Saturday, June 29, 2013

Weekend Cooking...A Tonic for the Blazing Heat of Summer

They say that 2013 is the Year of the Gin and Tonic.
The they in this case is the New York Times, so it must be true, right? Well, about this, maybe.
So if this is the year of the G&T, I must be part of it.
This is important enough to do a little gin and tonic study, followed by the required taste test.
Of course, I do this only for you, my dear readers, so I can share the results of my study.
I do it only as a scientific experiment, of course. ;-)
No thanks are required.
But still appreciated!

So, where does this drink, the G&T,  come from, the mixing of quinine tonic water and gin?
Funny you should ask...and of course...our friends at Wikipedia have an answer...
"Quinine is an effective muscle relaxant, long used by the Quechua, who are indigenous to Peru, to halt shivering due to low temperatures. The Peruvians would mix the ground bark of cinchona trees with sweetened water to offset the bark's bitter taste, thus producing tonic water...

Quinine has been used in unextracted form by Europeans since at least the early 17th century. It was first used to treat malaria in Rome in 1631. In the years that followed, cinchona bark, known as Jesuit's bark or Peruvian bark, became one of the most valuable commodities shipped from Peru to Europe. When King Charles II was cured of malaria at the end of the 17th Century with quinine, it became popular in London. It remained the antimalarial drug of choice until the 1940s, when other drugs took over...

Quinine is a flavour component of tonic water and bitter lemon. On the soda gun behind many bars, tonic water is designated by the letter "Q" representing quinine. According to tradition, the bitter taste of antimalarial quinine tonic led British colonials in India to mix it with gin, thus creating the gin and tonic cocktail, which is still popular today in many parts of the world, especially the UK, United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand."
It is certainly a popular summer drink, refreshing on a hot summer day. And usually it is a simple affair. Grab a glass, filled with ice. Pour in some gin, some tonic water, perhaps a slice of lime. Stir and drink. Which is fine, but could it be better?

First, there is the gin. I will admit I had no gin, so a short trip to the liquor store was in order, where I faced a large selection of gins. Not as many as the vodka selection, which was HUGE, but still a lot. So I went with one I had never heard of but had a rating of 95 from some wine magazine. We will skip why wine magazines are rating gins..But feel free to use your favorite gin if you have one. If not, I would not buy the cheapest, or the most expensive, just one in the middle and go from there.

Iris flavored..really

Saffron Infused Gin...I think not.

But then there is the tonic water, which some folks think could be replaced with something better. In this case, a small batch quinine syrup. Cane sugar to replace the high fructose corn syrup, all the spices and color of the cinchona bark and the ability to add as much or as little as you like, topped off with bubbly water. So I had to get my hands (yes, Amazon carries it) on a bottle of Tomr's Tonic.
"I worked on this recipe for quite a while until I hit on the perfect batch," says Tomr's creator Tom Richter. His blend of cinchona, sugar and organic herbs, spices and citrus is vibrant and bright. Mixed with gin and sparkling water, it's sublime. The light orange-amber color may come as a surprise initially, but one sip and you'll likely be converted. "A lot of first-time customers say, 'I don't really like gin and tonics, but I really like this drink," says Richter. In addition, he says cinchona grown in different parts of the world impart distinctly different flavor profiles, opening up the possibility of terroir-influenced G&Ts."
I had to look up terrior, a term, it seems, usually related to wine. "Terroir is the set of special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place, interacting with the plant's genetics, express in agricultural products such as wine, coffee, chocolate, tomatoes, heritage wheat, cannabis, and tea. The concept has also crossed to other products such as cheeses." And tonic syrup!

That quote is from an article about the Gin and Tonic at AskMen and they also give what they think is the perfect G&T recipe.

A cute little cocktail book recently reviewed by BethFish


The Perfect Gin and Tonic

2 oz. London Dry or Plymouth Gin
1 oz. Tomr's Tonic (or your own tonic syrup)
Perrier or Pellegrino (lime-flavored works nicely)
2 dashes bitters (lemon, Angostura or Hella Bitter Citrus)
Fresh lime wedge

The Tomr's G&T

1 oz. Tomr's Tonic
2 oz. Gin
3 oz. Club soda

Fill a highball glass with ice. 
Add tonic, gin and club soda. 
Like that New Amsterdam bottle!

So,  how did that taste test go.?
I had no bitters...and forgot them at the liquor I could not make the 'perfect' one. I really should have done this at the Bro's. He has a very well stocked assortment of alcohol related materials. But I did make a traditional Tonic water and gin one and the Tomr's/gin/bubbly water version, both with some lime.

Of course, they look different. I must say, I like the clear one but it really makes no difference.
As to taste...well, they are both good, but different. If I had to pick, I would definately go with the Tomr's. It is quite tasty, much, much more interesting than the tonic water, but it is still the gin that stands out. I do like that juniper berry taste.
If you are a fan of the G&T, I really think you have to give this a try!

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Review of "Fly Away" [49]

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah
St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9780312577216
4/23/2013, 416 pages

"Tully Hart has always been larger than life, a woman fueled by big dreams and driven by memories of a painful past. She thinks she can overcome anything until her best friend, Kate Ryan, dies. Tully tries to fulfill her deathbed promise to Kate---to be there for Kate’s children---but Tully knows nothing about family or motherhood or taking care of people.

Sixteen-year-old Marah Ryan is devastated by her mother’s death. Her father, Johnny, strives to hold the family together, but even with his best efforts, Marah becomes unreachable in her grief. Nothing and no one seems to matter to her . . . until she falls in love with a young man who makes her smile again and leads her into his dangerous, shadowy world.

Dorothy Hart---the woman who once called herself Cloud---is at the center of Tully’s tragic past. She repeatedly abandoned her daughter, Tully, as a child, but now she comes back, drawn to her daughter’s side at a time when Tully is most alone. At long last, Dorothy must face her darkest fear: Only by revealing the ugly secrets of her past can she hope to become the mother her daughter needs.
A single, tragic choice and a middle-of-the-night phone call will bring these women together and set them on a poignant, powerful journey of redemption. Each has lost her way, and they will need each one another---and maybe a miracle---to transform their lives.

An emotionally complex, heart-wrenching novel about love, motherhood, loss, and new beginnings, Fly Away reminds us that where there is life, there is hope, and where there is love, there is forgiveness. Told with her trademark powerful storytelling and illuminating prose, Kristin Hannah reveals why she is one of the most beloved writers of our day."
Ok, I will admit I did not read this book. I had read one of Hannah's books before and enjoyed it, so even though it is not my usual fare, I was hopeful. I did read about 30-40 pages and had no desire to go further. No, no, not liking it. But it is a review what to do?
Hey, one of my co-workers is a big reader and actually a fan of the author. In return for a review, I would be happy to loan her the book! Win, win, right? Well, until she texted me that she felt like cutting her throat after reading it.
And so, in the words of The Co-Worker...

"I have read most of Kristin Hannah’s books and usually enjoy them.
Not this one. This book is very dark, depressing and repetitive.
It was also confusing as it jumped back and forth between people and time. I kept waiting for it to wrap up and inject some sort of happiness into the story but it never did.
This book was very difficult to finish."

Short, but pointed.
She said that she was hopeful, until the very end, that just one happy, hopeful thing would happen. And it did not. 
Seems she did not like it and, from what I read, I can not disagree.
Nice cover though.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...Maybe One Last Stop

Just one more stop at Longwood Gardens I think. 
At least until my next trip! 

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Review of "Close My Eyes" [48]

Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie
St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-1250033895
July 9, 2013, 400 pages

They had named her Beth.
Gen Loxley and her husband Art were so thrilled when she began pregnant...heartbroken when the baby died, stillborn.
It is now 8 years later and their lives have gone on. Well sort of. Art has become a very successful business man, appearing on a TV show, being asked to join a group of business people who consult with the prime minister. But for Gen, time has, in a way has stood still. Once a fairly successful fiction author, she finds she can no longer write. She fills her week with a few hours of teaching a writing class and not much more. Something in her died when she lost Beth, and has been unable to has another child. Not for lack of trying, every medical procedure out there has not been able to help them conceive again.

Then everything in her world explodes. A woman comes to her door with a story, supposedly told her by her sister, a nurse present at the delivery, on her deathbed. She felt it was a secret that she could not take to her grave. Gen's child did not die, but was born alive, perfect, and stolen away but no less than her husband Art.

Of course, no one believes Gen, not her friends, certainly not her husband. They tell her it is a con, an attempt to get money. She has been so depressed and this woman is taking advantage of her fragile state.  And she almost believes them...until finally she gets off the couch and starts to look into things.
The doctor who performed the c-section has disappeared and does not want to be found.  The records at the funeral home are oddly incomplete, no record of who took care of things. And then the woman who came to her door is killed in a suspicious hit and run. Things are getting more than a little weird.
Is she mad, as her friends, her husband seem to imply? Or is there some terrible secret being hidden, one that people are willing to kill to keep hidden? Is Gen willing to risk everything in her life, even her life, to try and find out the truth about her child?

I love a great psychological thriller and this is a pretty good one.
Good, with a few flaws.
Yes, the title is totally forgettable, too similar to too many other books.
Yes, it gets off to a rather slow start and, at least at first, Gen is just a bit too whiny and helpless to be totally likable. But once the facts start coming out, things pick up and it is a fun ride to an exciting ending. The tale is helped when she is joined in the investigation by an old friend of her husband's, the slightly rakish, bad boy Lorcan. He is handsome and fun and a great liar when they need a cover story. But can she trust him?
Can she really trust anyone?
And yes, the ending goes a bit too over the top to be believable once you stop to think about it. But while you are reading it, it is good fun. And that very last page...which I certainly can not share with beyond creepy.

Overall, a quite nice thriller, with enough red herrings to make a big pot of fish stew, a dashing hero, a touch of forbidden romance, a few great villains revealing themselves at the end and an entertaining plot...not bad for a nice summer read.

My thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Musing Monday...Feast or Famine.

 Wow! It is Monday again!
Be sure to check out some other posts at Should Be Reading...

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!

• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

Talk about feast or famine...
Last week I had that pile of books I received and this week I only got one.
But it is one I really wanted so that is just fine.
Not to mention all those many books in my TBR pile.

So the one, thanks to my friends at Amazon Vine, is The Bat by Jo Nesbo!
"Inspector Harry Hole of the Oslo Crime Squad is dispatched to Sydney to observe a murder case.  Harry is free to offer assistance, but he has firm instructions to stay out of trouble. The victim is a twenty-three year old Norwegian woman who is a minor celebrity back home. Never one to sit on the sidelines, Harry befriends one of the lead detectives, and one of the witnesses, as he is drawn deeper into the case.  Together, they discover that this is only the latest in a string of unsolved murders, and the pattern points toward a psychopath working his way across the country. As they circle closer and closer to the killer, Harry begins to fear that no one is safe, least of all those investigating the case."
It is the first in the series, but only now being released in English.
Yes, that drives me nuts.

Yes, I think it is a really bad idea from the publisher or whatever idiot whoever made this decision.
I read recently, I believe in reference to this series, that when then started to translate the books, they decided the reader might not really been drawn into the series by the first one. What, unlike the original readers in the original language, who were?

It is not always important to read a series in order and I would agree that with this series it is not critical. But I think my opinion of the other books suffered from the jumping around.

Hey, I read a lot of books. Sometimes it is hard to keep all these series and their storylines straight. Being forced to read them out of order does not help and makes me just a trifle miffed.
Why, oh why publishers, do you do this?

Of course, it will not stop me from reading this one though!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Weekend Cooking...Root, Root, Root..for Root Beer!

"I don't know of a more divisive soda than root beer, and I get it; "rootsy" "medicinal" and "minty" may not be what you want from a soft drink."

Do you like root beer? It seems it is one of those things you either love or hate. Until recently I never knew it was an issue. But from what I read, some people, maybe a lot of people, hate it! If you Google it you will see many articles about why Europeans and the Japanese hate the stuff. Really, all Europeans and all the Japanese? Sure, you can't believe everything you read online..but I am talking a lot of articles. Can anyone out there confirm or disagree with this?

But the brown beverage has it's fans, a special place in the soda world. According to a NY Times article, Root Beer: A Flood of Memories, A Sip of Foam...
"In much the same way that micro-breweries have sprung up in the shadows of assembly-line-produced beer, small root-beer makers, like Triple XXX in Houston and Cable Car Beverage Corporation in Denver, have sprung up between the cracks of the cola giants. And while the big cola companies, with their seemingly bottomless advertising budgets, have battled on the grounds of catchier sayings and sunnier life styles, root-beer companies seem united in their intent to sell their beverage as a nostalgic reminder of simpler times and summers past. Some root beers now come in old-fashioned brown bottles, with slogans like "Tastes like root beer used to taste" or "Taste the legend.""
The Root Beer Root Beer Float
Well, I like root beer and it's close cousin, birch beer.
Pizza and birch beer on the boardwalk = Summer.
And if you grew up on the US East Coast, where root beer and especially birch beer seem to be most popular, you are probably familiar with the delightful ice cream concoction, the Root Beer Float, one variation on the Ice Cream Soda.

Get a tall glass. Add a couple of scoops of vanilla ice cream. Fill with root beer. And a straw and a long spoon.
Or, if you are really daring, go for the chocolate ice cream version, the Black Cow. Or the Brown Cow, depending on where you live.

But why stop there? If you like root beer, what if you take it one more step and add root beer ice cream to the root beer?
Root Beer Squared!!
So we must make the ice cream. Gather the ingredients! Get the ice cream maker!

Root Beer Ice Cream
from Serious Eats
  • 2 cups root beer, chilled
  • 1 cup heavy cream, chilled 
  • 1 cup "light" (clear) corn syrup 
  • 1/2 cup sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt 
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together root beer, cream, corn syrup, sugar, and vanilla until very well combined. Whisk in salt to taste. The root beer bubbles may form a fizzy raft in the bowl when combined with the cream; this is fine, and churning will fully incorporate it into the base.
If root beer and cream were not chilled, refrigerate mixture for 2 to 3 hours until very cold.

Churn mixture according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a container and chill in freezer for at least 3 to 4 hours before serving.

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Review of "Flat Water Tuesday" [47]

Flat Water Tuesday by Ron Irwin
Thomas Dunne Books, ISBN  978-1250030030
June 4, 2013, 368 pages

"Rob Carrey, the son of a working-class cabinet maker, arrives at the Fenton School with a scholarship to row and a chip on his shoulder. Generations of austere Fenton men have led the rowing team, known as the God Four, to countless victories—but none are as important or renowned as the annual Tuesday-afternoon race against their rival, Warwick.

But first Rob must complete months of preparation driven by their captain, Connor Payne’s vicious competitive nature. As the race nears, the stakes rise, tempers and lusts are fueled, and no one can prevent the horrible tragedy that befalls one of them.

Fifteen years later, Rob returns home from a film shoot in Africa to end a heartbreaking relationship with his girlfriend, Carolyn. But when a phone call from one of the God Four compels him to attend the reunion at Fenton, no part of Rob’s past remains sequestered for long and nothing about his future is certain.

As much about the sport of rowing as it is a novel of finding oneself, not once, but again in mid-life; Ron Irwin's Flat Water Tuesday is a testament to the pride and passion of youth, and an ode to the journey of forgiveness.

A stunning novel of boarding school, family secrets, deep and passionate love, and the brutal pain of sports training."

Haven't we been here before? Young man with a chip on his shoulder, elite boarding school..something that goes terribly wrong, a secret they share that will shape their lives...

I must say, once again I was sold on this one by the cover, that scull on the calm water.
See, I have a bit of a thing about about rowing.
When I was a kid, I used to spend the summer with my grandparents in Atlantic City and their apartment was just across the street an inlet where an area high school rowing team used to practice. You could go out in the early morning and watch them. Since they now built a launching dock there, I assume they still practice there. Or now, you can go to Lake Lenape at the county park where several area school practice, girls and boys, four and eight man boats.
A single scull, the rower seemingly gliding over the water like some sort of huge bird..lovely.
Of course, as this book details again and again, the reality is pain and scarred, blistered hands and almost unbelievable exertion. That part of the book, I enjoyed.

And there is nothing really wrong with the rest. It is well written. There are some good characters, especially Carolyn, the girlfriend Rob is in the midst of breaking up with. But honestly, it just seems to all have been said before. And maybe a bit better.
Spoiled rich kids with terrible parents. Shocking.
Blue collar boy with chip on his shoulder. Never read that before.
Oh wait...maybe I have.

The book opens well, with Rob receiving a long, rambling letter from one of his former team members and Rob just returning home from a work assignment for National Geographic. Really, what a job!! But as the story go back to his school days, things begin to drag. And drag. All building up to the 15th reunion where we will learn the Great Secret. A secret turns out to be not that much of a secret (I bet most reader guess it) and not that terrible. Honestly, I am still sort of wondering what all their guilt was about. Once again, a Big Buildup for that does not quite pay off.

If you are a big fan of competitive rowing, this one might grab you. Otherwise, I think the prep school angst thing have been done enough before and there is nothing to really make this one stand out in a rather crowded field.

My thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...Flowers

A few more from Longwood Gardens... 

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Review of "Always Watching" [46]

Always Watching by Chevy Stevens
St. Martin's Press, ISBN 978-0312595692
June 18, 2013, 352 pages

Dr. Nadine Lavoie is a psychiatrist, making her living helping people.
But she could use a little help in her own life.

After the death of her husband, she has moved back to the city of Victoria, B.C., working at a psychiatric hospital, supposedly starting a new phase in her life. But her real reason is so that she can search the streets of the city by night, looking for her daughter Lisa, a drug addict she believes is living on the streets. That is not the only issue she is dealing with. Her own claustrophobia, something she has dealt with for many years is starting to interfere with her daily life again. Over the years she has tried to get to the root cause of it, and the recover the missing memories from her childhood, where she thinks the cause may lay.

When a young woman, Heather Simeon, is admitted to the hospital after a suicide attempt, Nadine is in her element. But as she interviews the woman, a few connections to her own life and her own troubling childhood start to arise. Until recently Heather and her husband had lived at the River of Life spiritual Center, run by a man whose name that brings chills to Nadine when she hears it.

When she was a child, her mother, a woman with her with her own substance abuse issues, took Nadine and her older brother away from their violent father to live in a commune. Peace and love...and a lot of wacky weed and some suspicious goings on. The more Nadine is drawn back into looking at her childhood, the more the memories start to come back. And the more the memories come back, the more questions she starts to ask, questions that some people do not want anyone asking. None more than Aaron Quinn, the groups leader back then and the leader still today, the leader of what is now a seemingly very successful and very wealthy organization with communes all over the world.
But Nadine must learn the truth, for herself, for those she loves...and ultimately to save her daughter.

This is Stevens third book, and if you have read them, you might remember that Dr. Lavoie has appeared in them all, granted in a smaller role. This time she is front and center. And while she is a good character, I must say she is not as great as Annie O'Sullivan, her patient and the central charter in Stevens first book, Still Missing. Wow, that was a very, very good book, with an ending I still remember although I read it years ago. A hard act for Stevens to follow, although this book does a pretty good job. Maybe Nadine is not quite as good because she is so competent, she has dealt with her past so well, so she is not quite as interesting. But on the other hand it is nice to read a thriller where the 'victim' is a smart, successful, middle aged woman, able to handle things pretty darn well by herself.

The plot moves along at a good pace, each revelation, each connection coming together in a believable way. As with all her books so far it is set in British Columbia, which I enjoy. There can be something more than a little unsettling about those towering forests. The ending might not have delivered as I hoped it would, as Still Missing did, and that was perhaps my only disappointment with the book. I was hoping for a Big Bang and it just sort of fizzled.

But still, Always Watching is quite a good book, one I would recommend.
Maybe not my favorite. Yes, that would be Still Missing and if you have not read that one, you really should! Each book is free standing, so that is not the issue. It is just a great book. And then you can stop on back and read this one as well.

My thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Musing Monday...


 Let's start the week
 by checking out the questions at Should Be Reading...

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!

• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

Look at the nice pile of books that arrived this week.
A rather unusual number for me at least, so lets have a wee look at them.

First, we have Night Film by Marisha Pessl...
"On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years....
For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence... 
Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world."

Next, Cleaner of Chartes by Salley Vickers.."There is something very special about Agnès Morel. A quiet presence in the small French town of Chartres, she can be found cleaning the famed medieval cathedral each morning and doing odd jobs for the townspeople. No one knows where she came from or why...
 When an accidental encounter dredges up a series of tragic incidents from Agnès’s youth, the nasty meddling of town gossips threatens to upend the woman’s simple, peaceful life. Her story reveals a terrible loss, a case of mistaken identity, and a cruel and violent act that haunts her past. Agnès wrestles with her own sense of guilt and enduring heartbreak while the citizens piece together the truth about her life."

From one of my always loved authors..."Someone Else's Love Story is beloved and highly acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson's funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness; about falling in love, and learning that things aren't always what they seem—or what we hope they will be."

Ok, this one sounds a little odd..."The Curiosity, Stephen Kiernan’s debut novel, is a gripping, poignant, and thoroughly original thriller that raises disturbing questions about the very nature of life and humanity—man as a scientific subject, as a tabloid plaything, as a living being, as a curiosity.…Dr. Kate Philo and her scientific exploration team make a breathtaking discovery in the Arctic: the body of a man buried deep in the ice. Remarkably, the frozen man is brought back to the lab and successfully reanimated. As the man begins to regain his memories, the team learns that he was—is—a judge, Jeremiah Rice, and the last thing he remembers is falling overboard into the Arctic Ocean in 1906."

Next, Close My Eyes by Sophie McKenzie, described as a breathless thriller! I like breathless thrillers!
"When Geniver Loxley lost her daughter at birth eight years ago, her world stopped… and never fully started again... A part of her will never let go of Beth, no matter how much she needs to move on.
But then a stranger shows up on their doorstep, telling Gen the very thing she’s always desperately longed to hear: that her daughter was not stillborn, but was taken away as a healthy infant. That Beth is still out there, somewhere, waiting to be found."

And finally, one I have really been looking forward to..Countdown City by Ben Winters..loved the first!
" There are just 77 days before a deadly asteroid collides with Earth, and Detective Palace is out of a job. With the Concord police force operating under the auspices of the U.S. Justice Department, Hank's days of solving crimes are over...until a woman from his past begs for help finding her missing husband.
Countdown City presents another fascinating mystery set on brink of an apocalypse--and once again, Hank Palace confronts questions way beyond "whodunit." What do we as human beings owe to one another? And what does it mean to be civilized when civilization is collapsing all around you?"
Yes, if the world was going to end in a few weeks, I would still be going to work...yep..

Did you get any of these...or wish you did?
Or any other really, really good sounding one?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Weekend Cooking...Forget the Faux

Sometimes you just want a creamy, rich bowl of pasta.
Cream..butter..eggs..minor heart attack.
Ok, we know those things are bad for us. So it is possible to have our cake, so to speak, and eat it too?
It seems some chefs think so, at least according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, you can, replacing salt and fat for more nutritional, yet as tasty, ingredients.
"So Mr. Armstrong began tinkering with preparations and proportions, experimenting with trading the calorie-dense and nutrition-light for more nourishing fare. In the process, he discovered that the flavors he could achieve without all the fat and salt weren't just passable; they were actually better."
Better? Really? The articles includes  a couple of recipes and I bravely decided to try the first, a vegan take off on Pasta Carbonara. An experiment and I will share the outcome, good or bad.

'Fettuccine Carbonara' 
created by Cathal Armstrong of Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Va

This vegan riff on a carbonara  derives its deceptively meaty flavor from garlic that is roasted until it is mellow, complex and deeply savory. Puréed with white beans and vegetable stock, it makes for a rich tasting, but not heavy, sauce.
1 small head of garlic, plus 4 cloves, thinly sliced and lightly toasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces canned, cooked white beans or 1/3 cup dried beans, cooked
¾ cup vegetable stock
8 ounces fettuccine
2/3 cup frozen peas, thawed or fresh peas, blanched
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut ½ inch off top of garlic bulb. Drizzle with oil and wrap in foil. Roast until tender, 45-60 minutes.
2. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves into a blender or food processor and discard skin. Add beans and purée. With the motor running, add stock in a steady stream, using only enough to yield a creamy, sauce-like consistency. Strain sauce through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to instructions on package.
4. In a medium-size pan, heat bean purée until warm. Add pasta and peas and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste. Divide among four serving bowls. Garnish with toasted garlic slices and season with pepper to taste.

Faux carbonara

So, how did it turn out?
Oddly, with all that garlic it does not have a strong garlic taste. As anyone who has roasted a head of garlic knows, it become a sweet paste, quite mild. And it was very easy.
And it does not look bad, does it? 
Is there anything reminiscence of carbonara here, besides the fettuccine?
No, not really.
It is not bad but not something I can see pining for.
Those garlic chip...skip them IMHO. Bitter. Maybe I overcooked them.
And it is just cruel to have that photo of that panchetta at the top of the article and then give me garlic slivers. That is not panchetta!
I will also tell you, keep some of the pasta water on hand because once you add the sauce to the pasta that creamy looking sauce with tighten up something fierce. So just add a little pasta water, but by bit, until you like the texture.

REAL carbonara, at a charming Rome restaurant.

I guess this is why I am not a vegan. I like bacon and butter and cream. Sure, not every day, but every so often.....
Ya gotta die of something, right?
Why not panchetta and cheese?

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Review of "Unseen"[45]

Unseen: A Novel by Kari Slaughter
Delacorte Press, ISBN 978-0345539472
July 2, 2013, 400 pages

Special Agent Will Trent has something to hide. Something he doesn't want Dr Sara Linton – the woman he loves – to find out.
He's gone undercover in Macon, Georgia and put his life at risk. And he knows Sara will never forgive him if she discovers the truth.

But when a young Macon patrolman is shot and left for dead Sara is forced to confront the past and a woman she hoped never to see again. And without even knowing it, she becomes involved in the same case Will is working on. Soon both of their lives are in danger.

The reason Sara must head to Macon is that the patrolman shot, Jared, is the son of her husband, Sheriff Jeffrey Tolliver, who was killed because of a case he was involved in. The woman Sara hoped never to see again is Jared's wife and the woman Sara blames for Jeffrey's death, Lena. But she feels she owes it to her dead husband to be there, see if she can assist, so she goes. Because that is the sort of woman Sara is. One reason I do not like Sara. And I do not.

She is just so perfect. Well, except for blaming Lena for things she has no control over and holding on to one heck of a totally unreasonable hatred of Lena for years.
I like Lena. Oh sure, she is a screw up. But she knows it and she tries to do better. And she has failed..and tried again. She tries to do what is right, but with her history, so many triggers, so many it is not easy. She is actually doing better, her marriage to Jared going well. At least until it recently hit a big bump. And she is very respected at her job as a police officer. Well, until that mysterious gone bad drug raid that may be the reason their home was invaded and Jared hangs barely on to his life. And how does it all tie into the investigation Will is undercover on..and it does in a very unexpected way.

Another reason I do not like Sara is her relationship with Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Will Trent. I like Will, and he is too good for her. Talk about a history...Will's body, full of scars and cigarette burns gives a hint of what his childhood was like. But he has overcome it all ...and become a fine man. Too good for Sara in my estimation.

To really appreciate Slaughter's books they should be read in order. These characters have a long and complex and intertwined history that you should know to appreciate the present story. And most of the books in the series are excellent, so once you start, you will want to read them all. True, not all the books are excellent. Some are just very good, and for me, Unseen was in that second category. Why is it not her best?

Personally, I am tired of the whole Lena/Sara fight. Let's move on. Hopefully, it is pretty much over by the end of this book. I guess it is too much to hope Slaughter might kill Sara off. She has killed major characters before! But still, I think too much of this book was taken up with the rivalry and distracting from the main story. Also, I thought, for Slaughters books, this one was a lot less..what? Less shocking, less violent, less surprising?

The biggest problem was that this book lacked , for me, Slaughter's Wow Factor.
Let me explain what I mean by that.
With the best of this series, several times in the book I will reach the end of a chapter and Slaughter will throw in some fact, some event, some revelation that has me literally saying out loud "Wow!!" She is able, time after time, to totally surprise me. That is rare and I love it. You look back and say "Of course!", but you never saw it coming. This time, there was only one "Wow". For any other author that would be very good, but I just expect so much from Slaughter that I was a little let down. Maybe I just expect too much because she often delivers so much. By normal standards this is a very good book, just not her best.

If you are a fan of the series, you will want to grab this one up and see what happens to all these great characters you have come to love..or hate. The rest of you, go back to the beginning and have a great time catching up.

My thanks to Amazon Vine and the publisher for providing a review copy. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Review of "The Double" [44]

The Double: Spero Lucas by George Pelecanos
Little, Brown and Company, ISBN 978-0316078399
October 8, 2013, 304 pages

"The job seems simple enough: retrieve the valuable painting--"The Double"--Grace Kinkaid's ex-boyfriend stole from her. It's the sort of thing Spero Lucas specializes in: finding what's missing, and doing it quietly. But Grace wants more. She wants Lucas to find the man who humiliated her--a violent career criminal with a small gang of brutal thugs at his beck and call.
Lucas is a man who knows how to get what he wants, whether it's a thief on the run--or a married woman.
In the midst of a steamy, passionate love affair that he knows can't last, in pursuit of a dangerous man who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, Lucas is forced to decide what kind of man he is--and how far he'll go to get what he wants"
Poor Lucas is a soldier without a war, an ex- military man who can't quite put the military behind him. His mother would love for him to go back to college, but that isn't going to happen. And I don't see him in a desk job anytime soon, with a suit and tie. No, Spero is building a different sort of life for himself.

He spends a lot of time cycling around the Washington, D.C. Area or taking his kayak out on the many nearby waterways. He is one very fit ex-marine and lucky that he is or he would probably be dead by now, all the physical confrontations he gets involved in. He is a blue collar guy. Dressing up is a shirt with buttons and something other than his work boots. He makes part of his living doing investigative work for an area lawyer, but his really area is expertise is finding lost things, for which he takes a 40% commission. That is a big percentage, but he is worth it. Usually the jobs are impossible enough and dangerous enough..and often maybe not quite people are willing to pay. And Spero Lucas is a man willing to do what he has too, to get the job done. It often isn't nice. Yes, once again he is forced to decide just how far he will go to right what he sees as a wrong. In chasing the man who befriended Grace...then stole her very valuable and sentimental painting...he has a worth adversely, a handsome and charming beast. Heavy on the Beast.

Now, if you know Lucas, you might suspect he is having a bit of an issue with the ladies as well. Lucas like the ladies and the ladies like Lucas and he tends to, shall we say, keep himself busy with things he likes. In this case it is with a married woman who just wants him for his body and a great roll in the hay. Many men might not consider that a problem, but you see, our dear boy has fallen in love and you have to think this is not going to turn out well for Lucas.

Back in this book, the second in the series after The Cut, are a few of Lucas's ex-military buddies, all of whom, like Lucas, do not seem to be adapting 100%. They are, to him, brothers and Lucas tries  to find a few tasks to keep their minds off their problems. And we have the reappearance of one of Lucas four siblings in this book. It is an interesting family, four kids, two white, two black, three of which, including himself were adopted by the Greek American couple. He is a good son and goes to visit his widowed mom, often meeting up with the one good sibling, his brother Leo, a schoolteacher, who is probably also his best friend and a moral sounding board.

You may know Pelecanos from his work on the TV show The Wire, for which he was a writer and the producer and there are some similarities. Washington steps in for Baltimore, but this is still a world of drugs and thugs, young girls selling themselves on the street, lots of bad, lots of sad people. But it is not quite as grim as The Wire was, maybe largely because Lucas is really a deep and sensitive guy. A thinker. In between the shooting and the beating and such...
He is a work in progress, trying to find a place for himself in this world and if you have read The Cut, you will see he is making some progress. And riding along with Lucas on his bike you will get a great tour of D.C. as well, its bike paths and waterways, its restaurants and bad and neighborhoods, the good and the not so good, which is always interesting.

Another very good book from a very good writer.
Run out and pre-order a copy right now before you forget!

My thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...Water and Waterlilies

Longwood Gardens is known for its fountains and water features..and in the summer, it waterlilies, some of which only bloom after dark.

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Review of "Lost" [43]

Lost: Lacey Flint Novels by S.J. Bolton
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-1250028563
June 4, 2013, 400 pages

London is in the midst of a series of murders by a serial killer, a particularly terrible series killer. Because the victims are children. So far 5 boys, age 9 and 10 have disappeared and 4 bodies have been found at low tide on the banks of the Thames and a creek that feeds into it.
And the police have not a clue.

Officer Lacey Flint is not part of the official police investigation this time, since she is out on medical leave from her last adventure detailed in Dead Scared. The issues are psychological, not physical, and if you know Lacey from the previous books in the series, that should not be surprising. I doubt that is a more troubled, more damaged lead character in a series out there, nor one I like better. So while she is not officially involved, you just know somehow she will once again be in the middle of things.
She is in a bad state, almost lost, on the edge about to go over.  But when a child is in danger, and she has some information that might help, can she pull herself together?

The involvement will come in the form of one of Lacey's neighbor, a young boy named Barney. Barney is a sweet boy, very smart, more than a little odd, and often left to his own devices, since his father is often out late at night. His mother? Well, she has been gone since Barney was very young and, in fact, that is one of his obsessions, to try and find her. Another is, with a small group of his friends, to try and figure out who the murderer is. But Barney's greatest fear is that the killer is very close to home. Very close.
He is lost...hmmm...a Lost Boy...

I read an article about S.J. Bolton on the Huffington post recently, and the author called Bolton the Queen of psychological thrillers. Truer words have not been said.
I am a fan of many series, but this one may be at the top of my list. Yes, it has great characters and Bolton's is so skilled at creating smart, believable characters who you will become totally vested in. And this book, I think even more so than the others, has a great setting, these cold, damp rivers, more than a little creepy, especially as Bolton paints them.

But what makes these books really stand out are the plots, clever, smart, such very good plots. Wow, I use the word smart a lot with these books but only because they are. This is a scary book, but not because it is violent, at least not violence that we see, except for the very exciting conclusion. Ok, and the very creepy finding of one body. No, the scariness is in our minds, built up slowly, piece by piece, red herring by red herring, dark rainy night by dark rainy night. Why, for a time we start to think Lacey's involvement might be even closer than we want to believe. After all, her best friend in the world is a serial killer, who she still visits in prison. And then, there is the lying to her therapist...there is her very troubling new interest in blood. That hardly seems normal, but again fans of Bolton know that normal is not a word many use with Lacey. And they...I mean the people she deals with on a daily basis...don't know the half of it.

This is the third book in the series... or 3 1/2 if you count a nice little novella, and it is perhaps my favorite.
But please, you must read them in order, or at least read the first one first, so you will have some idea what makes Lacey tick. Well as much as we can, because we are still learning, but that first book tells us a good deal that we must know. And then when you finish this series, you can go ahead and read Bolton's free standing books, with just a tiny bit of crossover to the series to get your attention. And they will help keep you busy with some very good books until the next in this series comes out.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Musing Monday...Do Nice Guys Finish...Last?


How time flies..There is never enough...Check out the other muses at...
 Should Be Reading...

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!

• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

“Sir—” remarked Samuel Johnson with droll incredulity to someone too eager to know whether he had finished a certain book—“Sir, do you read books through?” 
How do you feel about finishing a book.
Must you? Do you feel compelled to soldier on, even if you are not enjoying it?

Yes, I have another Wall Street Journal article to quote...hey, you have to love a newspaper that still actually writes about books and reading every week!
"In the age of the e-reader, dropping a book has never been easier: It doesn't even require getting up to grab another off the shelf. But choosing to terminate a relationship with a book prematurely remains strangely agonizing, a decision fraught with guilt.

"It goes against how we're built," says Matthew Wilhelm, a clinical psychologist with Kaiser Permanente in Union City, Calif. "There is a tendency for us to perceive objects as 'finished' or 'whole' even though they may not be. This motivation is very powerful and helps to explain anxiety around unfinished activities."
Oh gosh, "choosing to terminate a relationship with a book.." That makes me feel even worse!

I must admit that in the past, that is how I felt. I would read and read...maybe skim a tiny bit..until the last page, relieved that then I could go on to another book I might really enjoy. To do less was to fail.

But as with many reading related matters, blogging has changed me. So many books to read...and I don't just mean the ones in my greedy TBR pile that we talked about last week.
No, I mean I am also more aware of all the great books coming out every month, so many of which I would like to read. I read the reviews of my fellow bloggers and other publications, I get the e-mails from publishers going on about the latest releases, all the suggestions from Library Thing and Amazon and Barnes and Noble every time I look at a book online.

So many books, so little time!

Really, who has time to waste on a book you are not loving?

But what if it is a review book? Do you then have an obligation? Or an even greater obligation. A promise, a duty? Well, to my mind, sort of. I will give it a try. A really good try. I think that is my obligation for asking for the book or taking it. But if I hate it, do you , Mr./Ms. Publisher or Author, really want me to force myself to finish it and then say why I felt like that?
Not to say I don't give negative reviews. I do. So imagine how bad the others reviews might be!
And there just is not ENOUGH TIME!