Monday, January 25, 2010

Strictly Sundays by Joe Fitzpatrick

In Strictly Sundays: Making Every Cook a Hero on Sundays, Joe Fitzpatrick, The Blue Collar Gourmet, offers a tempting collection of recipes to help make that Sunday supper something special. The recipes are grouped into sections for: appetizers, main dishes, salads, soups, side dishes and salsas.

This is a pretty good cookbook. The recipes are nice enough for a special occasion or a Sunday family supper, but since they aren't overly complicated or fussy, many of them could be used on a weekday. The recipes are varied, but with the exception of a few salads and side dishes, vegetarians would be disappointed (and quite possibly starving). The only other thing that is missing is a dessert section.

The book contains some standard fare (pot roast, steak, clam chowder), but also has some out of the ordinary dishes that sound intriguing: "Wasabi White Chile", "Chestnut Soup", "Crab and Scallop Lasagna", plus many more.

A lot of the recipes sound delicious; I can't wait to make a few of them: "Tomato Pie" on page 113 looks a little unusual; "Garlic Bread with a Kick" on page 134 will likely be devoured in my house, but will no doubt enlarge my waistline; "Quinoa Salad" on page 93, I'm always looking for new things to make with quinoa; "Lemon-Garlic Chicken" on page 55 contains two of my favourite ingredients. I could go on and on. There are so many good ones.

I love the photographs in the book. Photographing food and have the photo come out delicious looking is extremely hard and is best left to those who know what they are doing. Well, Steven Potter knows what he's doing. The photos are wonderful and appetizing.

The layout of the book is really nice. The adequate index makes recipes really easy to find. I especially liked the addition of the coloured pages. They make the photographs stand out and add overall interest to the book.


For more information about the book and the author, please visit Strictly Sundays website.

Review copy provided by author/publicist via Bostick Communications. Thanks!

Strictly Sundays by Joe Fitzpatrick, Book Publishers Network, ©2009. ISBN 9781935359197 (Trade Paperback), 146p.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan

In The Day the Falls Stood Still, Bess Heath has returned home from boarding school to find her family in near shambles. Her father has lost his job and disappears for hours at a time, her mother is forced to take in sewing to support the family, and her sister Isabel is despondent after having her heart broken. In a chance encounter on her way home, Bess meets a young man who will change her life and have her torn between her family's wishes and her own desires.

I absolutely adored this book. It's hard to believe it's Buchanan's first novel. The story was emotional, intelligent, stunning and beautifully written. I didn't feel like I was just reading about the past; I felt like I was actually there. The words and phrases, the characters actions, the descriptions of the surroundings, the fashions at the time; everything about the book pulled me back in time.

Even though the book is billed as an "epic love story", it's not at all gushy or sappy. Buchanan is reserved in presenting the obvious attraction and blossoming romance between Bess and Tom. Besides, there's so much more to the book than the love story between two people. It's about the love for the river and falls; their power and grandeur; the history of the area; war on the home front; the life of a young woman during that time; the controversy and division between those who appreciate the river as it is and those who seek to use it for their own gain.

I especially loved that Buchanan used fictitious newspaper articles to tell the story of Fergus Cole, the legendary riverman and Tom Cole's grandfather. These are scattered throughout the book and were a very nice way to introduce past events into the story. I also loved that she included some antique photographs of the Niagara Falls area and inhabitants. These added to the sensation that I was a participant in the story rather just an observer or reading about it afterwards.

I've been a prairies girl all my life and know very little about Niagara Falls area or its history. I appreciated how the information about the falls was incorporated into the story, particularly the part about the power companies and their use of the river. I had once read that the amount of water going over the falls was a fraction of what it could be, but I didn't know why. Now I do.

As emotional as the ending was, I wasn't moved to tears. Of course I was sad, but I knew that a destiny had been fulfilled and not much could change that. The ending stayed true to the story and characters and I just couldn't see it ending any other way. That's not to say that I knew what was going to happen.

This book is filled with beautiful passages. I couldn't possibly list them all here. So for now, here's a sentence that I can relate to. I'd list it among my favourites. From page 53: "It seems a cruel trick that time contracts when you want to savor it and expands insatiably when you do not."

The author's note at the back of the book contains lots of information about the real life riverman William "Red" Hill. Fascinating stuff that's definitely worth the read.

Highly recommended. This book is definitely one of my all-time favourites. I already know it's going to make the list of "Daisy's Best of 2010". So look for it in that post at the end of the year. I look forward to more works from this author.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

For more information about the author and other interesting stuff, please visit Cathy Buchanan's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins Canada for this review copy.

The Day the Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan, HarperCollins, ©2009. ISBN 9781554683277(Trade Paperback), 298p.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs

In Knit the Season, Dakota Walker is attending culinary school to become a pastry chef. She also spends a good deal of time at Walker & Daughter, a yarn shop set up by her mother, Georgia Walker. Now that Georgia has died, Dakota has taken on the responsibility of the store, too. She has help from her family, other employees and the Friday Night Knitting Club. As everyone plans for the holidays and an upcoming wedding, they reminisce about Georgia, giving Dakota more insight into her mother's life and character.

I really enjoyed this book. It's the perfect holiday read. Every time I picked it up, I felt like I was wrapping myself in a warm fuzzy blanket; it was so comforting. Jacobs draws the reader into this fairytale or magical world where both the characters and storyline are extremely likeable. It wasn't quite like real life, though. Well, not my life anyway. It seemed more like an ideal, which would be nice if only everyone else I knew would cooperate and mould their expectations with mine. ;)

I liked that the book involved cooking and knitting, two things that I love. I was thrilled to find both knitting patterns and recipes at the back of the book. Both offerings fit perfectly with the story as they are themed for the holidays. Neither feature anything too complicated. I'm dying to try "Dakota's Thanksgiving Pumpkin Spice Muffins" that have a streusel topping!

I really liked that the book was split up into four sections: Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, The New Year. I particularly appreciated the Hanukkah one, even though I'm not Jewish. I tend to forget (along with other people I suspect) that Christmas isn't the only celebration in December and that not everyone celebrates it. I tend to agree with KC when she points out on page 77, that Christmas "overshadows everything. It's the soundtrack to the month of December, and sometimes, quite frankly, it can be a little much. Jingle schmingle".

Favourite quotes: seems to me that the older you are, the closer you get to your mother's age, the greater your understanding of how she might have felt. Perhaps you can appreciate her perspective, and her hurts. (page 157)
There was one word in the book that I wasn't familiar with. It's "ersatz" from page 19. I may have run across is before, but I didn't know the meaning. Anyway, it means artificial - imitating or presented as a substitute for something of superior quality; synonyms: fake, simulated, imitation. It's a bit funny, though, because since then I must have run across that word a dozen times in different sources. It's almost as though the word is following me around.

This book is the third instalment in the Friday Night Knitting Club series. I haven't read the first two: Friday Night Knitting Club and Knit Two, but since I enjoyed this one so much, I'd like to.

Highly Recommended.

For more information about this book, please visit the Penguin Canada website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Kate Jacobs's website or the Friday Night Knitting Club website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin Canada for this review copy.

Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs, Putnam (Penguin), ©2009. ISBN 9780399156380(Hardcover), 260p.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Red Snow by Michael Slade

In Red Snow, a major storm has cut off Whistler has been cut off from the rest of the world while Mephisto, an insane serial killer, targets the Mounties' Special X squad and has developed a diabolical plan to hit the 2010 Olympics in nearby Vancouver, Canada. He's out for revenge and no one on the mountain is safe.

Great book! I enjoyed it immensely. It's definitely not for the faint of heart, though. It's really gruesome even from the first few pages as a snowboarder loses his head on the slopes. Just when I thought I figured out who was going be the "hero" and make it out alive, Slade throws a wrench into the works and proves me wrong. Along with a plausible and terrifying story line, he provides plenty of action from start to finish.

The setting of the story is very timely with the Olympics just around the corner, making the madman's plot all the more horrifying. I won't give it away, but it gave me shivers when the pieces starting falling into place. I especially loved all of the fascinating information about local legends and history of the area as well as the information regarding the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Red Serge. People from the area would probably get a kick out of reading a book set in their own backyard, even one as macabre as this. I also enjoyed the little snippets of Hollywood's past featuring "Rear Window" and "Citizen Cane".

Favourite quotes*:
Despite being from Vancouver, the author has surely experienced a winter or two on the Canadian prairies or at least talked to someone who has. He certainly nailed an aspect of our winter on page 101:
Zinc...saw winter though the eyes of a bundled-up schoolboy. Two pairs of socks in thermal boots, two pairs of mitts tethered by a string around his neck, long johns beneath a flannel shirt and jeans inside a snowsuit...No sooner would Zinc step outside than he'd have to pee.

New Word Alert:
redoubt = 1. temporary fortification built to defend a position such as a hilltop; 2. stronghold - a castle, fortress or other stronghold.

Michael Slade is the pseudonym of Canadian criminal lawyer Jay Clarke and his collaborators. Clarke specializes in cases involving the criminally insane. There's no doubt that this background helped in creating these believable characters and plausible storyline.


For more information about this book, please visit the Penguin Canada website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit The Official Michael Slade Website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Penguin Canada for this review copy.

Red Snow by Michael Slade, Penguin, ©2009. ISBN 9780143167792(Uncorrected Proof), 272p.

*(Note: The copy I read was a uncorrected proof. The quote may or may not appear as is in the final published edition.)