Special Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Thoughts Before Cooking:

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When I first read the recipe I was unsure if I would love it or not, but decided to give it a go.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup of Quick Oats, (I use Quaker)
  • 2 1/4 Cups of All-Purpose Flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons of Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
  • 1 Cup (2 Sticks) of butter, softened
  • 3/4 Cup of Brown Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup of Granulated Sugar
  • 2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs
  • 3 Cups of Semisweet Chocolate Chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Mix the oats, flour, baking soda, salt & cinnamon in a medium bowl
  4. In a large bowl, cream the butter, sugars, and vanilla with an electric mixer.
  5. Add eggs and beat until fluffy and light.
  6. Stir in the flour mixture, blending well.
  7. Add the chocolate chips and mix well.
  8. Use a 1/4 cup to scoop dough, making round balls.
  9. Bake 16-18 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.
  10. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  11. Enjoy!

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Special Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Thought after cooking:

Loved them and the fact that they are slightly healthier than a regular chocolate chip cookie. And also gigantic and chock full of chocolate chips.

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For more desserts, go to With the 4th of July Comes Apple Pie

For the previous recipe, go to Chicken, Asparagus, and Tomato Pesto Pasta

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery #1)

So this is the first book in the series but not the first I read. I was introduced to the Hannah Swenson Mysteries by Apple Turnover Murder (Hannah Swenson Mystery #13)And I am glad I did because if I read this book first, I probably would have quit the series.

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Yeah this book was a clunker. I thought it was messy, the characters unrealistic, and the mystery too easy. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

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So the book starts off by introducing us to Hannah Swenson. Hannah is in her 30s and was studying English Lit at school. While she was in the midst of going for her masters, she has a bad experience at school and her father dies.

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She heads back to her small town, (Lake Eden, Minnesota) , to help her family out, starts a coffee and cookie shop, buys a condo, and adopts a huge orange cat. Things seem to be going good as she is building her business and life.

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Her only thorn? Her mother’s constant drive to marry her off. She is constantly setting her up with men, the latest being the son of her best friend, Norman Rhodes D.D.S. Hannah has barely met him but is rude and judgmental toward him. She thinks he is a loser because he is a dentist and therefore must be obsessed with teeth. And he is horribly ugly because he is balding. How rude Hannah. Like you’re such a prize with your constant judging and criticizing people.

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Besides just because he is a dentist doesn’t mean that’s all he thinks about. For real girl you need to give him credit that he is a person with actual thoughts and feelings rather than thinking he is the dentist from Little Shop of Horrors.

And it’s not like he wants to be balding or can control it. Jeez, girl! I’m sure he wishes he has a full head of hair too.

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Anyways, it’s an average day for Hannah. She’s heading over to open her store and passes Ron LaSalle, a deliverer for the local dairy farm. Ron LaSalle is a loyal customer buying a box of cookies every morning.

Hannah also runs into her friend Claire, the owner of the fancy boutique shop and Hannah’s next-door business neighbor. Claire convinces Hannah to come over and shop for a dress, but Hannah doesn’t want to wear one. She is one of those cliché characters that hates dressing up/doesn’t realize how pretty they are/don’t understand why women act they way they do/etc. I’m really tired of that character and wish authors would stop writing it and do something new.

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Andrea, Hannah’s sister, comes by and drops her daughter off with Hannah while she gets her hair done. Now this is where I have a huuuuuuuuuuge problem. Andrea’s daughter Tracey is great in the later books but in this one she is only four but conversing like a twelve year old! Now I’ve known a lot of four-year olds, and even the precocious ones DO NOT speak that well. I don’t think this author has been around real children if she writes her that focused and well-behaved.

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Anyways, so Tracey saw Ron outside in his car and thinks it is weird. Hannah assumes that Ron is having car trouble and goes out to check when she discovers that he is dead!

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And not just dead but:

Murder

Ron was shot in the head.

Hannah’s brother-in-law, Andrea’s husband, is a deputy with the Sheriff’s department and is heading up the investigation. He gets Hannah’s statement, and while they are discussing what happened, Hannah realizes something important. Ron was behind schedule. This is really odd as Ron was a stickler for being on time.

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Bill then asks Hannah to help with the investigation, as he wants to solve the case and get promoted to detective.

Now here is where I have a huge problem again. There’s no way as a law enforcement he would ask for help in his investigation from a civilian! Come on!

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And to be honest, if he can’t solve it than he doesn’t deserve the promotion.

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He should be telling her not to investigate as she is a civilian.

Now I’m not saying that I do not want her to investigate, I love stories with amateurs, it’s just that there is no way a cop would ask a civilian for help. No way!

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Anyways, at a catering event at the school she discovers that when Ron dropped off the milk, he had a women with him. Apparently the school leaves coffee for him every morning, and when the secretary came to clean it up she found two cups, one of which had lipstick on it.

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Hannah and Bill set out to track it down, with Hannah finding it being sold by an Avon-like woman. There she discovers that the lipstick belongs to Danielle Watson.

Hannah meets up with Danielle later and discovers that she is a gambler going to Gambler’s Anonymous and that Ron was her sponsor. She received a check from her stocks and headed over the casino, running into Ron who was passing out GA flyers. He got her out of there, following her home to make sure she was safe, and the two went to his apartment to talk and make sure she didn’t give in again. He got up late and took Danielle with him on his deliveries.

Hannah also finds out that Ron had a toothache and was going to the dentist that day. She calls around seeing who worked on him, ending up with Norman Rhodes. She tries to ask him questions, but he refuses as he wants to see her in person to discuss everything.

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That afternoon Hannah finds herself being manipulated again, giving into Claire and purchasing the gown picked, planning on wearing it to the Woodley’s annual party.

So Hannah and Andrea head over to have lunch with Norman, Hannah planning on keeping his attention while Andrea snoops. Hannah discovers that Ron got his tooth taken care of , but even more interesting is that Norman is a funny, sweet, nice guy. She agrees to go with him to the Woodley party.

Hannah continues her investigations and discovers that Danielle’s husband Boyd has been dropping a lot of cash on glitzy gifts, too much for his job as a high school football coach. She also discovers that he was gone for the window of the murder. Could he be the killer?

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Hannah and Lisa decide to go investigate the casino where Ron was passing out GA flyers as he got into a fight with a bouncer. While there we get this long rant on how stupid gambling is and how Hannah doesn’t understand the drive for it. Or the superstitions that people have. Another cliché as guess who wins the grand prize, her of course. I understand not liking gambling or believing that one should do it, but not understanding the draw? Come on, everyone knows what draws people in, is the hope for winning!

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Then we get a flashback as Hannah reminisces about her and her sister’s lives growing up and how things changed when she went to college. Here is where we get the whole story of why Hannah left. She had a fling with her professor, only to discover that he didn’t love her but was actually engaged to be married, his fiancee walking in on them.

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Hannah goes to the Woodley party and has a lot of fun with Norman. Unfortunately, Benton Woodley, son, heir, Andrea’s ex-boyfriend, and the bane of Hannah’s existence is back in town. He says he missed the small town experience and loves Lake Eden, but something is fishy to Hannah. He always hated being here before and swore never to come back.

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At the party, Hannah talks to the dairy secretary, Betty, to get more info on Ron and finds out that Max, the supervisor is missing. He was supposed to go to a convention and give a speech, but he never checked in and no one has seen or heard from him. Could Max have killed Ron for some reason and gone on the run?

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Hannah mentions Max to Norman and discovers he can’t stand the guy. It turns out that Norman’s father, who was also a dentist, needed money to get improvements for his practice but all the banks turned him down. Max lent him the money, if the Rhodes put their house up for collateral. The Rhodes took the deal and when they were only one payment away from owning their house, Max called in the full loan. Luckily, Norman was able to get a loan from a bank, which he gave his parents, who paid Max. But clearly Max was a shark up to no good. But, is he a killer?

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Hannah decides that of they can’t get the answers they need from Max, as no one can find him, that she is going to break into his house. Andrea comes with her and the two break into the garage first. There they find Max’s car, with everything needed for his trip to the convention. Odd, as that must mean he didn’t leave. They check his house but there is no sign of him. Hannah steals his keys and decides the two need to set out to check the dairy.

When they get to the dairy, they find nothing. Hannah has not given up yet and decides to check out the remains of the old dairy. The building was burned and rebuilt with only one section of the original left. They head over there and find Max…Dead

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They also find his stash of loans. This means someone killed him over it, but who? And how is Ron connected? Did he see something? Did he walk in on them?

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Thoughts After Reading:

I really didn’t enjoy this book at all. The characters were all bland and generic Midwestern clichés. The main character was annoying, judgmental, cocky, and rude.

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The police were incompetent, but what made it really sad was that they knew they were incompetent. I mean it is funny to see them match wits when the police officer is arogant and totally missing something, or, as in Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple; over time and succesful stream of solved mysteries they realize that this is someone much smarter and one they should work with. But when someone is incompetent and knows it, asking for help to get PROMOTED when they clearly stated before that they were not ready as THEY CAN’T DO IT ON THEIR OWN BUT NEED HELP FROM AN ENGLISH LIT AND COOKIE BAKER (that’s right, she doesn’t even read mystery novels, or teach psychology, or do something slightly relevant) it is just sad, just sad indeed.

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The mystery was extremely obvious as to what they answer is. Now it is one thing if you have a mystery where it is easily solved, but the characters are fun and adorable so you don’t care. This was neither, it was just a disappointment. And the recipes weren’t all that intriguing either.

This one was a stinker, but some of the later ones are actually really good. I guess you just have to decide how invested do you want to get.

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For the previous book review, go to The Emperor’s Edge

For more Midwestern mysteries, go to Fatally Frosted

Chicken, Asparagus, and Tomato Pesto Pasta

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Thoughts prior to cooking:

This was a re-imagining of the Pasta with Roasted Asparagus, Artichokes, and Pesto recipe from Knit. Purl. Die.

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Ingredients:

Pesto:

  • 2 cups of basil leaves, packed
  • 3 to 4 Garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 Cup of Olive Oil
  • 4 Tablespoons of toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Pasta:

  • 1 lb of pasta
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Large bunch (1 lb or more) of asparagus
  • 2 Chicken breasts, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 Medium onion, chopped
  • 2 Garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 Cup of Cherry tomatoes
  • Pesto sauce
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

 

Directions:

  1. Start with pesto sauce. Remove basil leaves from stems.
  2. Wash leaves and dry them on paper towels. (Make sure the leaves are dry or the recipe will not work.)
  3. In a blender or food processor, mix leaves with chopped garlic, 1/3 cup of olive oil and blend.
  4. Add nuts and cheese, mix again, adding another 1/3 cup of oil. Sauce should be smooth.
  5. Refrigerate until needed.
  6. Heat oven to 425°.
  7. Cook pasta to package directions. Set aside.
  8. Wash asparagus and trim ends about 2-3 inches.
  9. Set them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil and shake pan to coat spears. Bake in oven 7-10 mins.
  10. Let it cool and cut into pieces.
  11. While asparagus is cooking, in a large heavy pan, large enough to hold the pasta, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  12. Place chicken in the heated oil. When cooked, remove and set aside.
  13. Add two more tablespoons of oil to pan and heat. Add onion and garlic.
  14. Cook onion until clear and soft. Add asparagus, toss lightly. Lower heat so vegetables don’t overcook.
  15. Cut cherry tomatoes in halves and add to mixture.
  16. Add chicken.
  17. Add cooked pasta.
  18. Add the pesto sauce and turn.
  19. Serve with Parmesan cheese.

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Chicken Asparagus and Tomato Pesto Pasta

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Thoughts after cooking:

This was absolutely delicious and way better then the recipe from the book. I could eat this and eat it until I explode.

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For more pasta recipes, go to Angel Hair Pasta with Chicken

For more recipes, go to With the 4th of July Comes Apple Pie

The Emperor’s Edge

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The Emperor’s Edge (The Emperor’s Edge #1) by Lindsay Buroker

So this mystery is a little different as it is a fantasy novel. Yep, it has wizards, mystical creatures, and magic.

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Sword fights, questing, overcoming obstacles!

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Plus a mystery to boot? What more could you want?

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Anyways so the book begins with our heroine, Amaranthe Lokdon. Amaranthe is a female police officer, which is highly unusual. The empire had just recently allowed women into those positions, but unfortunately for Amaranthe they aren’t promoting them any time soon.

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Just because she’s a woman they won’t let her move on, but her slovenly and always late partner gets bumped up.

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Anyways, Amaranthe is an amazing police woman. She may be small, but manages to hold her own against criminals; whether it is with her blade or subduing them by knocking a shelf of coffee canisters on them.

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One night Amaranthe notices a lot of smoke, which means fire. Her partner wants to just hang out and leave what isn’t their beat alone, but with Amaranthe’s urging they head down to the area. There they spot a merchant being robbed, of which Amaranthe single-handedly is able to stop.

It’s only after she has gotten everything sorted out that she realizes the emperor is there.

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It turns out he was in the area for an inspection of the troops, but took refuge in the shop because of the fire. The young emperor, a boy still really, thanks the police, most ardently Amaranthe.

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He has to continue on his way, while Amaranthe and her partner head over to the place of the fire. The area held a large kiln, the whole building was set on fire with people inside it. Amaranthe finds this strange as the bodies were outside the kiln instead of placed inside, which would make more sense for destroying bodies. In fact, Amaranthe finds the whole thing suspicious.

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Her partner believes that the killer was the assassin, Sicarius. Sicarius was almost a legend with the vast numbers of people he has killed. Except for the fact that he is very real, and currently in town.

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But while everyone is eager to believe that is true, that it is Sicarius’ work, Amaranthe finds it hard to believe. Why would a trained assassin choose that way to murder people? It doesn’t seem right.

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She also finds a lot of strange broken pieces of pottery.

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But before she can investigate further, she is sent on her way as the detective team comes in.

When she gets back to headquarters she finds out that the Commander of the Armies, Hollowcrest wants to see her. He is the highest ranking official in the empire, the man in charge until the Prince is old enough to be King. This is a BIG deal.

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She goes to see him and finds out that he has read everything in her file, and most likely knows more about her life than she does. She was attending the women’s business school, but didn’t finish as her father became sick and died. She didn’t have enough to continue her final year, so instead lied about her age and joined the police force.

After Hollowcrest’s sneering at her decisions, Amaranthe tells him that she wanted more than to make money, she wants to serve the empire. In fact her dream is to become the first female chief.

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Hollowcrest offers her an assignment, that if completed would grant her the promotion she desires.

Only one problem. She has to kill Sicarius.

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Yes the famed assassin. The assassin who has killed over 300 soldiers, over 200 police officers, half a dozen patriarchs from the warrior caste, etc…the list goes on and on.

And Amaranthe has to kill him.

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In fact, Hollowcrest wants Amaranthe to seduce Sicarius and kill him.

Now there are several problems with this. 1) HE’S AN ASSASSIN! I’m sure he has been trained to ignore the wiles of women. I mean come on, that’s the stupidest way I have ever heard someone suggest to take down an assassin!

2) Amaranthe doesn’t flirt. Amaranthe is always too busy and too much of a no-nonsense girl to do that. But what else can she do? Orders are orders.

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As she is heading out and contemplating what craphole her life has just been thrown into, who does she run in to but the emperor.

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The emperor is ecstatic to see her and asks her a ton of questions about what’s she’s up to. Amaranthe tells him that she was just placed on a mission, when she is interrupted by him. The emperor gives her a bracelet for luck and then shows her his designs and plans to include art and science wings at the university. He babbles on for a while and then asks more about her mission. Before Amaranthe call say anything else, the two are interrupted by Hollowcrest.

Hollowcrest sends the emperor on his way, as they have plenty of work, and then remarks to a guard to make sure the emperor receives his “tea” as he is too “perky”.

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Emperor Sespian returns to his rooms and spends a few minutes discussing his behavior with Amaranthe with his cat. He feels a bit foolish, but you know crushes can do that to people. His ramblings are interrupted by the coming of his daily cup of tea, the only thing stopping his intense headaches and seeming to keep him alive.

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Or is it?

Back with Amaranthe, she has decided to approach one of her acquaintances from school, Misty Masters. Now Misty was the leader of the gang Panthers, owns a very prosperous casino, and had underworld contacts. Amaranthe concocts a story about having a dark, illegal business and needing protection to smuggle goods. She asks Mitsy to pass along a message to Sicarius for her, requesting him as an employee. Mitsy agrees, for the price of a favor.

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That night Amaranthe heads to the meeting spot, where Amaranthe is supposed to offer employment, but in reality murder the assassin.

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He arrives as silent as a cat, with Amaranthe being scared witless. She tells him her concocted story, but Sicarius immediately knows she is lying. Sicarius then takes off. Before Sicarius is gone, she notices the mud on his boots is the same distinctive mud from the area where the fire was. Amaranthe decides that must be where he is staying and heads out there.

Amaranthe goes to the area and starts searching for Sicarius, all the while debating the issue of murdering him in her head. On one hand the emperor has a huge bounty on Sicarius’ head and has killed a lot of people. But on the other hand, he knew she was lying and let her live. Maybe he isn’t all bad? Kill him and be a murderer? Or kill him and have gained a position she rightfully earned?

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As she is setting up a crossbow and lying in wait to kill him, somebody grabs her neck from behind. Sicarius. Amaranthe knows there is nothing she can do, but still raises her arms to protect her. But to her surprise Sicarius stops.

What?

He dumps her on the ground and questions her instead. He grills her as to who sent her and why, asking what she did to anger Hollowcrest.

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What? Why would you ask me that,? Amaranthe asks only for Sicarius to tell her how easily he could have killed her a long time ago. Amaranthe asks him why he stopped, but Sicaris refuses to answer. Amaranthe runs through what could have happened to change his mind, remembering that he stopped when she put her arm up. The arm connected to the wrist that is wearing the emperor’s bracelet.

But the emperor? Doesn’t the emperor hate him? Doesn’t Sicarius want to assassinate the emperor?

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Amaranthe asks Sicarius but he tells her he has no intention of killing the emperor. She asks him how he found her and he tells her he has been following her after their previous encounter.

Sicarius is going to leave but Amaranthe stops him. Amaranthe finds the whole exchange the night before odd, especially the remarks about tea. Could it be used to dull the mind? Poison him? Make him more easily controlled? She shares her fears with Sicarius, and her hopes to investigate. Sicarius tells her that her days are numbered. Hollowcrest wants her dead if he sent her to see him, and its only a matter of time until he murders her some other way.

Crap

Amaranthe then does the only thing she can. She asks Sicarius for help. Sicarius pulls out his famous black dagger and hands it to her. He tells her it will be the only way she’ll get in as Hollowcrest will be surprised she accomplished her mission. He warns her that she will most likely not make it back out, but the best thing to do is find the secret passages in the dungeons that will lead her out.

Amaranthe goes to see Hollowcrest, and under much scruntity by his guards is able to make it in. While Amaranthe is waiting for Hollowcrest to join her in his office, she decides to do a little straightening as her OCD is kicking in. While fixing a book she discovers a note:

Hollowcrest, you said the emperor was under your control. Your puppet has’t made any of the changes we-

But the sound of footsteps stopping Amaranthe from reading anymore.

Hollowcrest asks her for details, but Amaranthe counters with questions of her own, as why he would send her. When he refuses to answer, Amaranthe tells him the truth, that Sicarius agreed to hand over the knife.

Hollowcrest is furious that she seduced him too. The “too” bothering Amaranthe as she has no clue what he is talking about. Apparently the emperor was smitten with her, and Hollowcrest couldn’t allow Amaranthe to have a crack at the throne.

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Amaranthe denies it and tries to get Hollowcrest to understand how insane he sounds, but Hollowcrest continues, even going as far and yelling at how unfair it is that this boy is ruling instead of him.

They are both interrupted by the emperor, Hollowcrest yelling treason and trying to have Amaranthe murdered. Amaranthe jumps out the window trying to escape.

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Unfortunately, Hollowcrest’s men find her and throw her in the dungeon, telling the prince she died in the fall. There Amaranthe discovers that Hollowcrest has ordered that all prisoners be experimented on in order to find better vaccinations to combat diseases. The guards infect her with deadly venom and leave her in her cell. Amaranthe decides to finish the note she nicked earlier from Hollowcrest’s office.

Hollowcrest, you said the emperor was under your control. Your puppet has’t made any of the changes we discussed, primarily to exempt key businesses from taxes in order to foster growth. Forge also demands a voice in the government. The empire is a defunct warrior aristocracy out of touch with the modern world. Your recalcitrance forces us to make threats. If the emperor does not pass the laws we have requested, he will be eliminated during his birthday celebration. The people will not accept you as a ruler. Since Sespian is the only Savarsin left who claims royal blood through both paternal and maternal lines, he is the only legitimate heir. His death will create civil war, giving us the opportunity to back a more amenable project. How do we go forward? The choice is yours. -Forge

Amaranthe knows she must escape and warn Sicarius or else the emperor will die. She can’t get out of her cell, but she does manage to reach the cabinet with the deadly insects, releasing them when the guards return.

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After a very long process and her infection making her delirious, she is able to get out of the dungeon, via the hidden passages, and find her way to the meeting spot. Then the world goes black.

Amaranthe wakes up and discovers Sicarius. Apparently he couldn’t understand her so he brought her to shaman to heal her, and then a warehouse. Amaranthe is astounded he found a magical healer, as it is illegal to deal with magic in the empire. Amaranthe tells Sicarius everything, along with the fact that she has a plan.

Amaranthe has decided the best way to go, in rooting out the emperor’s enemies, is create counterfeit money. With that influx in the market, Forge’s fortunes would become meaningless and Hollowcrest will have to deal with panicked citizens. It was the best way to get both parties to meet with her.

Amaranthe, to Sicarius’ doubt, sets off to gather a team. She first recruits “Books”, an ex professor and currently an alcoholic, whose son was killed by Hollowcrest. She only went to him for advice, but is able to win him over for help.

When running away from enforcers, as she now is a fugitive with a price on her head, she ducks into the nearest shop, it being one for procuring male escorts.

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While waiting them out, she spots a very handsome man, Maldynado, and comes up with the idea that by having him, he’ll be able to get the supplies needed for free. She strikes a deal with him that if her man bests him in a duel, he’ll have to give her two weeks of free service. He agrees, and with Sicarius’ win they have a new recruit.

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Later she spots a boy reciving a public flogging for having been practicing magic. She offers him Sicarius’ protection for his employment.

With the crew in place Amaranthe sets off to put her plan into motion, but there is still so much she doesn’t know. Can she trust all these men? Will she be able to save the emperor? Will she ever find out Sicarius backstory? What is his connection to Sespian? And many more.

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Thoughts After Reading:

I got this book on BookBub for free and wasn’t sure how I’d like it, but when I read it I LOVED it!!

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The characters were great and the dialogue hilarious. It was a like a magical Oceans 11 or something. I say you should check it out.

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For more book reviews, go to Knit, Purl, Die.