Cookbooks: June – July 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms and foodies, with the exception of one wet week the temperatures have been soaring here in the UK, so it was the perfect time to try out these summery new recipes:

Veggie Bean Burgers
Hairy Dieters 2 – Family Favourites – Page 58

Even though I do eat meat, I do love a good bean burger, so for a recent home BBQ I gave this recipe a go. I found them a little messy but easy to make, and they were enjoyed by meat eaters and vegetarian a like. To be cooked in the oven I adapted for the BBQ. While they did stick, more the one use BBQs fault than recipe, they still turned out yummy which is of course the most important thing.

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Tuna Salad with Red Onion and Beans
Hairy Dieters 2 – Snacks and Salads – Page 156

The Hairy Bikers’ take on the Italian classic tonno e fagioli: a filling salad made with tuna, beans, red onion, lettuce, parsley and olives with a tangy dressing. I made the full batch of this and portioned it out in tubs for work lunches when it was far too hot for soup! Not sure about the parsley but everything else worked for me.

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Now this next recipe isn’t technically from a cookbook, however the Co-op Food magazines have some wonderful recipes in that are worth sharing:

Tuscan Bean Soup
Co-op Food – July Edition – Page 11

A light but filling soup that is packed full of the good stuff, including: onion, carrot, red pepper, tomatoes, beans, kale and broccoli. A delicious and simple to make, one pot of joy which was perfect for an easy comforting meal on one of our cooler weekends.

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Finally you may be wondering where is the obligatory curry recipe? Well never fear I certainly didn’t go without curry, however I didn’t try a new recipe. Instead I chose to remake our new favourite Keralan curry. I have also already remade the delicious Beef Stroganoff.

Overall, I think I have had a great month of cooking and I look forward to more. I still have the Plant Based Cookbook by Trish Sebben-Krupka and Super Food Family Classics by Jamie Oliver to read too.

Do you fancy any of these recipes?

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

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New Read: Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem

After enjoying several swashbuckling classics, I was thrilled to be offered the chance to read another, Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem by Emilio Salgari, by its translator Nico Lorenzutti. So I put it on my 10 Books of Summer 2017 list to make sure I got to it at last.

Sandokan, the feared “Tiger of Malaysia”, and his loyal band of rebel pirates are the scourge of the colonial powers of the Dutch and British empires in the South China sea. Mercilessly they roam the seas attacking ships and islands seeking vengeance, wealth and the destruction of their Western oppressors. Then return with their bounty to the safety of their fortified island of Mompracem, where they have lived happily and untouched for many years. But the fate and fortune of Sandokan and his “tigers” is to suddenly change when they learn of the lauded “Pearl of Labuan”.

While on the surface our protagonist Sandokan appears to just be a blood thirsty villain, as we read on we come to discover he is actually a prince, who was brought low to piracy after the British and their local allies murdered his family and stole his throne. Since then Sandokan has sailed the seas in righteous anger. With his faithful friend Yanez De Gomera, a Portuguese wanderer and adventurer, by his side. Yanez is a more charming and cool headed character, who is a more instantly likeable character. But the love and devotion Yanez and the “tigers” have for their leader helps to show a more likeable side to Sandokan.

However everything is to change when Sandokan hears of the extraordinary “Pearl of Labuan” and risks a trip with two of his ships to the island of Labuan in hopes of catching sight of her. Yes her, as the “Pearl” is not the type of treasure you may have first imagined, but instead she is a young Western woman; famed for her beauty, golden hair and her kindness to the natives of the island. Pretty much on first sight Sandokan falls in love with the “Pearl” and decides to move heaven and earth to obtain her. In the process selfishly risking the lives of all his men and their home of Mompracem, although if he didn’t we wouldn’t have an exciting story to read.

Apparently since Emilio Salgari wrote this adventure novel in 1900 it has been, for more than a century, Italy’s second most famous love story. As a modern reader though I couldn’t help thinking the love was all a bit quick and while we are assured it is a mutual feeling, we get to know little about how the lady thinks or feels. In fact she sadly proves to play a small, passive role in the adventure, except for crying and fainting quite a bit. This is a reflection of the time period is was written in though. Fortunately I didn’t pick this up for love. Instead I was looking for adventure and boy did Salgari give me that in spade loads. With battles at sea, deadly storms, jungle ambushes, clandestine meetings, disguises, sharks, faked deaths and impossible odds! And it is this that kept me wanting to read more.

Overall, I thought Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem was a rip-roaring adventure (and love story) that swept me back in time and across the seas to an exotic dangerous land. Good read.

Thank you to the translator for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Have you read this? Or any of Sandokan’s other adventures?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 4/10

New Read: Pyramids

About two years ago, I started to work my way through, from the beginning, the books from the epic Discworld series by Terry Pratchett which my father and I already own between us. Next up was Pyramids the seventh published Discworld novel.

In Pyramids, I was taken to a new-to-me part of Pratchett’s magic, weird and fantastical creation: the tiny kingdom of Djelibeybi (pretty much the Discworld counterpart to Ancient Egypt). This is a land steeped in history; covered in pyramids and obsessed with tradition, which sees its world, quite literally, turned upside down when young Teppic is suddenly thrust upon the throne after the sudden death of his father. It’s bad enough being new on the job, but Teppic hasn’t a clue as to what a pharaoh is supposed to do. And so ensues a boggling, roller coaster ride of mad priests, sacred crocodiles, marching mummies, mathematical camels, a headstrong handmaiden and a monstrous, time and space bending pyramid. Djelibeybi is never going to be the same again!

Our hero Teppic’s ignorance is due to the fact that since childhood he has been away training at Ankh-Morpork’s famed assassins’ school. Now he is a modern stranger in his own backward land. While I often wished he would grow a spine, I certainly sympathised for him as he meets opposition to every change he proposes: from installing plumbing to outlawing the practice of throwing people to the crocodiles! We soon learn the real power lies in the hands of the high priest Dios, who mysteriously seems to have always been there to see tradition is strictly followed. Fortunately along comes the feisty handmaiden Ptraci, who has enough spine, attitude and get up and go for herself, Teppic and the land combined.

Terry Pratchett is a well loved author of mine and I was very sad when he passed. For me the best way to do him tribute is to continue to read and share my thoughts on all his wonderfully fun books. Pyramids is the ninth Discworld novel I have read, but the seventh published, and with my pre-existing love of anything Ancient Egyptian this book was always going to be a winner for me. Although I am now trying to read the books I already own roughly in order, I don’t believe this is a series you necessarily have to read in order, as the stories often follow various different groups of characters. Except for Death, there were no character I recognised in this book so I could have easily read this as a stand alone novel.

Overall, I thought Pyramids was another extremely fun, wacky, Egyptian-inspired instalment in Pratchett’s fantastical Discworld series. I look forward to reading more – the next instalment we own is Reaper Man. Great read.

Have you read this? What are your favourite Discworld novels?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 3/10

Adaptations: June 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms and adaptation lovers, here are the adaptations I watched during June:

Wonder Woman (2017)
Not Read     Film     Cinema

After enjoying Batman vs Superman last year, I have been looking forward to this 4th instalment in the DC Extended Universe, which focuses on the Amazonian princess Diana who, believing it is her destiny, sets out to end World War I and in doing so becomes Wonder Woman. This is a CGI spectacular however what really makes it is Gal Gadot: she is perfect as the sensitive almost naïve Diana as well as the super, kick-ass Wonder Woman! You go girl!

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Return to Cranford (2009)
Read     TV Series     Television

A Christmas special of the BBC’s popular period drama, inspired by Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford Chronicles, which sees Judi Dench and a wonderful ensemble cast return to the small, rural town of Cranford for more nostalgic and touching stories. While there are a lot of changes and additions from the original, this series does capture beautifully the mood and atmosphere.

**


Sleepy Hollow (Series 4)
Not Read     TV Series     Television

This is the fourth and final series of this supernatural crime drama, which is loosely based on Irving Washington’s short story. Even more loosely based than usual as this series saw the action move to Washington DC. While I still loved our hero Ichabod Crane and all the different monsters and myths he faces, I was less keen on his new companions. I missed Abi! Looks like I wasn’t the only one because the fifth series has been cancelled.

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Also ITV3 have been re-running the nostalgic crime series Endeavour, so I have been able to enjoy re-watches of the pilot episode, series 1 and 2. On the same channel, I was also able to finally watch one of the illusive episodes of crime series Lewis that I missed first time around. While on the BBC I enjoyed a brilliant re-watch of Daniel Craig’s first Bond film, Casino Royale (2006). Altogether that’s seven and a bit adaptations watched this month!

As for non-adaptations, I watched the heart pounding 6th series of US political drama Homeland and the rollercoaster 10th series of Doctor Who, which is the final run for the 12th Doctor: Peter Capaldi. Now, the big question is who will step into the Time Lord’s shoes next?!

Have you watched any of these? What have you been watching recently?

Goodbye June, Hello July 2017

Hello my fellow bookworms, I hope you are all well? Wow, June has been a crazy month for me: with a school trip to the Butterfly Farm; catching up with a friend and her new baby girl; finishing the last module of my church course (assignment still to go); an inspection from the Ofsted team at work and finally I went to see Puccini’s opera, Madam Butterfly. Phew! Sadly my anxiety has been all over the place too – thankfully though I have had some wonderful books to chill out and escape with at home. Here’s what I read:

Fiction: 4          Non-Fiction: 0

As it was again a busy time for me at the beginning of June, like last month, I found myself reaching for another short story collection, Sandlands by Rosy Thornton – an enchanting collection of stories about the nature, lives and history of Suffolk, which was perfect to squeeze in when I had a moment or two. Next finding myself yearning for the past, I read First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson. This brilliant piece of historical fiction, that follows Jasper Tudor during the War of the Roses, had me enthralled from beginning to end.

Then at the peak of the month, I escaped all my busyness and anxiety with Pyramids by Terry Pratchett, an extremely fun, Egyptian-inspired instalment in Pratchett’s fantastical Discworld series. Finally, through out June, I was dipping in and out of the swashbuckling Italian classic Sandokan, The Tigers of Mompracem by Emilio Salgari and I finished reading it on the very last day of the month. My full thoughts on these last two books are still to be posted, so keep your eyes peeled for them in July.

Unusually for me I finished no non-fiction books this month and all these fictions I read were off my list for the 10 Books of Summer 2017 challenge, which runs all summer long till the beginning of September and four books is a great start!

Pick of the Month: Sandlands

Altogether that is four books read in June, while that is an average amount for me to read the quality of reading was high. During the month, I also had the audiobook Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and the memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham on the go. Then at the end of the month, I started reading Wendy Darling, Volume 3: Shadow by Colleen Oakes, the final book in Oakes’ young adult series inspired by J M Barrie’s classic Peter Pan.

In July, I look forward to a quiet wind down to the end of term, especially now that the long awaited Ofsted inspection has come and gone.  Plus I look forward to more great reading, in particular from my 10 Books of Summer challenge list.

What did you do and read in June? What are your plans for July?

New Read: First of the Tudors

Having previously enjoyed Joanna Hickson’s Red Rose, White Rose about Cecily Neville, a figure torn between both sides in the War of the Roses, I was really looking forward to trying this, her newest historical novel, First of the Tudors.

In this new novel, Hickson again takes us back to the War of the Roses, however this time we are firmly on the Lancastrian side, as this story focuses on Jasper Tudor. Jasper is the younger son of Queen Catherine and her second husband, Owen Tudor, who has grown up far from the intrigue of the royal court. But as young men, he and his older brother Edmund are summoned to London, by their half-brother, King Henry VI, who takes a keen interest in their futures – bestowing Earldoms on them both which helps to bolster the support around him and his precarious hold on the throne.

Until now Jasper Tudor has been one of those key historical figures that is always there on the perimeter of many a historical novel. So I was thrilled when I heard Hickson had chosen him to be the protagonist for this, and what an excellent job she has done bringing him to life. Jasper comes across as a sensible, loyal, brave and intelligent man, who has a true affection for his fragile king and takes real care in the responsibilities he is given. And he will need all his guile and courage to preserve the throne and his family from the rising threat of their Yorkist cousins.

As well as seeing Jasper through all the political intrigue and hard battles, we also see him as a loving family man. His first, thwarted, love was for the heiress Margaret Beaufort, who had a short and doomed marriage to his brother Edmund, and his devotion to her never wavers. Fortunately he does find true comfort in the arms of Jane Hywel, a Welsh cousin. While Jane is a fictional character, Hickson has cleverly pieced her together from a real name and the fact Jasper did have two illegitimate daughters. Jane is also our second narrator through whom we have a window into the domestic life of Jasper, which helps to make him a more well rounded, believable and likeable character; and their love gives a more personal jeopardy to the war.

Overall, I thought First of the Tudors was a brilliantly researched and written piece of historical fiction, that had me enthralled from the beginning to the end; my only niggle would be I wanted more! However at the end of the book, Hickson’s promises another book from the point-of-view of Jasper’s nephew Henry, so I look forward to that. Great 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 read anything else about Jasper Tudor?

10 Books of Summer 2017 – 2/10

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read in 2017 (So Far!)

blog-top-ten-tuesdayTop 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:

Best Books You’ve Read In 2017 So Far

It was suggested that we could break this topic down however we wanted – by genre, strictly 2017 releases, whatever! However I have kept it simple, here are my favourite books I have read, so far, this year (in the order in which I read them):

~ 1 ~

If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg

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~ 2 ~

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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~ 3 ~

My Lady Ludlow by Elizabeth Gaskell

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~ 4 ~

Seven Stages by Geoffrey Trease

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~ 5 ~

The People the Fairies Forget by Cheryl Mahoney

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~ 6 ~

Monstrous Little Voices edited by David Thomas Moore

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~ 7 ~

My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

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~ 8 ~

Sandlands by Rosy Thornton

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~ 9 ~

First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson

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~ 10 ~

Pyramids

Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

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What are your favourite books of the year so far? Also, please link in the comments if you have taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic too.