Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sweet Reads: Philly Brownie Cheesecake & The Inquisitor's Mark




Last year I reviewed THE EIGHTH DAY, a really fantastic middle grade story by Dianne Salerni (I read it twice in the same year, so good). This year, I'm reviewing the sequel, THE INQUISITOR'S MARK (TED & TIM, hehe)! I was so looking forward to reading this book. But you know sometimes how you're super excited about something... and then it just doesn't live up to your expectations? =/ 

Well, that didn't happen here!! 

Mrs. Salerni has taken the world-building in this series and upped her game, making it even more intricate and interesting. I'm kind of in awe of the amount of planning this had to have taken! So in TIM, the gang is all here: Jax, Riley, Evangeline (well, some of the time, as she only exists in a magical 24 hour period once a week, poor girl), the Crandalls, & of course, the irascible Donovan twins. But we're also introduced to new characters: Jax's long-lost family who don't exactly have his best interests at heart. 

This book switches POV between Jax, and his cousin, Dorian. I liked Dorian and really felt for the poor kid. Because you always love your family, but what if they aren't exactly stand-up guys? I also like his POV b/c we got to see outside glimpses of how Jax appears to other people. And Jax will always be my main man. ;) 

Then there's Jax's best friend who also takes center stage. Billy is such a great character, really funny and a tad clueless, which only adds to his charm. Having these differing middle-grade characters is something that I really enjoyed. I just it think makes this book even more perfect for boy readers, as there's more than one boy character available for them to relate to. 
  
But boy, girl, (middle-aged woman): this series really will appeal to all ages. Promise! 

Might I share some fun snippets w/you? Yes? Awesome. 

Jax had heard enough. He yanked out his honor blade and stabbed the tip into the wooden desk. A moment later he remembered this wasn't really Taliesin's desk he was damaging, but it was too late to take back the dramatic gesture, so he went with it. "You! Chinless Wonder!" He pointed at the squirrelly Taliesin with his other hand. "Where is Adelina Emrys?"

* * *

"What d'ya mean, brownie?" Brownies were chocolate desserts cut into squares, not dog-faced, tailless rats. 

Evangeline came out of the restroom looking embarrassed. "Sorry. It climbed out of the trash can and startled me."

Riley waved a hand at the creature. "Shoo," he said gently. "Leave us alone."

The so-called brownie turned and scampered toward the kitchen, where Jax assumed it would chew on the food and leave poop everywhere.

* * *

Jax had never realized how much Riley's lineage made him the Transitioner equivalent of The Bachelor. For his part, Riley was looking back and forth between Sheila Morgan and Sloane Dulac as if one were a man-eating shark and the other a man-eating tiger. 

* * *

I love Jax's voice throughout the novel, and the first excerpt is a showcase of that. I also love when characters christen other characters with their own made up names-- I've done this a time or two in my own writing. And due to the dessert I'm sharing today, you've probably guessed the reason for the second excerpt. I swear no brownie poop went into my dessert. At least I think... ;) And lastly, Riley. I can totally see his appeal: tattooed, loyal, and cute to boot! You go, Evangeline. 

So, now for the Sweet part of this post. I don't always try to match recipes with elements from the book, but this time I did. You got to meet one of the brownies, a magical rodent-like creature and in honor of them, I went with this recipe:

Philly Brownie Cheesecake
1 pkg. (19 to 21 oz.) brownie mix (13x9-inch pan size)
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
3 eggs
2 squares Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Heat oven to 325

1. Prepare brownie batter as directed on package; pour into 13x9-inch pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake 25 min. or until top is shiny and center is almost set.

2. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add sour cream; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Gently pour over brownie layer in pan. (Filling will come almost to top of pan.)

3. Bake 40 min. or until center is almost set. Run knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen sides; cool. Refrigerate 4 hours. 

4. Melt chocolate squares as directed on package; drizzle over cheesecake. Refrigerate 15 min. or until chocolate is firm. 

* * *

Oh, and the dessert from up top? Gone, baby, gone.




After the all-out Eighth Day war in Mexico, Jax, Riley, and Evangeline have gone into hiding. There are still rogue Transitioners and evil Kin lords who want to use Riley, a descendant of King Arthur, and Evangeline, a powerful wizard with bloodlines to Merlin, to get control over the Eighth Day. 

So when Finn Ambrose, a mysterious stranger, contacts Jax claiming to be his uncle, Jax’s defenses go up—especially when Finn tells Jax that he’s holding Jax’s best friend, Billy, hostage. To rescue Billy and keep Riley and Evangeline out of the fray, Jax sneaks off to New York City on his own. But once there, he discovers a surprising truth: Finn is his uncle and Jax is closely related to the Dulacs—a notoriously corrupt and dangerous Transitioner clan who have been dying to get their hands on Riley and Evangeline. And family or not, these people will stop at nothing to get what they want.

With suspense, action, and intrigue lurking around every corner, this fast-paced fantasy series will be a welcome addition for fans of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter.

Amazon | B&N

45 comments:

  1. Leandra, Thanks for the great review and recipe -- and for sharing excerpts that happen to be some of my own favorites. I will pass the recipe on to my daughters, who are the chief bakers in this house!

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    1. It's a wonderful series, Dianne! So sad it'll be coming to an end soon. =(

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    2. Not necessarily. Fingers crossed for the optioned 4th and 5th books. Not out of the question yet ...

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    3. Really?! That's awesome to hear! Fingers (and toes) crossed...

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  2. Sounds like a tasty...er...wonderful read!

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  3. Awesome review of Dianne's book! It will be out soon.

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    1. It will! I hope everyone who's been waiting on it enjoys it, and that the series finds some new readers too.

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  4. Great review. And damn, I am lusting after some of that cheesecake LOL

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    1. Cheesecake always inspires lust... At least in my case! =)

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  5. So jealous you got an ARC! And that recipe looks delish! I'll have to try it :)

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    1. I was SOOO happy when it arrived in the mail! Life win, lol!

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  6. I can't wait to read this! Yay for Dianne! And I want to eat those brownies.

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  7. I love it when you do the review/dessert pairings! So clever (and yummy!) And the book sounds so fun. I don't read a ton of MG but this series may have to be an exception. Those excerpts you posted are so funny! I love the voice. :-)

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    1. Oh, do make an exception! Since there are older teenagers in this series, it really is like a cross-over, in my opinion.

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  8. I've been hearing lots of great things about this book. Congrats to Dianne! And mmm, I'm drooling over that brownie.

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    1. It's a series that's totally deserving of the praise! You can read them, Christine, and then save them for your little guy when he's older. =)

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  9. Leandra, I do love these pairings. My daughter is a good baker and would love both the book and dessert. I'm passing it on to her. Congratulations Dianne!

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  10. The book and cheesecake both sound fantastic!

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    1. Books and cheesecake are a hard pairing to beat. Huh. I wonder if that's why our local Cheesecake Factory and Barnes and Noble are right next to each other... It's a conspiracy! ;)

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  11. I love middle grade. I'll have to check these out!

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  12. you had me at brownie cheesecake!! aahh that looks like complete heaven! and of course the book sounds wonderful! :)

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    1. I am always in heaven when it concerns cheesecake. ;)

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  13. That sounds like a super fun read! Thanks for the review!

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  14. The TED and TIM thing made me laugh, too! Yay for Dianne! I'm guessing that brownie was all kinds of good, huh?

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    1. It's kind of embarrassing how long it took me to realize the title acronyms were names... =) And totally!

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    2. My daughters are totally annoyed with me that I couldn't come up with a title for the third book that spelled TOM or TAD.

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  15. Sweet! I'm starting the series with the kidlets this summer, while I'm "recovering" and completely sleep deprived from a newborn. Not much better than an MG series the entire family can enjoy. =)

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    1. Oh, man, here's wishing you all the sleep you can handle. And no, there isn't!

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  16. I've heard so many good things about this series--I'm definitely going to check it out. And thanks for the brownie recipe. Yum!

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  17. I want that brownie cheesecake. YUM!!! The book looks great, too, but I'm really hungry right now!

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    1. Don't you hate when that happens- and never NEVER watch the Food Network with an empty stomach. ;)

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  18. Yes - these books look so good! They're totally on my list. And hellloooo brownie cheesecake! Oh I would kill for a piece right now... ;)

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    1. Hey, ppl have killed for lesser things than a good dessert. =D

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  19. Books, cheesecake, and chocolate -- a very winning combo.

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  20. Okay, I have to read this series! You gave such a great review that now I'm dying to read them. And yay for brownie cheesecake! Did you save me some? :) Glad I have the recipe now...

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  21. Great pairing, the brownie cheesecake looks delicious!

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