Friday, November 14, 2014

So, Anyway... by John Cleese

So, Anyway...
by John Cleese

Hardcover, 400 pages


This book has had me calling people at all hours, reading hysterical passages while trying not to laugh so hard that I cry, wheeze, lose my voice, or pee my pants. For those of you that I called after midnight. My apologies. You know who you are.

Best enjoyed by those familiar with Cleese, it reads in his voice. Proper, silly, intelligent, irreverent, at times sentimental, at times not. And it begs for a second installment.

Where would we be without the Dead Parrot? The Ministry of Silly Walks? The Lumberjack Song?

It is fascinating to have this intimate look into his life from childhood through to the Monty Python days. All his varied studies and experiences, his collaborations, arrogance and self-doubt. I do hope there is another in in the works. He has so much more to tell!


From the Back Flap:

John Cleese’s huge comedic influence has stretched across generations; his sharp irreverent eye and the unique brand of physical comedy he perfected with Monty Python, on Fawlty Towers, and beyond now seem written into comedy’s DNA. In this rollicking memoir, So, Anyway…, Cleese takes readers on a Grand Tour of his ascent in the entertainment world, from his humble beginnings in a sleepy English town and his early comedic days at Cambridge University (with future Python partner Graham Chapman), to the founding of the landmark comedy troupe that would propel him to worldwide renown.

Cleese was just days away from graduating Cambridge and setting off on a law career when he was visited by two BBC executives, who offered him a job writing comedy for radio. That fateful moment—and a near-simultaneous offer to take his university humour revue to London’s famed West End—propelled him down a different path, cutting his teeth writing for stars like David Frost and Peter Sellers, and eventually joining the five other Pythons to pioneer a new kind of comedy that prized invention, silliness, and absurdity. Along the way, he found his first true love with the actress Connie Booth and transformed himself from a reluctant performer to a world-class actor and back again.

Twisting and turning through surprising stories and hilarious digressions—with some brief pauses along the way that comprise a fascinating primer on what’s funny and why—this story of a young man’s journey to the pinnacle of comedy is a masterly performance by a master performer.

John Cleese achieved his first big success in London’s West End and as a scriptwriter and performer on The Frost Report. He went on to co-found the legendary Monty Python comedy troupe, writing and performing in the first three TV seasons of Flying Circus and in films that include Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Life of Brian. In the mid-1970s, John Cleese and his first wife, Connie Booth, co-wrote and starred in the now classic sitcom, Fawlty Towers. Later, he wrote and co-starred in A Fish Called Wanda and Fierce Creatures. He has appeared in many other films, from James Bond to Harry Potter to Shrek, and has guest-starred in TV shows that have included 3rd Rock from the Sun, Will & Grace, and Entourage. He lives in London.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dangerous Denial, A Novel Review and a Giveaway!

Dangerous Denial
A Novel
Trade Paperback, 212 pages

This debut novel from Amy Ray has a sometimes simple tone to the writing that will likely mature with successive books but that did not detract from the fact that it was excellently paced and plotted with twists and turns that surprised even me.

You will likely be hearing a lot more from her in the future as she already has a considerable grasp on the mystery/thriller genre and how to keep the reader engaged.

Don't forget to fill out the form below for your chance to win a copy of Dangerous Denial!

From the Back Flap:

Denying the past proves deadly for BK Hartshaw and Trevor Mayhew in this gripping noir novel where nothing is as it seems. 

BK is a rising star at a public relations firm, and tonight's charity ball should be a high point in her career. But a closely guarded secret threatens to destroy her chance for happiness with the only man she's ever loved... a man who is also hiding a deadly secret. 

Trevor has tried to put the past behind him, pretending it never happened. But the conniving father he's been running from for years has finally found him-and is determined to settle the score once and for all. 

BK and Trevor's deeply buried secrets are about to catch up with them-and everyone they know and love. Who will pay the ultimate price for their dangerous denials?

Enter to win this awesome debut thriller!
 
Amy Ray lives near the short but picturesque seacoast in New Hampshire with her husband and daughter. Before becoming a writer, she owned an old fashioned five and dime store where, in addition to regular priced merchandise, she had a display of items that actually retailed for five or ten cents each. When not writing, she has rediscovered the joy of tap dancing.

Dangerous Denial is her first novel. Her short story "All's Fair" will be published later this year in Love Free or Die, the fourth book in the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction Series.

Links:
Twitter@WriterAmyRay
Facebook
Amy Ray Website
GoodReads
Amazon.com
Barnes&Noble
BooksAMillion
IndieBound

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Cheesecake Bible

The Cheesecake Bible
Includes 200 recipes
by George Geary
Softcover, 320 pages

Cheesecake! My favourite kind of cake. Especially homemade cheesecake. Especially light and fluffy homemade cheesecake. And dense and fruity cheesecake. And breakfast cheesecake...

(nota bene: all cheesecake is breakfast cheesecake if you eat it in the morning. Or after 4am, by the light of the refrigerator)

This book has every kind of cheesecake recipe you could hope to find, with a chapter on tools, equipment, ingredients and lessons on how to make perfect cheesecakes.

The recipe chapters include: 

  • A World of Cheesecakes 
  • Chocolate Cheesecakes
  • Fresh Fruit Cheesecakes
  • Citrus Cheesecakes
  • Nut Cheesecakes
  • No-Bake Cheesecakes
  • Small Cheesecakes and Bars
  • Cheese Pies
  • Savory Cheesecakes
  • Holiday and Celebration Cheesecakes
  • Toppings and Sauces


Among the easy-to-follow recipes:

  •     Blue ribbon cheesecake, New York style cheesecake, Italian ricotta cheesecake
  •     Banana split cheesecake, caramel apple cheesecake, fresh cherry cheesecake
  •     Black forest cheesecake, German chocolate cheesecake, white chocolate velvet cheesecake
  •     Citrus bliss cheesecake, mandarin orange cheesecake, south of France lemon cheesecake
  •     Butter toffee peanut cheesecake, Kentucky bourbon cheesecake, pecan praline cheesecake
  •     Chocolate peanut butter cheese bars, two-bite cheesecakes, blueberry cheese pie
  •     Cheddar chili cheesecake, goat cheese and walnut cheesecake, savory herb cheesecake.

Now go make some perfect and delicious cheesecakes!

Lemon Soufflé Cheesecake
While dining in Los Angeles at Ciudad, I had a wonderful cheesecake that was so light and airy, I had to create my own version in homage to Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.

•    Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C)
•    9-inch (23 cm) cheesecake pan, ungreased, or springform pan with 3-inch (7.5 cm) sides, greased

Crust
11⁄2 cups    butter cookie crumbs    375 mL
1⁄4 cup    unsalted butter, melted    50 mL

Filling
4    packages (each 8 oz/250 g) cream cheese,     4
    softened
1⁄2 cup    sour cream    125 mL
11⁄2 cups    granulated sugar    375 mL
4    egg yolks    4
1 tbsp    grated lemon zest    15 mL
3 tbsp    freshly squeezed lemon juice    45 mL
11⁄2 tsp    vanilla extract    7 mL
6    egg whites    6
1⁄4 tsp    cream of tartar    1 mL

Decoration
1⁄4 cup    confectioner’s (icing) sugar    50 mL

1.    Crust: In a bowl, combine cookie crumbs and butter.
Press into bottom of cheesecake pan and freeze.

2.    Filling: In a mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment,
beat cream cheese, sour cream and sugar on medium-high speed until very smooth, for 3 minutes. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla. Set aside.

3.    In a clean mixer bowl fitted with whip attachment, whip egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip until stiff but not dry peaks form. Fold into cream cheese mixture carefully so as not to deflate the mixture.

4.    Pour over frozen crust, smoothing out to sides of pan. Bake in preheated oven until top is light brown and center has a slight jiggle to it, 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before decorating or serving.

5.    Decoration: Using a sugar dredger or flour sifter, dust top of cake with confectioner’s sugar.

Serves 10 to 12



Courtesy of The Cheesecake Bible by George Geary 2014 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.



Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheese Bars
I created this recipe for one of my oldest students, Catherine, who was 95 when she passed away. She never stopped learning, and I think of her every time I make these.

•    Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C)
•    13- by 9-inch (3 L) metal baking pan, lined with foil

Crust
21⁄2 cups    peanut butter sandwich cookie crumbs    625 mL
1⁄2 cup    all-purpose flour    125 mL
1⁄2 cup    unsalted butter, melted    125 mL

Filling
4    packages (each 8 oz/250 g) cream cheese,     4
    softened
11⁄4 cups    granulated sugar    300 mL
4    eggs    4
8 oz    bittersweet chocolate, melted (see page 63     250 g
    and tip, at left) and cooled
1 cup    creamy peanut butter    250 mL
3 tbsp    freshly squeezed lemon juice    45 mL
1 tsp    vanilla extract    5 mL
2 cups    semisweet chocolate chunks    500 mL

Topping
1 cup    sour cream    250 mL
1⁄2 cup    granulated sugar    125 mL
1⁄3 cup    creamy peanut butter    75 mL
1 tbsp    freshly squeezed lemon juice    15 mL
1 tsp    vanilla extract    5 mL
1⁄2 cup    semisweet chocolate chunks    125 mL

1.    Crust: In a bowl, combine cookie crumbs, flour and butter. Press into bottom of prepared pan and freeze.

2.    Filling: In a mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed
until very smooth, for 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. With the mixer running, pour in melted chocolate in a steady stream. Mix in peanut butter, lemon juice and vanilla. Fold in chocolate chunks by hand.

3.    Pour over frozen crust, smoothing out to sides of pan. Bake in preheated oven until top is light brown and center has a slight jiggle to it, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool on the counter for 10 minutes (do not turn the oven off). The cake will sink slightly.

4.    Topping: In a bowl, combine sour cream, sugar, peanut butter, lemon juice and vanilla. Pour into center of cooled cake and spread out to edges. Sprinkle with chocolate chunks. Bake for 5 minutes more. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before cutting into bars.

Makes 10 to 12 bars



Courtesy of The Cheesecake Bible by George Geary 2014 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.



Carrot Cake Cheesecake
Your guests will ask if it’s a cheesecake or a carrot cake. It’s the best of both worlds.

•    Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C)
•    9-inch (23 cm) cheesecake pan or springform pan with 3-inch (7.5 cm) sides, sprayed with nonstick spray, outside of pan wrapped with foil

Cheesecake Batter
2    packages (each 8 oz/250 g) cream cheese,     2
   softened
3⁄4 cup    granulated sugar    175 mL
1 tbsp    all-purpose flour    15 mL
2    eggs    2
1 tsp    vanilla extract    5 mL
1 tsp    ground cinnamon    5 mL

Carrot Cake Batter
11⁄4 cups    all-purpose flour    300 mL
11⁄4 tsp    baking soda    6 mL
1⁄4 tsp    ground cinnamon    1 mL
1⁄4 tsp    salt    1 mL
1⁄8 tsp    freshly grated nutmeg    0.5 mL
11⁄4 cups    granulated sugar    300 mL
2    eggs    2
1⁄3 cup    vegetable oil    75 mL
1 tsp    vanilla extract    5 mL
1⁄2 cup    well-drained crushed pineapple     125 mL
    (about one 8-oz/227 mL can)
1⁄2 cup    flaked sweetened coconut    125 mL
1⁄2 cup    pecans, toasted (see tip, at left)     125 mL
    and chopped
1 cup    shredded carrots    250 mL

Icing
2 oz    cream cheese, softened    60 g
1 tbsp    unsalted butter, softened    15 mL
13⁄4 cups    confectioner’s (icing) sugar    425 mL
1⁄2 tsp    vanilla extract    2 mL

1.    Cheesecake batter: In a mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, sugar and flour on medium-high speed until very smooth, for 3 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in vanilla and cinnamon. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

2.    Carrot cake batter: In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. In a mixer
bowl fitted with paddle attachment, combine sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla until well blended, for 2 minutes. Add pineapple, coconut and pecans; mix for 1 minute. Gradually stir in flour mixture. Stir in carrots.

3.    Divide carrot cake batter in half and smooth half the batter over bottom of prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven just until cake is light brown and just set, 18 to 22 minutes (it will not be fully cooked).

4.    Gently drop cheesecake batter by large spoonfuls over carrot cake. Top with large spoonfuls of remaining carrot cake batter, allowing some of the cheesecake batter to show through. Bake in preheated oven until a tester inserted in the top layer of carrot cake comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 2 hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours before icing or serving.

5.    Icing: In a mixer bowl fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until creamy and light, about 3 minutes. Pipe large rosettes around top of cake.

Serves 10 to 12



Courtesy of The Cheesecake Bible by George Geary 2014 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell

The Girl Next Door
by Ruth Rendell

Trade Paperback, 288 pages

The Girl Next Door is a departure from Ruth Rendell's general style. We are introduced to the crime and criminal right away. An act that took place during the Second World War.

When evidence comes to light decades later, it brings childhood friends back together Big Chill style and examines the domino effect of reuniting and remembering the past.

Now senior citizens, each character is affected differently. Some quite dramatically.

The book is a study in character, relationships, memory, old age, death, love and memory.

Very touching.


From the Back Flap:

The dazzling new novel from Ruth Rendell.

When the bones of two severed hands are discovered in a box, an investigation into a long buried crime of passion begins. And a group of friends, who played together as children, begin to question their past.


     'For Woody, anger was cold. Cold and slow. But once it had started it mounted gradually and he could think of nothing else. He knew he couldn't stay alive while those two were alive. Instead of sleeping, he lay awake in the dark and saw those hands. Anita's narrow white hand with the long nails painted pastel pink, the man's brown hand equally shapely, the fingers slightly splayed.'


     Before the advent of the Second World War, beneath the green meadows of Loughton, Essex, a dark network of tunnels has been dug. A group of children discover them. They play there. It becomes their secret place.
Seventy years on, the world has changed. Developers have altered the rural landscape. Friends from a half-remembered world have married, died, grown sick, moved on or disappeared.


     Work on a new house called Warlock uncovers a grisly secret, buried a lifetime ago, and a weary detective, more preoccupied with current crimes, must investigate a possible case of murder.


     In all her novels, Ruth Rendell digs deep beneath the surface to investigate the secrets of the human psyche. The interconnecting tunnels of Loughton in THE GIRL NEXT DOOR lead to no single destination. But the relationships formed there, the incidents that occurred, exert a profound influence -- not only on the survivors but in unearthing the true nature of the mysterious past.


Ruth Rendell

Ruth Rendell is the author of Road Rage, The Keys to the Street, Bloodlines, Simisola, and The Crocodile Bird. She is the winner of the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award. She is also the recipient of three Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America and four Gold Daggers from Great Britain’s Crime Writers Association. In 1997, she was named a life peer in the House of Lords. Ruth Rendell also writes mysteries under the name of Barbara Vine, of which A Dark Adapted Eye is the most famous. She lives in England.