Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "After Nightfall" by A.J. Banner, Served with a Recipe for Cauliflower Rice Risotto Primavera

I'm happy to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for the After Nightfall, a new psychological suspense novel by A.J.Banner. Accompanying my review is an easy and delicious Cauliflower Rice Risotto Primavera, inspired by my reading.

Publisher's Blurb:

Beware of friends with secrets…

Imagine your closest friend utterly betraying you. Years later, when she seeks forgiveness, you invite her to your engagement party as a gesture of reconciliation. But seething hostilities rise to the surface, ruining everyone’s evening. After an awful night, your friend’s battered, lifeless body is found at the bottom of a rocky cliff.

Newly engaged Marissa Parlette is living this nightmare. She should be celebrating her upcoming wedding, but she can’t shake the image of her friend lying dead on the beach. Did she fall? Was she pushed? Or did she take a purposeful step into darkness? Desperate for answers, Marissa digs deep into the events of the party. But what she remembers happening after nightfall now carries sinister implications: the ugly sniping, the clandestine meetings, the drunken flirtations. The more she investigates, the more she questions everything she thought she knew about her friends, the man she once trusted, and even herself.

Bestselling author A. J. Banner keeps readers on a razor-sharp edge in this intricately plotted novel of psychological suspense…in which nothing is as it seems.

Paperback: 256 pages

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (August 7, 2018)

My Review:

Although her other books have been on my TBR list, After Nightfall is the first book from A.J. Banner that I have managed to read. It's a quick read with a good premise and plenty of twists and turns packed into 250-ish pages. I liked that all of the characters had  suspicious behaviors and/or secrets to hide and that had me suspecting everyone. I was certain several times that I had identified the person responsible for Lauren's death--only to be convinced a chapter later that it was someone else. It definitely kept me turning the pages to the end to finally discover the guilty party. Where the book fell a bit short for me was in the characters. I had a hard time liking most of them for various reasons and the main character, Marissa, had me wanting to shake her quite a few times throughout the story. (This bummed me out because my niece is a grade school speech therapist like Marissa and so I wanted Marissa to be stronger and represent!) ;-) The characters that I liked the most were minor players in the drama--a couple of neighbors and Marissa's supportive best friend. Then again, me not liking the characters made them seem all the more suspicious and maybe that worked in the end by keeping me guessing. I breezed through After Nightfall and enjoyed reading it, liking Banner's writing style--her wording, pacing, and how she built the tension. I look forward to delving into her first two novels.


Author Notes: Born in India and raised in North America, A. J. Banner received degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. Her previous novels of psychological suspense include The Good Neighbor and The Twilight Wife, a USA Today bestseller. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and six rescued cats.

Connect with A.J. on Facebook and Instagram.  


Food Inspiration:

There was food to be found in After Nighfall, including spiral pasta with olives, wine, sparkling apple juice, buttered rolls, prosecco, prosciutto, Ligurian minestrone soup (described as soup with vegetables and garlic), macaroni and cheese, sandwiches, chocolate cake, leftover pasta, eggs, omelet with onions and tomatoes, rice, banana nut bread, cotton candy, apples, chocolate chip cookies, whiskey, vodka, chamomile tea, lemon cupcakes, mango kale salad, risotto primavera, fish and chips, a salad of butter lettuce with radishes and onion with mustard dressing on the side, blackberry cheesecake, apricot marmalade, hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter on toast, scotch, mint tea, a gin and tonic, appetizers and cake, fruit punch, a stir-fry of vegetables, spaghetti carbonara, cereal, peanuts, and huckleberries.

For my book-inspired dish I picked the risotto primavera that Marissa orders when out to dinner with Nathan. I love risotto and had been meaning to try a cauliflower rice version after buying a large bag of riced cauliflower at Costco. I grabbed a few simple veggies--sweet onion, carrot, celery, red pepper and peas and thought I'd grate up a small leftover chunk of Parmesan that needed to be used. 

Cauliflower Rice Risotto Primavera
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 4)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced
2 small carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2  cloves garlic, minced
5 cups cauliflower rice (I used frozen)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/3 cup coconut milk or milk of choice
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese + extra for serving
sea salt and black pepper to taste
fresh basil leaves to taste 
zest of one lemon

Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery and saute about 5 minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the cauliflower rice and broth, cover pan and reduce heat to medium low. Let cauliflower and veggies steam for about 6 to 7 minutes then remove the cover and let the liquid evaporate for 5 minutes or so, then add the peas. Continue to cook, uncovered, until most of the liquid has been absorbed, then stir in the coconut milk and cheese and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in basil and lemon zest and serve topped with extra cheese, if desired. Enjoy!

Notes/Results: I have been enamored with cauliflower rice lately-especially since my doctor recommended I cut out wheat and gluten and cut down on rice and other carbs. When cooked and seasoned well, cauliflower rice works really well in soups and rice bowls and I was thrilled to see how well it worked in risotto. I did not miss the arborio rice and the guilty feeling from eating too much of it. With cauliflower rice it's about 25 calories a cup, versus 200 in a cup of arborio rice and 218 calories for a cup of cooked brown rice . I loved this risotto. I kept it light on the cheese and used coconut milk and it was plenty creamy. I will definitely make this again.

I'm sharing this post with 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 "After Nightfall" 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.



  1. I've been really curious about the cauliflower rice. I should give it a try for risotto -- I LOVE risotto and like the idea of this lower carb version.

  2. Cauliflower rice is very interesting -- I've been meaning to try it, and I like your recipe. I hope Costco is selling a manageable quantity, though. So often their frozen food items are so large that they wouldn't even fit in my EMPTY freezer compartment, much less with what's always hanging around there like ice packs and ice cream.

    best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com


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