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emma who reads a lot (London)
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Shakespeare's Restless World: An Unexpected History in Twenty Objects
Shakespeare's Restless World: An Unexpected History in Twenty Objects
by Dr Neil MacGregor
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely stunning, page-turning book, 5 Dec 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read, judging by how much I looked forward to picking it back up after a day's distraction. Turning over the pages, reading about chests full of priests' disguises, witchcraft mirrors, moroccan gold shipwrecked off Devon and eyeballs preserved in silver cases, was just wonderful. Yet it has received some strong criticism in the press from Shakespeare experts, in particular, who have laid into McGregor for insisting that looking at everyday objects from Elizabethan and Jacobean times can connect us - the ordinary public - to Shakespeare more profoundly than just reading the plays.

I have pondered this criticism repeatedly, and I still find it wrongheaded. For me, seeing a single, tiny, finely-made Italian fork, dropped into the rubbish pit of oysters left under a Southwark theatre, was a more extraordinary evocation of the experience of going to the Shakespearean theatre, than anything else I've ever read. I also don't care if McGregor uses the occasional turn of phrase comparing early cicrumnavigators to 20th century space travellers. He has already shown (with 100 objects) that he can let the objects speak for themselves, bringing out thousands of fascinating points along with some stuff you might choose to take, or ignore. But a disappointing book this most certainly is NOT.


Tony and Susan
Tony and Susan
by Austin M. Wright
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.04

2.0 out of 5 stars For me, very unenjoyable, 29 Nov 2012
This review is from: Tony and Susan (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Saved this book for a long time before reading, because it had such great reviews and I wanted to to savour it. This turns out to have been a mistake! I really didn't understand how Saul Bellow and Donna Leon could both have so fullsomely praised it, as it had neither the beautiful writing I associate with Bellow, nor the tightly plotted thriller element I expect from Leon. I was quite intrigued by Susan's domestic situation, but the parallel story, which is the tale of the novel Susan is reading, I hated and found trite and sort of silly. Very disappointed really, though I 'm sure there are plenty of readers who would find the whole thing very compelling, it was not for me.


Marware Atlas Kindle Cover, Black (fits Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle and Kindle Touch)
Marware Atlas Kindle Cover, Black (fits Kindle Paperwhite, Kindle and Kindle Touch)

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Call me an idiot, but it doesn't fit my kindle!, 21 Nov 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have an older Kindle and didn't know there was a newer, smaller version of the handheld reading device. So when this sold itself as fitting 'Kindle' I assumed it would fit mine. Sadly not, as the Marware cover seems solid, well made and substantial, with a nice smell and feel to it. I am quite disappointed and will have to find a friend to give it to! So look, four stars at least for the product, but none for the lack of warning, adding up to three.


Annie Bell's Baking Bible: Over 200 Triple-tested Recipes That You'll Want to Make Again and Again
Annie Bell's Baking Bible: Over 200 Triple-tested Recipes That You'll Want to Make Again and Again
by Annie Bell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful finale to Britain's year of baking, 17 Nov 2012
Whether you've been turning out fine cakes for years, or if you only just got into Great British Bakeoff, this book has something for you. Annie Bell is a great food writer, not just of baking titles (her Gorgeous Christmas is a must-have). But this book is her most massive (literally) labour of love. (At 200 recipes and more than 320 pages, it's HUGE. That hasn't stopped me carrying it round the house for the last few day, though - reading a bit in bed, a bit on the sofa while everyone's watching telly.... It's compulsive!)

It begins with a careful and thorough introduction that talks about ingredients and utensils - setting the tone for the whole book, which is methodical and detailed. She is obviously someone who has baked almost daily her entire life, and it shows. Every recipe has permutations, suggestions and tips that suggest the 'triple-testing' described in the book's title.

But don't imagine this means the book for experts - she always encourages you to have a go.

Chapters are:
1_ COOKIES AND BISCUITS
22 different recipes here, from classic shortbread, through chocolate digestives to gingerbread men, but also taking in cornflake crispies and lebkuchen. If you are a more experienced baker, you can try stem ginger and chilli biscuits, or cookies with chocolate and fennel. Bell clearly spends some of the year in France and there's a few tempting French things too - Breton gateau and Mont-St-Michel cookies.

2) TRAYBAKES AND BARS
Starting with flapjacks there are 25 recipes - lots of nuts and oats, then six kinds of brownies - millionaire's shortbread, fridge cakes, baklava.. bakewell slices... and many more. This chapter includes some flourless brownies and its worth saying that Bell has gone out of her way to test recipes for people with food allergies and has quite a number of suggestions even on the 'normal' recipes - I wouldn't be surprised if, in this huge book, it added up to more useable ideas than in a regular food allergy cookbook.

3) THE FRENCH QUARTER
Six recipes for the kind of little French cakes you buy in patisseries. Having made a few of these lately I can safely say - please have a go! It's so great making your own and makes you feel so sophisticated... :-)

4) MUFFINS, CUPCAKES AND FAIRY CAKES
14 recipes here, including some for desperate mums of non-vegetable-eating children like Courgette and Cinammon Muffins, and Pineapple and Carrot ones too. She talks a lot about how to decorate them, the debate between traditional fairy cakes with not much cake and about a third icing, then modern muffins with all their sprinkles. Very enjoyable and lots to try.

5) MERINGUES
Something else I've been getting into lately (SO EASY - why didn't anyone tell me before?) 11 recipes including classic plain meringues, chocolate almond and raspberry flavours, and then five variations on a lemon meringue pie which someone else will have to test as they make me feel sick...

6) SPONGE CAKES
14 recipes: Swiss Roll, a Victoria Sponge, a Madeira cake and a Lemon loaf, but also Marble cake, Angel cake and Coca-Cola Cake (uh-oh). The Angel cake in particular looks fascinating - no fat!

7) CHOCOLATE CAKES
We are wading into dangerous territory now - from the Tiramisu Torte through Sachertorte to the Devil's Food Cake, none of it's going to be good for you. However, again Bell has squeezed in at least two food allergy recipes - a Free-from Chocolate Mousse Cake with no nuts, flour or dairy; and a French flourless chocolate cake. Yum.

8) CHEESECAKES
A dozen cheesecakes, from New York to Germany via Key West and Italy. Even a white christmas one....

9) FRUITCAKES
17 recipes. These range from the American-style fruit cakes like carrot, banana, and passion cake, to French apple cake and proper old-fashioned Dundee. For food allergies there's Free From Pretty Much Everything Cake! I want to try the Hummingbird cake which is like a carrot cake but made with pineapple and banana... mmm....

10) CELEBRATION CAKEs
Yep, as if you couldn't find anything special enough in all of the preceding chapters :-)
Eleven cakes, from Simnel to Pumpkin pie via Black Forest Gateau and Christmas Log. Red Velvet Cake looks particularly tempting...

11) TARTS AND PIES
19 recipes, including one for mincemeat, and then Bakewell tart (there's Bakewell slices elsewhere) Swedish Mazarin, Pecan Pie, Treacle Tart, American Cherry Pie, Banoffee Pie, even the humble jam tart!

12) EASY BREADS AND PANCAKES
Finally, a slightly low-key odd chapter tacked on the end, containing simple homebaking. This is the one bit I could probably have lived without, but here are scones, fruitbreads, scotch pancakes and two little clafoutis (I've used her clafoutis recipe before from another book and it's top notch).

All in all this is a superb book. It certainly does live up to the title 'Bible', but has loads of personality too, avoiding being too much of a "Complete Manual". Annie Bell's careful, enthusiastic approach to baking comes through on every page. Most of the recipes are illustrated but not all, however for me I don't mind that. In fact the only complaint I could make is that I wish her publisher had printed it on cakemixture-resistant paper. I can see this book is going to get a LOT of use and I want it to last as long as possible....
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 20, 2013 5:28 AM GMT


ABC: Learn Your Alphabet with Songs and Rhymes (BBC Audio)
ABC: Learn Your Alphabet with Songs and Rhymes (BBC Audio)

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High in educational value, 16 Nov 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I think the alphabet one of these CDs (there's also one for numbers) is the best. There is a separate song for each letter of the alphabet, comprising a familiar nursery rhyme tune, but with new words. Each letter has a little introduction, where the listening child (and adults!) are encouraged to pronounce the letter out loud. I really liked this, as did my kid! It's quite fun shouting in the car A-A-A-A-A!

then there is a little song (as described) on the subject of ants, for A; bells, for B; etc etc. And a bit of revision at the end of the song of the sound you've been learning and the letter's name.

I like the fact that it combines both the name of the letter and the sound - they are going to have to learn them both (and their connection) eventually and this is a really fun way to do it. I didn't feel it was too advanced for my almost three year old - he really liked it and liked the little song, and because he knows all the tunes already I feel we should learn them quite quickly.

I thought it showed quite a lot of thought by someone with some brains and experience of teaching reading, and that it was also fairly enjoyable musically.

For the purpose of learning the alphabet and the phonic sounds, I think it's a good acquisition.


Scandinavian Christmas
Scandinavian Christmas
by Trine Hahnemann
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars lovely tempting book, especially for kale lovers, 16 Nov 2012
This review is from: Scandinavian Christmas (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a gorgeous book, and irresistible to a christmas book obsessive such as myself. It will also appeal to anyone who really, really loves kale, for reasons to be discussed below. Written by distinguished Danish cookery writer Trine Hahnemann, it gives a lot of culinary detail as well as a bit of a flavour of a Danish christmas (I do wonder whether the blanket 'Scandinavian' might be a bit of a tall claim - for example it doesn't even mention Martin Goose day, an essential part of the season in Southern sweden).

It divides into seven main sections:
1) Christmas Baking
Very intriguing: Danish bakers, according to the author, completely avoid dried yeast and also used a product called bakers' ammonia to get cookies to have that crisp texture I recognise from Scandinavia. Here is the special bread you must bake to celebrate Lucia Day on 13 December, a local Xmas cake, and then a number of different special biscuits that are highly flavoured with spices. There are even those biscuits that get sold I think as Danish Butter Curls - though evidently you need a specialist mould to get them perfect in shape. (Which highlights a problem a few reviewers have already noted - it is a specialist, enthusiasts' book, rather than something for everyone because you aren't going to be able to make all of the recipes very easily.)

2) Gifts from the Kitchen
Here are chutneys, jellies, compotes and vinegars, as well as chocolate-dipped candied oranges. I started here as it seemed the most straightforward, but I doubt I'll be making the rosehip chutney, despite my reasonable sized garden, as it requires a KILO of rosehips. Cannot even imagine what that looks like! However the Christmas Chutney was unbelievably good, one of the best chutney recipes I've EVER tried.

3) Advent: A Whole Month of Christmas
here are outdoor recipes for barbecues and outdoor eating (amazingly, this is a feature of Northern winter life!) as well as indoor ones like Glogg, Aebleskiver and more pepper cookies. I enjoyed the details here about feeding your 'elf' and leaving out a boot for him to leave gifts.... reminded me of Harry Potter!

4) Festive Brunch
Here we get onto some real goodies like an extraordinary beetroot-cured smoked salmon, a vivid deep pink on the outside, and orange within; a fab Kale salad with jerusalem artichokes; a few other veg and some christmas danish pastries - worth trying once, surely!

5) Christmas Party
Suggestions now much more sophisticated: Kale bruschetta, Cod and Kale pesto (see a theme emerging here?) and duck and pork recipes to make your mouth water.

6) Christmas Eve Feast
Duck, Goose with apples and prunes, lamb chops, pork with cracking, quince ham.... yet another kale recipe this time salad with pomengranate; chicory salad, red cabbage, brussels sprouts cooked with clementines... all sounds delicious.

7) Christmas Day Smorgasbord
This was actually the chapter i found the most tempting - someone said somewhere they wouldn't be doing anything with herring!! But that's missing the point I think! so herrings served in five different ways, liver paté, a rolled cold pork and a meatballs dish, and pork with apple sauce. It's a bit of letdown there's no place on christmas day for kale, but there we go.

I totally agree with other reviewers who said you will need some specialist ingredients and equipment, but I love acquiring that kind of thing so I'm not marking it down for that. Almost every dish is illustrated, sumptuously, and the whole book has lovely snowy mood illustrations too. All in all a really beautiful book, and having tested a few of the recipes I can put my hand on my heart and recommend it absolutely as a cookbook, too.


123: Learn to Count with Songs and Rhymes (BBC Audio)
123: Learn to Count with Songs and Rhymes (BBC Audio)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars totally adequate, but not magical, 13 Nov 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a very to-the-purpose CD, with two distinct parts to help your child learn to count. The musical background is perfectly satisfactory and performances are reasonably musical and expressive for a kids cd.

First are 13 songs each about individual numbers. But within each of those song your child is encouraged repeatedly to count to ten, to the tune of "Row, Row the Boat". This will definitely drum the number sequence home, but you may be driven mad in the process :-)

Second part was more appealing to me - another thirteen songs with numbers and counting in them - Five Little Ducks, Ten Green Bottles, Ten Fat Sausages. There are some real traditional favourites here and I liked especially hearing "The Animals Went In Two by Two" and "One Man Went to Mow" long time no hear!!

Again, you could go a bit bonkers with the repetitive counting. But that's the point of the CD! to drum it in! So I can't argue with it that much. I just had been hoping for something I'd find more musically delightful.... obviously hoping too much!


My Polar Animals Journal: In search of Polar Bears, Penguins, Whales and Seals
My Polar Animals Journal: In search of Polar Bears, Penguins, Whales and Seals
by Steve Bloom
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £5.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars completely enchanting, 13 Nov 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a really wonderful book which gives a much better sense of polar animals than some of the other competing volumes, and would make a particularly good winter gift for a child because it is lovely and heavy with a satisfyingly 'posh' red spine binding, quite apart from the excellent content.

Steve Bloom is a celebrated wildlife photographer and the concept of the book is that he is taking a voyage to both North and South poles, photographing the different animals and behaviours you might see there. My kid is only 2 and a half, but has already learned a lot of amazing facts from watching Octonauts, so was consequently both excited and enraptured to see real photos of humpback whales, elephant seals and polar bears (all of which feature in that TV show).

Of course the book is actually targetted at an older age group - containing a few tips for how to take your own wildlife photos, for example - but I just want to show that the images are captivating even to a small child.

Also great photos of the northern lights, ginormous icebergs, and how the on-location photographer manages to go to the loo in the snow!

Five stars definitely.


Animal Counting
Animal Counting
by Petr Horacek
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.61

5.0 out of 5 stars Very beautiful counting book, up to Horacek's normal high standards, 24 Oct 2012
This review is from: Animal Counting (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Petr Horacek has produced some of my kid's favourite little books (Choo Choo (Look Inside),Puffin Peter) and this one continues the delightful pattern. Ten different animal pictures on ten spreads of pages make up the book, ranging from giraffes to chameleons to toucans to lemurs. An African feel in terms of animals chosen, cheetahs and zebras, though there are some pandas too.

His animals are always beautifully depicted. Each has their own character. But at the same time, the text is incredibly simple and straightforward so the child isn't distracted from the main purpose - counting!

One thing i would say to any potential buyer - the animals themselves are not pop-up. The 'pop-up' element is provided at the edge of the page, where the child turns back a flap with a number on it. Underneath, another number pops up; this time in the shape of the animal from that page. So, a curly panda 'eight' or a tall giraffe number 'one'. Weirdly I felt like these other illustrations might not be by Horacek - they just don't look the same! But the overall pleasure of the book is not diminshed.


Grimm Tales: For Young and Old (Penguin Hardback Classics)
Grimm Tales: For Young and Old (Penguin Hardback Classics)
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A first-class reminder of the strangeness and wonder of fairy tales, 20 Oct 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Other reviewers have wondered who this edition is for, exactly; I kept thinking it was precisely what I wanted, at least. Philip Pullman is a master storyteller and I loved these simple, restrained re-tellings from the Grimm Brothers' famous book. From rarer tales to the old favourites like Hansel and Gretel and Cinderella, I liked them all, and I loved being in contact with the primal energy that originates from these stories - they are so fantastically odd! Pullman explores briefly why that might be, in his introduction, talking about how whole elements of the narrative can take place in a single sentence, with character as we conventionally know it almost entirely absent. I thought the book as a whole was respectful and delightful.

I have several other editions and I really like the balance in this one. If you read Maria TatarThe Classic Fairy Tales (Norton Critical Editions) you will get fewer individual stories and more academic material, but this has plenty to be getting on with: a section after each tale makes it clear what the sources were for the original, who else has told the tale, and where Pullman himself has made changes. If you want a real little children's version, don't pick this - my recommendation would be Yummy: My Favourite Nursery Stories from the creator/illustrator of Maisy, where fairy tales are re-told in wonderful short form with good big pictures.

However for parents who want to know the stories by heart so that they can tell them to their children - surely the most appropriate way of doing it - this book is perfect.


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