An unexpected rain storm after a week of sunshine and warm summer weather prompted me to make one of my family’s favorite simple but filling comfort food recipes. I hope you enjoy it!
1 32 oz. carton chicken stock (or broth, if you want a thinner, more soup-like dish)
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 1 ½ lbs.)
1 can condensed cream of chicken and herb soup
¼ tsp poultry seasoning
1 can (16 oz.) refrigerated biscuits
2 medium carrots, chopped (1 cup)
3 celery ribs, chopped (1 cup)
In 4 or 5 qt. Dutch oven, heat stock, chicken, soup and poultry seasoning to boiling over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer five minutes, stirring occasionally. Increase heat to medium-high; return to low boil.
Flatten biscuit dough by either rolling on floured surface or by hand. Either cut into strips with a pizza cutter or tear into pieces about 2 inches wide and long.
Add vegetables and dough pieces a little at a time to boiling mixture. Reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent dumplings from sticking.
Harry Dresden, wizard/private investigator of Chicago, has faced a lot in the last few years. He’s helped stop warlocks, necromancers, and a host of creatures from Faerie from destroying the world, multiple times. He’s fought, and trained, other wizards in a war against the Red Court of Vampires. He should have a little credibility with the White Council of Wizards, right?
The one member of the Wardens (police force) of the White Council who has always held a grudge against Harry shows up on his doorstep, wounded and hunted, accused of murder and treason. Will Harry risk everything he’s worked for, his friends and family, to prove Morgan is innocent? And what will be the price Harry has to pay?
Meanwhile, a large Native American shapeshifter supernatural being is hunting Harry and Morgan, and will stop at nothing to get what he wants, including taking Harry’s brother hostage. How does the shapeshifter tie in with the traitor, or traitors inside the Council, and who are their allies, wizard, vampire or otherworldly being?
Harry sees only one choice-call out all the players, to one spot, on one night, in a battle royal for the ages.
This eleventh book of the series features a Harry that is showing signs of character growth. He’s beginning to plan his responses instead of just rushing into danger impulsively. He actually devises his next several steps ahead in order to trip up the traitor/traitors in a way that will provide proof to the Council of what is really going on under their noses, not that he shares that information with the reader until after the fact.
While there are those who still do not trust him, he’s managed to impress several members of the High Council, including Listens-to-Wind, who offers to mentor him in higher magic’s. His future looks bright, at the same time his world is still in turmoil.
The White Council officially denies the existence of the Black Council, despite the evidence that their counter is working to undermine them. Thomas, in recovering from the torture the skin walker did to him, has “fallen off the wagon” and returned to feeding on the sexual energy of humans. And now Harry, with a select few believers, is planning their own little group to investigate the conspiracy and risk being labelled traitors themselves. Of course, all this is just par for the course for Harry Dresden.
This book is has a different feel to some of the earlier books of the series. No longer is Harry involved in relatively small plots against a few people or the citizens of Chicago, but the whole world is at stake. Meanwhile, a more grown up Harry still shows the sarcasm, humor, and concern for others that drew me in to the books in the first place, backed up by his constant need to deal with paranormal forces that exist unseen and unknown in the middle of a modern day city.
I award this book 4.5 stars, for shear energy and plot depth, as well as character development. The only thing I found at fault was the fate of several members of Harry’s friends and family, who were sacrificed as the stakes become ever higher in the conflicts erupting in the author’s universe.
The latest spinoff from authors Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child features two feisty alums from a handful of the Pendergast series books, Dr. Nora Kelly and newly-minted Special Agent Corrie Swanson of the FBI.
Readers of the series will remember Nora Kelly is an archeologist and the wife of the late investigative reporter Bill Smithback, another series regular who was (spoilers!) tragically murdered in an earlier book. Nora has returned to her roots, working for the Santa Fe Archeological Institute, when she receives an offer to help find a lost camp of members of the infamous Donner party, where pioneers headed to California were stuck in a blizzard and resorted to cannibalism in an attempt to survive.
Meanwhile, Corrie Swanson, former Goth protégé of Pendergast, is a rookie at the FBI and anxious for her first real case. What comes her way is a series of grave robbing’s and a murder that are inexplicably linked to the same camp, and the same group of pioneers, that Nora’s expedition is about to uncover.
A theft of human bones, uncovered at the dig site, as well as a presumed accidental death and a murder lead Corrie to closing down the dig, bringing her into conflict with Nora, as well as the rest of the party and local law enforcement. However, events will soon occur that force the two strong women to rely on each other for survival.
This new book, the first of the planned “Nora Kelly series,” contains only a subtle hint of the paranormal energy that readers often encounter in books by these authors. An innocent child, a victim of the Donner tragedy and subject of campfire tales for the expedition, may or may not haunt members of the archeological support staff and render timely assistance on multiple occasions. However, in this case, as the authors are relying on real, historic events for their fictional plot, I think anymore of the normally present psychic energy would be a mistake. The small amount they include is affectionate and respectful of the “haunting” subject.
As an avid fan of these authors and the main “Pendergast” series, I have followed the development of the vast array of characters that populate this universe and am happy to see these two women, both who have been friendly and at odds with Pendergast in the past meet. Their introduction includes conflict and understanding, rivalry and mutual respect, and I am curious to see if Corrie Swanson appears again in the series. If anything, Pendergast’s cameo in the last chapter of the book seems to foreshadow this.
I sat down and read the bulk of this book overnight, something I seldom have the luxury to do, which should indicate how much I enjoyed it. Prior knowledge of the series/characters is helpful, but not necessary to enjoy it. For the record, I am giving this novel five stars, and would recommend it to any readers of detective stories, historical fiction, and any readers who enjoy action stories featuring strong female protagonists.
From Elizabeth Hunter, the author who made elemental vampires cool and believable, comes a new series featuring three women who, having survived a near-death experience, discover they have developed paranormal abilities.
One of the trio sees ghosts, one has prophetic dreams, and the third receives visions when she touches objects or people. The three women, all in their mid-forties, that’s right, they’re not following the usual teenage trope, have to cope with the sudden onset of powers while dealing with ordinary, normal life things.
Robin is a mother of teenagers whose life and marriage is in a rut, and cannot imagine telling her husband about her new gift. Monica, the receptor of dreams, is grieving over the recent death of her husband, and coping with children of her own. Val, a divorcee and single mom, runs a business but cannot touch her customers without triggering a vision.
When Robin begins to suspect there is a link from one of her “spectral visitors” to her elderly grandmother, the three women come together to solve a seventy-year old murder mystery. Along the way, they work on their issues, personally and as a group. They also explore their gifts in an attempt to understand and control them.
I have to say I love the premise of this series. The fact that three middle-aged women are dealing with this gives this series a different slant than if these books were designed for young adults. That being said, after some initial disbelief/denial, the three seem to accept their plight fairly easily. Okay, Val struggles the most, but none of them consult any experts-medical, theological, etc., to try and figure out why this is happening to them. By the end of the story, they manage to cast out an evil ghost with only information found on the Internet.
I would have liked to see them struggle a little more, have a steeper learning curve maybe? Perhaps that will occur in later books, because as I mentioned, this is the first of series, the second, My Semi-Psychic Life, having just been released a few months ago.
Overall, the book was very enjoyable and I would recommend it to fans of urban fantasy and paranormal mysteries and award it four stars.
A few days ago, my daughter bought a pack of sparklers to share following a family celebration held on a warm evening in our backyard. She insisted I take one in hand which she then lit for me, and watched as I held it on our deck in the near dark. I was hesitant, only because I had never actually held one before. But when my sweet daughter offered, I couldn’t refuse.
I had never held a sparkler in my hand before. I’m a grown woman, just turned forty-nine, for the first and only time, thank you, but I have always harbored a small fear of those tiny sparks of fire, undoubtedly left over from childhood. My parents, bless them, were like many, slightly overprotective, and instilled in me a heavy dose of caution in respect to campfires, matches, and by extension, fireworks.
Oh we used to go to the city shows when I was little. I remember sitting on the tailgate of our pickup truck or standing on a hill or in a parking lot, wherever we could find the best spot to see the fireworks shows the city would produce. I would stay close to my parents, ears firmly covered with my hands, while we watched and oohed and aahed at the vivid colors on display.
Later, I recall watching firework celebrations with my own kids, though larger crowds in our adopted home city often made actually getting to a show and finding room to watch more awkward or problematic. We did manage though a few trips to see fireworks from the Reds stadium downtown, and once on a memorable family vacation to Florida.
I stood and watched that little sparkler as the long stick burst into crackling flashes, a ball of light similar to the head of a dandelion, ready to be released into the wind. I held on tight to the end as it burned down, a personal firework at close range, though without the bright colors and loud boom that accompanies the larger ones.
How could something so beautiful, so innocent, hold so much secret meaning. Though it lasted only a few moments, that ephemeral flare was a reminder that life is fleeting, and deserves our full attention. We should make the most of the time we have; as families, as communities, as human beings.
In this day and age, fear and uncertainty are plagues that haunt us all. It is more important than ever that we take the time to see beauty, to enjoy the little moments, to share in new experiences when we have the opportunity. We need to live in the moment, like most of us have always aspired to do anyway.
I have you have some special moments of your own as we move into this weekend, a special holiday for those of us in the U.S., as we celebrate Independence Day on Friday. Make the most of it!