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H Pedder "bookworm" (UK)
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Life's Too Short to Drink Bad Wine: 100 wines for the discerning drinker
Life's Too Short to Drink Bad Wine: 100 wines for the discerning drinker
by Simon Hoggart
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for all!, 18 Feb 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
We have several wine 'guides' on our bookshelf now, but this is one of the more frequently referenced. It's not pretentious, and the style, layout and content combine wonderfully to make a book that is suitable for all types of wine drinkers. We're going to our first wine-tasting evening soon and this has already proven invaluable in preparing us!

It's a nice size, not huge like some other wine books, and is accessible. The title reflects the content well - it's what drew my eye to it in the first place. Life really IS too short to drink bad wine, and this book is great at helping you to filter out the mass-produced supermarket bottom-shelf tripe. Without having to take out a bank loan!


Easy Tasty Italian
Easy Tasty Italian
by Laura Santtini
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.00

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glamour and good food...superb!, 18 Oct 2009
This review is from: Easy Tasty Italian (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a recipe book with wow-factor. It's wonderfully presented, with a glamourous black cover and art-deco style writing. Laura Santtini oozes Italian glamour, too - move over Nigella!

This book starts with the basics, such as equipment and ingredients required for successful Italian cooking. It then moves on to basic procedures and preparations - a section I find really useful - giving recipes and methods for making different kinds of mayonnaise, pesto, salsa, marinades and so on. It then turns to what it calls 'The Elemental Recipes', separated into four elements (air, water, fire and earth). These loosely relate to the cooking methods - for example, in the fire section there are recipes aplenty whereby the food is grilled, such as Basic Salmon 'Santini' and Lamb Chops with U-Mamma! Grapes.

The style is young, feisty and sassy and the photographs in the book are mostly practical but with a scattering of seductive, retro glamour.

It is a practical and jam-packed recipe book that takes pride of place on my kitchen shelf...with the cover facing the door in the hope that guests see it as they enter! The recipes vary from basic sauces to fancy concoctions with something for every occasion.

This would make a fantastic present for a friend, sister, mother or wife (if you dare!)...but I love it so much I had to keep it for myself!


The Vegetarian Option
The Vegetarian Option
by Simon Hopkinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.12

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical and more besides, 18 Oct 2009
This review is from: The Vegetarian Option (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As somebody who is conscious of incorporating more vegetable-based meals into my diet, this book really struck a chord with me. I could never be vegetarian (give up Steak? Pah!) but do try to have a few meat-free dishes every week. Just like Simon Hopkinson, I like to enjoy flavoursome dishes with the wholesome goodness of vegetables alone, sometimes - especially during this health-conscious age.

This book is really lovely and well laid out. It's not in your usual 'starters', 'mains' etc but separated into pairings of foods. So there is a section on 'Tomatoes & Olive Oil', 'cauliflower & broccoli' and herbs such as 'parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme'. Recipes vary from 'Spinach & Ricotta pancakes' to 'curry essence'. The recipes themselves are clear, well-laid out and detailed. There are also snippets of information accompanying many of the recipes, giving the author's opinion of it or offering advice on usage/storage etc.

Hopkinson introduces each section with a well-written piece about the ingredient(s) in question, reminiscing about his experience of and love for it, or summarising the best way to prepare or source it.

There are a scattering of photographs throughout the book, but not a great many - which I like. I'm an avid opposer of those recipe books which are filled with photographs of food (and, even worse, the chef). This lets the recipes, and Hopkinson's writing, take centre stage.

If I had one criticism, it would be that I only wish there were more recipes for each section! Overall there are lots of recipes, sauces and soups but in each section I'd say it averages at about 5 recipes.

I guarantee I'll be using this for many everyday meals for a good while to come!


Map of the Invisible World
Map of the Invisible World
by Tash Aw
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.81

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Loses its way..., 13 Oct 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had high hopes for this book, and to start with I was engrossed. The characters and setting are wonderfully authentic, and the prose is absorbing. However, about halfway into the text it begins to waver and I soon lost interest in the characters and the plot. This was a great shame. There's not much more I can say about this that hasn't been said already. It's a bit of a 'forgettable' book, which is a great shame. It had a lot of potential.


The Rabbit Problem
The Rabbit Problem
by Emily Gravett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.71

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cute!, 8 Oct 2009
This review is from: The Rabbit Problem (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a really adorable book, with lovely illustrations and an endearing storyline. I expected it to be more interactive than it was, but that said there was still some opportunity for actively engaging the child - just not as much as I'd thought! It's a lovely format that means it can be accessed time and again over the course of the year - the pages reflect each month with relevant rabbit 'tales' (or should that be 'tails'). I'd say it was suitable for children aged 3 and up, with mum or dad reading to them, up to about aged 8 or so when the child could read through him/herself and do some of the activities and make associations between the book, the months and the illustrations - and, of course, the whole mathematical theme! Lovely.


Making an Elephant: Writing from Within
Making an Elephant: Writing from Within
by Graham Swift
Edition: Hardcover

2.0 out of 5 stars About as cumbersome as an elephant!, 24 July 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When I bored after a mere three chapters of this book, I knew it didn't bode well. As somebody who enjoys a spot of writing herself, I was looking forward to reading about the inner workings of an author's mind and learning from his experience about life, inspiration et al.

I haven't read any of Swift's 'proper' books (for want of a better word) so that may have influenced my judgement. But that aside, his style of writing just failed to draw me in and I really didn't care what he went through to write his books.

I must also concede that I like non-fiction books, autobiographical, to be about people who have really overcome adversity and triumphed blah blah...so that marred my opinion too.

If you like Swift's books, I think you'll enjoy this. Otherwise, don't bother!


Sennheiser HD 228 Closed back On ear Stereo Headphones - Black
Sennheiser HD 228 Closed back On ear Stereo Headphones - Black

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super bass quality and noise cut-out!, 24 July 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've been desperate for a decent pair of headphones to go with my iPod for ages, and now I've got these I'm very happy indeed! I did a comparison, listening to a bass-heavy song going from the iPod in-ear headphones straight to these, and WOW! The sound is so much fuller and richer, and the bass quality is really good and enhances the overall listening experience. Even better, you can barely hear any outside noise...great for when my partner is talking...ha ha! Jokes aside, this is a super product, very comfortable to wear with snug padding on the ears and headband, and the quality looks good and not cheap/plasticky at all. Can't fault it.


The Winner Stands Alone
The Winner Stands Alone
by Paulo Coelho
Edition: Hardcover

2.0 out of 5 stars A bit bitter?, 16 Jun 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I approached this with eager anticipation, having read and loved Coelho's modern fable 'The Alchemist'. I was, alas, disappointed. It seems to be so focused on portraying the rich/famous/beautiful as shallow and synthetic that the narrative seems drenched in bitterness! Based in Cannes during the film festival, it's the perfect opportunity for a scorned millionaire to wreak lasting and devastating revenge on his stray wife. The narrator comes across as a psychologically deluded man; his thoughts are often predicatable and I just found it all rather tired and cynical.

Uninspiring and a real letdown. I think Coelho's apparent dislike of all things 'celebrity' tainted by view of the book - his characters are steretypical, which I feel is a somewhat unfair representation of those talented actors, actresses and directors, etc. If the book was more light-hearted (think 'Jackie Collins'!) you could empathise, but the seriousness jars with the frivolity of its subjects.


Standard Operating Procedure: A War Story
Standard Operating Procedure: A War Story
by Errol Morris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.49

3.0 out of 5 stars Discomfiting on many levels, 18 Mar 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm not about to discuss the political or ethical issues raised in this book; the can of worms is just too big! What this book does is recount, with 'evidence' and interviews from various sources, the maltreatment and unfair imprisonment of Iraqi prisoners by America's forces. The prose is relatively simple - perhaps even bland - but the content is potentially explosive and speaks for itself. I persevered with the book although I did find it a bit tiresome in places - no disrespect to those whose sufferings are described. I was also a bit irritated with the haziness of the narrative, as I wasn't sure to whom comments were attributed. It's important to know where the facts are coming from, and I felt this was a bit 'glossed over' in places.
The book was discomfiting for me in the things it describes, but also because of its perspective. I'm neither pro- nor anti-war (sitting perfectly on the fence here) but I'm fully aware of the subjectivity of any historical or biographical novel; history is never reported with full accuracy, as it can only ever be one person's perspective - and we know how much perspectives can differ.
Anyway, if you're interested in books about war, prisoners, politics, miscarriages of justice and human rights, you'll find something in here to grab your attention. For somebody like myself, who enjoys novels as a form of escapism, this book was really not my cup of tea.


The Blood of Strangers: True Stories from the Emergency Room
The Blood of Strangers: True Stories from the Emergency Room
by Frank Huyler
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Distractedly gripping, 18 Mar 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The clipped narrative of this book is the perfect voice for the brief rendezvous between doctor and patients featured here. Frank Huyler's medical career is no doubt reflective of every doctor and nurse out there, and this book offers a passing glimpse into life on the emergency ward. It would probably strike empathy in those who work in a hospital as much as it provokes intrigue and admiration in somebody like myself who's (fortunately) barely seen the inside of one.

The 'chapters' are short, one for each tale, written with little embellishment. Dr Huyler recounts those meetings that were memorable for many reasons, in an often detached, matter-of-fact way; as somebody coming into contact with pain and death on a regular basis I suppose this emotional detachment becomes a necessary part of life. Occasionally the reader is shown, fleetingly, Huyler's emotions and inner feelings which lend the book a much-needed element of soul. These slithers of Huyler's conscience are often exposed by his own questions of morality and injustice, prompted by - for example - the murderer whose own life is saved by Huyler's medical team.

This is a small, uncomplicated book but by no means is it basic or boring. It's skeletal, scantly sketched, but fascinating in its frankness. There's not much blood and guts, little humour, no focus on characters in depth (even the narrator) - none of the usual things that engross me in a book...but it's not far from being a perfectly formed little gem that encapsulates life, and death, in the emergency room.


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