Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Olivay" by Deborah Reed, Served with Bread Topped with Fromager d'Affinois and Plum Chia Seed Jam {Recipe}

On today's TLC Book Tour Stop, I am reviewing the psychological suspense novel, Olivay by Deborah Reed. I'm accompanying my review with a recipe for Plum Chia Seed Jam, paired with one of my favorite cheeses--Fromager d'Affinois, topping slices of cranberry walnut bread--a dish inspired by the book.

Publisher's Blurb:

We don’t believe that our lives can change in an instant—until they do.

Olivay, widowed for a year and sleepwalking through life, meets Henry by chance. She takes him to her Los Angeles loft, thinking it will just be for the night. But the following morning, bombs detonate across the city; mayhem and carnage fill the streets; and her loft is covered in broken glass and her own blood. Henry is skittish, solicitous, and strangely distracted. Who is this man she’s marooned with as the city goes on lockdown? Why is she catching him in lie after lie? Is he somehow connected to her husband’s death and the terrorist attacks outside?

With eloquent and suspenseful prose, Olivay explores the wreckage of loss and the collision of grief, desire, and terror in its aftermath. As the characters get pushed outside their comfort zones, forced to walk the thin line between destruction and salvation, Olivay keeps readers guessing what will become of Olivay and Henry until the very end.

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (July 7, 2015)

My Review: 

The premise of this book immediately hooked me-coming off of the Boston Marathon trial, the many threat advisories that come up for events and major holidays like the recent July 4th weekend, and the current focus on 'lone wolf' terrorists. It is almost impossible to turn on the news and hear these kind of stories and warnings and not feel at least a frisson of anxiety. Olivay brings those fears close with the story of a woman faced with the dawning realization that the attractive man she has just met could be involved in heinous terrorist acts. Olivay, the title character, has had the very worst happen already when her husband was killed in front of their apartment in a hit-and-run motorcycle accident and died in her arms. A year later, she is finally making steps to leave the apartment and meets Henry in her neighborhood coffee shop. Finally feeling something for the first time since her husband's death, she brings him home for a one-night stand. The next morning, the world goes crazy when bombs go off in the city, including one at the finish line of the LA Marathon just up the street. The blast destroys part of her apartment, badly injuring her leg in the process. Martial law has the city locked down and Olivay finds herself stuck in her loft with Henry and his behavior is becoming increasingly suspicious. Is he involved? Could he even be involved in her husband's death? 

Chilling and well written with a slow building tension that completely pulled me in. Both Olivay and Henry have a story and secrets that they are keeping, told in short chapters and bursts of detail that made me want more as the story unfolded in layers. Fair warning that not everything is completely uncovered and resolved, even by the book's end (something that normally drives me crazy), but that lack of closure has kept me mulling over the story since I finished the book a few days ago. I have a feeling that I will keep thinking about it and that might not be the case if everything had been neatly buttoned up. If you can deal with some ambiguity and want a quietly frightening and thought-provoking book, Olivay is a great addition to a summer reading list. 


Author Notes: Deborah Reed’s novel Things We Set on Fire sold more than one hundred thousand copies in its first six months, while Carry Yourself Back to Me was a Best Book of 2011 Amazon Editors’ Pick. She wrote the bestselling thriller A Small Fortune and its sequel, Fortune’s Deadly Descent, under her pen name Audrey Braun. Several of her novels have been translated or are forthcoming in German. Her nonfiction has appeared in publications such as the LiterarianMORE, and Poets & Writers. She holds a master of fine arts degree in creative writing, and teaches at the UCLA Extension Writing Program. She is also codirector of the Black Forest Writing Seminar at the University of Freiburg in Germany. She resides in Los Angeles.


Food Inspiration: 
Centered around two people trapped in an apartment in the middle of the attack zone, Olivay isn't a food-filled novel. There are some mentions of food like oysters and absinthe, crab cakes and pasta, sticky buns and pizza. Olivay's refrigerator held apples, yogurt and half of a chocolate bar, and there were crackers, boxes of spaghetti and a tin of lemon wafers in the back of the cupboard. Mrs. Hightower, Olivay's friend and neighbor, stops in to check on her and leaves a Marionberry pie (yum) but I wasn't about to bake. 

I ended up taking my inspiration from a conversation between Henry and Olivay where she asks him his three favorite foods. He responds with plum jelly on a biscuit, d'affinois cheese that he "can eat like candy" and figs.  

Coincidentally,  Fromager d'Affinois, a French double-cream soft cow's milk cheese is one of my favorite cheese indulgences--so soft and creamy. I love it spread on baguette with grapes or olives on the side. I thought about the plum jelly Henry liked and how the sweet/tart flavor would pair well with the smooth Brie-like cheese. I am a fan of chia seed jam--so easy to make and so good to eat, so instead of plum jelly on a biscuit, I am spreading a cranberry walnut bread with a layer of lovely d'Affinois and then topping it with a dollop of homemade chunky Plum Chia Seed Jam.

I have made all manner of chia jams from fresh fruit and even canned fruit--blueberry, peaches, strawberry. Depending on the fruit and how sweet I want the resulting jam, I will add honey or agave. I also like to add more depth to the flavor with a little lemon, vanilla or other natural flavorings. I wanted this batch to be tart/sweet with hint of cinnamon. Unbelievably ;-) I was out of vanilla extract so I added a teaspoon of almond extract to round out the flavor.  

Plum Chia Seed Jam
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 2 1/2 cups of jam)  

8 medium plums (about 3 /12 cups worth), chopped (I used mixed red and black plums)
1 large cinnamon stick
1/3 cup honey, or to taste depending on the sweetness of your fruit & preferences
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)
1/4 cup chia seeds

Place pitted, chopped plums, honey, lemon juice, and extract into a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high heat, stirring as fruit begins to liquefy and mixture comes to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow fruit to simmer for 20-25 minutes until it breaks down and starts to get saucy. (Note--I like a chunkier jam so I cook it about 20 minutes and leave the small chunks that are left. If you like a smoother consistency, cook 25-30 minutes and break up the chunks with a fork or potato masher.) Taste for sweetness and add more honey if desired.

Reduce heat to low and slowly stir in chia seeds--making sure the seeds are mixed thoroughly into the fruit mixture and don't clump. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Jam will begin to thicken (and it will thicken much more as it cools) but if it seems too thin, you can add additional chia seeds. 

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the jam to thicken and cool to room temperature. When cooled, place in jar(s) and place in the fridge. Jam will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks and in the freezer for a few months--if it lasts that long. 

Enjoy it spread onto bread, stirred into yogurt, and served over ice cream. 

Notes/Results: I am loving this jam--just a great balance of sweet and tangy with that a touch of cinnamon in the background. In tasting the plums as I was chopping them, I found the black plums sweeter and softer than the red, so having a mix of the two was good and they cooked down to the just slightly chunky jam I like. Chia seed jam is.. well... seedy, but I find the seeds softer and less obnoxious than raspberry seeds. I toasted my bread which has a nutty flavor and has little bits of tart cranberry that matched well with the rich and creamy cheese and the tangy sweet jam. Just an excellent mix of flavors and textures.If you don't want to splurge on the cheese, thickened, slightly-sweetened yogurt would also work well. (But I highly recommend the double cream cheese and jam combination!) I happily ate this for breakfast but it would also be a good snack or even a light lunch. I will definitely keep eating it this week and will make it again.  

Note: A review copy of "Olivay" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. 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 Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.



  1. the cheese and jam sound lovely!

  2. Thanks Deb. This is the first I've heard of chia seed jam. Will give it a try with some of the fruit I'm always dealing with. Maybe pineapple?

  3. Thanks Kat! ;-)

    Claudia, I think most any fruit will work. Pineapple would be fabulous. I have tried a tiny batch of mango which was yummy. I just pinned a recipe for a watermelon jam using pectin that I wanted to experiment with the chia. ;-)

  4. I've never had chia seed jam but it looks incredibly delicious. You've got me very hungry right now!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  5. Deb,
    Your review of the book really intrigues me despite my usual avoidance of tragic stories.
    You have also intrigued me to try making some chia jam. I know chia is good for you, but I've just never think of using them. Sounds easy and delicious. It's now on my list to make.


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