24 August 2013

Crock Pot Gourmet: Pot Roast and Veggies

Pot Roast is one of the easiest Crock Pot recipes, but it's satisfying and delicious after a long day, especially as the weather cools and fall approaches, and you can cook the entire meal in one pot, which is always a bonus.

You will need:
1 roast (4-6 lb)
2 large onions
2 lb. carrots
2 lb. small red potatoes
1/4 c. dried mushroom pieces
1-2 tsp. salt (optional)
1-2 tsp. garlic powder
1-2 tsp. Italian seasoning
7-8 beef bouillon cubes
2-4 Tbsp. cornstarch (optional - to thicken gravy)
1-2 c. water

Quarter the onions and put in the bottom of a 7-quart crock pot.

Add mushroom pieces...

... and potatoes (you can cut them in half or quarter them if you like, but I prefer to leave them whole).

Peel carrots and cut into 2-inch chunks.

Put in Crock Pot with other vegetables.
 Add bouillon cubes, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt (if desired) and cornstarch (use more cornstarch for a thicker gravy and less for a thinner sauce).
 Place roast on top of veggies and add water.
 Cook on low for approximately 8 hours, until roast is cooked 
(check internal temperature with a meat thermometer).
Serve as is, or with warm rolls and a green salad.

21 August 2013

THE CINDERELLA MOMENT by Jennifer Kloester

The best part about being an author is that I get to meet a lot of other authors and read some pretty fabulous books. (Sometimes I even get to read an advance copy, like I did with THE CINDERELLA MOMENT by Jennifer Kloester!!) I'm especially excited about being a part of this blog tour, because THE CINDERELLA MOMENT is published by my publisher, Swoon Romance, which means Jennifer and I are kind of connected, in a way, right?

The Official CINDERELLA MOMENT book blurb
 Let the masquerade begin!

 Angel Moncoeur has always wanted to be a fashion designer, but without money or connections, it's going to be a challenge. When an opportunity to leave her home in New York and head to Paris appears, Angel grabs it – even if it means masquerading as her best friend Lily. That can't be too hard, can it? But when she falls in love with her very own Prince Charming who thinks she's someone else, Angel embarks on a plan to secure her happily ever after.

THE CINDERELLA MOMENT is a fabulously fun story about high society, mistaken identity, love, betrayal, friendship – and great clothes

I love this story!

I'm a sucker for Cinderella retellings and mistaken identities, and the chance to travel to Paris with Angel was too good to resist. I have to admit, I've never been into fashion and name-brand designers, so the fashion talk went right over my head, but the imagery was so well-written that I could feel the whisper of silk or the plush velvet against my skin as I imagined Angel's creations coming to life.

And I loved Angel's relationship with her best friend, Lily. They've grown up side-by-side almost as sisters, and even though Lily comes from a background of wealth and privilege while Angel is from the servant class, their loyalty and friendship crosses all boundaries.

Of course, the best part of the book was the love story. Nick Halliday is totally gorgeous and amazing in just about every way. I know lots of girls go for the "bad boy," but give me a good guy like Nick any day of the week. He's sweet and considerate, a perfect gentleman who can easily get your heart racing with his gorgeous smile and sparkling eyes, and who isn't afraid to go after what he wants. I fell in love with Nick at first sight, and I was definitely pulling for Angel and Nick to get together.

But this love story is more than meets the eye. I can't reveal too much more without massive spoilers, but suffice it to say this is a love story with many layers. It's definitely a read-more-than-once kind of book! I can't wait to read it again. :)

Find THE CINDERELLA MOMENT on Goodreads or on Amazon.

About the author Jennifer Kloester: Jennifer loves to escape into a good book. She began writing when she was little and grew up in a house full of books. She was living in the jungle in Papua New Guinea (truly!) when she discovered Georgette Heyer's wonderful historical romances. She quickly became addicted and multiple re-reads later still can't pin down her favourite. When not writing, Jennifer does karate and love to hang out with her husband (who she's still trying to get into Regency garb) and their three nomadic children.

Where to find Jennifer Kloester:

19 August 2013

Book Review: JINNIE WISHMAKER by D.D. Roy

I love a little bit of magic in my middle grade novels, and when I saw this one available for review on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read it. And I definitely wasn't disappointed. D.D. Roy weaves together fantastic elements to create a realistic-feeling magical world.

When Jinnie's parents go missing and her grandmother gets hurt, she and her brother are forced to go live with their rich and snooty aunt and uncle. She discovers that she can grant wishes, but can't control the results. The school counselor tells Jinnie to join the Troubled Tweens, a group of kids with similar power problems. But their loose use of magic attracts the attention of the Loki, a group of magic thieves and pranksters, who want to steal an open-ended wish from Jinnie.

I really enjoyed this book. It's a super-cute, read-in-an-afternoon kind of story full of magic, family and friendship.

Although the magical elements are strong, the story is so much more than just another "I just discovered that I have magical powers" book. Jinnie is dealing with some real issues - more than the development of her powers. She's dealing with family issues, a new school, and new friends. Even without the fun, magical elements, this would be a great story. I especially loved the relationship between Jinnie and her brother, Bryan, and the way they work so well together. Even though Bryan isn't magical, and isn't part of the Troubled Tweens group, Jinnie and her friends need his help to win the fight against the Loki.

18 August 2013

Time Travel and Family Ties

As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormon church), family is super important to me. The genealogy (family history) program coordinated by the church is awe-inspiring. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City contains thousands of records, many of which have been made available for free public use online (and any that haven't yet been digitized are still available for the public use, for anyone willing to travel). And a worldwide volunteer force works around the clock to catalog and index new records, so that more and more information is available for family history research every day.

We believe that it's important to know who we are and where we came from, because we believe that family is not just a "here on earth" luxury. We believe that families can be sealed together for all eternity. That our spirits live on when our bodies die, and that we can be together with those we love far beyond this life on Earth.

And the more I get to know my own family through family history research, the more I love and wish I could know them personally.

When Rachel Harris issued a challenge to her Flirt Squad this week to blog about where we would go if Reyna sent us on a journey through time, I immediately thought of my family. Like Cat in MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY, I would like to visit some of my family in the past. I'd love to get a sense of how they really lived and have the opportunity to form fast friendships, like Cat did. (Although it would still be super cool to have one of my ancestors visit me, like Less in A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES, I'd rather get a sense of the history by traveling back in time to meet them.)
The question is: if I had to choose only one, which ancestor would I want to visit?

I would love to take a trip back to England in the year 1173, to meet Eleanor of Aquitaine. I'm fascinated by this amazingly-strong woman who divorced her first husband and then was imprisoned for convincing her son, John Lackland (the Prince John from the Robin Hood stories) to try to overthrow his father, her second husband Henry II.

I want to know the real woman behind this story of a woman who had so much power and influence at a time when women were supposed to be completely powerless. And I'd really like to get to know John. I'd love to understand why he, as his father's favorite and the one likely to inherit everything, he was willing to throw it all away for his mother's favor. (Incidentally, I always laugh like crazy at the Disney animated version of Prince John, who moans "Mother always did like Richard best." - Because as far as I can tell, sibling rivalry... trying to get his mother's approval... was the sole reason John was willing to throw away everything he had and risk being disinherited. Disney appears to have been spot-on in their portrayal!)

But I'd also love to take a trip to a more recent era. I want to ride the rails with my grandpa during the Great Depression. I want to witness his adventures and get to really know the grandfather I always idolized. I'd love to be there when he tried to save some walking time by jumping out of a moving train into a beautiful lake (he hit the lake so hard that he skipped across like a giant stone and woke up in the hospital days later). I want to taste the long strips of "bacon" that he said were the most delicious he'd ever tasted (although he couldn't eat any more when he discovered that he was eating smoked rattlesnake). And I'd love to be there to see the look on the face of the down-on-his luck man that Grandpa gave a car to, when he won it in a raffle.

There are many holes in my family tree. Places where the records aren't available to fill in the gaps, ancestors I haven't yet found. And I'd love to bounce my way through history to find these people. I want to learn their stories.

I could never pick just one.

I'm so grateful for the advances in technology that allow me to travel around the world at the speed of the Internet, discovering documents and photographs that allow me a small peek into the lives of these distant (and not-so-distant) family members.

16 August 2013

Where to Find Me

I haven't posted much on my blog this week, because I've been busy building my brand new Author Facebook Page, reorganizing my website and taking care of a bazillion little things that go along with a book deal that I'd never even thought about before. I'll be getting back on track with a semi-regular schedule soon, but in the meantime, I thought I'd give you some links, so you know where to find me around the web. :)

My website: http://vbartles.com
Twitter: @vbartles
Pinterest: Veronica Bartles
Goodreads: Veronica Bartles
YouTube: Veronica Bartles
Linked In: Veronica Bartles

I'm also an administrator/blogger for Sub It Club, and a member of OneFour KidLit.

And, of course, you can always Google me. My name is unique enough that you can always find pages and pages of my blog posts, recipes, etc. just by searching for my name. (Speaking of recipes... I have a delicious Crock Pot Gourmet creation to share with you all soon - maybe even tonight, if I have time to format the post!)


06 August 2013

Book Review: A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES by Rachel Harris

Yay!! It's here! The wait is finally over, and  
A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES is available today!!
Anyone who orders a copy of A Tale of Two Centuries this week and forwards a receipt to Rachelharris1 at gmail dot com will receive exclusive swag including an Austin trading card, a ticket to Alessandra's play, and a signed bookplate. And yes, ebook orders count! 

As I mentioned yesterday, MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY by Rachel Harris is one of my favorite books. I love Cat and Less and their friendship that crosses lifetimes. And as you know, I've been anxiously waiting for the sequel, A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES. (I was one of the lucky few who didn't have to wait quite as long. I managed to talk Rachel's fabulous publicity team into letting me read an advance copy, so that I could post this review today!!)

If you haven't read MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY yet, go do that now. I'll wait. You don't want to spoil it with advance knowledge of the future, would you?


Okay, now, wasn't that AMAZING??? I knew you'd love it. And aren't you glad you can jump right into A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES now?? Me too!!

The official blurb:

Alessandra D’Angeli is in need of an adventure. Tired of her sixteenth-century life in Italy and homesick for her time-traveling cousin, Cat, who visited her for a magical week and dazzled her with tales of the future, Alessandra is lost. Until the stars hear her plea.

One mystical spell later, Alessandra appears on Cat’s Beverly Hills doorstep five hundred years in the future. Surrounded by confusing gadgets, scary transportation, and scandalous clothing, Less is hesitant to live the life of a twenty-first century teen…until she meets the infuriating—and infuriatingly handsome—surfer Austin Michaels. Austin challenges everything she believes in…and introduces her to a world filled with possibility.
With the clock ticking, Less knows she must live every moment of her modern life while she still can. But how will she return to the drab life of her past when the future is what holds everything she’s come to love?

I didn't think it was possible, but I seriously love this book even more than I did the first one! Less was adorable and fun in the sixteenth century, and I didn't want to let go of her when Cat came back to modern times. (I was so terribly excited when I saw that Less was going to come visit for the second adventure!!) Who knew that she would be freaking amazing in the "future?" This girl was totally born in the wrong century, guys! I wanted her to come hang out with me for a few days.

As for the romance, I thought Lorenzo was a swoon-worthy love interest in MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY, but Austin, the boy who steals Less' heart and teaches her how to be her best self in A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES, totally blew him out of the water!! This boy has layer upon layer of awesomeness, all wrapped up in a beautiful package and sealed with a smirk. I'm not usually a fan of the "bad boy," but Austin had so much depth to his character that I could immediately see the diamond shining beneath his rough exterior. And the way he pushes Less to follow her dreams and to be more than what she dreamed she was capable of becoming? Yep, he totally captured my heart. Hook, line and sinker.

The best part about this book? Even though it's totally Less' story, Cat is very much there, and we get to see the continuation of her story as well, in the aftermath of her trip to the sixteenth century. I have to admit, in reading book one, I wasn't sure how I felt about Lucas. On the one hand, I knew Cat couldn't stay in the sixteenth century with Lorenzo for the rest of her life, and I didn't want her to be forever heartbroken and alone, but on the other hand, the whole "finding a true soul mate in the descendant of the love left behind" is a total time-travel cliche, and I wasn't sure if I liked it. But he totally won me over in book two, and I can't wait to see more of Cat and Lucas in the next book!!

Oh!! And because I'm a member of Rachel's Flirt Squad, she's given me permission to share this deleted scene from A TALE OF TWO CENTURIES with you all. Enjoy!!

“Anything with you is exciting, Princess.” He moves his hand beneath my thick hair and plays with the wisps at the nape of my neck. Brushing his lips against mine, just a tease, he then lifts his head and grins. “And, it just so happens I like pizza”—another light brush—“and movies.” His mouth presses more firmly this time for a prolonged, lingering touch, and then he shrugs. “And I guess the company is decent enough.”
“Oh, is that right?” I ask, trying to feign insult, but mostly succeeding in sounding breathless. “Only decent?”
He glides the tip of his nose against mine. “Mmm hmm.”
I pinch the taut skin at his waist and he chuckles. The sound does glorious things to my insides. Then, finally, Austin strengthens his hold around me, crushing me to his chest, and tilts his head, capturing my lips in a long, searing kiss that has me clinging to his shoulders.
“Oh yuck,” a disgusted voice says a little later. “No offense, Alessandra, but I really don’t want to see my brother doing that.”
With an abrupt laugh of embarrassment, I pull away and bury my head in the crook between Austin’s neck and shoulder.
He sighs. “Jamie, your timing is excellent as always.”
“Hey, it’s a gift.” At the spirited tone in her voice, I look up. Jamie scrunches her nose. “But seriously, it should be illegal for big brothers to make out in public. It’s traumatizing.”
A ghost of a smile plays on Austin’s slightly kiss-swollen lips. “Well, you know, next time you could just walk away and not interrupt.”
“But where’s the fun in that?” she asks with a mock-frown. Then she grabs my hand and tugs me away from Austin’s arms and into her own—the enthusiasm of her hug nearly knocking me over. “And dude, why didn’t you tell me the two of you were hooking up? You do realize we’re practically sisters now. Sisters spill the deets.”
“Uh,” I say intelligently, more than a little confused on how to proceed. I lean back and look at Austin. “Well—”
“Because maybe some people have class?” Austin softens his words by rubbing the top of his sister’s head. Jamie rolls her eyes and slaps his hand away, but the apparent affection between them makes me smile despite my previous mortification.
“Whatever,” she says. “For real, I’m just glad you finally wised up. You’re lucky my girl put up with you until you did. Are you done with rehearsal?” This last part she directs at me, swinging her eyes back to me as swiftly as the topic change.
“Just finished,” I confirm. Though my head still spins from her chaotic way of speaking, I can’t help feeling proud of my ability to keep up. If I can navigate the muddy waters of Jamie’s conversation with ease, there’s no doubt I’ve become fully acclimated to this world. “And my driver is waiting outside, or else I’d stay for yours. I am sure you’ll be wonderful.”
She licks her finger and makes a sizzling noise as she touches her shoulder. “You know it.” She laughs again and gently shoves my shoulder toward Austin. “I’m gonna let you two say your mushy good-byes in private, ’cause seeing that once in a lifetime is more than enough.” Wiggling her fingers in a wave she says, “Laters, bro.”
I watch Jamie walk away and turn to find Austin doing the same with a tender smile on his face. Something in my chest squeezes and I fall for him all the more.
When the stage door closes shut behind her, he turns and locks his hands around my waist. “My sister’s nuts, but she was right about one thing.”
“And what is that?”
His forehead dips down to mine. “I am lucky you hung around until I wised up.”
“Well, it certainly took you long enough.”
I loop my arms around his neck with a grin, and Austin laughs. “What can I say? Guys aren’t exactly known for being quick on the uptake.” On the stage behind us, the shuffling sounds of the crew laying out another scene hints at the busyness to come and I exhale a frustrated breath, knowing it’s time to go. Austin rubs his hands up and down my arms, almost as if he’s hesitant to let me. “I have to stay and bring Jamie home after her scene, but I’ll come by your house after.” His eyes grow serious. “And you better save me some pizza, woman.”
I shrug. “I shall try. But I am feeling awfully hungry. Rehearsals take a lot out of a girl.”
He gives me one of his devilish grins and kisses me again, and a minute later I walk away with my own wide smile, backside tingling from the playful swat he gave it for daring to tease him about something as important as food. As my driver closes the door behind me and takes off for home, I watch the theatre grow smaller through my back window and decide that Jamie was wrong. I am the one who is lucky. Thanks to Signore and a little gypsy magic, I’m experiencing an opportunity of a lifetime. I have a cousin who is more like a sister to share it with, a handful of caring friends, and a boy who makes me feel more special and loved than I ever have before.
Regardless of what the future holds for me, Fate has been unbelievably kind.