known as perilla leaf) which is quick frozen and mulled with liquid nitrogen.

2. Pink Flower Roll

Chef: Takayuki Sato
Presented by Hapa Izakaya
Sushi rice, asparagus, Albacore Tuna, fried egg, topped with beet juice dye, white radish & shiso leaves

3. Chilled Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail

Chef: Kyle Baker
Presented by The Keg
Chilled jumbo shrimp served with a martini cocktail sauce

CHALLENGE

Drink station #3 offered the Shake It Til You Break It! Cocktail Shaker Challenge. "See if you have the strength and speed to be a professional bartender using sensor technology to track how fast you can accelerate a classic cocktail shaker."


You were given a cocktail shaker with a sensor attached that transmitted your numbers to an iPad.  The muscled guy before me received a score of 120 and I was determined to figure out a way to beat him. I held the shaker in front of me, holding it with both hands to split the work instead of in one had as he had.  I didn't quite beat him, but got close. My score was 115.  After you were given a shaker filled with the ingredients for the cocktail at that station and created your own with a few simples shakes. 

SCIENCE

Ping Pong Cannon - "Witness the awesome power of air pressure as an ordinary ping pong ball is accelerated to over 700km/h – fast enough to puncture straight through the side of an aluminum beer can."


About every 5-10 minutes there would be a loud bang that rang through the restaurant. It was from the ping pong canon.  You had super long clear tube with a compressor at one end and a see-through vessel at the other. At the compressor end they'd drop in a ping pong ball. In the clear container they'd put an empty pop can.  BANG - the relatively fragile ping pong ball would should down the tube and blow the soda can apart. 

They were using air to push the ball down the tube, but not in the way I assumed. I thought the compressor was building up air behind the ball and then pushing it forward. Nope, they sucked all the air out of the tube, then opened the seal on the end the ball was in. The air rushing in from the outside drove it down the tube at 700 KM/H. WOW

HANDS ON

Tinkering ‘Tinker-Bling’ (bow tie, necklace) - "Craft yourself a light up LED necklace or bow tie by creating your own custom circuit."


I apologize in that I didn't stop by and create my own Tinker-Bling, but as you can see from the images, most of the attendees dove right in and what they created was a lot of fun. 

RECIPE - 

‘Char Sui’ pork rillettes with yuzu pearls, miso sesame emulsion, rice cracker, togarashi, perilla leaf by Chef Jesse Hochhausen


The Antelope Play (Book #2 in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series) by Boyd Taylor

Check out my review of other books in this series!
  • Hero
  • The Monkey House - Review coming Jan. 26th
  • Necessities - Review coming Feb. 8th
Synopsis - 

When Austin native Donnie Cuinn accepts a job as an associate in a Texas Panhandle law firm, his boredom and disdain for Velda, a sleepy Texas town, is forgotten when he gets caught up in a struggle over water rights, possible radioactive contamination of the nation's largest underground fresh water supply, and the violence of an invading Mexican drug cartel. Along the way, Donnie learns to respect the local rancher, whose brother is at the center of the troubles, and to come to terms with the violent death of his young Mexican wife.

Review - 

The opening of book two really turned left for me.

At the close of book 1, Hero, Donnie Cuinn was a recently graduated historian headed off to Mexico to do research and to try to win back the heart of his lovely Cecelia. I assumed book two would his cover adventures there. Not so. Donnie has instead returned to the U.S., earned a law degree from a low end school and is working at his first job in the small town of Velda, Texas.  Didn't see that coming. Why the change of direction?  The answer is slowly revealed in small bites throughout The Antelope Play.

Donnie is obviously depressed about the turn his life has taken and that affects his attitude at work. It isn't long before he is canned from his job. Instead of returning home to Austin in shame, he moves to an even smaller town and opens his own practice, something that quickly puts him at odds with his former employer.

The plot winds through Donnie's discovery of backroom dealings, the motives driving the key players (including the U.S. government) and trying to find the reason one of his first big clients is being asked by the family trustee to sign a document allowing the sale of family water rights, something his former employer is working hard for. Along the way new women come into his life, but he can't let go of the past enough to embrace any new relationship for long.

Scattered throughout are flashbacks to what happened in Mexico. Piece by piece we slowly learn what put an end to all his previous dreams.  

Buy the Books: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Add to Goodreads

Meet The Author -

Check out a fab behind the scenes interview HERE!

BOYD TAYLOR lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and their Havanese dog Toby. Necessities is the fourth novel in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series. In a former life, Boyd was a lawyer and a corporate officer. A native of Temple, Texas, he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in government and an LL.B. from the law school.

Boyd's first novel "Hero" was prescient in its story about fake news. His second novel, "The Antelope Play," dealt with drug trafficking in the Texas Panhandle, an unfortunately accurate forecast. The third, "The Monkey House", involved commercial development of a large green space in the center of Austin, all too familiar to Austin residents. Whether his upcoming novel "Necessities" predicts future events with the accuracy of the earlier books remains to be seen.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook


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Monday, January 8, 2018

Interview With Boyd Taylor - Author of Hero, The Antelope Play, The Monkey House and Necessities

Please share a bit about your journey to become a published author. Was it a dream you've always had, or did the drive come at a later age?

Hello, Marilyn. Thanks for having me for this interview. It’s been a long journey. I always wanted to write: school paper, creative writing classes at college, things like that. But it wasn’t until I retired that I tried my hand at writing a novel, which was quite a different experience from short story and non-fiction writing.

How does the writing process work for you? Do you schedule a time every day, work madly when inspiration hits or ?

I find that for me, setting aside a time to write is essential. Otherwise, I just don’t get it done. So, I have my morning coffee, ride the bike a little, glance at the paper and then write for a couple of hours. If I stick to that schedule, I’ll get the job done.

Review HERE!
What did you find most difficult about the writing and publishing process? What was the easiest?

Taking the easiest first, it’s the ideas and the next scene or chapter. I can visualize those and they sound so good in my head. Putting them down on paper so that they’re remotely what I had in my mind is the hard part. And the characters take on their own lives as I write, so what I start out to do and what I end up with are often quite different.

Where did the idea for your Donnie Ray Cuinn book series come from? Was it conceived as a series or did that idea come after writing the first book?

The story of a young grad student who gets embroiled in Texas politics came from a real incident. A couple of students made the news by attacking an important Texas politician and were called on the carpet for their effrontery. I spent several years on the first book and never thought it would be a series. But when I got to the end of Hero, I already knew the beginning of the second book and the rest flowed from there.

Review 1-17 
How about the inspiration for the main character of Donnie? Do any of your characters reflect a bit of you?

Oddly enough, I had a friend, a girl, in high school, whose family background was similar in many ways to Donnie’s. I used it shamelessly and she didn’t seem to mind.

Ridley Pearson said that every fiction writer is somewhat of a schizophrenic and able to have two or three or five voices in his head. In writing we try to get those voices down on paper, so to that extent, every character has a bit of me in there somewhere. They’re usually amalgams of people I imagine, people I’ve known and people I’ve read about.

I am curious why you skipped setting your second book in Mexico where Donnie was headed at the end of book one - instead just referring that time in flashbacks - and why you decided to totally change his career from scholar to lawyer?

Review 1-26
I don’t know Mexico and I do know Austin and the Texas Panhandle. The change in Donnie’s career reflects his own change from a happy-go-lucky slacker to an embittered, guilty, sardonic person. He knows he cannot go back to Austin because of memories of Cecilia, and by chance he stumbles across the worst law school in Texas; he sees an advertisement in the Houston airport. Law school occupies his mind and gives him a career completely removed from his dead wife, as does moving to Velda in the Panhandle. Of course, the fact that I’m a lawyer and spent time up in the Panhandle probably had something to do with it.

Do you have any new books in the planning or writing stages? Will there be more books in this series?

Review 2-8
I have one more Donnie Ray book in mind, where he will meet his other family, the son of the man who abandoned his mother in Hero. I’m also working on a fictional account of my mother and her six sisters and their lives coming of age in Texas during World War II.

What would you most like reader to know about you?


I play the cello, I love University of Texas football and I bake very good bread.

HERO (Book #1 in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series) by Boyd Taylor

Check out my review of other books in this series!
  • The Antelope Play - Review coming Jan. 17th
  • The Monkey House - Review coming Jan. 26th
  • Necessities - Review coming Feb. 8th
Synopsis - 

When budding historian Donnie Ray Cuinn stumbles upon an old letter in the musty bowels of the Texas State Archives, he believes he has uncovered the true story of Sam Payne's valiant, or perhaps not so valiant, capture of Mexican leader Santa Anna during the Battle of San Jacinto. Cuinn's findings are published in a local magazine. But the article eventually becomes fodder in the gubernatorial race between Democratic upstart Bob Braeswood and Republican favorite Sam Eben Payne V, the great-great-grandson of the Texas hero. Braeswood is intent on exploiting the past, while Payne will do anything to suppress it. In the ensuing battle, Donnie finds his beliefs, not to mention his relationships, stretched to the limit in the first novel of the Donnie Ray Cuinn series.

Review - 

If you enjoy an underdog story, then let me introduce you to Donnie Ray Cuinn. Donnie is a recent history grad who was left by his mother with another couple - Lena and Papa - to raise as their own. While their circumstances were humble, they offered the loving, stable, supportive environment he needed. He has just graduated from university and is waiting to hear if he is hired for a teaching fellowship.

As the book opens, Donnie - sporting an enormous hangover after a night of partying - is pulled out of his bed and his home by two burly men, employees of a powerful politician named Sam Payne. Why? Donnie recently uncovered a damning document that paints the politician's well-known ancestor, formerly labeled a hero, in an unflattering light. The article he published on this document in This Texas was affecting the senator's bid to be reelected.  During this forced meeting he was pressured to sign a document recanting his article, something he refused to do.

From this moment on, the story takes us through a tangled web of move and counter move as the underdog tries to avoid the arrows flung by this powerful and formidable politician. On Donnie's side are Lena and Papa, his long time friend, party buddy and former star athlete - Wesley, Payne's opponent in an upcoming election - Bob Braeswood, This Texas publisher Drayton Philby, and attorney Cecelia Medina - a former girlfriend he hopes to win back.  Along the way more of Donnie's past is revealed and his birth mother comes back into the picture.

Hero has a strong set of characters, a well-paced storyline and a surprise ending that I didn't see coming, always a great way to end a book. Donnie's journey of stepping into adulthood is laid bare as he begins to see the world in a different way, including the truth about those he calls "friends" and the dirty side of politics.  

Buy the Books: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Add to Goodreads

Meet The Author -

Check out a fab behind the scenes interview HERE!

BOYD TAYLOR lives in Austin, Texas with his wife and their Havanese dog Toby. Necessities is the fourth novel in the Donnie Ray Cuinn series. In a former life, Boyd was a lawyer and a corporate officer. A native of Temple, Texas, he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a B.A. in government and an LL.B. from the law school.

Boyd's first novel "Hero" was prescient in its story about fake news. His second novel, "The Antelope Play," dealt with drug trafficking in the Texas Panhandle, an unfortunately accurate forecast. The third, "The Monkey House", involved commercial development of a large green space in the center of Austin, all too familiar to Austin residents. Whether his upcoming novel "Necessities" predicts future events with the accuracy of the earlier books remains to be seen.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Facebook



Friday, January 5, 2018

Twofer Murder by Lauren Carr

Twofer murder? What’s a twofer murder?

Synopsis - 

Twofer Murder is a treat for fans of best-selling author Lauren Carr’s fast-paced mysteries! Lauren’s latest novel contains the main characters from her three successful series: Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose mysteries. 

The guys go away for a fishing weekend only to get caught up in the murder of a journalist investigating fraud at a timber company. Meanwhile, the ladies are spending the weekend in the presidential suite at a posh resort where Jessica Faraday is to accept a lifetime achievement award for her late grandmother at a murder mystery writers conference. But before they have time to get their facials, they get wrapped up in their own real mystery when an up and coming author ends up dead!

Lauren Carr’s Twofer Murder is a 2-for-1—making it a must-read for any mystery fan!

Review - 

I always anxiously await each and every new title from Lauren Carr. Her books have a wonderful mix of murder, mystery and romance all topped off with a lovely dash of humour.

The author has taken a slightly new direction this time by taking all the main characters from her three successful series - Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose - and bringing them together in one book. While this is a stand-alone novel, I do find having read all the books in each series previously helped me to understand from the beginning who the characters were and why they made the choices they did.

In Twofer Murder, the men are off on a fishing weekend, but quickly get drawn into the murder of an investigative journalist. It's a small town with one major industry and people close ranks. Finding out the truth takes a lot of digging and sorting through a lot of misdirection to figure out who is telling the truth. The women are at a mystery writers conference. Egos abound, and no one is really surprised when a murder occurs. The women quickly dive into teasing out clues.

As always, I love reading anything this author writes, but I personally found moving between the two story lines while keeping track of who all the characters were and how each murder investigation was progressing a bit of a challenge. Still a fabulous read, but I think for me this actually would have been an easier read as two separate books.

As always, now I am on pins and needles waiting for Lauren Carr's next book. Somehow I have to learn how not to consume them in one or two nights.
Buy the Book:  Amazon  ~  Add to Goodreads




Meet the Author - 


Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV. 

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram



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