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C. Moorby
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Tante Hertha's Viennese Kitchen
Tante Hertha's Viennese Kitchen
by Monica Meehan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful addition to my cookbook collection, 29 Sep 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I love this book. Much more than just a simple collection of family recipes, "Tante Hertha's Viennese Kitchen" is a celebration of not only Viennese cuisine, but of the culture and style of the city over the years from the 1900s.

The introduction to the book, a section I tend to gloss over and flick through, grabbed me just as much as the recipes themselves, showing fascinating pictures of Hertha's home and family and describing the politics, culture and history of the city, providing a snapshot into the family's ancestry.

Moving onto the recipes themselves, they cover the full menu, from the 'Vorspeisen' (starters), soups, fish dishes and mains, right through to "Sides, salads and vegetables" and on to desserts, cakes, biscuits, tortes and even jams. All recipes are clearly laid out and are easy to follow, but contain all the necessary information, often with little tips added in for good measure.

Another thing I love is that it isn't just a book to pick and trial recipes from, but one to sit and read, savour and ponder about. Now all that's left for me to do is go and sample the authentic Viennese cuisine for myself!


Winter on the Farm
Winter on the Farm
by Matthew Evans
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.41

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit bleak and somewhat over-complicated, 29 Sep 2011
This review is from: Winter on the Farm (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
With a name like 'Winter on the Farm', you can't help but conjure up images in your head of rustic, homemade food prepared in a large country-house kitchen, and on ordering the book I was excited about the potential of tasty recipes to try out in the looming winter months. And with a tagline like "Heartwarming food for the cold months", I can perhaps be forgiven for doing so. When the book arrived, however, it left me a little cold, in more ways than one.

While beautifully presented with stunning photographs that make you shiver with cold and half expect to see your breath when you exhale, the recipes themselves failed to entice me in any way. Instead of a celebration of winter, I found the recipes to be a bit over-complicated, without really any mention of farm produce as I was expecting. Indeed, a lot of the recipes seem to be inspired by the Mediterranean, what with risottos and pasta aplenty. While this is no bad thing in itself, it didn't really fulfil my expectations of recipes celebrating good, bracing winters.

One a more positive note, however, there is something rather heartwarming and cosy about the way Matthew Evans divides his recipes into sections. Headings like "Sleep-in food" and "Rib-sticking meals" are just what you want on a cold day, while others like "Puddings and things to eat while drinking tea" don't beat around the bush and simply say it as it is, letting the reader find exactly what they want depending on how they are feeling.

All-in-all, I'd say that while this book is a worthwhile read for cooking enthusiasts and offers some interesting ideas for winter cuisine, more could have been made of using seasonal produce during "Winter on the Farm".


The Brummstein
The Brummstein
by Peter Adolphsen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.52

4.0 out of 5 stars A novel little novella, 11 Sep 2011
This review is from: The Brummstein (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
An interesting novella that reads more like a geology textbook in places! It's short enough to sit in one reading and engaging enough to make you want to.

The story follows a chipping of a curious humming stone through history as it changes hands with each passing generation -- from its discovery by Josef Siedler in 1907, through the World Wars, post-war Germany and the swinging art scene of the 60s to modern day Germany, with the attitudes and tensions of each period brought to life through the wonderful prose.

What's really interesting about the story though is that no-one ever unveils the true significance of the stone. It is either wrapped up and put away or sealed 'in the name or art', or some form of tragedy befalls the owner. I think more could have been made of this, and there is certainly enough substance to the book to take it beyond its 78 pages. However, having said this it is one of the strangest and most interesting books I have read in a while, and in little under 2 hours takes no reading at all.

Another interesting point to make about the book is that the translator is credited on the front cover, which is very rare. Charlotte Barslund's translation captivates the reader and is definitely worth dipping into.


Russell Hobbs 18272 Allure Mini Ball Chopper Food Processor
Russell Hobbs 18272 Allure Mini Ball Chopper Food Processor
Offered by Topnotchsales
Price: £19.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Style over substance?, 11 Sep 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
While this latest offering from Russell Hobbs is a novel idea for a blender and one that is entertaining enough to conjure up a bit of theatre in the kitchen, it is in no way a replacement for a conventional kitchen blender.

For a start, the bowl has a maximum capacity of 500 ml. While this is perfect for whipping up pesto and sauces, and for simple blending tasks such as making breadcrumbs, it isn't up to the task of more complex things such as soups. Another con would be that the instructions explicitly state that no raw meat should be placed in the device. I'm not entirely sure why this is the case, but it limits its applications somewhat.

The blender comes supplied with an additional plastic part as an alternative to the blade, however there is no mention of this in the instructions. After reading other reviews, it has since become clear that this is for whipping cream -- another handy feature. The instructions themselves are also written to be witty as well as functional; the author obviously has a sense of humour!

Another interesting feature is that, as the bowl rotates on its base, it moves the contents around the blender and the blade, therefore providing more effective blending results.

In short, a useful addition to any kitchen, but not large enough to act as a standalone appliance.


iGadgitz Black EVA Hard Case Cover for 2.5" USB Portable External Hard Drives (Case Internal Dimensions: 11.3cm x 8.3cm x 1.8cm)
iGadgitz Black EVA Hard Case Cover for 2.5" USB Portable External Hard Drives (Case Internal Dimensions: 11.3cm x 8.3cm x 1.8cm)
Offered by iGadgitz
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exactly what it says on the tin, 21 Aug 2011
I bought this case to house my new WD My Passport hard drive. This product is designed specifically for this brand of hard drive, therefore it isn't surprising that it fits perfectly. The additional mesh pocket on the inside is perfect for keeping the USB cable in, while the hard outer casing makes sure your hard drive is protected against any knocks and drops. The carabiner-style clip and wrist strap are also practical features, although it would be useful if the wrist strap was detachable -- a very minor point which does not detract from the product overall.

Ideal for my needs, great price and delivered promptly -- great service all round.


The Vintage Tea Party Book
The Vintage Tea Party Book
by Angel Adoree
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stylish and chic, 20 Aug 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I love this book. Aiming to help readers recreate the perfect vintage tea party, the book contains practical tips for finding venues, sending invitations, sourcing decorations, creating the perfect dishes as well as styling tips to help you (as the hostess) look as delicious as the food you are serving!

The book is beautifully laid out, with stunning illustrations and mouth-watering photographs, and is crammed with recipes and craft tricks that you will want to try out straight away. (I predict a sharp rise in the sale of egg coddlers based solely on this book -- I too will be investing in some!) The way the book is set out means it is easy to find suitable recipes no matter when you are wanting to host your party (or, indeed, just indulge yourself!). With dedicated sections on brunch, afternoon tea and evening elegance, there is something you can take away from the book whatever your occasion.

However, more than just boasting a quirky twists on traditional recipes such as Eggs Benedict, the book also offers useful tips for lovers of antiques and a retro, vintage style, inspired in particular by the 1940s. With tips on creating the perfect victory rolls for your hair, beautiful flower arrangements and make-up tips, this book really does not leave any stone unturned. Angel Adoree provides patterns for creating your own aprons, as well as ideas on how to use antique items to add a touch of elegance to your parties, such as baking muffins in teacups (a ready-made mould if you think about it!) What's more, the book is also great fun to just sit and read!

So, all that's left now is to get my friends round and put Adoree's tips to the test...


Everything Beautiful Began After
Everything Beautiful Began After
by Simon Van Booy
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Simply wonderful, 17 Aug 2011
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Simon Van Booy's novel is one of those rare masterpieces that takes you quite by surprise, and impresses on a number of fronts.

The plot is sufficiently complex and explores the depth of human emotion, from the heights of happiness to the depths of grief, to the strength you can draw from friendship. It also explores the many sides of love, from physical love, to the love shared with friends, to the unwavering love of parents, though somehow I feel summarising the plot in this way does the book a huge injustice. Without wanting to give too much away, the story follows the lives of three individuals, who, quite by chance, meet in Athens where they become inseparable friends. The beautiful, mysterious city provides each of the characters with what they yearn for, but not necessarily in the way you expect.

Booy's style of writing is extremely evocative, using abstract language to conjure up new images in the reader's mind with short, snippy, perfectly-formed sentences. For example: "The love of a man is like a drop of color into something clear." Fourteen words, on the face of it simple enough, but put together in such a way that the imagery is almost moving.

In short, a wonderful, unexpected gem of a book that you will find yourself talking about long after you've turned the final page.


House of the Hanged
House of the Hanged
by Mark Mills
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

4.0 out of 5 stars Period thriller that grabs you from the opening pages, 8 Aug 2011
This review is from: House of the Hanged (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having read The Information Officer by the same author, I was interested in reading more from Mark Mills. And he didn't disappoint.

'House of the Hanged' is another well-written book exploring post-war tensions. Set on the French Riviera in the mid 1930s, the plot centres around Tom Nash, a former Secret Intelligence Service member who is now soaking up the sun on the French coast. Having battled his own personal demons and come to terms with the tragedy outlined in the opening pages of the book, Tom's life now focuses on entertaining his circle of friends, particularly his goddaughter Lucy.

However, one of the book's master strokes in my opinion is the way holiday idyll and the more pleasurable aspects of life (entertaining friends, cocktail parties, long days on the beach) are juxtaposed with the menacing threat of murder. When Tom suspects one of his friends to be involved in the threat on his life, events pick up pace with paranoia building, pushing Tom ever closer to the brink of returning to the broken man he was after the war.

As the plot develops, we learn more about the relationships in Tom's life, how he met his friends and how these people have shaped his life (and possibly death, if they had their way?) Can Tom escape the past he has tried so hard to put behind him? And will he stay alive long enough to find out who is responsible?

The perfect book for summer reading, 'House of the Hanged' is gentle enough to take on holiday, but thrilling enough to keep your attention, with the twists and turns along the way that will pique anyone's interest. Mills sets the atmosphere of the French Riviera perfectly, so even if you don't get the chance for a beach holiday this year, you can at least imagine one! All in all, a very enjoyable read.


The Family Fang
The Family Fang
by Kevin Wilson
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Laugh-out-loud funny that was a joy to read, 31 July 2011
This review is from: The Family Fang (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
'The Family Fang' is the darkly funny yet tragic tale of Annie and Buster Fang and their attempt to find normality and break away from the utter chaos that comes with living with and being raised by their parents, Caleb and Camille.

Caleb and Camille are performance artists, staging bizarre (yet often quite funny) events in public to film the shock and chaos that ensues to form art. At the heart of this art are the artists' two children, Annie and Buster, known as Child A and Child B. However, when Annie and Buster make it clear they no longer want to be part of this art and go on to pursue their own equally chaotic paths, Caleb and Camille stage the ultimate event, which makes Annie and Buster question their relationship with their parents, and where they stand in their parent's view of the world and art.

A funny, tragic book that I couldn't put down.


Ilustrado
Ilustrado
by Miguel Syjuco
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling, but with nothing really to say, 27 July 2011
This review is from: Ilustrado (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Anyone that picks up this book will be unable to deny that the writer is clearly exceptionally talented. The literary aspects of the book are stunning; the devices the author uses and the language selected are extremely mature, but not suitable for anyone wanting a bit of light reading! The story combines all forms of literature to tell the story of a deceased writer and his enigmatic final manuscript, all told from the perspective of the writer's young student.

In terms of readability, the book is like wading through treacle. It is almost like someone has opened a thesaurus and is picking words at random. It takes an immense amount of willpower to continue reading and not put the book down immediately, and the more you progress through the book, the more you realise it doesn't really have much substance to it and appears to be more concerned with showing off how many big and clever-sounding words the author knows!

The academic style of the writing, combined with the ramshackle plot, makes it difficult to read and keep up with, and the impressive parts of the book do not make up for the lack of coherence overall.


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