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Karura (London)
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Monophonic
Monophonic
Price: £2.24

5.0 out of 5 stars Highly entertaining - I didn't want to put it down, 1 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Monophonic (Kindle Edition)
Monophonic is a collection of short stories, each narrated from a different viewpoint but all of them full to bursting with black humour. Learn what the police really think of those pesky meddling amateur detectives; find out how the Devil had a hand in bureaucracy and discover what happens when a man decides that terminal throat cancer is as good an excuse as any to hunt down and kill everyone who ever annoyed him - to name but a few of this marvellous collection of weird and wonderful tales.

Andrew Peters writes with a distinctive, easy-to-read style that draws you along from one story to the next, until to your dismay, you've managed to devour every page in this entertaining but all too short collection. I highly recommend this book, and look forward to delving into his other works.


Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain
Free Country: A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining recounting of a crazy adventure, 1 Sept. 2013
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Free Country is the tale of a cycle ride from Lands End to John O'Groats with a difference - the author and his best friend started out with only a pair of boxer shorts each, and, without spending any money whatsoever, had to blag equipment, food and accommodation on the way.

It's a crazy yet fascinating journey, and one that is fantastically recounted by the author. With tongue firmly in cheek and no shortage of humour, George Mahood takes us along for the ride. You can't help but chuckle at their attempts to ride a foam wheeled scooter, or cycle in an oversized pair of suit trousers, all the while cheering them on in their endeavour to prove that human kindness and generosity is alive and well. And at the end of each chapter (each corresponding to one day of the journey), the only thing to do is start reading the next chapter straight away.

My only minor niggles with the book are that there is some reuse of jokes, and in the Kindle edition at least, the photos are little on the small side, but don't let that put off. This is a cracking read, and one that will keep you thoroughly engrossed and entertained from start to finish.


Ten-Minute Bento
Ten-Minute Bento
by Megumi Fujii
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.27

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid but not outstanding bento book, 17 Aug. 2013
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This review is from: Ten-Minute Bento (Paperback)
Having worked my way through the recipes of the Just Bento Cookbook, I thought it was about time I added another bento book to my collection. From the title, this book seemed to promise recipes that would be quick and easy - just the thing for making a quick and delicious packed lunch.

Indeed, there is a good variety of recipes in the book, many of them along the lines of 1-pot stir fries with rice, that are tasty and take, if not quite the ten minutes promised in the title, at least no more than twenty minutes to prepare and assemble. Even so, the book is far from perfect. A lot of the recipes are impossible to reproduce because they require highly specialised ingredients that even those with a local Asian food store may find hard to source - see, for example, swordfish or fiddlehead ferns. I did my best to substitute for similar, available items where possible, but this just led to a lot of sub par dishes that probably didn't resemble what they were supposed to be.

If you're just starting out with bento, then this probably isn't the book to get - I would instead point you to the fabulous Just Bento Cookbook, which has a lot more in the way of introductory tips, plus a wider variety of delicious yet achievable recipes. Nonetheless, there are some good recipes in this book, so if you're looking to expand an existing collection of English-language bento recipes, this is a worthy addition to your bookshelf.


Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England
Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England
by Thomas Penn
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting facts let down by a dry writing style, 10 Aug. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Falling between the well-known eras of the Wars of the Roses and the reign of his son Henry VIII, Henry VII has perhaps not received the attention he deserves. In Winter King, Thomas Penn attempts to address this lack, constructing a biography of the first Tudor monarch and the last king to win his throne on the field of battle.

While this book is certainly filled with interesting facts and insights into Henry VII's rule, it nonetheless suffers on several fronts. After describing how Henry took the throne, the early years of his reign are glossed over in order to lavish almost excessive amounts of detail on the last decade of his reign, and the financial rapacity that characterised it. Events often get bogged down in tedious levels of detail, with minor personalities sometimes receiving a disproportionate number of pages dedicated to their situation. It doesn't help that the writing style is largely very dry and academic; for every point where I found myself absorbed by the narrative, there were even more expanses where I simply found myself unable to focus on the book.

Overall, then, I'm ambivalent about this book - I certainly learned a lot, but it came at the cost of an overwhelming feeling that I was undertaking a near-endless slog. Definitely one to borrow from a friend or the library before committing yourself to purchasing a copy.


Children's Step-by-Step Cookbook
Children's Step-by-Step Cookbook
by Angela Wilkes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just for the kids!, 19 July 2013
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When a younger family member showed me this book, I was expecting it to just contain a few simple recipes that the little ones could have fun with, but to my surprise, there were also quite a few recipes that I wanted to have a go at myself - to the extent that I ended up ordering my own copy!

Obviously, as it's marketed at children, there's a lot of introductory stuff about identifying ingredients and working safely, and certainly there's a lot of fun, simple recipes for the kids, such as pizza toppings, sandwiches, easy to make cookies and gingerbread people. But don't discount this as one for the kids only, as there are quite a few recipes that are great for making and serving to any age group. From tasty apple pie and fish pie to delicious fried rice and the new family favourite "cowboy bean bake", all of the recipes have clear, straightforward instructions, and for a little bit of effort, give excellent results.

Overall, this is a great little book to have on the shelf, and unless you're the kind of cook who aspires to only cook high end Michelin-class meals, I would highly recommend investing in this book - regardless of whether or not you have children!


Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go
Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches to Go
by Makiko Itoh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing book that transformed my lunchtimes, 15 July 2013
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For years, I'd taken the same old boring lunch to work - ham sandwich, crisps, yoghurt, maybe some fruit. I knew that Japanese bento lunches were fare more exciting than my usual midday fare, but like many other people, I'd always been daunted by the effort. Looking online seemed to justify my fears - if I tried this, would I spend my days decorating rice balls with faces and cutting out sandwiches in animal shapes?

Nonetheless, I decided to give it a go, and it was fortunate that I took a chance on Makiko Itoh's Just Bento Cookbook. Ms Itoh's philosophy is that you shouldn't spend hours on the presentation - what you really want is something that tastes delicious.

Which is not to say that the bentos presented in this book don't look great, but that the focus is quite rightly on a selection of recipes that aren't too hard to make. Yes, there is some startup cost involved in buying a few bits of equipment and sourcing Japanese ingredients (although over the past couple of years more supermarkets have begun stocking the essentials), but once you taste a few of the recipes, you'll realise that it's worth the effort. The book offers a range of both Japanese and non-Japanese bentos, usually consisting of several components. There are plenty of variants to try out, and having worked my way through the book, there were only a couple of recipes that I really didn't get on with. In fact, for the most part, it's taught me new dishes that I don't just rely on for lunch - I've served them to friends for dinner as well.

Of course, preparing a bento is always going to be more effort than making a sandwich, but none of the recipes in this book are particularly long or complicated, and most of them can be made a night or two in advance, or even put in the freezer so you have a ready supply of bento dishes for busy weeks. And don't worry if you feel like you've done the book to death - Makiko Itoh also runs a Just Bento website packed with even more recipes to try.

All in all, this is probably my most-used recipe book, and certainly one of the best investments I've made. If you're considering trying out bento, or even if you just want to try a few easy Japanese recipes, this is definitely the place to start.


A Conspiracy of Alchemists: Chronicles of Light and Shadow (Chronicles of Light & Shadow 1)
A Conspiracy of Alchemists: Chronicles of Light and Shadow (Chronicles of Light & Shadow 1)
by Liesel Schwarz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £4.28

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, wasted potential, 9 July 2013
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In a steampunk world of magic and technology, Elle Chance is a feisty airship pilot who is determined not to let being a woman hold her back. But when Elle accepts a job transporting the enigmatic Mr Marsh, she finds herself caught up in a battle between the Warlocks and the Alchemists that will decide not only her own destiny, but the fate of the entire world.

I absolutely adore the steampunk aesthetic, and so when I saw the synopsis of this book, I thought it would be right up my street. And indeed, A Conspiracy of Alchemists gets off to a promising start, bringing us airships, vampires, literal absinthe fairies and magic and technology in equal measure.

Unfortunately, despite this early promise, the book really fails to deliver. This is the author's debut novel, and it definitely has that "first book" feel to it - instead of flowing naturally, the narrative has the feel of someone trying to adjust their style based on advice from a how to write guide, inserting excessive description for the sake of it, or inserting obvious plot devices. Certainly, by about halfway through, reading the book was beginning to feel like hard work.

It's not just a case of unpolished writing, however; the book also fails to live up to its potential when it comes to the plot. Instead of creating a complex and layered world, what we end up with are two fairly bland main characters - Elle, who proves to be far more useless and irritating than she first appeared, and Marsh, the obligatory handsome male lead. Whilst the Alchemists sit back in their chairs and scheme like useless parody villains, the story becomes more about the rather shallow romance between the two main characters than anything else.

Ultimately, A Conspiracy of Alchemists looked promising, but turned out to be a huge disappointment. Admittedly, the plot of the upcoming sequel does sound intriguing, but for me it may well be a case of once bitten, twice shy.


Cooking With Bones
Cooking With Bones
by Jess Richards
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some interesting ideas that don't quite come together, 27 Jun. 2013
This review is from: Cooking With Bones (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Maya is a formwanderer - her thoughts, her desires, even her appearance change to please each person she meets. Fearful that Maya will never find her true identity whilst overwhelmed by the needs of others, her sister Amber takes her away from their home in the idyllic city of Paradon and to a mysterious cottage on the edge of a rural village.

Told from three separate viewpoints - Amber, Maya and village child Kip - Cooking With Bones presents a mix of sci-fi and fantasy elements that initially sounds like a recipe for success. From Maya's ability to reflect and fulfil the desires of all who see her to Amber's discovery of the special magic of baking cakes with bone spoons, the book initially promises an exciting and imaginative ride filled with fresh and original ideas.

Unfortunately, Cooking With Bones doesn't quite sustain its initial momentum. The story stagnates and meanders for a while without ever really taking advantage of its more interesting plot elements, and although things pick up a bit by the end, overall there's a feeling of wasted potential.

Overall, this is a decent but not outstanding novel; however, it's unlikely we've seen the last of Jess Richards, so hopefully her future novels will take some of those interesting ideas and implement them more successfully. Then we'll really have something that shouldn't be missed.


AnySharp Plus Knife & Scissor Sharpener, Black
AnySharp Plus Knife & Scissor Sharpener, Black
Offered by Happy Kinda Life
Price: £16.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Easy to use and does the job, 27 Jun. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Although it has the look of a gadget that doesn't perform as well as the advertisements claim, the Anysharp Plus Sharpener is actually a pretty good bit of kit. It fixes to the surface easily, and with a couple of drags, your dull household knives will be sharp and ready for more work. Admittedly, the reason it works so quickly is because the sharpener isn't shy about taking quite a bit off the blade - you probably won't want to let it loose on any top of the range knife sets, but it will certainly extend the life of any lower end workhorse blades.


From 0 to Infinity in 26 Centuries: The Extraordinary Story of Maths
From 0 to Infinity in 26 Centuries: The Extraordinary Story of Maths
by Chris Waring
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A solid overview of the history of maths, 25 May 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
When we learn maths in school, we probably don't give much thought as to where all those formulae and equations come from, or who discovered them. In this book, high school teacher Chris Waring takes a whistle stop tour through the history of maths, highlighting the men and women behind our millennia-old attempt to understand the world around us through the application of numbers.

From ancient civilisations to modern unsolved problems, this book packs a lot of mathematical history into its pages. With that in mind, it's a very good book for satisfying the curiosity of children and adults with an interest in mathematics, but for students of the discipline, it may feel a little lacking. Certainly, I felt as if the opening chapters were just a retread of Marcus du Sautoy's The Story of Maths - it was only later on that the book started taking on an identity of its own.

That being said, if you're interested in the history of mathematics and only have a passing familiarity with the subject, then this book will serve as a good introduction. But if you're looking for something a bit meatier or more technical, then this won't satisfy your needs.


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