Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Lone Star Book Blogger Tour: GOURMET ON A HOT PLATE by Judy Alter ***AUTHOR INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY***

Judy Alter
Genre: Cookbook / Cooking Tips / Tiny Kitchen
Publisher: Alter Ego Press
Date of Publication: November 6, 2018
Number of Pages: 132

Scroll down for the giveaway!

Gourmet on a Hot Plate is a collection of recipes and kitchen tips compiled after living for some time in a 600-square-foot cottage, with a tiny kitchen, no stove, no dishwasher, and barely any counter space. Given these limitations, Judy Alter developed a new approach to food, one that let her get in touch with the food itself. She does not have an Insta-Pot, an air-fryer, or a microwave. Her recipes call for using either a magnetic induction hot plate or a toaster oven. In the introduction, she explains her choices for making the best use of her tiny space. 

The collection begins with appetizers because that’s where Alter began her new cooking adventure. Gradually she branched out to main dishes, light suppers, soups and salads, and vegetable side dishes. Most recipes serve two or three. There’s a suggested list of cooking tools along with lists of what to keep on hand in your tiny pantry, your refrigerator, and your freezer, and a small section on condiments and cooking hints.

These pages will guide you to making your own spaghetti sauce—or brightening up a jar of prepared sauce—to making last-minute casseroles and simmer-all-day soups. Want Stroganoff but can’t afford the expensive beef? Alter shows you how to make it with hamburger. Love tuna? She’s got recipes for you. Sections on pasta, eggs, and appetizer trays offer practical and helpful choices for casual entertaining.

Above all, this is a practical guide for cooking with joy when you find yourself in a tiny space.

Love cooking? Love the minimalist lifestyle? Your tiny kitchen doesn’t need to limit your gourmet dreams. Judy Alter’s Gourmet On a Hot Plate will inspire you with big ideas to satisfy everyone around the table. — Susan Wittig Albert, author of Queen Anne’s Lace Whether you cook on a hot plate or have access to a full kitchen, this gem of a cookbook contains great recipes for those of us who cook for one. – T.R. Thompson

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Interview with Judy Alter

Why did you choose to write cookbooks?
I have enjoyed cooking all my life. When I was ten or twelve, I was my mom’s sous chef when my parents entertained, as they often did. As a wife and mother, I cooked for crowds, from our family of six to sometimes twenty for Sunday supper. Food has always been an integral part of my life, and food writing seems a natural. In my next life I may come back as a chef.

What was the hardest part of writing Gourmet on a Hot Plate?
Adapting the recipes to my limited kitchen and testing them. I had a lot of failures, but I’m still experimenting.

What did you enjoy most about writing Gourmet on a Hot Plate?
Serving my successful experiments to guests.

Why did you decide to self-publish?
Frankly, I’m impatientand now getting too old to play the agent/publisher game. I began to self-publish mysteries when the small publisher I was with closed, and I didn’t want to leave a three-year gap or more between books. It’s a blessed decision for me—I work at my own pace without a publisher pressuring me to produce both manuscripts and sales.

Were there any chefs who authored books that were influential in your work?
I don’t know that you can say influential, but I particularly enjoy reading Ruth Reichl. And right now I’m delving into James Beard, impressed by what a proponent he was of traditional American cooking. I get a lot of my basic ideas from Sam Sifton’s New York Times cooking column.

What projects are you working on at the present?
I’m working through edits on a nonfiction book tentatively titled The Second Battle of the Alamo. It involved the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the battle to save the historic mission buildings. Men once fought over it with rifles; women fought with words in the early twentieth century. Fascinating stuff.

I also have about 20,000 words on a culinary mystery. I’d love to know how it’s going to come out, but the Alamo and the cookbook have taken up my time for now. I also blog almost daily and do a weekly food blog.

What do your plans for future projects include?
At my age, I’m playing it by ear. The culinary mystery is a definite but beyond that I’m not sure. I’m fortunate that I can take up whatever project strikes my fancy, and I don’t need to support myself by my writing. I write for my pleasure and, I hope, the pleasure of others. I toy with the idea of a memoir—not sure I’ll ever do it.

What does your perfect writing spot look like? Is that what your ACTUAL writing spot looks like?
My actual writing spot is pretty darn near perfect. It’s a long desk in a corner of my cottage, with a huge window to the garden on my right and French doors to the patio straight ahead of me. On nice days, it’s like writing in the great outdoors.

Is there any person(s) you credit for being your inspiration for reading and/or writing?
He denies it but the TCU faculty member who shepherded me through my Ph.D. has been an enormous influence and help. Almost fifty years later, he remains a good friend and reads almost everything I write in draft form.

What is your favorite quote?
Ann Lamott, “When someone disappears from your life, it means their part in your story is over.” I’ve had people I care about drop out, and it hurts. But I’m just as liable to find a new favorite quote tomorrow.

What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
I don’t know. I have a wonderful family, a good career (I no longer yearn for fame and riches), a comfortable home (I also no longer want that huge house of my dreams and love my 600-square-foot cottage), and a dog I adore who also adores me. What more could I ask for? I am blessed.

Without formal culinary training, Judy Alter has cooked her way through life, feeding family and friends at everything from casual dinners al fresco to elaborate meals for twenty. An award-winning author and publisher, she jokes she’ll come back in another life as a chef.
Today Alter finds herself cooking in a four-by-six kitchen where zoning laws forbid built-ins but allow anything that plugs in. So she cooks with a hot plate, toaster oven, and a large refrigerator/freezer. Given these limitations, she has developed a new approach to food, one that she says lets her get in touch with the food itself. By choice, she does not have an Insta-Pot, an air-fryer, a microwave. Her menu choices are dictated by her cooking facilities—and she loves it.
She shares her tiny kitchen tips and recipes, developed over the past couple of years, in Gourmet on a Hot Plate. Alter is the author of three previous cookbooks: Cooking My Way through Life with Kids and Books, Texas is Chili Country, and Extraordinary Texas Chefs,and a contributor to Bake, Love, Write and We’d Rather Be Writing. Her recipe for Doris’ Casserole has been included in so many books it’s almost an American classic by now.

Be part of her ongoing cooking adventure at the Gourmet on a Hot Plate blog, where she encourages discussion and welcomes recipes, comments, and questions.

 ║Website ║ Facebook Judy's Stew Blog  ║ Twitter Goodreads Amazon Author Page  Gourmet on a Hot Plate Blog
2 Signed Copies, 1 eBook Copy

APRIL 24-May 4, 2019
Author Interview
Bonus Post
Scrapbook Page
Sneak Peek
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Monday, April 22, 2019

Defending Taylor by Miranda Kenneally

Defending Taylor
by Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks Fire
Published July 5, 2016
304 pages

PlotCaptain of the soccer team, president of the Debate Club, contender for valedictorian: Taylor's always pushed herself to be perfect. After all, that's what is expected of a senator's daughter. But one impulsive decision-one lie to cover for her boyfriend-and Taylor's kicked out of private school. Everything she's worked so hard for is gone, and now she's starting over at Hundred Oaks High.

Soccer has always been Taylor's escape from the pressures of school and family, but it's hard to fit in and play on a team that used to be her rival. The only person who seems to understand all that she's going through is her older brother's best friend, Ezra. Taylor's had a crush on him for as long as she can remember. But it's hard to trust after having been betrayed. Will Taylor repeat her past mistakes or can she score a fresh start? (2019,

Review:  In Defending Taylor, the author brings to light the tremendous pressure of succeeding when you come from a privileged family. But, when you’re pushed past your limits, sometimes the best intentions can still bring the worst consequences. After being caught with Adderall, Taylor Luckens is kicked out of St. Andrews boarding school. But, the pills actually belonged to her boyfriend, Ben, who was MIA when Taylor was caught. Taylor doesn’t tell anyone who the pills belonged to because her boyfriend doesn’t come from a wealthy family and is only attending St. Andrews because of a scholarship. But, Taylor has a privileged life and she believes her father, a Senator, can still help her bounce back from this. But, when that doesn’t happen she wishes deep down that Ben would confess after realizing how bad her life has become. Even worse, the press has caught wind of her expulsion and now her father's reelection is at stake. Through all this, there is Ezra, the friend of her brother and her old crush. Ezra comes from a privileged family, but has a falling out with his father and now works in construction. Now that Taylor attends a new school, she runs into Ezra more often and soon they rekindle their friendship and eventually start dating.

I'm not sure how I feel about this book. Although the pills were not Taylors, she was still taking them to have the energy to stay on top of her school work and soccer practices. So, although Taylor wanted to blame her boyfriend for her being caught with his backpack (which had the pills), she was still doing something that would have gotten her in trouble. Even though the pills were found in his backpack, they could have easily been found in Taylor's- albeit not as many.

The romance between Ezra and Taylor was believable and drawn out pretty well. The relationship between Taylor and her family was my favorite. I liked how Kenneally showed the importance of family even when you make a mistake - even if it's a big one. I also liked how the importance of forgiveness is reflected throughout the story.

Unfortunately, the problem for me wasn't the story, it was Taylor. She wasn't a very likable character. She was used to getting everything she wanted, came from money, but complained about having to work hard in order to please her parents and look impressive on college applications. But, there are lots of people with very little money who have to work even harder because they don't have the money or connections that Taylor has. Overall, this book deals with some serious issues and definitely has the dialogue and relationships/friendships that would appeal to the teen reader. 

*Contains profanity and sexual situations.

* A DRC was given for an honest review.

Rating: 3 Hearts

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

The Shadow Queen
by C.J. Redwine
Published by Balzer + Bray
Feb. 16, 2016
394 pages

Plot: Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic of his own—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman—and bring her Lorelai’s heart.
But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose. (2019,

Review: The Shadow Queen is probably one of the best retellings I’ve ever read!  Definitely not your average fairy tale! In this story, princess Lorelai and her younger brother are thought to be dead. Her stepmother (and aunt), Queen Irina has killed her father and taken over the kingdom of Ravenspire. But after nine years, Lorelai is not going to hide anymore.  She is determined to fight back for her kingdom and everyone she loves. But, she must be stronger than Irina in order to defeat her, and to do that she must be able to control the magic that flows through her veins.  Irina has powerful magic of her own, and that is the only reason she has been able to keep her opposition at bay. But when the people of Ravenspire are dying of hunger and killing their own children to save them from a slow death, Lorelai has had enough.  

In the neighboring Kingdom of Elder, Prince Kol, a dragon shifter, has problems of his own. Ogres are terrorizing his kingdom and destroying his armies. If he doesn’t get help from the Queen of Ravenspire, he’s afraid they will destroy his entire kingdom.  In his desperation, Kol strikes a deal with the Irina. But, bringing her the heart of the lost princess was not what he was expecting. Completely out of options, he reluctantly agrees.

Lorelai is not your average princess. She's tough and knows how to handle herself. And, even though she is confident and powerful with her magic, she is still human with lots of emotions to deal with and it really makes her someone you want to root for.  I loved how the author drew out the romance throughout the book and made it was very believable.  It was not a ‘love at first sight’ kind of story and the relationship between all the characters were all well done.  Lots of emotions in this book that will leave you remembering this story way after it's over. Redwine really knows how to bring you into the story and does a great job getting the reader into the mind of the evil queen. Which added to the depth of her character.  Overall, a must-read retelling of Snow White. Definitely looking forward to reading the other Ravenspire books!

Rating: 5 Hearts