Friday, June 9, 2023

The Newfoundland and Labrador Cocktail Book: The Definitive Guide to Cocktails Across the Province by Peter Wilkins

Whether you are just starting out, or a seasoned mixologist, The Newfoundland and Labrador Cocktail Book by Peter Wilkins,  is an easy to use book designed to expand your cocktail repertoire while offering a solid foundation for understanding the allure of mixed drinks using locally sourced ingredients from Newfoundland and Labrador. As it's title suggests this "definitive guide" to smooth tipples, flavourful highballs, and bold spirits is sure to pack a boozy punch and will no doubt become a well-used staple in your cocktail cabinet. 

From the very beginning readers will get a sense that this book is to be savoured and enjoyed. The Foreword is nostalgic, detailing the fun and merriment of kitchen parties and multigenerational get togethers fueled by liquid bliss, music and dancing. This book is about more than just a compilation of cocktail recipes but "about community, about gatherings that only end at dawn".  Author and Co-Founder of The Newfoundland Distillery Company, Peter Wilkins, invites readers to be adventurous and approach the repertoire with a reason to celebrate. Whether it be "a little celebration of the day, hour, company, a small feat or a moment" he reminds readers that a cocktail is both "life-changing and, most certainly, life affirming!" It is simply the tie that binds.

The physicality of the book is quite pleasing. Soft-covered and just the right size, the photos of cocktails made from Newfoundland Distillery gin, rum, and vodka accompany each easy to follow recipe and are colorful, warm and enticing.  Salt rimmed glasses, elegant flutes, sprigs of mint, a twist of lemon or a slice of lime; the photography is a feast for the eyes, leaving the mouth watering for just a sip. Wilkins also includes interesting historical notes surrounding the featured cocktail as well as his impression of the blended flavours providing proof of his passion for cocktail making and expert knowledge of mixology. Readers who are new to this wonderful world of cocktail making will be pleased to know that Wilkins offers tips on how to properly stock your at home bar and digs in to the tools and techniques of creating the perfect mix including recipes for homemade syrups and sweeteners. The section entitled Our Spirits provides a wealth of information on the seven varieties of spirits produced by the distillery in Clarkes Beach, Newfoundland and is a must read before stocking your bar. In fact, you might even be surprised by how many cocktails you can make from purchasing just one or two of the internationally awarded spirits. 

Divided by style (Highballs, Sweet, Light,  A Certain Delight, Bolder, Boozier, and For the Palate That's Choosier), there is a cocktail for everyone!   The author has included easy drinking cocktails that everyone loves like the refreshing Moscow Mule but has also included classic drinks with a twist such as the Rumhattan which, you probably guessed, is a twist on the ever popular Manhattan using the famous Chaga Rum. The Newfoundland Negroni made from Gunpowder and Rose Rum packs a nice punch and for those who enjoy citrus drinks the Salty Sailor made from Seaweed Gin is sure to get you smacking your lips. And who could pass up an opportunity to make a cocktail dating from the early 1800's? The Otterbury Fashioned, a take on the classic Old Fashioned, uses Aquavit, a Newfoundland "whisky" mixed with molasses syrup. As Wilkins reminds us, however, in the world of cocktails "there is never an outright winner, as subjectivity is what makes it such fun." The final chapter in Wilkins book explores cocktails from across the province; recipes from award winning, nationally and internationally renowned bars, breweries and restaurants who have mastered the art of a good cocktail using spirits distilled by The Newfoundland Distillery. 

The Newfoundland and Labrador Cocktail Book by Peter Wilkins is an adventure waiting to happen! Each recipe is filled with the promise of a unique and great tasting creation to be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home, shared with friends or as a celebration of anything and everything.  The Newfoundland and Labrador Cocktail Book: The Definitive Guide to Cocktails Across the Province by Peter Wilkins is a Breakwater Books publication.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Hunting Helena ~ A Novel by Natalie Carter-Giles

A psychological thriller that will leave you aghast, Hunting Helena is a chilling debut novel written by Newfoundland and Labrador author Natalie Carter-Giles. Already hardened by a lifetime of grief, Helena Douglas is a young university student attempting to start life over when the unthinkable happens. While jogging along a coastal trail she is captured by a deeply disturbed man. For three months, two weeks and five days Helena is held captive in a dark basement. With only a dirty mattress and meager offerings of food and water, Helena becomes the object of her abductors affection, enduring daily physical and mental torture, satisfying her captors sick obsessive desires and penchant for violence.  Fighting against all odds, Helena finds strength from within and manages to escape the clutches of his derangement.  In the following years, Helena works hard to recover and slowly puts her life back together to some semblance of normalcy but, in the back of her mind, she is constantly aware that her captor is still out there, lurking in the shadows, walking the streets. When Deer Lake college student, Melody Scott's body is found in a drainage ditch eight years after Helena's rescue, Helena resolves to stop this crazed madman in his tracks. She partners with Sergeant David Campbell and follows the clues back to her hometown where memories of happier times, moments of despair and episodes of nightmarish terror come flooding back. In this process of rediscovery she begins to see many things in a new light including the motivation of her one-time best friend and a childhood bargain she made with God.    

I have often said that fear is many things. It takes pieces of you that you may never get back. It makes you lose control and can stop you in your tracks. But what I didn't say is that fear can change you in ways you wouldn't think possible. It can take your ability to trust, to love, and to live, but sometimes fear changes who you are. It takes your very being and morphs it into someone or something you don't even recognize. Fear can transform you into someone you despise, and make you loathe the person who you have become. And sometimes, when the fear is just too unbearable, it turns you into the monster from which you are trying to escape. Not all of us survive fear - not all of us want to. And some of us wish we hadn't.

Hunting Helena ~ A Novel is a chilling psychological whodunit with frequent twists and turns. At the outset, the Prologue sets the stage for a page turning, fast paced story.  Readers will be instantly sucked in to the gripping story of Helena's reality as she lies "in the corner on the damp and dirty floor unable to wipe away" the blood splattered on her face.  Natalie Carter-Giles doesn't just lay out the facts and tell the story. She cleverly weaves the brutality of the crime and the life story of the main character using a flashback technique. As the story unfolds, the reader is constantly learning new information; information about Helena's early life, her time in captivity and recovery, and of course the present day detective story that is about to unfold. The audience will experience heightened feelings of anticipation and anxiety and will prompt thrill seekers to consider the darkness that exists within humanity. 

Natalie Carter-Giles writing is very well done, adding just enough description to invoke an empathetic response from readers as well as gut wrenching shock. I did find some parts of this story to be very disturbing making it a true psychological thriller, I guess. However it is important for readers to know that some of the scenes of violence and brutality could be triggering. I particularly enjoyed how the author cleverly constructs each chapter to end with a "what if" question creating a well organized story that kept me thinking about the current plot and wondering what was about to happen. 

Congratulations to  Natalie Carter-Giles on her first publication,  Hunting Helena ~ A Novel ! If you are in the market for frequent twists and turns, unending suspense, and a chilling story this is the book for you!!  Hunting Helena ~ A Novel is a Flanker Press publication.


Sunday, April 16, 2023

Secure Parent, Secure Child; How a Parent's Adult Attachment Shapes the Attachment of the Child by Annette Kussin


Secure Parent, Secure Child by Annette Kussin is an in depth exploration of the relationship between parents and their children. Based on the Theory of Attachment, this twelve chapter parenting book explores how a parent's adult attachment style influences their parenting relationship with their children and the attachment of the child.  Kussin suggests that "children who experience loving, nurturing, and predictable environments develop secure attachments" and grow to be adults who expect to be treated well by others. Children who are not afforded positive and nurturing experiences from parents and caregivers, specifically from their mothers, are at risk of developing issues of insecurity and forming beliefs about themselves that influence lifelong relationships in the form of insecure attachments. 

Throughout the book Kussin provides a comprehensive study of Attachment Theory, the three kinds of insecure attachment and the parenting approaches required to create a healthy and happy caregiving environment in which children grow and develop. The author does a superb job at helping readers to understand their own attachment style and the strengths and challenges that arise in parenting. Through easy to read language and numerous case examples, readers will come to understand the traits of Preoccupied-Anxious Attachments and how they differ from those of Dismissing/Avoidant Attachments. In some cases, people who have suffered severe trauma or significant loss in their lives may recognize patterns of Unresolved or Disorganized Attachments. 

Kussin's book aims to assist readers in becoming "effective and grounded parents" by helping them to understand their own attachment style and the challenges that arise from it.  The information is presented in a well organized format, first highlighting the personality and behaviour of each attachment style then outlining both the parenting strengths and challenges that accompany it. Through examples and stories, the author takes readers through a series of exercises and interventions in how to effectively respond to simple everyday situations that may arise. With the goal to develop Securely Attached adults, Kussin believes that adults can learn to be kinder to themselves and to their children by gaining perspective on themselves and their parenting struggles.

Secure Parent, Secure Child; How a Parent's Adult Attachment Shapes the Attachment of the Child by Annette Kussin is a work emanating from decades of lived experience as a social worker and psychotherapist working in children's mental health as well as knowledge gained from working with various researchers and clinicians in the field. Kussin's book contains a plethora of information and practical insight for all parents seeking to change unhealthy parenting practices resulting from attachment insecurities. As an educator and parent, I recognize the importance of healthy and well adjusted children. I enjoyed the compassionate, informative and easy to read delivery of the author's research as she guides parents through a journey of self-reflection.  Secure Parent, Secure Child, published by Guernica Editions,  is the author's second publication following the 2020 release of It's Attachment! A New Way of Understanding Yourself and Your Relationships. 

Friday, April 7, 2023

Rescue Me ~ Behind The Scenes of Search and Rescue by Cathalynn Labonte-Smith


Rescue Me ~ Behind The Scenes of Search and Rescue is an amazing behind the scenes look at the many dedicated search and rescue volunteers who risk their lives to save others. In this fascinating oral history, author Cathalynn Labonte-Smith, profiles forty dedicated Search and Rescue (SAR) volunteers and some of the harrowing cases that have forever affected their lives. The men, women, dogs and horses that comprise the SAR teams across North America work in any terrain and in all conditions simply for the satisfaction in knowing they make a difference. Labonte-Smith presents seventy cases in this well researched book.  Tales of avalanche victims and those lost in caves, deserts and mountains will leave readers shaking their head while learning valuable lessons in wilderness safety and preparation. There are also heartbreaking stories of missing children, homicide victims and the casualties of plane crashes, ground searches and underwater recovery that often require the quick action, courage and dedication of SAR members. And there are the stories of the SAR members themselves; those who dedicate their entire lives to search and rescue, those who are forever changed by the experiences they have gone through and sadly those who have lost their own lives during rescue attempts. This book will leave readers with a new appreciation for the many volunteers that lend their skills and tirelessly train to step up to the plate when the call goes out that someone is in crisis.

Inspired by her husband Stephen and his SAR cohorts who had the determination to stick with their training during the pandemic, Labonte-Smith writes with great compassion and respect, bringing understanding and experience to the subject matter. Readers will initially delight in the authors own personal story of search and rescue as an impulsive toddler escaping the watchful eye of her grandmother. Such a narrative provides an excellent backdrop for the following historical and present day information of search and rescue operations in North America, highlighting the truths and debunking the myths that often surround public misperceptions. Labonte-Smith's support and commitment to search and rescue efforts is clearly evident as a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Rescue Me will be donated to SAR units that are in need or underfunded

Steve has been my personal hero for over thirty years, and now through SAR I share his heroism with strangers who are having the worst day of their lives. I know that he's with the rest of his team and they take care of each other. 

When Stephen returns from a rescue, we rejoice. When he returns from a recovery, I marvel at how he and his teammates can do what they do. 

Though Rescue Me is an easy to read book, it is important to note that readers will be exposed to stories of survival. For me, it was highly engaging, sometimes shocking, and provided me with an opportunity to reflect on my own wilderness adventures and preparedness. For others, the stories may be triggering. However, all the cases that are presented reinforce the notion that we are all susceptible to danger and in potential need of help from complete strangers whether we are outdoor enthusiasts or everyday citizens going about our business. Take for example the story of Sheila, a female black Labrador retriever who fell over a 30 meter precipice into a rugged canyon. SAR members rappelled into the canyon, harnessed the dog and ascended to safety while holding the trembling canine in their arms. Other cases are not as triumphant like that of 66 year old Geraldine Largay, an experienced hiker who became impossibly lost in dense brush after stepping off the trail to "answer the call of nature". After her husband stopped receiving text messages hundreds of SAR team members and K9 teams, helicopters and game wardens searched the area for three weeks without a single clue being found. More than two years later a forester who was working in the area discovered an abandoned camp, backpack and a sleeping bag containing the skeletal remains of Geraldine. Next to her a bottle of water and a diary detailing her last days, sealed in a waterproof bag.  To say the least, the stories are inspirational and the author does an excellent job at capturing that emotion and exposing the dangers that rescue teams face when a call is made. 

Rescue Me ~ Behind The Scenes of Search and Rescue by Cathalynn Labonte-Smith is a must-read book. The real life stories will be cause for reflection as you plan your next outdoor adventure and the tips shared by the dedicated SAR members may one day save your life. Rescue Me is a Caitlin Press publication.  



The Life of a Pilot ~ Bush Planes and Water Bombers by Glen G. Goobie

Written in a relaxed conversational style, The Life of a Pilot: Bush Planes and Water Bombers is simply one man's narrative account of living life from the cockpit. This coming of age memoir follows the life path of author Glen G. Goobie and his journey from adolescence to retirement. The memoir is detailed, thrill seeking, and adventurous and is sure to appeal to readers with similar aspirations of living their best life, on their own terms. 

At the tender age of 15, Goobie's father had suddenly passed away and the small town boy from Queen's Cove found himself thrust into apartment living with his mother in St. John's.   After graduating from high school in 1961, Goobie secured a job with the provincial Department of Highways survey team and flew to many remote Newfoundland towns in the belly of water bombers. Within a few years, Goobie found himself in the cockpit of a de Havilland Beaver bush plane working with the Churchill Falls Hydro project in Labrador. This piqued the interest of the young, twenty-something-year-old Trinity Bay native and the rest they say, is history. Goobie trained as a commercial pilot at the Moncton Flying Club in New Brunswick and then began a summer job with a Newfoundland construction company. After a summer of  logging flight hours while transporting workers and parts to job sites, it was time for Goobie to look for new employment forcing him to head west to Northern Ontario.

Goobie's two year adventure at Little Beaver Lodge was not without incident and certainly the place where Goobie cut his teeth on bush flying. Even on the best of days, every trip was an adventure, and Goobie's prowess as a flight pilot was constantly tested and challenged. From mechanical failures to unpredictable weather, interesting passengers (including one flight with the mafia) and encounters with wild animals, Goobie's courage was challenged while he problem solved, rescued and utilized great psychological maneuvering to survive the harsh environment. 

One thing is for sure, if you are a bush pilot, something will go wrong from time to time in a place where no maintenance is available, and you'll have to figure out on your own a way to improvise, and if you are lucky, you might get home that night.   

Goobie eventually returned to Newfoundland and began working with Air Transport, Gander Aviation and the province's water bombers. Though he was now an "experienced" pilot, the adventures continued. Hauling fuel through Labrador, tasked to fly 'strange but true' medevacs, and assigned to ferry a single engine aircraft, without a radio and only a "bare-bones instrument panel",  from Texas to Montreal in the middle of winter......Goobie's stories are both entertaining and nonstop! They also include tremendous detail about the planes he flew and the many interesting characters and wonderful people he met and worked with along the way. One such opportunity that turned out to be a new, unforgettable experience for Goobie was to captain a charter to do the seal patrol and an opportunity to view the large seal population from the cockpit of a Widgeon aircraft with officers from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

It was a beautiful day in March with light winds, and the visibility was so good, it looked as if one could see Ireland if you could climb high enough. My enthusiasm was not premature, because when we approached the seal herd, there were thousands of them with their newborn pups, sunning themselves on the large ice pans. Among the ice pans and calm open water, which was a vivid blue, were many icebergs, some of which towered what looked to be about a hundred feet above the surface. Without doubt it was a sight that many "southerners" would pay a lot of money to see. 

The day went by too fast, and just as the sun edged down toward the horizon, I reluctantly had to tell the officers that we would have to call it a day because we only had enough fuel to get us back to Gander. 

The Life of a Pilot is a story of great historical value. Along with pictures, poetry and a flying timeline spanning 40 years and two countries, this memoir is a sneak peak into the not so ordinary life of a rather "ordinary" outport adventurer. It reminds us that opportunities present themselves at the most inopportune time. The Life of a Pilot ~ Bush Planes and Water Bombers by Glen G. Goobie is a Flanker Press publication.

The crystal-clear sky revealed a crop of bright stars, which was another sight a city dweller doesn't often get to see. After landing back in Deer Lake, I thought it would only be fitting to drop by one of my favourite haunts , the Deer Lake Motel, for a couple of beers and a nice meal to top off my great day. I said to myself as I was sipping on my beer, "Imagine, we even get paid to do this."


Sunday, January 8, 2023

Love Will Out: A Newfoundland Story by David Michael

St. John's was a visceral shock to them. In a hansom cab, on their way to the Crosbie Hotel on Duckworth Street, they saw faceless people sealed inside heavy woolen jackets, with hoods pulled up to protect them from the furious April gale. Like lost souls, they trudged silently down snow-encrusted sidewalks, alongside two-story-high snowbanks and manure-covered roads. Colourless, onion-crate-like wooden dwellings lined the streets. Large burned-out gaps bore witness to buildings that existed no more. Raggedly-dressed children picked the pockets of derelict men, gut-splattered fishermen slashed the heads off dead-eyed fish, and sozzled sailors led desperate women down dark alleyways into loveless embraces. 

Such was the city that greeted two immigrant families in the early 20th century Dominion of Newfoundland. Escaping to the New World where the promise of freedom was just too enticing to pass up, these families were world's apart in their beliefs and cultural identity. One family, the Rosenbergs; Jewish, fleeing Russian persecution and the other, the Abdullah's;  Maronite Christian Lebanese escaping the Ottoman Empire and possessing a strong mistrust for all Jews. But, when you're nine years old and living so close to each other that you can see right into your neighbour's bedroom, this strange new land of weird customs, intelligible dialects, and bland foods becomes a child's playground. Captivated with each other from an early age,  Ruth Rosenberg and Ali Abdullah's close childhood friendship evolves into a romantic relationship not readily accepted by Ali's traditionally minded mother.  When Ali's mother arranges to have her son married without his consent to a young Lebanese girl from the mother country, Ali and Ruth's love for one another becomes threatened. In an effort to do the "right" thing, both retreat to new and confusing relationships with other people while still hoping that love will out. 

David Michael's debut novel, Love Will Out, is an unforgettable true life account of two young people, forced to survive racism, violence, and bigamy while in pursuit of a love that is lasting and true. The simply written but captivating story details the interracial relationship of Michael's mother and father during the 1920's society of the country of Newfoundland. The characters are of course Michael's family and what characters they are! Ruth's passionate personality, tomboy exterior and willingness to stand up to anything and anybody is admirable and Ali's ingenuity, loyalty and quick wit proves to be what's needed to get the couple through the many obstacles that are thrown their way. Mother Abdullah is a force to be reckoned with while Father just wants to keep the peace. The story is well written and fast paced, reading like a juicy, five part soap opera with a plot that is almost unbelievable. This is a book I did not want to put down.

David Michael's fictionalized dramedy is also quite interesting from a historical perspective. Love Will Out shines light on the small groups of immigrants that came to our shores from areas outside the British Isles. Many of the Chinese, Lebanese, and Jewish immigrants that arrived during the late 1890's, settled in the St. John's area and operated businesses from the downtown with many of their ancestors still calling Newfoundland home today. I enjoyed how Michael was able to weave historical tidbits of info throughout this enchanting story reminding me of an overlooked era in Newfoundland history. 

Love Will Out by David Michael is a page-turning coming of age love story full of twists and turns. I look forward to reading upcoming novels by this author. Love Will Out is an Ingelwood Press publication and is also available at Breakwater Books.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Dear Billie: A World War II Love Story by Karen Lundy

 Hello, Billie,

    I hope you won't be too surprised hearing from me. When I came down to Union Station Sunday night, I met Jean Wilcox there. She told me about you and gave me your address. So here I am. I hope you will not mind me writing to you. By the way, Jean is coming up Sunday. How about you coming with her? I would certainly like to meet you. Jean said you were a very nice girl. 

    I guess I will have to sign off here. The lights go out in a few minutes. Cheerio for now.

                                                                                                   Vern Ploughman

Dear Billie: A World War II Love Story
is an autobiographical piece of non fiction based on the full text of a series of 92 love letters written by the father of author Karen Lundy. Roland "Vern" Ploughman of Bay Roberts, Newfoundland was just a 19 year old trooper in the 23rd Armoured Regiment when a friend of a friend, 17 year old Lillian Alice Wenman a.k.a. "Billie", became the object of his affection. Though they had never met, Vern was training to be deployed for active duty, when he had become smitten over all the good things he had heard about the blue-eyed brunette that hailed from Ontario, Canada. Having the chance opportunity to meet twice before being shipped overseas, many more letters would follow detailing the young tank gunner's experience of training, combat, being wounded in Normandy, and eventually returning home. As the letters progressed, and the young couple navigate a long distance relationship complicated by war, their love for one another flourishes and Vern returns to his sweetheart to be married in 1945. 

Poignantly written, daughter Karen Lundy presents the beautiful saga of two young teenagers separated by an ocean and a war. In and of itself, the story is mesmerizing but knowing that the author is presenting the love story of her parents is even more beautiful, and somewhat haunting. Having discovered the stacks of photos and letters amongst her parent's possessions after Billie's passing in 2019, Lundy suddenly realized the gift she had been entrusted when she began to transcribe her father's letters for her family. Her eyes, and indeed those of the readers of this wonderful story, were opened to the possibility that these two remarkable people were more than just her parents; they were two youngsters looking for love, finding solace in the written word as they exchanged intimate details of their hopes, dreams, and fears. The exceptional research and information gathered by Lundy in writing this book helps to piece together and make sense of the young soldier's fight for survival and realistic outlook. It also serves as a historical record of one man's account of that horrible time in history. Lundy captures and brings to life two wartime lives that may well have been lost had Vern's letter's not survived.

Dear Billie: A World War II Love Story is a story of love and loss, fighting and survival. Armchair historians and those who enjoy a great wartime love story would appreciate this well documented and excellently researched narrative. Dear Billie: A World War II Love Story is a Flanker Press publication. 

Tell Aunt Gert that I wrote to her a few days ago. And thank her for asking if there is anything I need. Tell her not to send me anything. I don't mean to be rude, but there is really nothing that I want. There's one that I would like to have though and that's you. I guess it would be impossible to send you over here to me though. I sure wish she could though. Do you know, darling, it's a year since I saw you last. It seems like a lifetime. I can remember when I saw you last, too. It was at Union Station.