Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) random teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 

I desired more...than was within my reach. Who blames me? Many call me discontented. I couldn't help it: the restlessness is in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes.

     - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Monday, January 30, 2012

In My Mailbox Monday

A Penny Black - the first postage stamp (image source)
In January, Mailbox Monday is hosted by Alyce at At Home with Books. In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.  These are the places where we brag about share the books that arrived in our mailboxes each week.  As always, I try to find a mailbox that is somehow associated with what I'm reading right now.  I'm currently reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and thought a picture of a Penny Black stamp would be appropriate.

Printed Matter (bought for me by me):

I am getting ready to start a new job as Service Unit Manager for the Department of Anesthesia at Kaiser Permanente's Oakland Hospital.  As part of this I have to get my Basic Life Support Certification so I had to order a book for it:

BLS for Health Care Providers Professional Student Manual by the American Heart Association.  I'm not going to review this, but this is the latest student manual for the BLS class and comes with a nifty reference card.  BLS Certification is good for two years.

Printed Matter (sent from publishers):

Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain.  At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.  Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so.

Avalon Chronicles, Volume 1:  Once in a Blue Moon by Nunzio DeFlippis and Christine Weir (writers) and Emma Viecell (artist).  When Aeslin Finn was a little girl, her parents read to her from a magical book called THE AVALON CHRONICLES. But that was a long time ago. Now a teenager, Aeslin is about to discover just how magical she and that book really are. Transported to the world of Avalon, she discovers a kingdom in need of a Dragon Knight - and the last dragon, Blue Moon, is waiting for her!

Being Lara by Lola Jaye.  From the time she was five years old, Lara Reid knew she was an alien. Her dark complexion and kinky-hair-so unlike her fair-skinned mother and father's-were proof that she was different. At eight she learned the word "adopted." But the tale of a far-off orphanage in Nigeria was little more another bedtime story.  Now Lara is 30 and a strange woman in a blue and black head tie is staring at her as she blows out the candles on her birthday cake. And though the woman is a stranger, Lara senses that she has known her for her entire life. She is her long-lost birth mother, Yomi, arrived from Africa.

The Coldest City by Antony Johnston (writer) and Sam Hart (artist).  November 1989. Communism is collapsing, and soon the Berlin Wall will come down with it. But before that happens there is one last bit of cloak & dagger to attend to. Two weeks ago, an undercover MI6 officer was killed in Berlin. He was carrying information from a source in the East — a list that allegedly contains the name of every espionage agent working in Berlin, on all sides. No list was found on his body. Now Lorraine Broughton, an experienced spy with no pre-existing ties to Berlin, has been sent into this powderkeg of social unrest, counter-espionage, defections gone bad and secret assassinations to bring back the list and save the lives of the British agents whose identities reside on it.

Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream.  She's got the wit and sharp tongue of Dorothy Parker, the talent of Picasso, and an ex-husband who still wants her. But all that isn't enough to keep Clementine alive, and in thirty days she's going to turn out the lights of her life for good.  With the month she has left, renowned artist Clementine Pritchard will attempt to tie up loose ends-from coming to terms with the family tragedy that left her without a mother and sister to travelling south of the border to secure tranquilizers to finding the father that abandoned her. Settling accounts also means coming face to face with the reasons why she can't go on-and the truth hidden at its core. What she doesn't count on, though, is that in losing Clementine, she may actually find her.

For the Kindle (from publishers):

The Unseen by Heather Graham.  1800s. San Antonio, Texas: In room 207 at the Longhorn Saloon, in the long shadow of the Alamo itself, a woman renowned for her beauty was brutally murdered. Her killer was never found. One year ago: In that same historic room, another woman vanished without a trace. Her blood was everywhere…but her body was never recovered. Now: In the last month, San Antonio has become a dumping ground for battered bodies. All young women, all long missing, almost all forgotten. Until now. Texas Ranger Logan Raintree cannot sit by and let his city’s most vulnerable citizens be slain. So when he is approached to lead a brand-new group of elite paranormal investigators working the case, he has no choice but to accept the challenge. And with it, his powerful ability to commune with the dead. Among Logan’s new team is Kelsey O’Brien, a U.S. marshal known for her razor-sharp intuition and a toughness that belies her delicate exterior. Kelsey has been waiting all her life to work with someone who can understand her ability to “see” the past unfolding in the present. Now she has her chance. Together, Kelsey and Logan follow their instincts to the Alamo and to the newly reopened Longhorn, which once tempted heroes with drink, cards and women. If the spirits of those long-dead Texans are really appearing to the victims before their deaths, only Kelsey and Logan have the skills to find out why. And if something more earthly is menacing the city’s oldest, darkest corners, only they can stop it – before more innocent women join the company of San Antonio’s restless ghosts….

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone Saint James.  Sarah Piper's lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist a ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis--rich, handsome, scarred by World War I, and obsessed with ghosts--has been summoned to investigate the spirit of nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is haunting the barn where she committed suicide. Since Maddy hated men in life, it is Sarah's task to confront her in death. Soon Sarah is caught up in a deperate struggle. For Maddy's ghost is real, she's angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Can Sarah and Alistair's assistant, the rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, discover who Maddy was, whereshe came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance--before she destroys them all?

Trout:  A True Story of Murder, Teens, and the Death Penalty by Jeff Kunnerth.  On a cool Pensacola night in January 1991, just a few minutes before midnight, three teenagers pulled up to the Trout Auto Parts store. Patrick Bonifay, his body coursing with adrenaline, entered the store clad in a ski mask carrying a loaded gun, intent on carrying out a poorly laid plan. Little did he know that it was his life--as well as the lives of his companions--that was about to be forever changed. 

In Leah's Wake by Terri Giuliano Long.   The Tylers have a perfect life—beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and talented daughters. Their eldest daughter, Leah, an exceptional soccer player, is on track for a prestigious scholarship. Their youngest, Justine—more responsible than seems possible for her 12 years—just wants her sister’s approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a seemingly “together” kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful life…until everything goes wrong. Can this family survive in Leah’s wake? 

Don't forget to check out the other mailboxes and happy reading to you all!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Let's Talk about Afternoon Tea

Traditional English Afternoon Tea (image source)
Who doesn't love the notion of afternoon tea?  All the pastries and finger sandwiches and whatnot delicately placed on the best china with lace napkins and a gorgeous tea set?  This is the stuff that little girls (at least if they were me) play at.  I read a fair amount of British children's books growing up, so the concept of afternoon tea was a familiar one.  I had a sweet little tea set and, although I did not like dolls, my stuffed animals and I utilized this (along with our collective imaginations) frequently.  Since I'm reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, written during the Victorian era, I thought I'd share this wonderful, yummy thing to make for a special tea.

My Seattle grandmother often made afternoon tea when I visited her growing up.  We would sit in her gorgeous living room looking out at Capitol Hill and the rain (all too frequent), have our fancy tea, and read our books.  These afternoons are among the fondest of my memories of her.

This recipe comes from Eras of Elegance - visit it for all kinds of historical menus:

Plain scones with lemon curd and clotted cream
(image source)
Scones with Lemon Curd and Clotted Cream

Scones are traditionally served with afternoon tea and accompanied by lemon curd and clotted cream. You can add a variety of treats into the batter, such as raisins, fresh apple bits, orange peel, cranberries, and chocolate chips. Lemon Curd is a traditional spread for scones, and is usually served with Devonshire (or clotted) cream. Our lemon curd is rich and smooth, and can be kept refrigerated for up to two weeks. Unfortunately, Americans cannot make clotted cream or Devonshire cream, as we do not have the same breed of cows as in England. Instead of buying an expensive import, ERAS offers a simple recipe for clotted cream, which is perfect for spreading on scones.

    2 cups flour
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1 cup and 2 tablespoons sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    6 tablespoons butter
    1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk)
    1 lightly beaten egg
    2 large eggs
    1/2 cup lemon juice
    1/4 cup butter
    1 cup heavy cream
    2 tablespoons Confectioner's sugar
    1/2 cup sour cream

    To make scones:
    1. Mix baking powder, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt and cut in 6 tablespoons of butter until the mix is crumbly.
    2. Pour in the buttermilk until the dough is sticky. Be careful not to overmix. The dough should cling together.
    3. Turn out onto a floured surface and shape drop or use a biscuit cutter to form biscuit sized scones. The secret of tender scones is a minimum of handling.
    4. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and brush with egg for a shiny brown scone.
    5. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-20 minutes, until light brown.

    To make lemon curd:
    1. Wisk 1 cup sugar and 2 large eggs in a bowl until blended.
    2. Sift in 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice.
    3. Pour into a saucepan and cook over low-medium heat stirring constantly for 20 minutes. Do not let the mixture come to a boil (lest it curdle or burn), but allow it to gradually thicken.
    4. When the mixture thickly coats the back of a metal spoon, remove pan from heat and stire in 1/4 cup butter until melted.
    5. Pour the mixture into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 4 hours. The lemon curd will thicken as it cools.

    To make clotted cream:
    1. Mix 1 cup heavy cream and 2 tablespoons Confectioner's sugar using an electric mixer. Whip until stiff peaks form.
    2. Gently fold in sour cream and mix until thick.
    3. Place in refrigerator and chill until time to serve. If made ahead of time, it will keep in the refrigerator up to 4 hours.

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. Please link to your specific post,  not your   blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Book Review - The Hunter by John Lescroart

Synopsis:  Raised by loving adoptive parents, San Francisco private investigator Wyatt Hunt never had an interest in finding his birth family-until he gets a chilling text message from an unknown number: "How did ur mother die?"

The answer is murder, and urged on by curiosity and the mysterious texter, Hunt takes on a case he never knew existed, one that has lain unsolved for decades. His family's dark past unfurls in dead ends. Child Protective Services, who suspected but could never prove that Hunt was being neglected, is uninformed; his birth father, twice tried but never convicted of the murder, is in hiding; Evie, his mother's drug-addicted religious fanatic of a friend, is untraceable. And who is the texter, and how are they connected to Hunt?

Yet in the present, time is running out. The texter, who insists the killer is out there, refuses to be identified. The cat-and-mouse game leads Hunt across the country and eventually to places far more exotic-and far more dangerous. As the chase escalates, so does the threat, for the killer has a secret that can only be trusted to the grave. Thriller master John Lescroart weaves a shocking, suspenseful tale about the skeletons inside family closets . . . and the mortal danger outside the front door.

First LineThey were having the special, wings and tuna wontons, in a window booth at Lou the Greek's, two guys in their early forties, talking over the lunchtime noise.

Random QuoteJuhle and Sarah, on folding chairs in front of Glitsky's death, exchanged a look and Juhle, nodding, got up and walked a few steps over to the door, which he closed.  When he got back to his seat, he cleared his throat and then he came forward and spoke up in a new whisper, "Abe, what if this has got something to do with cops?"

Review:   A lot of people weren't pleased when John Lescroart started writing a series about Wyatt Hunt, a San Francisco private investigator.  After all, his Dismas Hardy/Abe Glitzsky books are so imminently satisfying who else could we want to know about?

I like Wyatt Hunt.  I like the interconnections between the characters in both series.  I like the acknowledgement that Dismas and Abe are aging, their lives are changing and settling down, and it might be time to tell some new stories.  Since this is one of my all-time favorite series, I was happy to see that rather than letting the series wander off into insignificance and no fun, Lescroart expanded his world a bit, reached out into other characters with other stories.  This keeps all of the characters and their stories fresh and prevents Lescroart of going the way of so many series writers who run out of ideas and turn their characters into caricatures (once again, Patricia Cornwell, I'm looking at you).

The People's Temple - San Francisco (image source)
 The Hunter is the third book in the Wyatt Hunt series and Mr. Lescroart is hitting his stride with these characters.  He's always been one of the most talented of the writers of crime fiction combined with courtroom drama and has always been one of my personal favorite writers so I tend to like everything he writes, but can also acknowledge ups and downs.  The Hunter is one of the best books he's written lately.  Great characters, complicated and interesting plot that weaves together the protagonist's attempt to understand what happened to his mother and some 35-40 years of other interconnected murders.  Once he throws Jonestown into the mix he's off to the races with you right along with him.

San Francisco (image source)
 I recently read A Thousand Lives by Julia Scheeres.  Ms. Scheeres got access to all of the newly released documents on Jonestown and wrote a book that fundamentally changed my thinking about not just Jonestown, but about other similar gatherings of people of different kinds of faith.  She elevated her subjects from the dregs of gullible ignorance to real breathing people with fundamental values and beliefs and hopes to make a better world.  It was pretty breathtaking.  It also gave me a look into how much The People's Temple was woven into the world of San Francisco and its politics during the brief part of the seventies before the trips to Guyana became permanent and the end became a forgone conclusion.  Lescroart's inclusion of this bit of San Francisco history interlaced with the more expected crime fiction makes this book.  As always Lescroart's San Francisco is real, palpable, and set within its rich historic context.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it highly to fans of crime fiction.  Read this.  You won't be disappointed.

Publishing InformationDutton Adult - January 3, 2012

Format:  Kindle book

FTC Disclosure:  E-galley received from publisher for review

Rating:  ☆☆☆☆

Reading Challenges:  Eclectic Reading Challenge 2012, Mount TBR Challenge, Mystery and Suspense Challenge

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review - Petrograd by Philip Gelatti, Art by Tyler Crook

Synopsis:  Introducing the untold tale of the international conspiracy behind the murder of Gregorii Rasputin! Set during the height of the first World War, the tale follows a reluctant British spy stationed in the heart of the Russian empire as he is handed the most difficult assignment of his career: orchestrate the death of the mad monk, the Tsarina's most trusted adviser and the surrogate ruler of the nation. The mission will take our hero from the slums of the working class into the opulent houses of the super rich... he'll have to negotiate dangerous ties with the secret police, navigate the halls of power, and come to terms with own revolutionary leanings, all while simply trying to survive!

ReviewPetrograd is, as its synopsis so aptly puts it, a graphic novel about the plot to kill Rasputin.  Set in WWI Russia, the tale is told through the eyes of an English spy, Cleary, who is caught between duty to country and his own shifting convictions.

Rasputin is a fascinating character, partly because Americans like to pretend they could never understand him - he must just be a Russian thing.  Except, he's not.  Rasputin plays his victims like any other grifter - giving them the false hope they need to move along and that he needs them to have so he can profit - in power and in riches (and both are important).  He has a fascinating legend woven around him because he was seemingly impossible to kill - many attempts were made on his life and yet he always survived like some mysterious fakir floating above a bed of nails for centuries.

As I mentioned, Americans like to think that his appeal is inscrutable and locked into the uniqueness of the Russian psyche, the times, the context.  I find this interesting because there are so very many examples of American Rasputins - their control and power may be different, but they've been able to hypnotize the nation over and over again.  Don't believe me?  Take a moment and ponder Huey P. Long, Pat Robertson, or any of the other grifters we've seen capture the nation throughout our history.  Ultimately, it's not about the Russian psyche, but rather the human psyche, and this is beautifully illustrated in this book.

Panels from Petrograd

Petrograd examines the before, during, and after of Rasputin's murder and its ultimate impact on Russia's place in the world.  The Romanov world of St. Petersburg begins to morph into Petrograd as Russians rise up to overthrow their monarchy and establish a new, if differently organized, one.  The book successfully contrasts romanticism and reality - from the romanticism of a holy man in an ages long monarchy surrounded by beautiful things to the romanticism of a people's revolution to overthrow that monarchy and create a new world where everyone could have beautiful things.  Reality, of course, is lots of death and this is even before Lenin comes back to impose his own views upon his new nation.  There is the romanticism of freedom and the reality of governing.  The romanticism of planning to kill an ultimate evil and the actual ugliness associated with it.

Well-written, grounded in historical research and primary documents. Petrograd takes a well-known story and re-tells it as if it were a spy thriller, but not a James Bond spy thriller - more a John le Carre spy thriller where everything is all cynicism and shades of gray.  The art is gorgeous, rendered in sepia tones, although to be honest this bored me after awhile.  I would've liked to see more color and more play between sepia-toned memory, gray reality, and the Faberge egg colors of Russian romanticism.  All told a graphic novel worth reading - that the edition itself is also gorgeous is a bonus feature for a book I would've read had it been covered in cardboard and written in crayon.

Publishing InformationOni Press - August 2011

FTC Disclosure:  Copy received from the publisher for review

Rating:  ☆☆☆☆

Reading Challenge:  European Reading Challenge, Mount TBR Challenge, War Through the Generations Reading Challenge

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) random teaser sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS (make sure that what you share doesn't give too much away! You don't want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 

Then I was off-balance, and the guy grabbed me around the waist.  I screamed and kicked at him as hard as I could.  Apparently he got tired of that, so he dropped me on the ground.

     - Switched by Amanda Hocking

Monday, January 23, 2012

In My Mailbox Monday

Troll?  Mailbox in New Zealand (image source)
In January, Mailbox Monday is hosted by Alyce at At Home with Books. In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.  These are the places where we brag about share the books that arrived in our mailboxes each week.  As always, I try to find a mailbox that is somehow associated with what I'm reading right now.

I didn't participate last week so this is a couple of week's worth of goodies.

Printed Matter

Dust to Dust by Benjamin Busch.  Tim O’Brien meets Annie Dillard in this remarkable memoir by debut author Benjamin Busch. Much more than a war memoir, Dust to Dust brilliantly explores the passage through a lifetime—a moving meditation on life and death, the adventures of childhood and revelations of adulthood. Seemingly ordinary things take on a breathtaking radiance when examined by this decorated Marine officer—veteran of two combat tours in Iraq—actor on the hit HBO series The Wire, and son of acclaimed novelist Frederick Busch.

The Dispatcher by Ryan David JahnThe phone rings. It's your daughter. She's been dead for four months.   So begins East Texas police dispatcher Ian Hunt's fight to get his daughter back. The call is cut off by the man who snatched her from her bedroom seven years ago, and a basic description of the kidnapper is all Ian has to go on. What follows is a bullet-strewn cross-country chase from Texas to California along Interstate 10- a wild ride in a 1965 Mustang that passes through the outlaw territory of No Country for Old Men and is shot through with moments of macabre violence that call to mind the novels of Thomas Harris

The Lost Goddess by Tom Knox.  In the silent caves beneath France, young archaeologist Julia Kerrigan unearths an ancient skull-with a hole bored through the forehead. After she reveals her discovery, her mentor is brutally murdered. Deep in the jungles of Southeast Asia, photographer Jake Thurby is offered a mysterious assignment by a beautiful Cambodian lawyer who is investigating finds at the two-thousand-year-old Plain of Jars-finds that shadowy forces want kept secret.  From the temples of Angkor Wat and the wild streets of Bangkok to the prehistoric caves in Western Europe, what links Jake's and Julia's discoveries is a strange, demonic woman whose unquenchable thirst for vengeance-and the horrors she seeks to avenge- are truly shocking.

For the Kindle (advanced copies):

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermott.  Set against the backdrop of the 1987 stock market collapse, The Starboard Sea is an examination of the abuses of class privilege, the mutability of sexual desire, the thrill and risk of competitive sailing and the adult cost of teenage recklessness. It is a powerful and compelling novel about a young man navigating the depths of his emotional life, finding his moral center, trying to forgive himself, and accepting the gift of love

The Child Who by Simon Lelic.  A chance phone call throws the biggest muder case in southern England into the hands of provincial attorney Leo Curtice. Twelve-year- old Daniel Blake stands accused of murdering an eleven-year-old girl. But who is truly responsible when one child kills another? As Curtice sets out to defend the indefensible, he soon finds himself pitted against an enraged community calling for blood. When the buildup of pressure takes a sinister turn, he fears for his wife and young daughter's safety. Must he choose between his family and the life of a damaged child? With piercing psychological insight, Lelic examines a community's response to a hideous crime.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot LiveseyFate has not been kind to Gemma Hardy. Orphaned by the age of ten, neglected by a bitter and cruel aunt, sent to a boarding school where she is both servant and student, young Gemma seems destined for a life of hardship and loneliness. Yet her bright spirit burns strong. Fiercely intelligent, singularly determined, Gemma overcomes each challenge and setback, growing stronger and more certain of her path. Now an independent young woman with dreams of the future, she accepts a position as an au pair on the remote and beautiful Orkney Islands.   But Gemma's biggest trial is about to begin . . . a journey of passion and betrayal, secrets and lies, redemption and discovery that will lead her to a life she's never dreamed.

A Detailed Man by David Swinson.  Half of DC Police Detective Ezra Simeon’s face is immobilized from a persistent case of Bell’s Palsy—he must drink through a straw and eat carefully to avoid chewing through his own cheek. He has been detailed from robbery to the cold case department while he heals.  “How odd to dream with one eye open, like having one foot in reality,” Sim muses in the dark, bluesy vein that is typical of his Chandler-esque narration. “That’s what makes dreaming dangerous and why I moved my gun farther from the bed.”  Detective Simeon’s half-frozen world begins to heat up when a friend from his Academy days drops dead of a heart attack, and Sim is tapped to replace him, detailed now to homicide, where he inherits the high-profile case of a murdered escort he alone thinks may be the victim of a serial killer. 

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson.  When Jeanette left home at sixteen because she was in love with a woman, Mrs. Winterson asked her: Why be happy when you could be normal? This is Jeanette's story--acute, fierce, celebratory--of a life's work to find happiness: a search for belonging, love, identity, a home.  About a young girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night, and a mother waiting for Armageddon with two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the duster drawer; about growing up in a northern industrial town; about the Universe as a Cosmic Dustbin. She thought she had written over the painful past until it returned to haunt her and sent her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother. It is also about other people's stories, showing how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life raft that supports us when we are sinking.

For Kindle (bought by me for me):

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle.  Perhaps the most popular of all Sherlock Holmes stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles combines the traditional detective tale with elements of horror. When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead on the wild Devon moorland with the footprints of a giant hound nearby, the blame is placed on a family curse-and it is up to Holmes and Watson to solve the mystery of the legend. Rationalism is pitted against the supernatural and good against evil, as Sherlock Holmes tries to defeat a foe almost his equal.

The Vanishing Man by R. Austin Freeman.  At the turn of the 20th century, Richard Austin Freeman (1862-1943) emerged as an author to be reckoned with in the world of detective fiction, introducing the highly memorable scientific detective Dr. Thorndyke, an early forensic sleuth. Armed with his little green case full of scientific detection aids, Thorndyke unravelled murders and mysteries using logic and material evidence

Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers.  Dorothy L. Sayers, long considered one of the top mystery authors of our day, has excelled herself in this delightfully macabre tale which centers around the disappearance of a wealthy financier and the discovery of a nude corpse, wearing a golden pince-nez, in a bathtub. Sayer's most renowned amateur detective, the engaging and amusing Lord Peter Wimsey, sets out to unravel this puzzling case under the jealous eye of Scotland Yard. Needless to say he succeeds in solving things to everyone's ultimate satisfaction, but only after a series of bloodcurdling and hair-raising episodes that will hold you spellbound with anticipation.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Let's Talk about Curry Goat

Fremont Bridge Troll - Seattle, WA
At the moment I'm reading Switched by Amanda Hocking.  Yes, these are reimagined trolls, but more about that when I review the book.  In the meantime, my thinking about trolls goes like this:  Trolls = Billy Goats Gruff = Curry Goat.  Curry Goat is one of my very favorite Jamaican foods.  It's thought to have originated in India and then spread throughout the Caribbean and then to America and Great Britain during the Caribbean diaspora.  Goat is a red meat that is relatively low-fat and it's really really tasty.

It's easy for me to eat goat because when I was twelve and thirteen, I volunteered at the Memphis Zoo in Overton Park.  One of the things we kid volunteers got to do was work the petting zoo.  At the time it had bunnies and whatnot, but also some unusual animals like chinchillas and a baby camel.  They also had a herd of goats.  Guess what?  Goats are mean.  They're pushy, they head butt you, and /cranky on seems to be their permanent demeanour.  I feel no deep-seated guilt at eating the cranky things plus they taste really good.

Here's a good recipe from FoodNetwork to get you started on your own Billy Goats Gruff adventure:

Curry Goat  Yield: 6 servings


   2 pounds goat meat (or lamb) without bones
    1 lime, juiced
    1 tablespoon salt
    1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 Scotch bonnet pepper (any color), seeded and minced
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 teaspoon ground allspice (dry pimento berries)
    3 tablespoons curry powder
    2 whole scallions, sliced
    1 onion, sliced
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1/4 cup vegetable oil
    3 tomatoes, diced
    1/2 cup coconut milk (optional)
    7 cups water


Rinse goat meat well, rub lime juice over it (from 1/2 whole lime), place meat in a bowl, then add salt, black pepper, Scotch bonnet, thyme, allspice, curry powder, scallions, onion and garlic. Leave to marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, longer would be ideal.

Heat the oil in a skillet until it is very hot, and saute the meat until golden brown. Then add the marinade, tomatoes and coconut milk, if using, and simmer for approximately 3 more minutes. Add water, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 2 to 3 hours stirring occasionally until meat is tender.

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. Please link to your specific post,  not your   blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

We Have Winners for Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot

Winners (image source)
I have once again consulted the randomness in the universe to come up with winners for my latest book giveaway.  I am very happy to announce that the people listed below won a copy of Blueprints of the Afterlife by Ryan Boudinot.  I really enjoyed this book on many levels and hope you all do, too.
  1. Susan Schlesinger
  2. Peter Fontaine
  3. Jaque Richards
  4. Denise Sachs
  5. Christine Viscomi
Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway.  I wish I could give away a copy to everyone who entered, but then it wouldn't be a contest, right?

Wishing you a happy Sunday here in January 2012!  Stay tuned for my next giveaway and, as always, happy reading!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Abandonment Issues

Abandoned Russian Cannon
This is a semi-regular feature where I enter the confessional to tell you about the books I didn't finish.  You knew that, right?  You don't have to finish everything you start to read?  You can decide a book just isn't for you and then not read it and nothing bad happensSeriously.  This was a big revelation for me, although I probably should've guessed the first time that I threw a Jane Austen novel against the wall and an army of Jane Austen fans didn't appear outside my dorm room with torches waiting to take me out of there for suitable, but polite, hanging.  I didn't throw any of these against the wall, but here's what just hasn't worked for me lately:

Glock:  The Rise of America's Gun by Paul M. Barrett.  I often like this sort of thing, but for some reason this book didn't work for me.  There was something vaguely dry and academic about the writing that didn't appeal - the musty scent of mothballs mixed with Great Great Aunt Twyla's lavendar sachets (poor thing, she never did find a husband).

Wayward Saints by Susie Roche.  I have this thing where I want to read and like novels written by musicians about what it's like to have been really cool and then aged into oblivion or playing the bar at the Holiday Inn out by the highway.  Somehow, this never works out for me.

The Winter Palace:  A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak.  Of Catherine the Great?  Not so much.  I really wanted to read about Catherine the Great, but that's only tangential to this novel.  The "real" storyline with the spy just didn't work for me.  So much intrigue seen at so much distance.  The glory, the fashions, the jewelry, the hiding in the linen closet ...  Just not for me.

That's it for now.  Remember, this is just one persnickety reader's opinion.  Your mileage may vary.