Showing posts with label sauces/dressings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sauces/dressings. 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.


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.


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.


Friday, April 12, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Library of Lost and Found" by Phaedra Patrick, Served with Recipes for Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas & Dill Mayo

Happy Friday! I love books and I especially love books about books, so i am very excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick. Accompanying my review is a very Friday appropriate (and classic British-leaning) dish of Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas and Dill Mayo.

Publisher's Blurb:

A librarian’s discovery of a mysterious book sparks the journey of a lifetime in the delightful new novel from the international bestselling author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

Librarian Martha Storm has always found it easier to connect with books than people—though not for lack of trying. She keeps careful lists of how to help others in her superhero-themed notebook. And yet, sometimes it feels like she’s invisible.

All of that changes when a book of fairy tales arrives on her doorstep. Inside, Martha finds a dedication written to her by her best friend—her grandmother Zelda—who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier. When Martha discovers a clue within the book that her grandmother may still be alive, she becomes determined to discover the truth. As she delves deeper into Zelda’s past, she unwittingly reveals a family secret that will change her life forever.

Filled with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and vivid characters, The Library of Lost and Found is a heartwarming and poignant tale of how one woman must take control of her destiny to write her own happy ending.

Hardcover: 352 Pages

Publisher: Park Row; Original edition (March 26, 2019)

My Review: 

I have had the author's first book, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, on my TBR list for age,s so it was more the premise of this story about a mysterious little book of fairy tales coming into an isolated librarian's life that caused me to jump on this tour.

Martha Storm hasn't had an easy life and now in her forties, rightly feels like much of it has passed her by, caring for her aging parents until their passings and being quite a doormat, almost compulsively helping her neighbors, townspeople and library patrons with their tasks and lives. but not getting anything other than more requests in return. Martha was an outsider in her family from a young age, with a controlling father who markedly preferred her younger sister, and a mother who acquiesced to her father's rules and demands. Her eccentric and vibrant 'nana' and the sharing of books and writing stories are the bright spots in Martha's life until she disappears and her parents tell her Zelda has passed away. It's a tiny battered book of the fairy tales she and Zelda told each other and it was published after Zelda's death. The book sets Martha on a journey to learn Zelda's secrets and discover what happened all the those years ago and it's a journey that teaches her about herself. 

Watching Martha change and grow and begin to find her spark and stop living for others was my favorite part of the book. The fairy tales mixed into the story are wonderful too, although bordering on the melancholy at times, they illustrate what Martha, her mother, and her nana were going through. The Library of Lost and Found is an endearing novel with engaging characters that has its harder, sadder moments, but doesn't dwell long in them. It is a an easy, pleasing read and a feel-good story about books and writing, family and secrets, and ultimately the power of finding yourself and your passions. 


Author Notes: Phaedra Patrick studied art and marketing and has worked as a stained glass artist, film festival organizer and communications manager. She is a prize winning short story writer and now writes full time.

She lives in the UK with her husband and son. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is her debut novel.

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


Food Inspiration:

There was food and drink to be found The Library of Lost and Found, and plenty of traditional British food. Mentions included heart-shaped cookies, rosé wine, bacon,Cheese and onion pie, tea and biscuits, chocolate fudge cake, ice cream sundaes, cordial, ham sandwiches, beef and potatoes, steak and kidney pie, coffee and cake, beans on toast, hot dogs, candy floss, ice cream with chocolate flakes and multicolored sugar sprinkles, a toffee apple, muesli, milkshakes, Americanos, macchiatos, date and walnut cake, sticky toffee pudding, carrot cake, chips and cheese, pickled onions, pie and peas and pickled red cabbage, a dinner party that included blush prosecco, baby new potatoes in minted butter, steamy carrots and green beans, a juicy nut roast, and slices of beef, bread with salt and peppercorn butter, coleslaw, Chardonnay, fruit loaf with juicy cherries and sultanas, tiramisu and merlot, cheese sandwich and a cup of tea, cottage pie, salmon carrot sticks and hummus, sausage rolls and crisp, anniversary cake, a salad of lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber in a bowl with cress sprinkled on top, sausages and pineapple on sticks, apple pie, rhubarb crumble, chocolates, tomato soup with bred and butter and golden tea, milk and hot buttered toast, mince pies, and turkey with vegetables and gravy. 

For my book-inspired dish, I went with a British classic--fish and chips with mushy peas enjoyed on a cold day along the seaside. Martha's enjoyment of this meal with her family was palpable--trying to keep themselves and their takeout food warm and the mention of the pools of brown vinegar she loved. I love fish and chips although I am more a tarter sauce fan than vinegar. I found a Nigella Lawson recipe for mushy peas (Called Pea Puree on Food Network) and her recipe for Dill Mayonnaise and I used Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Perfect Fish and Chips from I will confess that my French Fries were grabbed through a drive-thru on my way home and crisped up in my toaster oven.

Nigella's Posh Mushy Peas aka Pea Puree
Slightly Adapted from Nigella Lawson via Food
(Yield 1 Serving)

1 clove garlic
5 oz frozen pies
1 to 2 Tbsp crème fraîche (I used sour cream)
1 to 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan or Pecorino
1/2 tsp dried mint
(I added about 1 Tbsp lemon juice)

Fill a pan with cold water and throw in the clove of garlic. Bring to the boil and then add salt and the peas. Cook until tender, drain, and put into a food processor, or blender, and add the crème fraîche, cheese, and dried mint. Puree the peas until knobbly and check the seasoning, adding salt if you need to. Tip the pureed peas into a bowl (or back in the pan is probably a better idea) and cover to keep them warm. 


Dill Mayonnaise
Slightly Adapted from Nigella Lawson via Food 
(Makes 1 Cup)

1 cup good mayonnaise 
small bunch dill (about 1/3 cup
lemon or lime juice to taste
(I added 1 Tbsp capers, drained)

Put the mayonnaise into a bowl, and finely chop the dill, adding it to the mayonnaise. Stir in capers and some lime juice and taste for seasoning. Serve with the prepared fish.


Perfect Fish and Chips
Slightly Adapted from
(Serves 3)

300ml (about 10 oz) beer
200g (about 1 cup) flour

salt (I added black pepper)
2 fresh fillets of pollock (I used cod)
500ml (about 2 cups) sunflower oil

Salt the fish fillets. Add 200g of plain flour with seasoning of salt to a large bowl. Add beer slowly and whisk flour with enough beer to turn into double cream consistency with no lumps.

Dip fish in and then into the oil at 160°C (320 F.) for 2-3 minutes until crispy and golden, drain and put on kitchen towel briefly before serving.

Notes/Results: Although I like peas, I wasn't sure I got the whole mushy peas appeal with fish and chips, but these peas are tasty and especially if you use vinegar with your fish and chips, the slight sweetness of the peas is a nice contrast. I liked the prominent dill flavor in the mayo sauce, but I of course needed to add my beloved capers too. The fish (I used frozen cod) was perfectly cooked--moist and tender and the beer batter appropriately crisp. Had i had more time to get dinner made, homemade fries would have been the best, but these take-outdid fine in a pinch. Although not a very healthy meal, it was well worth the indulgence and I would happily make it all again.

Linking up with I Heart Cooking Clubs where it this week we have a Cuisine Spotlight on Classic British Food.

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 Library of Lost and Found" 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 27, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Within These Lines" by Stephanie Morrill, Served with a Recipe for Grilled Eggplant with Orange-Miso Sauce

I am very excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill, a touching and absorbing young adult World War II novel. Accompanying my review is a recipe inspired by my reading, Grilled Eggplant with Orange-Miso Sauce

Publisher's Blurb:

From Stephanie Morrill, author of The Lost Girl of Astor Street, comes Within These Lines, the love story of a girl and boy torn apart by racism during World War II.
Evalina Cassano’s life in an Italian-American family living in San Francisco in 1941 is quiet and ordinary until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. Despite the scandal it would cause and that inter-racial marriage is illegal in California, Evalina and Taichi vow they will find a way to be together. But anti-Japanese feelings erupt across the country after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Taichi and his family are forced to give up their farm and move to an internment camp.
Degrading treatment makes life at Manzanar Relocation Center difficult. Taichi’s only connection to the outside world is treasured letters from Evalina. Feeling that the only action she can take to help Taichi is to speak out against injustice, Evalina becomes increasingly vocal at school and at home. 

Meanwhile, inside Manzanar, fighting between different Japanese-American factions arises. Taichi begins to doubt he will ever leave the camp alive.
With tensions running high and their freedom on the line, Evalina and Taichi must hold true to their ideals and believe in their love to make a way back to each other against unbelievable odds.

Hardcover: 352 Pages
Publisher: Blink (March 5, 2019)

My Review: 

I think it took me all of 30 seconds to sign up for this tour when I saw the email about it. If you ever read my reviews, you know that World War II historical fiction is a passion of mine and the mention of the Manzanar Relocation Center made me think of Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston, one of my favorite young adult memoirs. Starting in junior high, I checked that book out regularly for years until I bought my own copy. Several years ago I was thinking of it again and bought myself another copy (mine long since gone) at the library bookstore. The sheer horror of the U.S. government interning Japanese Americans in internment camp with Executive Order 9066 is something that pains me and our recent political climate makes the mistakes from the past chillingly relevant today. Although Within These Lines is a novel, it is based on fact, and Taichi and the Hamasaki’s experiences in the internment camps are gripping and moving.

The heart of the story is the relationship between Evalina and Taichi, in a hidden relationship already when the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor on December 7. 1941. The book starts three months after the attack, when anger at the Japanese is erupting and the government begins the process of moving families of Japanese descent to the camps. Evalina, an Italian-American and Taichi, a Japanese-American would have faced challenges even before the war, with most states having miscegenation laws prohibiting marriage between different races, but after the attack the odds seem insurmountable. Although a romance, the book is really about the characters and their personal growth—particularly Evalina, as she begins to find her voice. It is poignant and had me tearing up a few times, but there is hope in the pages too.

Within These Lines is well researched and well written, with the mostly fictional characters seamlessly blending with actual people interned at Manzanar. Stephanie Morrill wrote so vividly that I felt like I could see Manzanar and feel the intense winds and grit of the constantly blowing sand. Northern California during the WWII era comes alive too, and I could feel the desperation of the characters and the anger and bigotry against them by so many, as well as the hearts of those who tried to help them. Although written primarily for young adults, it’s a novel equally appropriate for adults. My only complaint is that the ending felt a bit rushed and I wanted to know more about the characters—main and supporting and learn more details about their lives after the war. Morrill writes in the afterword about her research and her inspiration for the book and that gave me more books to explore on this important part of our history that should be remembered and never repeated.

Author Notes: Stephanie Morrill is the creator of and the author of several young adult novels, including the historical mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street. Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. 

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


Food Inspiration: 

The food in Within These Lines reflects the times, both in the San Francisco setting where Evalina’s Italian family owns a restaurant and the Hamasaki family grew produce, and in the Manzanar Relocation Center where the Hamasaki family is relocated to, and where Taichi works in the kitchen in his housing block. Mentions included jars of olives, strawberries, lettuce, asparagus, eggplant and blackberries, marinara sauce with veal and beef meatballs, onions and tomatoes, eggplant parmesan, tangerines, lemon bars and tea, mochi, chicken salad and egg salad sandwiches, gnocchi, linguine with clam sauce, Vienna sausages and bologna sandwiches with a side of rice and canned peaches, chicken with brown sauce , stew, deep-fried rice balls rolled in sugar, lemonade, lasagna, meat ball sandwiches, fresh mozzarella, carrot sticks, spinach, blueberries and strawberries, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, fennel, tomatoes and lemons, fish, cranberries, and rice pudding.

I thought about making mochi as the Hamasaki family eats it for breakfast on the day they are relocated to the camp. I also considered something with blackberries—Evalina’s favorites, or rice since it is a part of both Italian and Japanese cuisines or some type of Italian-Japanese fusion dish. Ultimately I decided that I needed to include the oranges that are mentioned several times in the book. Mrs. Ling, a vendor of Chinese descent who sells produce in the farmers market along side the Hamasakis, gives one to Evalina and tells her it is for luck. She says that oranges are the perfect fruit as they are the easiest to share, and Evalina and Taichi share them a few times throughout the book. When I was Googling orange recipes I found one for a Orange-Miso Sauce from Eating Well magazine. I liked the Japanese-leaning ingredients and that it was served over eggplant—used frequently in both Japanese and Italian recipes.

When I was at the grocery store, I saw some locally-grown eggplant, not as long as a Japanese eggplant and not as round as an Italian eggplant, and labeled “hapa” –which is literally translated in Hawaiian to “part” or “mix” and refers to a person of mixed ethnic heritage. That seemed like a perfect fit for a dish for Taichi and Evalina. 

Eating Well says, “Mild, nutty flaxseed oil, the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, provides the perfect base for salty miso and sweet orange juice. This sauce is delightful over grilled eggplant, fish and chicken or used as a salad dressing.

Orange-Miso Sauce
Recipe by Jim Romanoff via
(Makes about 3/4 Cup)

1/2 cup sweet white miso
1 Tbsp orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup flaxseed oil or canola oil
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp mirin, (optional)

Combine miso, orange zest and juice, oil, ginger, rice vinegar and mirin (if using) in a small bowl and whisk until thoroughly blended.

Notes/Results: The sauce's orange & miso pairing is really good, especially with the addition of the rice wine and mirin and I liked the pairing with the eggplant. I am taking the leftover eggplant with some cooked shrimp to work for lunch as I think the sauce will pair well with seafood too. Rather than whisk my sauce, I did it the cheater's way and pulsed it in my blender. You must like orange and miso for this one, as the flavors come through predominately, but it worked for me and is an easy, almost pantry sauce as I usually have everything, including an orange or two, available. I will 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.

Note: A review copy of "Within These Lines" 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 20, 2019

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Where the Forest Meets the Stars" by Glendy Vanderah, Served with a Recipe for Cheesy Cauliflower

I am very excited to be today's stop on the TLC Book Tour for Where the Forest Meets the Stars, the debut novel by Glendy Vanderah. Accompanying my review is a bowl of very Cheesy Cauliflower, inspired by the book and the mysterious child, Ursa. 

Publisher's Blurb:

In this gorgeously stunning debut, a mysterious child teaches two strangers how to love and trust again.

After the loss of her mother and her own battle with breast cancer, Joanna Teale returns to her graduate research on nesting birds in rural Illinois, determined to prove that her recent hardships have not broken her. She throws herself into her work from dusk to dawn, until her solitary routine is disrupted by the appearance of a mysterious child who shows up at her cabin barefoot and covered in bruises.

The girl calls herself Ursa, and she claims to have been sent from the stars to witness five miracles. With concerns about the child’s home situation, Jo reluctantly agrees to let her stay—just until she learns more about Ursa’s past.

Jo enlists the help of her reclusive neighbor, Gabriel Nash, to solve the mystery of the charming child. But the more time they spend together, the more questions they have. How does a young girl not only read but understand Shakespeare? Why do good things keep happening in her presence? And why aren’t Jo and Gabe checking the missing children’s website anymore?

Though the three have formed an incredible bond, they know difficult choices must be made. As the summer nears an end and Ursa gets closer to her fifth miracle, her dangerous past closes in. When it finally catches up to them, all of their painful secrets will be forced into the open, and their fates will be left to the stars.

Hardcover: 332 Pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (March 1, 2019)

My Review:

I signed up for this book based on the description and somewhat on the comparison to The Snow Child, a book that I want to read, but I confess, still sits on my Kindle--unread after several years. Although I can't speak to the comparison being accurate, I can tell you that I very much enjoyed Where the Forest Meets the Stars and that it is a beautifully written book that had me fully caught up in the story and characters and kept me turning the pages. 

Magical realism can be tough to write without it traveling over to the unbelievable, too much woo-woo side, and for me, Glendy Vanderah had a deft touch that had me truly wanting to believe that Ursa really comes from the stars, or at least has something magical about her. She is a special character, wise beyond her years, funny and engaging, and that makes it easy to imagine why a practical scientist would keep her hidden and why a hurting, reclusive neighbor would help her. I also liked Jo and Gabe and how they come together with Ursa, the trio forming bonds as each works through the hurts and damages that life has given them. The story had me smiling and tearing up in almost equal parts as Ursa looks for her five miracles--things that other people might overlook in the search for something bigger, but that a child (whether human or from another world), would see the beauty and magic in. Although I have not spent time in the rural areas of Southern Illinois, the author brings the settings with the rustic rented cottage, the forest and landscape surrounding it, and Jo's bird study sites to life beautifully. Where the Forest Meets the Stars is a special book, one that I found easy to curl up and get lost in, and one that I wanted to go back to after I finished, to spend more time with the characters. I can't wait to see what Glendy Vanerah writes next. 

If you would like to win a copy of Where the Forest Meets the Stars and you have a U.S. or Canada mailing address, head over to my Instagram account @DebinHawaii for a chance to win. 


Author Notes: Glendy Vanderah worked as an endangered bird specialist in Illinois before she became a writer. Originally from Chicago, she now lives in rural Florida with as many birds, butterflies, and wildflowers as she can lure to her land. Where the Forest Meets the Stars is her debut novel.

Connect with Glendy on her website or Instagram.


Food Inspiration:

There was a lot of food in Where the Forest Meets the Stars, much of it cooked over the fire pit at the cabin, including marinated chicken breasts and vegetable skewers, turkey burgers, toasted marshmallows, grilled mahi basted with butter and vegetable skewers. There was also apple cider, oatmeal, tuna sandwiches, trail mix, fruit, blueberry muffins, scrambled eggs with "green stuff" (aka spinach and/or broccoli), apple pie, leftover beans, rice, and chicken, coffee, cereal, pancakes with syrup, orange juice, peach and strawberry-rhubarb pie made with farm stand fruit, potato salad from Jo's mother's recipe, burgers, pork chops, applesauce, and green beans, Raisin Bran cereal, wine, iced tea, milk and cookies, pizza, Necco rolls, turkey burgers with sweet potato fries, turkey and cheddar sandwiches, omelets with Gabe's eggs, roast chicken and packaged bread stuffing, leftover green beans and corn, beer, cheese and crackers, fried eggs, English muffins and orange slices, tomato soup, a chef's salad, dutch apple pie and vanilla ice cream, a spaghetti dinner, chili and cornbread, egg sandwiches, roast beef, and sandwiches and lemonade.

I thought about the toasted marshmallows that Ursa loved or a potato salad like Jo's mom's recipe, but decided instead on Cauliflower in Cheese Sauce because Gabe brings it over for a dinner with Ursa and Joe and I liked their exchange...

"Gabe brought leftover cauliflower in cheese sauce for dinner. 
'Not yuckyflower!' Ursa said. 'Jo made me eat it last night!' 
'This has gooey cheese on it,' he said, and gooey cheese makes anything, even dirt, taste delicious.'
'Can I eat dirt instead?'"

and later...

"'Wow, a clean plate,' Jo said to her. 'Even the cauliflower is gone.'
'The cheese made it okay.' she said. 'You should do that when you make yuckyflower.'
'Thanks,' Jo told Gabe. 'You've set the bar way too high for my simplistic cooking skills.'"

Between Ursa's yuckyflower comments and the fact that my friend was talking about a keto-friendy cheese sauce she made that was giving me serious cheese sauce cravings, I picked it as my book-inspired dish. I like cauliflower already, but enough gooey cheese sauce (and I put plenty of the sauce recipe below on my steamed cauliflower) would make it palatable for a child or anyone who found it "yucky." 

Easy (Keto-Friendly) Cheese Sauce
by my friend Barb
(Makes About 2 1/2 Cups)

2 Tbsp salted butter
4 oz cream cheese, cut into chunks
milk, up to 1 cup
shredded cheddar cheese, up to two cups
(I added 1 tsp ground yellow mustard)
a few dashes of Tabasco, to taste, optional 
salt and black pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium sauce pan. Add the cream cheese and stir until it has melted into the butter. 

Whisk in about 1/2 cup of the milk, turn heat to medium low and add about 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese, stirring until melted and smooth. At this point, you can play with the consistency of your sauce, adding more milk and/or cheese as needed, until you get a smooth, creamy, pour-able sauce. Turn the heat to low whisk in the yellow mustard and Tabasco, if using, and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as desired.

Serve warm, with vegetables, eggs, or whatever you like. (I confess, I steamed a head of cauliflower cut into florets and just stirred it into my cheese sauce, but you can be more judicious and just drizzle or pour it over over.)
Notes/Results: OK, this cheese sauce, especially when you are lazy and use it all on a small head of cauliflower, isn't going to win low calorie or low fat health awards, but it is delicious. I'm not doing a keto or low-carb diet, but I appreciate a cheese sauce that is thick and creamy without having to use flour or cornstarch and bother with making a roux. I gobbled up a bowl for dinner the first night I made it and I have been enjoying the remainder-reheated with eggs on top and as a side dish for fish. I will happily make it again.

I'm linking up this review and recipe to Novel Food #35, hosted by my friend Simona of briciole, an event celebrating food inspired by the written word. The deadline for this round is Tuesday, March 26

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.

Note: A review copy of "Where the Forest Meets the Stars" 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.