Showing posts with label chocolate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chocolate. Show all posts

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Pretty in Punxsutawney" by Laurie Boyle Crompton, Served with Sweet and Salty Whoppers Popcorn

Happy Last Day of January! Where did the month go? Time flies so fast that I often wish I could slow it down, but I wouldn't want to relive the same day over and over again, like Andie in the new YA novel, Pretty in Punxsutawney by Laurie Boyle Crompton. A mashup of the movies Groundhog Day and Pretty in Pink, with a nod to rom-coms and the movies of the eighties, I'm happy to be today's TLC Book Tour stop and to pair my review with some tasty Whoppers Popcorn, a sweet and salty mashup of two concession stand staples.

Publisher's Blurb:

Groundhog Day meets Pretty in Pink mashup from author Laurie Boyle Crompton, Pretty in Punxsutawney tells the tale of a girl willing to look beneath the surface to see people for who they really are.

Andie is the type of girl who always comes up with the perfect thing to say…after it’s too late to say it. She’s addicted to romance movies—okay, all movies—but has yet to experience her first kiss.  After a move to Punxsutawney, PA, for her senior year, she gets caught in an endless loop of her first day at her new school, reliving those 24 hours again and again.

Convinced the curse will be broken when she meets her true love, Andie embarks on a mission: infiltrating the various cliques to find the one boy who can break the spell. What she discovers along the way is that people who seem completely different can often share the very same hopes, dreams, and hang-ups. And that even a day that has been lived over and over can be filled with unexpected connections and plenty of happy endings.

Hardcover: 304 Pages
Publisher: Blink (January 15, 2019)

My Review:

I am not the demographic for YA fiction (by a few years...cough...) but I like to dabble in it occasionally, especially when it ties in to movies I love. I have expressed before my fondness for John Hughes teen films and rom-coms and Pretty in Punxsutawny makes the most of them. Andie's mom is a Hughes fanatic, leaning to the movies as part of her parenting, pulling them out to bond with Andie, and make a life point when necessary. Andie's name even comes from her mom's favorite, Pretty in Pink, although like me, Andie prefers The Breakfast Club and doesn't like the way Pretty in Pink ended.

Anyway, Andie's parents have moved the family to the busier Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania so her psychologist dad can have more patients. Forced to start over at a new high school in her senior year, Andie spends the summer hanging out at the local movie theater crushing on handsome Colton and plotting how their "meet-cute" can turn into a romance and her first kiss. Unfortunately the first day of school has Colton falling for the resident mean girl and Andie happy the day is over with...but then it isn't. Punxsutawney's magic seems to have left the movie screen when Andie must relive her first day at school again and again, with no end in sight. Andie hopes that a kiss with her true love will start the time clock moving and starts trying different things to make it happen. 

I enjoyed the fun, humor, and sweetness of the story, even though I identify more with Andie's parents than Andie. Still, it's not hard to be taken back to the days of teenage angst and remember it all--the high points and the horrors of high school. Andie is a great character and I loved the balance of her awkwardness and snarky humor. It's not just the eighties and John Hughes movies that show up, there are classic movie mentions as well as other popular movie mentions. One of my favorite moments is Andie calling on Drew Barrymore's short-term memory plot points from Fifty First Dates (2004) as an excuse for her awkward behavior with some new friends. This book works well today for a YA reader, but is also great for the movie buff and those of us that were in high school in the eighties. It definitely put me in the mood for a classic rom-com movie binge and I'd recommend it if you want a light, enjoyable escape.
Author Notes: Laurie Boyle Crompton is the author of several YA books, including Adrenaline Crush and Love and Vandalism. Laurie graduated first in her class from St. John’s University with a BA in English and Journalism. She has written for national magazines like Allure, survived a teaching stint at an all-boy high school, and appeared onGood Day New York several times as a toy expert. And yes, “toy expert” is an actual profession. She grew up in a small town in western PA and now lives near NYC with her family and one enormous and very fuzzy “dog toy expert” named Baxter Bear.

Connect with Laurie on her website, Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

Since much of the book is about Andie living the same day over and over at high school there is not a lot of food presence in the book and not too much that inspires. Cafeteria pizza keeps giving Andie stomachaches and the switch to "brown goo" didn't tempt. Andie's dad makes pancakes on her loop of days and their were mentions of midnight cookies, Puffs 'o Oats cereal, lemon squares, pudding, cheesy puffs, the mall food court with Szechwan chicken and rice and Cheddar, Bacon and Broccoli Spudz from Spudz World. There's beer at a party, canned bean soup, pineapple and passion fruit mentions and when Andie starts altering her days she heads to the city for a hamburger, learns pancake art and teaches herself to make elaborate fondant art of cakes inspired by John Hughes eighties movies. 

Ultimately for my book inspired dish, I went to a couple of movie concession staples Whoppers and popcorn since Andie's self-proclaimed "meet cute" with the boy she is crushing on involves her smuggling a big box of Whoppers into the theater and getting caught out and made to buy popcorn. Rather than hand in her favorite treat, she stuffs a good portion of the box into her mouth. I decided to combine them with buttered popcorn for a sweet and salty (& malty) combination.

Whoppers Popcorn: This is not a recipe--you just need a box of Whoppers or any malted milk ball candy and an appropriate amount of popped popcorn and blend them together. If you like your chocolate on the melty-er side, make sure the popcorn is hot. For a less messy version, let the popcorn cool a bit before stirring it with the malted milk balls. Either way, it is pretty addicting (she says as she stuffs handfuls in her mouth ala Andie!) ;-)

Notes/Results: I won't lie to you. This mix was my dinner after a long day at work and I really enjoyed it. I have mixed my favorite movie concession stand candy, Rasinets, with popcorn before and that combo slightly edges out this one for me, but I certainly would not mind making this one again. The sweet and malted chocolate pairs well with the salty, buttery popcorn. A fun way to mix up your popcorn. I usually use my air popper when I want popcorn as it's healthier, but for this I bought the full octane "Movie Theater Butter" microwave popcorn. Sure, I might have ingested my quota of chemicals with this mix but it was sure fun going down. ;-)

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 "Pretty in Punxsutawney" 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, March 29, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "1,001 Ways to Be Creative" by Barbara Ann Kipfer, with a Recipe for Berries & Cream Crispy Rice Treats

Who doesn't need a little more creativity in their lives?! I am really excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for 1,001 Ways to Be Creative: A Little Book of Everyday Inspiration by Barbara Ann Kipfer. Accompanying my review are some creative and scrumptious Berries & Cream Crispy Rice Treats, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb: 

Best-selling author Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer is back with a new, beautifully illustrated book that will help you break free from to-do lists and find time to think and live more creatively. The third entry in Kipfer’s successful 1,001 Ways series, this interactive list book will inspire anyone looking to unleash their creative genius.
In today’s overscheduled world, there is often little room for creativity in our daily lives. 

1,001 Ways to Be Creative shows you how to set your brain free, and will help you find the time and energy to play, dream, imagine, breathe, and explore. This inspirational book of lists offers a treasure trove of ways to bring a little creativity into your life, including ideas for innovative things to do, practical tips, and thought-provoking quotes. Interactive prompts inspire art projects, storytelling, innovative thinking, seeing like an artist, and more. With this energizing book by your side, your next Big Idea could be just around the corner!

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: National Geographic (March 27, 2018)

My Review:

I started this blog ten years-ago in April of 2008 (yikes!) as a creative outlet. I felt that my job didn't offer much creative inspiration most days, but coming up with recipes to make, or trying recipes and adapting them to my dietary preferences, then plating the food to look pretty and taking pictures gave me a chance to express myself. Besides food & blogging and the occasional paper craft, I dabble in writing and often find myself stuck looking for new ideas. 1,001 Ways to Be Creative is an anecdote for when you feel your creativity is blocked and you need a bit of inspiration. It's gorgeous--colorful and fun--and, more importantly, it actually has some really great and usable ideas mixed in with inspirational quotes and lists of inspirations for journal and writing prompts. 

Sometimes these little "idea" books are just bookshelf filler, but this one is worthy of keeping out--in your office, on your coffee table, or on your nightstand and actually use. There are simple things to think about, thought-provoking questions to ask yourself, and activities both big and small to try. (As you can see in the photo below) I used my (colorful) tape flags to tab a few dozen tips that I especially liked or wanted to try--as well as identifying the food-related ones to come up with my usual book-inspired dish. 

Here are just a few of my favorites:
  •  #4   Find an intriguing item in an antique store and seek out its history.
  •  #6   For one day, bestow a unique and truthful compliment on each person you see.
  •  #55  Paint something in your house that could use a face-lift. 
  • #147 Draw happiness.
  • #182 Adopt a shelf at the library and read everything on it.
  • # 322 Stroll along a street that you have never seen before.
  • #477 In a word, sentence, or drawing, recreate a memory from each year you have been alive, as far back as you can remember. 
  • #544 Try taking photographs from unusual angles. 
  • #839 Use paint swatches as inspiration.
  • #859 Open this book to a random page and perform one of the entries.   
With its bright colors and colorful illustrations and page borders (by Francesca Springolo), 1,001 Ways to Be Creative would be a fun gift (maybe with a journal or sketch pad, and/or a set of colored pencils or paint) for a friend or family member in need of a little colorful creativity in their lives. I know that I will be keeping and using my copy. In fact I am headed off to eat a Berries & Cream Crispy Rice Treat while I try #534--Create a new Pinterest Board. ;-)


Author Notes: Dr. Barbara Ann Kipfer is the author of 14,000 Things to Be Happy About and the Page-a-Day calendars based on it. She has written more than 60 books, including 1,001 Ways to Live Wild, The Order of Things, Self-Meditation, Instant Karma, 8,789 Words of Wisdom, The Wish List, and 4,000 Questions for Getting to Know Anyone and Everyone,and she edited Roget’s International Thesaurus. She holds PhDs in linguistics, archeology, and Buddhist studies. Dr. Kipfer is the Chief Lexicographer of Temnos and has worked for such companies as, Ask Jeeves, and


Food Inspiration:

Some of my favorite food-related ideas:
  • #23 Eat ice cream for breakfast. Small pleasures spark joy and creativity.
  • #28 Carve a watermelon into an edible sculpture. 
  • #30 Plate your dinner with flair using colorful foods and a whimsical swizzle of sauce. 
  • #63 Churn your own butter. 
  • #82 Create a Mr. Potato Head out of real vegetables.
  • #115 Create your own trail mix.
  • #194 Develop your own recipe for barbecue sauce. 
  • #399 Compile a book of unique recipes.
  • #507 Make colorful ice pops.
  • 740 Create a new breakfast cereal.

I found my self most inspired by #134 Make a big batch of Rice Krispies Treats with creative fillings. Although I typically don't eat Rice Krispies Treats often or get cravings for them, thinking about how to be creative with them made me want some. I decided that for Spring, a Berries & Cream version would be fun.

In my pantry I had a box of brown rice crispy cereal that I needed to use, as well as part of a package of freeze-dried strawberries from Target, dried blueberries from the bulk bin, and a bag of white chocolate chips--so all I needed was marshmallows and something to mix in to give it more strawberry flavor. I looked on line and saw where a couple of people used the powdered flavored jello to add flavor but since I was making a small batch, I thought of the powdered Crystal Light On-the-Go drink packets that are .11 of an ounces of a sugar-free powder. (A more natural version would be grinding up the freeze-dried strawberries into a powder but I only had one bag and didn't have time for a Target run.)  

Let's face it, even with a less-sugary brown rice crisp cereal and natural dried fruit, these are not healthy (although with fruit and cereal I should be able to count them as a breakfast bar!) ;-) But sometimes life just needs a crispy rice treat to make it better and these are easy and delicious to make for an occasional indulgence. Although I wanted to make a small batch with my small jellyroll pan, I am giving the recipe for a full on 9x13-inch pan full.

Berries & Cream Crispy Rice Treats
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 12 to 16 Servings)

3 Tbsp butter or margarine
1 1/2 to 2 packets strawberry drink mix (I used Crystal Light Wild Strawberry)
4 cups mini marshmallows
6 cups crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup dried blueberries
3/4 cup freeze-dried strawberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Prepare a 13"x 9" pan by spraying it with cooking spray and lining it with parchment paper or waxed paper.

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stirring constantly, cook until marshmallows are completely melted. Stir in drink mix until blended completely. 

Remove pan from heat and add cereal, mixing well. Sprinkle in the dried blueberries, freeze-dried strawberries, and white chocolate chips and stir until thoroughly mixed into the cereal.  

Press cereal mixture evenly into pan. Cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: These are really good! The strawberry flavor is present and the more tart bites of dried blueberry and freeze-dried strawberry keep the white chocolate from being too sweet. I like that the blueberries are chewy, while the strawberries are more crisp, then you get a little chunk of white chocolate and all is right with the world. I just used one packet of the strawberry drink mix for my 2/3 batch and wouldn't have minded a bit more so I suggest two packets for a full batch. Because I used brown crisp rice, you can't see the pink from the drink mix but if you use plain Rice Krispies or crisp rice cereal from white rice, I think it would be a pale pink color. Just a fun way to jazz up Rice Krispie Treats, I am already planning on trying a blueberry-lemon one with lemon drink mix and dried (or maybe even yogurt-covered) dried blueberries.

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 "1,001 Ways to Be Creative" 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.


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Chocolate-Orange Mousse for Cook the Books February/March Pick: "The Discovery of Chocolate" by James Runcie

It's Cook the Books time and our February/March food-filled pick is The Discovery of Chocolate, a novel by James Runcie, selected and hosted by Simona of briciole. As usual, I am sneaking in close to the wire for the deadline. It was worth the procrastination though because it helped me discover a fabulous Ina Garten recipe for Chocolate-Orange Mousse, both as my book-inspired dish and as a proper send-off to Ina as the featured chef for another blogging group, I Heart Cooking Clubs.

The Discovery of Chocolate is part history lesson in the origins of chocolate, part time-travel story, and part romance novel. It's quite a fantastical story following Diego De Godoy, a young notary to Emperor Charles V of Spain, who is sent to The New World in 1518 to return with a fortune and a unique and precious gift for his betrothed. It covers many centuries, countries and places that chocolate traveled to and evolved from as Diego looks for love and meaning in life. 

It took me a while to get into the book. I wasn't particularly fond of Diego from the start as he is young, selfish, and not that appealing. In fact, my favorite character turned out to be Pedro, his loyal greyhound. (I will never look at Hershey's kisses without thinking of Pedro). I do like time travel and I adore chocolate and learning about food history, so eventually the story kicked in more for me as Pedro finds himself living a very long life and wandering with Pedro from Mexico to Paris and then on to Vienna, England and America. While on his travels, Diego has brushes with many diverse historical figures such as Montezuma, the Marquis de Sade, Sigmund Freud, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and Milton Hershey--which was entertaining and fun--although at times maybe a bit too much. Diego does grow some during his journey, but he never quite won me over completely. Besides Pedro, ;-) the food descriptions were my favorite part and the book is filled with them (see my Food Inspiration notes below). Overall, although I didn't love this book, I think if you are a foodie and a chocolate fan and don't mind a lot of fantasy in your historical fiction, it is an interesting and enjoyable read that will have you reaching for the nearest chocolate bar.

My molinillo [moh-lee-NEE-yoh] -- Mexican chocolate whisk/stirrer

Food inspiration:

As I am sure you can imagine, The Discovery of Chocolate is full of mentions of chocolate and dishes that include it as an ingredient like the chocolate drink chocolatl, hot chocolate, turkey with a mole sauce, chocolate mousse, Hershey's kisses, and wild hare in chocolate sauce. It is also chock full of other food inspiration including spices like pepper, nutmeg, cloves, sage, black pepper, aniseed, and cinnamon, as well as fish--dorado (aka mahi-mahi), tamarind and hibiscus, turkey, maize cakes, cherries, oranges, mango, pineapple, peppers, melons, tomatoes, avocado, papaya and passion fruit, figs, vanilla, chillies, rabbit, tortillas, tamales, lemon, honey, watermelons, menudo, empanadas, shrimp ceviche, chicken, guinea fowl, partridge, prickly pears, apricots, apricot preserves, brandy and other apricot delicacies--including Sacher-Torte. There is Chantilly Soup, braised oxtail, galantine of capon, miniature mushroom tartlets, herrings in oatmeal, caviar blinis, hard-boiled eggs with whipped cream, truffles and Madeira wine, chicken liver omelettes with six eggs and cognac, wood pigeon with chestnuts and cabbage, rabbit pie, lobster with beurre blanc, lemonade, red sorrel flower tea, lime marinated red snapper with coriander, vermicelli soup and gazpacho, seared cod with caramelized shallots, grilled calamari, steamed scallops with ginger, quail marinated with rosemary, bay leaves and garlic, guacamole between paprika toasted potato skins, stuffed green peppers with a walnut sauce, pumpkin-blossom quesadillas, and chorizo stew. 

I took my inspiration from the "excellent chocolate mousse" that Diego is offered after dinner on a ship with Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein. According to Gertrude, "Alice makes a very good whip, with eggs, butter, chocolate, icing sugar, cream and Cointreau..." Although the mousse the waiter offers is made with coffee and adorned with rosettes of whipped cream and chocolate leaves and Alice's favorite mousse is "a chocolate mousse with passion fruit sauce and raspberry cream," I decided to go with a chocolate-orange mousse as a nod to a childhood memory that Diego relates about sitting in an orange grove looking down on the city of Seville. 

It also didn't hurt that I found a recipe for Chocolate-Orange Mousse from Ina Garten that sounded delicious and that I needed to make a Goodbye Ina! dish for I Heart Cooking Clubs as this week we end our six months of cooking a weekly recipe from her. I made a few changes to the recipe that I note in red below--mainly simplifying it and I switched out Ina's recommended Grand Marnier for the less expensive Patron as Deb's budget isn't as big as Ina's and this orange liqueur was about half the price and from Mexico--which fits in nicely with the story. Also, this recipe uses raw eggs--so do make sure that you can get eggs from a source you trust before you make it. I buy local eggs from my health store/co-op for anything where the eggs remain uncooked. 

Chocolate-Orange Mousse
Slightly Adapted from Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten & at
(Serves 6-8)

6 oz good semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz good bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup orange liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier) (I used Patrón Citrónge Orange)

1 tsp grated orange zest
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature  

Whipped Cream:

2 Tbsp sugar
dash pure vanilla extract

Combine the 2 chocolates, orange liqueur, 1/4 cup water, and the vanilla in a heat-proof bowl. Set it over a pan of simmering water just until the chocolate melts. Cool completely to room temperature. Whisk in the orange zest and butter until combined.

Place the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed for 4 minutes, or until very thick and pale yellow. With the mixer on low speed, add the chocolate mixture. Transfer to a large bowl.

Place 1 cup of egg whites (save or discard the rest), the salt, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Beat on high speed until firm but not dry. Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture; then fold the rest in carefully with a rubber spatula.

Without cleaning the bowl or whisk, whip the heavy cream and the remaining tablespoon of sugar until firm. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mousse into individual dishes or an 8-cup serving bowl. Chill and decorate with whipped cream and oranges. Serve with extra whipped cream on the side.

Whipped Cream:
Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to whip until the cream forms stiff peaks. Don't over-beat, or you'll end up with butter!
Deb's Notes: I halved the recipe because I did not need that much chocolate mousse and its respective calories--although I still ended up with 4 coffee cups worth of mousse, plus enough for an espresso cup. I am also a bit (OK, a lot!) lazy so I shortened/combined a couple of steps like melting my chocolate mixture in the microwave and making up all of my whipped cream at once, then folding part of it into the mousse and putting the rest into a pastry bag for piping onto the mousse--seems unnecessary to whip twice. ;-) I also used my hand mixer for everything. When my old stand mixer gave out years ago, I never replaced it. I have a tiny kitchen and limited counter and storage space and don't bake a lot, so my hand mixer gets me through pretty well. I still ended up with fluffy, airy mousse and whipped cream. Finally, Ina garnished with canned Mandarin slices and whipped cream and I found an orange jellie candy from Spain that I sliced into triangles to top my mousse, along with a sprinkle of cacao nibs.  

Notes/Results: As a rule, I like my chocolate mousse to be pure chocolate, maybe with a little espresso mixed in to add to the richness of flavor, but I really enjoyed the orange in this one--it is present but doesn't overpower the chocolate.The mousse is rich and decadent but light and silky smooth. I ended up with more mousse than I need but I am sure I'll have no problem in eating it. An excellent Ina Garten dish to go out with, I'd happily make it again.

Speaking of Ina recipes, it's customary for me to post my favorite recipes from the outgoing IHCC chef. We start cooking with Chef Eric Ripert next week, but I had lots of wins with Ina these past six months. These five (in no particular order) were my favorites:

This post is linking up several different places:

First to I Heart Cooking Clubs where it's our March Potluck and Goodbye to Ina Garten as we move on to Chef Eric Ripert.

The Discovery of Chocolate is my third foodie book entry for the Foodies Read 2018 event. You can check out the March 2018 Foodies Read linkup, hosted by Heather at Based on a True Story, to see what everyone is reading this month.   

I'm also 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.

The deadline for this round is on Saturday, March 31, and Simona will be rounding up the entries on the CTB site soon after. If you missed this round and love food, books, and foodie books, join us for April/May when we will be reading Shark's Fin and Sichaun Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, hosted by yours truly here at Kahakai Kitchen


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "I'll Be Your Blue Sky" by Marisa de los Santos, Served with a Recipe for Dark Chocolate Blueberry Bites

I am very excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for I'll Be Your Blue Sky by Marisa de los Santos. Not only did this book give me a chance to revisit some favorite characters, it inspired some delicious Dark Chocolate Blueberry Bites.

Publisher's Blurb:

The New York Times bestselling author revisits the characters from her beloved novels Love Walked In and Belong to Me in this captivating, beautifully written drama involving family, friendship, secrets, sacrifice, courage, and true love for fans of Jojo Moyes, Elin Hilderbrand, and Nancy Thayer.

On the weekend of her wedding, Clare Hobbes meets an elderly woman named Edith Herron. During the course of a single conversation, Edith gives Clare the courage to do what she should have done months earlier: break off her engagement to her charming—yet overly possessive—fiancé.

Three weeks later, Clare learns that Edith has died—and has given her another gift. Nestled in crepe myrtle and hydrangea and perched at the marshy edge of a bay in a small seaside town in Delaware, Blue Sky House now belongs to Clare. Though the former guest house has been empty for years, Clare feels a deep connection to Edith inside its walls, which are decorated with old photographs taken by Edith and her beloved husband, Joseph.

Exploring the house, Clare finds two mysterious ledgers hidden beneath the kitchen sink. Edith, it seems, was no ordinary woman—and Blue Sky House no ordinary place. With the help of her mother, Viviana, her surrogate mother, Cornelia Brown, and her former boyfriend and best friend, Dev Tremain, Clare begins to piece together the story of Blue Sky House—a decades-old mystery more complex and tangled than she could have imagined. As she peels back the layers of Edith’s life, Clare discovers a story of dark secrets, passionate love, heartbreaking sacrifice, and incredible courage. She also makes startling discoveries about herself: where she’s come from, where she’s going, and what—and who—she loves.

Shifting between the 1950s and the present and told in the alternating voices of Edith and Clare, I’ll Be Your Blue Sky is vintage Marisa de los Santos—an emotionally evocative novel that probes the deepest recesses of the human heart and illuminates the tender connections that bind our lives.

Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (March 6, 2018)

My Review:

I have been a fan of Marisa de los Santos's books since stumbling across Love Walked In and Belong to Me several years ago. The eclectic group of characters that somehow came together as a large, strange, extended family--by birth and by choice, captured my heart. de los Santos writes characters that are not perfect but are immensely likable and memorable, so when I found out that I'll Be Your Blue Sky would give me a chance to spend time with some of my favorites from those two books, I was excited to sign on to this book tour. You don't need to have read the first two books to love and appreciate this one (and I say that as someone who usually insists on reading series or related books 'in order') but I heartily recommend them and I think it makes reading I'll Be Your Blue Sky all the better.

In this book the story is focused on Clare, who was eleven in Love Walked In and is now in her twenties and about to marry Zach, but is having second (and third and fourth) thoughts and in fact, is spending the day before her wedding compiling a mental list of ten reasons why she should marry him. That she gets stuck at nine and that the reasons range from how he cooks eggs to how he doesn't tailgate, make it pretty clear that this marriage would be a mistake, but it takes a stranger to prompt Clare to call off the wedding. That stranger is Edith, an elderly woman staying at the resort where Clare's wedding will take place. In addition to saving her from a huge mistake, Edith dies soon after their conversation and unexpectedly leaves Clare a house on the Delaware coast--"a place to breathe easily" and feel safe--something Edith sees she needs. Finding two hidden ledgers at the house and wanting to know more about the mysterious Edith and Blue Sky House, Clare begins to investigate. 

The story unfolds through Clare and Edith's points of view, Edith's past in the 1950s and Clare's experiences in present day. de los Santos weaves both time and perspective pretty seamlessly and I found myself equally caught up in both stories. There are secrets and twists, some a bit more obvious than others but still a few surprises. There are tougher subjects covered--primarily domestic violence and abusive relationships, but there are plenty of lighter moments with family and love and humor--especially between Clare and Dev, her longtime friend and former boyfriend. Warm and witty, I'll Be Your Blue Sky is the kind of book you want to curl up with or crawl into and spend time with the characters. I was sorry to turn the last page and it made me want to go back and reread the first two books. If you enjoy great and lovable characters, women's fiction, contemporary fiction, romance, or any and all of the above, you will enjoy this one.


Author Notes: Marisa de los Santos is a  New York Times bestselling author and award-winning poet with a PhD in literature and creative writing, Marisa de los Santos lives in Wilmington, Delaware, with her family.
Connect with Marisa on Facebook and Twitter.


Food Inspiration:

Although there's not a lot of it, there is food to be found in I'll Be Your Blue Sky--some of it included: green apples in a glass bowl, French toast decorated with edible flowers, a "perfect egg over easy"--striped with sriracha, tomato tart, champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, turkey, pecan pie, The Home Book of French Cookery, bowls of berries and pitchers of juice, mini cinnamon roles and mention of 'undersized hotcakes,' deviled eggs, Butterscotch Krimpets, drop biscuits, jam and butter, bowls of cut fruit, coffee, blueberry-peach pie with lattice crust, sandwiches, scallops on the half-shell with a drop of cocktail sauce, watermelon, falafel, tahini, taboon bread (pita), lox and bagel, gin and tonic, fig newtons and cheddar cheese, apple pie, toast buttered to the edges, donuts, Thai food, blueberries,lobster, banana split, bacon and eggs, a platter of cheeses, prosciutto, and baguette, bowls of blueberries, strawberries, olives, and a big plate of molasses cookies, sour cherry pie, and tea with lemon.

No single food or dish  called out to me as central to the story and characters so I decided to put a few things together--the bowls of fruit, the blueberries mentioned in a few places, and the chocolate-covered strawberries that Dev 'scarfs' with "the happy oblivion of a six-year-old" at Clare's rehearsal dinner. 

If we were closer to the season for good strawberries, I would have dipped some in chocolate, but instead I decided to go with dark chocolate and blueberries which are mentioned in the book, and also a nod to the 'blue' in the book's title. Looking for ways to display the pretty blueberries, I decided to top dark chocolates with them, using a mini-muffin tin and blue and yellow mini cupcake liners.

Dark Chocolate Blueberry Bites
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 12)

1 cup fresh blueberries, washed well and patted dry
5 oz dark chocolate

Place liners into a mini muffin pan, set aside.

Break chocolate into small pieces and melt--either in a microwave safe bowl (or measuring cup) or with a double-boiler on the stove. stirring until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Carefully pour the melted chocolate into the paper liners--filling them about half-way. Sprinkle blueberries into each of the melted chocolate-filled liners. Some of the berries will sink into the chocolate and some will remain on top. Lightly tap and gently shake the pan to remove any air bubbles.

Place in the freezer for 15 minutes to harden. Remove and place in fridge for another 30 minutes before serving.

Keep in an airtight container in the fridge. With the fresh fruit, chocolates should be consumed within 3 to 4 days. 

Notes/Results: There is just something about the combination of good dark chocolate and berries (strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries) that is especially delicious and the firm bite of the creamy chocolate with the burst of the fresh blueberries, both on top and inside, is really appealing. I used a combination of Lindt dark chocolate in both 70% and 78% cacao--which runs to the bittersweet side of things, but is still creamy and sweet enough for the berries. If I had thought of it before, I might have picked up some dried blueberries at the store and dropped them in the melted chocolate first for a contrast in textures, but otherwise I wouldn't change a thing. These chocolate treats are quick to make (except for the chilling/firming time) and taste great. They also provide lots of antioxidants with the blueberries and dark chocolate, so they make for a relatively healthy treat. ;-) I will happily make them 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 "I'll Be Your Blue Sky" was provided to me by the author and the publisher, Harper Collins, 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.