Charlotte’s Best Books for May 2020

Here are the 5 best books for May, 2020.

Discover the best-ever baking bible, a moving tale of love, loss and the power of secrets, and a daring reimagining of Jesus and his wife.

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Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking

Did you, like tons and tons – I dunno, maybe millions? – of COVID-19 quarantine-ies, start baking bread, cookies and cakes to pass the time and cheer you up?

Are you hooked? Bet you are, so now you need Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking (DK Publishing, 2020) to up your game.

What’s the difference between beating and folding? What do soft peaks actually look like? How do you line a pastry crust? 

Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking takes the mystery out of making Instagram-worthy baked goods by showing you, not telling you, how it’s done.

The 12 chapters offer more than 330 recipes for cakes, cookies, tarts and pies (sweet and savoury) and breads. But here’s what makes Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking different.

Each of the 80 classic recipes include – you guessed it – step-by-step photographs and instructions followed by variations on that recipe that use the same technique.

Say you’re thinking chocolate cake for your sister’s birthday. Start by making Chocolate Cake with Buttercream Icing, the step-by-step classic. Once you’ve mastered the technique, why not Chocolate Almond Cake, Pear and Chocolate Cake (this one is super delish), Baked Chocolate Mousse? Same basic technique. Simple, right?

Whether you’re a baking novice or looking to enhance your baking rep Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking has you covered deliciously.

Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking by Caroline Bretherton.
Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking by Caroline Bretherton.

Grow Food for Free

You know you should eat more vegetables but there never seems to be more than wilted kale and a couple of wiggly carrots in your crisper, am I right?

What if you could eat vegetables you grew and harvested yourself? At the ready when you were. In the city. On your balcony if you don’t have a backyard. For free.

Huw Richards challenged himself to do just that, growing his own food for free for a year, and he shares his you-can-do-it action plan in Grow Food for Free (DK Publishing, 2020). 

In case you’re confused about what he means by “free” listen up. “To me,” Richards says, “free means obtaining something without money changing hands. It does not mean for no effort because – and let’s get real here – it is impossible to grow food without putting in time and energy.”

Huw then sets out to show you how to get from . . . hmmmmm . . . how do I set up a vegetable patch? to how to harvest and sell, barter or donate the surplus.

Don’t have a backyard or a balcony? Use someone else’s garden and pay them in produce. Don’t have the tools? Check out a community swap shop online. Need seeds? Plant that sprouted potato. Or seeds from the tomato passed its best-before date. Kinda lazy? Plant salad greens – they’re every ready, or as Richards calls them cut-and-come-again crops.

OK, so maybe you’re not up for a full-on vegetable patch but what about a couple of planter boxes (upcycle surprising cast offs like buckets, shopping baskets and paint cans) seeded with cherry tomatoes? Or a window sill of yogurt containers green with parsley or basil?

Grow Food for Free closes with Richards’ grow-food-for-free journal, a week by week guide that puts all the book’s how-to’s into practice. He also offers a list of handy resources including gardening websites, inspiring YouTube channels and recommended books.

So, no more excuses for that empty crisper!

Grow Food For Free by Huw Richards.
Grow Food For Free by Huw Richards.

Last Impressions

In Joseph Kertes’ Last Impressions, Zoltan Beck is dying. 

Zoltan’s a Hungarian Jewish Holocaust survivor. A widower, he’s a complex man, irascible, impatient, self-absorbed and altogether difficult.  And he’s a forgetter – he likes to forget. Especially life before Canada.

In fact, he refuses to talk about Hungary, the war or his family. There’s no point in rehashing the past, he says. What was is finished. And Canada, the best country in the world, has been their salvation.

The three boys – Frank, Ben and Sammy – have differing relationships with their dad. Frank is distanced, Sammy does what he can and Ben, the middle boy and the story’s present-day narrator, is his father’s keeper supported by his remarkable wife Lucy and two daughters who adore their eccentric grandpa.

As Zoltan slides closer to his end, he lets slip a comment here, an observation there, and Ben begins to uncover a past that Zoltan and his beloved wife Hannah worked hard to keep from the kids.

When Lucy convinces Ben to take his dad back to Budapest – his first visit since he left 50-odd years earlier – Zoltan slowly lifts the lid off his buried box of memories and the two discover a war-time secret that begins to explain who Zoltan really is.

Alternating between Toronto in the here and now, and Hungary before and after the war, Kertes weaves a moving tale of love, loss and the power of secrets finally shared to bring family together before it’s too late.

Last Impressions by Joseph Last Impressions by Joseph Kertes.
Last Impressions by Joseph Kertes.

Purchase Our Favourite Reading Accessories at Chapters Indigo

Get cozy with a new book while wearing these comfy reading socks and reading robe.

These scented candles and Ultrasonic diffusers will help you relax at home.

The Kobo eReader makes reading much more enjoyable and easier on the eyes. There are also great eReader accessories available, like the Kobo Sleepcover.

If you’re looking for something for the little ones in your life, we recommend checking out these great kids books, baby products and educational toys that will help develop your child’s love for reading.

The Book of Longings

The year is 16 C.E. Ana, the 14-year-old daughter of Matthias, head scribe to the despotic Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee, is an exceptional child – especially for a girl. She has an undeniable talent as a writer, chronicling the lives of the (mostly) forgotten matriarchs of the Scriptures: Eve, Rachel, Leah, Bathsheba, Ruth, Jezebel.

Her much-loved brother Judas – yup, same one – gets tossed out of the house because he belongs to the Zealots who are committed to overthrowing the Roman yolk.

Matthias indulges his daughter, much to her mother’s disgust, until she comes of age. She will marry, her parents tell her, and put away her childish writing ambitions.

So they betroth her – well, sell her actually – to Nathanial, most charitably described as a troll (my words) and no amount of kicking or screaming will change their minds. 

But fate intervenes. The day Ana meets Nathanial, she also meets Jesus, a tradesman, and feels an undeniable attraction. 

Before the wedding, Nathanial gets sick and dies. Anna marries Jesus and moves with her outspoken aunt to live with his family in Nazareth.

They’re a regular couple for years, loving and supportive. But Jesus, who has always believed he had a calling, feels compelled to follow John the Immerser/Baptist and when John is beheaded, takes up the ministry himself, travelling far and wide and spreading his gospel of love, peace and forgiveness.

Jesus tells Ana he will send for her but no note arrives. She learns that he has been arrested and sets out for Jerusalem, arriving just in time to see him stumble on his walk to Calvary. She holds his head and whispers, “I am with you.”

Sue Monk Kidd’s The Book of Longings is a daring reimagining of Jesus’ life and times. But he plays a secondary role. Ana is the star and it’s her fight to find her voice and realize her truth in a world run by men who consider women of little consequence that makes this such a powerful read.

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd.
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd.

You May Also Enjoy Reading…

Gather at Home

Monika Hibbs, a British Columbia blogger and lifestyle influencer, lives an Instagram life and with Gather at Home, she shows you how to make all your entertaining moments just as special as the ones she creates for her own family and friends.   

The 100-plus recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert are arranged according to season and include, of course, recipes for hallmark celebrations like Thanksgiving but also simple occasion recipes like Sunday brunch. And her curated menus make it easy to plan the sort of get together that will earn you Awesome Host status every time.

We’re talking Monika Hibbs, right? So, of course you’ll also find crafts and decorating ideas to make that occasion memorable. Bonus: DIY templates at the back of the book are also available on her website if you’d prefer to print them.

Gather at Home recipes are familiar – roast chicken, glazed salmon, chocolate chip cookies – but Hibbs’ effortless (it seems!) style adds grace, charm and often an imaginative extra ingredient that make entertaining friends and family memorable. 

And the gorgeous I-wish-I-lived-there photography makes Gather at Home as comfortable on your coffee table as on your kitchen counter.

Gather at Home by Monika Hibbs.
Gather at Home by Monika Hibbs.

Written by Charlotte Empey. Illustrations produced on iPad Pro with Apple Pencil by Mark Scheibmayr.

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