Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Pleasantville: A Novel by Attica Locke

A Novel
by Attica Locke

Hardcover, 432 pages

I thoroughly enjoyed this complex mystery novel. Set in a mainly black community with mostly black
characters, it was different than many other mysteries that I have read.

I loved the intricacies of small town politics vs. big-time politics, community founders vs. newcomers, big factories vs. residents, old ways and new.

Somehow, lawyer Jay Porter walks the fine lines between all, trying to defend his community while solving a series of crimes. None of which he particularly felt like taking on, now that his wife has passed on.   

Intelligently written and skillfully plotted, Pleasantville kept me guessing until the very end.

From the Back Flap: 

In this sophisticated thriller, lawyer Jay Porter, hero of Attica Locke’s bestseller Black Water Rising, returns to fight one last case, only to become embroiled once again in a dangerous game of shadowy politics and a witness to how far those in power are willing to go to win. 

Fifteen years after the events of Black Water Rising, Jay Porter is struggling to cope with catastrophic changes in his personal life and the disintegration of his environmental law practice. His victory against Cole Oil is still the crown jewel of his career, even if he hasn’t yet seen a dime thanks to appeals. But time has taken its toll. Tired and restless, he’s ready to quit. 

When a girl goes missing on Election Night, 1996, in the neighborhood of Pleasantville—a hamlet for upwardly mobile blacks on the north side of Houston—Jay, a single father, is deeply disturbed. He’s been representing Pleasantville in the wake of a chemical fire, and the case is dragging on, raising doubts about his ability. 

The missing girl was a volunteer for one of the local mayoral candidates, and her disappearance complicates an already heated campaign. When the nephew of one of the candidates, a Pleasantville local, is arrested, Jay reluctantly finds himself serving as a defense attorney. With a man’s life and his own reputation on the line, Jay is about to try his first murder in a case that will also put an electoral process on trial, exposing the dark side of power and those determined to keep it. 
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Attica LockeAbout Attica Locke

Attica Locke is the author of the widely acclaimed debut novel Black Water Rising, which was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, an Edgar Award, and an NAACP Image Award, and was shortlisted for the UK's Orange Prize. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. Find out more about Attica at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

My New Roots: Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season

Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season
by Sarah Britton 
Hardcover, 256 pages

I may be the only person who has never heard of Sarah Britton - up til now - and I am so glad I have found her!

My New Roots is a stunning book of inventive recipes for a plant-based cuisine, written by an extremely talented and popular food writer, recipe developer and blogger.

The recipes are all vegetarian, many of them vegan and many gluten-free. This is a powerful collection of healing dishes that brim with liveliness. And they are truly inspired. One of the few cookbooks that I have read every single word on every single page.

The recipes are divided by season and further by Mornings, Small Measures, Mains, and Sweets. Yes, even the sweets are healthy. She even includes a section on stocking a healthy pantry. 

There is so much to learn in  this book, and you get to eat while you learn about healthy eating. What could be better than that?

From the Back Flap:

Holistic nutritionist and highly-regarded blogger Sarah Britton presents a refreshing, straight-forward approach to balancing mind, body, and spirit through a diet made up of whole foods.

     Sarah Britton's approach to plant-based cuisine is about satisfaction--foods that satiate on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level. Based on her knowledge of nutrition and her love of cooking, Sarah Britton crafts recipes made from organic vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds. She explains how a diet based on whole foods allows the body to regulate itself, eliminating the need to count calories. My New Roots draws on the enormous appeal of Sarah Britton's blog, which strikes the perfect balance between healthy and delicious food. She is a "whole food lover," a cook who makes simple accessible plant-based meals that are a pleasure to eat and a joy to make. This book takes its cues from the rhythms of the earth, showcasing 100 seasonal recipes. Sarah simmers thinly sliced celery root until it mimics pasta for Butternut Squash Lasagna, and whips up easy raw chocolate to make homemade chocolate-nut butter candy cups. Her recipes are not about sacrifice, deprivation, or labels--they are about enjoying delicious food that's also good for you.

SARAH BRITTON (BFA, CNP) is the acclaimed holistic nutritionist, writer, and photographer behind the popular healthy foods blog MyNewRoots.org, winner of a 2014 Saveur “Best Food Blog” award. Sarah has been featured in O, the Oprah Magazine, Bon Appétit, and Whole Living and has spoken at TedTalks. She gives nutrition seminars and workshops throughout North America and Europe and has been involved in numerous culinary projects, including Noma’s Test Kitchen. She lives in Copenhagen with her husband and their son.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Blood on Snow: A Novel by Jo Nesbo

Blood on Snow
A Novel
by Jo Nesbo

Hardcover, 224 pages

First of all - if you have never read Jo Nesbo - immediately collect every single one of his books. Then we can chat about how incredibly amazing, intelligent, dark, witty and kinda twisted he is. You know, in a fascinating, can't possibly go to sleep til this book is done sort of way.

Fans of the Harry Hole series will have to remind themselves that this is a departure. Okay, there is still killing, there is always killing, but this killer is much like Dostoyevsky's Idiot (or Fool) in that feeling that he is less than intelligent, some how grasps more than the average person. Or Voltaire's Candide. Or Forrest Gump. Only a killer. By trade.

It does read like a song or poem or "lyrical meditation". The heart bobs and sways with the prose of this short book that is fundamentally different than Nesbo's others, yet just as intense. And just as satisfying. True fans will devour this in one day.

If you read one Jo Nesbo book - you have to read them all.

From the Back Flap:

From the internationally acclaimed author of the Harry Hole novels--a new, electrifying stand-alone thriller set in Oslo in the 1970s: the story of an unusually complicated contract killer--the perfectly sympathetic antihero--that is, as well, an edgy, almost lyrical meditation on death and love.

Olav lives the lonely life of a fixer.

When you 'fix' people for a living -
terminally - it's hard to get close to anyone.

Now he's finally met the woman of his dreams.

But there are two problems.

She's his boss's wife.

And Olav's just been hired to kill her.

Jo Nesbø’s books have been translated into forty-seven languages. He is the author of the Harry Hole series, as well as The Son, Headhunters and several children’s books. He has received the Glass Key Award for best Nordic crime novel. He is also a musician, songwriter, and economist and lives in Oslo.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Preservation Society Home Preserves

Preservation Society Home Preserves
100 Modern Recipes
By Camilla Wynne
Paperback, 192 pages

I am in love with this book!

Camilla Wynne truly achieves her goal of taking the fear out and putting the fun back in to canning.

The recipes are playful and different than your usual canning books. Not only does she teach a modern spin on canning but also how to understand the basic science of canning so that you will be able to put your own spin on recipes.

It just makes sense to can your produce, whether from your garden or farmer's market. I still remember the three day blackout a few years ago. And many have suffered longer ones more recently. Fridges may let you down, but a well stocked pantry is a delight. 

I love that Camilla is such a free spirit, it comes out in her writing and her enthusiasm is contagious. This is one of those few preserving books where I want to try every single recipe.

You'll find a couple of sample recipes below. Happy canning!

Contents Include:

Canning Basics

Jellies and Butters
Canned Fruits
Chutneys, Relishes and Savory Jams
For the Fridge
Cooking with Preserves

From the Back Flap:

These are not your grandmother’s preserves, but we’re certain she would approve!

Preservation Society is a very particular preserves company. And while its founder, Camilla Wynne, may not always make pristine preserves from organic heirloom produce, she does make things filled with imagination and heart.

Camilla’s mandate at Preservation Society is to use as much local produce as possible. It may seem like a nice idea to make the perfect strawberry jam, but that’s not what she does, nor is it the type of recipe you’ll find in this book. Instead, her recipes are amusing, creative and simply mouth-watering.

She has worked with some of the top chefs, and this experience is reflected in her recipes. They don’t use complicated techniques or hard-to- find ingredients, but with a combination of classic ideas and surprise twists, they manage to be utterly unique creations. Besides the sumptuous jams, jellies and marmalades, you’ll also find recipes for syrups, marinades, chutneys and conserves, as well as 18 recipes that use the original preserves.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, you’ll be comfortable making these recipes, which feature reliable, easy-to-follow, up-to-date preserving instructions and information


I LOVE A MIXED PICKLE — it’s like a party in a jar. So good-looking! So diverse! This one is crunchy and bright and can hold its own as a snack, though it’s also very attractive on a sandwich.

7 oz    corn on the cob (1 cob), quartered lengthwise and     200 g
    cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
5 oz    cauliflower florets    150 g
5 oz    daikon radishes, cut into     150 g
    1⁄2-inch (1 cm) chunks
4 oz    mini bell peppers, slit or halved if large    120 g
31⁄2 oz    green beans, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces    100 g
21⁄2 oz    shimeji mushrooms    70 g
2 oz    finger chile peppers     50 g
    (about 4), cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks

1⁄2 cup    granulated sugar    100 g
1 tbsp    pickling salt    15 mL
3 cups    white wine vinegar    750 mL
2 cups    water    500 mL
1⁄3 cup    shiro miso    120 g

2    gingerroot coins    2
1    clove garlic, peeled    1
1 tsp    mustard seeds    5 mL
1⁄4 tsp    whole black peppercorns    1 mL
1⁄8 tsp    calcium chloride    0.5 mL

Prepare the jars and lids.
In a large bowl, toss the corn, cauliflower, radishes, bell peppers, green beans, mushrooms and chiles. You want to combine them well, to ensure that you have a little of everything in each jar.
Brine: In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, vinegar and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and whisk in the miso, making sure it dissolves.
Meanwhile, add ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, peppercorns and calcium chloride to the hot jars, then pack in vegetables as tightly as possible, leaving a generous 1⁄2?inch (1 cm) headspace.
Pour hot brine into the jars to within 1⁄2 inch (1 cm) of the rim. Remove any air bubbles, add more brine if necessary and wipe rims. Place the lids on the jars and screw the bands on until fingertip-tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.


If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you’ll need 2 cups (500 mL) cauliflower florets, 1 cup (250 mL) chopped daikon radish, 11⁄2 cups (375 mL) mini bell peppers, 1 cup (250 mL) sliced green beans and 1 cup (250 mL) shimeji mushrooms.
If you can’t find shimeji mushrooms, try small button mushrooms or torn oyster mushrooms.

Courtesy of Preservation Society Home Preserves by Camilla Wynne, 2015 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.


THIS DELICIOUS JAM SPEAKS FOR ITSELF. It’s got all the flavors of the classic cocktail, but is socially acceptable to eat for breakfast. The chunky texture, full of chewy coconut, also makes it a pretty choice for a dessert component — on ice cream, between cake layers, stirred into mascarpone … the list goes on.

2.9 lbs     pineapple flesh (from 2 pineapples) 1.3 kg
21⁄2 cups    jam (gelling) sugar    500 g
12⁄3 cups    unsweetened flaked coconut    100 g
         Grated zest and juice of 2 limes
6 tbsp        dark rum, divided    90 mL

Chop the pineapple into fairly small dice.
In a large pot or preserving pan, combine the pineapple, sugar, coconut, lime zest and juice and about half the rum. Cover and let stand to macerate for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the jars and lids.
Bring the pineapple mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often. Boil hard, stirring often, until the setting point is reached (see page 17). Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the remaining rum.
Ladle jam into the hot jars to within 1⁄4 inch (0.5 cm) of the rim. Remove any air bubbles and wipe rims. Place the lids on the jars and screw the bands on until fingertip-tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.


Courtesy of Preservation Society Home Preserves by Camilla Wynne, 2015 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.


THIS SYRUP IS A BOON TO HAVE ON HAND in the pantry on a hot summer’s day. If you’re on your own, add a few tablespoons to a glass of ice water, then refrigerate the rest for the next time you get thirsty. If you’re serving a crowd, pour the whole jar into a big pitcher and dilute to taste. For a grownups-only party, add gin or vodka for a very easy, very drinkable cocktail.
1 lb        pitted sour cherries    450 g
3 cups        granulated sugar    600 g
Pinch        salt    Pinch
        Grated zest of 5 lemons, divided
2 cups        water    500 mL
11⁄2 cups    freshly squeezed lemon juice    375 mL
Prepare the jars and lids.
In a large pot, combine the cherries, sugar, salt, zest of 3 lemons and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes to coerce the cherries into letting all their juice flow.
Pour the cherry mixture into a fine-mesh sieve set over a deep container. Push down against the cherries to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir the remaining lemon zest and the lemon juice into the syrup.
Pour syrup into the hot jars to within 1⁄2 inch (1 cm) of the rim. Wipe rims. Place the lids on the jars and screw the bands on until fingertip-tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.


If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you’ll need 3 cups (750 mL) pitted sour cherries for this recipe.
For 11⁄2 cups (375 mL) lemon juice, you’ll need 8 or 9 lemons.

Courtesy of Preservation Society Home Preserves by Camilla Wynne, 2015 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

Camilla Wynne is a writer, home preserving teacher, and the founder of Preservation Society, a small batch preserves company based in Montreal. She has been a pastry professional for over a decade and is one of Canada's only Master Preservers.

After graduating from pastry school she cut her teeth in some of Montreal's best restaurants, including Les Chevres and Laloux, all the while running the pastry half of Backroom Records & Pastries, and touring and recording with rock band Sunset Rubdown. When the band broke up she decided to concentrate on producing her own line of preserves, which had already garnered a following.

Not content to produce garden-variety jams and pickles, Camilla instead favours products that tell a story or illicit a memory and are often, though not intentionally, inspired by cocktails.

Her first book, Les conserves selon Camilla, was released in 2013. She has contributed recipes to numerous publications, including The Globe & Mail, Lost in the Supermarket: An Indie Rock Cookbook, and Le miel: l'art des abeilles, l'or de la ruche. Camilla resides in Montreal, QC.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Healthy Pasta: The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favourite Food

Healthy Pasta
The Sexy, Skinny, and Smart Way to Eat Your Favorite Food
by Joseph Bastianich 
and Tanya Bastianich Manuali
Hardcover, 200 pages

The good news - you don't have to give up pasta to live healthy. The bad news - you don't get to shovel as much in your mouth as humanly possible at every meal. I am going to have to work on that part.

This book teaches you to be smart about pasta - and really, who wants to live without pasta.

Carbs get a bad rap - or have in the past - but the truth is that people need carbs. And crave them. And love them. Especially me.

Active people particularly need them - activity is another thing I have to work on - but I am counting on spring to wake me up and inspire me to venture outside.

So here are a hundred recipes for pasta under 500 calories per serving, many under 400. Also - fresh pasta recipes, including a gluten-free version!

Also - gentle reminders to keep active and eat lots of veggies. Sounds reasonable. Now that it is no longer minus forty.

Guess what's for dinner?

From the Back Flap:

A delectable, wonderfully informative, easy-to-use cookbook that provides simple ways to make pasta an integral part of a healthy and well-balanced life style from two members of the beloved Bastianich family.

     As it says in the introduction: "Eating pasta can be advantageous to your health, satisfying, and economical. Pasta should be a staple in every kitchen." Now, brother and sister Bastianich--who certainly know great tasting food--provide tips, instructions, and delectable recipes for making pasta healthfully delicious. Not a diet book--there are no tricks and no punishing regimens--but a guide to enjoying more of the food you love in ways that are good for you. Joe and Tanya explain the health benefits of cooking pasta al dente; they show us ingredients and cooking methods that maximize taste but minimize fat content and calories; and they provide us with 100 mouth-watering recipes for regular, whole grain, and gluten-free pastas, including: Gnocchi with Lentils, Onions and Spinach; Bucatini with Broccoli Walnut Pesto; Linguine with Shrimp and Lemon; Summer Couscous Salad with Crunchy Vegetables; Spaghetti and Onion Fritttata, and many more. A book to revolutionize the way we think about pasta. Buon appetito!

JOSEPH BASTIANICH is co-owner (with Mario Batali) of Eatily, Babbo, Esca, Lupa, and Italian Wine Merchants, as well as (with Lidia Bastianich) Becco and Felidia, and has published extensively on the subject of Italian wine.

TANYA BASTIANICH MANUALI received her PhD in Renaissance art history from Oxford University. In 1996 she started Esperienze Italiane, a travel company that arranges food, wine, and art tours to Italy. She also coauthors cookbooks with her mother, Lidia; manages Lidia's product line; and serves as the cultural and art consultant for the art series.