Monday, October 24, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina, Served with "Presidential" Creamy Scrambled Eggs on Toast

With the election coming in the next couple of weeks and all of the political hoopla, Madame Presidentess by Nicole Evelina is a fascinating and timely read about the first woman to run for President of the United States, Victoria Woodhull. I am reviewing it on today's TLC Book Tour stop and pairing my review with some very Presidential Creamy Scrambled Eggs on Toast.

Publisher's Blurb:

Forty-eight years before women were granted the right to vote, one woman dared to run for President of the United States, yet her name has been virtually written out of the history books

Rising from the shame of an abusive childhood, Victoria Woodhull, the daughter of a con-man and a religious zealot, vows to follow her destiny, one the spirits say will lead her out of poverty to “become ruler of her people.”

But the road to glory is far from easy. A nightmarish marriage teaches Victoria that women are stronger and deserve far more credit than society gives. Eschewing the conventions of her day, she strikes out on her own to improve herself and the lot of American women.

Over the next several years, she sets into motion plans that shatter the old boys club of Wall Street and defile even the sanctity of the halls of Congress. But it’s not just her ambition that threatens men of wealth and privilege; when she announces her candidacy for President in the 1872 election, they realize she may well usurp the power they’ve so long fought to protect.

Those who support her laud “Notorious Victoria” as a gifted spiritualist medium and healer, a talented financial mind, a fresh voice in the suffrage movement, and the radical idealist needed to move the nation forward. But those who dislike her see a dangerous force who is too willing to speak out when women are expected to be quiet. Ultimately, “Mrs. Satan’s” radical views on women’s rights, equality of the sexes, free love and the role of politics in private affairs collide with her tumultuous personal life to endanger all she has built and change how she is viewed by future generations.

This is the story of one woman who was ahead of her time – a woman who would make waves even in the 21st century – but who dared to speak out and challenge the conventions of post-Civil War America, setting a precedent that is still followed by female politicians today.

Paperback: 428 pages
Publisher: Lawson Gartner Publishing (July 24, 2016)

My Review:

I had heard the name Victoria Woodhull before, but I confess that I knew little about her beyond the fact that she was a leader of the American Woman's Suffrage Movement and that she had fun for President, while fighting to give women the right to vote. What a fascinating and multifaceted woman she was and what an interesting life she lead. Nicole Evelina did an excellent job of bringing her to life from her dirt-poor and abusive childhood working as a spiritualist and magnetic healer, to her abusive first marriage, to her rise in finances and prestige as she and her sister became the first female stockbrokers and opened a brokerage firm with the help of Cornelius Vanderbilt, to fighting for women's rights, running a newspaper, and her eventual run for Presidency as part of the Equal Rights Party. She was a colorful character, involved and intersecting with many people who went on to become far more well-known in the pages of history like Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglas, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher and his sister Harriet Beecher Stowe--to name a few. Her first marriage, along with the plight of the prostitutes and downtrodden women she met building her healing business made her a proponent of free love--the movement to separate the government from regulating sexual matters like marriage, adultery and birth control, saying that women deserved the same sexual freedoms as men and should not be trapped into loveless marriages and abusive situations without the means of escape. Her opinions and politics would not be popular with everyone today, so imagine how they were taken in the late 1800s when she was called everything from Notorious Victoria to Mrs. Satan and even arrested and jailed multiple times. It is shameful, but not surprising that more isn't taught or known about her life and her accomplishments.

The book's 428 pages are well-researched and the drama unfolds like a movie, which works most of the time in relaying the story, but does lean to the melodramatic. There were times that the language and conversations seemed too dramatic and peppered with awkwardly-worded declarations that occasionally pulled me out of the story and felt less 'real' that the rest of the book. But, I will say that when I was pulled out, I immediately was brought back in by this not always likable, often controversial, but consistently fascinating and inspiring woman--who was way ahead of her time. If you are a historical fiction fan, you enjoy books with political and feminist themes and about strong females, or you just like a great story, you will likely enjoy this one. 


Author Notes: Nicole Evelina is an award-winning historical fiction and romantic comedy writer. Her most recent novel, Madame Presidentess, a historical novel about Victoria Woodhull, America’s first female Presidential candidate, was the first place winner in the Women’s US History category of the 2015 Chaucer Awards for Historical Fiction.
Her debut novel, Daughter of Destiny, the first book of an Arthurian legend trilogy that tells Guinevere’s life story from her point of view, was named Book of the Year by Chanticleer Reviews, took the Grand Prize in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Women’s Fiction/Romance, won a Gold Medal in the fantasy category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and was short-listed for the Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction. Been Searching for You, her contemporary romantic comedy, won the 2015 Romance Writers of America (RWA) Great Expectations and Golden Rose contests. You can connect with Nicole on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.


Food Inspiration:

There was no a lot of food in Madame Presidentess, but there was some like a July 4th picnic with plates of ham, turkey, and "all manner of casseroles and several desserts," cider, soup and bread, tea and sandwiches, chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne in the brokerage office for female clients, a dinner of tomato soup, pheasant, and custard pie for dessert, donuts and whiskey, a meal of soup and fish, and a picnic lunch including a rare beef in creamy mayonnaise sauce

There were a few mentions of toast--coffee and toast, buttered toast and tea, nibbling on a crust of toast. Since toast didn't seem like enough of a book-inspired dish, I decided to top it with something more fun--Presidential creamy scrambled eggs. Why are they Presidential? Well according to several different sources, these eggs were the favorite of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and were made by Eleanor at the table at family dinners.  

From a Gourmet article from 2009 entitled "FDR's Anti-Epicurean White House" Laura Shapiro says, "It was a Roosevelt family tradition to have scrambled eggs on Sunday night, and Eleanor used to make them herself in a chafing dish, right at the table. In a lifetime packed with servants, this was the only meal she regularly cooked. The rest of the menu—“cold meat and salad, a cold dessert and cocoa” as she described it once—was probably assembled by other hands. But Eleanor scrambled the eggs." 

Hopefully, had she been elected President, Victoria Woodhull would have had someone to cook her favorite dish!

I have cooked these eggs before--for a book about Eleanor Roosevelt but I wanted to try them again for fun. They are full of cream cheese and cream, so not a healthy option, but I made a single serving and it does make a tasty indulgence when you want soft, creamy eggs and go well with buttered slices of light rye toast. Two things: I used a garden vegetable cream cheese spread I had on hand and I goofed a bit and used half the cream cheese and cream amounts, but used 1/3 the amount (2) of the eggs. (I forgot I got hard-boiled egg happy and used all up my eggs over the weekend!) So my eggs are a tad lighter, creamier and less 'eggy' than the ones I made last time, but they have a delicious flavor and it still seemed to work.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's Scrambled Eggs
Source: Portsmouth, Ohio-Times, Thurs., 12/28/49 via Antilope at
(Serves 4)

1 (3 oz) package Philadelphia cream cheese, softened (I used Garden Vegetable cream cheese)
1/2 cup cream or top milk
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
few grains of pepper

Mash the cream cheese with a fork into a frying pan. Add cream or top milk, and heat until cheese has melted and cream is bubbling.

Break eggs into a bowl and beat lightly with a fork. Add salt and pepper to beaten eggs and mix all ingredients with the cream cheese mixture in the frying pan. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly and scraping bottom of pan, using long, folding strokes.

Remove from heat when consistency is creamy and serve at once. Do not overcook.

Notes/Results: These are rich and decadent eggs, ultra soft and creamy so they melt in your mouth. I used the garden vegetable cream cheese spread because I needed to use it up but it actually added another layer of flavor to the eggs so if you have a favorite bagel schmear that goes with eggs, I say go ahead and use it. I was originally going to top these eggs with chives, but they had seen better days, so I sliced some green onions for color. I ate these eggs on toast for breakfast, but I can always see the appeal of breakfast for dinner, or any time of day really. Although I wouldn't make them often, I would definitely make them again

I am linking this review and recipe pairing up to Novel Food #28, hosted by my friend Simona at briciole and where books, poems, short stories and other literary works are paired with dishes inspired by them. 

I'm also linking 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 "Madame Presidentess" was provided to me by the publisher and 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.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Ghoulish Green Curry Veggie Chowder with Optional Grilled "Scary" Kauai Shrimp for Food 'n Flix: October: Beetlejuice and Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays

In case you missed my announcement post on October 1st (this one!), you probably know that I am hosting this month's Food 'n Flix event here at Kahakai Kitchen with the perfect October and Halloween movie, Beetlejuice! Although not the most foodie of films, entries have already been coming in and as usual, my Food 'n Flix fellow participants, both old and new are outdoing themselves with creative and fun entries. I can't wait to show you in the roundup I will be doing after the deadline! 

If for any reason you have not seen Beetlejuice, my announcement post gives a quick breakdown of the plot so I won't go into that in this post and instead, I'll talk about my movie-inspired dish.

I have seen Beetlejuice about a bazillion times and probably my favorite part is the dinner party scene with the sculptural shrimp cocktails that turn into hands and grab the guests into their bowls (but not until after their bodies are taken over by a rousing dance to The Banana Boat Song).  I knew going in, I would take inspiration from those shrimp and the bowls but I wanted to change things up a bit. Instead of shrimp cocktail, I wanted to make some sort of soup and have the shrimp over the side--instead of in it.

I decided to go with a green curry chowder--both because it sounded delicious and also because I wanted to capture the eerie green light of the afterlife and the ends of Beetlejuice's lovely hair, and a chowder full of veggie pieces conjured up the strange, almost junkyard feeling of the Maitland's model cemetery where Beetlejuice hangs out.I probably should have done a more Jamaican-style curry soup based on the Calypso music of the Deetz's dinner party, but I was craving those classic Thai green curry flavors and so that's what I made. 

I'm calling these shrimp "scary" because I bought some fresh-frozen Kauai shrimp and decided to leave them with their heads on--often scary for people, but that's where the true flavor in shrimp is and Kauai Shrimp says, "Don't be afraid of the head!" Because not everyone is a shrimp eater, I grilled them separately after marinating for extra flavor. The chowder stands on its own with great flavor, so if you don't do shrimp, you could eat it without, or add some fun hard-boiled egg eyeballs (with green olive and capers) for extra protein and a still creepy look. But, personally I think the shrimp add so much--both in their flavor, and their looks--giving off a spooky Beetlejuice and Tim Burton vibe. 

Ghoulish Green Curry Veggie Chowder
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 6-8)

2 Tbsp butter or coconut oil
2 large leeks, white and light green parts, cut in half, cleaned and sliced into half-moons
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 stalk lemongrass, outer core peeled and inner core bruised
4-5 kaffir lime leaves, left whole but tears made on the edges to release oils (optional)
2 to 3 Tbsp of your favorite green curry paste, or to taste
jalapeño pepper, seeds removed, diced
large carrot, peeled and sliced into thin coins
6 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed, skin on
4 cups of broth or stock (veggie, chicken, shrimp) or water
2 (14.5 oz) cans coconut milk (I used 1 lite, 1 regular) 
2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
4 heaping cups baby spinach leaves, washed and sliced
2 Tbsp Thai fish sauce
juice and zest of 1 lime + extra if needed

Optional Garnishes: Grilled "Scary" Shrimp (recipe below), hard-boiled eggs (green olives & capers to make eyes), lime wedges, fresh cilantro

Grilled "Scary Shrimp"
Marinade inspired by Chef Andy's Flame-Grilled Kauai Shrimp via
(Makes 13-15 shrimp) 

1 lb jumbo (13-15 per lb) fresh head-on, un-shelled shrimp, thawed
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp ginger, peeled and minced
2 Tbsp cilantro leaves
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of coconut sugar
pinch of black pepper

Leave heads and shells on shrimp. Starting where the head meets the body, use a pair of kitchen shears to cut the shell down the back of the shrimp. Grasp vein with a toothpick and gently pull from shrimp and dispose of vein. Rinse and pat dry shrimp and place in a shallow bowl or plastic bag. (Optional: Flip shrimp over and using the tip of pairing knife, gently cut along the center where you see a vein, and gently pull and scrape out the smaller vein and dispose it before rinsing shrimp.)

Place the remaining ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the marinade over the shrimp and gently toss until coated. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 25-30 minutes.

Preheat a large grill pan over high heat. When hot, working in batches, add shrimp and grill about 2 minutes per side--until shrimp is pink and cooked through. Set aside to serve with soup or enjoy!

Notes/Results: First off, this chowder is so good! Great green curry flavor, just the right amount of heat--that warmth at the back of the throat--and so rich and creamy, you just want to keep scooping it up. The shrimp are delectable--so fresh and so much flavor--the slightly tangy and salty/savory marinade contrasting with the sweet shrimp. Even if you aren't brave enough to suck on the shrimp head, they are delicious. Just have extra napkins for peeling  and enjoying them. I would happily make both recipes again!

If you want to play along this month, Food 'n Flix submissions are due Monday, October 31st so there's still time to join in. I'll be rounding all of the entries up on my blog shortly after. 

And I am also linking up this spooky Tim Burton movie-inspired chowder up to #Burtoweeen, for Fandom Foodies, hosted by Carrie at Witchy Kitchen. You can get the details for this event and see of all the creepy Tim Burton-inspired dishes everyone created here.

We have some good friends in the Souper Sundays kitchen who shared some delicious dishes last week--let's have a look!

Welcome Denise of Soup Spice Everything Nice, who joined us at Souper Sundays for the first time last week with two soups. First, her Cheese Tortellini Soup with Gremolata. She says, "I saw this on Food Network years ago. It has been awhile but I think it was on one of Rachael Ray's shows? It is great when you are sick. My favorite when I have a cold. It is so easy to prepare. I have even been without a lemon and substituted lemon pepper and lemon juice. Still very tasty. Luckily I am not sick today. I just wanted this delicious soup."

Denise also shared Instant Pot "Sake" Special Ramen, saying "This was time consuming not instant as the title might suggest. But the instant pot was an invaluable tool to the process. It let me develop great flavor in less time and really made the broth spectacular. I see myself doing this again real soon. I hope you give it a try."

Melynda from Our Sunday Cafe shared her Virus Buster Chicken Soup saying, "This is not regular soup, and it is not even a recipe for soup. It is a process and you can use it and amend it for your own family's needs and taste preferences.  I was aiming for superior bone broth strength and lots of aromatic vegetables for flavor."

Vicki of I'd Rather Be At The Beach brought a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Eggo Waffle Sandwich and said, "My son thought they were good but needed a little extra flavor so he put strawberry jam on his. When I tasted mine I thought the same thing, so I added some to mine. Much better! I left the cheese off, and that may have made a difference, so I may make these again with a different variety of ingredients, like adding the cheese, or some syrup instead of jam."

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor made a new salad from her Hello Fresh Box and said, "We've had two meals from it so far - the Quinoa Salad with Sunchokes and Kale and the Jamie Oliver verison of Aloo Gobhi. Both were excellent. Here is the Quinoa Salad chock full of kale and sunchokes. I may adapt this next time I make it and use spinach instead of kale. I didn't know what sunchokes were, turns out they are Jerusalem artichokes. Mystery solved."

Judy from Gluten Free A-Z Blog shared Mild and Creamy Cauliflower Kale Soup. She said, "I love making easy seasonal soups that are both tasty and healthy. In this recipe cauliflower and kale, two cruciferous vegetables, team up with coconut milk to make a mild creamy fall soup just in time for the cooler damper weather. I adore soup and can't think of a better way to make sure I get my fill of antioxidant rich vegetables. In addition, this vegan soup has sauteed garlic, onions and turmeric , goes a long way, and is deliciously satisfying."

Mahalo to everyone who joined in 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 wonderful Souper Sundays logo (created by Ivy at Kopiaste) to your post and/or blog (optional).

Have a happy, healthy and spooky week!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Hard-Boiled Eggs with Heidi Swanson's Homemade Dukkah (and Some Avocado Toast with Dukkah Too!)

What ingredients inspire you or get you excited about cooking? For me it's often spices and spice blends, both the exotic and the more familiar as they add so much to a dish. I have had an obsession with dukkah (the Egyptian blend of nuts, seeds and spices) for a while now--sprinkling it on the top of hummus or other dips, adding it to salads, dipping bread in olive oil and then the dukkah, and using it as a crust for fish. Even one of my favorite brunch places tops their avocado toast with their dukkah blend which makes it crave-worthy. I had finally used up the last of my Trader Joe's dukkah tins earlier this year and I kept meaning to make my own blend, so when I saw Heidi Swanson's Hard Cooked Eggs with Dukkah recipe from Super Natural Every Day, I knew I wanted to make it.

Eggs are a definite source of protein for me since I gave up meat and poultry a few years ago and I am always  topping dishes with them and usually have a stash of hard-boiled eggs ready to grab and go for snack or breakfast. Topping egg slices with dukkah and adding a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky salt seemed like a brilliant idea. 

Swanson's dukkah recipe includes some of my favorite spice seeds--cumin, coriander and fennel. I took the lazy girl approach to my dukkah, meaning that I didn't toast each spice separately. I toasted the hazelnuts first, then the black peppercorns, and then put the sesame, cumin, coriander, and fennel seeds together in the pan and toasted them together. I also used the dry container of my Vita Mix blender to pulse everything rather than using a mortar and pestle to pound and crush. Maybe not as refined, but it's been a busy week, I wanted minimum effort, and it still tastes great! 

Hard Cooked Eggs with Dukkah
Slightly Adapted from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson
(Makes 12 Eggs: 3-4 Servings)

6 large eggs, hard-boiled, peeled (try my favorite egg boiling tips for easy shell removal)
1/3 cup dukkah
extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle
flaky sea salt to finish 

Cut eggs in half and arrange on a serving plate, cut side up. Sprinkle eggs generously with the dukkah. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and garnish with a pinch of flaky sea salt--adding more salt if needed/desired one you have tasted them.

Slightly Adapted from Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson
(Makes about 2/3 Cup

1/4 cup hazelnuts
2 Tbsp coriander seeds

2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds

scant 1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp dried mint leaves
1/2 tsp fine sea salt + more if needed

Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat, add  hazelnuts, toast until slightly browned and fragrant, without burning them. Remove from the heat, transfer to a bowl and cool completely. Repeat the steps with each of the seeds and the peppercorns, allowing them to cool completely. (Note: I did take the time to remove the bulk of the hazelnut skins, rubbing them off with a towel after toasting.)

Using a mortar and pestle, pound the peppercorns until crushed. Add the hazelnuts and seeds with the dried mint and salt and crush into a coarse consistency. (Or, you can pulse them in a food processor or blender to a coarse consistency, but don't over-process to a paste.) Taste and add additional salt if desired. 
Heidi's Note: You can keep the dukkah in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 1 month. 

Notes/Results: Between the toasting hazelnuts and the spices, my kitchen was smelling deliciously exotic by the time I made my eggs. These were so good. The texture and flavor of the dukkah adds so much to the creamy eggs. This is a great little snack or appetizer--if you enjoy hard-boiled eggs and spices, you will like this recipe. Heidi's dukkah blend has good flavor, but it is pretty black pepper-forward, which I love--but if you aren't a fan, use less. Dukkah ingredients vary quite a bit so you can customize it with different quantities or kinds of nuts and seeds. A really tasty snack or appetizer. I paired mine with some salad for an early light dinner. I will definitely make this again.

The recipe makes extra so I have been enjoying it on avocado toast. Just toasted (light rye) bread, fresh ripe avocado, a drizzle of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon or lime and a generous sprinkle of dukkah. So good!  I also think this dukkah would be good sprinkled on top of an open face egg salad sandwich.

Linking this post up to I Heart Cooking Clubs Ingredients That Inspire theme. You can see what ingredients inspired everyone by checking out the picture links on the post. 

I'm also linking it 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.

Happy Aloha Friday!

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "News of the World" by Paulette Jiles

Today I am excited to be a stop on the TLC Book Tour for the riveting historical novel The News of the World by Paulette Giles. Not only did I find this small but mighty book difficult to put down, it has been honored as National Book Award Finalist this year. So pour yourself a cup of strong, cowboy coffee and settle in for my review.

Publisher's Blurb:

It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.

Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forging a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember—strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become—in the eyes of the law—a kidnapper himself. Exquisitely rendered and morally complex, News of the World is a brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Hardcover: 224 pages  
Publisher: William Morrow (October 4, 2016)

My Review:

I am a fan of historical fiction, but my tastes tend to run from the 1920s through WWII and I usually don't have much of an interest in westerns. Over the past few years however, I have tried to not get hung up on the genre or even the setting of a book, and let the description of the story draw me in. The idea of a former soldier turned news reader (someone who travels through dusty town after dusty town, reading the news for a dime a head) was intriguing, as was the idea of a young girl, kidnapped and her family killed by raiders when she was six, being raised by the Kiowa and returned to the U.S. Army at age ten. The idea of these two strangers traveling together to return the girl to her aunt and uncle, sold me on signing up for the book tour. The fact that it was 220-ish pages sealed the deal--if I didn't like it, the book would be a quick read. The reality is that I became quickly transfixed by this beautiful story and wished it could have gone on another 200 pages, just to spend more time with Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd and Johanna and to absorb more of the Texas landscape in the aftermath of the Civil War.

As much as News of the World is a Western historical novel, it transcends those categories and is really about the bonds that form between people put together in an unusual situation. One would expect a gruff elderly man, used to being on his own in the world since his wife died and his daughters grown and married, not to be able to relate to a traumatized ten-year-old girl who no longer speaks English, wants to be barefoot and live outdoors, and is desperate to escape back to the tribe and the only mother and family that she remembers. Captain Kidd is a man with depth and character, who is taking Johanna back to family as much for a favor to a friend than the $50 gold piece--most of which he spends on a wagon and supplies to get Johanna through the territory as safely as possible. His gruff kindness builds trust with the girl and it is a beautiful thing to watch their relationship unfold. Johanna is an amazing character too--smart, wild and brave, older than her years because of the traumas she has endured.

There is danger and adventure--it is the Wild West they are traveling through, but that isn't the focus of the story and there is a nice balance of action, relationship, humor, and poignancy. The first dozen pages in, I had to get used to the author's style of writing as the lack of quotation marks around dialogue was a bit disconcerting. But I quickly adapted and it seemed to fit with the story and characters and added to the uniqueness of the book. News of the World is the first Paulette Jiles book that I have read, but I have a feeling it won't be the last. It's a special treasure of a novel--there was even a map included in the marketing materials outlining the Captain and Johanna's journey (with old newsprint-style reviews on the back), which I found myself pulling out to consult as I read. Highly recommended, this is a beautiful and moving story that will stay with me. 


Author Notes: Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the novels Enemy Women, Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, TX.

Find out more about Paulette at her website.


Food Inspiration:

I always look for the food in books of course and there was food to be found in The News of the World--starting with coffee, corn dodger (like a small pan-fried cornmeal fritter) and bacon, ground meat, a dinner pail of smoking barbecued meat, homemade divinity candy, black beans and bacon, roasted chicken, a German dish made of noodles, ground mutton and cream sauce with preserved cauliflower, sausages and cakes and flan.

I usually make a dish inspired by the book to accompany my reviews and unfortunately, this just wasn't the week for it as I am getting over some fun bronchial stuff and needed to sleep rather than cook. Had I the energy and the cornmeal, I would pair this story with a plate of corn dodgers like these, but instead I am having a cup of strong, black coffee--just like the Captain would have.

I'm linking up this review 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 News of the World" was provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins and 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.