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Showing posts from November, 2013

Paul Hollywood's Pies and Puds

Pies and puds are part of the great heritage of warm and delicious foods that keep people well-fed and cosy in the long and dark winters.  My problem is that I obtained this book from at the wrong time.  It's blazing hot here, and we also suffer from the ghastly humidity of our absolutely rotten summer. (Unfortunately, I can't live anywhere else at the moment).

Paul Hollywood provides detailed instructions and pictures to help even beginners cook these delicious-looking pies and puddings.  He also lists all the implements that readers need.  I am going to buy the book and wait for cooler nights in the somewhat less humid winter to try them out.  Even the instructions for pastry look simple!

Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

(Public Domain image)

This is a moving and haunting book about death and how to live one's life.  I did find it difficult to get through, however, because there are so many deaths and it's really pretty morbid.

Bellman, a talented entrepreneur, lives a tragic life.  He eventually decides to build a mourning emporium, so he makes a bargain with a mysterious  man called Black.  Black keeps appearing at funerals, and Bellman must attempt to work out who he is and what he wants.

Rooks are a pervading theme of this eerie and riveting book.  With its lyrical writing and strange story, this book by Diane Setterfield well-worth reading.

Not for Turning: The Life of Margaret Thatcher by Robin Harris

Mrs Thatcher described her Cabinet as 'rock solid - afterwards' when the Falklands War was over.  This book by her speechwriter and close adviser profiles her single-minded determination and her rise from a 'housewife/ accountant' to a world statesman.  It is a detailed look at her rise to power and her controversial leadership.

Harris's accounts of the special relationship with America and the Prime Minister's relationship with European leaders are especially interesting.  I also found the description of the Falklands War interesting - Thatcher dealt with this in a particularly authoritative manner, and she was widely praised at the time for restoring Britain's power and prestige by winning the war.  Amazingly, she had to cope with it largely on her own, because most of her Cabinet were against her.  Harris also provides lots of details about Mrs Thatcher's fight with the trade unions.

I was surprised that he hardly writes anything about Thatcher and …

J.F.K. Conservative by Ira Stoll

I love to read about the Kennedys, but many of the books about them are dull.  This isn't, and I highly recommend it.

Stoll argues persuasively and succinctly that many liberals have the wrong ideas about Kennedy.  This deeply religious Catholic President believed that individual rights come from God, and he went out of his way to practise his religion and to quote from the Bible.  He stressed the importance of America's Christian heritage constantly in his speeches.

Kennedy was also conservative in many other ways.  He increased military spending, entered the space race because of the importance of beating the Russians, and he regarded fighting the evils of Communism as one of the keystones of his Presidency.  He hated Castro and he regarded Kruschev as a 'gangster' and he realised that freedom requires constant vigilance.

He was also a fiscal conservative.  He wanted a sound dollar, low inflation, a growing economy and low government spending.  He introduced tax cuts…

Upstairs at the White House by J.B. West and Mary Lynn Kotz

J. B. West served as Deputy Usher and Chief Usher under several presidents and organised countless functions and renovations.  He relates many amusing and entertaining anecdotes, such as the First Lady walking in on the Norwegian princess's gentleman-in-waiting when he was undressed and the problem of Molotov having a gun in his suitcase.  He also gives an insight into the characters of the First Ladies and their relationships with their husbands.  For example, he tells his readers about Mamie Eisenhower's imperious nature, generosity to her servants, love of the seasons and her great love for her husband.  She even lived with her husband in the hospital when he was sick.

This is light, easy to read, and an enjoyable book. I recommend it for lovers of American history.

Breathless: An American Girl in Paris by Nancy K. Miller

(Photo by Paolo Neo)

I was disappointed in this book, and I've only read the first chapters.  I felt that it was more about Nancy K. Miller's relationships with men, than how she learned to be a sophisticated, elegant Parisian.  However, perhaps I didn't give it enough time.  My advice is to read A Girl in Paris by Shasha Guppy instead.

Interview with Terence Jenkins, Author of Further Afield

Terence Jenkins, the author of the fascinating book, Further Afield, kindly agreed to do this interview recently.  It was wonderful to learn more about his book, and I also asked him his advice for writers.

1) I noticed that your other books are about London.  Why did you 
decide to go 'Further Afield'? 

1 I called my latest book ‘Further Afield’ because the previous three had been ‘Another Man’s London’, ‘London Lives’, and ‘London Tales’ so I thought it would make a change to widen my circle (even though there were two or three chapters about the Capital in it).

2) How did you choose your subjects? 

 Sometimes, the subjects chose me because I happened upon them when I was wandering about London. The French have a word for people like me, ’flaneur’,it means someone ‘who is a stroller, who ambles through cities without apparent purpose in covert search of adventure’. I usually strike lucky and meet someone who wants to chat or tell me their story, show me some place or something. I…

The League of Delphi by Chris Everheart

(Theatre at Delphi by Leonid Svetkov at Wikipedia)

When Zach returns to his small town in America from France, he discovers a series of questions.  Why does no one care when Sutton commits suicide?  Can he trust Ashley or should he trust her beautiful sister Kate? Why is the town's college so heavily fortified, and why is the library like a fortress?  Why is the town run by a Committee?

When he starts to dig deeper and discover the answers to these questions, it leads him to a dangerous conspiracy that goes right back to ancient Greece.  He must find out who his real friends are, and escape from his enemies. He must endure fearful chases through tunnels and dark streets, but the rewards are great, because he will finally learn the truth about his parents.

I enjoyed this exciting novel by Chris Everheart, and I cheered Zach and Ashley on as they try to find out the truth about the horrors that are happening in their small town.  This will keep you awake late into the night!

First Victory by Mike Carlton

Mike Carlton tells an exciting story about the chase for the Emden, the small ship that wrought a wave of destruction on its way to the South Pacific, and Australia's fight against the Germans, who owned several colonies in the Pacific and threatened the country's trade with Britain.

There are lots of fascinating characters and enjoyable anecdotes in this book - certainly not a dry history!