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emma who reads a lot (London)
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Polska: New Polish Cooking
Polska: New Polish Cooking
by Zuza Zak
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 20.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book, but as always, will you cook the delicious dishes contained within?!?, 17 Oct. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Firstly: this is SUCH a beautiful book. It reminds me of Mamushka, which i also own, and treasure. Lovely authentic images, with all the food served up on beautiful old vintage plates... oooh very nice.
Secondly, it has a really interesting range of recipes. Nettle leaves in beer batter... a Polish version of steak tartare... as well as the things you'd expect from eating in Polish restaurants / shopping in Polish shops, like Pierogi (but homemade, from scratch) or Hunters stew.

I started by making a 'Krupnik' - a winter stew that begins with a chicken leg but ends up really being mostly vegetables. I found I did have to modify the recipe a little - I couldn't quite get the depth of taste I wanted making it the way the book recommends, and did cheat and add half an organic stock cube. However, the lovely (and huge quantity) of chopped herbs, especially dill, was a revelation at the end, and I now look forward to getting a portion of it out the freezer (I froze it with the herbs just cut lying on the top and it defrosted fine, though they stayed dark green).

The issue with ANY 'authentic' recipe book of a cuisine is... will you USE it? I think I'm a fairly adventurous cook on occasion and there is so much amazing comfort food in this book... but it's hard to persuade, cough cough, OTHER members of the household to feel the same way. Plus at least half the recipes have ingredients like sorrel or rabbit which won't be widely available from most supermarkets.

I absolutely loved this book, and it's a keeper for me, but I just wanted to be clear about what it contains for other readers so they'll get what they want!! I would rather have a fabulous inspiring book on the shelf that i use rarely than 20 of those Good Food mag compilations, but that's me. I will ALWAYS want 'Gypsy sauce' on my green beans from now on....


A Death at Fountains Abbey (Thomas Hawkins 3)
A Death at Fountains Abbey (Thomas Hawkins 3)
by Antonia Hodgson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.49

3.0 out of 5 stars very enjoyable but not completely ripping, 17 Oct. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a very enjoyable historical detective novel, a genre I first tried quite recently with the CJ Sansom books. In the past, I'd have had some suspicions of whether the history would be realistic enough for me, but actually Hodgson manages to be pretty evocative of the time. I liked Thomas Hawkins, the 18th century investigator in this novel, but not quite as much as Shardlake. And I felt that the story was good. However, I just felt I had reservations about the overall arc of the story - it all felt ever so slightly like things were being crammed in, dramatic events, at the right moment for the reader, but that it felt calculated, rather than a really ripping romp. There is something about the whole thing that just felt like... clunky? i don't know what it was, but anyway, I didn't enjoy it with that incredible freedom and sense of sinking into a book that I have had elsewhere.


Scotch 19 mm x 7.62 m Flip Dispenser with Magic Tape 810
Scotch 19 mm x 7.62 m Flip Dispenser with Magic Tape 810
Price: 2.75

5.0 out of 5 stars really easy to use, 8 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is really great. For some reason, it's loads easier than other, more normal tape dispensers, to use. Especially for my year 1 child, who has trouble pulling hard enough for a normal tape dispenser. This just requires much less force, and would suit older people who have less strength in their hands, people with arthritis, etc, too, as well as tiny hands. Brilliant to no longer have to act as as human tape dispenser!! Hurray!!


Joseph Joseph Elevate 100 Collection Carving Knife Set - Silver
Joseph Joseph Elevate 100 Collection Carving Knife Set - Silver
Price: 40.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars nice knife but i hated the 'gadget' aspect, 8 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I can't say I absolutely loved this. The thing is that the knife is designed to have this little stand to stop it lying flat on a surface, and to be honest, I just found it got in the way. Unless you are the kind of person who keeps a carving knife all year long in a drawer JUST for carving a joint every now and again, I thought it was not sufficiently versatile. Good quality blade, nice heavy handle - I just didn't like the sticking out stand at ALL.


RivaCase 5107 7 inch Bag for Tablet/PC - Black
RivaCase 5107 7 inch Bag for Tablet/PC - Black
Price: 17.72

5.0 out of 5 stars good bag, even for an ipad mini, 8 Sept. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a great, hard-wearing little bag - and we actually DID manage to fit an Ipad mini inside it, with the inner protective case still on it. Really useful for an extra layer of padding when you know you are going to be travelling. Sturdy zip, carrying strap, not much more to say - just a good thing, really!


The Art of Flight
The Art of Flight
by Fredrik Sjberg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tale of obsession..., 7 July 2016
This review is from: The Art of Flight (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had read the Fly Trap, the first of Sjöberg's books to be translated into English, and loved it: he is an amateur entomologist with a passionate interest in hoverflies, and with that book managed to make me catch the bug too (HA!).

The Art of Flight, despite the similarly evocative title and cover, deals with completely different subject matter. It concerns Sjöberg's long-term obsession with the Swedish landscape artist Widforss, who became famous for his paintings of the American National Parks. Sjöberg becomes totally fixed on the idea of tracking down paintings, letters and details about the life of Widforss, which towards the end leads to a completely unexpected and for me, very moving turn of events (NO SPOILERS!!).

Because of the subject matter being art, there is much less of the nature writing he does so well in the Fly Trap. However there are some common themes: Sjöberg is simply very funny and revealing writing about himself, and he does describe the American landscape in particular, extremely well. And Widforss was a painter of nature, and so you do get beautiful passages. But you are best off reading this book as a slightly eccentric statement of one man's obsession with whether it's ever possible to recover the life of another, and what happens to what you find out - should it be made public, or not? Wonderful, diverting, relaxing, and yes, I found it pretty moving at the end.


Fates and Furies
Fates and Furies
by Lauren Groff
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I have no idea whether to hate or love this book., 29 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Fates and Furies (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I don't think I've ever felt so divided about how to review a book. Firstly, the positives. This book is compulsive reading, I wanted to know what happened, read it in about two days. And Lauren Groff is clearly astonishingly talented as a writer. I don't say that lightly, but her ear for the flow and beauty of language is extraordinary, and the characters are vividly conjured up. She really is one of the most prodigiously naturally talented writers i've ever read.

HOWEVER: Mathilde and Lotto (who annoyed me from the moment I found out their names, to be honest) are INCREDIBLY IRRITATING. All the lovely meals described in sort of House and Garden magazine detail, all the stupendous sex, oh jesus, even a quarter of the way through i wanted to strangle them, and then it went on, and then it got weirder and weirder and then i was like, SERIOUSLY THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE CLAIMING FOR A PLOT?

Some of the best parts, I absolutely loved the lyrical descriptions of Lotto's plays (he is a playwright). Such a lovely, unexpected turn in the book.
Some of the worst: there are a couple of plot developments where i was just like, ""SHUT UP, really, just shut up."

I don't want to discuss the book more because I hate spoilers, but suffice to say I have finished it unable to rate it. I don't want to give it three stars for being 'okay' because in some ways it was all-involving and stupendous, and in others, just the most diabolical waste.
So there you go. !


Vikings (What They Don't Tell You About)
Vikings (What They Don't Tell You About)
by Robert Fowke
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable popular history of the Vikings, 22 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book, from experienced children's book author Bob Fowke, aims to convey the life of the Vikings to kids via cartoon strips and gory facts whilst smuggling in a lot of good quality history along the way. "Vikings" has several strong things going for it: it's very vivid, it's accurate and it appeals to kids' sense of the larger-than-life. (It has a lot more proper prose in it than competing "Horrible Histories" - you may think that's good, or bad, depending on your view of what kind of history books kids should be reading :-) Each topic is discussed in slightly more detail than Horrible Histories would be - in fact I think it would be a useful supplement to those books, perhaps?)

IN terms of subject matter, it covers, initial Viking invasions of the UK, who they really were, their farming backgrounds in Scandinavia, the role of women in Viking society, the social structure. Then it moves on to getting drunk, the way they fought battles, their nautical skills, and those in navigation, covering their exploration of the globe from America to Russia and India.

The story in Britain finishes with the arrival of the Normans - the Norsemen - which begins a different chapter for us, and then a chapter on their religious beliefs.

These lively, enjoyable history books will please kids who like a bit of exploring into the past. I suspect it will appeal the most to a slightly older age-band than horrible histories as the balance of history and entertainment seems slightly more 'grown-up'? It would be a really good basis for a school project. I should think a bright six-year-old could enjoy it, as well as probably its central target market, the Year 6s etc!


Harmless Like You
Harmless Like You
by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.61

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An oddly compelling novel that grips much tighter in the second half, 20 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Harmless Like You (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As the novel begins, art dealer Jay Eaves' father has just died. As a consequence, he goes to find his mother. She is an artist, Yuki Oyama, who left her husband and child (when he was a baby) and never saw them again. The rest of the book explores Yuki's life, why these events happened, and the impact of his mother's absence on Jay and his adult life, and new fatherhood.

This is a rather magical book. It starts incredibly quietly. I didn't enjoy it much to start with; I felt that every time anyone spoke even briefly in the novel, it was followed by too much clarification in prose. I felt that the author wasn't letting the book flow; but later on, I felt that Hisayo Buchanan was trying to tell the reader something about her two main characters - both of whom THINK about what they are saying as least as much as they actually speak.

The impact of the book is slow to hit. The atmospheres are carefully, cooly created, and you may find (I did) Yuki's passivity frustrating. Not in terms of her as a person, but as a character, it's difficult to read about someone who gives so little of herself away. There's just not much on the page. And Jay has some appealing qualities, and some odd tics, which I wasn't sure about. (At one point he starts talking about how his wife's thigh gap has disappeared since having a baby; I'm not sure I've ever met a man who even knew what a thigh gap is.) However, I REALLY enjoyed Jay's relationship with his wife, which seemed original and beautifully captured; and slowly, the story is created, and by the end I felt quite moved by the whole thing. And REALLY cried towards the end.

I was left with questions about whether the novel was really excellent, or just good; but I admired the ambition of it I was left with questions about the way that Yuki behaved, and whether the novelist had really given me enough to understand, or forgive. (Also there were a few weirdnesses - a British gallery owner called Quentin Taupe which just felt to me like a joke name! Taupe is such a trendy colour, and Quentin seemed like a joke English name. But maybe that wouldn't bother others.)


Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future
Chernobyl Prayer: A Chronicle of the Future
by Svetlana Alexievich
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Feels wrong to have to give this extraordinary account a star rating out of five, 15 Jun. 2016
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a really harrowing and very moving account of real people's experiences of Chernobyl, drawn from many interviews and edited together to form a kind of chorus of voices. You hear from parents (extremely painful, in many cases), from soldiers and emergency workers, from old farmers and young women, people from all walks of life. Some of the details are almost unbearable indeed: details of what made children ill, and their brave struggles with congenital problems; details of the Soviet posters which still, ragged, watch over the empty site; details of how people were sent to clean up because the Japanese robots intended for the job had their circuits burnt out by the radiation levels; details of how all the library books on radiation were removed overnight to stop people panicking....

Everything about this book makes it difficult to read it in one go. I feel uncomfortable giving it a 'score'. It's an extraordinary account of an accident we hope will never happen again.

PS would like to add - I've just been checking how this edition differs from my older US translation (from about ten years ago). It turns out the author has added a section meditating on her own role in recording the disaster, which wasn't in the older translation. This is very interesting and well-worth having. Also, the two translations are quite different: the older translation, the language is more epic and grand; the newer translation, more sanctioned by Alexievich, is more down to earth - it uses the word 'bum', just as an example.


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