Showing posts with label giveaways. Show all posts
Showing posts with label giveaways. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The House on Harbor Hill" by Shelly Stratton, Served with Toast and Cara Cara Orange Marmalade {+ a Book Giveaway!}

Happy Tuesday! I'm brightening up the day by reviewing The House on Harbor Hill, a novel by Shelly Stratton as a stop on the TLC Book Tour. I'm pairing my review with a recipe for sunny and delicious Cara Cara Orange Marmalade inspired by the book, and there's also a giveaway with a chance to win a copy of your own.

Publisher's Blurb:

Set in the past and present, The House on Harbor Hill is a murder mystery that tackles the issues of racial prejudice and spousal abuse in the lives of two very different women…

She’s generous, kind, and compassionate–yet Delilah Grey will forever be an outcast in the small seaside town of Camden Beach, Maryland. She takes in women shattered by abuse, poverty, illness, or events beyond their control. But no matter how far she’s come or how many she’s helped find their way back, there is no safe place for Delilah. Acquitted of her rich husband’s mysterious death decades ago, she lives in her beautiful mansion consumed by secrets–and mistakes she feels she can never atone for. . . . Until she takes in desperate mother Tracey Walters and her two young children.

Tracey won’t say where she’s from or what sent her into hiding. But her determination and refusal to give up reminds Delilah of the spirited, hopeful girl she once was–and the dreams she still cherishes. As Tracey takes tentative steps to rebuild her life, her unexpected attraction to Delilah’s handsome, troubled caretaker inadvertently brings Delilah face to face with the past. And when Tracey’s worst fears come brutally calling, both women must find even more strength to confront truths they can no longer ignore–and at last learn how to truly be free . . .

Resonant, moving, and unforgettable, The House on Harbor Hill paints an unforgettable portrait of two women struggling to forgive themselves, take a chance on change, and challenge each other to finally live.

Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Dafina (March 27, 2018)

My Review:

I think I fell a bit in love with Delilah and The House on Harbor Hill. It's the story of a friendship, of a brave woman helping other women and has some historical fiction aspects and a touch of romance. It also hits on some tough issues--domestic violence, racism and bigotry, and it successfully combines two eras--the late 1960s and present day. Shelly Stratton manages to weave it all together into a story that crawls into your heart and stays there.

Delilah Grey grew up wanting more than what the other black women she knew in Camden Beach, Maryland had--but unfortunately that desire to escape the boundaries of her world led her into an abusive relationship with the wealthy brother of her employer. When she becomes pregnant, he marries her (to the dismay of his high-society family for the shame of a biracial relationship in that era) and when he dies shortly after, she is blamed. Although she's eventually acquitted, Delilah spends decades enduring the gossip and notoriety that life in a small town brings. She spends her time taking in women in need and giving them shelter in Harbor Hill, the house her husband left for her--both trying to make up for the past and to experience the family life she never had. Tracey Walters is on the run from her abusive husband and struggling to make a better life for her two young children when Delilah offers her sanctuary. Both Delilah and Tracey are great characters--although Delilah is the one I most wanted to spend time with, both to uncover the mysteries that surround her and to bask in her care.

The story is told from both characters' points of view with Tracey's in the present day and Delilah's going back and forth through past and present. Rather than chapter-by-chapter, the switch in time is separated in five parts with several chapters in each section, and I liked how this made the story flow and avoided the choppiness that alternating times and POVs can often cause. The supporting characters are well-written, although the villains are pretty clear and some of what happens is fairly easy to predict. But, even guessing part of the outcome didn't take away from the beauty of the story. If you like women's fiction with strong female characters, growth, and friendships, add The House on Harbor Hill to your Spring TBR stack. (U.S.-based readers can enter to win a copy below!)

Author Notes: Shelly Stratton is an award-winning journalist who earned her degree at the University of Maryland, College Park. Another Woman’s Man, her novel written under the pseudonym Shelly Ellis, was nominated for a 2014 NAACP Image Award. A film buff and amateur painter, she lives with her husband not far from Washington, D.C. 

Visit her online at or on Facebook or Twitter


Food Inspiration:

Although not a lot of them, there were some food mentions in The House on Harbor Hill, including: frozen scallops and over-cooked lobster, fresh tuna, lemonade, Snowballs and Twinkies, grapes, squash, carrots, ice tea, Red Velvet cupcakes, wine and cheese, fried clams, crab legs, shrimp po'boys and curly fries with Old Bay Seasoning, oranges, lemons and grapefruit, cantaloupes and apples, gelato, ice cream and hot fudge sundaes, sweet potato pie, roast beef sandwich and soup, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, panini and iced coffee, blackberry jam, cranberry preserves and marmalade, deviled eggs and champagne, collards, grits, canned pineapple, a burger and fries, steak, wheatgrass, Acai berry smoothies, glazed and frosted donuts, quiche, breakfast foods, apple pie, meatloaf, pork chops, and macaroni and cheese. 

There wasn't one food that I felt stood out as representative of the book, but I found myself caught up by Delilah's description of a morning free of her abusive husband and her peace for that small slice of time:

"Today is one of the rare days that Cee is away from Harbor Hill, and I am enjoying my freedom. This morning, I sat at the kitchen table in my nightgown and bare feet, eating toast smothered in marmalade without a plate, which he hates. I turned up the volume on the radio--something else he doesn't like--so I can hear the Hit Parade in every room. I made hot cocoa for myself and gave a mug to our groundskeeper, Tobias,..."

I decided to make marmalade on toast and serve it (without a plate) with a cup of hot cocoa. It isn't made clear what flavor of marmalade Delilah's was, but I had a small hoard of my favorite cara cara oranges, so I decided on orange marmalade with a touch of vanilla. 

I looked at several orange marmalade recipes on line. Many of them had the oranges peeled and then the pith scraped off the rind and them the rind sliced into pieces. It removes some bitterness but it seemed like WAY too much hassle to me for a busy week and when I saw that several people, including Alton Brown, left the rinds on their oranges, that's what I did. Usually I try to reduce sugar and use honey in my preserves and I often use chia seeds for thickening things up, but I was craving something old-school-ish, so I used regular sugar and kept the chia seeds in the pantry for another jam. Even though the oranges are sweet, I think with the peel you need a bit more sugar--although not as much as Alton used--and if you cook it long enough, the gelling will happen. Although I looked to Alton and a few other recipes for inspiration, I ended up doing my own thing. 

Cara Cara Orange Marmalade
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 3 Cups)

1 lb oranges (I used Cara Cara oranges ), about 4 medium
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tiny pinch sea salt
juice and zest of one lemon
2 tsp vanilla extract

Wash the oranges thoroughly, halve them and cut them thinly--into about 1/8-inch slices. (Pick out any seeds you may find.) Stack the orange slices and cut them in half.  

Place the orange slices into a large pot with the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook about 45 to 50 minutes, or until fruit is very soft, stirring frequently. Add sea salt, lemon juice and zest and vanilla extract and stir into the jam mixture. Continue to simmer another 10 minutes or so. Marmalade should have thickened and slightly darkened in color. 

(Alton Brown suggests testing the readiness of marmalade by placing a teaspoon of the mixture onto a small chilled plate and letting it it for 30 seconds. Wen you tilt the plate, the jam should be a soft gel that moves slightly--if it's thin and runs easily, it's not ready, so continue to cook until it has thickened enough.)

Allow to cool and transfer marmalade to jars or an airtight container and place in the fridge. It will last about two weeks kept airtight in the refrigerator, or freeze it for up to six months.  

Notes/Results: I really like this marmalade. It captures the flavor of the cara cara oranges (and the color is gorgeous!) and the vanilla rounds out the flavor and gives it a creamsicle vibe. The slight bitterness of the rinds and pith is welcome to me and keeps it from being too sweet--although from an aesthetics standpoint, next time I might add an extra orange or two, peeling a few of the oranges and discarding their peels--just to have a little less rind in the mix. But, since I love chunky jams or preserves anyway, this still works. I thought it was terrific on toasted bread, drizzled with melted (salted) butter and paired with the hot chocolate and I think it will be aces, stirred into some plain Greek yogurt. I would definitely 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.

***Book Giveaway***
The publisher is generously providing a copy of The House on Harbor Hill to give away (U.S. addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) The book is set in a small seaside town in Maryland, so tell me about your favorite beach OR tell me why you'd like to win a copy of this book. 

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Author Shelly Stratton (@sstrattonbooks)
on Twitter. (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me or the author on Twitter.)

Deadline for entry is midnight on Tuesday, April 10th. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: A review copy of "The House on Harbor Hill" 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, July 6, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Right Side" by Spencer Quinn, Served with a Recipe for Green Tea & Apple Sorbet

Today I am happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Right Side by Spencer Quinn. Along with my review, I have a recipe for Green Tea and Apple Sorbet inspired by my reading and there is a tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book at the bottom of the post. 

Publisher's Blurb

In this riveting new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of the Chet and Bernie mystery series, a deeply damaged female soldier home from the war in Afghanistan becomes obsessed with finding a missing girl, gains an unlikely ally in a stray dog, and encounters new perils beyond the combat zone.
LeAnne Hogan went to Afghanistan as a rising star in the military, and came back a much lesser person, mentally and physically. Now missing an eye and with half her face badly scarred, she can barely remember the disastrous desert operation that almost killed her. She is confused, angry, and suspects the fault is hers, even though nobody will come out and say it.
Shattered by one last blow—the sudden death of her hospital roommate, Marci—LeAnne finds herself on a fateful drive across the country, reflecting on her past and seeing no future. Her native land is now unfamiliar, recast in shadow by her one good eye, her damaged psyche, her weakened body. Arriving in the rain-soaked small town in Washington State that Marci had called home, she makes a troubling discovery: Marci’s eight-year-old daughter has vanished. When a stray dog—a powerful, dark, unreadable creature, no one’s idea of a pet—seems to adopt LeAnne, a surprising connection is formed and something shifts inside her. As she becomes obsessed with finding Marci’s daughter, LeAnne and her inscrutable canine companion are drawn into danger as dark and menacing as her last Afghan mission. This time she has a strange but loyal fellow traveler protecting her blind side.
Enthralling, suspenseful, and psychologically nuanced, The Right Side introduces one of the most unforgettable protagonists in modern fiction: isolated, broken, disillusioned—yet still seeking redemption and purpose—LeAnne takes hold of the reader and never lets go.

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Atria Books (June 27, 2017)

My Review:

The Right Side was a bit of slow start for me, but I really ended up liking this book. I was expecting more of a suspenseful thriller and was surprised that so much of the book went by before getting to the suspense and even to the dog--who seems to adopt LeAnne. There is a lot of set up to define LeAnne as a character, but it works--I found myself invested in her and with her unpredictability from both the attack in Afghanistan and her own personality, I wanted to see what she was going to do next. She suffers from memory loss, is angry, has severe PSTD and is damaged in many different ways besides the physical damage to her eye and face. When she isn't angry, she is prickly and not always easy to like, but LeAnne is a fighter, very compelling, and she grew on me. Although the book ends up being just as much a character study of LeAnne as it is a mystery, there is her friend's missing daughter to consider, as well as what actually happened in Afghanistan--was LeAnne at fault for the mission going wrong? Once I was rooting for LeAnne and the tension began to ratchet up a few notches, I was hooked and didn't want to put the book down for the last third. 

This is my first book from this author who has a popular (and I understand much lighter) adult mystery series about a dog and his human companion as well a dog-centered children's mystery series for middle graders. I would love another book about Leanne and her new companion and the end of this one seems to set it up nicely for a continuation so I'll keep my fingers crossed. The Right Side is not a light read, but it is an absorbing one, making it a good pick for your summer TBR stack if you like strong female characters, stories involving dogs, mystery/suspense books, and books about military veterans.


Author Notes: Spencer Quinn is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the ongoing Chet and Bernie mystery series, as well as the bestselling Bowser and Birdie series for middle grade readers. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife Diana—and dogs Audrey and Pearl. 

Keep up with him by visiting


Food Inspiration:

There's not a ton of food inspiration in The Right Side, but there is some. An obvious choice for a dish are the gingerbread men "with mint green eyes" that LeAnne remembers her mom making when she was a child. Trouble is, I don't like gingerbread and it's way too warm and humid to make me turn on an oven and bake. LeAnne exists on road food a lot in the book--mostly chocolate bars and chocolate milk and bacon burgers. She also eats a lot of sandwiches. There was mention of Apple Brown Betty, pears, potato chips, ice cream, a Chex-Mix-like snack mix at a bar, deviled eggs, a BLT, shrimp diablo, a Chinese restaurant, fried chicken, a cheeseburger, a tuna sandwich with a few sides, and soup, beer, vodka, peanut butter crackers, coffee and cream and a dinner of apple martinis, white wine, crab legs, pork chops and dessert.

I ended up blending a few things together for my book-inspired dish. LeAnne tries green tea which at first "did nothing for her; then it was not bad; and after that, nice." Then there is a scene where LeAnne runs into an old boyfriend at a restaurant with his family and he asks her to sit down with them for dessert with homemade sorbets that his kids are addicted to--there were silver bowls at every place, "bearing little sorbet balls, green, orange, and white," as well as a basket of of brownies and cookies. LeAnne (charmer that she is at times) walks away with a handful of brownies and cookies. I decided to put the green tea and the apples from the Apple Brown Betty--in the form of apple juice and apple brandy into a simple, light and cooling  sorbet.

I wanted a very quick, very low effort sorbet without adding extra sugar so I just blended strongly brewed green tea with good quality fresh apple juice and added some Calvados (apple brandy) for additional flavor, lemon juice, and a frothed egg white. If you want a sweeter, stronger-flavored sorbet, cooking down apples with sugar, then pureeing them is probably the way to go and you can find lots of recipes online.

Green Tea and Apple Sorbet
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 3 cups of Sorbet)

1 1/2 cups green tea, brewed strong and cooled
1/2 cup good fresh apple juice, cold
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp Calvados or apple brandy, optional
1 egg white, whipped until frothy, optional

Mix the green tea and apple juice together, add the apple brandy and frothed egg whites and pour into the chilled bowl of an ice cream maker. Process according to ice cream maker instructions. 

Place in freezer for at least an hour to finish firming up. Serve with apple slices and shortbread cookies if desired. If freezing for more than an hour, let sorbet sit for 7 to 8 minutes before scooping.

Notes/Results: There is more apple flavor in this sorbet than green tea--especially with the addition of the the calvados or apple brandy but the grassiness of the green tea is there in the background. Refreshing, not too sweet--you can add sweetener if you want but I found the apple juice sweet enough (I used Simply Apple brand). I read that the frothy egg white would make it less icy and I'm not sure that it did that much, so if you have raw egg fears, you could leave it out. When paired with the tart green apple slices and the buttery green tea shortbread and served in a tea cup, it makes a nice and cooling summer dessert or snack. I would make it again.

I'm linking this post up to 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.

There is a tour-wide giveaway for the chance to win a copy of the book. Three copies will be given away and you can enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Note: A review copy of "The Right Side" was provided to me by the publisher Atria Books and 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.


Monday, May 29, 2017

Gingery Green Curry Miso Broth with Zucchini Noodles, Kitchen Tools Review & Giveway {#worksmarter #sharpenyourkitcheniq}

When my blogging friend, the amazing Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla was gathering a few bloggers together to test kitchen tools from KitchenIQ and create a recipe using them, I quickly signed up--especially hearing that one, an all-in-one ginger tool, might help me with my ginger problem. Yes, I have a ginger problem. I love the flavor of ginger and using it in my recipes but I REALLY hate messing with it--peeling it, grating it, and trying to do it quickly and efficiently without losing all of the wonderful ginger juice that fresh ginger puts out. I will confess that I often resort to those frozen ginger cubes or ginger in a tube--just to save myself the hassle. I was also looking forward to testing the spice grater and the zester as I love cooking with spices and between citrus, cheese, and chocolate, I find myself zesting often.

  The three KitchenIQ products we would be testing were:

Note: KitchenIQ has supplied these three products to me for free (and a set to giveaway to one U.S. reader below) in return for a fair and honest product test and review so I'll give you my thoughts on each of them--how easy they were to use, how well they worked, and (important to me) how easier they were to clean, care for and put away.

    The V-etched Better Zester:

    I have a microplane zester that I was given by and friend and that I use pretty much constantly so I wasn't sure that I needed a new one but the V-etched Better Zester lives up to the name, it is actually better than my microplane for a few reasons. It has a comfortable handle that is easy to grip--which I like as my old zester is one long strip of teeth/blades. This zester also has 300 tiny teeth that really catch the peel well, without the pith (as long as you don't press too hard). My main love and something I didn't realize I loved so much is the storage container on the back of the zester that not ony collect and measures whatever you are zesting, it has a tiny "squeegee" that removes the moist zest from the citrus from the back of the blade, making clean up a snap and giving you dry, sprinkle worthy citrus zest. Love it! I also tested it with Parmigiano-Reggiano and bittersweet chocolate and it was equally handy for grating, measuring, and cleaning up afterward. Sorry old zester, you have been replaced! 

    The Grate Ginger Tool:

    As I mentioned, this was the tool I was most interested in trying and I was not disappointed. Everything you need to work with ginger is together in one hand-size tool. This one took its first test with the back-of-the-package instructions handy to review as I went through the different steps to peel, juice, grate and slice a piece of fresh ginger. Probably everyone knows the best way to peel ginger is with a spoon but the hard green plastic spoon that is attached is equally as effective in in removing the skin as a regular spoon. Juicing and grating sort of happen together and this was my favorite part about the tool--you simply grate your peeled ginger, remove the grater tray and use the grater cover to press the juice from the pulp--with no waste. You can then use the juice--or reserve it for other recipes and use the finely grated ginger. There is also the magic "squeegee" that runs along the underside of the blade as you pull it out and cleans the ginger from the grater making it easy to clean. I tried the slicer and it works pretty well with the blade slicing fairly easily through the tough ginger root. I usually slice my ginger thicker than this blade does, but I don't see that as a problem for most recipes and it in fact might be better for some. Out of the three tools, this one has the most pieces and I realize I am going to have to be careful not to lose the clear blade cover and forget to put the spoon back in ;-) but it does clean and go back together pretty easily. I did not try it with the other aromatics it was recommend to be used for like garlic and daikon, but I am sure I will soon. Another win--I would buy this one for myself or as a gift.

    The V-etched Spice Grater:

    I have an electric spice grinder that I seldom use because I hate dragging it out of the cupboard, cleaning any leftover spices that I didn't clean well the last time and plugging it in, then repeating the whole process. So I either tend to use my spices whole--as in my chai tea blend or I resort to quickly grabbing my jarred powdered spices. This grater is easy and fast to grab, has tiny sharp teeth for hard spices, and makes quick work of cinnamon, nutmeg, and one of my favorite spices, star anise. There is a tray to catch the grated spices so you can easily measure them for your dishes. I saw on the package that you can grate nuts (walnuts and pecans are shown) and I am looking forward to trying that. The blade and tray are easily rinsed and wiped clean and it is a lot more convenient than dragging my grinder down on a regular basis for hard spices. Sometimes a bit of the spice I was grating flew loose, or I found that I lose a little more of the spice at the very end than I do with an electronic grinder, but the consistent fine powder I got and the ease of using it outweigh that in my opinion. A great tool for any spice-loving cook.


    I have a very small and too-full-of-stuff kitchen so as much as I love them, I try to limit my kitchen tools to those that I use regularly, have more than one purpose, and really work. All three of these KitchenIQ tools pass the taste and I will be using them all often--plus they are just fun to use and to look at with their bright colors and shapes. An honest thumbs up to all three of these tools from me.

    Be sure to check out the giveaway below for a chance to win your own set.

    Besides testing the tools, we were asked to come up with a recipe that allowed us to showcase the tools in action. I had several things in mind but in the end, it was a craving for a brothy and flavorful bowl of zucchini noodles that came to mind. I wanted something quick and easy but with a good mix of flavors and my own touch, so I enhanced prepared green curry paste and white miso with grated ginger and ginger juice from The Great Ginger Tool, added a kiss of star anise to add complexity with the V-etched Spice Grater, and finished it with lime juice and perfect zest from the V-etched Better Zester

    This is a light lunch dish that goes together quickly and is about the flavor of the broth so I kept to spiralized zucchini noodles but you could of course use any quick cooking noodle and add other veggies and/or tofu or another protein to bulk it up however you like. 

    Gingery Green Curry Miso Broth with Zucchini Noodles
    By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
    (Serves 2)

    1 Tbsp coconut oil (or olive oil)
    2 green onions, chopped
    1 Tbsp finely grated ginger
    2 Tbsp Thai Green Curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen brand)
    1 Tbsp ginger juice (optional)
    4 cups good veggie broth
    1 cup water
    1/2 tsp star anise
    2 medium zucchini, spiralized into a fettuccine noodle size, or rice noodles, or noodles of choice
    2 Tbsp white miso paste
    2 tbsp fresh lime juice
    1/2 Tbsp lime zest
    salt and pepper to taste
    fresh lime zest and sesame seeds to garnish

    Heat oil in a medium sauce pan and add green onions, grated ginger, and green curry paste. Cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add ginger juice if using (I recommend), veggie broth, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer soup about 10 minutes to meld flavors.

    Add zucchini noodles and let cook for 3-4 minutes until just tender. Place the miso paste into a small bowl and ladle in a cup of the hot broth. Whisk thoroughly with a fork until miso paste is dissolved into the broth, then add broth back into the soup. Add lime juice and 1/2 Tbsp of the zest. Taste for seasoning and add additional lime juice and salt and pepper as desired.  

    Divide into two large bowls. Garnish with additional lime zest and sesame seeds. Enjoy!

    Notes/Results: This is a simple dish that really packs in the Asian-inspired flavors and totally hit the spot for my ginger, green curry, and miso cravings--why should I have to choose just one? The lime juice and zest keep it bright and the star anise is there--subtle in the background--but making you wonder why this broth is so darn good. I won't lie, I ate both servings myself because I didn't want to stop eating it. ;-) I will happily make this again using my fun new tools. 

    I'm linking up this tasty soup to Souper Sundays, hosted here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup  

    ***KitchenIQ Tools Giveaway!***
    Note: KitchenIQ is generously providing a Three-Tool Prize Package to one lucky U.S. resident (in the 48 contiguous states--sorry!) Winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and notified here as well as email and have 48 hours to respond or the next winner will be chosen. We cannot be held responsible for items lost in the mail.

    To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me about either your favorite kitchen tool to use or your worst kitchen chore to complete.

    There are a few other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or KitchenIQ (@KitchenIQ), 
    (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me or KitchenIQ on Twitter.)

    Deadline for entry is Tuesday, June 6th.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Good Luck!

    Tuesday, May 16, 2017

    The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Woman No. 17" by Edan Lepucki, Served with a California Roll & Salmon Poke Brown Rice Bowl (+ a Giveaway!)

    On today's TLC Book Tour, we are heady for a sultry Hollywood summer and the dark lives of two women in Woman No. 17, a novel by Edan Lepucki. Accompanying my review is a dish loosely inspired by the contemporary Los Angeles setting, a California Roll and Salmon Poke Brown Rice Bowl. There is also a giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book for your summer book stack.

    Publisher's Blurb:

    High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she’s going to need a hand taking care of her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In response to a Craigslist ad, S arrives, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s toddler, Devin, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage son, Seth. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady.

    But in the heat of the summer, S’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. And as Lady and S move closer to one another, the glossy veneer of Lady’s privileged life begins to crack, threatening to expose old secrets that she has been keeping from her family. Meanwhile, S is protecting secrets of her own, about her real motivation for taking the job. S and Lady are both playing a careful game, and every move they make endangers the things they hold most dear.

    Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.

    Hardcover: 320 pages
    Publisher: Hogarth (May 9, 2017)

    My Review: Woman No. 17 is my first book by Edan Lepucki. I had heard good things about her novel, California, and the premise of the book sounded intriguing as I enjoy dark and twisty thriller books. I do think I was expecting more thrills than I ultimately got. There was tension to be found and some dark humor to be sure and that kept me pulled into the story throughout the book. 

    Both main characters--Lady and S and their secrets immediately piqued my interest and although they are not particularly likeable, I was interested to see where the story took them and and what happened. Both Lady and S are quite self-absorbed and have allowed themselves to become obsessed by their pasts and with their mothers. With S, she is becoming the drunk persona of her mother through an art project focused on mothers, and with Lady, she is estranged from her mother due to past slights and what she sees as a big betrayal, as well as being challenged with the relationship she has with her nineteen-year-old son from a previous marriage and her toddler. Both women are seeking something and both are playing games with their own and others' lives to find their answers and resolution. 

    Lepucki definitely knows how to set a scene, she brings the Hollywood and SoCal scenes to life, capturing the culture and glamour with a mix of contemporary and noir feel and making scenes play out like a movie in the mind. The look at the art world is interesting, as is the exploration of the separation of art and life and the personas that are created when they are not held separately. If you need a character to root for, Woman No. 17 is probably not your book, but if you like a book with a noir-ish feel, set in a sultry Hollywood summer, that twists and turns and has you guessing about the outcomes, it does make for an intriguing beach book or one for a hot summer's day on the porch or lanai--icy cold cocktail or mocktail in hand. If you are a U.S.-based reader of this blog, there's a chance to win a copy of your own below. 


    Author Notes: Edan Lepucki is the New York Times bestselling author of the novel California as well as the novella If You’re Not Yet Like Me. A contributing editor and staff writer at the Millions, she has also published fiction and nonfiction in McSweeney’s, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Cut, and elsewhere. She is the founder of Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

    You can connect with Edan via her website or Twitter.


    Food Inspiration: Although all sorts alcohol ruled the day (and night) in Woman No. 17 (including a French 75 cocktail of gin and champagne that almost got made) there was certainly food to be found. Food mentioned included poached eggs, sandwiches, Pizza Hut, P.F. Chang's dishes (lychee cocktails, Salt & Pepper Calamari, pot stickers, gluten-free 'beef-something-or-other'), and other restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen (CPK), Yogurtland, Cheesecake Factory (oreo cheesecake), and Dominos, sushi, toasted and artisanal marshmallows, a bad Caesar salad with "tomatoes and not a single anchovy," sweet potato, cheeseburgers, coffee drinks, "milk-bloated Cheerios", watermelon, shabu-shabu, yaki-soba, apples and bananas, plantain chips, juice and fish sticks, shu mai from Trader Joe's, mussels, a burger and a side dish of Romanesco that turned out to be plain cauliflower, string cheese, Brazilian food, a classic omelet with chives and a salad with persimmon, sausage and egg sandwiches and a coke, pasta, eggplant, and a salad recipe with tarragon.

    As I was away in Oregon for a week visiting family and was busy enough that I was either hanging out or crashing each night, reading took a bit of a back seat and I was finishing up the book on the plan ride home. That made the desire to cook something book-inspired when I got home very low. Had I been less travel weary I would have stopped at P.F. Chang's and grabbed one of the dishes mentioned in the book, but instead I found myself thinking about sushi--California rolls in particular, and a conversation with my nephew who is living in L.A. at the moment about his new favorite poke bowl place. If you don't know poke it is a salad/appetizer made up of cubes of raw fish--often ahi and a poke bowl is a rice bowl with poke and often veggies or other toppings. (Here are some examples of more recently made and posted poke: Hawaiian Ahi Poke with Black Sesame Seeds and poke bowls: California Roll Poke Bowl and Morimoto's Hawaiian Poke-Style Rice Bowl.)
    Poke bowls are quite trendy outside of Hawaii now-especially in larger cities and areas like Los Angeles and New York, so while not entirely inspired by the book, it seemed a good fit.   

    It also gave me the ability to assemble my book-inspired dish rather than cook it and grab some store-bought poke and something green and use some frozen microwave brown rice I had at home. I knew I wanted California Roll Sushi--nice and spicy, and the salmon poke--creamy and mild looked good as did the tsukemono (pickled) cucumbers and an avocado. With the creamy salmon poke and avocado, I wanted another pickled item and knew I had a pack of Farmhouse Culture Garlic Dill Kraut I had picked up to try sitting in my fridge at home and with some toasted sesame seeds and nori strips at home, it made for a light dinner assembled and enjoyed in a matter of minutes. Although not mentioned it the book, I think it definitely fits that trendy, L.A. vibe and is the perfect dish for a warm day or evening. 

    If you want to make your own California Roll Poke and assemble a poke bowl, this is the recipe I use when I don't pick it up from the seafood department at my local grocery store. 

    California Roll Poke Bowl
    By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen--Inspired By/Adapted from Foodland Hawaii
    (Serves 2 to 3)

    Make rice and sriracha mayo ahead before forming bowls. I prefer my rice just slightly warm with the cold poke on top, but you can chill rice if you prefer or aren't immediately eating your bowls. 
    Sriracha Mayo:
    1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used vegan Just Mayo--garlic flavor)
    2 Tbsp Sriracha 
    1 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
    1/2 tsp honey or maple syrup
    1 Tbsp rice vinegar 

    Combine all ingredients. Taste and check for seasoning. Add a touch of salt or soy sauce if desired. Chill for an hour or so before using.


    California Roll Poke:
    4 oz fresh sushi-grade ahi, cubed
    4 oz imitation krab, sliced or shredded thinly (or real crab!)
    1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into small cubes
    1 small Japanese cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
    2 Tbsp green onions (green and white part) sliced finely
    1 1/2 Tbsp furikake rice seasoning or finely chopped nori
    2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
    2 tsp sesame oil
    1/2 cup Sriracha Mayo 

    Combine ahi, krab, avocado, cucumber, green onions, furikake seasoning, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a mixing bowl. Add Sriracha mayo and gently mix until blended. 

    Poke Bowl:
    1-cup cooked rice of choice (I used sushi rice)
    1 cup of California Roll Poke and/or other poke combined
    1 cup of green things ;-) (I used avocado, pickled cucumber and garlic dill sauerkraut)

    Divide rice into serving bowls. Top with California Roll Poke and whatever greens and toppings you are using. Serve.

    Notes/Results: This totally hit the spot--perfectly satisfying and a good combination of spicy, creamy, pickly, and umami goodness in a bowl--especially for being on the table in a matter of minutes. I doctored up my brown rice by mixing in the toasted sesame seeds and broken up strips of nori seaweed and because the California Roll poke is quite saucy and there are the pickled kraut and cucumbers to mix together as you eat the bowl, I didn't feel it needed any sauce, although you certainly could add some. Bonus, there will be enough left over for another bowl today. I will happily make it again.

    I'm linking this post up to 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 "Woman No.17" was provided to me by the publisher, and 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.

    ***Book Giveaway***
    The publisher is generously providing a copy of Woman No.17 to give away (U.S. addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

    To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me your favorite food or the dish you want to eat when you come home from a trip. 

    There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Author Edan Lepucki (@EdanL), and/or Publisher Hogarth (@HogarthBooks)
    on Twitter. (Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me, the author or publisher on Twitter.)

    Deadline for entry is Tuesday, May 30th. 

    a Rafflecopter giveaway
    Good Luck!