Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Talented Ribkins" by Ladee Hubbard, Served with a Recipe for Baby Tomatoes with Herbs and Mozzarella and a Book Giveaway!

I am very happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for The Talented Ribkins, a novel by Ladee HubbardAlong with my review of this fun and unique novel, I am sharing a recipe for Baby Tomatoes with Herbs and Mozzarella, inspired by my reading. There's also a giveaway for a chance to win a copy of The Talented Ribkins for your own at the bottom of the post.

Publisher's Blurb:

Winner of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award

At seventy-two, Johnny Ribkins shouldn’t have such problems: He’s got one week to come up with the money he stole from his mobster boss or it’s curtains for Johnny.

What may or may not be useful to Johnny as he flees is that he comes from an African-American family that has been gifted with super powers that are rather sad, but superpowers nonetheless. For example, Johnny’s father could see colors no one else could see. His brother could scale perfectly flat walls. His cousin belches fire. And Johnny himself can make precise maps of any space you name, whether he’s been there or not.

In the old days, the Ribkins family tried to apply their gifts to the civil rights effort, calling themselves The Justice Committee. But when their, eh, superpowers proved insufficient, the group fell apart. Out of frustration Johnny and his brother used their talents to stage a series of burglaries, each more daring than the last.

Fast forward a couple decades and Johnny’s on a race against the clock to dig up loot he’s stashed all over Florida. His brother is gone, but he has an unexpected sidekick: his brother’s daughter, Eloise, who has a special superpower of her own.

Inspired by W.E.B. Du Bois’s famous essay “The Talented Tenth” and fuelled by Ladee Hubbard’s marvelously original imagination, The Talented Ribkins is a big-hearted debut novel about race, class, politics, and the unique gifts that, while they may cause some problems from time to time, bind a family together.

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Melville House (August 8, 2017)

My Review:

I was immediately caught up in The Talented Ribkins, liking what at first seemed to be almost like a comic book come to life with the family's unusual "super powers" or talents which included things like being able talk to fish, the ability to nimbly scale walls, catching objects at a high rate of speed, and being able to mimic voices--but this book has hidden depths and defies a single genre or even a too-detailed description without spoiling the treasures within. It's an original mix of strange road trip, coming of age story, multi-generational family drama, magical realism, and American and black history lessons. (The book was inspired by the famous W.E.B. DuBois essay "The Talented Tenth" an 1903 essay arguing for the higher education of African Americans. You can read the essay online here. The book touches on aging, class, race and discrimination, and the challenges and problems of being different. I found myself in turns smiling, turning pages worrying for Johnny and Eloise, shaking my head at some of the family antics, and nodding with appreciation at the small nuggets of wisdom that were tucked into the story. 

"We're not bad men Johnny." "No, we're not. But you know as well as I do that there's a lot of room between being a bad man and being a good one. We're just men is all." 

You can't live your life worried about people being scared of you just for being just who you are. Because what you are is beautiful.It's not your job to try and compensate other people's lack of vision. You've got enough to do just trying to be true to your own."

As Johnny and Eloise travel throughout Florida (this was fun for me to read about, having spent time there in some of the same cities for work several years ago), Johnny teaches Eloise about the Ribkins family, their talent, and their past--but he learns as much, if not more than he teaches about his family and mostly about himself. The Ribkins's gifts may be different from the norm, but there is a message in the pages that we all have gifts and it is up to us to use them. Warm, poignant, humorous, illuminating, and unique, The Talented Ribkins is a special book and one of my favorites of the year so far.  


Author Notes: Laddee Hubbard is the winner of the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award and the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition for the Short Story. She holds a BA from Princeton University, an MFA in Dramatic Writing from New York University, an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin, and a PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles. She lives in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Talented Ribkins is her first novel.


Food Inspiration:

There is food to be found in The Talented Ribkins and not just from the Ribkins grandfather--the original "Rib King" and inventor of the "best barbecue sauce recipe in the entire southeast." Other food mentioned included, shrimp, canned corn, snow cones and popsicles, Popeye's chicken, Grape Fanta, Funyuns, lemonade, fries with ketchup, coffee, beer and iced tea, a cheeseburger and a chocolate milk shake, continental breakfast including a muffin, fruit loops, and a English muffin, pizza and orange soda, frozen lemonade, salads, soup, pie, pickled eggs, Hubig's packaged pies, cotton candy, Jamba Juice and TCBY, and whiskey.

Ribs or barbecue sauce are the obvious book-inspired dish pairing here but since I don't eat meat and I'm not particularly fond of barbecue flavor and sauce, I decided to go another way. As part of Johnny and Eloise travel through Florida to dig up the loot he has buried/hidden, they stop at a botanical garden that features "history you can taste"--with "a wide variety of herbs and vegetables that predated the Civil War, species you could no longer find in any store." In the main pavilion they are giving samples of heirloom tomatoes seasoned with a marinade prepared with the herbs inside. Johnny buys Eloise a cob of corn and one of the tomatoes. I decided to do a riff on the herby tomatoes

I bought some local Ho Farm cherry tomatoes and decided to cook them in locally-made basil macadamia nut oil, garlic and an assortment of herbs. For fun and because tomatoes and basil make me think of pizza or Caprese salad, I decided to add some mozzarella and let it get soft from the heat of the tomatoes and serve it on grilled bread. (The red and white go well with the book cover too!)

Baby Tomatoes with Herbs and Mozzarella
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4 as Starter)

2 Tbsp good olive oil (I used a basil macadamia nut oil)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint, or more baby tomatoes--cherry or grape tomatoes
1/3 cup mixed chopped herbs--I used thyme, basil, oregano & Italian parsley
1/2 tsp celery salt
sea salt & black pepper to taste
1/2 cup Mozzarella pearls or small cubes of fresh mozzarella
grilled baguette slices to serve, if desired (you can also serve alone, on top of romaine or other greens, or mix into cooked pasta)  

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for about a minute. Add tomatoes, 1/4 cup of the herbs, celery salt and sea salt and black pepper to taste, lower heat and cook on low for about 10 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to soften and split. 

Remove pan from the heat and allow to sit for 2 minutes. Stir in the mozzarella pearls and remaining fresh herbs--incorporating them throughout the warm tomatoes. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Serve warm with grilled bread, alone or as a topping for salad or cooked pasta.

Notes/Results:  This dish is like a bowl full of summer with the sweet baby tomatoes bursting with flavor and the fresh and vibrant herbs. The softened mozzarella bits add a chewy, cheesy decadence--although the tomatoes and herbs would still be delicious without the cheese. Make sure you save the pan liquids that the tomatoes release and that mix with the olive oil. They are wonderful for dipping the grilled bread into, or would make a good sauce if you wanted to serve these tomatoes on salad or pasta. I confess to eating the whole bowl of these tomatoes for dinner--they were so good. I will happily make them again.  

 I'm linking this post up 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 Talented Ribkins" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. 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 TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

***Book Giveaway***
The publisher is generously providing a copy of The Talented Ribkins to give away (U.S. & Canada addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me what your secret talent (or super power/special gift) is and/or why you'd like to win a copy of "The Talented Ribkins"

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Publisher Melville House (@melvillehouse)
(Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me and the publisher on Twitter.)

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Monday, Sept. 11th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway  
Good Luck!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "I'll Have What She's Having" by Erin Carlson, Served up with Tiramisu Cream Clouds (And a Book Giveaway!)

Happy Tuesday! I am a sucker for a good romantic comedy and three favorite films on my Top Ten Romcom List are Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, and When Harry Met Sally. All are Nora Ephron films, so I am beyond excited and happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for "I'll Have What She's Having: How Nora Ephron's Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy by Erin Carlson. (It publishes today!) Along with my review, I have a recipe for some Sleepless in Seattle-inspired Tiramisu Cream Clouds and if that isn't sweet enough, there's a giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the book at the bottom of the post. 

Publisher's Blurb:

A backstage look at the making of Nora Ephron’s revered trilogy–When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Sleepless in Seattle–which brought romantic comedies back to the fore, and an intimate portrait of the beloved writer/director who inspired a generation of Hollywood women, from Mindy Kaling to Lena Dunham.

In I’ll Have What She’s Having entertainment journalist Erin Carlson tells the story of the real Nora Ephron and how she reinvented the romcom through her trio of instant classics. With a cast of famous faces including Reiner, Hanks, Ryan, and Crystal, Carlson takes readers on a rollicking, revelatory trip to Ephron’s New York City, where reality took a backseat to romance and Ephron–who always knew what she wanted and how she wanted it–ruled the set with an attention to detail that made her actors feel safe but sometimes exasperated crew members.

Along the way, Carlson examines how Ephron explored in the cinema answers to the questions that plagued her own romantic life and how she regained faith in love after one broken engagement and two failed marriages. Carlson also explores countless other questions Ephron’s fans have wondered about: What sparked Reiner to snap out of his bachelor blues during the making of When Harry Met Sally? Why was Ryan, a gifted comedian trapped in the body of a fairytale princess, not the first choice for the role? 

After she and Hanks each separately balked at playing Mail’s Kathleen Kelly and Sleepless‘ Sam Baldwin, what changed their minds? And perhaps most importantly: What was Dave Chappelle doing … in a turtleneck? An intimate portrait of a one of America’s most iconic filmmakers and a look behind the scenes of her crowning achievements, I’ll Have What She’s Having is a vivid account of the days and nights when Ephron, along with assorted cynical collaborators, learned to show her heart on the screen.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Hachette Books (August 29, 2017)

My Review:

As mentioned in the intro, I love the three movies this book is focused on, romcoms, and movies in general. I am also an entertainment trivia junkie. It's not so much the gossip that I am interested in, it's more the behind-the-scenes glimpses of my favorite movies and television shows, such as who were the top contenders for the roles, how did lines end up in making it in, what scenes were cut and why, and who got along and who didn't. (OK, maybe there is a little bit of gossip girl in me!) I was convinced from the description that I would enjoy this book and it didn't disappoint me at all. 

Erin Carlson is an entertainment journalist and she writes in an engaging way that made me feel like I was on each set, watching the films being made. She gives us the background of Nora Ephron--interesting in its own right. Besides being a fan of her movies, I enjoy Ephron's writing having read Heartburn a few years ago and delving into I Feel Bad About My Neck more recently--so although I knew something about her background, it was interesting to learn more. But, at the end of the day, I was in it for the movies and there are plenty of interesting facts, details, and juicy bits to enjoy. I wanted to re-watch the three films as I read about them, but time was tight for me this month and I only managed You've Got Mail last weekend. It was fun to watch and look through the different scenes with this book in hand and I intend to repeat it with Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally very soon. 

I think anyone who loves movies, especially romantic comedies, and who admires and appreciates the amazing talent that Nora Ephron was, couldn't help but enjoy this book. It's a tribute to Ephron, but it doesn't sugar-coat her cynical and sometimes difficult sides, or those of the actors and other notables that she chose to work with. The details and trivia are absorbing and entertaining and it's a fun and fascinating read--one of my favorites for August. If you'd like a chance to win a copy for yourself, don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway (open to U.S. and Canada readers of this blog) at the end of this post.


Author Notes: Erin Carlson has covered the entertainment industry for The Hollywood Reporter and AP. Her work has appeared in Glamour, Fortune, and the LA Times. She compiled and wrote an oral history of You’ve Got Mail for Vanity Fair. She holds a masters in magazine journalism from Northwestern, and has been profiled in the New York Times.
Follow Erin on Twitter.


Food Inspiration:

There were several food mentions scattered throughout the book--mostly from the movies and the movie sets, although I was pretty clear from the start that I would have to make something tiramisu-related from the well-known scene in Sleepless in Seattle where Sam (Tom Hanks) wants to know what tiramisu is from his friend Jay (Rob Reiner):

Jay: "Tiramisu," 
Sam: "What is 'tiramisu'?"
Jay: "You'll find out."
Sam: "Well, what is it?"
Jay: "You'll see!"
Sam: "Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I'm not gonna know what it is!"
Jay: "You'll love it!"

The book says, "Sleepless is the second in a trilogy of Ephron-scripted romantic comedies that combined old-fashioned romance with hilarious truths about contemporary relationships (one word: tiramisu) to shape ideas and expectations about love, however pie-in-the-sky."

So I have made Tiramisu before--both before the blog and once for it--Donna Hay's Deconstructed Tiramisu--which I love because honestly, I don't like the cookies or cake soaked with the coffee liqueur all that much. I find them a bit soggy--plus the lady finger biscuits can be both difficult to find and expensive. 

What I do really like is puffy clouds of mousse-like desserts and one of my favorites puffs of creamy mascarpone goodness is in Yotam Ottolenghi's Fruit Cream Crumble

I decided to take his mix of mascarpone, whipped cream and Greek yogurt and flavor it with dark coffee and coffee liqueur and layer it with chocolate shavings and make a pillowy tiramisu-flavored dessert--these Tiramisu Cream Clouds.

Tiramisu Cream Clouds
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen, Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's Fruit Crumble Cream
(Serves 4)

1  cup / heavy cream
1/2 cup thick plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (or substitute cream cheese)
1/4 cup strong black coffee or espresso (I used Starbucks Via Italian--one pack with 1/4 cup hot water
1 oz coffee liqueur 
2 Tbsp super-fine sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
about 3 oz grated/shaved dark chocolate flakes and/or unsweetened cocoa powder (I used a mix of both in my layers.)

Place all ingredients through vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl and whisk to soft peaks and a pillowy texture (taking care not to over-whip). Allow mixture to chill and firm for an hour or so before assembling.

To assemble: spoon a layer of the cream into each of four dessert cups or glasses and sprinkle lightly with the grated dark chocolate and/or cocoa powder. Repeat layers of cream and chocolate shavings until you reach the top of the glass. Sprinkle a later of the shaved chocolate on top. Chill for at least another hour before serving. 

You can serve with a favorite cookie and extra whip cream if desired. 

Notes/Results: I love coffee, chocolate, coffee liqueur, and anything mousse-like, so this was a winner for me. I purposefully keep it less sweet, but you could adjust it to have more sugar and more or less coffee flavor, depending on what you like. I like the little pop of the coffee liqueur, but you could leave it out if you want an alcohol-free version. It's nice to have something crisp to dunk in the soft pillows of cream, so if you find lady fingers, you can use those, or any crispy cookie you like. I used the Frappuccino cookie straws from Starbucks--the book notes that Starbucks flowed liberally on the Sleepless set and of course you get some glimpses in the movie. I was very happy with this dessert and would make it again.

I'm linking this post up 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 "I'll Have What She's Having" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. 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 TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

***Book Giveaway***
The publisher is generously providing a copy of I'll Have What She's Having to give away (U.S. & Canada addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me your favorite romantic comedy and/or why you'd like to win a copy of "I'll Have What She's Having."

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Author Erin Carlson (@ErinLCarlson)
(Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me and the author on Twitter.)

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Friday, Sept. 8th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good Luck! 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Moroccan Corn Chowder for Food 'N Flix August Pick: Secondhand Lions and for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

It's August and fresh and delicious corn is everywhere. Summer is the perfect time for a bowl of corn and vegetable chowder and today's soup blends classic corn chowder ingredients with chickpeas, Israeli/pearl couscous and Moroccan spices. It's inspired by our August Food 'N Flix selection, Secondhand Lions, hosted by Courtney of Fictional Fare (see her announcement post here.)

If you don't know this heartwarming 2003 comedy-drama, I suggest you watch it. It's a favorite movie of mine, introduced to me by my friend Yuri, who loves it probably as much for the adorable dogs (including a Frenchie like her two--Moo and Maggie) as she does for the story. Briefly, it's set in the early 1960s and is about fourteen-year-old Walter (Haley Joel Osment) who is dumped off at the Texas farm of his two eccentric great-uncles Garth (Michael Caine) and Dub (Robert Duvall). Supposedly the two have a fortune squirreled away somewhere and there are many theories of how they acquired it. Walter and his uncles eventually warm to each other and he inspires them to have some fun and spend their money, until eventually Walter's ne'er-do-well mother and her sleazy boyfriend come back looking for the fortune. In addition to the good performances from the movie's human cast, there are those aforementioned adorable dogs, an old lioness that Walter takes care of, various other farm animals, and a subplot of the uncles' adventures in Morocco and North Africa. Sure, it's a bit sweet and fantastical at times, but it makes me smile and warms the heart, and surprisingly there's a bit of food in it too. 

Some of the food I saw: ice tea (sweet tea?) on the front porch, breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausages, root beer, a garden they plant that is supposed to contain peas, tomatoes, beets, potatoes, lettuce, squash, beans and bok choy ("that's Chinese cabbage") but in reality contains "corn, corn, corn, nothing but corn," pumpkins and other veggies and spices in the Moroccan markets, barbecue that looks like ribs, and fish. I watched the deleted scenes and there was a bit more food--catfish-full of buckshot, a dinner scene with lots of meat--mainly pork, Cheerios and milk for breakfast, and a mention for people to "help yourself to vegetables when leaving--there's some good red peppers there."

For my movie-inspired dish, I wanted to make a corn chowder as a nod to all that corn. (I wish I could buy it at .25 cents a bushel--I had to pay $5.00 a bag from the roadside corn lady.) And I wanted to add some Moroccan ingredients and flavors to change it up from the many corn chowders and corn soups that I have made already and to represent Garth's stories about Dub's exploits in Morocco.

I added chickpeas, couscous--I used the larger Israeli or pearl couscous because I like it better in soups, and I seasoned with fresh ginger and garlic, ras el hanout (a Moroccan spice blend full of several aromatic spices--here's a recipe), plus some additional turmeric, cumin, cayenne, and smoked paprika. I also added a can of coconut milk to make it creamier. 

Moroccan Corn Chowder 
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 6-8)

2 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
3 medium leeks, white & light green parts only, halved, cleaned and sliced
2 stalk celery, sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tsps Ras El Hanout
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric
6 cups low-sodium veggie stock
4 large red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous 
1 (14.5 oz) can coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, and red pepper and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and all the spices and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, potatoes and chickpeas and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the corn and couscous and cook for another 10 minutes until the couscous and the potatoes are tender. Stir in the coconut milk and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste and additional spices if needed/desired.

Serve with toasted flat bread and enjoy!

Notes/Results: This soup smelled so good cooking and it tasted even better than it smelled. The sweetness of the leeks, coconut milk and corn paired really well with the smokiness of the Moroccan spices. The texture of the veggies, chickpeas, and couscous all together was pleasing. It makes for a thick chowder--you can add extra broth or coconut milk if desired to thin it out--but it isn't at all heavy, making it just as good for a warm summer night, as a cool one. I have a feeling it will taste even better tomorrow. I would definitely make it again. 

The deadline for this round of Food 'n Flix is Tuesday, August 29th and Courtney will be rounding up the dishes on her blog soon after. If you can't make it this month and you like food, movies, and foodie movies, join us for Food 'n Flix September when we will be watching To Kill A Mockingbird, hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats.

We have two delicious dishes waiting this week in the Souper Sundays kitchen--let's have a look!

Debra of Eliot's Eats made Cucumber and Mango Salad with Lime Dressing. She said, "We are getting a few cucumbers every few days from the garden so I searched out a salad that I could utilize our garden produce. Obviously, we weren’t able to go pick a mango off a tree, but our garden cucumber did pair great with the other flavors.  The jalapeno was home grown as well. This salad certainly creates an explosion of tropical flavors and I love anything with quinoa.  (Be aware, however, that there’s more veggies and mango in this salad than quinoa.)"

Here at Kahakai Kitchen, I enjoyed Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe for Bruschetta of Beans and Celery. Humble ingredients go together quickly and easily for a satisfying and delicious open-faced sandwich. 

Mahalo to Debra for joining me at Souper Sundays this week! 

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of the entries the following week.)

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:

  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (optional).

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "The Doll Funeral" by Kate Hamer, Served with a Bruschetta of Celery & Beans (And a Book Giveaway!)

It's Aloha Friday, after a long and busy week and I'm happy to be a stop on the TLC Blog Tour for The Doll Funeral by Kate Hammer. Along with my review, I'm posting a recipe for a poshed-up beans on toast--Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Bruschetta of Celery & Beans, and there is a giveaway for a chance to win your own copy of the book at the bottom of the post.

Publisher's Blurb:

On Ruby’s thirteenth birthday, a wish she didn’t even know she had suddenly comes true: the couple who raised her aren’t her parents at all. Her real mother and father are out there somewhere, and Ruby becomes determined to find them.
Venturing into the forest with nothing but a suitcase and the company of her only true friend—the imaginary Shadow Boy—Ruby discovers a group of siblings who live alone in the woods. The children take her in, and while they offer the closest Ruby’s ever had to a family, Ruby begins to suspect that they might need her even more than she needs them. And it’s not always clear what’s real and what’s not—or who’s trying to help her and who might be a threat.
Told from shifting timelines, and the alternating perspectives of teenage Ruby; her mother, Anna; and even the Shadow Boy, The Doll Funeral is a dazzling follow-up to Kate Hamer’s breakout debut, The Girl in the Red Coat, and a gripping, exquisitely mysterious novel about the connections that remain after a family has been broken apart.

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Melville House (August 15, 2017)

My Review:

The Doll Funeral is my second book by Kate Hamer and as in The Girl in the Red Coat (see my review of that book here), her writing conjures up misty and menacing forests and countryside in my head with its fantasy and almost fairy tale-like aspects. There is something slightly dark and melancholy in her writing style that makes me want to curl up with her books and a cup of tea--even in the midst of summer. The Doll Funeral is tagged as a psychological thriller and mystery and suspense on Amazon--along with the tags of family life genre fiction, and to me it leans more to the later. Some suspense is built, there are the mystical aspects and a thread of magical realism woven in, but it really reads more about family--chosen and blood, relationships, family secrets, and the journey to adulthood. In thirteen-year-old Ruby's case, that journey is somewhat perilous and fraught with confusion which transfers at times to the reader as it can be difficult to determine what is real and what isn't--just as it is for Ruby. The story is told in the alternating voices of Ruby, her mother Anna, and occasionally by Ruby's friend that only she can see--Shadow Boy. Time alternates too--between 1983, Ruby's time, and 1970 with Anna's perspective. It can be a challenge to keep track of what is going on, but the story and Ruby and Anna as characters were compelling enough that I wanted to find out the secrets and see how it all turned out. With the beautiful prose and strong images Hamer creates, it was well worth the journey.

My guess is that The Doll Funeral is strange enough that it won't be for everyone, but if you love evocative and hauntingly beautiful writing, enjoy modern-day fairy tales and magical realism, and like a unique and slightly strange story, you should enjoy it as I did. (And if it sounds like your kind of book, don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of the post for a chance to win a copy of your own.)


Author Notes: Kate Hamer is the author of The Girl in the Red Coat, which was a Costa First Novel Award finalist, a Dagger Award finalist, an Amazon Best Book of the Year 2016, and a winner of the ELLE Lettres Readers’ Prize. She lives in Cardiff, Wales, with her husband and two children.

You can connect with Kate via her website or Twitter.

Food Inspiration:

There was not much food inspiration in The Doll Funeral, but there were a few mentions of food including--birthday cake with white icing, Smarties and thirteen candles, a garden of potatoes, swedes, and cabbages, a moon as fat as a peach, ears of barley, a sandwich, with yellow cheese, a mention of toffee apple, candy floss and treacle tart, lemonade and a lager shandy, Cola cubes (candy), beans on toast, wine, rabbit with a puddle of barely warm baked beans, parsnips, eggs, goat milk, fish and potatoes, coffee, tea, gravy, sausages and bread with ketchup, pickled vegetables, packets of spaghetti, cured meats and shavings of cheese, toffees, red wine, and salami.

Because nothing called to me particularly (except birthday cake and I certainly don't need cake) ;-) I decided to go with beans and toast as my book-inspired dish. I had been meaning to make Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe for a Bruschetta of Celery and Beans, and although it seems like it might be a bit more posh and involved than the ones that would have been eaten in the book, it sounded quick, easy and delicious--perfect for an end of the week dinner.

Hugh says, "This very simple bruschetta – a kind of beans on toast, if you will – is almost as quick and easy as opening a tin, but immeasurably more delicious. It tastes particularly good made with borlotti beans, which have a lovely creamy-nutty texture, but canned cannellini, haricot or butterbeans would work too."

Bruschetta of Celery & Beans
Slightly Adpated from Nigel Slater via
(Serves 2)

1 Tbsp olive oil
3 inner stems celery, sliced fairly thin, plus a few celery leaves
2 generous slices of sourdough or other robust bread
1 can borlotti beans, drained and rinsed (or other beans-I used small red beans)
1 tsp thyme, roughly chopped
a squeeze of lemon juice
1 garlic clove

extra virgin olive oil
a few shavings of Parmesan or hard goat's cheese
sea salt and black pepper

Heat the rapeseed or olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the celery and saute for about 5 minutes, until it starts to soften. Meanwhile, toast the bread.

Add the drained beans and the thyme to the pan with the celery. Cook gently, stirring, for a couple more minutes, to heat the beans through. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper and a little lemon juice.

Cut the garlic clove in half and rub its cut surface over the hot toast. Pour a little olive oil over the toast, then pile on the beans and celery.

Trickle over a little more oil, add the shavings of cheese, then finish with a few celery leaves.

Notes/Results:  I don't know why I don't eat beans and toast more often. It makes for such a economical, filling, and soul satisfying meal. Here it is just a few humble ingredients that I would not have thought to put together but work really well together. The textures--soft, crisp, chewy and flavors--they thyme, garlic, celery leaves and cheese adding such good flavor to the beans and celery. I will happily make this again.

I'm linking this post up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where this week's theme is Say Moo!--Nigel Slater recipes featuring dairy or non-dairy--cheese & milks as ingredients.

I'm also linking this post up 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.

Finally, since these are like open-faced sandwiches, I am linking them up to Souper Sundays, here at Kahakai Kitchen--where every Sunday, we feature soups, salads, and sandwiches from across the blogosphere. You can find the details for joining in on this week's post.
Note: A review copy of "The Doll Funeral" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. 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 TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.

***Book Giveaway***
The publisher is generously providing a copy of The Doll Funeral to give away (U.S. & Canada addresses only, sorry) here at Kahakai Kitchen.

To enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, leave a comment (Because I like to read them!) ;-) telling me if you ever had an imaginary friend and/or why you'd like to win a copy of The Doll Funeral.

There are a couple of other optional ways to get more entries to win: 1) Tweet about this giveaway or 2) follow me on Twitter (@DebinHawaii) and/or Author Kate Hamer (@Kate_Hamer)
(Note: You can still get extra entries even if you already follow me and the author on Twitter.)

Deadline for entry is midnight (EST) on Friday, Sept. 1st.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good Luck!