Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fatal Reservations

Author: Lucy Burdette
Genre: Light Mystery
Type: e-book
Source: NetGalley
Series: #6 in the Key West Food Critic mystery series
Publisher: Penguin Group Berkeley
First Published: Juky 7, 2015
First Line: "The first time Miss Gloria almost died, she came out of the hospital rigid with fear."

Book Description from GoodReadsHayley Snow looks forward to reviewing For Goodness Sake, a new floating restaurant that promises a fresh take on Japanese delicacies like flambéed grouper with locally sourced seaweed. But nearby land-based restaurateurs would rather see their buoyant competition sink.

Sent to a City Commission meeting to cover the controversy, Hayley witnesses another uproar. The quirky performers of the daily Sunset Celebration are struggling to hold onto their performance space. The fight for Mallory Square has renewed old rivalries between Hayley’s Tarot-card reading friend Lorenzo and a flaming-fork-juggling nemesis, Bart Frontgate—but things take a deadly turn when Bart is found murdered.

If Lorenzo could read his own cards, he might draw The Hanged Man. He can only hope that Hayley draws Justice as she tries to clear him of murder…

My Review:  This is the sixth installment of the Key West Food Critic series and once again Hayley finds a mystery to solve.  This time she aims to clear the name of her friend Lorenzo from a murder charge.  Also in tow are the gaggle of quirky characters - with Miss Gloria, Hayley's octogenarian house mate being one of my favourites in the series.

I have to admit that this book wasn't my favourite in the series.  It was still an easy to read cozy mystery but there seemed to be a little less suspense. Hayley also occasionally made foolhardy decisions which didn't endear her to me.

Delicious descriptions of food, of course, are a mainstay in this series.  Readers will enjoy the chance to whip up some of the dishes from the recipes at the back of the book.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley, Penguin Group Berkeley and Lucy Burdette for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Garlic-y Mushroom and Spinach Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese are a staple in our house. They're quick, easy, my kids all like them and they can be tweaked to personal tastes.  That's how this recipe came about. Brad and I had made the kids some normal grilled cheese but we wanted something more and, if truth be told, I had some baby spinach in the fridge just beggin' to be used.

These sandwiches were awesome and with the addition of the mushrooms, garlic and spinach they felt a little healthier.  I also used some Garlic Margarine that we bought at our local Farmer's Market which is the bomb, ya'll! Hunks of fresh from the farm garlic with some pretty spices t'boot.  Garlic-y goodness that adds some pizzazz to all sorts of dishes.

I also added a little somethin' something.  My new obsession when it comes to condiments.  I simply adore it and will eat it on almost everything because it pleases my taste buds so very much.  See, the past couple of months I've had a total love fest with a sauce that one of my sister's turned us onto - Jalapeno Lime Aioli from Culinary Treasures that is sold at our Costco.  Oh ... my ... gravy!  It is so good that I add it to ham and Swiss sandwiches, roast beef sandwiches and yes, even these grilled cheese.  It has the perfect amount of zip.

However you garnish these sandwiches they are a nice variation from the traditional grilled cheese.  Just think of all of the different grilled cheese you can make just by adding some new toppings!  The variations are endless!  Cheesy goodness at its best.

2 tsp butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup fresh baby spinach leaves, stems removed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
4 slices of bread
2 tbsp garlic margarine/butter (or combine butter with 2 cloves of garlic and some dried parsley)
1 cup shredded Marble cheese OR 4 slices Swiss cheese OR your favourite cheese

Garnish - Jalapeno Lime Aioli sauce (found at Costco)

In a small skillet, melt 2 tsp of butter.  Add minced garlic, onion and button mushrooms.

Cook until onions and mushrooms are tender.  Add baby spinach and cook until wilted. Sprinkle with dried thyme.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Spread garlic butter over one side of each slice of bread.  

Place two pieces of bread, butter side down, into the heated skillet.  Add one slice of Swiss cheese to each slice.  Top with mushroom/spinach mixture.  Top with remaining cheese slices.  Place remaining bread slices on top, buttered side up.

When bottom slice of bread has browned carefully flip sandwiches (some of the mushroom mixture may pop out, just shove it back in with a small spoon).  Brown remaining bread slice.  Remove from heat and let it sit for a minute so the cheese doesn't run everywhere when you cut it in half.  Open sandwich and add Jalapeno Lime Aioli sauce (if desired).  Slice each sandwich in half and serve immediately.

Source: The Baking Bookworm

Disclaimer:  I have no ties to Culinary Treasures nor have I been contacted by them to use their product in my post.  My comments about their product are simply my own from personal use of their product.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon
Genre: Young Adult, Modern Fiction, Romance
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 306
Source: Random House Canada
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
First Published: Sept 1, 2015

Book Description from GoodReadsThis innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

My Review: Everything, Everything is a quirky romance between two teens who are struggling with feelings of being trapped in their lives for various reasons.  While it deals with some serious issues I found it to be a really quick read (I read it in one day) with some enjoyable characters and short chapters.

Romance lovers will enjoy seeing Maddy and Olly's relationship emerge.  I loved the natural feel to the witty banter between them and overall it felt like a believable start to a relationship.  To increase the charm and quirkiness of Maddy and Olly the author includes various illustrations, lists, diary entries, Maddy's 'Neighbourhood Watch' lists, graphs, IMs and emails.  These enabled the reader to see Maddy and Olly's senses of humour, give their relationship a very modern feel and allows Maddy to act like a normal teen.

I will admit that I enjoyed the first third of the book more than the rest.  I liked seeing how Maddy and Olly struggle with the lives they've been given but find solace in each other.  They helped each other grow and see possibilities for their futures.  But somewhere around two-thirds of the way through things got a little dicey and I wasn't fully on board with the plot.  The author threw in a huge twist at the end that I didn't predict (kudos to Yoon!) but I'm still not sure that I loved it.  It was a great twist but in the aftermath things were tied things up a little too nicely to be believable.

Maddy and Olly were cute main characters.  I loved the diversity that Yoon gave Maddy as a Japanese/African American teen and Olly's overall charm but it was their believable banter back and forth that sold them for me.  I liked them right off the bat. A better look into Olly's feelings about Maddy and his family life would have made the book even better as well as more information regarding Maddy's disease - SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease).  We're given the gist of the disease (allergic to everything) but that's about it.  

While I didn't agree with some of the characters' decisions overall this was an enjoyable and quick read.  The short chapters, with their unique and well placed use of IMs, emails, illustrations etc, helped to give this book a nice modern feel.  This was a rather quiet, subdued book.  The story doesn't have a lot going on but instead it focuses on a relationship which I found to be a sweet read without being overly mushy.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to Random House Canada for providing me with a hardcover copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Man Called Ove

Author: Fredrik Backman
Genre: Modern Fiction
Type: e-audiobook
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: Dreamscape Media LLC
First Published: July 2014
First Line: "Ove is fifty-nine."

Book Description from GoodReadsIn this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fryand Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Fredrik Backman's novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.

My Review:  What a gem of a book.

When the reader is first introduced to Ove (pronounced "oo-va") he comes off as curmudgeon.  A cantankerous old coot.  He's a stickler for rules and complains about everyone and everything that doesn't follow his expectations and stanch rule set.  He hates Volvos (he's a Saab man himself), fancy coffee machines, little yappy dogs and laptops.  At first I feared that the whole book would be about him pointing out people's flaws and just being a grump in general.  That would have gotten old fast.

But as the story progresses you start to see Ove in a different light.  Sure, he loves order and rules.  He has his own way of doing things.  He will tell you in no uncertain terms if he doesn't like something you've done.  But through a series of flashbacks the reader is given a peek into Ove's past and we get to see why he became the man he is today.  Like all of us Ove has many layers and it was wonderful being able to peel them off one by one to get to the real man beneath.  

It's the humour and the touching aspect that surprised me the most about this book.  It walks the line between being overly sentimental and somber perfectly.  The relationships that Ove creates, even with the smallest encounter, with the people around him are what stand out and help you get to know Ove better.  Whether it's with Adrian, the delivery boy or Parvaneh, the young, pregnant Iranian mother (and Ove's neighbour) Ove touches many of their lives and they his.  

Ove has a goal and sets a plan in place to complete it but his plans are interrupted regularly by Parvaneh's family, a stray cat and Ove's neighbourhood nemesis. It's Parvaneh who plays a pivotal role in transforming the reader's perception of Ove.  She and her family are exactly what he needs and he slowly comes to realize this as well and it's through his relationships that his true demeanour is revealed to the reader.  

Ove doesn't have a big personality change towards the end of the book.  He's still the same curmudgeon set on upholding the rules and I loved that.  He is who he is.  Who could forget Ove's biggest compliment that he gave to Parvaneh -- 'You are not a complete twit'?  It's actually the reader's view of Ove that changes as we continue to chip away at his harsh exterior to the giving and accepting person beneath.  You can't help but love him - a man who stands up for what is right, who is a devoted friend (even when that friend irritates him so much), who is fiercely devoted to his wife, Sonja the woman who is able to put up with his quirky behaviours and he has a very generous heart if one only takes the time to see it.

This book will have you laughing and crying.  It's a good reminder not to rely on first impressions of people. I was expecting a simple story about a grumpy old man but what I got was a charming, heart-felt and touching read.

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Saturday, August 29, 2015

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me

Author: Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 240
Source: Local Public Library
Publisher: The Experiment
First Published: April 2015
First Line: "It is the look on the woman's face that seems familiar."

Book Description from GoodReadsAn international bestseller—the extraordinary memoir of a German-Nigerian woman who learns that her grandfather was the brutal Nazi commandant depicted in Schindler’s List.

“I am the granddaughter of Amon Goeth, who shot hundreds of people—and for being black, he would have shot me, too.” In an instant, Jennifer Teege’s life turns upside down; the shock of discovering her ancestry shatters her sense of self.

Teege is 38—married, with two small children—when by chance she finds a library book about her grandfather, Amon Goeth. Millions of people worldwide know of him through Ralph Fiennes’ chilling portrayal in Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. Goeth was the brutal commandant of the Plaszów concentration camp—Oskar Schindler’s drinking buddy, and yet his adversary. Responsible for the deaths of thousands, Amon Goeth was hanged in 1946.

Goeth’s partner Ruth, Teege’s much-loved grandmother, committed suicide in 1983. Teege is their daughter’s daughter; her father is Nigerian. Raised by foster parents, she grew up with no knowledge of the family secret. Now, it unsettles her profoundly. What can she say to her Jewish friends, or to her own children? Who is she—truly?

My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me is Teege’s searing chronicle of grappling with her haunted past. Her research into her family takes her to Poland and to Israel. Award-winning journalist Nikola Sellmair supplies historical context in a separate, interwoven narrative. Step by step, horrified by her family’s dark history, Teege builds the story of her own liberation.

My Review:  The title of this book piqued my interest immediately.  And when I found out that it was a memoir written about a bi-racial woman who finds out her grandfather was one of the most brutal Nazis I knew I wanted to read this book because it took a look at the effects of WWII from a totally different viewpoint. It brings to light the question of how the family members of Nazi war criminals came to terms with their family member's horrific past deeds.  

Teege gives her readers a glimpse into the history of her birth family.  I assumed going in that I'd get a better picture of her grandfather, Amon Göth, the notorious commandant of the Płaszów concentration camp in occupied Poland (who was also one of the main characters in the movie Schindler's List).  But this book isn't about Teege's grandfather because she was adopted at a young age and had never met Göth.  

Instead the book focuses on how Teege comes to terms with her grandfather's past, her emotional abandonment by her birth mother, her feelings about being adopted (which never felt overly positive) and her time in Israel.  I appreciated how Teege struggled to come to terms with the grandmother she loved who had also been Göth's girlfriend.  I would have loved to have gone deeper into why and how the grandmother ignored the horrific situations (shootings, beatings ...) that she saw when she lived in an elegant home with Göth just ouside the concentration camp.

Unfortunately the pace throughout the book was very slow and I found that quite a lot of the book was reiterated to the reader.  In the end, although the book was written sensitively and thoughtfully I thought that the information given could have been written in a short story format.  I appreciated the addition of pages of documentary style information that author Nikola Sellmair provided.  It added to the story and gave me a broader idea of the history as well as how others in similar situations dealt with this type of revelation.

Teege brings up some interesting points - If our grandparents commit heinous crimes do we have to share in their guilt?  - but i'm not sure that she really got to the heart of the issues.  In the end I wanted more from this book and finished it feeling let down.  It didn't feel like Teege herself got a lot of closure from her family history.  She still felt lost to me at the end of the book and I never felt connected to her while reading her story.  In the end I struggled to finish this book and although the author brings up some interesting points I don't think that enough information was given to the reader to make it a compelling read.

My Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Grilled Red Peppers with Balsamic and Goat Cheese

A couple of weekends ago Brad and I had our parents over for supper.  A 'just cuz' kind of gathering.  We wanted to enjoy these last few weeks of summer with a big grilled meal complete with corn on the cob. You aren't done eating corn on the cob until you have corn bits between all of your teeth.  That's my rule anyway.

The day before the supper I had picked up two baskets of red peppers from our local farmer's market (I had used some of these red peppers to make red pepper jelly that weekend - see my review of The Canning Kitchen for more about that endeavour! I went out of my comfort zone on that one but it worked out big time.)

These red peppers were a great addition to the Easy Porchetta Pork Tenderloin and the salmon that Brad caught last week on Lake Ontario.  Yup, m'man brought home a 16lb salmon!  Yummo!  These red peppers and the balsamic, thyme and goat cheese are always great to pair together and this was no exception.  A simple side dish with only a few really good ingredients can often take a meal from good to great.  We had a couple of red pepper halves left over so eagerly used them in a pasta dish the next day for lunch!

2 red peppers - stem and seeds removed
2 tsp grapeseed oil

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp grapeseed oil (or your oil of choice)
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme
to taste - black pepper

Garnish - 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

Slice red pepper into quarters.  Toss with 2 tsp of oil and set aside.

Heat BBQ to medium heat.

Meanwhile, combine balsamic vinegar, oil, thyme and black pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Grill red pepper slices, skin side down, for approximately 8-10 minutes or until al dente. 

Remove from heat and place in a serving dish.  Drizzle balsamic mixture over each red pepper and dot each red pepper with small bits of goat cheese.  Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Source: The Baking Bookworm

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Bug in a Vacuum

Author: Melanie Watt
Genre: Children's Picturebook
Type: Hardcover
Pages: 96
Source: Random House Publishing
Publisher: Random House Publishing
First Published: August 25 2015
First Line: "The bug started here."

Book Description from GoodReadsA bug flies through an open door into a house, through a bathroom, across a kitchen and bedroom and into a living room ... where its entire life changes with the switch of a button. Sucked into the void of a vacuum bag, this one little bug moves through denial, bargaining, anger, despair and eventually acceptance -- the five stages of grief -- as it comes to terms with its fate. Will there be a light at the end of the tunnel? Will there be dust bunnies in the void? A funny, suspenseful and poignant look at the travails of a bug trapped in a vacuum.

My Review: With her books and illustrations (specifically her Scaredy Squirrel series) Melanie Watt has proven that she can get to the heart of issues that affect children in an engaging way.  Bug in a Vacuum follows along this path as Watt introduces the five stages of grief to her young readers as they follow a fly who has been unexpectedly sucked up by a vacuum.  These stages were first introduced by psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance.

Watt provides a story line that is simple enough for young children to understand but also gives parents the opportunity to delve deeper into the subject of grief and loss with older children.  Along with a great message, Watt pairs beautiful, detailed artwork with a wonderfully softened effect that also has a great sense of humour and a uniquely retro feel.

Watt engages readers young and old in various ways.  The detailed pictures will engage young children (they can follow the flight of the fly across the pages with their fingers), older children will be able to understand the underlying message because even though the book deals with serious feelings words are used sparingly but to great effect to get the message through.  As an adult, I can attest to loving the secondary and silent story of the dog and how it deals with its own loss as well as the humourous way each stage of grief is introduced to the reader.

Watt is a wonderful writer and illustrator and has created a unique picture book for parents to broach a very serious topic with their children and easily keeps adults engaged as well.  I truly enjoyed this book.

To view the video trailer of this book on YouTube click HERE

My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Random House Publishing for providing me with a complimentary hard cover copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Industrial Magic

Author: Kelley Armstrong
Genre: Supernatural, Mystery
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 512
Source: Own
Series: #4 in the Women of the Underworld series
Publisher: Vintage Canada
First Published: January 2010
First Line: "Got another CSI question for you," Gloria said as Simon walked into the communication hub with an armload of papers."

Book Description from GoodReadsMeet the smart, sexy — supernatural — women of the otherworld. This is not your mother’s coven...

Kelley Armstrong returns with the eagerly awaited follow-up to Dime Store Magic. Paige Winterbourne, a headstrong young woman haunted by a dark legacy, is now put to the ultimate test as she fights to save innocents from the most insidious evil of all.. . .

In the aftermath of her mother’s murder, Paige broke with the elite, ultraconservative American Coven of Witches. Now her goal is to start a new Coven for a new generation. But while Paige pitches her vision to uptight thirty-something witches in business suits, a more urgent matter commands her attention.

Someone is murdering the teenage offspring of the underworld’s most influential Cabals — a circle of families that makes the mob look like amateurs. And none is more powerful than the Cortez Cabal, a faction Paige is intimately acquainted with. Lucas Cortez, the rebel son and unwilling heir, is none other than her boyfriend. But love isn’t blind, and Paige has her eyes wide open as she is drawn into a hunt for an unnatural-born killer. Pitted against shamans, demons, and goons, it’s a battle chilling enough to make a wild young woman grow up in a hurry. If she gets the chance.

My Review:  Many of my blog readers who have been with me for a long time will know that I adore Canadian author Kelley Armstrong's hugely popular 'Women of the Underworld' series.  No one writes strong female supernaturals better than Ms Armstrong.  Add to that some great suspense, some romance (the non-cheesy variety) and a cast of truly interesting and unique individuals and you've got a recipe for success.

There are not many books that I am eager to re-read or that I will buy for my home library after already reading them but this series is one of them.  In fact, this was my third time reading this book and I think I actually enjoyed reading Industrial Magic more this time around.  The second time I read it I was still yearning for more Clay and Elena (the werewolf couple) whom I adored from the first two books. This time I let the wolves go a bit and focused on Paige and Lucas and I enjoyed getting their take on things.  

Like in her previous books, Armstrong's cast of characters make appearances in other books and I love how seamlessly this is done.  Once again Armstrong pulls her readers into her unique world of supernaturals living among us but this time focusing on witches and the evil Cabals (think magical mafia). There's a solid mystery surrounding the murders of Cabal youth at the centre of this book but the reader also gets a deeper look into Lucas' extended family and all the baggage that entails.

Overall, this is a great addition to the Women of the Underworld series. I recently purchased my own copy of Haunted (the fifth book in the series) and can't wait to pick it up soon to remind myself of Eve Levine's role in this unique supernatural world.

If you haven't picked up this series yet I HIGHLY recommend you do.  Start with Bitten and read them in order.  A TV series is currently available on the Space channel and is loosely based on Bitten.  I love that it's being filmed in Toronto and Cambridge, Ontario!  The TV series is great but the book, of course, is better.

My Review: 4/5 stars

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Canning Kitchen

Author: Amy Bronee
Genre: Cookbook
Type: Paperback
Pages: 244
Source: Author
Publisher: Penguin Group
First Published: June 9, 2015
First Line: "The sound of knives clinking in jars was standard dinner music in my childhood."

Book Description from GoodReadsA modern take on a beloved tradition The Canning Kitchen blends the traditions of home preserving with the tastes of the modern home cook with 101 simple, small batch recipes and vivid photography. Fill jars with canning classics such as Strawberry Rhubarb Jam and Crunchy Dill Pickles, and discover new classics like Salted Caramel Pear Butter, Bing Cherry Barbecue Sauce, and Sweet Thai Chili Chutney. With fresh ideas for every season, you’ll want to keep your canning pot handy year-round to make delicious jams, jellies, marmalades, pickles, relishes, chutneys, sweet and savory sauces, and jars of homemade pantry favourites.

In addition to year-round recipes, The Canning Kitchen includes all the basics you’ll need to get started. Boost your canning confidence with straight-forward answers to common preserving questions and find out about the canning tools you need, many of which you may already have in your kitchen. Get tips on choosing seasonal ingredients and fresh ideas on how to enjoy your beautiful preserves. Use the step-by-step checklist to safely preserve each delicious batch, leaving you with just enough jars to enjoy at home plus a little extra for sharing.

My Review:  When I first received this complimentary book directly from the author my first thought was - "What a thoughtful gift.  It's a gorgeous cookbook but I don't do home canning".  Why you ask?   My hesitation stems from three thoughts: A) canning seemed to me to take a lot of work and many hands, B) I don't need 30 bottles of dill pickles or 40 jars of stewed apples in the foreseeable future and C) the idea that if I don't do it exactly right I'll end up giving my family a lovely bout of botulism.  Ain't nobody got time for food poisoning.

But as I started to read the book author Amy Bronee started to put me at ease and I found that my concerns were unfounded.  She has a very down-to-earth writing style that made home canning not feel scary and actually doable.  Bronee gives her readers all of the information they need to feel confident, inspired and knowledgeable enough to tackle the tradition of canning.  From answering some basic canning questions to telling her readers what equipment they must have as well as 'nice to have' items to giving her readers a Processing Checklist (great for Type A's like me) Bronee breaks down the canning process.  I also appreciated that the recipes in this book focus on small batch recipes (using 4-10 jars depending on the recipe) which is perfect for our family.

Her descriptions of the process were so clear for me that making a batch of her Red Pepper Jelly over the weekend was a breeze.  The jelly was extremely well received by my family as well as my parents and mother-in-law after I served it as an appetizer over cream cheese. Needless to say they each went home with a jar that day.  

That first foray into canning was so positive that yesterday I wanted to try my hand at Strawberry Jam before the fresh berries were gone for the season.  So I got up at the crack of crazy yesterday morning and hit the farmer's market before the tourists got there.  Armed with a tray of 'fresh from the farm' strawberries and some new mason jars I was set and proceeded to make two batches of jam.  Now I have 14 jars of strawberry bliss on my pantry shelves which The Bookworm Family can eat and share with friends and extended family. Yay!

This cookbook also comes with loads of pictures which are stunning and mouth watering.  As I read through the book I started to bookmark some of the 101 recipes so that by the end I had a gaggle of sticky bookmarks sticking out of the top of the book. Yup, I was intrigued to say the least and who wouldn't be?  This book includes sweet items like jams, jellies and applesauce including Salted Caramel Pear Butter, Strawberry Balsamic Jam (Wha?! YUM!) and Vanilla Bean Stewed Rhubarb.  But there's also more savory treats like Chipotle Apple Barbeque Sauce, Zesty Pizza Sauce, Beer Hive Grainy Mustard as well as the tried and true favourites of pickles, relishes and chutneys.  Yes, this book covers all the delicious bases.

It's official, y'all.  I've been bit by the home canning bug!  Canning is a great way to stock up your own cellar with culinary treats made with fresh local produce picked at its peak.  Plus you have the great option to treat your family and friends with jars of delicious treats made by you.  It's an age old custom that I'm happy to say will now become a tradition in our home.

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Amy Bronee for sending me a complimentary copy of her cookbook.  My thoughts about the book are purely my own and the fact that I received a free copy of the book has not influenced my honest review of this book.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Hesitation Cut

Author: Giles Blunt
Genre: Suspense, Canadian
Type: Trade Paperback
Pages: 308
Source: Random House Canada
Publisher: Random House Canada
First Published: August 18, 2015
First Line: "There are many farms amid the hills that roll from New York City to Rochester, and on one of these farms a bell was ringing at the unconscionable hour of 4:45 a.m."

Book Description from GoodReadsMaster crime novelist Giles Blunt is back with a standalone novel of penetrating psychological suspense. Turning the screw tighter on every page, he delivers an intricately plotted story of jealousy and obsession that rivals the best of Patricia Highsmith and Gillian Flynn.

Nothing could be more serene than the life of Brother William, a young Benedictine monk who had turned his back on the world ten years earlier to retreat to a monastery in upstate New York. But then Lauren Wolfe, a troubled young poet, comes to use the library to research a book on Heloise and Abelard; one sight of the faint scars from a failed suicide attempt on Lauren's wrist is enough to turn the monk's life upside down. 

Every suppressed romantic impulse rises to the surface: his desire to rescue and soothe her trumps his vows of obedience, poverty and chastity. Soon he is simply Peter, a gentle young man who has followed his beloved to New York City because he needs to look out for her, as sincerely as he once pursued his calling.

Of course, just because you love doesn't mean your love will be returned. Just because your intentions are good doesn't mean you'll achieve what you intend. No one illuminates the extreme psychological states this tale of obsession explores better than Giles Blunt. And no reader will ever see the end coming...

My Review: Giles Blunt is an award winning author of the Algonquin Bay mystery series.  He is touted as a Canadian 'master crime novelist' so I went into this book expecting a suspenseful read.  The Hesitation Cut was a good read and deals with some serious issues.  It kept my interest but instead of a suspenseful read it was more of a character analysis of Peter, a character whom I struggled to connect with.

I think a lot of my feelings stem from the fact that I didn't love either of the main characters, Peter or Lauren.  They were both quite wounded and on self-destructive downward spirals with no end in sight.  That's a dark place to be.  From a psychological perspective, the description of Peter's life was interesting but I couldn't fully get behind some of his motivations or his decisions which felt haphazard and unrealistic.

Overall this was a well written dark read about two troubled people with some rather extreme sexual and violent scenes.  It's a story about obsession and a subjective view of love and jealousy. While it isn't perhaps for the faint of heart it is an interesting read.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

Disclaimer:  My sincere thanks to Random House Canada for providing me with a complimentary paperback copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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