Brain Storm, by Elaine Viets

brainstorm

Author Elaine Viets loves mysteries. She’s the author of a series of humorous “Dead End” job mysteries, a slew of cozy mysteries, and even some mystery shopper mysteries (I really want to read one of those!). But when it came to her latest novel, Brain Storm, the mystery began not just in her own mind, but in her own head.

And there’s a Kentucky connection! Dr. Jeb Travis Tritt is the doctor who saves Angela’s life. Born in Kentucky and named for his mother’s favorite country singer.

Elaine Viets was kind enough to visit with daeandwrite and share some of her experiences. I think Elaine’s suggestions will make a great blueprint for your book club and Brain Storm an intriguing choice. Lots of great discussion points: what happens when you can’t be you anymore; how does a small community protect its own; who do you rely on when you can’t trust anyone?

Give a read to the q & a below, then go check out Elaine Viets’ Brain Storm:

DaeandWrite:  I understand you have some things in common with your protagonist Angela Richman, the death investigator who suffers a stroke near the beginning of the novel. Tell us about your experience and how it influenced Brain Storm.

Elaine Viets: In April, 2007, I had a series of blinding headaches, which I thought were migraines. After four days, I had trouble talking and doing everyday tasks, such as tying a bow in my robe belt. I couldn’t figure out how to use a fork to scramble a breakfast egg. If you know my cooking skills, this sounds like a fair description, but I seriously could not figure out that fork. I was determined to ignore these symptoms and drive 40 miles to give a speech, but my husband took away my car keys and called my internist, who sent me to the ER at a hospital that billed itself as one of the “fifty best” in the US. The neurologist on call said I was “too young and fit to have a stroke” and sent me home. I was supposed to report that Wednesday for a PET scan, but Wednesday never happened. Instead, I had six strokes, including a hemorrhagic stroke, and brain surgery. I was in a coma for a week and spent more than three months in the hospital. I used a walker for six months and a cane for two years. I’ve made a nearly complete recovery, but that took more than four years.

DaeandWrite: Viets describes Angela Richman’s mirror experience near the beginning of Brain Storm:

Brainstorm jacket“Better,” she said, though another headache was gathering at the edges of her mind, like a storm on the horizon.

“Would you like coffee?” she asked.

“Brought my own,” he said, holding up his thermos. Angela scrambled an egg, then swallowed another Imitrex.

She fought the headache all day as she struggled with her report on Ben Weymuller’s death investigation. Angela turned it in about four o’clock. At four thirty, Rick poked his head in her study door.

“I’m leaving now,” he said. “this is even more screwed up than I thought. It’s gonna take at least a month.”

“I’ll give you the spare key, in case I’m at work tomorrow,” she said. Like everyone in the Forest, she trusted Rick.

Angela could barely see him through the blinding migraine dazzle, as if he were spotlighted on a brightly lit stage. She was determined to push through this. She was too young and fit to have a stroke. The Forest’s top neurologist had said so.

“Are you feeling better?”

“I’m fine,” she said, forcing a smile. “I’ll lie down until it’s time to go out with Katie.”

Angela crawled into bed for a nap that soft spring night, Thursday, March 10. And woke up nineteen days later.

In Brain Storm, Angela confronts a world that’s radically changed. She’s physically infirm, her appearance has been radically transformed from surgery and medication, her job is at risk, and something funky is going on with the doctor that mistakenly released her. Throughout, Angela complains vocally about the hospital food, a complaint I anticipate began with Elaine.

DaeandWrite: I would guess that during your own hospital stay you became more than frustrated by the hospital food?

Elaine Viets: The food was horrible – and so unhealthy. Red meat with gravy, white bread, fried food, no fresh fruits or vegetables. I still shudder at the thought of canned green beans. Don’t hospital dieticians read the nutrition guidelines?

DaeandWrite: Did you have music you listened to during the writing or editing process? Any particular genre or songs? Do you have songs you associate with any particular character?

elaine headshotElaine Viets: Angela Richman, my death investigator, likes to hit the highway in her black Dodge Charger, and play her favorite songs from her teen years in the 1990s – nice and loud. She likes Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Londonbeat’s “I’ve Been Thinking about You.” She’d be mortified if you knew she also listens to Marky Mark’s “Good Vibration.”

I don’t listen to music while I write or edit, but at the end of the day, I like to kick back to classic rock: the Stones, the Doors, Eric Clapton.

DaeandWrite: Angela and her friend Katie have a favorite Mexican restaurant. Is this based on one of your favorite restaurants? Or do you cook yourself?

Elaine Viets: I’m a terrible cook, but I love Mexican food. There are some good ones in Fort Lauderdale, including Casa Frida’s in Fort Lauderdale. If you’re in the area, I recommend it. It’s a cut above the usual taco joints.

DaeandWrite: Brain Storm was released in 2016. What’s next?

Elaine Viets: The second Angela book, Fire and Ashes, which I’m writing now. It will be

published by Thomas and Mercer in August 2017.

DaeandWrite: Any book signings/events coming up?

Elaine Viets: Yes, I’ll be at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention at the Marriott New Orleans, September 16­18. I have three events at Bcon on Saturday, September 17. From 3:00­3:50 PM, I’m on a panel, “Shake It Off: From Notes and First Draft to Finished Novel.” This is a funny, thought­provoking discussion with mystery writers Harry Hunsicker, LS Hawker, Laura McHugh, Jeffrey Siger and me. Daniel Hale is our moderator. At 4 o’clock, right after the panel, I’ll sign my books, including Brain Storm.

At 2 p.m. that same Saturday, I’ll be signing Blood on the Bayou at Bouchercon. More than 22 writers, from Alison Gaylin to David Morrell, Sheila Connelly to Gary Phillips, have donated stories to this NOLA­themed anthology. New York Times bestseller Heather Graham wrote the introduction. I did a Dead­End Job story. Helen and Margery leave the Coronado for a case in New Orleans in “Good and Dead.” All proceeds from Blood on the Bayou will benefit the New Orleans Public Library. Buy a copy, read your favorite authors, and help the library.

On October 8, I’ll teach a class – “Jump Starting Your Writing” – at Sleuthfest on Saturday, a one­day intensive writing conference sponsored by the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. This year, SOS is in Venice, Florida. For information, go to https://www.regonline.com/SleuthFest­on­Saturday­2016

On Nov. 12, I’ll be in Vero Beach, Florida, teaching a writing workshop for the Laura (Riding) Jackson Foundation, “Writing Killer Mysteries – The Basics” from 10 AM to 1 PM at the Loft. More information is at

http://www.lauraridingjackson.com/

After the workshop, I’ll sign Brain Storm and my Dead­End Job mysteries at 3 p.m. at the Vero Beach Book Center, 392 21st Street that same day.

(www.verobeachbookcenter.com)

I’m really looking forward to next spring, when I’m the Malice Domestic 29 Guest of Honor from Thursday, April 28 through Sunday, April 30, 2017 at the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda, Maryland. It’s quite a lineup: Marcia Talley is Toastmaster, Charlaine Harris is honored for Lifetime Achievement, the award­winning Martin

Edwards receives the Poirot Award for his contribution to the genre, and Luci Zahray is Fan Guest of Honor. Luci’s no ordinary fan. She’s also the “poison lady” who’s helped writers kill thousands. (www.malicedomestic.org)

DaeandWrite: Where can readers purchase Brain Storm?

Elaine Viets: Brain Storm is a trade paperback, e­book, and audio book. You can buy it here: (amzn.to/2awPsIe). Right now the paperback version is on sale for $9.99. Autographed copies are available at The Mysterious Bookshop, 58 Warren Street, New York City (info@mysteriousbookshop.com) or at Murder on the Beach Bookstore, Delray Beach, Florida, (murdermb@gate.net).

Thanks so much for letting me stop by your blog.

MENU2010_03_roasted_cauliflower-2

So, for this Book Club I’m going to refer to the grilled chicken sandwiches, artichoke salad and chocolate cupcakes Katie brings to Angela in the hospital. But I have to also add:
cauliflower! The original brain food.

My culinary hero Ina Garten has a delicious roasted artichoke salad recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-artichoke-salad-recipe.html.

For the cauliflower, though I definitely will leave one head whole and sliced, I also love to mash it for low-carb mashed potatoes. Put cauliflower in pot with enough water to cover. Cover the pot and turn the heat to medium. Cook the cauliflower for 12-15 minutes or until very tender. 3. Drain and discard all of the water (the drier the cauliflower is, the better) and add the milk, butter, sour cream, salt and pepper and mash with a masher until it looks like mashed potatoes.

There’s also a complete Mexican menu for dinner in Brain Storm: guacamole with thick chunks of ripe avocado, crunchy tortilla chips and hot salsa. Platters of steak fajitas, chicken burritos, and steaming bowls of black beans and rice.

MUSIC

I like Elaine Viets’ list above. If you want to go a different route, here are ten songs Steve Jobs used to train his brain according to Inc. Magazine: http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/10-songs-steve-jobs-used-to-train-his-brain.html

MOVIE CASTING

Well, this is definitely one of those physically transformative roles that every actress wants to win her Oscar.

Angela Richman:    Anne Hathaway

Katie:                          Kathryn Hahn

Dr. Gravois:              Tony Goldwyn

Dr. Tritt:                    I think he may be a little long in the tooth for the character as written, but I couldn’t help but see Billy Ray Cyrus in the role.

MEDICAL PSA

Let me take a moment and share some information inspired by Brain Storm that might save a life. According to the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association, these are the ways to recognize stroke:

F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. When you can spot the signs, you’ll know that you need to call 9-1-1 for help right away. F.A.S.T. is:

F Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
A Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
T Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

Thank you so much to Elaine Viets for sharing with daeandwrite.wordpress.com. If you enjoyed this blog post, please follow daeandwrite and share with your friends.

Happy Reading!

 

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Night Garden, by Carrie Mullins

night garden

Oxycontin, methamphetamine, teen pregnancy, predatory teachers, economic upheaval, poverty. The headlines of tragedy we’ve become far too accustomed to reading. Carrie Mullins tackles them all in her first novel, Night Garden, a literary cry for help for Kentucky’s small towns and their residents being ravaged by drugs.

Marie, Night Garden‘s protagonist, is a high schooler whose brother Shane has been involved with a teacher at the school since he was a sophomore. Shane’s leaving and Marie dreads being at home alone with her middle class parents. The night before Shane’s departure, the two attend a party.

Shane disappeared into the woods up above the fire, left with one of the Owens boys to get high. As soon as he was out of sight, Ms. Anglin put a champ chair beside Marie. She got a beer and some ice out of the cooler then sat down and showed Marie her finger. “So what’s going on with him?” she asked, holding the ice on her finger. “Does he have a girlfriend?”

“I thought you were his girlfriend,” Marie said.

. . .

“I know he’s screwing that Miller girl. Oh God, I love him.” Marie looked down at her hands in her lap, down at the ground, looked at anything except her journalism teacher. “I’m only six years older than him. That’s nothing. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a drip in the bucket.”

You’re a drip, Marie thought.

In Night Garden, ultimately, Marie has had enough and escapes her safe, middle class life to live with Bobo Owens, an exotic, attractive, charmer with a dream of owning his own kayaking business by saving from the proceeds of his family’s meth trafficking and bootlegging. Bobo and Marie set up house and soon, far too soon, Marie finds herself pregnant and Bobo a changed man: paranoid, emaciated, unfaithful, violent, and unsupportive.

According to the cover of Night Garden, author Carrie Mullins grew up and continues to live

Gurney-Norman-Photo-by-Tim-Collins-e1360956757688

Gurney Norman by Tim Collins

in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky. Night Garden is the first novel published by Old Cove Press, a literary publisher based in Lexington, Kentucky, and founded by noted author Gurney Norman and his wife Nyoka Hawkins. http://oldcove.comGurney Norman has been a member of the University of Kentucky Department of English since 1979 and currently serves as the department’s Director of Creative Writing. His first novel Divine Right’s Trip (1971) was published by The Dial Press, Bantam Books, and Pantheon Books of England.

Nyoka was kind enough to help me connect with Carrie for some q&a, food and music talk . . . and of course a recipe or two

Daeandwrite: The food in the Night Garden illustrates the socio-economic divergence between Marie’s family and Bobo’s. Was this a conscious decision?

Carrie: There are definite class and status issues in the book, and food is one way that plays out. The food was also a modern vs. old time divergence that I was thinking about. The food Marie makes for her parents early on – biscuits, sausage, eggs, fruit and coffee – that is kind of old school, and it takes time to make all that, especially the way Marie was making it (biscuits from scratch, she was not even using Bisquick). And then when she takes up with Bobo, it is mostly all convenience food, like we all eat now, pizza and cereal and honeybuns and all that, stuff that is easy to make and easy to eat but not necessarily very good food. With the exceptions of Marie making a cake from a box for Etta’s party, Etta’s actual party where they are working in the kitchen making potato salad and lunch for everyone, and being at Crystal’s house when she makes the casserole, there really isn’t any food that is “made” in their world.

Daeandwrite: Marie bakes a chocolate cake from a mix for Etta’s birthday but yearns for her own grandmother’s version. Do you have a particular memory of a chocolate cake that inspired Marie’s memory? Do you have a recipe you could share?

hershey'sCarrie: My grandma Hattie made the recipe from the side of the Hershey’s Cocoa tin – cake and icing both. She made it in a bundt pan, and she made it for about every get together we had – Memorial Day especially when everyone would come home from Ohio to visit. She made the best chicken and dumplings, fried apple pies, slaw, everything. Even her hamburgers were different and delicious, she sliced up onions and put them right in the hamburger. In fact, all the women in my family, on both sides, were incredible cooks. They’d make a big tableful of food for every get together. I’m like Marie in that I’m pretty nostalgic for all that food and those times together.

Here is the Hershey’s recipe:

 

 

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • CHOCOLATE FUDGE FROSTING (recipe follows)

Directions

  • 1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  • 2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of electric mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water. Pour batter into prepared pans.
  • 3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean and the top springs back when touched gently. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with CHOCOLATE FUDGE FROSTING. Makes 12 servings.
  • CHOCOLATE FUDGE FROSTING
  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1. Place melted butter in large mixer bowl. Add cocoa, stirring until smooth.
  • 2. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, milk and vanilla, beating until smooth. If necessary add additional milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, beating until spreading consistency. About 3 cups frosting.

https://www.hersheys.com/recipes/en_US/recipes/8421/really-chocolate-chocolate-cake.html

And my Aunt Iris Rose made a chocolate cake from the Settlement Cookbook, (1965), here chocolate cakeis that recipe:

Ingredients

2 cups cake flour

2 cups  sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1/2 cup butter

1 1/4 cup water

squares unsweetened chocolate

eggs – well beaten

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 325

Grease and flour 2 9 inch cake pans

Sift flour, sugar and salt together

Add butter and mix with fingertips or pastry blender to the consistency of corn meal.

Boil water and chocolate. Cool. Add to butter mixture. Beat very well.

Chill thoroughly.

Add eggs, vanilla and baking powder.

Pour mixture equally into pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, until cake tater or fork comes out clean when inserted in center.

https://cookpad.com/us/recipes/340844-chocolate-cake-from-the-settlement-cookbook-1965

Daeandwrite: Did you have music you listened to during the writing or editing process? Any particular genre or songs? Do you have songs you associate with any particular character?

Carrie: I listened to Gillian Welch quite a bit. She has a song “The Way It Goes,” that has the same sort of atmosphere as the book, I think. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiS37_EULj8  And everything by the Drive By Truckers, and Jason Isbell – his album Southeastern especially. The Dixie Chicks, Steve Earle, Gram Parsons and U2 are always on all my playlists. Shelby Lynne and Caroline Herring as well.

Daeandwrite: Why did you feel compelled to put this story on paper? What was it about this particular tale that you wanted to convey?

Carrie: People I cared about in my county, a whole generation it seemed like at one point, were really being devastated by drugs. Starting with oxycodone and then moving on to methamphetamine. I didn’t know how to fix it, but I could write about it. I guess I wanted to make a sort of “record” – fictional but near enough to true, to the time and the people of this time and place and what they were going through.

MENU

For my book club, I would make the breakfast that Marie fixes for her parents in Chapter 3. Homemade biscuits, sausage patties, scrambled eggs. And I would definitely make that Chocolate Cake!

MUSIC

Carrie said she listened to Gillian Welch quite a bit while writing Night Garden. “She has a song “The Way It Goes,” that has the same sort of atmosphere as the book, I think. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiS37_EULj8.” Carrie also suggested Drive By TruckersJason Isbell. The Dixie Chicks, Steve Earle, Gram Parsons, U2, Shelby Lynne and Caroline Herring.

Carrie Mullins will be at the Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort on November 5 and the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville in October. Night Garden is available at Morris Book Shop, Wild Fig Books & Coffee, Carmichael’s in Louisville, and Amazon. It can also be ordered directly from Old Cove Press by emailing  books@oldcove.com  or by phone 859-361-0533

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

Modern Lovers, Emma Straub

MAD-Magazine-Candy-Hearts-2015_54dcddb870cb70.39417896

Emma Straub’s new novel Modern Lovers picks up somewhere in the anthropological vicinity of her last novel, The Vacationers but a vast ocean away. The Vacationers took a New York family with teenagers, frustrated parents and a gay couple to Mallorca to experience a  series of crises. In Modern Lovers, the family – teenagers, frustrated parents, a gay couple — remain at home in Brooklyn to experience their own problems. (See my book club blueprint and review of The Vacationers here: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/the-vacationers-by-emma-straub/)

The adults in Modern Lovers used to be cool –  real cool –  rock band cool. But now that they are approaching 50, and their children are dating, or hooking up, or are just hanging out together having sex in public places, the adults find they aren’t quite so cool anymore. At least not in the eyes of their kids.

for saleElizabeth and Andrew are the married parents of Harry, not the most popular kid in school. These two, plus ultra-fabulous Zoe were in “the band: Kitty’s Mustache” with Lydia — now deceased, a member of the 27-Club, and subject of an upcoming biopic which Elizabeth and Zoe favor and Andrew opposes. Zoe is married to Jane and they have a daughter who IS the coolest girl in school, Ruby. Jane and Zoe own a restaurant called Hyacinth in Brooklyn. Andrew’s a rich kid who doesn’t have anything really useful to do with himself other than hang around a sketchy yoga-ish flop house called EVOLVEment run by a huckster named Dave, and Elizabeth (the real talent behind the band) is a real estate agent.

Modern Lovers is the second book in two months I’ve read about the changes in Brooklyn, and I’m reading another right now. Look for a post next week about SweetBitter by Stephanie Danler. Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney explored many of the same family themes in The Nesthttps://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/the-nest-by-cynthia-daprix-sweeney/. So maybe there’s something happening in Brooklyn that makes it a microcosm for what modern writers feel the need to share. Or maybe Brooklyn is where the modern writers live.

They were old friends — best friends, really, though Elizabeth might not say that in modern loversfront of Zoe for fear that she would laugh at the phrase for being juvenile. They’d lived together after college way back in the Stone Age in this very same house, sharing the rambling Victorian with Elizabeth’s boyfriend (now husband) and two guys who had lived in their co-op at Oberlin. It was always nice to carry a big bowl of something homemade over to Zoe’s house, because it felt like being back in that potluck-rich, money-poor twilight zone known as one’s twenties. Ditmas Park was a hundred miles from Manhattan (in reality, seven), a tiny little cluster of Victorian houses that could have existed anywhere in the United States, with Prospect Park’s parade grounds to the north and Brooklyn College to the south. Their other friends from school were moving into walk-up apartments in the East Village or into beautiful brownstones in Park Slope, on the other side of the vast green park, but the three of them had fallen in love with the idea of a house house, and so there they were, sandwiched between old Italian ladies and the projects.

It seems as if everything is coming to a head in the lives of Modern Lovers: 50 right here, Ruby and Harry’s high school graduation, Andrew’s midlife crisis, and Zoe and Jane’s marital woe. And just at this moment, a movie producer shows up asking for the rights to their life stories so she can make a film about Lydia, a sort of Janis Joplin-Britney Spears character best known for an uberhit called “Mistress of Myself,” written by Elizabeth. Not only does the producer appear, but she brings an actress who looks so much like Lydia, that Andrew faints.

I quite enjoyed Modern Lovers. Ms. Straub writes cleanly, clearly, and with an almost throw-back narrative style that I appreciate. There are characters of various generations facing familiar scenarios and problems, a discussion of which will be of great interest to a wide variety of book clubs. And the food options — since Jane and Zoe own a restaurant — is wonderful

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I would set a table with a white tablecloth and a centerpiece of hyacinths, in honor of Jane and Zoe’s restaurant.

The mentions of food are numerous. Brownies, souffles, croissants, fried chicken, frozen pizza and more are on menus at various times. I would serve one of the summer menus mentioned early on: A salad with watermelon radish and avocado. Fresh pasta with asparagus pesto. Dessert with strawberry and peppercorns.

I’ve never made asparagus pesto, so here’s a recipe from Food&Wine: that looks easy enough http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/fresh-asparagus-pesto

And my favorite chef, Ina Garten aka the Barefoot Contessa, has a delicious dessert recipe for strawberries with pepper: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/strawberries-with-balsamic-vinegar-recipe.html

MUSIC

There’s actually a musical group called The Modern Lovers that featured a couple of guys who went on to the Cars and Talking Heads. Protopunk. Not my bag.

Musician-singer Liz Phair actually went to Oberlin College and is about the age that Lydia would have been. I would play her music.

MOVIE CASTING

Zoe – easiest to me. Lisa Bonet, I pictured her all through the reading.

Jane – Kathryn Hahn

Ruby – Amanda Sternberg

Elizabeth – this could be anyone from Tina Fey to Jennifer Aniston. I envisioned Elizabeth Banks.

Andrew – Steve Carrell? Ben Affleck?

Harry – Logan Lerman

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

Desserts for 10 Book Club Novels

cakes

Who doesn’t love a great book? The only thing better is reading a great book and then discussing it with friends over a great dessert! Novelist and Dessert-maker extraordinaire supplied daeandwrite with suggestions for ten fabulous desserts inspired by ten great book club reads. Check out her dessert suggestions below and then check out her novels, Imaginary Things and The Repeat Year and her website: www.andrealochen.com. Thanks Andrea!

Ten Most Delicious Desserts Inspired by Novels

by Andrea Lochen

As an avid reader with a major sweet tooth, I love when authors include the recipes for the yummy desserts they’ve made me drool over throughout their book. It’s a marriage of two of my favorite activities—reading and baking! And if you’re a book club member, what better treat to bring to your meeting than a dessert straight out of the novel? Here are ten of my favorite book-inspired desserts!

1) Southern Caramel Cake from The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The HelpWho hasn’t wanted to try a bite of the scrumptious-sounding caramel cake that Minny makes in The Help? (Maybe not so much her chocolate pie, however!) Though Stockett didn’t include the recipe in the back of her book, this food blog has the The Junior League of Memphis Cookbook recipe that supposedly inspired her. http://scrumpdillyicious.blogspot.com/2011/03/minnies-caramel-cake-from-help.html

2) Coconut Cake from Amy E. Reichert’s The Coincidence of Coconut Cakecoconut cake

The titular coconut cake in Reichert’s The Coincidence of Coconut Cake earned its place on the cover of this heartwarming book. To the main character, Lou, baking her grandmother’s cake is the ultimate expression of love. In the book, those who get to eat it earned their slice, which certainly made me crave a piece all the more! http://www.tipsonlifeandlove.com/recipes-2/grandma-luellas-coconut-cake-recipe

Island in the sea3) Crème Caramel Flan from Anita Hughes’ Island in the Sea: A Majorca Love Story

 In Hughes’ newest novel set in Spain, she describes how Majorca’s restaurants serve a mouthwatering variety of delicious fresh fish and locally grown vegetables and how many diners like to end the meal with a dessert that satisfies any sweet tooth while not being heavy or cloying. This creme caramel flan recipe certainly does the trick! http://www.a2zmallorca.com/food_drink/915.htm

4) Lemon Cream Cake from Juliette Fay’s Shelter Meshelter me Fay introduces the concept of “pology cake” in her first novel, Shelter Me, as something you bake for someone you’ve wronged in the hopes of that person forgiving you. Though according to Fay, it doesn’t need to be a particular kind of cake, her recipe for lemon cream cake in the back of the book and on her author website sounds fabulous! http://juliettefay.com/pology-cake-bake-as-you-see-fit/

5) Peanut butter bars from Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal kitchens of the great

Though there are several delicious dishes described in Stradal’s debut novel about Midwestern foodie culture, it was the blue-prize winning peanut butter bars recipe from Lutheran church lady, Pat, that caught my eye. I made this for my book club and these chocolate-frosted bars are just as decadent as they sound! http://www.readthespirit.com/feed-the-spirit/peanut-butter-bars/


6) Thumbprint Cookies with Jam from Kelly Simmons’ One More Day

 Baking figures prominently in Kelly Simmons’ book because in One More Day, the main character, Carrie Morgan, bakes with her grandmother, as she did when she was a little girl. However, it’s not clear whether her grandmother is dead or alive! These thumbprint jam cookies look like just the thing to bake when you’re in a nostalgic mood (or simply in the mood for something buttery and sweet)! http://kellyasimmons.blogspot.com/2016/02/baking-reading-remembering.html

7) Mantecadas from Tina Ann Forkner’s Ruby Among Us
In Ruby Among Us by Tina Ann Forknerruby among usKitty and her granddaughter Lucy spend a lot of time together talking over cookies and tea. Lucy even has a special tea cup that she drinks out of with her grandmother Kitty who is keeping a lot of secrets about Lucy’s past. Below is a link to Kitty’s secret recipe for Lucy’s favorite cookie, Mantecadas. Yum! https://tinaannforkner.wordpress.com/novel-recipes/

8) Nanaimo Bars from Miracle Beach by Erin Celellomiracle beach

 Nanaimo Bars are served in the cafeterias of the ferry boats between Vancouver Island and mainland Canada. In Miracle Beach, when main characters Magda and Jack come to the Island, they fall in love with the sinfully sweet bars. Author Erin Celello testifies that they’re amazing!

http://www.nanaimo.ca/EN/main/visitors/NanaimoBars.html

the river witch9) Damascus’ Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake from The River Witch by Kimberly Brock

In The River Witch, a family feast brings an estranged southern family together. When ten-year-old Damascus Trezevant’s summer ends with a bounty of pumpkins, she sets out to heal deep wounds with a sweet, old recipe for Pumpkin Spice Pound Cake and faith in the magic of a mother’s love. You won’t be sorry you tried this recipe! http://kimberlybrockbooks.com/damascus-pumpkin-spice-pound-cake/

10) The Best Chocolate Cake Ever from The Repeat Year by Andrea Lochenthe repeat year What dessert list is complete without a delectable chocolate cake? In The Repeat Year, main character Olive is named after her maternal grandmother who passed away the week before she was born. In addition to her grandma’s name, Olive also inherited her recipe for the “best chocolate cake ever” which her mom bakes as a peace offering for their family in a time of major transition.

http://addapinch.com/cooking/the-best-chocolate-cake-recipe-

What are your favorite recipes inspired by novels? Comment below!

Andrea Lochen is the author of two novels, Imaginary Things and The Repeat Year. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and her BA in English at the University of Wisconsin. Since 2008, she has taught undergraduate writing at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. When she isn’t teaching, reading, or baking, she is hard at work on her third novel. To learn more about her, visit her website: www.andrealochen.com.

Happy Reading and Eating!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Readers

It’s so nice to hear from readers. I received a lovely email from Margie Lafferty this morning that I wanted to share and she gave me permission:

“Our bookclub began in Feb 2014, I am always looking for great books to read and ideas for our meetings. We are a group of women, middle age, from all walks of life! So far, I love your site, which I just found today! We are currently reading All the Light We Cannot See- excellent! Thank you for your ideas, I am using them for our next meeting!”
Margie Lafferty

Thanks Margie!

spring tree read

I’d love to hear from you too.

Pamela

Oscar’s Week: Books at the Movies

Oscar-statue

On Sunday, February 28, 2016, the Academy Awards will be presented to actors, directors, videographers, music makers, costumers, special effects masters, sound engineers, make-up artists,  . . . oh, yeah, and a few writers. Two actually: one for best original screenplay and one for best adapted screenplay.

Yet where would the silver screen be without the men and women who put the words, the scenes, the feelings and atmosphere on the page to be interpreted? Let’s give some credit where credit is due.

This week, I’d like to focus some attention on books and the movies. Today’s entry: books about the movie industry.

BlondeBlonde, by Joyce Carol Oates. The interior life of a bleached blonde bombshell movie star whose career is a lot like Marilyn Monroe, though Oates always calls this a work of fiction and not a biography. It is heart-rending: the torturous thoughts and abusive treatment of this woman who finds her worth determined by the men around her, their use of her body, her face, her aura . . . and it is never enough.

“I live now for my work. I live for my work. I live only for my work. One day I will do work deserving of my talent & desire. One day. This I pledge. This I vow. I want you to love me for my work. But if you don’t love me I can’t continue my work. So please love me! – so I can continue my work. I am trapped here! I am trapped in this blond mannequin with the face. I can only breathe through that face! Those nostrils! That mouth! Help me to be perfect. If God was in us, we would be perfect. God is not in us, we know this for we are not perfect. I don’t want money & fame. I want only to be perfect. The blond mannequin Monroe is me & is not me. She is not me. She is what I was born. Yes I want you to love her. So you will love me. Oh I want to love you! Where are you? I look, I look & there is no one there.”

A Touch of Stardust, by Kate Alcott. Star-struck young woman moves from the Midwest to stardustHollywood, land of dreams, not to become a star but to become a writer! She finds work as Carole Lombard’s assistant during Lombard’s marriage to Clark Gable while Gable was filming Gone With the Wind. A behind-the-scenes, intriguing look at Hollywood in the thirties and how women like Lombard, who had power, and those without, managed to stay and make their mark in the game.

“Movies teach us how to do that,’ Carole had confided. ‘Create a set, sprinkle a touch of stardust. Who gives a shit if it’s real? Just make it good enough to believe.”

AudreyBeing Audrey Hepburn, by Mitchell Kriegman. This coming-of-age book centers on a young, Manhattanite who tries on Audrey’s Breakfast at Tiffany‘s Givenchy dress and changes her life. Not my favorite book about the movies, or about Audrey Hepburn. But it qualifies.

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter. Now this, THIS is a book. I’ve exalted Jess Walter’s glorious BeautifulRuins_small-330-exptome before on this blog. In summary, this is a big, gooey, interlocking glory of a book with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Italy, Hollywood, screenwriters, actors, producers and World War 2. My goodness, if you haven’t read it, buy it right now. Full review here: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/simply-beautiful-beautiful-ruins-by-jess-walter/

“Weren’t movies his generation’s faith anyway- its true religion? Wasn’t the theatre our temple, the one place we enter separately but emerge from two hours later together, with the same experience, same guided emotions, same moral? A million schools taught ten million curricula, a million churches featured ten thousand sects with a billion sermons- but the same movie showed in every mall in the country. And we all saw it. That summer, the one you’ll never forget, every movie house beamed the same set of thematic and narrative images…flickering pictures stitched in our minds that replaced our own memories, archetypal stories that become our shared history, that taught us what to expect from life, that defined our values. What was that but a religion?”

Get_Shorty_(novel)
Get Shorty
, by Elmore Leonard. Want a quick, funny, off-beat take on the movies by

America’s master of funny, off-beat crime novels? Chili, a Miami loan shark, decides it’s time for him to get into the movies. From there, chaos ensues.

tycoonThe Last Tycoon, by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s great unfinished novel about America’s obsession with movies, stars, and money. “You can take Hollywood for granted, like I did, or you can dismiss it with the contempt we reserve for what we don’t understand. It can be understood, too, but only dimly and in flashes. Not half a dozen men have ever been able to keep the whole equation of pictures in their heads.”

Crowned Heads, by Thomas Tryon. This actor-turned-writer is most famous for The Other, a best-selling horror novel from 1971 turned into a movie. But Crowned Heads is the book that haunts me. I read it in high school (warning: do not give to young readers) and the story about the movie star with a warped relationship with her plastic surgeon haunts me to this day.

1-louise-brooks-ca-late-1920s-everettChaperone, by Laura Moriarty. An unfortunately lifeless tale of the woman who
accompanied Louise Brooks to New York City as she became a star. Full review here: https://daeandwrite.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/on-the-way-to-hollywood-louise-brooks-and-the-chaperone-by-laura-moriarty/

 

Marilyn_Monroe_in_Gentlemen_Prefer_Blondes_trailer

Thankful for: On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

weddingIf there is a master of the novel in this 21st Century, by my reckoning it is McEwan. He of Atonement, Saturday, Amsterdam. And On Chesil Beach. On Chesil Beach, in 203 small pages, this tiny book deconstructs the first twenty-four hours of a marriage and traces the consequences of a great misunderstanding in the honeymoon bed. I believe it is a testament, ultimately, to the power of words, spoken and unspoken.

I love this book and have given it as a gift on occasion. It is a masterpiece.

They were young, educated, and both virgins on this, their wedding night, and they lived in a time when a conversation about sexual difficulties was plainly impossible. But it is never easy.

Florence and Edward arrive at a hotel in Dorset, England in 1962. cliff house hotelAccording to a postscript by the author, the hotel “just over a mile south of Abbotsbury, Dorset, occupying an elevated position in a field behind the beach parking lot — does not exist.”

How did they meet, and why were these lovers in a modern age so timid and innocent? They regarded themselves as too sophisticated to believe in destiny, but still, it remained a paradox to them that so momentous a meeting should have been accidental, so dependent on a hundred minor events and choices. What a terrifying possibility, that it might never have happened at all. And in the first rush of love, they often wondered at how nearly their paths had crossed during their early teens, when Edward descended occasionally from the remoteness of his squalid family home in the Chiltern Hills to visit Oxford. It was titillating to believe they must have brushed past each other at one of those famous, youthful city events, at St Giles’ Fair in the first week of September, or May Morning at dawn on the first of the month – a ridiculous and overrated ritual, they both agreed; or while renting a punt at the Cherwell Boat House – though Edward had only ever done it once; or, later in their teens, during illicit drinking at the Turl.

Florence is a virgin and admits she is a little scared. Edward, a bit more experienced, has been restraining himself from “self-abuse” for a week in order to prepare for his wedding night. This leads to a disaster. And even though Florence and Edward try to discuss the incident on the stone-filled Chesil Beach, their mutual lack of understanding undercuts their ability to resolve the situation.stony beach

Ian McEwan’s website actually has a 26 minute film version of the story with McEwan’s reading accompanying the visual images. http://www.ianmcewan.com/bib/books/chesil.html

MENU

McEwan provides the exact menu of the honeymoon dinner over which things begin to unravel for Florence and Edward.

A slice of melon decorated by a single glazed cherry

Roast beef

Soft-boiled vegetables

Potatoes of a bluish hue

A white wine from France — “it would not have crossed Edward’s mind to have ordered a red.”

I would serve honeydew melon slices wrapped in prosciutto, roast beef, roasted new potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts.

MUSIC

The top hits on British charts in 1962 included an amazing number of songs that fit the theme of this novel (and they are just some great songs anyway!):

I Can’t Stop Loving You, Ray Charles

The Locomotion, Little Eva

She’s Not You, Elvis Presley

Dream Baby, Roy Orbison

Stranger on the Shore, Mr. Acker Bilk (?)

The Young Ones, Cliff Richard

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Neil Sedaka

Twistin’ The Night Away, Sam Cooke

You Don’t Know Me, Ray Charles

The Party’s Over, Lonnie Donegan

The Wanderer, Dion

MOVIE CASTING

Edward: Jeremy Irvine (from War Horse)

Florence: Lily Cole

chesil beach
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