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Graeme Wright "book worm" (salford)
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The World's Best Street Food: Where to Find it & How to Make it (Lonely Planet Pictorials)
The World's Best Street Food: Where to Find it & How to Make it (Lonely Planet Pictorials)
by Celeste Brash
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Taste Of Travel, 26 Mar. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
You can always trust Lonely Planet to come up with something exciting and different in the realm of travel writing and this new compendium of street food from around the world certainly fits the bill. Divided quite naturally into Savoury and Sweet sections the hundred entries give brief notes on the origins, descriptions and traditions of some fairly ecletic foods along with a recipe, authentic or adapted, for each one. Admittedly some of the street foods included are of the 'grandmother and sucking eggs' school - does anyone honestly need a recipe for hot dogs? - and the national stereotypes are a little laboured - you're more likely to see somebody walking down an English high street eating a cheese and onion pasty from a well known chain of bakers/fast food outlets than the real Cornish version. However, such petty grievances to one side this book opens up the culinary world in all its sensual glory; the sight of golden triangles of pastry filled with egg, tuna and harissa, the Brik of Tunisia; the aroma of spices, chilli, shrimp and coriander simmering slowly in a Sarawak Laksa from Malaysia; the crunchy texture of biting into freshly fried Takoyaki, fritters of octopus seasoned with green seaweed powder and bonito flakes from Japan; the chilled velvet cushion that surrounds the taste buds with that first spoon ful of Italian Gelato.
There are some unlikely offerings to try as well - the Walkie - Talkies from South Africa are literally stewed chicken feet and heads, Stinky Tofu from Taiwan is bean curd which is fermented for between a few days and several months before being deep-fried and served with sour cabbage and fiery sauce and Uruguay's Chivito al Pan, a sort of supersize steak sandwich with added bacon, ham, mozzarella, hard boiled egg and pickles - just the sort of snack to fit in between meals while wandering through Montevideo.
The recipes by and large seem easy to follow with getable ingredients although I would have preferred quantities in metric or imperial/metric rather than the vague cup and teaspoon measures. A helpful index has listing both by country and by type of dish, a detail which more and more publishers seem to be following with this type of book. Handy for the backpacker and coffee table "traveller" alike this book will reawaken pleasant (and possibly painful) memories, stir imaginations and prove inspirational for some adventurous dinner party menu planning. Come Dine With Me may never be the same again!


Potiche [DVD] [2010]
Potiche [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Catherine Deneuve
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Political Yet Mild French Comedy, 26 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Potiche [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Set in the late 1970s Francois Ozon's adaptation of a play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy is a graceful and gentle comedy with some wonderful dialogue, a great soundtrack and a wonderful feel for the period. As Suzanne, the trophy wife of umbrella factory owner Robert Pujol (played by Fabrice Luchini) Catherine Deneuve suitably underplays her role at first, very unnerving for one of France's strongest actresses of the past thirty or so years. It is only after the factory workers go on strike and her character becomes head of the company that Deneuve's presence and strength really come to the fore. The casting of Gerard Depardieu as union militant and Suzanne's former lover gives the audience the chance to wallow in the firework display which happens when Deneuve and Depardieu are on screen together - Tracey and Hepburn, Burton and Taylor and Gere and Roberts had very similar chemistry.
In French with English subtitles this is a film to smile along with rather than a laugh out loud comedy and if like me your French is not as good as it used to be you will find yourself speed reading the subtitles to keep up with the dialogue at times. Not as witty as Ozon's earlier films such as Swimming Pool and 8 Femmes, Potiche is nevertheless a stylish, mildly amusing and inoffensive movie.


Cefalonia [DVD]
Cefalonia [DVD]
Dvd ~ Luca Zingaretti
Price: £5.99

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Believable Than Hollywood, 26 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Cefalonia [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This made-for-television drama was, at its initial release, compared to the Hollywood version of the same story, Captain Corelli's Mandolin which was in turn based, albeit loosely on Louis de Berniere's novel of the same name. My initial criticism of the Hollywood version was that Nicolas Cage, though a fine actor, was no Italian army captain and, more perversely, Penelope Cruz was definitely no Greek peasant girl. Along with a typical Hollywood hatchet job on the outstanding original book the film of Captain Corelli's Mandolin was decidely out of tune.
It was with some trepidation then that I approached Cefalonia, a film directed by Italian television veteran Riccardo Milani. This film is based more on the politics of the time, September 1943, when Italian forces occupying the Greek island of Cefalonia were faced with the choice of agreeing to the terms of the armistice between Italy and the Allied forces, surrendering to the co-occupying German forces or siding with the Greek resistance and fighting the Nazis. They elected on the third choice.
Milani's film tells the story with both compassion and a steady focus on historical fact; many of the incidents which occur throughout de Berniere's book are based on documented actuality and this film underlines that attention to detail. The acting, generally, is of a very high standard from a predominantly Italian cast, the cinematography is professionally handled and thrives on the landscape and location, the sound, at times a little out of balance, is acceptable and the music by Ennio Morricone is as good as many of his more lavish soundtracks for bigger budget films.
Cefalonia tells a great story the way it was intended to be told and does so with humanity and style.


Wink Murder
Wink Murder
by Ali Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Treading Softly in the Tracks of the Masters, 26 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Wink Murder (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The psychological suspense novel has, for many years been one of the most popular, most anticipated and, for the authors and their agents, one of the most lucrative genres of modern fiction. A new voice, Ali Knight, now joins the popular favourites such as Patricia Cornwell, Val McDermid and Sarah Dunant and this, her debut novel, is no poor relation.
The plot, though a little contrived (husband returns home unusually drunk and covered in blood, later one of his female employees is discovered murdered, wife unsure whether to contact police or remain loyal)is nonetheless played out slowly and carefully throughout the book. Knight's main characters, however, are too two dimensional to really create much empathy from the reader and their dialogue is, at times, implausible and a touch repetitive. And the title? It really is so bad as to be memorable, a bizarre USP in itself. The main strength of the book though is the plot and the building suspense of how well a wife knows her husband. Knight plays her hand with a professionalism honed in British journalism and writes with confidence and candour. Interestingly the narrative is in the present tense which, though well suited to this genre, is all too rarely found. I look forward to Ali Knight's next novel but just hope that she can improve on the title.


Wrecking Ball (Deluxe)
Wrecking Ball (Deluxe)
Price: £5.91

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meet The New Boss, 19 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Wrecking Ball (Deluxe) (Audio CD)
January 2013 marks the fortieth anniversary of the release of Bruce Springsteen's debut album 'Greetings From Asbury Park', a record which had few followers initially but which grew in popularity the more it was played and got talked about. Wrecking Ball should hold no such deliberation or uncertainty; Springsteen not only takes advantage of all his experiences from the years in between but has a more mature, broader and critical outlook on life and the world than when he sang 'Mary Queen of Arkansas' and 'Blinded By The Light' back in the day. The 2012 model is more politicized, more roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-stuck-into-sorting-America-out and, no bad thing for a man in his sixties, louder than the 1973 model which is just as well because there are a lot of things happening in 2012 that Mr Springsteen is not too happy about.
Bankers are his main target on Wrecking Ball - bankers, their industry, their corporate corruption and their general greed to be more precise. These themes are dealt with in various ways on around half the tracks on the album, the standouts being 'Easy Money', a folk tinged protest song with swirling violin which sounds as if it's straight from the Seeger Sessions band and 'Death To My Hometown' which blends an Irish feel with gospel and African tribal singing in a wonderful soup of bitterness and disdain aimed at the sort of money men who can make - but just as easily break - whole communities. Springsteen's traditional stadium anthems look likely to be joined by album opener 'We Take Care Of Our Own', an emotive battle cry of unity in the face of unnamed adversity and the title track which has strength, defiance and belief in equal measures combined with a driving beat and the sort of horn section that fills you with joy. 'Land Of Hopes And Dreams', a live favourite for at least ten years finally gets the studio treatment and proves to be even more powerful now than it did on The Rising tour. The inclusion of the late Clarence Clemons' blistering saxophone solo serves as the greatest tribute Springsteen could pay to his friend and "the force of nature that was his sound". 'We Are Alive' is a curious little song mixing biblical references, voices of ghosts from down the years, an instrumental snippet from 'Ring Of Fire', hand clapping, banjo, mandolin and some truly thunderous drumming from E Street stalwart Max Weinberg.
Of the bonus tracks 'American Land' is infinitely the stronger with a beat borrowed from The Pogues, a vocal style more akin to Steve Earle, a tsunami of backing vocals and exactly the sort of chest thumping patriotic anthem that Bruce Spingsteen has unashamedly claimed as his own ever since Born In The USA. In a nutshell, Wrecking Ball is an album which can submerge you in all the muddied waters of politically motivated hell then the next minute lift you soaring above the clouds on wings of eternal hope. The new Boss is certainly not the same as the old one and for that we should all be just a little more grateful.


Hide and Seek: (Karin Schaeffer 2)
Hide and Seek: (Karin Schaeffer 2)
by Katia Lief
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Forgettable Title, Unforgettable Book, 14 Mar. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the first Katia Lief book I have read but if her others are half as good as this it certainly wont be the last. The plot, in summary, revolves around an ex cop, Karin Schaeffer and her second husband, also an ex cop, Mac who are piecing their lives back together after the brutal murder of Karin's first husband and daughter. With more twists and turns than the Monaco Grand Prix this is a force ten storm of a book involving Mexican drug cartels, double agents, hidden pasts and suburban shoot-outs. Lief's style is similar to the acclaimed British writing partnership, Nicci French with plausible storylines, authentic dialogue and subtle changes from action to prose and back again. This all helps to give the book a near perfect balance between crime and psychological thriller, a genre with many 'jacks' but too few 'masters'.
My only real gripe about this book is the title. Even the most basic of searches on Amazon will discover at least half a dozen books with the same or very similar name; for a book to stand head and shoulders above the competition - as this deserves to - it needs to look and sound unique. It seems the cruelest of ironies that an author can spend six months or so perfecting the words which make up three hundred and forty pages of a book and yet fall down on the three or so which make up the title. That said, Hide and Seek is a suitable introduction to Katia Lief's writing and is the sort of unputdownable thriller which flexes its muscles with pride.


Voices of the Dead
Voices of the Dead
by Peter A. Leonard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Well Travelled Strasse, 4 Mar. 2012
This review is from: Voices of the Dead (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Peter Leonard's debut, Quiver took the literary world by storm in 2008 followed the following year by Trust Me, a similar hard-boiled thriller with more grit than your average driveway. For his fourth novel Leonard has edged out of his comfort zone into the well defined genre of post war Nazi conspiracy. The result, unfortunately, is not a pretty read.
In 1971 Harry Levin, a Detroit based scrap metal dealer is told that his grown up daughter has been killed in a car collision in Washington DC. Furthermore the other driver, a German business man with political aspirations by the name of Hess has been given diplomatic immunity and will not face any charges. Harry follows Hess to Munich seeking vengeance, justice and answers in equal measure. Up to this point the book moves smoothly between 1971 and 1942, the latter being when Harry is a young German Jew escaping from Dachau where his parents have been killed. Once Harry sets foot on Bavarian soil in search of Hess, however, the plot begins to quickly unravel into a confusion of car chases, attempted kidnappings, assassinations and the sort of contrived situations that are usually only found in pulp fiction. Aided and abetted by some poorly developed stereotypical characters, details repeated almost as evidence that the author has definitely done his research and some very wooden dialogue the book draws slowly and clumsily towards its inevitable and somewhat silly conclusion. The ending has been described as a cliffhanger - the sequel is promised for 2013. On the evidence of this book I, for one, will not be waiting with baited breath for its release. Instead I shall patiently wait for Mr Leonard to return to his comfort zone and the sort of reliability and quality that we know he is capable of
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 28, 2013 4:42 PM GMT


Hope and Glory: The Days that Made Britain
Hope and Glory: The Days that Made Britain
by Stuart Maconie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 20th Century Man, 21 Jan. 2012
Stuart Maconie - writer, DJ, journalist and now social historian. In his latest book Maconie puts the last century under the microscope and uncovers ten days which helped to form and characterize not just Britain but also, as an extension, the rest of the world. Choosing just one red letter day from each decade is no mean feat given the enormity of "progress" and advancement made in the fields of science, social reform, industry, the arts and all round quality of life over the past one hundred years or so but Maconie has deliberately broadened his parametres to embrace everything from the rise of the suffragette movement, through the human price paid for the First World War, the near revolution of the General Strike, the conquest of Everest through to the lifting of the Jules Rimet Trophy by Bobby Moore, Live Aid and Labour's landslide victory in 1997.
Sensibly, and such is his style, Maconie has embelished each day's momentousness with background information, prequels to the main events and their consequences. This not only helps to see each event in full context but also allows the author ample opportunity to reminisce, speculate, travel the country and ramble freely, both in a travelling sense as well as a writing one. At times the relevance of these ramblings to the main subjects do become a little tenuous but are nonetheless as entertaining as the middle ground; for example the chapter entitled 'Rivers of Blood', deals not only with Enoch Powell's infamous speech, the landing of MV Empire Windrush bringing 482 Jamaicans to Britain and the changing attitudes which linked these two events but also with the author's investigative journeys to Handsworth and Thetford to discover modern, multi-cultural Britain for himself. Such welding of historical fact to more current subjective journalism is nothing new but, in the hands of an amateur, can appear seriously misguided. Thankfully Maconie is a seasoned professional and this shines out from virtually every page. This is a book which will demystify, educate and entertain in equal measures. To most readers it will also amuse - after all, we British have earned a reputation for being able to laugh at ourselves, haven't we?


200 Super Soups: Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook
200 Super Soups: Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook
by Sara Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Put Away The Tin Opener, 16 Jan. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Of all the victims of the fast food revolution Soup must surely be one of the most maligned. From globulous, luridly coloured slurries out of cans to the grainy, limpid excuses that are mixed with hot, not boiling, water "instant" soup has had a pretty bad press on the whole. Help, however, is at hand with Hamlyn's affordable and approachable guide to making two hundred different ones along with tips on making your own stock and garnishes.
There really is something for everyone here whether you have minutes or hours to spare, whether you want something to welcome you in from frost and snow or cool you down in the Summer, keep the calories down or push the boat out with. The index is very helpfully organized by main ingredient as well as soup name thereby allowing the unprepared cook with, for example, a chicken as the main ingredient to choose from the fifteen soups listed. Ingredients as humble as eggs or bread and as exotic as tamarind and yam are simillarly treated. Current favourites are Hungarian Chorba, a chunky, rustic warmer of lamb, root vegetables and rice with smoked paprika and dill, onion, tomato and chickpea soup with added heat from harissa paste and cheesy butternut squash soup, an excellent way to use up parmesan rind!
Every recipe is accompanied by an excellently food styled photograph to make the taste buds even more expectant. With books like this one the grainy sludge at the bottom of a mug may soon be a distant, easily forgotten memory.


Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World (Lonely Planet Personal Develop)
Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World (Lonely Planet Personal Develop)
by Alex Leviton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Netting the Butterfly, 16 Jan. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Happiness. Poets have written odes to it, songwriters have searched for it, politicians have even commissioned surveys about it. Money, apparently, can't buy it but those clever people at Lonely Planet have scoured the world to find all the places were happiness can easily be found. Divided into 'Mind', 'Body' and 'Spirit' this enjoyable little book can take you off to Shinto temples in Japan to write your hopes and desires on small wooden plaques, to Thailand in order to release paper lanterns during the twelfth full moon of the Thai calendar, to the songlines of Arnhem Land to reconnect with place during the Garma Festival and, nearer to home, an Irish ceilidh for a spot of let-your-hair-down dancing.
Many of the entries are, admittedly, fairly obvious - Thanksgiving Day, yoga, la passeggiata among them - and not necessarily guaranteed to bring happiness, instant or otherwise - self transcendence marathons in New York City in the middle of Summer sounds quite the opposite - while others are so totally leftfield that they almost tempt you to contact travel agents instantly - India's colourful, though messy, Holi festival when everyone's inner child is released by dousing each other with water and handfuls of coloured powder or Mongolia's Tsagaan Sar when families come together and the elders are respected with clasped arms and blue silk scarves.
Anna Pavlova once described happiness as being like a butterfly, delighting for a moment before flitting away. This evocative addition to Lonely Planet's increasing library helps us to hold onto that moment just that little bit longer.


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