Category Archives: Goodreads
In the fall of 1944, a massive American bomber carrying eleven men vanished over the Pacific islands of Palau, leaving a trail of mysteries. According to mission reports from the Army Air Forces, the plane crashed in shallow water—but when investigators went to find it, the wreckage wasn’t there. Witnesses saw the crew parachute to safety, yet the airmen were never seen again. Some of their relatives whispered that they had returned to the United States in secret and lived in hiding. But they never explained why. (From Amazon and book jacket)
I enjoyed reading the back stories of the 11 men from missing B-24 crew lost over the Islands of Palau in World War II. The story kept me captivated, wondering throughout the book if they would find the remains or clues about the Big Stoop Crew.
Prominently highlighted were the stories of Jimmie Doyle and Johnny Moore (two of the airmen) and you had a feeling of knowing them, feeling compassion for the families they reluctantly left behind. Jimmie Doyle’s son Tommy went through life second guessing whether his father had survived and lived in California with a new family (a cruel rumor that haunted him) or if his father perished in the sea.
Tommy Doyle’s wife was relentless in her quest to find information about her husband’s father, knowing what anguish he quietly suffered for years and years about his father’s disappearance. It was through some of her research and phone calls, one in particular to Pat Scanlon, which enabled that family to be so involved (with information updates) in the hunt for the missing plane.
“Something inside him was changed, but he couldn’t place what. He had come to the islands to escape the pressures of daily life, yet he found himself overcome by purpose. Somewhere nearby, young men died. They had come spirally down in a plane with one wing and probably either died on impact or drowned in the sea.
Were the remains still resting in the carcass of the plane? And where was the plane? Did the families know?”
This consumed the next twenty years of his life. “I just came around that bend in the coral,” he would say, “and I was a different person.”
Also of interest to me was learning of the American military’s Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and their never ending research to recover the remains of U.S. servicemen and women missing in action. There are some very moving stories in this book.
There wasn’t any food in the book and this was clearly not a foodie memoir. Reading about the men and the simple lives they lived before being called to war and thinking about the time period they lived in, I chose a simple casserole. Chicken Divan is a type of Sunday supper or toss together meal made from chicken leftovers. It’s homey, it’s a meal of a bygone era. It would have been something the Doyle family sat down to share and talk about their day.
*Chicken Divan Casserole*
Serves 4 to 6, depending on appetites
A delicious casserole that is not only simple to make but inexpensive as well. Also a great way to get your broccoli intake (I say this in case you are among the many who do not like broccoli)! You can use low fat ingredients you can also keep it healthy.
1 medium head of fresh broccoli
About a pound and a half of chicken tenders, rotisserie or whatever chicken meat you like
salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
2 cups cooked or steamed basamati rice
For the sauce:
2 TBS butter
2 TBS plain flour
2 cups of milk (use skim to keep it lower calorie. I use 1% milk)
1 chicken boullion cube
4 ounces grated strong cheddar cheese
2 TBS finely grated Parmesan cheese
salt and white pepper to taste
a handful of crushed crackers (about 1 cup)
2 ounces grated strong cheddar cheese (1/2 cup)
2 TBS finely grated Parmesan cheese
Place the chicken into a saucepan along with cold water to cover. Add some salt and black pepper, the bay leaf and a splash of hot pepper sauce. Bring to the boil. Take off the heat, cover and set aside to cool.
Wash and trim the broccoli. Break up into bite sized florets. Peel the stems and cut into chunks. Steam until crispy tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Melt the butter for the sauce in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Cook, stirring for one minute. Whisk in the warm milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until the mixture bubbles and thickens. Crumble in the boullion cube and whisk in along with the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Taste and add salt and white pepper to taste. Keep warm.
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Spray a shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Open the rice and sprinkle it over the bottom of the dish. Drain the chicken and break into pieces, sprinkle this over the rice. Top with the broccoli florets and stems. Nap the top with the warm cheese sauce, covering everything completely and allowing it to sink down into the casserole dish. Mix together the topping ingredients. Sprinkle them evenly over top of the casserole. If desired, spritz lightly with cooking spray.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until heated through, bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving. Delicious!
More on the author:
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This is my third book in Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks series. The locale is once again in Eastvale, North Yorkshire. This one focuses on the murder of a fellow constable during a demonstration which turned violent. The material was a bit dated but then this was written over 15 years ago. Still, it had me engrossed and I read it in record time. It starts with an anti-nuclear demonstration on the town square and gets out of hand as the police attack the demonstrators. One of the constables, PC Gill, is killed with a knife during the fracas and subsequent arrests of the demonstrators.
For political reasons, a special investigator is sent up from London, Dick Burgess also known as Dirty Dick. He is a reprehensible character and the sort of cop that gives so many a bad name. He uses illegal methods, has the morals of an alley cat and honestly doesn’t care if they have arrested the right man in connection with the killing – as long as they have an arrest to appease the public. I disliked his persona immensely as did the main characters in the book.
Most of the suspicion centers on a communal farm named Maggie’s Farm, housing artists and political activists who have no love of the police. There are several characters you feel empathetic towards and in Robinson’s usual style, you don’t know who the culprit is until the end. Lots of character development and there was a bit of food mentioned in this one too.
Trying to remember back to our trip to England in 1999 where we were schooled on the proper way to layer the strawberries and cream…I failed. It was still good, mind you, but yes……the cream is spread on the scone first, followed by the strawberry jam on top. I ate two, just to be sure it was properly prepared. We had good Yorkshire tea too.
Next up will be reviews on book three of the Inspector Banks series, a Cuban Cookbook review and a Nora Ephron book.
Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis was a bargain for me – only $7 at my local used book store (My Favorite Books)
This is a great collection of pasta recipes and also includes salad, appetizer and dessert recipes. We don’t have television feed but I have read that many of these recipes are featured on the Food Network channel. This book highlights many beautiful photos and just about all recipes are easy to prepare. Anything that helps me get dinner on the table in under a half hour is a winner for me! Some of the baked pasta dishes will take more planning, time-wise, but I sure look forward to trying them.
Here is the recipe from the book as linked up with Food Network:
1 (10-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped (oil reserved)
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2/3 cup dry white wine
8 ounces angel hair pasta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine and sun-dried tomatoes and simmer until the liquid reduces by half, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the tomato mixture and toss to coat, adding some reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the goat cheese and parsley and stir. Mound the pasta into bowls and serve.
The following is from the jacket inside the novel The Valley of Shadows. After reading that, how could I not want to plunge into this novel?!
“A raid on a Pakistan Al-Qaeda cell recovers two laptops. When the computers’ booby-traps are defused and the computers decrypted and translated, they indicate that Al-Qaeda has planned a series of simultaneous attacks in five U.S. cities involving potential dirty bombs, biological weapons and maybe even a nuclear weapon-on Election Day. Derek Stillwater, troubleshooter for the Department of Homeland Security, is assigned to a multi-jurisdictional Special Terrorism Activity Response Team (START) to locate the weapon and terrorists in Los Angeles and prevent the attack. They have two days. But as they close in on their targets, Derek begins to think that the intelligence they gathered is a sideshow to distract them from the real target-one of the two candidates for President of the United States.”
The only thing I am sorry about is this book is the fourth in the Derek Stillwater books, but that won’t keep me from reading the others to be sure. I will be purchasing more of Mark Terry’s books, hopefully in Kindle edition.
As a side note, you can snap a book closed after reading but there is no dramatic effect when you simply turn your Kindle off. There isn’t a rousing statement in clicking the off button Still….. lovin’ my Kindle.
There weren’t many mentions of food in the book. After a dramatic escape from a fire (where Derek was tied to a chair – lots of action!) he hooked up with his former partners and wolfed down a breakfast burrito. Not exciting fare but hey, it was a moment of simplicity as he ate a common ordinary breakfast within hours of having a life threatnening experience, escaping being burned alive.
As if you need a recipe….but if you want to visit me at Squirrel Head Manor c’mon over!
More Information: Mark Terry
I am loving this Inspector Banks series by Peter Robinson. My friends Jo Langthorne and Fi Finch turned me on to these gems and I have my list ready to read all the mysteries starring Yorkshire Chief inspector Alan Banks.
A Dedicated Man is the second of the Inspector Banks series. Harry Steadman was a former university professor who came into some money. He abandoned his teaching stint to pursue his love of industrial archeology (this is explained – somewhat – in the book) and is found bludgeoned to death, stuffed up on a farmer’s field. He was well liked and no one can think of an enemy he may have had – but clearly someone wanted him dead.
Inspector Banks goes through the village, questioning all the locals and uncovering possible motives. One of the things I like about these books is the fact that you’ll have an idea who you think the murderer may be – but you aren’t sure until near the end. Nice suspense.
British fare for a British detective series is in order, don’t you think? I am calling on Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Minute Steak and Mashed White Beans as she stated “When I was a child, steak houses always had something called minute steak, as in minnit, on the menu” and I was imagining her to be eating at some upscale pub or dining establishment (in England of course).
Recipe and more photos may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.
I am placing this review on Goodreads
Sink your teeth in this one!
When I saw the movie poster I thought, bet this will be funny (in a strange way) but I will wait until it comes on Netflicks. Then my son alerted me to the book, loaned me his copy and I finally started reading it. I wasn’t holding out great hope that this would be a page turner for me. I was wrong. I have very much enjoyed this book.
I liked the entries into Abe’s journals and the transition from his personal thoughts to his interactions and conversations with living people and vampires. The unlikelihood of Abraham’s alliance with Henry Sturges (Vampire friend and co-conspirator) kept my interest. They had a similar goals but very different perspectives.
The vampires aren’t depicted as sparkly Twilight Saga types, nor are they written in the same vein (no pun intended) as Anne Rice penned. They aren’t sexy vampires as you see/read in Sookie Stackhouse either.
I would recommend this revisionist biography of Lincoln for anyone who can suspend disbelief and consider alternative reasons history played out as it did, especially as it involved the Civil War. And of course, you have to be a fan of fantasy and/or vampire lit. My Dad would have hated this book.
Side note: Since I have lived in the south the latter part of my life I have heard the Civil War called The War of Northern Aggression.
As it is with any book your significant other intends to read, you can’t (shouldn’t) give anything away. He noticed I frowned a bit as I finished the book.
Frankly, I don’t know if I could suggest an alternate ending but I was left wishing for a different closer. Couldn’t give a better suggestion and the closing paragraphs worked. Overall, I enjoyed the book and I am looking forward to the movie now. Can’t wait to see Henry and his interactions with Abe.
Some quotes from the book:
“How could I worship a God who would permit [vampires] to exist? A God that had allowed my mother to fall prey to their evil? Either he was powerless to stop it, or he was complicit in it. In either case, he was undeserving of my praise. In either case, he was my enemy.”
“There are but two types of men who desire war: those who haven’t the slightest intention of fighting it themselves, and those who haven’t the slightest idea what it is.”
There weren’t many passages with food in this book but I was inspired to prepare Anti-Vampire Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic. Recipe and more on that at Squirrel Head Manor.
This historical- part fictionalized novel about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife Hadley Richardson had been on my to-read list for some time. Overall, I enjoyed it. There was a point where I almost bailed on the book but I am glad I didn’t. Knowing that Hadley was not his only wife (he had four) there was, of course, the expectation of reading about their marriage dissolving. That was where I started to lose a bit of interest. But……….I am getting ahead of myself.
It did not start out in Paris. The beginning of this book outlines Hadley’s early life and the tragedies of her illness, her father taking his life and her mother trying to control her. Meeting Hemingway during a visit to Chicago was clearly the beginnings of a new life for Hadley. He was interesting, energetic, creative and had a determination to be a force in the literary world which was a force of its own. As you read about the budding romance and his constant letters to Hadley, you could almost forget that this marriage was destined to fail.
Once they married and moved to Paris, things slowly, very slowly, started unraveling for them. I liked reading about the meetings with Gertrude Stein and Erza Pound. I loved some of the descriptors of the restaurants, the boozing, the flirting and music – all of the bohemian get-togethers and parties.
I thought Ernest was a bit of dick about Hadley’s pregnancy. Sometimes it seemed little Bumby was neglected, handed off to the nanny a bit much. Once Hadley’s good friend Pauline entered the picture you could see there was nothing she could have done to keep Hem. Pauline was beautiful, lithe and athletic (as described by Hemingway) and unlike Hadley in so many ways. What a double betrayal to Hadley, for her best friend to aggressively pursue her husband.
Funny how that works when you look back on your youth. You see how different things may have been. He was a passionate man, a creative soul and a “Sonofabitch” as Hadley called him. But she also called him an incomparable friend.
Poulet Roti au riz et aux figues in honor of Hadley Hemingway (the Paris Wife)….more info on this meal may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.
The story teller here is Sophie Applebaum. First chapter starts with 12 year old Sophie describing her experience going to a bat mitzvah for the “perfect” Rebecca who is a friend of the family. You learn Sophie has with two brothers, a father who is a judge by profession and a mother who worries about what other people think. You start to get the character development and personalities of the brothers and parents right away.
It’s not an extraordinary coming of age story but an honest depiction of this family unit and how they interact with one another for years. The book starts when Sophie is 12 and by the time it’s ended, I am guessing she is about 37+/- It’s not gooey chick-lit. It’s not a romance. Nor is it drama. Some of the scenes with her brothers are described in realistic detail. Their conversations are peppered with teasing, loyalty and concern which many siblings go through in their adult relationships with one another. Not riveting but believable…..and that’s what kept me reading this book. It was believable.
There are a few chapters in which you get a more intimate glimpse of what’s going on in her mother’s head. Things you don’t want to think about with your own mother. There is a close friendship which is left by the wayside, a casualty of adult jealousy regarding a man. Scenarios which are not dynamic but things that actually happen to some of us.
In my opinion it ends rather abruptly but I came away with the impression Sophie finally realized she doesn’t always need to be on the hunt for the perfect mate. Life is what it is. It’s rarely the exciting car-chase, romance of a century, families coming together in perfect harmony experiences. It just isn’t.
I enjoyed it and I would certainly read more by Melissa Bank.
Basic plain food came to mind when she described any meals she shared with her family and boyfriends. So…pork chops baked with caramelized onions and sage. I have made this before and I will direct you to my original post for the recipe at Squirrel Head Manor HERE
Shatner Rules by William Shatner
Shatner Rules is a book that had sooooo many laugh out loud moments. You can’t say that about too many books but this is certainly one of them. Interspersed in each chapter are Shatner Rules and Fun Factners.
While most people who love Bill Shatner remember him in his defining role as Captain James T Kirk from the original Star Trek series, Shatner has played many, many other roles and many of them on longer running series. Star Trek lasted 3 years.
Shatner has been busy all his life and his philosophy is, “Say Yes” and you will see it opens new windows of opportunity throughout your life.
So…why did I make black bean soup for this book? I ought to have made something with wild boar (yes, there is a chapter about a hunt for boar) but I can’t get game meats here. Black bean soup is something you’d serve a friend, someone you feel comfortable sitting down with and enjoying a home-style meal without regard to sophistication or impressing the guest. Bill Shatner came into our living room through television for many years and I feel like I know him. I’d be proud to share a bowl of soup with Bill.
Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.
William Shatner is the author of nine Star Trek ® novels, including the New York Times bestsellers The Ashes of Eden and The Return. He is also the author of several nonfiction books, including Get a Life! and I’m Working on That. In addition to his role as Captain James T. Kirk, he starred as Denny Crane in the television series , Boston Legal and the television show Shit My Dad Says.
“In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted.…And sometimes the meal is the only currency that is real.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
The Eat and Love part in the title had me very hopeful.
OMG did I ever hate this book. First off, I will state that I love the way Elizabeth Gilbert writes. She has a talent. This lady can string words and paragraphs together as an artist. But do I like the character Elizabeth ? No….not really.
This woman is whiny. It’s no wonder David puts her at arm’s length. Do you know any man who loves a clingy woman? Her ex-husband must have a good story too. While the author does not go into his side of things (and that is fair enough) some of the comments attributed to him are quite telling:
“You are a cheat and traitor,” he tells her as they try and discuss the impending divorce.
For me, her story about talking to god was neither attention grabbing nor dull. I couldn’t relate to it or understand her near hysterical bouts of crying and insecurity.
Liz Gilbert very much needed to be defined by something, to connect to something. If she had never seen the framed photo of David’s spiritual teacher, perhaps Liz may have stumbled upon something else to focus her life. It’s as if she grabbed at the first “deep” or “cool” path she encountered. Ok, here’s an example from part seven in the beginning:
“I walked into David’s apartment and saw this picture on his dresser of a radiantly beautiful Indian woman and I asked, “Who’s that?”
He said, “My spiritual teacher.”
My heart skipped a beat and then flat out tripped over itself and fell on its face. Then my heart stood up…took a deep breath and announced: “I want a spiritual teacher.”
I literally mean my heart itself, and my mind stepped out of my body for a moment, spun around to face my heart in astonishment and silently asked, “You DO?”
“Yes,” replied my heart. “Since WHEN?”
My god, I wanted a spiritual teacher. I immediately began constructing a fantasy of what it would be like to have one.”
End of Quote
Oh. My. Constructing a fantasy of what it would be like…. sounds like a childish dream of fantasizing what it would be like to date a movie star, or own a horse, or whatever you dream might be “cool” to have in your life. But a spiritual journey on a whim? I didn’t get that.
I’m imagining if David had a framed photo of orphans in South America whom he “adopted” through an infomercial, Liz may have flown to Columbia and built them a village and fixed their teeth.
She was fortunate though ( or lucky, or however you’d like to define her financial situation) as not every woman who isn’t satisfied with her life can pick up and travel to other countries to “find themselves”.
In the next section she had her palm read and followed the advice given. Hmmmmm….
By section 10 she has moved to Italy on the first leg of her journey. She’d quit her job and paid off legal bills, given up her apartment and started her year of travel. Know how she did that? I quote from section 10:
“And I can actually afford to do this because of a staggering personal miracle: in advance, my publisher has purchased the book I shall write about my travels.”
If someone would pay me a “staggering amount” to write about a trip and the foods and my thoughts – I too could afford to make my spiritual journey.
The section on Indonesia was never ending.
Again, I love the way this author can thread words into an intelligent and lovely story. But the whining. The self-absorbed soul searching and crying. It was a real turnoff for me. People seem to either love this book or hate it. What do I think? Guess.
I was inspired to make something Italian because I love Italian food. And it’s a comfort food for me. I deserved it.
Recipe may be found at my Squirrel Head Manor site.
I am placing this review on the Italy in Reading 2011 site. This completes my fourth book in the challange.