Note to Readers

Roundtable Reviews receives many galley and ARC copies for review. Please understand that the finished copy may differ from the copies we have reviewed.

I have not received any compensation for writing this post other than a free digital or galley copy of the book. I have no material connection to the publisher, agent, or author whose book/s I am reviewing. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Happiness In Between by Grace Greene

Setting: Cub Creek, Virginia
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Release Date: January 31, 2017



Sandra Hurst gave her husband two changes. She divorced him once, but took him back in hopes that he really had changed. Sadly, this marriage has proven that he's just as emotionally abusive as before. Leaving her home in the middle of the night, Sandra doesn't know how to start over, but she's going to start over.

She learns that her aunt needs a house and dog sitter. Sandra heads to rural Virginia where she finds her family's home structurally sound but in desperate need of a good cleaning and a few repairs. Her aunt's dog is missing, so that's one of her first goals. She soon finds the dog, but it's actually her young neighbor's dog. This starts a new friendship between Sandra and the boy and his father.

It's not going to be easy, and her husband isn't quite ready to give her up, but Sandra's ready to put her feet down. It's her time to prove she's tougher than anyone knew.

Strengths and Weaknesses


One thing the author did well was to portray emotional abuse. It's harder to prove emotional abuse to others, but that doesn't mean it's not there. I have a friend who's been in emotionally abusive relationships multiple times. It's not easy watching it and certainly not easy for those trapped in it.

The Happiness In Between has a charming setting. I loved reading the chapters and watching the house become a home. I felt drawn to Sandra and others within the town. There are times it was a bit predictible, but I really didn't care. I just wanted to see how things played out.


RTR's Bottom Line


What could have been a dark, sad plot turned into an uplifting one. I love that Sandra didn't dwell on the past as much as she could have. She dove into her projects and started living life on her terms. It's an easy read, and one that proved to be different to what I was expecting.




Friday, December 8, 2017

Pantry and Palate by Simon Thibault (Excerpt and Recipe)


Excerpted from Pantry and Palate by Simon Thibault © 2017, Text by Simon Thibault. ©2017, Photographs by Noah Fecks. All rights reserved. Published by Nimbus Publishing

“Cooking from many of these old recipes wasn’t always easy. The majority of the recipes only had a basic list of ingredients, and they rarely included directions, let alone detailed ones. So not only did I have to decipher what to do and in what order, but I also had to figure out how to record that information. It was like having a stilted conversation that was decades long: You need this much of this, and that much of that. You know what to do. I was determined to gather the same strength of character and ease in the kitchen that these women had, if only in the smallest of doses. Reading through these impeccably scripted notebooks, I found myself wondering about these recipes: How hot did this oven need to be to bake this cake? (350 F, apparently.) Was it a coincidence that the blood pudding/sausage recipe was written on the same page as one for doughnuts? (Fresh pig’s blood also means fresh pig’s fat, enough for deep-frying those wonderful treats.)”

How about a tempting recipe? We have more recipes from Pantry and Palate posted on the Facebook page!



RÂPURE / RAPPIE PIE MAKES 1 L ARGE PIE, SERVES 4– 6

1 (4 pound) whole chicken, preferably a stewing hen
10 pounds potatoes, peeled
2 medium onions, minced
3−4 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons oil or butter
12 cups cold water (or enough to cover chicken in the pot)
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons minced salt pork (optional)
2 tablespoons salted onions, plus additional 2 teaspoons* (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

• The first thing to do is make the chicken stock. This can be done the day
before. In a pot large enough to accommodate your chicken, sauté onions
in the butter (or oil) until translucent. Add 1 teaspoon of salted onions if
you have them. If not, add a bit of salt to onions to help them sweat.
• Add chicken and cover with cold water, about 12 cups. Add the bay laves
and carrots. Cover the pot and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to keep the
bird at a gentle simmer. Cook for about 1 hour, or until meat is almost
falling off the bone, but not quite.
• Remove the chicken from the pot and strain the stock through a sieve.
(At this point you can refrigerate your stock until you need it, or just keep
it warm if you plan on making the rappie pie at the same time.)
• Shred the chicken into small pieces, discarding the bones and skin. Set
aside.
• Grate your potatoes on a box grater or rasp. Take your time, or you’ll
end up with bloody knuckles. (Alternatively, you can use a juicer to
simultaneously pulverize your potatoes and remove much of the water.
The texture will be mildly different, but highly comparable.)
• Place portions of the rasped/grated potato into muslin or kitchen towels.
Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. You will be adding stock to it
afterwards, and you want to get out as much of the liquid as possible. (Tip:
Squeeze the potatoes into a large measuring bowl. Let’s say you squeeze
out 7 1/2 cups of potato water, you should add back in about 10 cups
of stock. This is the ratio you’re trying to achieve. Adjust accordingly.)
• Bring the stock to a roiling boil. You need it to be as hot as possible to
scald the potatoes properly. Heat your oven to 425˚F.
• Put the potatoes into a large bowl, big enough to accommodate at
least twice its volume. (If you don’t have a bowl big enough, do this in
batches, making sure to keep your stock as hot as possible for scalding
the potatoes.) Break up the potatoes using a hand mixer. Mix in half
of the hot stock using a hand mixer, and stir it all together, making
sure to moisten the potatoes as much as possible. Mix in the rest of the
hot stock and keep stirring. The mixture will thicken, but keep stirring
for about 2−3 minutes after adding the last of the stock. Taste for
seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and the salted onions as you go.
• Pour enough of the potato pulp to cover the bottom of your casserole
dish. Add roughly 1/2 of your chicken, tossing it over the potatoes. Add
enough potatoes to just cover the chicken, and then add more chicken,
finally covering that with the rest of the potatoes.
• Place the rappie pie into your oven. Bake at 425˚F for 30 minutes, and
then turn down the heat to 375˚F and bake for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Occasionally baste the top with butter (or small dice of salt pork) to
help the crust brown. The dish is ready when the crust on the top is nice
and set and golden brown.
• Serve warm with loads of butter, or possibly a little molasses on the side.



RÂPURE
/ RAPPIE PIE
MAKES 1 L ARGE PIE, SERVES 4
6
1 (4 pound) whole chicken, preferably a stewing hen
10 pounds potatoes, peeled
2 medium onions, minced
3−4 carrots, diced
2 tablespoons oil or butter
12 cups cold water (or enough to cover chicken in
the pot)
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons minced salt pork (optional)
2 tablespoons salted onions, plus additional 2 teaspoons* (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
The first thing to do is make the chicken stock. This can be done the day
before. In a pot larg
e enough to accommodate your chicken, saut
é
onions
in the butter (or oil) until translucent. Add 1 teaspoon of salted onions if
you have them. If not, add a bit of salt to onions to help them sweat.
Add chicken and cover with cold water, about 12 cups. A
dd the bay laves
and carrots. Cover the pot and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to keep the
bird at a gentle simmer. Cook for about 1 hour, or until meat is almost
falling off the bone, but not quite.
Remove the chicken from the pot and strain the stock t
hrough a sieve.
(At this point you can refrigerate your stock until you need it, or just keep
it warm if you plan on making the rappie pie at the same time.)
Shred the chicken into small pieces, discarding the bones and skin. Set
aside.
Grate your pota
toes on a box grater or rasp. Take your time, or you
ll
end up with bloody knuckles. (Alternatively, you can use a juicer to
simultaneously pulverize your potatoes and remove much of the water.
The texture will be mildly different, but highly comparable.)
Place portions of the rasped/grated potato into muslin or kitchen towels.
Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can. You will be adding stock to it
afterwards, and you want to get out as much of the liquid as possible. (Tip:
Squeeze the potatoes into
a large measuring bowl. Let
s say you squeeze
out 7 1/2 cups of potato water, you should add back in about 10 cups
of stock. This is the ratio you
re trying to achieve. Adjust accordingly.)
Bring the stock to a roiling boil. You need it to be as hot as
possible to
scald the potatoes properly. Heat your oven to 425
̊
F.
Put the potatoes into a large bowl, big enough to accommodate at
least twice its volume. (If you don
t have a bowl big enough, do this in
batches, making sure to keep your stock as hot as
possible for scalding
the potatoes.) Break up the potatoes using a hand mixer. Mix in half
of the hot stock using a hand mixer, and stir it all together, making
sure to moisten the potatoes as much as possible. Mix in the rest of the
hot stock and keep sti
rring. The mixture will thicken, but keep stirring
for about 2
3 minutes after adding the last of the stock. Taste for
seasoning, adding salt, pepper, and the salted onions as you go.
Pour enough of the potato pulp to cover the bottom of your casserole
d
ish. Add roughly 1/2 of your chicken, tossing it over the potatoes. Add
enough potatoes to just cover the chicken, and then add more chicken,
finally covering that with the rest of the potatoes.
Place the rappie pie into your oven. Bake at 425
̊
F for 30 m
inutes, and
then turn down the heat to 375
̊
F and bake for another 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Occasionally baste the top with butter (or small dice of salt pork) to
help the crust brown. The dish is ready when the crust on the top is nice
and set and golden brown.
Serve warm with loads of butter, or possibly a little molasses on the side.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Persons Unknown by Susie Steiner

Setting: Cambridgeshire
Genre: British Crime Novel
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: July 4, 2017



Manon Bradshaw balances her work as a detective with her pregnancy and new role as the adoptive mom of a 12-year-old boy. She's moved to Cambridgeshire with her new son, sister, and nephew. What seems like a new start is anything but.

A man dies in a stranger's arms in a local park. That man happens to be her sister's ex. Her sister was missing for a number of hours that afternoon and evening, and Manon's son is seen on camera at the scene. This case involves too many of Manon's loved ones, so she's pulled from the investigation. The last thing this pregnant mom wants, however, is to be told she's off the case.

Strengths and Weaknesses


This is my introduction to Manon. I did not read the previous novel. Maybe I needed to? I never really connected with her character. She did things that bugged me as she investigated. I don't want to go into spoilers, but I simply struggled to really like her. She's pregnant and I get the pregnancy emotions, but they often overshadowed the rest of the story, so that got tiring.

The ending left me cold. Again, no spoilers, but read it and comment. I'm curious to see if others were as bothered by one aspect of the ending as I was.

RTR's Bottom Line


The plot in Persons Unknown had merit. I wanted an edge-of-my-seat crime procedural focusing on the murder and solving it, and at times I got just that. There were just too many other characters thrown in and too much daily-routine drama that wore me down.