Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Vanguard Legacy: Foretold By Joanne Kershaw

This YA fantasy fiction  by UK author Joanne Kershaw has much to get your teeth into, and I was swept away but it’s similarity to some other genre series might grate for the die hard fans of those tattooed teens.It is unfortunate that  every time the word Divergent was used, comparisons with the similar storyline of genetically modified teens being catergorised by skillset swims into the mind’s eye.

That being said, there are enough fresh ideas here to create a feasible setting for this battle between the forces of Light versus Dark. There is a spunky heroine, the loyal and devoted best friend and the inevitable expansion of the friendship group that creates tension and jealousy as they adjust to new feelings, new powers and new dynamics.

This is a tale of fighters, biters and spirit guides with enough teen angst and fledgling love, unrequited crushes and parental overbearance to keep YA readers engaged.

The framing of the story in the period where all recruits to to the Vanguard come into their full powers helps to provide some delineation between the various “types” in this story, we learn their various strengths and weaknesses at a time when they themselves are exploring their limitations.

A very promising start.

Monday, 18 September 2017

The Skeleton Draws a Picture (A Family Skeleton Mystery) by Leigh Perry.

A Cosy Mystery with a difference!

I am really annoyed. Annoyed that I have only come upon this series at Book Four, the lovely people at Netgalley have remedied my total ignorance of  the books, but I will now have to read them out of order!

Travelling English Professor Georgia is rootless and listless as she does not hold tenure so as a kind of Literary minstrel she brings better grammar to the students of an mid-range art school. Used to a full house filled with parents (fellow scholars) and her teenage daughter, she is a little lonely and bored, enter Sid, the family Skeleton of the title!

Literally an ambulatory and autonomous bag of bones,Sid is able to assemble and disassemble at will,  this state often affected by his own emotional state of being . Despite his lack of body, he inhabits the story perfectly.He is an unlikely sleuth, but with a gift for researching the Internet and an inquisitiveness second to none, Sid's arrival heralds another suspicious death in what appears to be a line of precedent of murder wherever she and Sid roam.

In this story, a body in the snow begins a chain of events where friendly rivalries for a tenure spot turn into more ominous underhanded acts in a bid to bury more than the deceased.

I warmed to Georgia immediately, she is kind of ageless despite her progeny so I suspect most readers will enjoy her too. Sid is a really fun character and the ingenious ways that Ms Perry finds ways to incorporate body parts into expletives and humourous asides just raises the story above the norm. With  just enough peril to keep this thrilling, this is a near perfect light mystery.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Blackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage by Zara Stonely

This is the second in a Cosy Romance series - The Little Village on the Green.

The summer is over and the escape from the city to Langtry Meadows that was so necessary for  school teacher Lucy Jacobs has become a return to her true home. The people are friendly and her job filled with brushes with the animal kingdom, so thank Heaven's the local vet is hook line and sinker in Love with her.

The only problem is the ever present shadow of the chance that Charlie might lose custody of his beloved daughter Maisie who may not even be his.The potential for very messy divorce proceedings might just be a a obstacle too high for even these sweet lovers.

Throw into the mix a few other burgeoning romances, some puppies, a guinea pig and a long hidden secret and you have a  framework for what is a rather marvellous confection.

The story is written with a warmth and affection for the rural way of life and unlike many similar Cosy stories of this type,the characters are not hackneyed or stereotypical, no they are perfectly formed people set in village that I think all of us would like to spend a little time in.  The school setting allows for plenty of chuckles in between the angst and the central relationship is as satisfying to the casual reader dipping their toe into a lighter genre of reading as it is to the devotee of the form.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

The Miss Seeton Omnibus 1-3 by Heron Carvic

Picture Miss Seeton
Book 1  Just superb.

This is Marple mixed with the dry wit of Jack Dee.  A village setting with (in this the first of a reissued series) a dark underbelly of violence, extortion and even a wee bit of Heroin thrown in.

I guffawed often and fell in love with more than just Miss Seeton as the Local Quack and Yard Detectives also wormed their way into my heart!

Miss Seeton Draws A Line.
Book 2

These books are such fun! The crimes are deceptively dark but wrapped in  in  such a gloriously tongue in cheek humour that the frisson of discomfort is soon abated by another laugh

MIss Seeton and her Umbrella get involved in a spate of bank robberies that the Good folk at The Yard have linked to some terrible  child murders in Plummergen and the surrounding areas, so Miss Seeton's skill for drawing emotions and feelings  are called upon again.

Witch Miss Seeton
Book 3

This third in a collection of books reissued on kindle format by Farrago Books and graciously gifted to me via netgalley for review is somewhat shorter (or it seems that way, maybe I am just more attuned to the cadences of the style now) than the first two.

All the favourites are still in there in the wake of this calamitous woman, whose very belongings become weapons with minds of their own. Here cults, satanism and capitalism collide. The body count is not so high, but the humour is just as virulent.

Very enjoyable!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater

The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater

I am so glad that I decided to read this particular novel by a writer who has become so precious in my reading life this last twelve months as a accomplished biography writer.

Read in isolation this would have been a wonderfully dynamic and emotionally arresting novel set in  Post War Paris and the Cote D’Azure  and in Paris in the modern day, intertwining the lives of two women who at first glance could not seem more different. who meet on one traumatic and historically resonant night in Paris in 2015.

Kurtis is in a state of emotional flux, the sudden loss of her teenage daughter as a runaway has impacted every day since, fracturing a marriage which was already showing cracks and fissures and for better or worse allowing an alluring American to capture her passions and emotions, further muddying her marital tension.

 After a reconciliation of sorts in search of a common goal, she sits in a bar in Paris awaiting word from her fading Actor  Husband Oliver on whether he was able to find and bring her daughter to her for a reunion she has been dreaming of since her daughter’s disappearance.

Here she meets Marguerite and elderly film star of regal bearing who becomes her saviour and eventually confidante after it becomes apparent Lizzie and Oliver have been caught up in the Bataclan Terrorist incident of November 2015.

Here Carol Drinkwater crafts a complex  story with a constantly moving narrative where the gentle romance of two post war young people is interwoven with the modern day travails of Kurtis and Oliver.

Charlie and Marguerite are outsiders whose chance meeting and shared adventure bring them to love.She is seeking solace in the glamour of the movie making haven of Cannes and it’s environs and, He seeking anonymity in a long dreamed for  rural idyll. By seeking to be come part of the agricultural fabric of the Riviera ,growing glorious scented blooms for a local perfumery,Charlie makes an attempt to escape from the bitter memories and traumas of the War.

It is brave and difficult to set a large portion of a book in the real events of a very recent terrorist atrocity, readers will have their memories of that awful night, but Carol’s descriptions of those first traumatic, confusing and manic hours is tightly described and sensitively handled.

What elevates the book to something quite extraordinary is the authenticity of the description of the French and Middle Eastern settings in flashback, the fragrances, the flavours and colourful snapshots of the flora and fauna of the area. The Rose harvest in the book echoes strongly of the issues the Carole and her beloved husband  Michel had with their olive harvests and her love for the people and the area is evident and boosts this part of the story immensely.

Carol’s personal experience as an olive farmer, beekeeper and adventurer on the ancient routes of the Olive informs and enriches the story, giving it a depth that is rare in stories of a similar type. 

I loved the story, was swept away by Marguerite and Charlie , felt the pain of Kurtis in the uncertainly of that night and the the confusion and frustrations at the  gradual unraveling of her marriage after their own whirlwind romance and the palpable , if not final loss of a child. The uncertainty is a bar to all but a cursory existence rather than a rich and fulfilling life, something Marguerite has managed despite personal tragedy.

 I liked the juxtaposition of the two central women, seeking personal fulfilment outside the domestic confines.

I left this story with a warm glow. The final chapters are a wonderful reward, more than that I cannot divulge.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Timothy Other- The Boy who Climbed Marzipan Mountain

Timothy Other - The boy who climbed Marzipan Mountain  by L.Sydney Abel

Genre: Children's Fiction.  ages 8-80

Regular visitors to my blog will know I am not adverse to indulging my more childlike side by reading a book aimed squarely at children.

Timothy Other was a rare treat! Written in a fun and playful style that pulls the reader in from the opening, where unfortunate foundling are given glorious names derived from the events of their arrival by a kind but slightly distant proprietor. The kids are well fed and treated like individuals, not an idyllic upbringing, but as close as one can get in an Orphanage.

Timothy is an inquisitive and questing young boy and his adventure begun as a stowaway on a removals lorry  is filled with whimsy , humour and fantastical friends and foes. The story whizzes along and I am sure will enthrall and thrill the younger reader and filled this rather more seasoned child with a feeling of warmth and contentment as I journeyed with Tim and his pals.

This is a story about family both acquired and lost and it is one I would heartily recommend for anyone seeking a story to transport you for a while. I look forward to Tim's continuing adventures!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

In The Darkness, that's where I'll know you. By Luke Smitherd

This was an audiobook read that I was gifted by my lovely friend Leya who is already a fan of Master Smitherd and thought I might enjoy the book.

She was not wrong, this is a marvellous book made up of four shorter instalments previously published separately. It begins as a mildly strange ,scenario -led fantasy  where man wakes up after a heavy night in the mind of a troubled young woman. The story begins with their initial shock, horror and fear  and gradual acceptance of the problem at hand . Soon romantic overtones begin unfurling from the catalyst of their shared predicament but here things get a lot more complicated and the story develops into something complex and dark that really engages the brain cells to keep up with the twists and turns.

The ideas of alternate realities, the notion of self and the idea that  love is born from a meeting of mind's rather  than anything more visceral or palpable are all developed with a deft and light touch. The reader is drawn deeper and deeper into a world of alternative lives where the smallest of change might affect the destiny of our fated lovers  and how the smallest deviation from our projected course can have consequences in horrific and life changing ways.

The complexity of the plot is breathtaking and the tension truly does build to an almost unbearable level.

I throughly enjoyed the story and the enjoyment of the tale was increased by the non "dramatic" delivery from the author himself.  It was not acted, more expressed. It was all the more emotionally arresting and deeply ominous by having the inflections in exactly the place the creator of the piece intended.

Definitely an author I will seek out again and not in the distant future at that. I strongly recommend it.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

The City of Mirrors By Justin Cronin

This final book in this behemoth of a novel series was truly a quest. Characters take journeys often with no plan for return. The final confrontation  builds slowly from a false time of peace for our heroes and the ominous "long game "machinations of Fanning begin to come to bear.

As with all quests the heroes have to trudge through a wilderness while the camera shows picturesque vistas.. here there is an interminable middle section where Fanning waxes lyrical, regards his navel and tells you his entire back story ... it seems to go on just a bit longer than comfortable. I know this is a device to make him sympathetic but I found even young Tim a bit obnoxious.

Amy and Fanning  are two sides of the same coin  and here they battle once more for the fate of humanity ... 

Familiar faces Alicia , Peter,Michael Sarah and their broods are like old friends so meeting them again after quite a break, was so nice. Survival , last stands, bravery and sacrifices aplenty keep the action moving and deep at the heart of it all this is a story of deep all encompassing Love , for family, for friends and ultimately soulmates.

This book was exciting, tense, epic  and deeply moving. I had a lump in my throat and a fast beating heart often.

A fitting end!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Strange Magic by Syd Moore

There is a great deal to like in this the first in The Essex Witches Series, not least  a museum featuring the Tragic History of Essex as a hotbed for witchcraft accusations, and an inheritance  from an estranged Grandfather that is not entirely welcomed by both the remaining staff and by the headstrong recipient.

I enjoyed the numerous historical nuggets thrown liberally about to pepper the story with  historical authenticity which made the story feel more important to me as a bit of a feminist that Witchcraft on the whole was all about the subjugation of women who did not comply with masogynistic norms. The obvious passion for the subject from Ms Moore is evident in the careful way the complexities of the case of a real life woman have been woven into this fictional story.

The central characters of Rosie and Sam are complex and interesting and I was more than happy to tag along on this initial mystery with them. The idea of a Benefits Fraud investigator as a protagonist and her ability to read people is a great lead into her more untapped gifts (rather under utilised here sadly) which link her to a darker heritage I liked the slight frisson of sexual tension between them , but I was gratified that is did not become a romance with mysterious magical elements, but rather the opposite. Their interaction and the way their relationship was not quantified made it the more interesting.

The central possession was macabre but perhaps a little tamer than I was expecting, but as a foundational story  for a series, this was exciting enough to secure my further reading. I look forward to more.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

AARU by David Meredith

This review is born of a rare occurrence. I agreed to review without having the slightest inkling about what the book would be about!  I am a risk taker in my old age it seems!

This presented itself as a story about the longevity of self, of the mind and personality and the falability of the physical body  and it seemed to be a subject I could get my teeth into.

I immediately fell into the lives of Rose the terminally sick leaukemia sufferer and the younger sister she leaves grieving for her, when after a valiant battle the disease robs her of life. The boffins at a clandestine neuroscience lab intervene and have warded off true death by mapping and downloading her consciousness and memories into a mainframe that is designed to allow the cognitive and imaginative parts of a person's life to persist when the flesh has failed.

A utopia is forecast, a place where limitations are only due to a lack of imagination or will. Rose arrives and greeted by a kind of guide who teaches her how to utilise her new unbounded potential and  meanwhile her grieving family are offered wealth and comfort in return for acting as advocate for the project to obtain further funding and for that personal advocacy they get to see Rose on a screen from across the divide between physical and metaphysical existence.

The younger sister becomes the beautiful and innocent face of the company, is she being exploited, does the money and interaction with celebrity enough to justify giving her sister  up for the world to goggle at, to debate the morality

David Meredith treads a fine balance this could have been a book about the cerebral and moral arguments of human intelligence and personality versus the idea of  artificial intelligence being a living entity and I think I would have been content with that.  He touches on some of those issues and the first half of the book really did make me ponder, however the second portion of the book veered of into thriller territory.

A shadowy and sickly delusional  character  arrives on the scene and the story becomes a cat and mouse chase when sisters on both  sides of the divide are in equal peril culminating in a frightening reckoning.

There is some light romance and the creativity of the experience AARU universe is a real draw. It is a really interesting premise and there are a lot of  great ideas here.

Some minor issues though, sadly the book was let down by some pretty glaring spelling errors so my hope is that future instalments will be given  slightly more time on the editing and proof reading process as at times the errors took me out of the narrative and I beg Mr Meredith to not give in to the temptation to present a foreign accent phonetically, his Nordic character became strangely Jamaican, whilst other  nationalities accents are left to the reader's imagination! It is an oddity.

I would happily read more and enjoyment overode my subjective quibbles.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Chivalry a Short Story by Neil Gaiman.

This Short Story  from the king of modern British Fantasy was a delight from start to finish!

Neil Gaiman is swiftly becoming one of my very favourite fantasy writers, everything he writes seems to appeal to the whimsy in me!

The little old lady who rather fortuitously finds the Holy Grail in the Oxfam shop is so sweet, her days are bordering on the mundane, reciprocal visits with her friend who brings her own sweetener and the visits to the charity shop to pick up new romances from mills the and boon  stable at bargain prices (Mr Gaiman has heaps of fun on the titles!) all seem to coalesce into one.

The Grail itself is loved not for what it might get her, but for how it augments the shelf where the image of her husband (now passed on) resides.It brings value to her personally so is the more precious

Galahad arrives on a noble white steed on a quest for the cup of Christ but is put to work on the small lonely jobs she might normally have to do alone and despite being offered great treasures, she demurs. She knows what she can make room for in life, it is not great wonders, but ultimately company and someone to take care of.

There is a light Humour at play here that is classic Neil Gaiman, slightly skewed, always exceedingly clever. I loved it.

The experience was enhanced by this version being read by LeVar Burton as part of his new Podcast series of handpicked short fiction. 

LeVar Burton Reads is available on all Podcast platforms and I highly recommend it!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Midnight at the Bright Idea Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

This was not the book I was expecting , but I am very much richer for the experience. This is the story of Lydia a bookseller with a nice boyfriend, with a reasonable apartment in an up and coming part of town. A bibliophile, respected and adored at work, but secretly a piece of human flotsam. Running from a childhood trauma she hides in plain sight with the  “book frogs”, the disenfranchised homeless and friendless who make the bookshop a home away from home.

The death of Joey one of her young regulars by his own hand, there  in the shop where he  and Lydia both had found succour and solace,sets off a chain of events  that will leave Lydia reeling. Joey’s Sudden and rash act whilst in possession  of something he had no earthly business having and the  resulting mysterious messages  seemingly from the grave that he has left for Lydia embedded in books, bring the vivid and terrifying events of another winter night so many years before into vivid relief for Lydia again. 

Lydia and everyone she has sought to avoid or protect are forced into an unavoidable collision, where truths can bring nothing but heartbreak.

I loved this book for its gritty but sympathetic treatment of people kept on the periphery of society. Lydia’s youth was tainted by tragedy, her future is even now foreshadowed because of that and  ultimately no-one truly escapes this story unscathed. The cleverly twisty plot provides a satisfying mystery but also asks the reader to examine  the true nature of cause and effect. The innocent and the guilty are all scalded by the revelations found within.

I was gripped by this story, where nothing is quite what it appears, It is a quest for a catharsis for Lydia. This journey piecing together the tattered remnants of another person’s trauma so intrinsically linked with her own means she is ends up no longer a helpless child  in an adult’s body, but is ultimately a stronger and more emotionally rounded person, ready to embark on life unencumbered by the ominous weight of the past but changed indelibly.

Many thanks to Netgalley, Penguin Random House and author Matthew Sullivan for the privilege of reading this book prior to realease on August the 24th 2017.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The Mighty by Michael J Sanford

Subtitle : Book 1 The Druids Guise Trilogy

I found this an absorbing story and I enjoyed the various creatures constructs  and characters very much. I liked the dual realities idea although this first book seemed to move from one to the other in a slightly frenetic way that seemed to interrupt the narrative flow a tiny bit. 

I am not quite sure where it sits in terms of genre, sometimes a little young for a young adult audience, Wyatt seems to be fairly unworldly for a fifteen year old so his innocence in the strangeness of Hagion does not have the degree of contrast that a more considered teen persona might have.

That being said in places  the story is a little old for a  younger child audience, it is heavy on the violent death and has some moderate cursing that would be unsuitable for younger readers.

I am sure  that it will find a niche audience however ,It was a strong foundation for what i think is a very promising series, the action ratchets up at a fair pace as the final third unfolds and the cliffhanger will encourage return readers.

Solid three stars.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

What it means when a man fall from the sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah

This is an remarkably clever and layered short story, one of the best I have heard in the series that LeVar Burton has given us in his newest podcast venture. Written by a woman of colour of Nigerian descent writing in the USA. It is a great science fiction story, but leaves you ruminating on all manner of modern  issues.

It is described as speculative fiction, the "what if" something happens that we recognise might occur, but is outside our thinking on the current trajectory of our planet..

Here mathematicians have found a formula for Human flight, mathematicians have also discovered the way to recognise and determine how to literally subtract grief from people who have suffered a loss. 

Fabulous one might say, except that it is only a service offered to the most wealthy or from the most respected members of society. So far so familiar, although the Grief equation idea is fresh and vibrant.

What raises this story head and shoulders above others is the way it turns our prejudices on their head. Europe and America have been decimated by floods, the populations of those continents a refugee class seeking sanctuary on the African and Australasian land masses.

The British  are painted as an aggressively demanding minority, seeking reparation and special treatment,demanding to live together to protect their culture. A insightful and cutting commentary on the West's attitude to immigration.

All of the  accepted human faiths are now defunct only the truth of the infinite formula exists. Creation might be scientific, not from deities or Gods.

It made me sit and think for a long time after the reading was complete. A truly great story for the reader who likes to make up their own mind.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Blog Tour - Two Cousins of Azov by Andrea Bennett

Two Cousins Of Azov by Andrea Bennett

It seems there is  nothing I like  more(at least in my more recent book choices)  than a cantankerous and mysterious older gentleman. This startling change in my reading habits, coupled with a Russian setting to gently call to my own Baltic roots, makes my acceptance of the kind offer to take my place  as a reviewer stop on the Blog Tour for the new book "Two Cousins of Azov" a foregone conclusion

This second book by Andrea Bennett, a new release from Harper Collins turns out to be a very intriguing  blend. 

As the title suggests, this story centres around two cousins whose lives are being thwarted by constraint and confusion, hobbled by fear or guilt .

Gov, a conjuror of a “certain age” is  trying to stage a comeback whilst wearing in a new magician’s assistant. Gov has suddenly got quite a bit on his  hereto somewhat bland plate of late. Without fanfare, he is recently alarmed by several unusual occurrences, the unfortunate demise of a rabbit, an inexplicable loss of a boiled egg and shocking appearance of a face at the window when he is four floors up.

This apparition seems inextricably linked to the florid tales  of Anatolya, a  man with no memory of how he got there, but who is now the near silent inmate of an asylum. He remembers his youth however and it is there that  a naive and mildly self serving young doctor must allow him to begin 
as he delves into a search for the catalyst for the man’s current mental malaise. 

This callow youth’s attempt to cash in academically on the events leading to his recent breakdown and hospitalisation, unlocks speech and his cache of memories.

The gradual revelation of a shared youth in a Soviet  Siberia seems to provide the origin story that  both boys shared of The Moth Boy that ominous and spectral face that is making  poor Gov begin to question his sanity. This is a book about curtains being lifted to the past and truths it reveals.This all set against a brave new world in Russia where the Soviet Block is being dismantled and opportunism vies with traditional values and folklore for the upper hand.

The wide variety of supporting characters seem at first glance, to be extreme and outlandish. They are great fun for the reader. A Somewhat hyperactive children, neighbourhood gossips, hypochondriacs, mediums and underhanded connivers all pepper the tale. Spicing the mix like the ginger in the sweet treats that bring memories and a simple joy to Tolya, these characters bring colour and humorous variety.

Andrea Bennett’s obvious affinity with the Russian people, no doubt stemming from her studies, is used great effect here. The early post Soviet years are drawn with wide streak of grim humour always bubbling at the surface of the story. It is a stoicism typical of those who have seen great suffering with no outlet  for  complaint that even when faced with startling and frankly terrifying events they just get on with the daily grind. A place where a piece of cake is the epitome of joy and contentment.

These larger than life folk actually nestle into a much deeper more intelligently layered story punctuated with sweetly melancholic examination of  the true nature of loneliness. It excavates  the burdens of guilt we place on ourselves after a long and eventful, the realities of ageing and the ethereal nature of the memory. 

Andrea Bennett has written a story that made me smile and chuckle but simultaneously made me very sad too. There is a gentle pathos to the story and I applaud her ability to make a story magical and a little mythical and yet also desperately honest and real. 

I travelled alongside these two extraordinary men, for a while and when I left them, I felt compelled to reaffirm and reinforce my own relationships.

When a book’s signature resonates into my real world so loudly and with such clear tones, I know I have discovered a winner. I can offer no greater praise than this, when the final page was turned, I wished for amnesia so that I might read it again.

Oh and one more thing...

For an extra treat and a chance to recreate a taste of the book in your own kitchen:

Here is a recipe for the delicious cake-like biscuits that Tolya loves so much!

Traditional Russian pryaniki use special mounds and stamps, but don’t let the lack of them stop you from trying to make them yourself: traditional cookie cutters do just as well, as does the rim of a glass.
3-cups all-purpose flour
1-teaspoon baking soda
1-teaspoon of dry ginger
1/2-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2-teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4-teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8-teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 knob of fresh ginger:  finely grated
1-cup granulated sugar
1-cup of honey
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2-cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
3 tablespoons of lemon zest

1. Sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and salt.
2. Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and thick.
3. Gently heat the honey and ginger in double boiler until warmed through. 
4. Stir the honey and vanilla into the beaten egg mixture. Mix in the dry ingredients to form stiff dough. 
5. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

6. Make the icing:  combine confectioner sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest together until smooth.  Set aside.
7. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place the tack in the middle of the oven.  Butter or grease two cookie sheets.
8. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out to 1cm thickness.   
9. Cut the cookies to roughly 5cm diameter, depending on the shape and cutters you use.
10. Place cookies on the prepared baking sheets at 5cm intervals.  Bake for 9 minutes; rotate the sheet, then bake for an additional 9 minutes (total 18 minutes or until the cookies are just golden).
11. Allow the cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the tray, and then transfer them to a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes.  
12. Glaze cookies with icing.

Priyanogo Appetita!

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel

YA Fiction - Netgalley Review

I must start this review by simply stating that this is perhaps one of the best YA books of it’s type I have ever read. Here the emotions are truthful and raw without being mawkish. The story approaches loss and grief in such a way that rather than going for the “big weep” as I like to call it, it is more a process of repetitive cracking and solidifying like an ice flow, those fissures creating weaknesses that might be forced open at the slightest pressure of the ocean below.

Juniper is a marvellous character and I loved her unconditionally.  Her love for her sister and theguilt she feels over her own emotional outburst that is the catalyst for her search -not only for answers about her sister’s secret, but her own perceived culpability in her sister’s death, made her desperately relatable to me.

Her previous relationships and  friendships are fragile and brittle, but the collection of outliers she draws close during her personal journey are the seasoning to this glorious ragout. I fell in love with each of them, the dreamers, the thinkers, the geeks and the rebels in any other setting would seem to be overused tropes but here they became vital and fresh additions. There might have been a love triangle, but Julie Israel never allows her Male protagonists to become truly adversarial which for me is such a boon particularly in a genre where this device has been overused.

The book never allows the reader to know the identity of The Secret love, but this reader has her own ideas about the person Camie might have loved.. the bravery of leaving the question unanswered is a master stroke, in the same way that grief cannot be dealt with uniformly,there are no definitives in love either. We know that Camie’s message is conveyed and that brings peace.

Overall this book was a delight and made me very happy that I shared those chaotic mysterious months with Juniper.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Man Who Climbs Trees by James Aldred

This is a simple book unadulterated by stylistic twiddles or literary device. It is a love letter to trees and the natural world as a whole. These are the  stories of the monster trees that James climbs to prepare the way for and assist National History filmmakers get the very best vantage points for their programmes.

 James endures weather and even insect infestation of his very flesh to climb these dangerous trees,so that masters of Natural History such as the Greatest TV naturalist alive, Mr David Attenborough himself!

It is a book of  passionate dedication and the pure joy he experiences when in the canopy. It was a glorious book for anyone who loves to travel vicariously and see the wonders of the world from above.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Kin - a short story by Bruce McCallister

This rather wonderful discovery Is  thanks to the brand new endeavour "read by Levar Burton " in his new Short story podcast which seeks to replicate for adult readers the success of his Reading Rainbow series... Think Jackanory in the U.K.

This inaugural story is simple really, young boy calls on Alien assassin to deal with the man who wants to murder his sister and the ensuing relationship between boy and otherworldly visitor.

For such a short tale it packs in a really good chunk of science fiction in a sophisticated and believable way. The existence of aliens is accepted by humanity, in fact school curriculum involves extra terrestrial history and social study. More sinister than this however  is the idea that population control is part of life and choice is no longer the everyday woman's prerogative but that of Government and big business.

There is a hefty emotional punch too, the final paragraphs create a warm and fuzzy glow, more surprising for what was gritty and visceral at the outset. A thoroughly immersive half hour.

The Postcard by Fern Britton

The Postcard by Fern  Britton

This being my first book by Fern I was not sure what to expect. Having now read the book and read the blurbs of other books by her, I see that this setting is a firm favourite and I can see why as the village and the surrounding environs are delightful.

The motley crew of characters all have distinct voices and personalities and create a cosy and encompassing group into which the individual trials of our main four protagonists fit. That support network is necessary as these somewhat lost souls find their place and to some extent themselves.

I have to admit that I found Penny a little bit jarring in the early part of the book, her behaviour seemed extreme despite the ultimate revelation that explained it to a degree. However this is an ensemble piece and the good very much outweighed what is really a very small and subjective quibble!

I would read more and most certainly probably before much more  time passes.