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Friday, 28 January 2011

How I Cook by Skye Gyngell

Skye Gyngell's skill in combining ingredients in a way that heightens their freshness and flavour is second to none. Her cooking at Petersham Nurseries has won many awards and her previous two books have been highly acclaimed. Now, Skye turns her attention to home cooking. In How I Cook she focuses on the food she cooks for friends and family, with an original collection of over 100 recipes based around meal occasions - breakfast, Sunday lunch, alfresco eating, afternoon tea, simple weekday dinner, late night supper and celebrations - such as Christmas and Easter. Skye's home cooking is influenced by the seasons but it is also the sense of occasion that inspires her creativity. The layers of flavour that typify Skye's dishes are evident throughout, but recipes are more straightforward and based on ingredients that are easy for the home cook to obtain. All techniques are carefully explained and illustrated, and Skye reveals the secrets of her success, based on her years of experience in the kitchen. In addition, Skye provides menu suggestions throughout the book to create beautifully balanced meals. The final chapter 'Time to spare' presents a lovely selection of original preserves and other food that can be prepared ahead to enjoy later.
This cook book is one which I can see being used in our house, although I admit, by my husband - the main cook! It is definitely not a book to be looked through when you are hungry though, the food in the high quality, colour photographs which accompany most of the recipes look delicious and there were many recipes I would love to try. The pictures look like I would imagine them turning out at home, not too 'cheffy!'.
There are eight sections to the book: Breakfast, Sunday Lunch, Alfresco eating, Afternoon tea, Simple weekday dinner, Late night supper, Special occasion and Time to spare. Each section is full of delicious sounding recipes, complete with recommended serving numbers, full ingredient list and easy to follow instructions. Each recipes begins with a short introduction, which gives useful tips and possible alternative ingredients or accompaniments.
The recipes all include ingredients which should be easy to source. There are traditional recipes, with old fashioned style along with modern twist or updated old favorites throughout the book.
This is a great book which would be an useful addition in any kitchen, for novice cooks through to confident cooks who enjoy throwing dinner parties.

Thank you to Quadrille Publishing for sending me the book to review.

Signing Hands; Baby Signing Basics by Lizzie Betts

*British Sign Language *Suitable for everyone wanting to know more about baby signing or starting to sign with their deaf child. Babies are able to make simple gestures many months before they are able to speak. By introducing just a few simple signs, a baby can learn how to communicate their needs and wants. Baby signing reduces guesswork for parents and carers. The proven benefits are calmer, more contented and confident children. This beautifully illustrated guide to baby signing has been produced in conjunction with experienced baby signing teachers at Little Signers Club and leading British Sign Language author, Cath Smith. With first signs, engaging pictures, tips and exercises, this book will quickly and simply show you and your baby how to communicate through sign. Who wouldn't want their child to be the first amongst their peers to be communicating, to be the most chilled out, to be happier, to have a real head start? Ben, signing daddy to Fin FINALIST; Most Innovative Baby Product 2010, The Baby Show for Trade
Baby Signing is something which I never tried with my children, however my son had speech difficulties and was at an Ican speech nursery (great charity) and he was taught some sign language and he picked some up with Mr Tumble on Something Special (CBeebies) and used it at times and I can see the benefits.
This book is a really good idea. It is a small book but includes lots of information within it. There is a basic introduction which gives the good reasons for baby signing and the one I would like to highlight is that signing is beneficial from the age of 12 months, when toddlers have an inability to express themselves clearly and tantrums can develop. Signing gives toddlers the ability to convey what they want or need.
There are a list of benefits to both parent and child learning sign language - increased confidence, reinforces creative and memory skills and the ability for a young child to express their wish or discomfort before language takes over.
The book contains 38 basic signs, those most commonly used and taught. Each page teaches a sign and also has a diagrams showing someone doing the sign, as well as directions in words. There is also a large picture of what the sign means - these are of a collage effect and are beautiful to look at and eye catching for babies too.
The book also has many tips included and these are recommended by expert teachers. It also discusses if your child is ready to start signing and some tips of getting your child ready to learn signing. The book also has a very useful page entitled 'signing hands - helpful tips for hand shapes' which has diagrams for 10 different hand shapes as described in the book.
There are 8 sections into which the 38 basic signs have been split: first signs (milk, eat, drink, more, all gone), family and home (mummy, daddy, baby, home, work); getting ready (get dressed, nappy change, bath, splash and duck); bedtime (sleepy, bed, cuddle, teddy bear and star); I'm feeling (happy, sad, help, doctor, poorly); pets (cat, dog, rabbit, fish); exploring (out and about!., out, car, walk, sun and rain); and exploring (garden, spider, bee and flower). At the end of each section is a song suggestion for learning/practicing the signs in each section.
This is a really great book, a useful resource for people thinking about doing baby signing with their child and gives lots of useful hints and tips throughout the book. I recommend it to all mums to be and new mums.

Thank you to Michael from The School Run forum for sending me this book to review.

Please don't stop the music by Jane Lovering

How much can you hide? Jemima Hutton is determined to build a successful new life and keep her past a dark secret. Trouble is, her jewellery business looks set to fail - until enigmatic Ben Davies offers to stock her handmade belt buckles in his guitar shop and things start looking up, on all fronts. But Ben has secrets too. When Jemima finds out he used to be the front man of hugely successful Indie rock band Willow Down, she wants to know more. Why did he desert the band on their US tour? Why is he now a semi-recluse? And the curiosity is mutual - which means that her own secret is no longer safe ...
This is Jane Lovering's first book to be released in the UK and is a great read! A story about a young woman, who is hiding her past from all who know her. She has her own business - designing and making jewellery and belt buckles, which she sells on line and in a small shop in town, the contract of which is cancelled abruptly, however her flat mate continues to supply the shop with handmade cards in huge quantities.
However, a chance find of a small guitar shop willingly to sell her buckles leads to a relationship developing between her and the owner, who also seems to have a past and secret to hide. Will Jemima and Ben manage to trust each other and reveal their pasts to each other.
Although the story includes this love story, there are many other strands to this story. The owner of the shop, Saskia, appears to have the perfect life, a loaded husband, a perfect child who is given every opportunity and money thrown at it every day, but is their trouble in paradise? Jemima's flatmate, Rosie is a new mum, finding juggling motherhood with her own card making business, being inundated with orders from Saskia and feeling she is not able to be a great mum to her son. Ben, the guitar shop owner, has secrets, he was in a successful band, why did he suddenly leave?
The story has many twists and turns, Ben, Rosie and Jemima seem to have a run of bad luck - social workers turning up, Ben's shop burning down and Jemima's business being blacklisted around York. Jemima finds it hard to settle, never unpacking her belongings, always ready to move on quickly.
I really enjoyed this book, enjoyed discovering the secrets that have been hidden by both Ben and Jemima, watching their relationship develop and then hit rocky patches. A great book to slip in your bag to take out and devour a chapter whenever you have opportunity, easy to pick up whenever. I also enjoyed the diary entries by Ben at the end of some chapters - finding out what he really thinks.
I hope this is the first of many books to hit UK bookshelves by Jane Lovering.
Thank you to ChocLit Publishers for sending me this book to review.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Woman He Loved Before by Dorothy Koomson

Libby has a nice life with a gorgeous husband and a big home by the sea. But over time she is becoming more unsure if Jack has ever loved her ? and if he is over the death of Eve, his first wife. When fate intervenes in their relationship, Libby decides to find out all she can about the man she hastily married and the seemingly perfect Eve. Eventually Libby stumbles across some startling truths about Eve, and is soon unearthing more and more devastating family secrets. Frightened by what she finds and the damage it could cause, Libby starts to worry that she too will end up like the first woman Jack loved...Tense and moving, The Woman He Loved Before explores if the love you want is always the love you need ? or deserve.
Dorothy Koomson has done it again! I loved The Ice Cream Girls and was looking forward to her next book as soon as I had finished it. This book certainly does not disappoint.
This book is told primarily, from the point of view of Libby and her husband Jack. The book opens with a letter which says 'if you are reading this, then it is likely I'm dead, probably murdered'. Intrigue from page one!
The story is told, primarily, from two viewpoints - Jack and Libby. There has been a car accident and Libby is seriously hurt. The story flits between the present day, the accident and the treatment and stay in hospital, and the past, Libby and Jack's chance meeting at a car dealership. As the story progresses, we learn that Jack has been married before, to Eve, who died in suspicious circumstances, and the police reappear to ensure that the car accident was in fact an accident, caused by a driver distracted by a mobile phone and not, as the police suggest, Jack removing another wife from his life. Following many unanswered questions and an inquisitive dog wanting to get into the house's cellar, Libby discovers Eve's hidden diaries which hold many hidden secrets and also dangerous information which could lead to Libby risking her life ending in similar suspicious circumstances similar to Eve. However, there is a twist at the end of the book which is brilliant - Koomson manages to pull one out of the bag again, and this one I didn't see coming!
The story covers many themes within the book; a schoolgirl making a heartbreaking decision - should she stay at home with her mother's abusive partner or make her own way in the world, leaving school; her fight for survival finding employment and the lengths she goes to when money is tight; life as a lap dancer, life as an escort and the decision to leave that world behind and trust one man to spend her life with, and then a figure from her past coming back and making an appearance in the worse possible situation. There is also Jack, who married his first love, lost her and then found someone else, who he loved, but wasn't Eve, his first love and Libby, who found love but always felt there were three people in the marriage, the wife who had died always seemed to around.
I thought Libby was a very strong woman, she had to be to recover from her accident, to rebuild her life, however, when she discovered Eve's diaries, should she have read them - I think this is temptation that many of us would have difficulty in turning away from, however the secrets which were revealed would change life for everyone involved if she revealed all she had found out.
I absolutely loved this book and I would recommend it to all - however, it is one of those books, that once you have started, you are unable to put down, it is addictive and I wanted to keep reading to find out as much as possible. It is a great read to take away on holiday and get lost in!
Thank you to Sphere and Little Brown for sending me the book to review.

Summer of Love by Katie Fforde

Sian Bishop has only ever experienced one moment of recklessness - a moment that resulted in her beloved son Rory. It's not that she doesn't love the outcome of that wild night, but since then she has always taken the safer route. So when dependable, devoted Richard suggests a move to the beautiful English countryside, she leaves the hustle and bustle of the city behind, and she throws herself into the picture-postcard cottage garden, her furniture restoration business, and a new life in the country. Her good intentions are torpedoed on a glorious summer's evening with the arrival of Gus Berresford. One-time explorer and full-time heartbreaker, Gus is ridiculously exciting, wonderfully glamorous and a completely inappropriate love interest for a single mum. But Gus and Sian have met before...Sian has no use for a fling, she simply mustn't fall in love with the most unlikely suitor ever to cross her path - even if he has now crossed her path twice. But who knows what can happen in a summer of love...
I am a great fan of Katie Fforde's books and always look forward to her new releases. This book was no exception. As soon as I started this book I was drawn into it and found it difficult to put it down.
The story is a love story, however it is more than that. A single mum who has been single since a one night stand at a party which could not develop further as the man, Gus, was going away. Sian has looked after her son from day one on her own, although a close male friend, Richard, has proposed and has promised that she and her son will want for nothing - except Sian is not certain that she loves him.
The story starts with Kate moving to a small village from London, to provide a better life for her and her son, enrolling him in a local nursery, run by Richard's sister, in a small cottage. Her first visitor, Fiona, welcomes her to the village and she becomes a confidante, a friend and introduces her to village life. Imagine Sian's shock when, at a dinner party arranged to introduce her to other villagers, her son, Angus, returns from his latest exploration trip - he is Sian's son's father!
The story explores this unusual turn of events, from Fiona's point of view, the grandmother who never knew he existed, Angus, the father who never knew he existed - how will Fiona tell him that he has a son; Sian's mother, who is the grandmother and has been there to help Fiona; and also Richard, who loves him like a son, is an old school friend of Angus's and does not realise the feelings that are rebrewing between Angus and Sian.
There is also a light humour side to the book, Angus's mother, Fiona, has signed up to Internet dating and goes on a few date but then finds love closer to home - how will Angus react to his mother's new relationship and sex life!
As I said, I always enjoy Katie Fforde's books and this one is no exception. It was an easy read, it is to be promoted as a Mothers Day read and is a perfect present for mums everywhere of any age - there is something for everyone, young mums and grandma's alike, everyone will enjoy it!! The book is one which draws you in and would be great to read curled up in the winter or also read while sunning oneself on a beach in the summer.
Well done Katie on another brilliant book.
Thank you to Random House for sending me the book to review.

A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler

If you could see into the future - would you look? Jenni Green doesn't have a choice. On her way to visit her best friend, Autumn, Jenni suddenly finds she's been transported exactly one year forward in time. Now she discovers that in the year that's gone by, tragedy has struck and her friendship with Autumn will never be the same again. But what caused the tragedy? How did Jenni skip a year? And can she find her way back to the past to try to change what lies ahead? With humour - and her customary light touch - the author of the EMILY WINDSNAP books plays a fascinating game with time, and explores the changes that take place in friendships and families in the aftermath of a disaster.
I really enjoyed this book, something a little bit different for children to read. Jenni and Autumn are with their families at their annual holiday park. The girls are inseparable and do everything possible together, however, the trip to the local stables for an afternoon of hacking leads to an accident, the events of which lead up to and follow it mean life will never be the same again.
The book is a great read for girls, I would recommend about 9 years. The story talks about friendships and also the long term effects that can follow tradegy. The story does touch on 'time travel' but not in a doctor who sort of way.
I really like Liz Kessler's style of writing, easy to read but is descriptive and well written. I recommend this book to anyone buying for a confident reader aged 9 years +.
Thank you to Michael from The School Run Forum for sending me this book to review.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Raising Children; The Primary Years by Liat Hughes Joshi

Expert knowledge, real-life experiences and enlightening research specifically carried out for the book, all combine to create a unique view on what it takes to be a parent of primary school children. Covering the issues that will affect you and your children during their primary school years, you will find yourself armed with knowledge, tips, tricks and advice that will help you both through even the most challenging times. With every topic discussed you'll discover valuable specialist opinion and guidance, as well as quotes, clever know-how and insights from real parents who've already been through it. From mealtimes and bedtimes, tricky questions and homework, all the way through to sex and drugs, you'll soon discover you're not the only parent grappling with all this stuff. And with Raising Children on your side you'll be well-informed, well-prepared and well-equipped to handle any problem big or small.

This book is really well set out. Split into eleven sections; general behaviour management; friends and foes; school and after school; food, glorious food; sleep; growing up fast;gadgets and games; tricky questions (sex and drugs); financial matters; difficult times and other little challenges (including lies, bad habits and fear), this book covers everything that parents may need help with in the bringing up of their children (age 4-11 years).

Each section details the big issues within the subject, some background info into the subject, the opinions and common answers by professionals in the field (psychologists, nutritionists etc) and most importantly what you can do about it. There are also ideas for further reading at the end of each section.

The book is set out in a reader friendly way, in easy to understand English, without long, scientific or technical jargon. The advice given is helpful and friendly and is practical, things which can be done by everyone and not just the 'ideal' family. The author is also British and so has relevant and useful advice.

While looking through the book I found many topics covered which will be helpful to me; talking about a family bereavement; how should I decide upon pocket money, fussy eating and homework and also topics to swat up on for the future: sex, the need for a mobile phone, drug prevention, disagreements about clothing and sleepovers.

The only downside or negative that I have found about the book is that there is no index. There is a contents page but this is not detailled enough to find a specific topic quickly.

I think this is a book that would be a book every parent would have the need to consult at least five times in their child's primary years. A great resource and reference for parents everywhere.

Thank you to Michael from The School Run forum for sending me the book to review.

A Girl Like You by Gemma Burgess

"I've discovered the secret to successful singledom. I'm acting like a man. And it's working." "I've discovered the secret to successful singledom. I'm acting like a man. And it's working." After breaking up with her boyfriend of, well, forever, Abigail Wood must learn how to be single from scratch. Her dating skills are abysmal, and she ricochets from disaster to disaster -- until Robert, one of London's most notorious lotharios, agrees to coach her. With his advice, she learns to navigate the bastard-infested waters of the bar scene and practices the art of being bulletproof. The new Abigail is cocky, calm, composed!but what happens when she meets her match? A Girl Like You is the second book from Gemma Burgess. Her first book, The Dating Detox, was published in 2010 to rave reviews: "Laugh out loud funny" Closer magazine. "Smart, plotty and funny! Buy it, read it, love it." The Irish Herald. "For those waiting to option the next Bridget Jones, Gemma Burgess answers back." VF Daily,

This book is great for girls who have just broke up with a partner and are back on the dating scene. Abigail has just finished in a long term relationship, moves out of the house and into the spare room of a friends brother. Her new housemate becomes her guru into all things date related, with Abigail asking his advice, sometimes mid-date. The speed dating evening was a great scene! The book tracks her journey through the dating cycle - the one night stand, the relationship which doesn't appear to be all it seems and ..... well you will have to read it to find out more.

Abigails sister is also getting married and there are lots of occasions throughout the book where the wedding party meet up for occasions and rehearsals, fittings and getting to know you sessions. This enables us to see the group of friends together and how they relate. The wedding is also part of the story and I really enjoyed this part of the book.

There were many times during the book where I laughed out loud, others where I wanted to take Abigail's hand and shout at her to realise her feelings. There were times to laugh and also times to cry.

There are some great one-liners within the book - and I loved how Gemma got the famous line out of Dirty Dancing into the book ' I carried a watermelon'. Gemma's style of writing is brilliant, easy to read, full of humour and great storytelling.

I would love to have a group of friends and family like Gemma, they appear to be a great group, there for support, while also having a great social life. There are quite a few in the group, but they each have their own characteristics and parts to play throughout the book.

This is a great feel good read, one to read on a summer holiday, or when you are relaxing curled up on a cold winter night. One to give to friends who have just broken up from their partners or one to pass on as a good read.

I recommend it to anyone who likes a good chick lit read.

Thank you to Gemma for arranging for me to review this book and to Avon Publishing.

Black Swan Rising by Lee Carroll

Jeweller Garet James isn't the same as everyone else. She just doesn't know it yet. With her fair share of problems - money (lack of), an elderly father, a struggling business - Garet should be just like any other young, feisty, single New Yorker. If only it was that simple...It begins with the old silver box that had been soldered shut. All Garet has to do is open it. A favour for the frail owner of the antiques shop. Who wouldn't help? Only it's then that things start to change. Garet doesn't notice at first, the shifts barely perceptible. But the city in which she grew up is beginning to reveal a long-hidden side - darker, and altogether more dangerous: parallel world of chaos, smoke and blood. And now it's out of the box...and it has no intention of going back in.

This is not my usual choice of book but when I read the synopsis I had to give it a try. The book is full of fantasy creatures: vampires and fairies to name but a few.
The main character, Garet, tells the story, and she is drawn to a box in an second hand shop,m she never knew existed, doesn't know where it is located or how to return to it. The box has a seal, a swan with wording, just like the signet ring her mother had given her on her sixteenth birthday. She is unaware of what is happening and it is like we are discovering the story as she does. The story has some romance, intrigue and also gives an insight into Garet's family history although I feel there is still more to learn.

There are a number of subplots included within the story; the robbery of some paintings from her father's business, Garet's friends band and her father's debt.

The story is full of fantasy, however there are many New York landmarks and modern day events to keep readers grounded.

The background research that this book entailed must of been immense and Lee Carroll (who is actually two people, husband and wife: Lee Slonimsky and Carol Goodman) have transferred it into this book really well. The descriptions are gorgeous - and lend themselves to the fantasy style of the book.

I did enjoy the book, although I do not think that Urban Fantasy will be a genre I will choose to be one of my favorite genre's.

Thank you Lynsey from Transworld publishers for sending me the book to review.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Peekaboo Zoo illustrated by Kate Merritt (Ladybird)

"Peekaboo Zoo" is a lovely first lift-the-flap book for babies and young toddlers. Turn each page to find a wild animal hidden under a flap. Read the funny, rhyming text and try to guess which animal is hidden! There is a mirror on the last page, so baby can have the excitement of finding themselves in the picture! The classic game of peekaboo is brought to life in this gorgeous book, perfect as a gift for babies and young children.
I love this book!! It is perfect for young children and babies alike. Based on the game peekaboo there are four animals playing peekaboo in the book; an elephant, a giraffe, a monkey and tiger. There is also a fifth page with a mirror for the child to play peekaboo!

This is a board book with the usual cardboard flaps - however the flaps are hands, ears, bananas or leaves and are involved in the picture. The wording of the book is also great, a sing song rhyme which will, along with the game, keep children wanting the book again and again!
This book would make a lovely gift for a baby or young child and make story time a fun time for both child and adult.
Thank you to Ladybird books for sending me this book to review.

Ben Elf's Birthday (Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom) Ladybird

The creators of the number one preschool children's TV show "Peppa Pig", bring you the magical award-winning world of "Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom". Boys and girls will love this delightful little storybook...Oh dear, it's Ben Elf's birthday and his best friend, Fairy Princess Holly has completely forgotten about it! Join Fairy Princess Holly in this exciting new adventure storybook, as she tries to make Ben a special birthday card using her fairy magic and also make it to his birthday party on time!
This book accompanies the popular television show, Ben and Holly's Magic Kingdom' and the magic of the TV show is captured in this book too.
The pages are full of colour, with brightly coloured pictures full of energy and telling the story. There are a lot of words on each page telling the story and therefore is more suitable for a slightly older child, however it is a perfect book to share at bedtime or during a quiet time during the day. The pictures also lend themselves to asking the child questions about what they think is happening etc.
A perfect gift idea for children who love the TV programme or for a child who is having a birthday.
Thank you to Ladybird Books for sending me the book to review.

Top Dog (Super Phonic Readers) Ladybird

Top Dog is no ordinary Pup. He has been trained in the way of the ninja. When the Bite Club Gang steal a lorry full of pet food from the factory, Top Dog is on hand with a flip, chop and a kick to make sure they don't get away! These are beginner reading books for children who have been learning synthetic phonics in school. Help your child learn to read at home without contradicting schoolwork. These exciting superhero adventures are ideal for building confidence in learning to read. Special 'Superhero Secrets' puzzle pages help build comprehension skills. It includes stickers and a reward chart to keep learning fun.
This is a perfect book for young boys (and girls) everywhere who are learning to read. The book begins with a note to parents, explaining that the book is aimed at children who have completed the initial phonic learning and are now beginning to apply their learning to read books. The book also includes 30 bright and cheery reward stickers along with a certificate for the child after they have read the book.
The story is about Top Dog and his adventure while stopping a gang from stealing pet food from a factory. I think the story will appeal to boys - an important consideration, because it is important that the books the children are given to read must appeal to them and finding books for boys who are learning to read can be difficult. The pictures are bright, colourful and of a cartoon appearance.
The book also contains a page of puzzles to ensure the reader understood the story and a list of tricky words contained in the story.
This book will appeal to boys and girls alike, especially the boys and is a level one book.
Thank you to Ladybird Books for sending me this book to review.

Whose Hat?? (Ladybird)

Whose hat is this? Toddlers and young children will love this chunky board book from Ladybird, with giant fold-out flaps to lift on every page. Read the rhyming text with your child, look at the big picture of the hat and talk about the clues to its owner you can see in the smaller picture. Have a guess and then lift the flaps to reveal the friendly character wearing their hat! From a fireman and a pirate to a witch and a princess, there's fun to be had on every page. The "Whose?" series is perfect for playtime fun together - why not collect them all?
This is a great chunky book, brightly coloured and full of big, bold pictures. It is suitable for children aged over 1 years. I really like the idea of this book, it is a flap book but instead of being a piece of paper or card to be lifted by the child, which can easily be ripped with continued use, the pages fold out, becoming giant flaps to lift, to reveal whose hat it is.
There is a fireman, a pirate, a witch and a princess, something which will appeal to every child, included within the book.
This is a great book to share with a child, encouraging them to lift the flap and become involved in the book too.
Thank you to Ladybird Books for sending me the book to review.

Mark Hix British Seasonal Food

Most ingredients are now available all year round, flown in from afar as necessary, but there is no doubt that food eaten in season - and preferably grown as close to home as possible - tastes far, far better. Mark Hix cares passionately about British food and is keen for readers to experience the excitement that cooking seasonally offers. In British Seasonal Food, he draws attention month-by-month to the homegrown ingredients at their seasonal best. He provides information on where to source the foods, how to prepare and cook them, and suggests simple ways to serve them - to enjoy their flavour to the full. For each featured ingredient, he also presents a selection of inventive mouth-watering recipes - Chilled Pea and Lovage Soup, Fried Green Tomatoes in Beer Batter, Roast Goose with Sprout Tops and Quince Sauce, Autumn Fruits with Sloe Gin Jelly. Superbly photographed by Jason Lowe and with original drawings that capture the mood of the seasons, this book is guaranteed to become a British classic.

A recipe book full of gorgeous sounding dishes, made, however with many expensive ingredients. The book calls itself a year round celebration of the finest produce, which it definitely is.

The book is a month by month book, detailing British, seasonal ingredients. Each month highlights three seasonal ingredients and each ingredient has at least four different serving ideas.
Each ingredient has its own section, complete with introduction to the ingredient. Some of the ingredients are not on every ones shopping list and include: mallard duck,crayfish and game birds although many ingredients are more popular; strawberries, mackerel and beetroot.

The recipes are accompanied by full colour photographs, although when I opened the book I was surprised to be faced with a mallard duck staring up at me. The recipes appear to me to be 'posh' meals, one I would expect to see in an expensive restaurant. Not all recipes had accompanying photographs though.

I would recommend this book to those who like fine dining and enjoy creating a meal, rather than just cooking.

Thank you to Mark at Quadrille for sending me this book to review.

Mark Hix British Seasonal Food

Kipper by Mick Inkpen

Kipper's basket is old and worn. His blanket is smelly and disgusting. But can Kipper find a better place to sleep? He tries a flowerpot like a bird, a nest like a squirrel and a lily-pad like a frog, but nothing seems quite as good as his old, worn basket and his lovely smelly blanket. This classic and bestselling picture book is packaged together with 10 classic episodes of Kipper narrated by Martin Clunes.Contains the episodes: 1. The Visitor, 2. The Umbrella, 3. The Seaside, 4. Nothing Ever Happens, 5. Pig's Present, 6. The Rainbow Puddle, 7. The Butterfly, 8. The Bleepers, Snowy Day, 10. Pig's Cousin.
I adore Kipper, the lovable dog who, along with his friends, has daily adventures. Children everywhere adore Kipper and I know my children have grown up with his stories.
This book has been re released to celebrate Kipper's 21st birthday this year and also includes a DVD which has 10 kipper episodes on it, all narrated by Martin Clunes.
As with all Kipper books, the story is great and the pictures are full of life and mischief, as Kipper himself is.
Although we have all the kipper books, and my children are 8 and 6, this book will take pride of place alongside them and will be well read. The publishers recommend kipper for age 0 - 5 years but as they say, a dog is for life, not just for Christmas, Kipper is a dog to accompany you through life.
Kipper would be a gift any child would love to receive and share at story time.
Thank you to Michael from The School Run Forum for sending me the book to review.

Mary Berry is the queen of cakes. There is no one better qualified to show you how to make the best Victoria sponge, vanilla cupcake, fruit tea bread or chocolate fudge cake. Together with these eternally popular recipes, Mary also shows you how to make the best children's birthday cake, Wimbledon cake, banana muffin, French patisserie and Christmas cake. Foolproof recipes for every occasion, this collection will secure a place on your kitchen bookshelf.
This is the third book from the My Kitchen Table series that I have been sent to review and I think this one is my favourite - why? Because I love this sort of cooking, not that I do any, but I used to cook cakes and bakes and should really start doing it again.
Also check out the website
The book follows a similar format to the rest in the series and includes comprehensive ingredient lists, suggested servings per recipe and the recipes are split into up to 5 easy steps.
There are both sweet and savoury recipes within the book. There are six sections within the book: large cakes and Swiss rolls; small cakes; tray bakes and loaf cakes; scones, buns and pancakes; special cakes and occasion cakes. Flapjacks, brownies, cheesecakes and Christmas cakes are just a few I picked out while flicking through the book.
This book would be ideal for parents of children who are asked to donate cakes to school functions or anyone who donates to church events or fundraisers of any kind. An excellent book for ideas, but not to delve into when you are hungry.
Thank you to Ebury Publishing for sending me this book to review.

My Kitchen Table, Madhur Jaffrey 100 Essential Curries

Madhur Jaffrey is the world's best-selling author of Indian cookery books. Here, she has collected 100 curry recipes from dals to biryanis, vegetarian to meat, simple and elaborate. Everybody loves a curry - and this book has a recipe to suit every taste.
Another book from the My Kitchen Table series (see previous post). This one is written by Madhur Jaffrey and is 100 essential curries. The book is split into eight sections: starters, soups and snacks; fish and seafood; eggs and poultry; lamb, pork and beef; vegetables and vegetarian dishes; Dal; Rice, breads and other grains; and, Relishes, chutneys and accompaniments.
Each section contains a number of recipes, all accompanied by superb, colour photographs. Each recipe has a brief introduction, which includes a brief history or serving instructions. The recipes includes the servings per recipe, a comprehensive and complete ingredient list. The recipe is split into up to five easy steps.
There are a wide range of recipes included in the book, many of which I hope to try - fritters, rice dishes and relishes and many curries which I am sure my husband will be trying.
This book is great for curry lovers everywhere, a quick dip recipe book to make a true Indian meal complete.
Thank you to Ebury Publishing for sending me this book to review.

My Kitchen Table. Annabel Karmel 100 Family Meals

Annabel Karmel is the best-selling author of cookbooks for children and their families. Relied on by millions of parents, Annabel knows what children like to eat and how to make family meals as trouble-free as possible. In this collection, Annabel has chosen 100 recipes that will suit kids and grown-ups alike, from healthy breakfast muffins, to tasty tea-time snacks and light meals to nutritious family suppers.

A new series of recipe books by Ebury Publishing called My Kitchen Table. The series is accompanied by a website: which includes recipes and videos and also information about the chefs. There are currently seven books within the series all written by some of the top chefs and cover a number of genres: curries, family meals, cakes and bakes, pasta meals, stir fries, fish and meals in minutes.

Annabel Karmel's book is on family meals and is split into seven sections: breakfast bites, chicken, fish, meat, veggie, snacks and sweet treats. Each section contains many recipes which are accompanied by full page, colour photographs. There is a brief introduction to each recipe which often includes some history to the meal or some quick tips. The recipe details how many it will serve, a full ingredient list and the instructions are split into up to five steps. The recipes are easy to follow and some include alternative suggestions to the recipes.

The recipes included in the book all look gorgeous and will appeal to adults and children alike. There are soups and main meals. pasta dishes, rice dishes and pizzas to name but a few. Children will enjoy looking through the book for something to have for dinner and are sure to find something that appeals. There are also recipes for power packed oat bars which is something I am planning on trying to try and stop reaching for chocolate mid afternoon.

I would recommend this book to busy parents everywhere, a great book which should be in every family's busy kitchen.

Thank you to Ebury publishing for sending me this book to review.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Do Igloos Have Loos by Mitchell Symons

In "Do Igloos Have Loos?" Mitch Symons, the revolting reference expert, answers burning questions such as: How do you get out of quicksand? Why does your skin get wrinkly if you stay too long in the bath? Is your right foot really clever? And, crucial for everyone likely to get caught short in the Arctic, 'Do igloos have loos'?

This is one of those books that you can pick up and find out something you didn't know. It is full of those questions that children ask and you don't know the answer too. How far is away is the horizon? Why do we 'draw' curtains when we open or close them? Why do leaves change colour in the autumn>
This book will appeal to inquisitive children of all ages and will get them telling everybody what they have learnt. The book includes lots of great drawings to accompany the text and the book's humour.
Thank you to Michael from The School Run Forum for sending me the book to review.

The Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond

Evie Flynn has always been the black sheep of her family - a dreamer and a drifter, unlike her over-achieving elder sisters. She's tried making a name for herself as an actress, a photographer and a singer, but nothing has ever worked out. Now she's stuck in temp hell, with a sensible, pension-planning boyfriend. Somehow life seems to be passing her by. Then her beloved aunt Jo dies suddenly in a car crash, leaving Evie an unusual legacy - her precious beach cafe in Cornwall. Determined to make a success of something for the first time in her life, Evie heads off to Cornwall to get the cafe and her life back on track - and gets more than she bargained for, both in work and in love...
I first found Lucy Diamond when she released Hen's Reunited, which I read in 24 hours. Sweet Temptation followed, another great read and so when I heard that she had a new release coming this year, I was looking forward to reading it.
The Beach Cafe is another great read by Lucy Diamond. Evie's life changes when she hears the shocking news that her aunt is killed in a car crash. After the funeral, her parents give her the shock news that her aunt has left her her beach cafe.
All her family are telling Evie to sell it, that she will be unable to make a go of the business, however following a solo trip to the cafe she is reminded of many happy times spent with her Aunt and is determined to make it work. Thinking she will be able to manage the cafe from her home in Oxford, she continues her usual routine however, a problematic temporary placement and discussions about her relationship with her best friend, along with staff problems at the cafe, she decides to leave Oxford behind and returns to her aunts flat to make a real go of the cafe.
The book tells of Evie's new life in her aunt's cafe, the difficulties encountered, new friendships made and lessons learnt. I liked Evie as a character and I would love to live in a Cornish village like Carrawen Bay. There appears to be a real village camaraderie, everyone knowing everyone else, looking after their own. Evie appeared to see the best in everyone, looking after the homeless girl who slept in a sleeping bag on Evie's front deck and offering her friends, daughter's boyfriend the opportunity to use the cafe to display his artwork.
Although Evie has difficulties with the locals initially, she soon becomes a part of village life and the cafe becomes an important part of the village, with Evie offering the cafe for the local book group, a Thursday girls night in and also a room for a local band to practice in.
I really enjoyed this book, it is a great read. Lucy's writing style is easy to read and is a great book to relax with and enjoy. This book is released in June and I think it will be a great holiday read and should be in every one's beach bag or hand luggage on a plane this year!
Thank you to Sue Mongredien and Panmacmillan for sending me this book to review.

Moon Pie by Simon Mason

When I'm older, she thought, I'll remember this midnight picnic as a good thing. I'll forget that I was scared of the dark, and that Dad was strange. I'll remember the candles in the grass, like flowers made out of flame, and Tug dreaming of pie, and Dad telling me he loves me. Eleven-year-old Martha is used to being the one who has to keep their head. Tug, her little brother, is too small. Dad is too strange. And Mum's not here any more. So when Dad falls off the roof, it's Martha who ices his knee and takes him to the doctor. And when Dad doesn't come home, it's Martha who cooks Tug's favourite pie and reads him his bedtime story. And when Dad passes out, it's Martha who cleans him up and keeps his secret. But eventually Dad's problems become too big for even Martha to solve. There is only one person who can sort things out now. Dad.
When I started to read this book I wasn't too sure I was going to enjoy it, however, it is one of those books that draws you in and by the end you really enjoy it.
Martha and Tug (Christopher) live with their father following their mother's death some years earlier. From the start of the book it is obvious that Martha does a lot of the work around the house, ensuring her younger brother is okay goes to school etc. Their father appears to be rather mad, trying to climb up to a small open window to get into the house, rather than asking the neighbour for the spare key when he locked them out of the house, taking the children on a midnight picnic, waking them from sleep one night. At the start of the book I was unaware of his issues and did not realise until they were revealed further into the book.
Martha loves to act and design costumes, like her late mother, and each Wednesday goes to her friends, Marcus's, to help him shoot Speed Movies, famous movies, condensed into a snapshot.
Martha decided her father needed to get fit, pull himself together and find work, however following an embarrassing scene at the local swimming pool and a disastrous dinner arranged by Martha with her friend and her mother, it becomes apparent that her father is an alcoholic. Martha visits the library to find out about the condition and how she can help her father, however matters take a turn for the worse following a car accident which leaves Martha and Tug living with their grandparents and her father disappears.
A few months later Martha's father appears in the park after school, however there is a court order preventing contact - however, Martha, Tug and their father continue to meet and they find their father has been in rehab and he has sorted his life out and wants his children back. He finds work, in his old profession where he puts Martha forward for the opportunity for her to follow in her mother's footsteps and realise her dream.
As I have previously said, I was unsure of this book to start off with, however once I got into it, I really enjoyed it. Martha wanted to look after her father and younger brother, to avoid anyone saying they cannot cope. She writes lists ensuring everything is done each day and also is becoming independent, learning to cook, not just simple cooking but proper meals, from scratch. When I was reading the book, I didn't realise her father was an alcoholic, however, once one of her friends pointed it out, I remembered the signs included throughout the book so far.
It is a well written book, which children aged 9+ would enjoy. It tackles the subject of parents with alcoholism however that is not the only story within the book. It is about friendship and laughter and working towards your dreams. Some dreams do come true and are worth working towards. I would recommend this to children and young adults as a good read.
Thank you to Michael at The School Run Forum for sending me this book to review.

Friday, 7 January 2011

The Clumsies make a mess of the BIG show by Sorrel Anderson

Shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny prize 2010 -- The Clumsies are back in their third and most hilarious book yet! Full of the surreal invention and sparkling wit we've come to expect, this latest instalment will have everyone checking under their desks for talking mice! Howard's evil boss Mr Bullerton has decided to put on a Big Show at work -- and he wants Howard to sing! Trouble is, Howard's singing is worse than awful! and Mr Bullerton knows it. Now Howard faces an epic humiliation. Can the Clumsies help by turning Mr Bullerton's concert into total chaos? Silly question.
My daughter loves The Clumsies books and as soon as she saw this one, she started reading it.
I really like the style of this book, it is one which will appeal to children everywhere. Unlike other books of this level, there is not continual text. The text is broken up with pictures - there are a mixture of pencil sketches and real photographs with sketches added. The illustrator, Nicola Slater, has done a great job with the illustrations throughout the book. The text has different type faces intermingled within the main text, adding interest to the pages and breaking up huge paragraphs.
There are three stories within the book; trolley, Uncle Gillian and The Big Show (parts one and two). They are great stories which will have children giggling while reading them. The Clumsies are two mice called Purvis and Mickey Thompson and live with Howard. The first story is about their adventure to visit the Christmas Tree in the buildings foyer, Story two sees the mice's uncle Gillian visit and the third story sees Howard's boss, Mr Bullerton, nominating Howard to sing in the big show with a song about how great a person and boss Mr Bullerton is, penned by Mr Bullerton. The Clumsies get up to their usual mischief throughout the book.
This book is a great book to share at story time or for young readers to read themselves and I recommend it to all. Expect to be laughing out loud throughout the book though, it is infectious.
Thank you to Sorrell Anderson for sending me the book to review and for the brownie points I gained from my daughter.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Knit the Season by Kate Jacobs

The beloved ladies of the #1 New York Times bestselling Friday Night Knitting Club return in a moving, laugh-out-loud celebration of special times with friends and family....

For college-age Dakota Walker, whipping up butter tarts and chocolate-orange scones at pastry school has become her passion, but she'll never give up knitting and gabbing on Friday nights at Walker and Daughter. The coziest yarn shop on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Walker and Daughter has also been a haven for Peri, Darwin, Lucie, KC, Anita and Catherine - the woman who have become Dakota's dearest friends, her big sisters, and sometimes her surrogate mothers.

With the holidays just around the corner, the women have even more reason to celebrate; There's a special wedding planned for New Year's Day. And in the meantime, Dakota is working to finish a sweater her mother started before she was born. As she takes on her mother's pattern, she learns from her family and friends that there was much more history in these stitches than she had anticipated, and that to build on her mother's legacy, Dakota must allow herself to become the woman she truly desires to be.

I absolutely loved the first book, Friday Night Knitting Club and have also read the second book, Knit too, which I enjoyed but not so much as the first. However, this book was another great read, I really thought Kate Jacob's had recreated the atmosphere of the first book, the community spirit of the knitting club before Georgia died.
The club still have their Friday night meetings, although some member may attend via a phone call, all looking forward to Anita's pending nuptials, which they are determined will go ahead, third time lucky, following her son's 'sabotage'.
Dakota is growing up and sets up a internship for over the festive period, however before she can tell her father, he announces he has arranged a trip to Scotland to see her grandmother. Dakota has decisions to make, her career or family and family wins. While packing for the trip she finds a part finished jumper that her mum hadn't finished for her father which Dakota decides will make a great Christmas present. The jumper has history, and it brings back many memories for the family, some happy, others sad. This is a great part of the book, an opportunity to learn more about Georgia and her relationship with James.
The wedding goes ahead, although it becomes a double wedding, a true knitting club affair and the celebrations round off the book brilliantly.
However the book is primarily about Dakota, she is growing up, choosing her career path, decisions about the family business, her fathers plan to change the shop into a knitting cafe for the community - for the knitting club to have somewhere to meet.
As with Kate's other books the book has both knitting patterns and recipes at the back, a great accompaniment to the story.
If you enjoyed the other books in the series, i would recommend this to you. I do think you would be best reading the previous books in the series before this one to get the full story.
Thank you to Elizabeth Tobin for sending me the book to review. I really enjoyed the read.

Postcards from the Heart by Ella Griffin

Life is looking up for Saffy. She has a great job, a gorgeous flat in the most desirable part of Dublin and - after six years - it looks like her boyfriend, Greg, is going to propose. Greg (just voted the 9th most eligible man in Ireland) is on a high, too - he's about to swap his part as a heart-throb in an Irish soap for a break in Hollywood. His best mate Conor wakes up every morning with Jess, the most beautiful woman on the planet but, even after seven years and two kids, she won't get married. He spends his days teaching teenagers and his nights writing the book he hopes will change everything, including Jess's mind. But their happy endings are playing hard to get. It seems everyone's keeping secrets - one night stands, heartbreak, grief and loss are all in the mix. It's going to take some tough questions and even tougher answers before anyone's being honest - even with themselves. POSTCARDS FROM THE HEART is a book about four friends in their thirties. It's about love, lust, life, death, balloon rides and missing hamsters. But most of all it's about figuring out how to stop saying 'I don't' and how to start saying 'I do'.

This book is a grown up, chick lit read. Based on a group of 30 something friends it is perfect for an easy, in places comical and others frustrating when egos are too big and the characters don't listen to their hearts! A story which draws you in, leaving you caring for the characters, wanting them to open their eyes and get with the real world! There are also times of sadness and regret.
From the moment I started the book, the characters got me hooked straight away. The book is about two couples: Saffy, an advertising executive, and Greg, Ireland's latest heart throb actor, who live together and Saffy would love to get engaged and married; and Connor, a school teacher, and Jess, a freelance journalist, who have young twins. Both relationships go on journeys during this book and each person has their own decisions and choices to make, which could change their lives for ever.
I really enjoyed this book and found Saffy's story to be the most emotional - a girl who wants to marry her boyfriend and have a family, something which she missed out on as her father left her and her mother to return to his own family when she was only 2. The story also explores her relationship with her mother who becomes ill during the book.
Jess's story was also interesting, a mother of twins who does not want to marry her partner, happy instead to live together. They are scraping by, Connor is best friends with Greg and is a school teacher but also an aspiring author. He manages to get an agent interested in his book and works hard to finish his manuscript, ignoring his family and eventually moving out to finish his book.
As i have previously said, I really enjoyed this book and read it in two days, unable to put it down. I would love to see this book made into a film. The story is told at a good speed which continues throughout the book. It is a great debut novel and I am already looking forward to reading Ella's next book. The book reminded me of Marian Keyes earlier work, another irish author I love to read.
Thank you to Gaby at Orion Books for sending me the book to review.

My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece by Annabel Pitcher

Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has just moved to the Lake District with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for a 'Fresh New Start'. Five years ago his sister's twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. His parents are wrecked by their grief, Jasmine turns to piercing, pink hair and stops eating. The family falls apart. But Jamie hasn't cried in all that time. To him Rose is just a distant memory. Jamie is far more interested in his cat, Roger, his birthday Spiderman T-shirt, and in keeping his new friend Sunya a secret from his dad. And in his deep longing and unshakeable belief that his Mum will come back to the family she walked out on months ago. When he sees a TV advert for a talent show, he feels certain that this will change everything and bring them all back together once and for all.
This book is a very good read on a subject which needs to broached in the world today. The book is told by Jamie, a boy who lives with his father and older sister. His sister had a twin sister who is killed by a terroist bomb in London. Their mother has moved in with another man and they moved with their father away to rebuild their lives.
THe book covers many subjects; the loss of a child, children living with a father following a breakdown in their parents relationship, alcohol addiction in a parent, children caring for themselves due to alcoholic parent but also racism and the feelings of a family who have lost someone due to terrorism.
The book was very well written and covered the difficult subject well. It would be an excellent book for high school children to read to enable them to understand the emotions of their elder peers on these subjects and to understand the effects it can have on the Muslims living in this country who have no involvement in the terrorist action in this country.
The book looks at the relationships within the family, the missing mother, the remaining twin, the alcoholic father and Jamie, but also at Jamie's school life, the problems he has moving to a new school and also his friendship with Sunya, a Muslim girl in his class, a friendship his father would disapprove of if he found out about it.
I was drawn into this book and really felt for Jamie - a young boy who was trying to build a new life for himself in a new area, hiding his father alcoholism, trying to make friends and the one friend he had would upset his father. I found tears in my eyes in many parts of this book - a young boy who had much on his mind, no one to talk to - the school were unaware of the family history, his teacher never knew he had a dead sister let alone an alcoholic father. An advert on television for a new talent show gives him an idea to make his mother and father proud of both him and his sister and bring his parents back together gives him something to focus on but will he be disappointed at the last minute if his sister gets stage fright??
I think this is a book both adults and young adults should read - a real eye opener on a topic that is current today in this modern world where terrorists are leaving families with relatives to mourn. There are moments of laughter and moments of tears but a book everyone should read.
Thank you to Michael from the School Run Forum for sending me the book to review.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A Highland Christmas by M.C. Beaton

In dark, wintry Lochdubh, Christmas Cheer is about as welcome as a flat tyre on a deserted road. The Calvinist element in town has always resisted what they view as secular frivolity, so for most of the townsfolk there'll be no carols, feasting, gifts - or even whisky on Christmas Day! And for PC Hamish Macbeth there's no holiday from crime - he finds himself hunting for a missing cat belonging to a lonely spinster. Curt and unfriendly, the woman is convinced her pet has been stolen but once behind her heavily-bolted door, Hamish can spot her true problem - she lives in fear, though of who or what he cannot guess. Then someone steals a Christmas tree and lights from the nearby village of Cnothan. So it is up to Hamish to sort all these problems out - and he had better do it quickly, for the church bells will soon peal on the eve of Christmas. Praise for the "Hamish Macbeth" series: 'First rate ...deft social comedy and wonderfully realized atmosphere' - "Booklist". 'It's always a treat to return to Lochdubh' - "New York Times". 'Readers will enjoy the quirks and unique qualities of the cast ...Beaton catches the beauty of the area's natural geography and succinctly describes its distinct flavour' - "Library Journal". 'Befuddled, earnest and utterly endearing, Hamish makes his triumphs sweetly satisfying' - "Publishers Weekly".
This is the first M C Beaton I have read and found it a nice, comfy read for over the festive period. An easy read, to curl up with on a cold night. The book is only 130 pages long, with rather large text so is perfect for a holiday read and also includes some pencil drawings setting the scene for the story.
The story follows Hamish Macbeth, the village police man in Lochdubh and his investigation into the missing Christmas tree and lights.
The focus of the story is on village life and community spirit. The older villagers see Christmas as becoming pagan celebration rather than the religious event they celebrate. Hamish is alone as his family has left him for warmer climbs but he has some female company from the local school teacher. Hamish also decides the local retirement home need some Christmas festivities to cheer up their day and begins to make plans, while finding missing cats and Christmas lights.
The story is not a real crime who done it but is great for an easy, quick read which could be read in one sitting and enjoyed by all .
Thank you to Alex at Constable and Robinson for sending me the book to review.