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book review, recipe

Valencia and Valentine + Butterscotch Ice Cream

Valencia and Valentine is a contemporary fiction debut from Suzy Krause that came out just a few days ago. The novel is described as quirky and charming and perfect for fans of Maria Semple, Graeme Simsion, Fredrik Backman and even Gail Honeyman — all of whom I’ve enjoyed. Naturally, with those comparisons, I was excited to have the opportunity to join the blog tour hosted by TLC Book Tours!

Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause
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book review, recipe

The Woman in the White Kimono + Miso Soup

Ana Johns’ debut novel The Woman in the White Kimono is historical fiction inspired by true stories. It spans decades and continents, taking place in post-WWII Japan and the modern-day United States. I was intrigued by the description and excited to participate in this blog tour.

The Woman in the White Kimono by Ana Johns

In the late 1950s in Japan, Naoko has been promised to the son of her father’s business associate but she is in love with another—an American sailor. Though she attempts to get their approval of their relationship, Naoko knows it would bring shame on the family if she decided to marry him. Still, she can’t help but follow her heart. Will the consequences of her decision be something she can live with?

In America now, Tori’s father has died, but not before expanding on a tale he has told her all his life—of a beautiful wedding he attended as a serviceman in Japan decades before. She can’t help but follow her journalistic instincts. Soon, Tori sets out to find out about her father’s life before he married her mother and the “Cricket” he wrote to in Japan.

Johns wrote a compelling story, clearly well-researched. Her author’s note in the back of the novel shares the real stories that inspired her.

Though food wasn’t really featured in the novel, there were a few mentions of dishes here and there, most often miso soup, which was commonly served for breakfast. I’ve definitely eaten my share of miso soup at Japanese restaurants, but I’d never attempted to make it before. I was excited to give it a try.

I found a recipe online, set out for my local Asian market to pick up a few items, and got to work.

Ingredients for Miso Soup

The recipe is quite straightforward and didn’t take long at all. First, I added some dashi granules to water and set it to boil on the stovetop. Then, I reduced the heat to medium and whisked in several tablespoons of miso paste. To that, I added diced tofu and green onions and cooked the soup for a few minutes before serving.

Miso Soup

The soup had a bit more tofu than I’m used to at restaurants, but other than that, the flavor was spot on. It smelled and tasted absolutely delicious.

Miso Soup inspired by The Woman in the White Kimono

Miso Soup

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Japanese
Servings: 4 1-cup servings

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons dashi granules
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons miso paste
  • 1 8 ounce package silken tofu, diced
  • 2 green onions sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine dashi granules and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and whisk in the miso paste. Stir in tofu. Separate the layers of the green onions, and add them to the soup. Simmer gently for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Notes

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of the novel for my honest review and asking me to be a part of the blog tour. If you’d like to stop be and see some of the other reviews, check out the list of blogs and dates below:

Tuesday, May 21st: Write Read Life

Wednesday, May 22nd: Tina Says

Thursday, May 23rd: The Hungry Bookworm

Thursday, May 23rd: Bookish Bliss and Beauty and @bookishblissandbeauty

Friday, May 24th: Asha Reads and @ashareads

Monday, May 27th: Tar Heel Reader and @tarheelreader

Tuesday, May 28th: Read Eat Repeat

Tuesday, May 28th: Lori’s Reading Corner – author guest post

Wednesday, May 29th: Broken Teepee

Thursday, May 30th: Helen’s Book Blog

Thursday, May 30th: The Baking Bookworm

Friday, May 31st: Audio Killed the Bookmark and @beritaudiokilledthebookmark

Monday, June 3rd: Patricia’s Wisdom

Tuesday, June 4th: A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, June 5th: @chaptersofmar

Thursday, June 6th: Eliot’s Eats

Friday, June 7th: View from the Birdhouse

Monday, June 10th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Tuesday, June 11th: Books & Bindings

Wednesday, June 12th: Laura’s Reviews

Thursday, June 13th: Book by Book

Monday, June 17th: @oddandbookish

Tuesday, June 18th: The Book Return

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book review, post series, recipe

What She Ate #5: Barbara Pym + Baked Macaroni Cheese

For those of you who don’t know—and I didn’t—Barbara Pym was an English novelist, popular in the 1950s for her social comedies. She is the fifth woman Laura Shapiro discusses in What She Ate, and as such, this is the fifth post in my series about the nonfiction book about food.

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro

Though her novels were not considered highbrow, they developed quite a following and have a beloved place in English culture. Pym wrote about relationships, about village life, and often about the church. She also included a lot of food in her writing, certainly mentioning the bad but more often celebrating the good of English cooking (when no one else was really talking about its positives).

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book review, recipe

Everything Here Is Beautiful + Chinese Almond Cookies

Mira T. Lee’s debut novel, Everything Here Is Beautiful, is a tough book to discuss—though we attempted to do just that for my last book club meeting. It was suggested by one of our members last year, shortly after it was released, and when it finally got chosen as our monthly pick, I was looking forward to reading it. It’s a story about sisters, about immigrants, about mental illness. It’s a raw and powerful debut that I can’t recommend enough.

Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee

The novel follows two Chinese-American sisters, Miranda the oldest and Lucia the youngest, in the years after their mother dies from cancer. Lucia is adventurous and full of life, and when it’s determined that she has schizoaffective disorder, Miranda does everything in her power to keep Lucia grounded and get her the help she needs.

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book review, post series, recipe

What She Ate #4: Eva Braun + Champagne Cake

Welcome to the fourth feature focusing on the women within What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories by Laura Shapiro. This time I’m talking about Eva Braun, one of the more notorious women Shapiro covers in the book.

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro

For those of you who don’t know, Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress (and, at the very end, wife). While Hitler took precautions to appear unattached in public, in private, it was well-known that he was with Eva. She hosted many of the meals at Berghof, a Nazi party retreat in the Bavarian Alps. If you saw my review of The Taster, Berghof will be quite familiar to you.

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book review, recipe

A Woman Is No Man + Stuffed Grape Leaves

When Etaf Rum’s A Woman Is No Man was shown as an option for the February Book of the Month, I didn’t hesitate to select it. The description of her debut novel ticked a lot of boxes for me. Rum takes us inside the lives of conservative Arab women living in America and leaves us gasping for air.

A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum

The novel is the story of three generations of Palestinian women — Deya, who is 18 and begrudgingly beginning to look for suitors; her mother, Isra, who desperately wants to find love, ultimately leaving her family in Palestine to marry a man living in Brooklyn; and Fareeda, Isra’s mother-in-law, who pressures Isra to bear sons and Deya to find a husband, even though both women want more for their lives than what is traditionally expected of them.

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book review, recipe

The Library of Lost and Found + Toffee Apples

When I was invited to join the blog tour for Phaedra Patrick’s The Library of Lost and Found, I couldn’t turn it down. It was a book about books! I’m a huge fan of bookish novels — as I’m sure you are too. I haven’t read Phaedra’s bestselling The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper (yet), but based on its popularity, I knew I was in for a wonderful story.

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

Martha Storm is a librarian with a huge heart, who bends over backwards for others, even though they don’t often recognize her efforts. Caught in a bit of a rut, without many friends or close family, Martha craves meaningful relationships. When a mysterious man leaves her a tattered novel on the library’s doorstep, it’s a sign her life may be ready for a change.

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book review, recipe

Chronicles of a Radical Hag + Butterscotch Bars

When I read the description of Lorna Landvik’s Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes), I couldn’t resist picking it up. Not only did it sound chock-full of the small town charm I loved in Virgil Wander, it focused on a small-town newspaper columnist, Haze Evans. For those of you who don’t know me personally, my first job out of college was working at a newspaper — not as a writer, but as an advertising salesperson, and unofficially, a community events organizer. My time at the newspaper was a wonderful learning experience, and I was sort of hoping to get lost in a similar world again.

Haze’s column has been running for 50 years when she suffers a stroke and falls into a coma. In an attempt to fill the now vacant column space, the newspaper’s publisher, Susan, decides to run some of her past columns and reader responses, good and bad. Soon, the whole town finds itself swept up in Haze’s wise, witty and controversial words.

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book review, post series, recipe

What She Ate #3: Eleanor Roosevelt + Baked Deviled Eggs with Tomato Sauce

Welcome to the third feature focusing on the women within What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories by Laura Shapiro. This time I’m talking about Eleanor Roosevelt, who was one of the reasons I was so excited to pick this book up in the first place.

What She Ate by Laura Shapiro

Eleanor Roosevelt was longest serving First Lady of the United States, living in the White House with her husband, Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the Great Depression and World War II. She is remembered as an activist, a champion of women’s and African-American rights. Eleanor was a feminist who embraced domesticity, and in fact, a huge part of her legacy was the incorporation of home economics into education (though she herself didn’t do chores or cook meals).

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book review, recipe

The Farm + Pancit

Joanne Ramos’ novel The Farm comes out on May 7, and I’m so excited that I was able to get an advance readers’ copy from NetGalley. Golden Oaks Farm, or the titular “Farm,” is a blissful paradise where women live during pregnancy to ensure they they deliver the healthiest baby in the safest environment. For nine months, the women are pampered with spa treatments, custom menus, and the best medical care. But these women are not allowed to leave the grounds, and they not even allows to keep the babies they carry.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

These women are “hosts,” chosen and paid for by super-wealthy patrons who can’t or won’t have their babies themselves. For the hosts — mostly immigrants, becoming a surrogate opens up a world of possibility, but it’s not always an easy choice. Jane, a Filipina host, makes the decision to be able to better support her family, a daughter of her own and an elderly cousin, Ate. But it also means she will be leaving her newborn behind so she can bring someone else’s into the world.

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