Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Title: Beautiful Bread: Create and Bake Artful Masterpieces for Any Occasion

Author: Theresa Culletto

Publisher: Rock Point

Pages: 176

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐


I’ve wanted to bake focaccia ever since I saw pictures of this beautiful bread on Pinterest several years ago.


The author has some good advice to offer: Draw pictures of the design beforehand to ensure ease of re-creation. Keep toppings to less than half of the weight of the dough.


She also offers tips on what to look out for when buying and storing fresh ingredients and the lowdown on essential equipment. The author also helps us with information on the vegetables to use to get specific design effects. These vegetables include onions, potatoes, leeks, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.


She walks us through techniques like lattice work, braiding and stencilling, which are a treat to watch. There is a detailed glossary of essential items, especially verbs I’d never heard of, such as degassing, dimpling and docking, in the context of baking.


There are recipes for various kinds of focaccia dough, including Basic White Focaccia, Basic Whole Wheat Focaccia, Dark Multigrain Focaccia and Sweet Focaccia.


A chapter on Flowers teaches us to craft designs of flowers on the focaccia. They include Sunflowers, Wrapped Bouquet, Spring Tulips, White Irises in a Vase, Dahlias, Cherry Blossoms and Bouquet of Calla Lilies.


Another chapter, Artist Inspired, shows us designs inspired by great painters. These include Vincent Van Gogh’s Irises, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Open Flower, Takashi Murakami’s Happy Flowers, Pablo Picasso’s Faces, Wassily Kandinsky’s Circles in Squares, Claude Monet’s Lily Pond and Alma Thomas’s Brushstrokes of Color.


Nature Inspired, another chapter, shows us designs inspired by Fall Leaves, Under the Sea, Tree of Life, Wood Grain Charcuterie Board, Sandcastle, Happy Trail Mix, Solar System and Pomegranate.


Focaccia for Holidays and Specia Occasions shows designs for Valentine’s Day Roses, St Patrick’s Day Lucky Clover, Easter Basket, Thanksgiving Cornucopia, Christmas Tree, Cinnamon Star, Game Day and Celebration Fireworks.


The chapter on Traditional Recipes shares recipes for Chocolate Hazelnut Filling, Cinnamon Filling, Sweet Lemon Cream, Evergreen Sauce, Basil Pesto, Sun-dried Tomato Pesto and Quick Pickled Vegetables.


The designs are so beautiful, they’re a work of art in themselves. It seems a shame to have to cut and eat them. Hopefully we’ll just get so good at baking these that we’ll be able to make many more and allow our own creativity to lead the way.


These are details and tips no YouTube videos would share with you. This is a book that serious and first-time bakers of focaccia will consider a treasure.  


(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 


Monday, November 27, 2023

Book Review: DON'T FORGET ME


Title: Don’t Forget Me

Author: Rea Frey

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Pages: 269

My GoodReads Rating: 


Ruby night, formerly Winslow, is grappling with the mysterious disappearance of her 17-year-old daughter, Lily, and the abandonment of her husband, Tom, when she comes across a partially decomposed body in the lake one morning. Everyone in the neighbourhood believes that it is Tom’s body that has been found, but Ruby doesn’t think so.

Detective Ellis suspects Ruby of the crime. As an abused wife, she had the motive to kill her husband.


Then Cassie, a neighbour, is found dead, and Ryan, another guy from the community, a day later, both killed the same way as Tom.


Ruby joins a group known as the Murderlings, that solve cold cases for fun. Now she turns to the group for an answer to who might be the real killer.


Meanwhile, Ruby’s own secrets are messing with her mental health. She’s losing chunks of time and repressing painful memories. Detective Ellis is convinced that the killings have some link to Ruby.


The book is written in the first person past tense PoV of Ruby in two timelines, Then and Now. The narrative is interspersed with messages from the neighbourhood forum, which give us an idea about the pulse of the community.


I guessed the identity of the killer around the 70 percent mark.


The police were rather inept. Aside from suspecting Ruby, there was no evidence of any method in the investigation. Despite suspecting Ruby of the murders, she is allowed to go home. Nor does anyone tell her not to leave town.


The forum provided comic relief and an unwelcome distraction that added nothing to the place or the plot.


The timeline was rather confusing. The Then timeline consisted of two different periods: Before Lily disappeared and Tom left, and Ruby’s own childhood. Particularly in the period before Lily disappeared, there were some comings and goings with reference to Lily and Tom that I found hard to keep straight.


Overall, the premise was good but the execution needed further polish. The pace was off and the writing loose.


(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 


Sunday, November 26, 2023

Book Review: BRONSWOOD


Title: Bronswood

Author: Marissa Vanskike

Publisher: Marissa Vanskike

Pages: 316

My GoodReads Rating: 



Heather Hartford is happily married to Nick, a handsome and wealthy man who cares deeply for her and her two children, Charlie and Theodora. Her ex-husband, Paul Lauer, an abusive and violent man, is seeking shared custody of the kids. Heather’s best friend, Zola, thinks Nick is too controlling but Heather dismisses her concerns. She knows what an abuser looks like.


Meanwhile, Heather is being welcomed by Liv Osborne, Harriet Porter and Shay Stafford, the high-profile PTA moms at the prestigious Bronswood elementary school where her son has been accepted.

Heather is nervous, wanting to be accepted by them, yet uneasy about the unsigned notes she has been receiving of late, notes that warn her that something foul is going on, notes that keep coming. She wants to believe that her life is perfect, but her sense of unease persists.


Then one day Charlie disappears from school. The camera footage shows that Heather picked him up, but she knows she hasn’t. With Nick and the school blaming her, Heather begins her own investigation into Charlie’s disappearance, only to find that he is not the first schoolboy to have disappeared from Bronswood.


Will Heather ever find her son back? Or will he be lost to her forever?


The story is written in the third person present tense PoV of Heather. The book raises the issues of abuse, physical and violent, in the domestic space.


The story should have started with something more immediate than a catchup session at a coffee shop between Heather and Zola. It was the most boring way of bringing us up to speed. It was only after Charlie’s disappearance that the story took off.


The chapters weren’t too long, but the action was well paced, and the characterization was good for the most part. Headmistress Rosler was a minor character I never want to meet.


Nick was rather creepy. He selected, on a daily basis, the clothing that Heather and the kids would wear. Heather was also forced to note down all that she ate and drank in a food journal, which Nick regularly inspected.


He [Nick] was the picture of a concerned father, while Heather played the part of a raving lunatic tells us all we need to know about anyone would perceive the couple.


I liked Heather, particularly her diligent efforts to find her son. That she has the responsibility of looking after toddler Theodora, while she goes about her investigation, adds to her difficulties.


There’s a hint of the supernatural around the conclusion, which isn’t out of place.


While I liked the book, there were some things I didn’t like. The amount of food that gets thrown down the disposal chute is utterly distasteful. I cringed every time Heather cooked some dish or the other and then tossed it away without a thought.


There were other issues about the book that got in the way of a satisfying read.


There was no tangible explanation for why the antagonists did what they did. How their back story justified their actions in their minds. Why were second graders being kidnapped? Why only boys?


The mystery of why Charlie’s teacher was known to Heather as Miss Kilgore when she was apparently Miss Crawford wasn’t addressed.


Smaller points that rankled:

Why does Heather have golden orbs, cracked gold lanterns and oversized ribbons in her basement? Things that are used as part of gala décor are in her basement?


The names of the husbands and children of Liv and Shay were mentioned, but Harriet is also a PTA mom, but we get no mention of her husband or child.


I wish writers didn’t repeat names or have two characters with names beginning with the same letters, particularly if they are interacting together in scenes. Heather and Harrier together were confusing. Also, there was a parent called Caleb Landers and a child called Caleb Norton. The surname of the journalist who writes about the disappearance changes from Cannon to Colins.


It’s strange that Theo never once asks about her brother, even though, at nearly three, she’s old enough to ask. Heather tells us that the two used to play together, but Theo doesn’t seem to register that her brother isn’t home. That was odd.


Stephen was a character who was built up and made much of, but he didn’t serve any purpose in the story.


Had these issues been resolved, I have no doubt Bronswood would have been an even better read.


(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 


Saturday, November 25, 2023


Title: A Good Rush of Blood 

Author: Matt Phillips

Publisher: Run Amok Crime

Pages: 312

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐


A Good Rush of Blood was exactly that. It felt as if I was shadowing Creeley, not just reading.


At 39, Creeley Nash, unwed and poor, is a drug runner. She is lonely and faces nothingness in her life. As a 14-year-old, she ran away from her home in Palm Springs 26 years ago. Running away from her mother, Blossom, a prostitute who had no love to give her daughter.


When Animal, her handler, sends her on a run to Palm Springs, Creeley goes unwillingly. In Palm Springs, she learns that her mother has been imprisoned for life for having killed a 17-year-old boy, Levi Mackey. Blossom says, she didn’t kill him and Creeley believes her. So begins her effort to find the real killer and exonerate her mother.


Meanwhile, Animal is threatening her to bring back his stash and the money she’s collected for him. When she refuses, he sends goons to ‘take care’ of her. Also, it becomes increasingly clear that there’s a huge coverup, at a high level, behind keeping Blossom in jail.


How’s a girl supposed to go about getting her mother exonerated in the face of such huge challenges? Will Creeley succeed in her goal? Will she make peace with her mother?



It’s amazing how Creeley picks up her own tribe, particularly when her own mother isn’t much of a real mother to her. The members of this tribe are a host of interesting characters, Amber, a queer librarian with a mohawk; a Kimmie, a gay man who befriends Creeley; Monty, a corrupt cop, and Paul, an old friend who’s now a violent criminal.


The writing was potent and urgent. It kept me on edge throughout. The style of the writing, described as neo-noir, revels in the sleazy and shady side of life, where dark tendencies might find comfort. You get the dreary sense that any wins in this world are hard won, and Creeley will always be looking over her shoulder, never at peace.


The focus of the book is the murder and Creeley’s investigation to find the real killer.


We find ourselves sympathizing with Creeley, even though she is a drug runner, part of a crime syndicate, and her choices and actions destroy innocent lives. The action is so continuous and intense that we aren’t afforded any time to philosophize about the wrongness of what Creeley does for a living.


The lines between good and bad, right and wrong are blurred here. So we have Animal, the wannabe drug kingpin, making sure that Creeley is safe and not subject to any sexual harassment, not out of concern for her but because she’s the best drug runner he’s had.


We learn more about Creeley’s life through the flashbacks, aptly titled History Lessons, that the author shares with us.


The only characters I felt for, besides Creeley, were Ross, Paul, Amber, Levi and Kimmie, perhaps because they showed us their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. I didn’t care much for Blossom. 


 (I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 



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