Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Kill Shot" by Nichole Christoff, Served with a Recipe for Creamy Vegan Dark Chocolate Truffles (+ E-Book/E-Gift Card Giveaway!)

What's more addicting than a mystery/thriller? That would be chocolate--especially creamy, decadent truffles. On today's TLC Book Tour stop, I am bringing you both--with a review of the "The Kill Shot: A Jamie Sinclair Novel" by Nichole Christoff, paired with a recipe for some dark chocolate truffles (dairy-free). There's also a giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the e-book and a $25 e-gift card to help fill up your e-reader at the bottom of this post--talk about feeding your addictions!

Publisher's Blurb:

In an explosive thriller for readers of Lee Child, Alex Berenson, and Brad Taylor, P.I. and security specialist Jamie Sinclair finds herself caught in a dangerous game of international cat-and-mouse.

Jamie Sinclair’s father has never asked her for a favor in her life. The former two-star general turned senator is more in the habit of giving his only child orders. So when he requests Jamie’s expertise as a security specialist, she can’t refuse—even though it means slamming the brakes on her burgeoning relationship with military police officer Adam Barrett. Just like that, Jamie hops aboard a flight to London with a U.S. State Department courier carrying a diplomatic pouch in an iron grip.
Jamie doesn’t have to wait long to put her unique skills to good use. When she and the courier are jumped by goons outside the Heathrow terminal, Jamie fights them off—but the incident puts her on high alert. Someone’s willing to kill for the contents of the bag. Then a would-be assassin opens fire in crowded Covent Garden, and Jamie is stunned to spot a familiar face: Adam Barrett, who saves her life with a single shot and calmly slips away. Jamie’s head—and her heart—tell her that something is very wrong. But she’s come way too far to turn back now.

On Sale: March 17, 2015
E-Book: Pages: 282
Published by : Alibi

My Review: Although The Kill Shot could work as a standalone, I have a *thing* about starting with the first book in a mystery series so I requested the first book, The Kill List, and read it before The Kill Shot. (You can read my The Kill List Goodreads review here.) I think the first book did a great job in setting up Jamie Sinclair's character and giving her back story, as well as introducing us to Adam Barrett--her military police officer romantic interest.

There are many things I liked about The Kill Shot starting with Jamie herself--she is smart, driven, holds her own in a male-dominated career, and has a sense of humor. She's not perfect and has plenty of issues--some deeply buried and some readily apparent. I also like Barrett, who although strong and no-nonsense, also has a soft side and unlike her ex-husband and father, is pretty supportive of Jamie and her skills. I think the pacing of the book was good--I like a lot of action and tension in my mystery thrillers and The Kill Shot provided it. London is a vibrant and intense city and most of the action in this book was set there. Author Christoff did a great job of bringing the city to life.

Here's where I get picky. There were a few things in The Kill Shot that I disliked and that drove me a bit crazy. The first, for all of Jamie's reported skills as a security specialist, she seemed to lose a lot of ground in this second book. She made more mistakes than I would think someone with her experience would in keeping both herself and her clients safe and undetected, and she missed a whole lot of (pretty glaring in my opinion) clues. I like twists in my thrillers where I get at least a bit of a surprise at the end and while action-packed, this book did not have that. I spent at least half the book screaming at Jamie in my mind (OK, maybe a few times out loud too) about why she wasn't listening to/observing what was going on around her and without going into much plot-spoiling detail, who not to trust and who the 'bad guys' were. It just seemed pretty obvious. Also, while I get the huge back story about the relationship with her father and need for his approval that was set up in the first book, the way Jamie seems to completely roll over to gain that approval bothered me. Finally, I am very sure about at least two things in this series--Jamie has square-framed/rimmed glasses and Barrett is built like a boxer. Why am I so sure of these things? The author kept repeating them to the point that it annoyed me. Maybe it was reading both books back-to-back but Jamie seemed to be always shoving her square-framed glasses higher on her nose. If they were not square-rimmed or framed, they were 'geeky' or 'brainiac' or 'nerdy' glasses. OK, I get it. Barrett was introduced as having a boxer's body (which is apparently 'broad through the chest and strong in the shoulder') then she kept mentioning his 'boxer's build' throughout both books. I am all for detailed descriptions but the books are told from Jamie's account and I don't know many people that think 'my square-framed glasses' every time they push them higher on their face or pick them up. Yes, as I mentioned, I know am being a bit picky here but it would pull me out of the story to roll my eyes--plus someone with that attention to detail when describing herself or her lover should not have missed the clues around her as much as Jamie seemed to in this second book. 

Whew! Now, that those petty grievances are off my chest, overall I did actually enjoy both books--The Kill List, more than The Kill Shot as Jamie seemed more on her game in the first book. The writing and the combination of the mystery/spy/military angles held my interest and kept me turning the pages. I can appreciate Jamie's penchant for designer shoes, chocolates and Barrett's chocolate brown eyes. (Maybe I can relate to that better than boxer's build so that repeated description didn't annoy me!) I will definitely seek out the next book in the series with high hopes that the relationship with Jamie and Barrett progresses but that Jamie gets her head back in the game of security and crime solving.

Author Notes: Nichole Christoff is a writer, broadcaster, and military spouse who has worked on air and behind the scenes producing and promoting content for radio, television news, and the public relations industry across the United States and Canada. Christoff is a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime and the Jane Austen Society of North America. She also belongs to Private Eye Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and three of RWA’s local chapters where she’s served as an officer and a member of the board. In Christoff’s first year as a member of RWA, her first manuscript won the Golden Heart for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. Her second manuscript won a Helen McCloy Scholarship from Mystery Writers of America. Her last manuscript was a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Her latest novel, The Kill Shot, is a 2014 Killer Nashville Claymore Dagger finalist.

There was actually a fair amount of food and drink to be inspired by in The Kill Shot. Jamie's love for good chocolate (cake and truffles) was mentioned in the first book and carries over into the second when she bids on a Waterford box of handcrafted truffles and a year of designer chocolates at a charity dinner/auction and dreams of going home to the chocolates and a bottle of champagne instead of the wilted salad dressed with too much vinegar served at the dinner. In London there is regional lager and English cheese, crackers and fruit, French onion soup and roast beef sandwiches, and a dinner at a Persian restaurant with pita, baba ganoush, and tabbouleh, then an English breakfast of tea, bacon, croissants, and strawberry jam. And, back stateside, there's a barbecue dinner of smoked meats and pulled pork. Since Jamie and I share a chocolate addiction, I opted to make some dark chocolate truffles as my dish representing the book.  

I wanted a decadent truffle but had some extra creamy coconut milk to use up so I looked for a vegan truffle using coconut milk. I found a recipe online for The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Vegan Truffles from Feed Your Awesome Machine that sounded like the creamy decadence I was looking for. (Note: Not all dark chocolate is vegan so check if you want your truffles dairy-free.) I basically halved the recipe as I didn't want to over-indulge and I changed up the toppings a bit to have some variety. In addition to the dark cocoa powder and shredded unsweetened coconut, I used pistachios and a mix of ground pink peppercorns with a hint of Himalayan pink sea salt.  

Creamy Vegan Dark Chocolate Truffles
From Melanie Stephens, Feed Your Awesome Machine
(Makes about 2 dozen small truffles)

150 g (about 5.3 oz) high quality dark vegan chocolate (70% coco solids minimum)
1/8 tsp sea salt 

1 Tbsp virgin coconut oil
108 ml (about 3.65 oz) canned coconut milk 

To garnish: things like desiccated/unsweetened shredded coconut, dark 100% cocoa powder, finely chopped nuts (I like pistachios), crushed pink peppercorns, cacao nibs, finely shaved chocolate, chia seeds, matcha, very finely chopped dried fruit or ground freeze-dried fruit (like strawberries), espresso powder, etc. 

The Night Before / Several Hours Before:
Break chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium-sized bowl along with the salt and coconut oil. Heat coconut milk in a small pan on stove until it is just about to boil.  Remove from heat and pour immediately over the chocolate and stir until completely mixed and you have a thick, smooth ganache. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in fridge overnight or for 4-6 hours.

To Make Truffles:
Prepare toppings of choice by placing them into individual shallow bowls--making sure there is enough of the topping to roll truffles into. Cover a plate or line a storage container with parchment paper for completed truffles.

Make sure hands are clean and dry. Using a small scoop or spoon, scoop a small amount of ganache out of the bowl and quickly roll it into a small ball with your hands. Roll formed truffle into one of your toppings until it is completely covered and place on parchment covered plate. Working quickly, repeat until you have rolled all of the ganache into balls and coated them with your topping choices. Cover plate/container gently with spring wrap and place in the fridge until firm. Scrape any remaining ganache from the bowl and lick the spoon as desired! ;-)

Some Truffle-Making Notes: This is a little bit messy but it's chocolate so who cares? Just have hand washing water and paper towels ready. I find that the toppings stick best if you roll the truffles into them immediately after forming them. If you do this you may need to wash and dry your hands a few times in between. Depending on the coconut milk you use, the density of your ganache may vary. If your ganche is too hard/solid to form balls, let sit for 15 minutes or more, until it is more pliable. If your ganache softens too much as you are rolling, put it back in the fridge to firm up again. If you have not made truffles before or worked much with chocolate ganache, check out the original recipe post (linked to above) for some great truffle-making tips and trouble-shooting ideas. 

Keep tightly covered in fridge for up to four days.

Notes/Results: OK, these dark chocolate truffles are little bites of heaven. Ultra-creamy, decadent and just sweet enough. They do not have a coconut flavor--they just taste like rich dark chocolate. I halved the recipe and got 24 (approximately 1 & 1/2-inch) truffles so I am guessing I made mine smaller than the original recipe. I like a one-to-two bite morsel when it comes to truffles. I think more than that is too much and, if I want more, I'll have another--maybe a different flavor topping. Out of the toppings my favorites were the coconut and pistachio, although the pink peppercorn and touch of salt mixture was fun too. Pink peppercorns are actually a berry and although peppery, it is a sweeter, milder pepper taste so not too overpowering. Texture-wise I could have ground the peppercorns a just a tad more. My rolling isn't perfect and consistent but I will just claim that it adds to the artisanal, rustic charm of the truffles. ;-) Totally worth a little mess. i will happily make these again. 


The publisher, Alibi, has generously included a Rafflecopter giveaway for The Kill Shot book tour. Enter below for chances to win a $25 eGift card to the eBook Retailer of your choice + an eBook copy of THE KILL SHOT. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway  
Note: A review copy of "The Kill Shot" as well as a copy of The Kill List were provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you enjoyed these books overall. Thanks for being a part of the tour!


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