Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The American Girl" by Kate Horsley, Served with Baguette with Brie and Blueberry-Lavender Chia Seed Jam

Today's TLC Book Tour stop has us jetting off to France for the mystery/thriller, The American Girl by Kate Horsley. Accompanying my review is a breakfast of Baguette with Brie and Blueberry-Lavender Chia Seed Jam, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

From a bright new talent comes a riveting psychological thriller about an American exchange student in France involved in a suspicious accident, and the journalist determined to break the story and uncover the dark secrets a small town is hiding.

On a quiet summer morning, seventeen-year-old American exchange student Quinn Perkins stumbles out of the woods near the small French town of St. Roch. Barefoot, bloodied, and unable to say what has happened to her, Quinn’s appearance creates quite a stir, especially since the Blavettes—the French family with whom she’s been staying—have mysteriously disappeared. Now the media, and everyone in the idyllic village, are wondering if the American girl had anything to do with her host family’s disappearance.

Though she is cynical about the media circus that suddenly forms around the girl, Boston journalist Molly Swift cannot deny she is also drawn to the mystery and travels to St. Roch. She is prepared to do anything to learn the truth, including lying so she can get close to Quinn. But when a shocking discovery turns the town against Quinn and she is arrested for the murders of the Blavette family, she finds an unlikely ally in Molly.

As a trial by media ensues, Molly must unravel the disturbing secrets of the town’s past in an effort to clear Quinn’s name, but even she is forced to admit that the American Girl makes a very compelling murder suspect. Is Quinn truly innocent and as much a victim as the Blavettes—or is she a cunning, diabolical killer intent on getting away with murder…?

Told from the alternating perspectives of Molly, as she’s drawn inexorably closer to the truth, and Quinn’s blog entries tracing the events that led to her accident, The American Girl is a deliciously creepy, contemporary, twisting mystery leading to a shocking conclusion.

Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (August 2, 2016) 

My Review:

I do like a dark and twisty psychological thriller and The American Girl definitely brings it to the page with plenty of twists and turns. I like the dual narrative of Molly and Quinn and how Quinn's parts are told through her past blog posts and the current video diary that the psychologist assigned to her has asked her to keep to hopefully prompt and record any of her reoccurring memories. Quinn is the unreliable narrator with her amnesia, but also because it isn't clear whether she is guilty or not. Molly is easier to like and trust--even with all of the lying she does to get close to Quinn and the fact that she works for an American tabloid news show. The story has that 'ripped from the headlines' vibe and definitely brings to mind the Amanda Knox case with Quinn being a young American, in a foreign country with the International media judging her on circumstances and her behavior. 

Although it clocks in at 430+ pages, the alternating perspectives, short chapters and pacing kept it moving along and had me guessing and changing my mind about what the truth was. It also had me talking to (OK, maybe yelling at) the characters, "What are you doing?!"...  "Don't do that/go there!"... "That's a really bad idea!" --which shows you how involved I got and how the creepy and foreboding tone sucked me in. This is Kate Horsley's second book, and based on this one, I downloaded her first, The Monster's Wife to read on my Kindle. If you are a fan of dark mystery-thrillers, add The American Girl to your summer reading list.

Author Notes: Kate Horsley’s first novel, The Monster’s Wife, was shortlisted for the Scottish First Book of the Year Award. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Best British Crime Stories. She coedits Crimeculture, a site dedicated to crime fiction and film offering articles, reviews, and interviews with writers.
Find out more about Kate at her website, and follow her on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Google+.


There was not a lot of food mentioned in The American Girl, although there was plenty of alcohol, coffee and cigarettes. Still there were some mentions of different baguette sandwiches, croissants and French pastries, fried beignets and bacon sandwiches, crackers and homemade pate, 7-Up, and petits fours, ice cream, cold soup that tasted of vinegar, chicken escalopes, gnocchi and meatballs, and a lamb kabob.

For my book inspired dish, I put a few things together from the French house Quinn did her exchange at like a road with olive trees and lavender, Quinn sleeping in a lumpy bed that smelled of "bleach and jam and sterilized milk" and a baguette with butter and jam, left on the counter for her. I decided to make a baguette and layer it with a buttery brie and top it with homemade chia seed jam. I had some blueberries in the fridge and thought it would be fun to add some culinary lavender to it.   

As posted before, chia seed jam is my favorite jam to make because of the ease of preparing it and not having to use the vast quantities of sugar that is used in pectin jams, plus the added pop of fiber, Omega-3's, and protein that chia seeds bring to the party along with their gelling capabilities. It's a win-win in my opinion. 

Blueberry-Lavender Chia Seed Jam
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 2 cups)

about 2 pints of fresh blueberries (or frozen works too)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1-2 Tbsp maple syrup, or to taste--depending on the sweetness of your fruit
1 Tbsp culinary lavender
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup chia seeds

Place blueberries, lemon juice, maple syrup and lavender in small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook over medium-high heat for about 7-10 minutes, stirring as the blueberries start to burst. As the fruit softens and breaks down, use the back of a wooden spoon to smash the blueberries against the sides of the pan to break them down, leaving some larger chunks/berries as desired.  

Stir in the vanilla extract and chia seeds and simmer on low for another 4 to 5 minutes, letting the jam begin to thicken. Remove from heat and allow jam to cool and set. Once jam is room temperature, transfer to a jar or airtight container and refrigerate. 

Store jam, tightly covered, for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.

Notes/Results: Lavender and blueberries are such a great pairing--sweet, tangy, slightly floral but not overpowering. There is enough lavender in the jam to taste it but not so much that it is like eating potpourri ;-) and the lemon juice brightens everything up. The jam goes really well with the creamy brie and it's slightly earthy flavor and the dark (French roast) coffee rounds out this breakfast combination. I like a chunky jam and don't mind the little lavender buds as they soften and mix in with the chia seeds but if you like a smooth jam, you could put it in the blender before adding the chia seeds. Another great and easy chia seed jam. 

I'm linking up this review and recipe 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 "The American Girl" 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. Lavender is one of my favorite flavorings for any kind of dessert. I especially like in ice cream! Your recipe looks so easy and delicious, I'l have to try it. Pinning it for later! As always, I love your photos!

  2. I've never made anything with lavender, now I'm intrigued!

  3. I'm like that in movies - yelling at the characters - but I don't think I've ever done it in a book. But maybe I just haven't read the right book yet!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  4. I love lavender - to look at and to smell, but I've never tasted it. This is going to be a new experience.

  5. So much yummy jam! Have a great week. Cheers from carole's Chatter

  6. That is the sort of book I like, drawing you in with mystery, a real page turner. I will have to get to this one. I such a list of books I want to read bore the end of the year. Never enough time.
    That jam would be great on some homemade bread and I can provide it if you'll bring the jam!

  7. I've cooked with lavender but not for ages. I've never made chia seed jam, but I like the idea of less sugar.

    Haaaa on yelling at the characters. I do that too -- in books and in movies.

  8. I do enjoy a good psychological thriller and seeing how this book is available on Audible, I'm thinking of using my monthly credit to take a listen.

    I do love a good baguette with a bit of brie. The addition of a touch of jam sounds divine.


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