Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "Incarnation" by Laura Davis Hays, Served with a Blueberry, Cucumber, Mint & Lime Chia Fresca

On today's TLC Book Tour stop, I am reviewing the unique and absorbing Incarnation by Laura Davis Hays, a novel that transcends book genres. I'm pairing my book review with a recipe for a cool and refreshing Blueberry, Cucumber, Mint & Lime Chis Fresca, perfect to sip on while you lose yourself in the story. 

Publisher's Blurb: 

When Kelsey Dupuis takes a job working in a genetic engineering lab in the high desert of New Mexico, she begins to suffer from oceanic nightmares that soon escalate into waking visions, warnings, pleas for help, and finally visitations from a dark-braided, green-eyed girl named Iriel. Kelsey wrestles with the notion that Iriel could be a past life self who once lived in an ancient watery place no longer on this earth. At the same time, she confronts ethical issues at work, and a lover who becomes more and more abusive. As Kelsey seeks the truth, she learns that Iriel escaped an arranged marriage in her own time, and lived to witness the destruction of her ancient homeland, helpless, despite her formidable powers, to stop it.
Incarnation is the story of one woman’s confrontation with history as she learns the meaning of a soul-twin’s life and its karmic implications. Forced to relive her deepest fears, Kelsey is able to face her entwined past and present with courage, innovation, and forgiveness in order to break the chain, free her soul-twin, and become more truly herself.

Paperback: 388 pages
Publisher: Terra Nova Books (March 1, 2016)

My Review: I was drawn to this book from the description on the book tour list: "Contemporary women’s fiction - fantasy/metaphysical thriller. This is about personal growth, relationships, science and romance. A bit of a genre-bender." It definitely is all of that. I think even with the metaphysical leanings, I was picturing something a bit lighter and a quicker read than the book turned out to be. It did take me time to get into the rhythm of the story and its complexity, with the many twists and turns back in time and location and the many characters (and/or reincarnations of characters) to keep track of; then there is all of the biology and science worked in through Kelsey's work. Speaking of Kelsey, I had some frustrations with her life choices that made me want to jump through the book and shake her soundly--especially the times when those choices put herself and others in jeopardy. Through the book, she begins to mature and understand herself and by the end I liked her much more than at the beginning. The story also starts out a bit slowly, but action and tension are steadily built and the 'thriller' description starts to kick in the later half. I found myself most swept away by the settings which ranged from Santa Fe, to Belize, to the mythical lost island of Atlantis. All were beautifully described in a way that brought them to life and made them feel both real and dreamily mystical at the same time. 

Incarnation is a book that takes some thought and consideration to read, it's not a book to rush through. In the author's bio below, it mentions that she "writes with a mind balanced between right and left-brain capabilities that leads to a combination of flights of fancy and complexity of structure in her work" and I find that description also accurate of this book. It weaves between science, action, spirituality, and mysticism--so I think an open mind and a spirit of adventure are helpful to the enjoyment of the story. My advice for making the most of your reading experience is to find a comfy, preferably sunny, spot to read, play a little new age music (or relaxation music with ocean or water sounds), pour yourself a cool, thirst quenching drink (see the one below for inspiration) and settle in for a unique and absorbing journey


Author Notes: Laura Davis Hays is the award winning author of Incarnation, a metaphysical thriller set in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a remote Island off the coast of Belize, and the lost continent of Atlantis. She is also the author of the forthcoming fantasy series, The Atlantis Material, and a collection of linked stories set in Denmark, her ancestral homeland, in the early part of the 20th century. 

Laura writes with a mind balanced between right and left-brain capabilities that leads to a combination of flights of fancy and complexity of structure in her work. A graduate of Rice University, Laura lives in Santa Fe with her husband, Jim, and two cats, Rufus and Dexter.


Food Inspiration:  

There are definitely food mentions and presence in Incarnation, starting with the whole ocean/water settings woven in the book. For seafood, there are mentions of microgreens with a scattering of scallops, whole trout with butter-toasted almonds, shrimp and cavier served before dinner, a typical Belize dinner of fish with fried bananas, black beans and rice, fish stew, conch ceviche with homemade tortilla chips, red snapper and fried jumbo shrimp, and a whole lotta lobster from an awkward on-site dinner on the island--lobster pâté, bacon-wrapped lobster, lobster soup, lobster tails with drawn butter, and for dessert--lobster ice cream. For more basic landlocked fare there were the salad bar and occasional omelettes, enchiladas, coconut cream pie, and other fare prepared at the BioVenture Enterprises cafeteria, and burgers, thick avocado and cheese sandwiches, pasta, avocados, bananas, coconut, sapote pudding, and brownies. There was also plenty of alcohol--like wine, champagne, beer, martinis, rum punch, and piña coladas. Although I thought about making a tropical fish dinner or ceviche for my book-inspired dish, I ended up deciding that a beverage was the way to go.  

Between the water mentions, the Belize and surrounding island settings (and the Mayan ruins) in of part of the book, and the descriptions of the microorganisms getting in the water (OK that part is not as appetizing I know, but it's how my mind works), it seemed an obvious choice for a drink pairing for had to be a chia fresca. (Did you know chia is grown in Belize and chia seeds have a long history with the Mayans? Chia actually got its name from the Mayan word for strength, they were prized for increasing energy and stamina, and consumed by the Mayans in different ways--ground into flour, pressed for oil, and mixed with water as a drink.) I drink chia frescas often (check the chia seeds tab on my sidebar for several different recipes for chia drinks), usually mixed with juice--but lately, looking to reduce more sugar from my diet, I have been making 'spa water' versions using lime juice, herbs, and fresh fruit for just a touch of sweetness and making them more on the tangy and refreshing side. 

For this version, all the blue in the book had me thinking organic blueberries and I decided to pair the berries with cucumber and mint. I muddled the blueberries and mint for extra flavor and served them in my favorite "fishy" large summer beverage glass. A nice afternoon renewal and treat for a humid day. ;-)

I often mix chia frescas up in a pitcher and let all of the ingredients sit to gel the chia, but lately I have been making up a base chia gel to have it ready to mix in. It works better when you are using fresh fruit and herbs to not have them sit overnight in the liquid. But do whatever works. If you need a sweeter drink, you could add a little honey or a couple of drops of stevia, or use fresh fruit juice in place of some or all of the water.  

Blueberry, Cucumber, Mint & Lime Chia Fresca
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 1 large 16 oz+ glass)

*Chia Gel: (*Makes enough chia gel for multiple servings)
2 cups water
6 Tbsp chia seeds

Chia Fresca
1/4 cup fresh blueberries = Extra for garnish
6-8 mint leaves + extra for garnish 
1 cup ice cold water (or you can sub in juice of choice) + additional ice water or ice to fill glass
1/2 cup chia gel
juice of one lime, or to taste
fresh cucumber slices 

To make Chia Gel: Heat 2 cups of water until warm. Place warm water in a canning jar and add chia seeds. Cap jar tightly and shake gently but very well until chia seeds are evenly dispersed in the water and are beginning to swell. Place jar in refrigerator for several hours (overnight works well) until seeds have expanded and liquid was become gelatinous.

To make Chia Fresca: Place fresh blueberries and mint leaves in the bottom of a large glass and 'muddle' with a wooden spoon or muddler until crushed and fragrant. Add 1/2 cup of your chia seeds and 1 cup of the ice water and stir thoroughly until well-mixed. Add lime juice, cucumber slices, extra blueberries and mint leaves and additional ice water or ice to fill glass and stir. Garnish with a cucumber slice and enjoy. 

Notes/Results: If you like fresh and tangy, this is your drink--a bit like a blueberry mojito mocktail with a kiss of cucumber. (BTW: You could also muddle the cucumber slices too, for extra flavor but I am happy just noshing on the slices.) Ultra-hydrating and the chia seeds with their nutrients--including fiber, protein and healthy fats and Omega-3s, plus the cucumber slices and blueberries, make this a satisfying drink a bit healthy-snackish too. I found this just sweet enough with the blueberries, but feel free to make it to your tastes. I have been drinking this particular mix in the afternoons this week for a caffeine-free energy boost and it does feel pampering and spa-worthy.

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 "Incarnation" 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. Ooh that Chia Fresca looks very tasty! I've seen chia seeds in the store but never tried them. I'm going to pick some up tomorrow and give your recipe a try!

    Oh, and thanks for being a part of the tour! :)

  2. Hope you like it Heather! Thanks for having me on the tour--it was an interesting read. ;-)

  3. Boy this sounds so refreshing. I'll have to track down some chia and give it a try.

  4. This sounds like such a fun read! I like the genre bending and it's good to know that the thriller part doesn't really kick in until the last half. The drink sounds amazing and so refreshing! I love chia seeds in drinks but never thought about making my own chia gel. I'll definitely have to give that a try!

  5. Your drink is so "New Age", perfect for that book. I'm going to whip up the gel to try, as a fresca would be great to serve my women's group in hot weather, not only refreshing, but an energy booster as well. So far I've only used my chia in granola, which needs to change.

  6. Great drink pairing. Have a great week. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

  7. Have never consumed chia in any form. How interesting! The drink does sound very light and refreshing. With summer practically here, I'll have to give this a try. Thanks!

  8. The drink looks delicious although I have no idea what chia is. I'll have to check with my daughter with is hipper than I am. Book sounds like fun too. Good pairing.

  9. What a wonderful setting for a novel and great food. Love your fishy glass!

  10. I'm not sure this book is for me, but your drink looks delicious.

  11. I don't know if I would like the texture of the chia gel, and kind of like the idea of trying your recipe without the chia, but that would be very unadventurous of me, and wouldn't go along with the spirit of Incantation, which sounds pretty adventurous!


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