Monday, March 2, 2015

The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore

The Serpent of Venice
by Christopher Moore

Paperback, 352 pages


This is my first Christopher Moore book and boy what a surprise! Witty, intelligent, ascerbic, absurd, silly and filled with F-bombs. My kind of book!

A mash-up of The Merchant of Venice, Othello and The Cask of Amontillado, with a not-so-foolish Fool as unlikely hero, The Serpent of Venice will have you laughing until you pee your pants. Or codpiece. Whatever you so choose to wear whilst you read it. 

I have read my share of mash-up styles of books and I have to say that Moore pulls it off wonderfully. He keeps the tone of Shakespeare and Poe, but with an evolution of prose that makes the novel seem both current and historical.

Shakes would be proud.


From the Back Flap:

New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore channels William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe in this satiric Venetian gothic that brings back the Pocket of Dog Snogging, the eponymous hero of Fool, along with his sidekick, Drool, and pet monkey, Jeff

Venice, a long time ago. Three prominent Venetians await their most loathsome and foul dinner guest, the erstwhile envoy of Britain and France, and widower of the murdered Queen Cordelia: the rascal-Fool Pocket.

This trio of cunning plotters-the merchant, Antonio; the senator, Montressor Brabantio; and the naval officer, Iago-have lured Pocket to a dark dungeon, promising an evening of sprits and debauchery with a rare Amontillado sherry and Brabantio's beautiful daughter, Portia.

But their invitation is, of course, bogus. The wine is drugged. The girl isn't even in the city limits. Desperate to rid themselves once and for all of the man who has consistently foiled their grand quest for power and wealth, they have lured him to his death. (How can such a small man, be such a huge obstacle?). But this Fool is no fool . . . and he's got more than a few tricks (and hand gestures) up his sleeve.


Find THE SERPENT OF VENICE  on Goodreads, Amazon, IndieBound, and Barnes & Noble

Christopher Moore (born 1957 in Toledo, Ohio) is an American writer of absurdist fiction. He grew up in Mansfield, OH, and attended Ohio State University and Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA.

Moore's novels typically involve conflicted everyman characters suddenly struggling through supernatural or extraordinary circumstances. Inheriting a humanism from his love of John Steinbeck and a sense of the absurd from Kurt Vonnegut, Moore is a best-selling author with major cult status.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Quick: A Novel by Lauren Owen

The Quick
A Novel
by Lauren Owen

Trade Paperback, 560 pages

The Quick is first a period piece. Taking place in the late nineteen hundreds, the end of Victorian era London, that repressive and somewhat grimy time when one struggled to live comfortably - or at all.

There is a beautiful slow build up, a true getting to know of the characters and what makes them tick. By the time we enter gritty London and the monsters that live in the shadows, they are family to us.

There is something so appealing about a good vampire novel. They seem to hold a fascination for us, a permanent place in our nightmares.

Owen, a Londoner herself, carries the genre perfectly - the self-denial, much left unsaid - it all must be shown rather than talked about. Which is the mark of a good book, of course.

I am hoping for a sequel for this fascinating novel, which remains genteel throughout whenever possible. A refreshing change in vampire fiction.


From the Back Flap:

Now in trade paperback, an astonishing debut of epic scope and suspense, The Quick conjures up magic and menace in Victorian London's elegant drawing rooms and its dark, dangerous alleyways. A rich feast for lovers of the novels of Sarah Waters, Anne Rice, The Night Circus, and The Crimson Petal and the White.

     In 1893 London, James Norbury takes up lodgings with a young man from the upper echelons of society and soon finds love where he least expected it. Then James suddenly disappears.


     His sister Charlotte is determined to find out what happened. Charlotte is horrified at what she discovers, but love spurs on her efforts to save her brother from an unthinkable fate. Her quest leads both to the mysterious, centuries-old Aegolius Club, and to slums full of unforgettable characters. With them, readers are caught up in the breathtaking climax to an ancient battle being fought within a secret world hiding in plain sight, in the middle of the great city of London itself.


     Winning rave international reviews, The Quick has established Lauren Owen as a dazzling new literary talent.


Lauren Owen studied English Literature at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, before completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where she received the 2009 Curtis Brown prize for the best fiction dissertation. The Quick is her first novel. She lives in northern England.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook

Bob's Red Mill 
Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook 
281 Delicious Whole-Grain Recipes
by Camilla Saulsbury
Paperback, 320 pages

Celiac disease, gluten allergies and intolerances are a growing concern in North America, as well as the "wheat belly" phenomenon that many people suffer. Giving up wheat is one thing, avoiding gluten is a whole other ballgame. 

Gluten is found in thousands of everyday grocery items that one would not expect to find it. It is used as a thickener and stabilizer and can even be found in some meats and popsicles! 

Bob's Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook teaches you how to find hidden gluten in your foods, as well as stock a gluten-free pantry. 

They then introduce you to a vast array of ancient grains that are healthy, wholesome, gluten-free and delicious. You will learn the health benefits of each and a variety of ways of preparing  them. 

Finally, the book offers a multitude of simple, healthy dishes with fresh produce and whole grains - designed to get you on the right track to good health.

Chapters include:
Go with the Grain
Gluten-Free Grains Primer
The Everyday Gluten-Free Pantry
Measuring Ingredients

Breakfasts
Soups, Stews and Chilis
Salads and Sides
Meatless Main Dishes
Seafood, poultry and Meat Main Dishes
Breads, Muffins and Snacks
Desserts

 Chorizo Kale and Teff Soup, page 118
The first few spoonfuls of this meaty soup, 
enriched with potatoes, teff and kale, 
will have you dreaming of the warm sunshine of Spain and Portugal.
Makes 8 servings

1 tbsp    olive oil    15 mL
12 oz    GF cured chorizo or other smoked    375 g
    sausage, diced
2 cups    chopped onions    500 mL
4    cloves garlic, minced    4
6 cups    chopped kale (tough stems and    1.5 L
    center ribs removed)
3 cups    diced peeled potatoes    750 mL
1⁄3 cup    teff    75 mL
8 cups    ready-to-use GF vegetable or    2 L
    chicken broth
1    can (28 oz/796 mL) crushed tomatoes    1
    Fine sea salt and freshly ground
    black pepper

1.    In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chorizo and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes or until browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chorizo to a plate lined with paper towels.

2.    Add onions to the pot and cook, stirring, for 6 to 8 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and kale; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

3.    Stir in potatoes, teff and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, leaving lid ajar, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes and teff are very tender. Use a wooden spoon to coarsely break up about half of the potatoes.

4.    Return chorizo to the pot and stir in tomatoes; simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes or until soup is slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Storage Tip
Store the cooled soup in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator or in the microwave using the Defrost function. Warm soup in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.


Courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook by Camilla V Saulsbury, 2015 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.



Beets, Grains and Greens Hash, page 47
Who says hash needs potatoes? 
No one who eats this dish will. 
The fresh spinach and nutty grains balance the earthy sweetness of the beets.
Makes 2 servings

2    slices bacon, chopped    2
1 cup    chopped onion    250 mL
11⁄2 cups    hot cooked certified GF whole grains    375 mL
1    can (15 oz/425 mL) whole beets,     1
    drained and diced
1⁄2 cup    ready-to-use GF vegetable or     125 mL
    chicken broth
6 cups    packed baby spinach leaves    1.5 L
2    large eggs, poached (see tip, at left)    2

1.    In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain off all but 1 tsp (5 mL) fat from skillet.

2.    Add onion to the skillet and cook, stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes or until softened. Add grains, beets and broth; reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring up bottom crust two to three times, for 10 to 12 minutes or until warmed through and browned. Add spinach on top, cover and cook for 1 minute, until wilted. Stir spinach into hash.

3.    Divide hash between two plates. Top each with a poached egg and sprinkle with bacon.

Tips
For the grains, try amaranth, millet, quinoa, rice or sorghum. Information on cooking these grains can be found on pages 8–17.
You can replace the canned beets with 11⁄2 cups (375 mL) freshly cooked (steamed, boiled or roasted) diced beets.

To poach the eggs, pour enough water into a medium skillet to reach a depth of 11⁄2 inches (4 cm). Add 1⁄2 tsp (2 mL) fine sea salt and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Crack each egg into a separate custard cup. Gently slide one egg at a time into the simmering water and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until egg whites are set (the yolks will be only partially cooked); cook longer for more firmly set yolks. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer eggs to hash.


Courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook by Camilla V Saulsbury, 2015 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.


Ancient Grain Chocolate Chip Cookies, page 290
Chocolate chip cookies are iconic treats,
and this ancient grain interpretation has just the right balance of flavor,
texture and sweetness.
Makes 30 cookies

•    Large baking sheets, lined with parchment paper
1 cup    millet flour    250 mL
1 cup    certified GF large-flake (old-fashioned)     250 mL
    rolled oats
1⁄4 cup    tapioca starch    60 mL
3 tbsp    chia seeds, ground (see tip, at left)    45 mL
1⁄2 tsp    GF baking powder    2 mL
1⁄4 tsp    baking soda    1 mL
1⁄4 tsp    fine sea salt    1 mL
3⁄4 cup    fine crystal cane sugar or packed    175 mL
    dark brown sugar
1⁄3 cup    softened (not melted) virgin coconut oil    75 mL
2    large eggs    2
3 tbsp    pure maple syrup    45 mL
11⁄2 tsp    GF vanilla extract    7 mL
3⁄4 cup    GF semisweet chocolate chips    175 mL

1.    In a medium bowl, whisk together millet flour, oats, tapioca starch, chia seeds, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

2.    In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat sugar and coconut oil until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, maple syrup and vanilla until blended. Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just blended. Gently stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until firm, or overnight.

3.    Preheat oven to 350°F (180°F).

4.    Drop dough by tablespoonfuls (15 mL) onto prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies 2 inches (5 cm) apart.

5.    Bake, one sheet at a time, for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown and just set at the edges. Let cool on pan on a wire rack for 2 minutes, then transfer to the rack to cool completely.

Tips
You can grind the chia seeds with a mortar and pestle or seal them in a small, heavy-duty plastic bag with a zipper top and pound them with a mallet or rolling pin until crushed.
An equal amount of unsalted butter can be used in place of the coconut oil.

Storage Tip
Store the cooled cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.


Courtesy of Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten-Free Cookbook by Camilla V Saulsbury, 2015 © www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.



From the Back Flap:

An outstanding, innovative collection of gluten-free recipes.

For over 30 thirty years, Bob’s Red Mill has been committed to providing the very best in gluten-free flours, cereals, baking mixes and grains. They go to great lengths to ensure the integrity of their products — even building a separate gluten-free packaging division to make sure their products maintain their gluten-free purity.

Camilla Saulsbury, an award-winning recipe developer and bestselling author, has created 281 recipes that showcase the health benefits of a gluten-free diet, with recipes that are immensely delicious and creative. And Camilla’s recipes can be enjoyed throughout the day — from satisfying breakfasts to evening dinners.

These sublime recipes are proof positive that good taste and gluten-free options are not mutually exclusive.



Camilla V. Saulsbury is a freelance food writer, recipe developer, cooking instructor and creator of the healthy cooking blog powerhungry.com. She has been featured on The Food Network, Today, Good Morning America and Katie, and in The New York Times. She is also a fitness trainer and endurance athlete. Camilla resides in Texas.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers

Bertie's Guide to Life and Mothers
A 44 Scotland Street Novel
by Alexander McCall Smith
Illustrated by Iain McIntosh

Trade Paperback, 320 pages

I absolutely love the way McCall Smith sketches his characters. From upwardly mobile to down and out, elderly to children, even dogs, he has a knack for full, deep, and often hilarious personalities.

The interactions are ironic and just make you smile. I don't even necessarily read the books in order, I just savour them for what they are.

Light and mood-lightening, perfect for reading on the go or in-between heavier books. A gem.



From the Back Flap:

Alexander McCall Smith's wildly popular 44 Scotland Street series chronicles life in a corner of Edinburgh brimming with wit and humor.

Newlywed painter and sometime somnambulist Angus Lordie might be sleepwalking his way into trouble with Animal Welfare when he lets his dog Cyril drink a bit too much lager at the local bar. The longsuffering Bertie, on the cusp of his seventh birthday party, has taken to dreaming about his eighteenth, a time when he will be able to avoid the indignity of unwanted girl attendees and the looming threat of a gender-neutral doll from his domineering mother Irene. Matthew and Elspeth struggle to care for their triplets, contending with Danish au pairs and dubious dukes to boot, while the narcissistic Bruce faces his greatest challenge yet in the form of an over-eager waxologist. As ever, when Alexander McCall Smith visits 44 Scotland Street, fun is sure to follow.


ALEXANDER McCALL SMITH is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, the 44 Scotland Street series, and the Corduroy Mansions series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served with many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana.