Showing posts with label Book Tours. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Book Tours. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "How We Disappeared" by Jing-Jing Lee, Served with a Recipe for Stir-Fried Choy Sum with Garlic Sauce and Rice with Radish

It's Wednesday and the week is sliding into the home stretch and the weekend and I couldn't be more ready. I am also happy to be today's TLC Book Tour stop for How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee, a compelling World War II historical novel that is haunting and beautiful. Accompanying my review is a simple recipe for Stir-Fried Choy Sum with Garlic Sauce and Steamed Rice with Radish.
 


Publisher's Blurb: 

A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel set in World War II Singapore about a woman who survived the Japanese occupation and a man who thought he had lost everything—for fans of Pachinko and We Were the Lucky Ones.

Singapore, 1942. As Japanese troops sweep down Malaysia and into Singapore, a village is ransacked, leaving only two survivors and one tiny child.
 
In a neighboring village, seventeen-year-old Wang Di is strapped into the back of a troop carrier and shipped off to a Japanese military brothel where she is forced into sexual slavery as a “comfort woman.” After sixty years of silence, what she saw and experienced still haunts her.

In the year 2000, twelve-year-old Kevin is sitting beside his ailing grandmother when he overhears a mumbled confession. He sets out to discover the truth, wherever it might lead, setting in motion a chain of events he never could have foreseen.

Weaving together two time lines and two very big secrets, this stunning debut opens a window on a little-known period of history, revealing the strength and bravery shown by numerous women in the face of terrible cruelty. Drawing in part on her family’s experiences, Jing-Jing Lee has crafted a profoundly moving, unforgettable novel about human resilience, the bonds of family and the courage it takes to confront the past.

Hardcover: 352 Pages
Publisher: Hanover Square Press; Original edition (May 7, 2019)


My Review: 

I will say that I was disappointed when How We Disappeared arrived. I was caught up by the incredibly gorgeous tropical cover and thinking of how great it would look in pics, that when the more plain black ARC arrived I was a bit sad. What I wasn't disappointed in however, was the incredibly moving and beautiful story I found within its pages. I have read several books, fiction and non-fiction about the so-called "comfort women" of the WWII era--young women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military in brothels. It is a disturbing subject and one that isn't easy to read or think about, but I try to read historical fiction from different perspectives and viewpoints and I think these women's voices are incredibly powerful and important. Author Jing-Jing Lee has incorporated some of her own family's history and experience in Singapore during WWII for the novel and has written a compelling story that while hard to classify as an enjoyable read, is certainly an engrossing one. 

The book alternates from the voices of Wang Di, a young village woman who is taken from her family and forced into sexual slavery for nearly three years during the Japanese occupation of Singapore, and Kevin, a twelve-year-old boy, living in Singapore with his parents and grandmother. Wang Di tells of the war years as well as Singapore in 2000 where Kevin's story is also set. It isn't completely clear in the beginning how these two lives will intersect but the pieces come together well and I found myself equally caught up in their stories. I liked the way Lee wove the stories, setting and times together and how the disappearing in the title applied to both characters, how they felt about themselves and how others failed to see them. I finished the book a few days ago and can't stop thinking about it and our contrasting human powers for cruelty and kindness, despair and resilience, overwhelming fear and incredible strength and courage. If you need an easy, breezy book, How We Disappeared is not it, but it is a well-written story that will touch you with its poignancy.

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Author Notes: Jing-Jing Lee is the author of the novel, If I Could Tell You. Her poems have been published in Ceriph, Poetry Quarterly, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, and Moving Words 2011: A Poetry Anthology. Jing moved to Europe in her early 20s and started to pursue writing full-time. In 2011, she gained a Masters of Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Oxford. She now lives in Amsterdam with her husband and is working on her second book of fiction. When she’s not working on her novel-in-progress or reading (or taking photographs), she can be found here and on twitter.

Connect with Jing-Jing on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Food Inspiration:

There was so much food in How We Disappeared, even with the wartime years, when supplies were meager and the fare simpler, there was no shortage or food inspiration. I had a couple of pages of notes that included egg, water spinach, biscuits, congee--(several mentions with different toppings and additions to this simple rice gruel), pork with salted cabbage and peppercorns, chicken rice, coffee, mangosteens, roast duck and chicken, soup stock with fishcake, raw stuffed okra, silky tofu and straw mushrooms, sweet dumplings and cakes, noodle stalls, Oolong tea, boiled rice in banana leaf, fried shrimp, pickled mustard greens, tapioca, banana, chicken wings in coconut milk with freshly ground curry, root vegetables (cassava and potato,tapioca) home-pickled vegetables, curry, mangoes, silky soybean curd, cups of hot Milo, white bread with margarine and jam, a twist of radish omelet, pandas cake, oyster omelet, soft-boiled egg, pork dumplings, sweet potatoes leaves stir0fried with chili paste, sweet potato porridge, various kinds of kueh (dessert pastries, cakes usually made from gulitnous rice),  salted fish, vegetable soup, tangerines,char su rice with no cucumbers and extra chili, peanut and pigs tail soup, lotus root soup, stir-fried greens, and chocolate Hiro cake.


For my book inspired dish, I thought about making my favorite hawker dish of Singapore street noodles, and considered congee--although I made it fairly recently for a post and didn't want to repeat it. Finally I decided on something very simple--lunch that Kevin's mom left him of white rice, stir-fried choy sum, and three pieces of luncheon meet. (I left off the luncheon meat of course). ;-) I had wanted to stir-fry some water spinach (ong choy here) as it starts out the book, but it isn't as easy to find as choy sum at my local grocery store. Speaking of local, the choy sum and the radishes I put on top of the rice (I was going to pickle them but ran out of time) are local ingredients. I like my greens with garlic and looked at a few recipes online before tossing together my own.


Stir-Fried Choy Sum with Garlic Sauce
Inspired by a bunch of recipes, but tossed together by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 3 to 4 as a Side Dish)

Choy Sum:
2 bunches choy sum (about 1 & 1/4 lbs or so), chopped as desired
1 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil or peanut oil + 1/2 tsp sesame oil

Garlic Sauce
1 Tbsp coconut oil
4 to 5 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1 Tbsp low-sodium Tamari or soy sauce
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp water
salt and black pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add choy sum--blanch for about 2 minutes, drain, and pat dry. 

While water is boiling, heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and saute for abut 2 minutes, until fragrant. Scrap cooked garlic from the pan into a small bowl, add tamari/soy sauce, oyster sauce, corn starch, sesame oil and water, whisking together until well blended. Taste and season with salt and black pepper if desired and set aside.

Heat a large wok or saute pan and add oil. When pan is hot and oil is at smoking point, add the choy sum, and saute, stirring regularly for 2 to 3 minutes. Add sauce and stir into the choy sum, cooking for about 2 minutes. 

Plate, serve with a scattering of sesame seeds if desired and enjoy!

Note: I just used some leftover white rice, topped with thin slivers of radish for crunch.   


Notes/Results: Just a simple, fairly quick to put together light lunch or dinner of garlicky greens and rice. Sauteing the garlic softens it somewhat, but it definitely plays a big flavor role, so you can reduce it if you want something milder. The sauce would be equally as good on other greens--kale, chard, spinach, bok choy... as the garlic, sesame, tamari and oyster sauce work well with the slight bitterness greens can have. You can of course add your favorite protein to round things out. I actually had some tofu poke salad that I enjoyed with my meal, and my leftovers will likely be topped with a soft-boiled egg tomorrow. I will happily make it again.


I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.


Note: A review copy of "How We Disappeared" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  
 
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Before She Was Found" by Heather Gudenkauf, Served with a Recipe for Cheese Pizza (with Pesto, Artichoke Hearts & Black Olives)

One more day until Friday! I am excited for the weekend and excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Before She Was Found, a new mystery/thriller by Heather Gudenkauf. Accompanying my review is a recipe for an easy Cheese Pizza. While the dish is inspired by my reading, I changed up to experiment with a keto-friendly egg and cheese crust and topped it with pesto, artichoke hearts, black olives and plenty of cheese.


Publisher's Blurb:

A gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town.

For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover—movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.
 
Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora—and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted—not even those closest to Cora.
 
Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe—even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.

Hardcover: 368 Pages
Publisher: Park Row; Original edition (April 16, 2019)



My Review:

Before She Was Found is my first Heather Gudenkauf book and one reason I jumped on this tour as I have been meaning to give her a try. The other thing that drew me in was the similarity of the plot description to the Slender Man case from a few years ago in which two 12-year-old girls in Wisconsin, lured another friend to the woods and stabbed her in order to impress a creepy Internet urban legend. Gudenkauf notes in the afterword that this is where the inspiration from the book came from, although there are differences in characters, settings and plot lines. I won't go into much detail in this review as I don't want to spoil it.

The story is told from different points of view and methods--a therapist's notes, Cora's journal, texts between friends, etc., and goes back in forth from the night Cora is found on the train tracks of the abandoned rail yard having been attacked to the time before she was found. Gudenkauf does a skillful job in weaving the different perspectives together and building the suspense, with several twists and turns. There are a lot of characters--the three friends, Cora, Violet and Jordyn, their families, the doctors and police involved, other friends and a somewhat creepy teacher, which kept me interested and guessing as to what happened and who was involved. The down side is that it also made it hard to get to know or bond with any one character and I wanted to understand some of the different motives more than I did. Still, overall I enjoyed Before She Was Found; the story engaged me, the pages flew by, and I would definitely read more from this author. 

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Author Notes: Heather Gudenkauf is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and Not a Sound.  Heather lives in Iowa with her family.

Connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.






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Food Inspiration:

The food in Before She Was Found was a bit limited, but there were mentions like gingerbread and pitchie moloko ("birds milk cake" from Russia), ice cream, green rivers (a classic soda shop/diner drink of 7-Up and lime syrup), pizza, a turtle sundae, hot chocolate and fries, oatmeal, chocolate or strawberry milkshakes, peanut butter sandwich, butterscotch candy, bagels, donuts and orange juice, cupcakes, toast with butter and peach jam, pasta and wine, and a bunch of drinks and cocktails as one of the characters grandfather ran a bar and remembered people's drinks rather than their names.
 
For my bookish dish, I chose cheese pizza as when Cora and Violet first become friends, one of the things Cora notes they have in common is a love of cheese pizza.


Why not a regular cheese pizza like the ones the girls enjoyed in the book? well, I have been wanting to experiment with a gluten-free crust and wanted something very easy for a weeknight dinner. my friend has been experimenting with a keto lifestyle lately and suggested I try this one from DietDoctor.com. I like the simplicity of it--just eggs and cheese in the crust (plus a little pepper I added). I prefer non-tomato sauces and have been craving pesto and I thought that the brine of the artichoke hearts and olives to cut some of the rich cheesy-ness.
 

Keto Cheese Pizza (with Pesto, Artichoke Hearts & Black Olives)
Slightly Adapted from DietDoctor.com
(Makes 2 to 4 Servings)

Crust:
4 large eggs
6 oz shredded cheese--preferably mozzarella and/or Provolone
black pepper and oregano if desired

Toppings:
pesto or pizza sauce of choice
shredded cheese of choice (I used a mix of Parmesan, Romano, and cheddar)
canned or jarred artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
black olives 
dried basil or oregano if desired

Pre-heat over to 400 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet or pizza pan with parchment paper or olive oil cooking spray.

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and stir them with a fork until blended. Stir in the shredded cheese and mix together well.

Spread out thinly on your prepared pan, using a rubber spatula. (Note: I used two personal pizza pans and divided the mix between them.

Bake for about 15 minutes--until crust turns golden. Remove and let sit for a few minutes. (After it cools a little, I like to loosen the crust from a pan with my spatula before putting on the toppings.)

Turn oven to 450 degrees F. Spread pesto or sauce over pizza crust. Top with artichoke hearts, cheese and black olives--or toppings of choice. Sprinkle with a little dried oregano or basil if desired.

Bake for 7 -10 minutes or until cheese is melted and top is golden brown.

Serve and enjoy!


Notes/Results: Like a cross between pizza and frittata, but chewy and good and enough to solve my  pizza craving, I liked this pizza. It is rich though and I topped one of my two crusts and found myself only eating half of it. (The other half became today's breakfast and I saved the other crust to make another time.) If you don't want to bother with making crust, or frozen crust or pulverizing cauliflower rice if you want to go gluten-free, it is a good way to go and very easy. I will make  it again.


I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.


Note: A review copy of "Before She Was Gone" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  
 
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of The Lieutenant's Nurse by Sara Ackerman, Served with Tropical Fruit Salad with Lime-Honey Dressing & Toasted Coconut Chips

I am very excited to be the final stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Lieutenant's Nurse by Sara Ackerman. It's easy to tell from the books I read and review on this blog that World War II historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine and Ackerman's second novel is set here on Oahu, making it an even more tempting read. I've paired my review with a simple Tropical Fruit Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing & Toasted Coconut Chips that was inspired by the breakfast scenes on the SS Lurline in the book.


November, 1941. She’s never even seen the ocean before, but Eva Cassidy has her reasons for making the crossing to Hawaii, and they run a lot deeper than escaping a harsh Michigan winter. Newly enlisted as an Army Corps nurse, Eva is stunned by the splendor she experiences aboard the steamship SS Lurline; even more so by Lt. Clark Spencer, a man she is drawn to but who clearly has secrets of his own. But Eva’s past—and the future she’s trying to create—means that she’s not free to follow her heart. Clark is a navy intelligence officer, and he warns her that the United States won’t be able to hold off joining the war for long, but nothing can prepare them for the surprise attack that will change the world they know.
 
In the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Eva and her fellow nurses band together for the immense duty of keeping the American wounded alive. And the danger that finds Eva threatens everything she holds dear. Amid the chaos and heartbreak, Eva will have to decide whom to trust and how far she will go to protect those she loves.
 
Set in the vibrant tropical surroundings of the Pacific, The Lieutenant’s Nurse is an evocative, emotional WWII story of love, friendship and the resilient spirit of the heroic nurses of Pearl Harbor.

Paperback: 352 Pages
Publisher: MIRA; Original edition (March 5, 2019)

My Review:

I had the pleasure of being on the Instagram tour for Sara Ackerman's first book Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers two years ago and hosted it as part of my virtual foodie book club, Cook the Books, earlier this year so I knew I was in for a great read with The Lieutenant's Nurse before I even opened the cover. The book starts soon before the attack on Pearl Harbor, as nurse Eva Cassidy is on board the steamship SS Lurline, headed to Oahu from San Francisco. A job as an Army Corps nurse and a boyfriend await her in Hawaii, as does a chance to hopefully leave her past and the secrets she holds behind her in Michigan,  Eva has regrets about leaving her younger sister behind, recovering from polio, but hopes to bring her out with her at some point. On the ship, she meets Lieutenant Clark Spencer and is immediately attracted and intrigued by him. Clark is in navel intelligence and his feelings for Eva have him passing on his suspicions about the probability of attack from the Japanese. If you know your history, I am sure you can guess what happens shortly after the Lurline docks on Oahu and soon Eva and Clark are caught up in the horrors of war. 

As in her first book, Ackerman does an outstanding job in describing the dichotomy of a beautiful island paradise, caught up in the graphic ugliness of war. Eva and Clark were characters that won my heart immediately and I liked the intrigue in the plot and that the author went in with the "who knew what and when" about the Pearl Harbor attack angle. I have read my share of fiction and non-fiction on the subject and I find the advance-knowledge conspiracy theories fascinate me. This is a romance for sure, emotions are heightened by the events going on around the main characters and some of the side characters, but it is also about Eva's growth and bravery. Living on Oahu, it's always fun to read about places I know in a time in history and Ackerman's vivid writing brings it to life. I only wanted more after the final chapter and I am already looking look forward to her next book.

If you want to win a copy of The Lieutenant's Nurse, head over to my Instagram account (here), where I am giving one away.

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Author Notes: Sara is the bestselling author of Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers. Born and raised in Hawaii, she studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. She blames Hawaii for her addiction to writing, and sees no end to its untapped stories. When she’s not writing or teaching, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean. She currently lives on the Big Island with her boyfriend and a houseful of bossy animals. Find out more about Sara and her books at www.ackermanbooks.com.

Connect with Sara on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Food Inspiration:

There was food to be found in The Lieutenant's Nurse--especially while on the Lurline, then some classic 1940s wartime fare on Oahu. Mentions included: ship launch appetizers of cheese balls, pigs in a blanket, pate, champagne, shipboard dinner with lobster tails, steak,French-fried potatoes, glazed carrots and peas and rice, pineapple juice, Moscow Mules, made to order omelet, steak and eggs, breast of chicken with wild rice, glacé  pineapple and truffle sauce, bakes Alaska and petits, fours, rice balls radishes and pickled pickled plums wrapped seaweed, strawberry lemonade with a splash of vodka, strawberry waffle, a Shirley Temple, mention of guava trees, banana tress and big fat prawns in a stream at the North Shore, a Royal Hawaiian Pineapple Cocktail, canned sardines and Saloon Pilot crackers, mincemeat pie, hot dogs and Coca Cola, coffee and malasadas, soldiers running from the attack with pockets of maraschino cherries, cheese and pickles, egg salad sandwiches and lemonade, fried chicken and rice with seaweed (aka furikake rice), sugar cane and pineapple fields.
 

My first thought was to recreate the Royal Hawaiian Pineapple Cocktail, but my friend Debra did it too well already on her review so instead I turned to the description of breakfast on the Lurline--"plates of strawberries, pineapple and banana with bowls of shredded coconut" and "Tiers of cinnamon buns, pecan snails, and twisted donuts..." and "pancakes, waffles and tropical syrup..." I decided to focus on the fruit and make a breakfast salad with a tropical syrup-style dressing of lime juice and honey and a crunchy topping of toasted coconut chips. Wanting to be a little healthier with my dressing, I used an Ellie Krieger recipe I like with fruit that uses honey instead of white sugar and left out the mint.


Tropical Fruit Salad with Lime-Honey Dressing & Toasted Coconut
Dressing Slightly Adapted from Ellie Krieger's Radiance Salad at EllieKrieger.com
(Serves 3-4) 

1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 cups fresh pineapple cut into chunks
1 large banana or two apples banana, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
zest of 1 lime
toasted coconut flakes or chips

Place fruit into a large bowl. whisk honey, lime juice and lime zest together in a smaller bowl. When serving, pour the dressing over fruit and stir to combine. Right before serving, top with coconut flakes/chips. Enjoy!


Notes/Results: A very simple fruit salad that can be adapted with what fruit you have on hand or in season. The lime dressing is both sweet and tangy and the honey and lime keep the bananas from browning too much. Put the coconut on at the very end so it remains crunchy and this is quite a tasty little salad that would also be good over yogurt or a bowl of overnight oats, or even atop a pancake or waffle. I would happily make it again.


Linking up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where we are having Spring Canapés as a theme. I think this fruit salad with it's refreshing dressing would make a fine lunch or dinner starter.



I'm also linking this yummy fruit salad up at Souper Sundays here at Kahakai Kitchen. You can join in the Souper Sunday fun by linking up your soups, salads, or sandwiches on the weekly post, here


Finally, I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.


Note: A review copy of "The Lieutenant's Nurse" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  
 
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Eighth Sister" by Robert Dugoni, Served with a Recipe for Smoky Eggplant Spread, Marbled Rye Toasts & Pickled Veggies

I can't believe how quickly this week has flown by, and that it's is already Thursday. Just one more day until the weekend can begin. If you are looking for a suspenseful weekend read, try the latest Robert Dugoni book, The Eighth Sister. I'm reviewing it as today's stop on the TLC Book Tour and I am pairing my review with a recipe for a Smoky Eggplant Spread, accompanied by toasted marble rye and pickled vegetables, and inspired by my reading.


Publisher's Blurb:

A pulse-pounding thriller of espionage, spy games, and treachery by the New York Times bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series.

Former CIA case officer Charles Jenkins is a man at a crossroads: in his early sixties, he has a family, a new baby on the way, and a security consulting business on the brink of bankruptcy. Then his former bureau chief shows up at his house with a risky new assignment: travel undercover to Moscow and locate a Russian agent believed to be killing members of a clandestine US spy cell known as the seven sisters.
 
Desperate for money, Jenkins agrees to the mission and heads to the Russian capital. But when he finds the mastermind agent behind the assassinations—the so-called eighth sister—she is not who or what he was led to believe. Then again, neither is anyone else in this deadly game of cat and mouse.
 
Pursued by a dogged Russian intelligence officer, Jenkins executes a daring escape across the Black Sea, only to find himself abandoned by the agency he serves. With his family and freedom at risk, Jenkins is in the fight of his life—against his own country.

Hardcover:
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (April 9, 2019)


My Review:

I am a huge fan of Robert Dugoni's Tracy Crosswhite series and feel like I am often anxiously awaiting the newest one. I hadn't ventured into Dugoni's other books because of my over-full TBR lis, but when I heard this was the start of a new series, I quickly jumped on the tour. Me being me and me being very anal retentive about reading series books in order, I was bit dismayed to learn that Charlies Jenkins, the main character in The Eighth Sister, is a secondary character in the author's David Sloane series. I think that there is enough explanation of the relationship in this book that you don't need to have read the David Sloan books first, but dogonnit, Dugoni made me curious, and now I want to and thus the TBR pile grows again ;-)

Charlie Jenkins is ex-CIA and living in Washington with his younger wife, young son, and a baby on the way. Disillusioned by his service to his country and how it ended, he is running a security firm with his wife when his old bureau chief tracks him down and asks him to reactivate and go undercover in Russia to find the leak behind a very secret spy ring known as the Seven Sisters, before more of these undercover agents are killed. Charlie doesn't want the assignment but his business is going under and he needs the money. so he heads to Moscow. Things do not go well and soon he is fighting to get out of Russia and to clear his name. 

Dugoni does an excellent job of building the pace and suspense throughout the story. making it a fast read for a thick book, as I didn't want to put it down and may have chewed down a couple of fingernails. I don't generally choose spy novels to read but i liked the way The Eighth Sister was both a spy thriller and a legal thriller with both the scenes in the filed and the courtroom scenes equally gripping. Charlie Jenkins is a great character, as were the supporting characters--his wife Alex, son CJ and the aforementioned David Sloane, and I look forward to spending more time with them in future books. I find Russia fairly fascinating and Dugoni's afterword about his inspiration for the book including a trip he made to Russia with his family in 1998 and some of their experiences was an interesting read as well. If you have not read Dugoni, you can't go wrong with either his Tracy Crosswhite books or this new series and I have a feeling his other books are equally as well done. (I'll let you know!)


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Author Notes: Robert Dugoni is the critically acclaimed New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Amazon bestselling author of the Tracy Crosswhite Series, which has sold more than 4 million books worldwide. He is also the author of the bestselling David Sloane Series; the stand-alone novels The 7th CanonDamage Control, and The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, for which he won an AudioFile Earphones Award for the narration; and the nonfiction exposé The Cyanide Canary, a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. He is the recipient of the Nancy Pearl Award for Fiction and the Friends of Mystery Spotted Owl Award for best novel set in the Pacific Northwest. He is a two-time finalist for the International Thriller Award, the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction, the Silver Falchion Award for mystery, and the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award. His books are sold in more than twenty-five countries and have been translated into more than two dozen languages.

Connect with Robert on his website, Facebook and Twitter.

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Food Inspiration

There is so much action in this book and Charlie has little time to eat, but there were a few food mentions like pastries and veal with onions, junk food--chips, donuts, candy, granola bars, crackers, cheese, juice and chocolate bars, strong Turkish coffee, lamb with rice, scrambled eggs with onions and pepper and bread, cinnamon rolls, Thai food--chicken pad Thai, tom yum soup, and phat khing, and homemade tacos. 

There is one scene where Jenkins is meeting with his Russian contact Federov and they share a plate of appetizers at a restaurant:

"The man set a plate of appetizers on the table. speaking while gesturing. 'Rye bread bruschetta with eggplant spread. marinated mushrooms, and pickled vegetables. Naslazhdat'sya.'

Federov picked up a piece of the bruschetta and spread the eggplant with a butter knife. 'Please,' he said, gesturing to Jenkins. 'You will enjoy.' 

Jenkins chose the bruschetta and spread, mimicking whatever Federov ate."

There were marinated mushrooms mentioned and of course vodka. So I decided to make my book-inspired dish as a nod to the appetizer plate and especially the eggplant spread. 


When I looked up Russian eggplant spread, I found many recipes for it, often called Baklazhannaia Ikra (poor man’s caviar) or eggplant caviar. The recipes varied slightly in ingredients and sometimes spices and i ended up going with one of the simplest--just eggplant, onion and tomato paste with oil, salt and pepper. The flavor comes more from the roasting of the eggplant and the caramelizing of the onions.


Smoky Eggplant Spread
From Emily Han, via TheKitchn.com
(makes about 4 cups

2 large eggplant (about 1 lb each)
olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
about 6z/3/4 cup tomato paste
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prick the eggplants all over with a fork and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in the center of the oven, turning over once, until soft, about 1 hour.
 

Let the eggplants cool in a colander in the sink, where their juices can drain. When cool enough to handle, press any excess liquid out. (This step helps to reduce any bitterness.)
Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 20 minutes.
 

Cut the eggplants in half and scoop out the flesh. Discard the peel. Using a large knife, chop the flesh very finely. (Avoid using a food processor, as you want the eggplant to be more textured than a purée.)
 

Add the eggplant to the onions along with the tomato paste, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and a couple good cracks of black pepper. Turn the heat to low-medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes. Add more oil as necessary to prevent the mixture from sticking to the pan. (Be liberal with the oil; any excess will rise to the top as the mixture cools, and you can remove it then, if you wish.)
 

Transfer the mixture to a heat-proof bowl and let it cool completely before storing in the refrigerator. Adjust salt and pepper to taste before serving.


Notes/Results: With so few ingredients, I was surprised just how flavorful this eggplant spread was--and how good. Slightly smoky, and a bit sweet from the onion, it was really good hot, warm and cold and I think it will make a fabulous sandwich spread. I served mine on marbled rye toast points and with a small assortment of pickled and marinated veggies from the olive bar at my local grocery store (including some very spicy marinated mushrooms), which made a nice contrast to the eggplant spread. I will happily make this spread again.


I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.


Note: A review copy of "The Eighth Sister" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.  
 
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.