Friday, February 17, 2017

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, book review

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

This debut novel by Jennifer Ryan was a delight! It is set at the beginning of World War II in a small British town and tells the intertwining stories of the women who form a choir in the wake of the disbanding of the church choir. What follows is part loss, romance, and skullduggery.

In spite of the very real losses, the tone of the book is uplifting and happy. And the writing itself is readable and has excellent pacing.

One small caveat, the book did start a bit slow, but that’s usually the case with an epistolary novel. Once the reader meets a several of the characters through letters and diary entries, the book is very hard to put down!

A five star read.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

French Country Cooking, Book Review

 French Country Cooking, Meals and Moments from a Village in the Vineyards by Mimi Thorisson.

Before I actually review this book, let me say that it is a visual feast! Even if you never cook a single thing from this book, just paging through it is a satisfying treat for the eyes. The photos are stunning. (Oddur Thorisson was the photographer.) And even as a coffee table art book, this book is a success. In fact, my daughter saw this book on my kitchen counter when she visited and wanted it for her coffee table.

Aside from the visuals, I did enjoy the recipes. The directions are given in both European and US customary measures (i.e., grams and cups). However, it is important to note that the flavors and tastes of the recipes are very European. For example, the orange blossom cake I made has a dense texture with lovely orange blossom flavor but without the heavy sweetness common to many American sweets. Personally, I love this. But it is different.

Also, given the European context, some ingredients are hard to find. Orange blossom water is not on the shelves of most American grocery stores or even specialty food markets. However, Amazon does carry many such items. Though as much as I want to make roast bone marrow with herbs, I can’t find a butchery where I can buy veal marrow bones. But there are still plenty of recipes to make.

Here are some photos of the ones I tried:
The Orange Blossom Cake. I served it for my 26-year-old
son’s birthday. It was delicious!

This soup was the Simple Vegetable Potage. Delicious and hearty.

I do wish I’d been able to find fresh tarragon for the Poulet Chasseur. But my herb garden was dormant for the winter and none of the stores in my area carried tarragon. It was still delicious--you can't go wrong with mushrooms, cognac, white wine, shallots, and fresh herbs!

I’ve made the Baked Pears with Chocolate more than once. Though the recipe says to use firm-ripe pears, I also tried the recipe with pears just going soft, loved it even more. The riper pears came out tasting like pear-flavored custard and you could just spoon the flesh right out of the pear skin. Yum!
 In sum, I’d definitely give this cookbook five stars. And I can’t wait to make the vanilla marshmallows and the black peppered filets mignons with cognac.

To check out this cookbook on Amazon, click here.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a review.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Happy "New " Year

The month is half over, and I haven’t even posted on the blog yet this year.

Here’s what’s been going on:

1. My oldest son got married last month. It was wonderful. Our family is thrilled.
Here's a photo of my husband and me at the wedding.

2. My third child graduated from university. He’s now an electrical engineer. I’d post a photo, but he’s camera shy.

3. I had a significant birthday.

One of my gifts was a ten step puzzle box. Beautifully inlaid and wonderfully intricate.

4. A beloved family member who lives thousands of miles away came to visit,  and we had a murder mystery dinner. This is my youngest son--normally he's a college junior majoring in biochem and not a drug-dealing biker. We love getting into character.
5. And last, but not least, I have a deadline approaching quickly. So I’ve got a new tea cup to make sure I finish in time. It holds at least five times the tea of a "normal" cup. So five times the double bergamot earl grey. Yum!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Pandora Device, Book Review

Joyce McPherson’s debut middle grade novel, The Pandora Device, is a delight and the perfect read for fans of the Percy Jackson series and The Mysterious Benedict Society books!

As the story begins, Stella discovers that her deceased parents attended Camp Hawthorne when they were young. Eager to know more about them, she applies and is accepted to what she thinks is an ordinary summer camp. But it’s not.

When Stella arrives, she discovers that the camp is for students with paranormal gifts. And when the camp comes under mysterious attack from within and without, it needs all the students’ gifts, especially Stella’s, to survive.

The plot is tightly crafted, the writing is very clean, and the characters are multi-faceted and sympathetic. A truly enjoyable, five-star story!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Flight Before Dawn, book review

Because my mother lived in occupied Holland and because my grandfather was part of the Dutch Resistance, novels about World War II and the resisters have always been a favorite of mine. So I was eager to read Ms. Easley-Walsh’s debut novel, Flight Before Dawn.

Flight Before Dawn The novel tells the story of several members of the French Resistance through the darkest days of the war until their liberation and does a lovely job of evoking the French countryside, the ’40s ethos and the tension of living in an occupied country.

In the midst of a complex plot, filled with spies, lies, and a double agent, the author deals with the nuances of the war and those involved in it, exploring what it means to be ready to sacrifice your life for your country and strength to do so. The novel is a poignant reminder that freedom has a tremendous cost.

Monday, October 31, 2016

A New Watercolor

If you're a reader of my blog, you know my husband Calvin is an artist. Here is his latest work.

Here is the painting in process. He paints from photographs. This photo was taken by our soon-to-be daughter-in-law Lydia in the Great Smokey Mountains.
Here are Calvin's palettes. He prefers to use fine china because the water blends better and clings to the china finish.

Here is the final painting. (Sorry, I don't have the best camera.) But it gives you a sense of his work. Click on the photo if you want to see it enlarged.

If you'd like to see a few of his other paintings, click here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Wolf Road, book review

Imagine for a moment, you are among the treetops in a dystopian wilderness, hiding from the foster father you loved, who saved your life. But he’s also the devil who corrupted your soul and is out for revenge. Now imagine you have a knife in your hand, and you can throw it very well.

In The Wolf Road, debut novel of Beth Lewis, the main character Elka finds herself in exactly this situation. After this heart-rending opening scene, the novel traces how Elka ended up as both the hunter and the hunted. It’s dangerous for an author to give the reader a glimpse of the climax at the beginning of a novel. Often, it steals from the impact of the ending, or it slows the action and lessens the tension when the story goes back to an earlier time in the life of the characters. Thankfully, Lewis avoids this by writing a tightly paced novel with well-developed characters.

I loved the growth of Elka from a frightened child to a mature woman who comes to terms not only with the horrors committed against her, but the ones she has committed. Ultimately, this makes the novel a story of redemption. But its ending is not without pain and suffering, and I couldn’t help but imagine the characters’ haunted lives long after the pages of the novel had ceased. The fact that I was so invested in the characters is the main reason I’m giving this novel 4.5 stars out of 5.

One caveat, this is a novel for adults. The story has violence and adult situations, though the author handles them well and avoids wallowing in graphic detail.

I received this novel from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.