Cookbooks: July – August 2016

Cookbooks Update

My fellow bookworms, there is one other thing I love as much as books and adaptations, and that is food! I am lucky enough to have all four of The Hairy Dieters cookbooks, from the nation’s beloved ‘Hairy Biker’ chefs, and I have not long finished reading through Jamie Oliver’s Save with Jamie.

Hairy Dieters #1

With the mixed weather, we invariably get here in the UK, this summer I have been eating salads but I have also tried these more hearty recipes from The Hairy Dieters:

Spicy Bean and Vegetable Stew
Book 1 – Stews – Page 97

My best friend has recently become a vegetarian, so when she came round recently I cooked this really hearty and comforting stew which is substantial enough to please veggies and meat eaters alike. I served it with a good lump of carrot, potato and cauliflower mash. Yum!


Paprika Chicken
Book 1 – Stews – Page 101

Looking to use some chicken thighs I had in the freezer I decided to try this low-calorie version of the popular Romanian dish of Paprikash. I’ve never tried it before, but I love paprika and I already had most of the ingredients in so I thought I’d give it a whirl. Tasty and easy to make – I will definitely be making this again.


Rich and Meaty Bolognese
Book 1 – Pasta & Rice – Page 164

A hearty, classic dish of mince beef and veggies slow-cooked in a rich herby, tomato sauce – if you are dieting they suggest serving this on a bed of lightly cooked cabbage or a small portion of pasta. I am no stranger to cooking bolognese, however I liked the addition of chilli flakes and courgette in this recipe and I will be making it this way again.


Save With Jamie

My family, friends and I love a curry – we often treat ourselves to a takeaway on a Friday night but they can often be unhealthy and rather expensive. As a replacement here is the latest recipe I have tried, this time from Jamie Oliver:

My Sag Aloo
Save with Jamie – Veg Recipes – Page 36

A classic Indian dish of spicy potato and spinach that could be served as a side to a curry or as a meal in it’s on right. As Jamie recommends, I served it wrapped in lettuce leaves with a good dollop of raita (mint and cucumber yoghurt) on top. Simple to make, cheap, well balanced and delicious.


Hairy Dieters #4

I also recently got my hands on Hairy Dieters: Fast Food, which is the 4th cookbook, which I still need to read through. So keep your eyes peeled for upcoming recipes from that as well as the other cookbooks.

Do you fancy any of these recipes?

What cookbooks are you reading? Have you tried any new recipes?

New Books: August 2016

New Books - Aug #3

Hello my fellow bookworms, after being so good in July I am now bringing you my second new books post in August, oops! Here are more goodies I have added to my bookshelf:

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

On a recent trip to my hair dressers I had the chance to browse in some of my favourite bookshops. First, in the St. Giles hospice books shop I was pleased to find these two books. I am always looking to add to my Pratchett collection and this is a new-to-me story. And, after enjoying Ibbotson’s lovely young adults novel I have been keeping my eyes peeled for her children’s novels to try.

New Books - Aug #4

Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

The Adventures & Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

Next, on the same trip I went in the Oxfam bookshop and found another two books. First, I found a nice compilation of Sherlock Holmes stories – I have previously read and loved these but that was on my Kindle; I am now pleased to have a physical copy for my bookshelf. Then, I was thrilled to find Moon Over Soho the second book in Ben Aaronovitch’s fantasy, crime series, because I already have book one and five on my TBR pile.

New Books - Aug #5

Surprised by Hope by Hope by Tom Wright

Finally, in the post arrived a second-hand copy of this Christian non-fiction which is the October required book for my church’s new book club. I am currently reading The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson for our first meeting in September.

Do you fancy any of these? What new book purchases have you made recently?

The Classics Club: Mr Harrison’s Confessions

Mr Harrisons Confession

Having long wanted to read something by Elizabeth Gaskell, I finally got the push I needed when I picked up The Cranford Chronicles. After loving the eponymous Cranford I decided to continue the chronicles with Mr Harrison’s Confessions.

We join Mr Harrison by the fireside in his comfortable, well-kept home as his bachelor friend, Charles, presses him to tell how he wooed such a fine wife. And so Mr Harrison takes us back to when he first came to the small, rural town of Duncombe as a young, worldly but naïve man. Newly qualified as a doctor, Harrison has been promised a partnership in an easy, country practice by a family friend. It is to be anything but easy in this insular, provincial town, where everybody knows everybody’s business and which is ruled over by gossiping middle-aged women. Before long, the poor, young doctor after several misunderstandings and misplaced comments finds himself accused of being engaged to three women! None of which are the Vicar’s angelic daughter, Sophy, whom he really loves.

I must admit to be rather disappointed this wasn’t set in Cranford! (Especially as the BBC’s 2007 TV adaptation merged the novellas into the one setting) However I can see how this story has been placed in this chronicles because of the small town setting and the predominantly female residents. Here, unlike Cranford though, men are not feared or believed to be nuisances but instead quite the opposite. Poor, young doctor Harrison is coveted, pulled from pillar to post and practically fought over! Mothers try to set him with their daughters and every spinster seems to have their eye on him; all stirred up by the town gossips! So while I didn’t always ‘like’ the characters they were very amusing to read about.

While Cranford was a steady, touching and meticulous tale of women’s’ lives in genteel poverty, this is much more a chaotic and farcical tale of a young man not at all prepared for the furore his presence will cause in a small community of women. There was still Gaskell’s detailed and personable style which made me feel I was really there by the fire hearing the older and (hopefully) wiser Harrison’s confessions of his youthful blunders. I was slightly less endeared with the characters in this novella however it was comforting to travel back in time with Gaskell again and there were still some very poignant moments, in relation to Harrison’s treatment of genuine patients.

Mr Harrison’s Confessions is a charming, comedy of errors set in a small, provincial town. I look forward to completing The Cranford Chronicles with the final tale of My Lady Ludlow. Good read.

Have you read this? Or anything else by Elizabeth Gaskell?

The Classics Club – 46/50
The Women’s Classic Literature Event – #7

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books with a Fantasy Setting

Blog - Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Books With X Setting

This week’s topic is one we can personalise – we could go with books set near the beach, books set in boarding school, books set in England, etc. I am a big fan of fantasy books and fairy tales, so I have decided to share my top ten books set in a fantasy world (ordered alphabetically):

~ 1 ~

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum

Set in the merry old land of Oz, where we travel the yellow brick road to the shining Emerald City.

~ 2 ~

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Set in Wonderland – a surreal, dream like place reached through a rabbit hole.

~ 3 ~

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Set in the brutal, dystopian state of Panem where people are separated into strict districts.

~ 4 ~

The Dark Tower by Stephen King

Set across All-World – a collection of parallel worlds which have started to bleed into each other as the old magic dies.

~ 5 ~

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

Set in the magical, winter-bound land of Narnia; discovered at the back of an old wardrobe.

~ 6 ~

A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin

Set across the epic Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.

~ 7 ~

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett

Set on the magical Discworld which rides on the backs of four elephants, who in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle.

~ 8 ~

Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Set in Camp Half-Blood – a secret refuse for the children of the Ancient Greek Gods from us mundane mortals.

~ 9 ~

Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling

Set in the Wizarding World which secretly coincides alongside us muggles (non-magical folk).

~ 10 ~

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

Set across the epic, diverse and old Middle-Earth.

What are your favourite books with a fantasy setting? Also, please let me know and link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday rewind.

New Read: The School Inspector Calls!

The School Inspector Calls!

Last month, I enjoyed reading, the second book in Barton-in-the-Dale series, Trouble at the Little Village by Gervase Phinn. So much so I didn’t wait too long to continue reading this delightful series with the third book, The School Inspector Calls!

Barton-in-the-Dale’s small village school was in trouble, big trouble. In stepped a new head teacher, Mrs Devine, in her red high heel shoes. Who with her hard work and a fresh approach has not only saved the little school from closure but has now been appointed as the new head teacher for the new integrated school; of Barton and the neighbouring Urebank school. Now, in book 3, we get see the hard realities that face Mrs Devine as she tries to amalgamate the two schools and staff. With absolutely no help from her new deputy head Mr Richardson, a self-important and condescending man, who is smarting from not being appointed as head teacher himself.

Mrs Devine, or Elizabeth as we get to know her outside of school, is a well dressed, smart, practical and kind woman; in stark contrast to her rival Mr Richardson. Her presence has not only brought about positive changes in the school but also in the lives of many of the villagers too. For me she was the obvious choice for the job but the demands of her new role do take a toll and really shake her confidence. I was rooting for her all the way through! Again though we are not secluded to just the changes at school – it was lovely to find out about the changes in the lives of some of the villagers, as I think the author has come up with a lovely, colourful collection of characters.

I found this another comforting read with it’s small school and village setting, some touching insights into the lives of the villagers, and some lovely touches of humour. The humour, for me, came mostly from the children – working in a school myself I have heard many of the honest, touching and often hilarious things children can come out with! In this book we have the children’s funny comments to the school inspector and the rehearsals for the school’s performance of The Wizard of Oz. There are also some very touching and sad elements: with the troubled new pupil Robbie but also love is blossoming and wedding bells are ringing for more than one pair!

The School Inspector Calls! is a touching and humorous tale of a small school and village, and a very comforting read. I have heard that there is a fourth book which I will need to keep my eyes peeled for. Good read.

Have you read this? Or any of Gervase Phinn’s other novels?

10 Books of Summer – 6/10

New Read: Wendy Darling, Volume I

Wendy Darling

After loving her previous novels, I immediately snapped up a copy of Wendy Darling, Volume I: Stars by Colleen Oakes, the start of her new, young adult series inspired by J M Barrie’s Neverland. Sadly however this book languished for too long on my Kindle until the 10 Books of Summer challenge finally gave me that push I needed to pick it up.

Wendy Darling and her brothers are part of a wealthy family who live a comfortable and conventional life in a town house in London. One clear, starry night their world is to be turned upside down when they are visited by a wild, magical boy, Peter Pan. Who, with the promise of adventures, lures them out of the nursery window and up, up away into the stars and on to Neverland! A magical land of turquoise seas, beautiful beaches, mermaids, pirates and the freedom of life as a Lost Boy. Wendy finds herself intoxicated by the place and Peter, and yet she is plagued with misty memories of home and an annoying sense that all is not as it appears.

I liked how Colleen Oakes, the author, has chosen to tell her re-imagining of Neverland from the point-of-view of Wendy. A young lady, who at the start of the story, is sad about growing up but is also excited by the prospect of love and womanhood. At this hormonal time Wendy easily falls for this beautiful, wild boy who flies through her window without much thought for consequences. I often wanted to give her a jolly good shake for her naivety and emotional weakness however she is a kind character with potential; I hope to see her develop further. Wendy is joined by her brothers: the adorable Michael and the thoroughly dislikeable John, both are completely  immersed in life on Pan Island and do not share any of Wendy’s misgivings.

While I didn’t particularly always ‘like’ the characters I did find that Colleen Oakes re-imagined classic and new characters are realistic and much better fleshed out than in the J M Barrie’s original tale. I also loved being able to delve deeper into the settings too. While I’m not sure I totally bought Oakes’ Edwardian London – I was completely blown away by her description of Neverland. I really could imagine the turquoise seas, sandy beaches, towering peaks, humid jungle, sinister Skull Rock, and the giant, sprawling tree that constitutes Pan Island.

Previously I have read and loved two of Oakes’ previous novels: Volume 1 and Volume 2 of her young adult series Queen of Hearts which is a re-imagining of Lewis Carol’s Wonderland. I enjoyed them so much that they both made it on to my Top 10 Books of 2014. So my expectations were perhaps too high for this new series, Wendy Darling. This first book in the series was again well written, detailed and imaginative however I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous books/series. I think that was simply down to the characters though – which is just my personal taste and not any reflection on the quality of writing or story.

Wendy Darling, Volume I: Stars is an enjoyable fantasy adventure in an expanded, detailed and magical re-imagining of Neverland. I am looking forward to reading Volume 2: Seas to see how the characters develop. Good read.

Thank you to the publishers for providing a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any other books inspired by Peter Pan and Neverland?

10 Books of Summer – 5/10

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Favourite Film Adaptations

Blog - Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. If you love books and making lists, this is the meme for you! This week’s topic is:

REWIND – go back and do a topic missed over the years or recently or a topic you really want to revisit.

I started joining in with this meme earlier this year, so I have plenty of topics I’ve missed. Looking back at the extensive list of previous topics, I have decided to rewind back to Tuesday 9th July 2013 for: Top Ten Best/Worst Book To Movie Adaptations. I love watching adaptations and here are ten of my favourite film adaptations (ordered alphabetically):

~ 1 ~

Blade Runner (1982)

Science-fiction, cult classic based on Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. While the film deviates widely from the original story it sticks closely to the theme of what it means to be human. It is also visually stunning with strong characterisation and some wonderful dialogue. I think I slightly prefer it to the book.

~ 2 ~

Harry Potter (2001-2011)

A highly successful film franchise, with 8 films in total, based on J K Rowling’s magical children’s books. I understand that some of the films are better than others, but for me they are all fun, magical and comforting watches with a wonderful, largely British, cast. Of the films, my personal favourite is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

~ 3 ~

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)

A charming family adventure based on C S Lewis’ classic, children’s fantasy book. For me another magical and comforting watch with a wonderful cast and beautiful visuals. They made adaptations of Prince Caspian (2008) and Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) too, but I don’t think they are quite as good.

~ 4 ~

The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)

Ambitious and highly successful film trilogy based on JRR Tolkien’s classic, high fantasy trilogy. These films still blow me away! Gorgeous cinematography, stunning visuals, stellar cast and you can just tell they were made with some real love.

~ 5 ~

Much Ado About Nothing (1993)

Romantic comedy based on William Shakespeare’s famous play and directed by Kenneth Branagh. A colourful, farcical romp completely made by Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh’s hilarious chemistry.

~ 6 ~

The Railway Children (1970)

A charming family adventure based on Edith Nesbit’s classic children’s book. I grew up watching this wonderful film – it was pretty much shown on television every Christmas holiday! While I enjoyed the later 2000 film too, it just isn’t the same without Bernard Cribbins!

~ 7 ~

The Secret Garden (1993)

A charming family adventure based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s book. This is another wonderful, touching film, starring the legendary Maggie Smith, which I grew up watching and was again pretty much shown on television every Christmas holiday!

~ 8 ~

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

A sumptuous period drama based on Jane Austen’s classic novel; starring the wonderful Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. A beautiful, romantic and touching film that I don’t think I will ever tire of.

~ 9 ~

The Three Musketeers (1973)

A classic, swashbuckling adventure based on Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel. This is another film I grew up watching and while I’ve enjoyed newer adaptations, I still keep coming back to this one. For me you can’t beat Oliver Reed as Athos.

~ 10 ~

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Finally, we have what is probably the best known and most successful adaptation ever made! The epic, colourful and magical musical based on L Frank Baum’s classic, children’s fantasy book. Need I say more?!

What are your favourite film adaptations? Also, please let me know and link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday rewind.