Monthly Archives: February 2013

February 22nd, 2013

An Unfamiliar Murder – Book Review

Enjoyment is not the word for this debut effort by mystery author Jane Isaac. I loved it. The chief detective in charge, Helen Lavery, has to deal not only with unraveling a particularly tricky murder case, but also office politics and troubles at home as well. This makes for a richly constructed tapestry of events and emotions playing out against a modern English murder mystery backdrop.

Our story begins when Anna Cottrell, a young school teacher, walks into her flat, sensing something amiss, and discovers a dead body covered with blood. The fact that the corpse has been dragged up into a sitting position facing the only door to the room, meaning it will be staring at her when she walks in, leaves her even more profoundly shocked.

Folks, this book is so intricately plotted, I doubt even the most hardboiled mystery readers would guess the identity of the killer. Without giving anything away, it gave me great satisfaction to see how Inspector Lavery went about solving the murder, managing her office politics and achieving some semblance of harmony at home all at about the same time.

Bring another cup of tea. Turn up the light. If you’re looking for a good mystery, An Unfamiliar Murder by Jane Isaac should do it for you, now get right on it.

February 18th, 2013

Anyone Want an iPad Mini?

Bring friends and family to this huge giveaway. Tell everyone you know! You can win an iPad mini, and the device will be pre-loaded with enough fiction and non-fiction books to keep you busy for a year. February 28 is the big drawing, so enter now.

Unless I am mistaken, this is one of the only giveaways around which has an iPad Mini as its grand prize. Other prizes include Amazon gift cards.

Register to win by visiting the BestsellingReads website (just click on the graphic at left). BestsellingReads is a group of some 40 authors who have pooled their resources to provide readers with a one-stop shop for quality fiction and non-fiction.

Some people have remarked that the Rafflecopter for this giveaway is the shortest they have ever seen. If you have seen a shorter one, be sure to let me know.

Absolutely no purchase is necessary for this giveaway. While you visit the BestsellingReads site, you may however wish to browse through the author pages getting to know the people behind the giveaway.

Daily (or almost daily) blogs written by BestsellingReads members are posted for your enjoyment on the same site.

All the members of BestsellingReads are hard-working authors who would be pleased to connect with you. Just visit their author pages on the BestsellingReads page.


February 11th, 2013

I Was a Laundry Virgin

Recently I found myself doing the laundry for the first time in my life. I know, pathetic. In my defense I will say I’ve cooked my fair share, I’ve washed pots and pans, I’ve vacuumed, I help the kids with their homework. Of course there was always my day job, and on top of that I write books. I’m busy. So excuse me for being a laundry virgin.

I knew I had to separate whites from colors. Any moron knows … read more HERE.

February 10th, 2013

Readings 2 – New Writing from Malaysia, Singapore and Beyond

Every so often you discover by chance a writer or writers you’ve never heard of before, and I had this experience when I received a review copy of this book. It’s a compilation of stories and poems by a variety of mostly South Asian names, only one of which I had ever heard of.

My way of reading “foreign” literature is to let it flow over me and make its impressions on me. When I read Tolstoy and Dickens in high school, loads of words and customs and concepts in their books were foreign to me. I embraced them, and I was rewarded.

In Readings 2, I especially enjoyed Angeline Woon’s “Big Bertha and the Stones of Justice” for its depiction of common brutality unwittingly being adopted by higher class people who should know better, and as well the spare, beautiful “An Orchestrated Ending” by Damyanti Ghosh.

Not surprisingly there are a number of stories and poems dealing with themes of subtle and not-so-subtle repression of women in the Malaysian culture. “Rani Taxis Away” by M. Shanmughalingam falls into this category, as does Shahminee Selvakannu’s “Lighting the Darkness.”

In the case of collections like this, which invariably contain quite a number of stellar performances but as well some pieces that somehow don’t quite convince, I find it hard to write a review and give stars. I certainly enjoyed this book from back to front, and felt at the same time I was learning from it about the very real terrors and nightmares of real people living in real places. Therefore I would also highly recommend it.


May I now mention a different topic altogether? Annie Ogden herself, the main character of Doing Max Vinyl and Zombie Candy (and soon to appear in the third installment in the Annie Ogden mystery series) is being interviewed on Simon Jenner’s BLOG. That’s very special indeed!


February 2nd, 2013

Cure The Blues With Au Gratin Potatoes


Every person has their own way of fighting the blues. I cook. That’s right, I start chopping vegetables and making sauces. At the end, of course, I eat. I am no stranger to the concept of comfort food.

Buying a bag of potatoes late in the afternoon gave me all the inspiration I needed. Think of it – you put some music on, you peel potatoes, you munch on carrot sticks. Soon you’re not feeling blue, right?


Unpack the flowers, let’s add a little color to this place. Depressing thoughts vanish like high clouds on a sunny day. And we get to work as follows:


Peel a pound or so of potatoes. Boil them for about 20 minutes.


While the potatoes are draining, sautée one large onion and 3 cloves of garlic in 1/3 of a stick of butter in the potato pan.


I used Tilsiter cheese for tonight’s au gratin potatoes, but you can use any tasty cheese that melts decently. (Tilsiter is a mountain cheese found in Swiss supermarkets.) Add 2 cups of ½” cubes of cheese to the sautée mixture and stir it around after a couple of minutes.


While the cheese is melting, start laying potato disks in the bottom of your baking dish, which you have greased with butter. (All this butter – that’s right, real butter! So crucify me! But have an ambulance waiting.)


I had some broccoli in the fridge, so I cut up broccoli pieces and added them to the potatoes. Broccoli haters not invited! Substitute any other vegetable. If you’re French, or some kind of purist, you would never contaminate au gratin potatoes with another vegetable, but I am not French. I like to mess around.


Once you have a complete layer, dribble some of the cheese mixture on it. You don’t have to slather it on. A little here and there goes a long way.


Add another layer of potato disks and broccoli pieces, and dribble the rest of the cheese sauce on top of this.


Lay mozzarella pieces on top of everything. This will net you a nice crispy crust.


Bake for 30 minutes at 350 F or 215 C.


Let it sit for a few minutes before serving.





Cure The Blues With Au Gratin Potatoes

Unless I missed something, I am feeling much better now. I am alone, which is the principal reason why people feel blue in the first place, but I have a little masterpiece on my table, and I know it’s going to taste good. I have to eat, don’t I?

Readers, you may have noticed that I did not add any salt or other spices to this recipe. This was not an oversight. The cheese tends to be very salty, so for some people the dish comes out salty enough. I like my pepper, but I’m quite happy to grind it right at the table.

Bring me a glass of Coke Zero with lots of ice, and we’ve got ourselves a meal. I could eat at the table, or since I’m alone I could sneak another peak at my WIP. You know (he whispers), work-in-progress? My WIP is the third installment in the Annie Ogden mystery series. I can’t resist.

Eating in front of the computer is not exactly my idea of paradise. But you can’t have everything, can you now. So till next time, bon appetit! I’m going to stop writing for a few minutes, now (mouth full, chewing). I can’t really eat and write at the same time. Your turn, folks, I wanna eat! How about leaving a comment and letting me know what you do to cure the blues?