Monthly Archives: September 2017

THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER – BOOK COMMENT

The Marsh King’s Daughter: A Novel
Author: Karen Dionne
Publisher: Putnam, 2017
Genre: Psychological Fiction, Thriller
Hardcover Edition: 307 pages
Source: Personal copy

The daughter of a captive mother and a psychopathic father tells her story of 14 years of modern day captivity in a remote cabin in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The novel opens when the daughter Helena is grown, married and the mother of two daughters. When her father escapes from prison she feels compelled to track him through wilderness that is known to her.

This is a readable suspenseful thriller at least in part because the author Karen Dionne tells Helen’s coming of age story and strive for normalcy in a kind and understanding way. As a reader I admired the patience and caring of the daughter and the author. Movements back and forth in time are handled skillfully. There is never a problem understanding time and place.

Though there are similarities to Room by Emma Donoghue, this reader found this book deeper and more satisfying. The characters seem believeable and the young person’s viewpoint refreshing. The descriptions of the terrain of the Upper Peninsula areas reads very special indeed.

Certainly this is one of the best novels to come out of Michigan. It is superior story-telling – believable and suspenseful. All of the elements of fiction are finely balanced: character, setting, plot, and theme. Each strand of the story is handled with care. It’s a special read; and if you are at all familiar with such places in the UP (as Michiganders affectionately call it) as it’s forest and swampland, Lake Superior Shoreline, Tahquamenon Falls, Seney Wildlife Refuge and natural landmarks as well as its weather, it is likely you will be totally lost in the place and the story.

Don’t miss this read. I’m glad I didn’t.

HOW CAN MY CHOWDER GO SO WRONG?

From the Farmer’s Market I brought home fresh corn on the cob, new potatoes and other
good things. I was dreaming of corn clam chowder.

I read my cookbooks. I dreamed of corn clam chowder.

Jeff and I stopped at the store with a list. I dreamed of corn clam chowder.

I’ve made clam chowder before. Below is a recipe from 2014, one I often make that is much like Barefoot Contessa’s East Hampton Clam Chowder. I like that one because it has carrots, though my friends from the East Coast tell me it is not authentic. Never mind. It’s always good and I like it.

My recipe is printed at the end of this lament.

You can guess what is coming. It’s not much of a mystery.

This time I wanted bacon and corn. Perhaps I might have used a recipe from Everything Tastes Better with Bacon, a favorite cookbook of mine.

But I decided to try a recipe from Sarah Leah Chase’s New England Open House Cookbook for Corn and Clam Chowder. It seemed similar to the one in the bacon cookbook.

There are many reasons why my cooking game was a bit off today. I simply don’t know what made the difference. I was perhaps not as focused or energetic as makes for a good cooking outcome.

I didn’t have fresh thyme. I bought half and half when I knew I needed to buy heavy cream, but then again, for myself I don’t mind if the soup is a bit thinner.

The corn was superb, I ate two forkfuls.

I did not peel the potatoes and when I tasted the soup, I wished I had. I don’t believe I ever peeled small new potatoes.

I thought I had several cans of chopped clams, but alas only one in the back of the pantry shelf, and not a particularly good brand. And I broke my cardinal rule to rinse the canned clams before adding to the chowder.

Yes I have chives, paprika as garnish. But oh well, as Emeril says, when you really cook, stuff happens.

I’ll say this. It was not “surpassingly excellent” as Sara Leah Chase pronounces and as I had hoped.

Perhaps sitting awhile in the refrigerator will help? What does one do with a pot of soup that is less than expected?

Thank goodness I made only half a recipe.

I am certain it was the cook and not the New England Open-House Cookbook recipe, so I will include the ingredients so you can try it.

At any rate, I am no longer dreaming of corn clam chowder with bacon. I’m cured, for a while at least.

Corn and Clam Chowder
From New England Open House Cookbook

4 ounces best-quality slab or thickly sliced applewood-smoked bacon, cut into 1/3 inch dice
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-size onion, peeled, and cut into ¼ inch dice
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ¼ inch dice
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups fish, clam or vegetable broth
1 pound all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice.
4 ears fresh local corn, cut from the cobs
1 pint fresh chopped clams with their juices
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
fresh chives for garnish

MADE-IN-FLORIDA CLAM CHOWDER
Paulette Lein

You don’t have to be in Florida to make this yummy soup. This recipe is similar to Ina Garten’s East Hampton Clam Chowder published in Barefoot Contessa Family Style. This chowder has lots of vegetables and a splash or two or three of half&half to give it a creamy, smooth finish.

4 Tablespoons and 3 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 heaping cup chopped sweet onion
1 generous cup chopped celery
1 generous cup chopped carrots.
4 cups partially peeled, diced redskin potatoes.
Thyme, fresh, dried, or ground to taste. (about ½ teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black Pepper, celery salt to taste
cayenne pepper – be careful, but don’t leave it out. Shake three times?
2 bottles clam juice
1 can chicken broth, use as liquid is needed, or heat in microwave and use in thickening the soup
¼ cup Wondra flour (all purpose is fine)
1 cup milk
2 6 oz. cans chopped clams or three, or two cups fresh chopped clams
half&half, about ½ cup

Melt four Tablespoons of butter and 2 Tablespoons olive oil in large pan and cook onion over medium-low heat about ten minutes until translucent. Add celery, carrots, potatoes, thyme, salt and pepper and sauté for about ten more minutes. Add clam juice and bring to a boil. Cook until vegetables are tender, about twenty minutes.

In a small pot melt three Tablespoons of butter and whisk in the flour. Cook over low heat about three minutes stirring constantly. Whisk in a cup of hot broth from soup or heated chicken broth. Return that mixture to the soup pot and simmer until soup thickens.

Drain clams and add liquid to the soup, simmer. Rinse clams.

Add milk and clams and heat gently for a few minutes to cook clams. Add celery salt and cayenne, more salt and pepper if needed.

Soup may be made ahead and reheated. Add half&half close to serving time and heat gently.

BEAUTY AT THE FARMER’S MARKET

A trip to the Farmer’s Market gives one a new appreciation of vegetables!

The tomatoes were so tempting I wanted to buy bushels, but I settled for a few heirlooms and gave the biggest baddest red to my neighbor.


How colorful can peppers be?

Pickles anyone?


The grower said these were ready to eat today.

I never can resist the multi-colored carrots. I bought fresh corn on the cob and potatoes, hoping to make chowder.

Basket after basket of rosy ready-to-eat peaches.

BOOKBEAT 35th ANNIVERSARY!

What an exciting day at the indie bookstore Book Beat in suburban Detroit. A Celebratioin of 35 years of offering many books to their many fans.

Though I missed timing my schedule to match Michigan author Karen Dionne, I’m glad I didn’t miss this celebration. The store, always filled to the brim with good books spilled out onto the parking area.

There’s no place like Book Beat on this day or any day!


Visiting Authors, music and books, books, books.

Book beat has books for all, but as usual their collections for young readers is unbeatable! The store features all things appealing to children.

This place is always great fun

I bought this book. Caught up in the read, I can only say it is terrifically well-written and not to be missed. As someone said, if you read only one thriller in a year, make it The Marsh King’s Daughter.

Here is where you can learn more about the author Karen Dionne. I plan to watch her schedule and not miss my next chance to meet her and hear her speak!

Karen-Dionne.com

Adult readers are not forgotten.

Thank you Book Beat. An Independent bookstore specializing in Art, Photography and Children’s Books. Located in Oak Park, MI at 26010 Greenfield Rd.
thebookbeat.com