Friday, August 31, 2012

Review of "Hell or High Water" [71]

Hell or High Water: A Novel by Joy Castro
Thomas Dunne Books, ISBN 978-1250004574
July 19, 2012, 352 pages

Nola C├ęspedes, is an ambitious young woman, not content to be writing puff pieces and community news stories for the New Orleans newspaper, the Times-Picayune. So when she gets assigned the job to do a story about what happened to all the register sex offenders in the area after Katrina, many of who disappeared off the rolls, she is very excited. This is a story she can sink her teeth into, a story that can make a difference. And a story that will touch much, much closer to home, to Nola herself, than we have any idea at first.

I think there are few places that are more ideal as a setting for a rather creepy thriller than New Orleans. The atmosphere, like the humidity, is so thick you can cut it with a knife and it is a city with a history, both recent and past that is full of good times and terrible tragedy, perfect for a story full of good and evil.
And Nola is a great character, one I certainly would not mind seeing again in another book. The author presents her as a very real person and while not quite likable, especially at the book's beginning, she is always interesting. She is self destructive, often putting herself in the dangerous situations, with sexual habit one might consider pathological and often not the nicest friend or co-worker.  I think she has a lot more depth she can share with us, maybe a continuation of some of the things we learned about in this book and that is a good and interesting thing. There are a number of other good characters in the book as well, not the least of which is her mother, although the one surprise revealed about her, I must say, seemed rather gratuitous. It was interesting, I will give it that! did hear the 'but' coming, didn't you?
But, there is one think about this book which almost ruined it for me. Almost, if not quite.
It is the preachiness. I hate preachiness in a book.
I understand there are things many authors may want to say, opinions about a number of topics that they want to work into their creation.
As a suggestion, one word..subtle. Subtle.
If I notice you preaching, you went too far and in this book, the author goes too far. Many times. About what, you ask? Well, you name it. Poverty, race relations, the failure of government in dealing with Katrina, US politics, how sex offenders are dealt with, the destruction of the salt marshes...lectures worked into the dialogue with all too frequent regularity, way too heavy handed. George Bush...really? Really? And please, no more statistics, please!
And then there were the 'Sex In The City'-like weekly meeting with her girlfriends, the tone of which seemed at odds with the nature of the story. And honestly, at times I did not understand why they were all friends. OK, that sort of got all tied in at the very end, but still I found that part of the book rather jarring.

In the end, I had some mixed felling about this book.
I think Castro has a lot of potential as a writer, as a story teller, and this book had a pretty good story to tell in a pretty good way. But, while this was a rather enjoyable book, a pretty good book, I think it did not quite reach it's full potential. I hope to see more, even better, from Joy Castro in the future.

My thanks to Amazon Vine for a review copy of this book.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Review of "Criminal" by Karin Slaughter [70]

Criminal: A Novel by Karin Slaughter
AudioGo, ISBN 978-1609982935
July 10, 2012

1975: In the blistering heat of an Atlanta summer, a killer prowls the street, searching for the weak, the vulnerable and the lost. Almost 40 years later, a young woman is found brutally murdered in a sordid high-rise apartment. The specifics of her death are detailed and macabre, but for Special Agent Will Trent they are startlingly familiar, and can only mean one thing. Desperate to deny this might be happening to him, he is forced to return to the home he grew up in, to the grimy crime-ridden streets, to a childhood he has spent the best part of his adult life trying to avoid. As the tension on the inner-city streets starts to simmer, Will becomes convinced that the clue to the killings now, and in 1975, may lie in his own past; a past that he hates yet feels responsible for. And that the killer is much, much closer to him than anyone thought possible.

I am a great fan of Slaughter and this is an excellent addition to her series.
The above description rather pains this book as being centered around Will Trent, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a young man with a number of issues in his past and present. But actually, in my mind, this book is about someone else that we have met in a few of the previous books, his boss, head of the Special Criminal Apprehension Team, Amanda Wagner.
If you read the previous books, and you really must, we know there is more than a professional relationship between the two, something that goes back to Will's birth to a mother who was killed, to his growing up in an orphanage, to the scars that cover Will's body. Exactly what that connection is though was mostly a mystery, a mystery that will be revealed in this book. And what a story it is! Wow!

Part of the story is set in Atlanta in 1975 when Amanda and her fellow female cops were a rarity, a very unappreciated and abused rarity, in the police dept. But Amanda saw a wrong, the disappearance of several young prostitutes, being ignore and sets out, along with another woman cop, to try and discover the truth. And it will not be easy, because they will be attacked, often literally, on all sides in their quest. Those of us who know Amanda in the present day (well, it seems we know these people when you read all the books) may wonder what has made her the woman she is today...and this book will allow us to start and understand that. Let's just say, she has had some difficult things to overcome.

And of course we have can you not love Will?...and his now girlfriend Sara Linton, who has been in the Slaughter books since the beginning. Did I ever mention that I don't really like Sara? She is just too goody-goody, too noble. I like my characters more complex, more flawed, like Will and Amanda and my personal favorite who sadly does not appear in this book, Lena, a cop with Sara now deceased husband a few years ago. Talk about troubled...

But back to this book, Criminal.
I said I loved this book right? But it is not with a few issues.
I think it got off to a slow start...but the rip-roaring finish more than made up for that in my book. And the bouncing back in forth from the 70's to the present was a little confusing, even if it was totally necessary for the story ultimately.
Maybe that might have been due to the fact that I listened to the audio version of this book, a format I am, at times, not totally comfortable with. I will say though that I loved this book in audio as much as I have loved just about any book in audio. I am not expert, but I think the narrator did an outstanding job. She had to, to keep my wandering mind on course with this rather complex plot. Complex and excellent, and as always with Slaughter, leaving me on more than one occasion saying "WOW!' with an unexpected twist or turn.

In the past I have said that I think that any book in a series should be able to be read as a stand alone. Yes, I said that, and I mean it.
Except maybe for Slaughter's books.
Yes, each book is a very complete and separate story. Yes, each can be read alone and enjoyed. But they are SO much better if you read them in order. Plots overlap, characters reappear from other books, the story builds on aspects we already know. But with this one, you do not have to go back and read all 11 of Slaughter's books. No, you can just go back and read the previous books in the Georgia series, four books in all, Undone, Broken, Fallen, and Criminal. OK, six if you add in the two introducing Will, Triptych and Fractured.
Oh, just give in and start at the beginning and read them all!
You will not be sorry!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...A Trip to Fordhook Farms

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Musing Monday...It's Weird!

Let's check out this weeks Musing Monday question, as always, from the desk of MizB at Should Be Reading>

This week’s musing — courtesy of– asks…
What is the weirdest/strangest/craziest book you’ve read?

I will admit I found this a very difficult question.
Not that a book did not immediately come to mind.
I just could not, for the life of me, remember the title.
So I set about trying to figure it out.

One method was Googling "weird books".
And let me tell you, there are a lot of odd books out there.
Take a look at How to Teach Physics to Your Dog..."When physics professor Chad Orzel went to the pound to adopt a dog, he never imagined Emmy. She wasn't just a friendly mutt who needed a home; she was a talking dog with an active interest in what her new owner did for a living and how it could work for her."
Yes, that sound weird.
How about Does God Ever Speak Through Cats?..."a book about Christian spirituality and cats". Yep, definitely odd, don't you think. And now that I am a cat owner, I think I can say with some certainly the answer is no. Although, sometimes when he purrs...
Or how about Electricity in Gynecology by May Cushman Rice? I am not even going there. Not even with a ten foot grounding pole. Ouch!

So while I found a number of weird books, I was no closer to finding the one I was looking for.
Then it came to me.
Library Thing!!
I did a search of my library by reversed star ratings. It was the only book I gave one star to.

It is called Deadfolk by Charlie Williams. Here is the description on Amazon...
"Royston Blake is the head doorman of Hoppers Wine Bar & Bistro. He drives a Capri 2.8i and can walk down the street in Mangel knowing folks respect him. But now there’s a rumor out that Blake’s lost his bottle. Even Sal’s heard the rumour. What’s more, the Muntons are after him and the thought of ending up in the back of their Meat Wagon is almost too much to bear . . . Murder, mayhem and a chainsaw called Susan intertwine in this astonishing debut which marks the appearance of a funny and brutal new voice in British crime fiction."
Funny? No, I did not get the funny part. It was very weird. And very violent. And quite distasteful in my humble opinion.
While I was on Amazon I took a look at some of the reviews and I happened to see one that I thought captured my opinion to a tee. Which was not surprising when I saw it was my review. So I will repeat it here..
I read a lot of books.
And I would have to rate this as my least favorite of the year so far.
I only hope there is not one I come across that I like even less.

The dialect was almost indecipherable.
I honestly do not want to work that hard to try and read a book.
And the story, or what passed as a story, was totally weird and nasty and held little interest for me.
Criminals and thugs and violence all leading..nowhere.

My favorite part of the book was the big bug on the cover.
Which tells you something.
This is one I can not, in an way, recommend. I would rather read about those holy cats...or high voltage medical exams... than read Deadfolk again.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Larry...The PlayCat Edition

I know...
I am beautiful!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Pasta Caprese

Some years I plant a garden..and some years, not so much.
There have been years I planted corn and squash and tomatoes and eggplant and get the idea.
And some years my raised beds..I am a fan of the Square Foot Gardening method...have remained empty.
This year, I planted what I consider the bare minimum, Tomatoes and basil, the King and Queen of summer gardens. The tomatoes were late getting in and pretty much I have been just eating them as they come ripe but the basil, for some reason is doing great. Good enough that I have been reading some pesto recipes.
But in the meantime, just when I was considering my Weekend Cooking post this week, I open my newsletter from my friends at America's Test Kitchen and saw a recipe where my basil could shine, Pasta Caprese. Perfect!

It is a simple recipe that depends on top notch ingredients. Ripe, delicious tomatoes, the best mozzarella you can get your hands on, a good quality olive oil, fresh, tart lemon juice.
And one little trick! If you are using supermarket mozzarella, as opposed to the buffalo- or cow’s-milk kind you can buy packaged in water, you need to do something to counteract it turning into a taffy like, chewy consistency when you add it to the hot pasta. So they recommend cutting it up and then putting it in the freezer for 10 minutes before you add it in to the dish. Now, I trust what the ATK folks say, but I can't say  from personal experience that it that works, because I found some nice homemade cheese at my supermarket. So I added mine into the marinade with the tomatoes, as they suggest. And it was delicious, the perfect dish for a warn summer night.
Basil, mozzarella and tomatoes...a marriage made in heaven.
Pasta Caprese

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press 
  • 1 small shallot, minced fine (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 12 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 pound penne pasta or other short tubular or curly pasta such as fusilli or campanelle
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 
1. Whisk oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, garlic, shallot, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Add tomatoes and gently toss to combine; set aside for about 20 minutes Do not marinate tomatoes for longer than 45 minutes.

2. While tomatoes are marinating, place mozzarella on plate and freeze until slightly firm, about 10 minutes. Bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil in stockpot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain well.

3. Add pasta and mozzarella to tomato mixture and gently toss to combine. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in basil; adjust seasonings with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice or sugar, if desired, and serve immediately.

I used campanelle, my new favorite pasta shape. I personally think it is perfect for this dish. I had some grape tomatoes from the garden but had to add some local ones from a farm market. I love those little grape tomatoes..And remember, if you can get the kind of cheese packed in water..I think it is more and more available these days...skip the freezing step. The hot pasta will just barely start to soften the cheese and the heat  will bring out the fragrance of the basil...oh my, so nice.
Perfect alone, or with some simple grilled chicken, as in my photo...or use your imagination!


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, August 24, 2012

Review of "Broken Harbor" [69]

Broken Harbor:A Novel by Tana French
Viking, ISBN 978-0670023653
July 24, 2012, 464 pages

“Murder is chaos...We stand against that, for order...What I do is what the first men did. They built walls to keep back the sea. They fought the wolves for the hearth fire.”
That is how Dublin Homicide Detective Mick "Scorcher" Kennedy sees his job, his very identity, as someone holding back the chaos. That is what he is trying to pass along to his new homicide trainee, Richie.
And chaos they will soon face and he will be very hard pressed to succeed at keeping it from taking over this time.

They are called to a multiple murder, the whole Spain family, dead in their home. Well, almost.
The two young children, a boy and girl, are dead in their beds, their father, covered in blood, dead on the kitchen floor. Only the mother survives, barely, stabbed multiple times and curled up in her husband's arms. And almost as creepy as the murder scene is the setting, their home. It was to be part of a beautiful new development, with a view of the harbor overlooking the Irish Sea, when Ireland was in the midst of a booming economy. Now, when property values have collapsed, it is a virtual ghost town. A few finished homes in the middle of half built houses and abandoned construction rubble, the dark streets prowled by gangs of kids at night, miles and miles from a pub, a store, miles from anything.
And then there are the holes broken into the wall, all over the house, the door to the attic covered with wire mesh, baby monitors set up to watch the hallways and smashed holes, the huge foot hold trap in the attic.
What exactly was going on in this house?

If this was just a police procedural, solving a murder, it would be interesting and well done. But in the hands of French, this is much more, It is a fascinating psychological thriller with a number of sub-plots, each interesting, all feeding into the main plot very nicely. Our narrator, Scorcher, is, of course, troubled and flawed..and a very clever detective. He has his own history with Broken Harbor, back when he was a kid and it was the site of a summer caravan camp where his family vacationed. Something terrible happened here one year, something that will all be dredged up by his return to this place. We may think we understand fairly early in the book what went on. But we will be wrong, we realize, when the tale takes a whole different twist at the very end, a surprising, satisfying end to the book.

This is a story about a dream world in a state of collapse, about failure and disappointment, about madness that was barely kept at bay by the order of a happy, successful life but now is on the verge of spinning off into chaos, taking victims, innocent and not so innocent. About half way through the book, it seems as if the murderer has been caught, but of course, with all those pages left, we know there has to be more to this story. Indeed there is!

French is a beautiful writer, her descriptions, her turn of a phrase, taking this book to a whole new level from your average mystery. Her characters, one and all, are excellent, the relationships real and believable and at time heart breaking. Scorcher and his young apprentice start with a nice father/son relationship..and we just know that something is going to go very wrong. As it does, part of nightmare that becomes all too real.
The Irish Independent newspaper has called Tana French "the First Lady of Irish Crime”and I think Broken Harbor will make it clear why that accolade is true.
Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday....Some Sunny Seashore Decor

Let's go fishing..

..but watch out for the gulls!

Your own personal lighthouse...

..with a view of Atlantic City in the distance. always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

OK, I Love a New Toy...

I like to take photographs.
And I think I have a pretty good eye.
But I am not the most knowledgeable photographer.
By far!

And still, I try.
While I admit depth of field and apertures make my head spin a bit, I try.
I want the option to play with my settings, a camera I can learn with.
So I felt it was time to move up. Something with interchangeable lens and better quality photographs.
So, an SLR, right?

Well, I started reading and decided there was another option.
A Micro Four Thirds system camera.
A bigger sensor than a point and shoot. Interchangeable lenses. Almost SLR quality.
And yet, it is small. And light.
So, I bought one.

Olympus OM-D E-M5, with it's kit lens, 12-50 mm and a Panasonic 20 mm prime lens

..with the 12-50 on.

...with the Panasonic lens.

Ok, actually, I bought two.
I 'needed' a new 'pocket' camera. A point and shoot, but with some telephoto range. One that I can have in my pocket, my bag, my car, always at the ready. So a bit ago I picked up this one

Canon PowerShot SX260 HS with 20x image stabilized zoom
Don't look at that last one too closely. I had no idea the poor camera was so dusty.

Also, I took these photos using a $5 lightbox I made based on some online articles, with a cardboard box and some tracing paper and a fair bit of tape.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Musing Monday..Maybe the Best Book Ever Written!

Oh, I am must be Monday. And time to head over to see what Miz B at Should Be Reading has for us to muse about this week...

This week’s musing — courtesy of – asks…
Have you ever reread a book and found that your opinion changed?

Well, no, not really.
Maybe because I rarely, very rarely, reread a book.
I think you could count on one hand the number of books I have reread in my reading lifetime.
OK, maybe two hands.

If I don't really like a book, I am certainly not going to give it another chance. Sorry, moving had your chance.
And if I loved a book? Well, I will bask in the happy glow of book loveliness for a bit. Move it to the  fond memory pile in my brain. Then move on. Maybe to other books by the same author, to see if they can hit another home run. Maybe to one in the TBR pile I must just get to.

Part of the issue may be my favorite genre, mysteries and thrillers and suspense. Once you know the ending, usually rereading the book will not cut the mustard.

But even more than that, there is the matter of time.
So many books, so little time!
Almost every day, when I check out some of my favorite blogs, read some great reviews, I discover another book that I just need to read. Often I am introduced to another author I did not know before, one that now I need to check out, maybe even one with a series I would really like to read.
So who has time to reread??

Say I read 3 book a week.
52 weeks in a year times 3 = 156
Say I only make it another 20 years on this earth.
That would be 3120 books.
OK, let's say I live 30 more years.
That is 4680 books.

Yes, that may seem like a huge number.
Until I consider that I have hundreds, maybe a thousand, unread books actually in my house. And that is not to even touch on all the books I hear about, but control myself and don't buy or check out of the library.
Oh, the library, that source of so much temptation. I go to pick up one book and end up with three..
And bookstores, those temples of enticement. Look at all the lovely books...maybe just one. Oh, I have heard about this one and it sounds so good...

So no, in my mind, every reread is a missed opportunity to read a new book!
Maybe a wonderful book.
Maybe the best book I have ever read!
Who can take the chance?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Weekend Cooking..Happy 100th Birthday Oreo Cookie!

Did you know that the Oreo cookie is 100 years old this year?
"The first Oreo cookie was sold on March 6, 1912 in Hoboken, New Jersey. Now, the delectable cookie is available in more than 100 countries and is the world's top selling biscuit. In markets around the world, Oreo comes in surprising local flavors, like blueberry and green tea ice cream, and fun shapes and forms, like Oreo Minis and Triple Double Oreo. But no matter where in the world you find Oreo, one thing remains right at the heart of milk‟s favorite cookie: the iconic “twist, lick, dunk” ritual that brings people together like no other biscuit can!"
Yes, another first for my New Jersey!
Granted, yes, the actual date was in March, but I think that something this important needs a full year to celebrate. And so do the Oreo people, who set up a huge display in my supermarket recently and were giving out free sample when I was shopping last week. Chocolate filling with chocolate cookies, chocolate filling with vanilla cookies, double stuff, triple stuff, berry filling, mint filling, peanut butter, Heads and Tails...
Oh my, the variety made my brain spin!

And while these are all swell, I am a purist.
My favorite is the regular Oreo.
A lovely cookie. With a tall glass of cold milk.
Twist or don't twist, it's up to you.

But, I am not above using an Oreo or two...or make an easy, delicious and quick dessert.
Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes

  • 26 Oreos- 16 left whole, and 10 coarsely chopped
  • 2 8-oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 275 F.
Line 12 muffin tins and 4 ramekins (or 16 muffin tins) with paper liners.
Place 1 whole Oreo in the bottom of each lined cup.
Beat the cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium. Gradually beat in the sugar and then add lemon zest and vanilla. Pour in the beaten eggs, a little at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the sour cream and salt.

Remove from mixer and stir in chopped cookies by hand.

Pour the batter into the prepared tins, filling each almost to the top.
Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until filling is set, 22-25 minutes.
Cool in the pans for about 15 minutes, on a wire rack, then transfer to a plate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. 

I looked around the internet for a recipe for Oreo cheesecake and found many.
And every one of them is exactly the same. Except for the lemon zest which is not in most but I think is a fine little addition.
You can serve it in the cupcake liner, or remove it for a more classy look, or top it with a bit of whipped cream and a mini-Oreo for that over the top look.

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.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Review of "Afraid to Die" [68]

Afraid to Die: Selena Alvarez/Regan Pescoli by Lisa Jackson
Zebra, ISBN 978-1420118506
June 12, 2012, 484 pages

It's Christmas, and what says Christmas more than a serial killer?
OK, well this serial killer has a special wintery twist. Not does he just kill woman, but he freezes them to death and leaves them around town, encased in ice, frozen sculptures. He is an artist in Murder.
"Others may dread the chill of winter, but he relishes it. The way the frigid water preserves his victims, the feel of their icy skin beneath his fingers...And soon the world will see their beauty - and his vengeance. The town of Grizzly Falls is on edge in the wake of a serial killer, and Detective Selena Alvarez is no exception. That case was solved, but a new nightmare is about to unfold. There are two victims so far - their bodies found frozen solid and deliberately displayed. Both are women she knew. And each wears a piece of Selena's jewellery. Selena's partner, Detective Regan Pescoli, and the entire department are on the case, as is P.I. Dylan O'Keefe - a man Selena got too close to once before. But this killer already knows too much about Selena's secret terror, her flaws, and the past she's tried to outrun. And soon he'll show her that she has every reason to be afraid."

This is fourth book in this series by Jackson, but the first one that I read.
Which maybe is my problem with this book, although I really do not think so.
Because I did have a problem.
While it is not a bad book, I did not love it.
If I had been more vested in the characters, with Selena and her love interest Dylan O'Keefe and her partner Detective Regan Pescoli would I have liked it more? Maybe, but honestly, I should not have to read the whole series to like this one in my opinion. I have said this before, but I think ever book in a series has to be able to be read as a standalone and still enjoyed, or the author is not doing their job.

But that was not my biggest issue with this book. My biggest problem perhaps was with the killer and how he is portrayed..or not portrayed. Even though there are a number of chapters from his point of view, I never felt I understood his motivation. Even worse, I did not felt a sense of fear, or evil, or danger from him. I never really felt much of a sense of suspense. Woman disappears... frozen body found. Woman disappears, frozen body found. Police getting nowhere. Another woman you can guess what happens. Yes, frozen body found, police are still clueless. The ending felt rushed..after a long, wandering middle...and never felt real as to how he was caught, why he did it. I actually went back and reread part because I though I had missed something. And maybe worse, it left a lot of questions hanging in my mind, something I hate in a mystery.

There is lots of Selena and her 'love him/hate him/fall in bed with him' relationship with O'Keefe and her Big Secret..which is not that much of a secret. Lots of Pescoli and her very badly behaving teenagers..who are in need of some Tough Love in my book. These are not very interesting, especially those kids, and take up way too much of the book in my opinion.

As I said, it is not a bad book. It is well written, the dialogue is pretty good, some interesting characters ( and a few not) and I liked the setting. But then I love the cold.
Fans of Ms. Jackson may enjoy this book and fans of the previous books in the series may want to read the latest installment. But I can not honestly say reading this book makes me want to run out and read more of Jackson books and in my mind, that is very telling.

My Thanks to LibraryThing and the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wordless Wednesday....On the Tuckahoe River

Some folks and their dog in a cool river on a hot day..



Old trains at an old station..

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Review of "The Caller" [67]

The Caller: An Inspector Sejer Mystery 
by Kain Fossum
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 978-0547577524
August 14, 2012, 256 pages.

One mild summer evening, a young couple are enjoying dinner while their daughter sleeps peacefully in her stroller under a tree. When her mother steps outside she is stunned: The child is covered in blood.
Inspector Sejer is called to the hospital to meet the family. Mercifully, the child is unharmed, but the parents are deeply shaken, and Sejer spends the evening trying to understand why anyone would carry out such a sinister prank. Then, just before midnight, somebody rings his doorbell.
No one is at the door, but the caller has left a small gray envelope on Sejer’s mat. From his living room window, the inspector watches a figure disappear into the darkness. Inside the envelope Sejer finds a postcard bearing a short message: Hell begins now.
And the "pranks' do not stop here. A woman reads her obituary in the newspaper, making her wondering if , as odd as it sounds, in fact she actually is dead and leaving her shaken even when she decides she is not. A hearse arrives at a house to retrieve a body, but the man who lives there while terribly ill, is not dead.
And then things take a much more serious turn, leaving more than one person dead, in truly horrible ways. Can this somehow all be tied together...or is there more than one villain on the loose.

I have read several of the books in Fossum's Inspector Sejer series and this is a very good one, perhaps my favorite. It starts off with that very disturbing incident in the book's description, with the bloody child, and then moves along at a very steady pace to an ending that left me saying "Oh, wow!".

As always with this author, it is a very well written book, with a number of interesting stories and as always, an intriguing look into the mind of the very interesting Sejer. And then we have the 'doer', whose identity is revealed early in the book. This is not a who-done-it..that we know. But what he thinks, how things are escalating and, most disturbing, where it will all lead, is the real draw here. He has had a quite troubled life and knowing what he thinks, seeing how kind and gentle he is with his elderly, infirmed grandfather, we can even start to feel rather sorry for him. But then other aspects of his thoughts, dark and violent, make us wonder just how far he might go. And what might happen when someone has no sense of right and wrong, no concern of what might be the consequences of his actions.
Quite creepy and rather unsettling..and if that sort of thing appeals to you, this is a book you will certainly enjoy.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Musing Monday.... M-I-C...See You Real Soon...K-E-Y...Why? Because WE Like You!

This week’s musing –courtesy of — asks…
Do you snack while you read? If so, what is your favorite reading snack?

I am not a big snacker.
Heavens knows, I eat enough at meal time. I sure don't need snacks too.
Of course, I say this having just finished a snack of some pepper jack cheese and Keebler Flatbread Crisps, the Sea Salt and Olive Oil variety.

But would I do that while reading?
No, not really.
There are a lot of issues.

First of all, you would have to decide which hand to use to snack with and which to use to hold the book. But then, how will you turn the pages? So now you need a place to rest the book too. At first, I though you should snack with the right hand and hold the book/turn pages with the left. But on further thought, being as I am right handed and you turn pages from right to left, it seemed better to use the right hand for the book and left for the snack. Sort of a wet hand/dry hand sort of thing, like when you are breading some nice chicken cutlets or some huge, butterflied shrimp.
But still, I think there would be a good chance of getting a stain on the book.
And that would be very, very bad.

You could eat some more tidy snack. Like M&M, which were invented to be neat.
Is that true, or one of those urban myths?
Let's ask Wikipedia...
"Forrest Mars, the founder of the Mars Company, invented the idea for the candy in the 1930s during the Spanish Civil War when he saw soldiers eating chocolate pellets with a hard shell of tempered chocolate surrounding the inside, preventing the candies from melting. Mars received a patent for his own process on March 3, 1941. Production began in 1941 in a factory located at 285 Badger Avenue in Clinton Hill, Newark, NJ."
So, it is true. Good to know.
Hey, I am from Newark, NJ but I never knew that!
Car Jacking Capital of the US and the Home of the M&M.

Gosh, do you think I might be over thinking this whole snack thing?
I am apt to do that.
But now I believe I may know why I don't snack while reading.
It is just all too complicated!

OK, on a totally different track, today is my brother's, the Bro's, birthday!
Ssssshh...Don't tell anyone, but he is 60 years old today.
The real question is how I can have a brother who is that old?
Granted, I am his younger sister, but still, this seems to make me rather old as well.

The Bro's name is Mickey.
He was named after Mickey Mouse you know.
OK, that is a lie.
Actually, he was named after my father.
But Mickey Mouse would be cool.

OK, all together now..

Happy Birthday to You..
Happy Birthday to You..
Happy Birthday Dear Mickey..
Happy Birthday to Youuuuuu!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Sesame Noodles with Tofu and Vegetables

I was in the supermarket last week and noticed, in the 'ethnic' section, all these different sorts of dried Chinese noodles, that I had not really seem before. So I bought some. I had no plan in mind, just thought they were interesting. But then I was home and wondering what to do with them. Wonder...wonder...
So, I looked around the World Wide Web...WWW as the kids call found all sorts of ideas, enough to make your head spin. The Chinese, in fact many Asian cuisines, love the noodle, in many, many forms. Fresh, dried, wheat and rice, wide and narrow. Noodles, noodles, noodles!

Not for the first time, I fell back on my friends at American Test Kitchen and took some ideas from one of their recipes in Pasta Revolution. Yes, I took some liberties, because cooking, in my mind is not science. IT is art folks..ART!
And sometimes you get a lovely painting and sometimes not, but you have to give it a try!

Sesame Noodles with Tofu and Vegetables

1 1/2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press 
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated or minced 
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
1 tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar

1-3 tablespoons hot water

8 ounces fresh Chinese noodles or 6 ounces dried spaghetti
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 strips
1 carrot. cut into thin slices
2 scallions
2 stalks bok choy, cut into fine slices
1 recipe marinated tofu
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Toast the sesame seeds in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant. Reserve 1 tablespoon sesame seeds in a small bowl.

Heat a tiny bit of oil in a non-stick pan and saute vegetable for just a minute, so still very crisp. Let cool to room temperature as you cook the noodles.
Add the noodles to the boiling water; boil the noodles until barely tender, following label directions for time. Drain, then rinse with cold running tap water until cool to the touch and drain again. In a large bowl, toss the noodles with the sesame oil until evenly coated. 

In a blender or food processor, puree the remaining  sesame seeds, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, and sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until the sauce has the consistency of heavy cream, about 2-3 tablespoons.
In a large bowl, combine noodles, veggies and sauce and toss to combine. Divide among individual bowls, sprinkle each bowl with a portion of reserved sesame seeds, and cilantro if using, and serve.

Serves 4 to 6

This recipe is based loosely on the America's Test Kitchen's recipe for Sesame Noodles but I made a few changes.
The sauce is their recipe, 100%.

But I cooked the vegetables a tiny bit, where as they did not. I wanted them crisp, but not raw.
And I used slightly different vegetables. I added the bok choy, left out the cucumber they used, but really, I think you can use any vegetables you have on hand or really like.
And I added some marinated tofu I made the other day, rather than the 1 cup of chicken in the original recipe. If you don't like tofu, or certainly if you have some left over chicken on hand, that would be great, or you could  just leave the protein out altogether and it would still be excellent.

I will give my recipe for the marinated tofu, if you are interested. And I think you should be!

Marinated Tofu

  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into triangles and dry fried

In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, light or dark soy sauce,  sesame oil, sugar, chili paste, and garlic. Cover and refrigerate while preparing and dry frying the tofu. 
First, drain 3/4-1 pound of extra firm tofu from the liquid in the container it comes in. Then cut the tofu into triangular pieces about 1/2 inch thick,  press them between some paper towels and weigh down with a heavy pan. 

After the tofu has drained a few minutes, place the triangles in a dry non-stick frying pan on medium heat, making sure they are laid out flat. Cook until it is golden brown, pressing down firmly on the tofu triangles with a spatula a few times during cooking. You will hear hissing and see the water coming out of the tofu as it cooks, which is the point. Turn the tofu triangles over and dry fry the other side, pressing down with the spatula and cooking until golden brown. Remove from the pan and add the dry fried tofu to the marinade. 
Place the marinade and tofu into a large bowl or resealable plastic bag. Cover bowl or seal bag and refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally to make sure all the tofu pieces are covered. Drain the tofu.

That all sounds a bit more complicated than it is. Cut the tofu in thin slices and fry them in a non-stick pan with no oil. You want to dry them out and brown them up. Mix up a marinade with soy and any sorts of flavors you like, put it all in a zip lock bag and sit in the frig overnight. Easy!


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.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Review of "The Cold Dish" [66]

The Cold Dish: A Walt Longmire Mystery 
by Craig Johnson
Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0143036425
March 28, 2006, 400 pages

I will admit that I never heard of this series of books until I saw the new A&E TV series this season, "Longmire". Normally, cowboys are not my thing. Not a lighthouse in sight, although there was a bit of discussion of fly fishing. But the TV show is pretty good, the characters interesting, so I decided to check out the books, hoping that as usually, the book is always the best format. And I will tell you, I was not disappointed. If you have watched the TV show and liked it, I think you will love the book.

In the first book in the series, The Cold Dish..
"Sheriff Walt Longmire knows he’s got trouble when Cody Pritchard is found dead. Two years earlier, Cody and three accomplices had been given suspended sentences for raping a Northern Cheyenne girl. Is someone seeking vengeance? Longmire faces the most volatile and challenging case in his twenty-four years as sheriff and means to see that revenge, a dish that is best served cold, is never served at all."
We are in Absaroka County, Wyoming, not usually a hot bed of crime, which is good because Sheriff Longmire is not the most motivated of lawmen since the death of his wife from cancer. So when a young man is found dead, shot in what appears to be a hunting accident, it could have just all stopped there. But things did not feel right to Longmire, all a little too coincidental, especially who the victim is, a man despised by many in the community. And could the three other men charged with him be next? Is this about revenge, or s something else going on here?

Is it wrong to say that a book where people get killed and guns are fired and we relive some very sad things that have happened, to say that the book is great fun? Well, The Cold Dish is!
While I came to like the setting as described by the author, even without a lighthouse or a boat, not even a canoe, that was not what sold me on the book. And the mystery is good, with lots of red herrings and a logical if rather complicated plot, but that was not the best part of this book. And the fabulous ending, which I totally did not see coming, was great, but that was not it either.
No, it was the characters.

We start with Walt. He is a big bear of a man, living in an unfinished cabin, drinking a bit too much, lonely and rather sad. But he is also very smart and very clever and quite funny..and darn good at his job. You have to love a man who can quote Hamlet, thinks about what book to take with him to a stakeout, yet can carry a 200+ pound man to safety.
As his second in command we have Deputy Victoria Moretti, an ex-Philly cop, overqualified for her job, moving to Wyoming to follow her husband and his job..or it seems her soon to be ex-husband, and with a mouth like a trucker. Walt is trying to groom her as his successor, but she may have to go to a charm school before the voter get a chance to pull the lever if she hopes to win. Then we have Walt's long time friend Henry Standing Bear, owner of the local bar, a member of the local Cheyenne tribe and a man you want by your side in a fight..even if he may be a suspect in the murder. See, that young girl who was gang raped by the dead man and his friends is his niece. Add in a few more like Ruby, the take no prisoners dispatcher, a wise diner owner, a one legged ex-sheriff called into duty from the retirement home..well, all together they are a great 'cast'.

This is the first book in the series, a series that now has 8 books and I will admit, I have the second on the way. But don't let all those books scare you off. Pick up one, check it out and I think you will be hooked.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...In Honor of National Lighthouse Day

"It was on this day in 1789, that Congress approved an Act 
for the establishment and support of lighthouse, 
beacons, buoys and public piers."

Pemaquid Point, Maine

Barnegat, NJ

West Quoddy, Lubec, Maine

Sea Girt, NJ

Cape May, NJ

Pond Island, Maine

New London, Conn.

Absecon Light, Atlantic City, NJ

Navesink, NJ always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.