29 June 2011

Food Blogging

So I've abandoned my Baked plan in favour of just blogging about anything particularly interesting/successful/tasty/disastrous that I cook. I got a wonderful book for my birthday that I'd been after for a while called Sky High which is a book of three tier cakes which some really original recipes which I'm quite excited about getting started on. I'm going to make the peanut butter and dark chocolate cake this weekend so whilst I'm still going to be trying plenty of recipes from Baked, I'm widening my scope for what recipes I blog about!

I love reading food blogs. Some of my favourites are:
Smitten Kitchen (http://smittenkitchen.com/)
Desserts for Breakfast (http://www.dessertsforbreakfast.com/)
What Katie Ate (http://www.whatkatieate.blogspot.com/)
The Boy Who Bakes (http://theboywhobakes.co.uk/)

I'd like to include more food related posts as I'm really into cooking, particularly baking which is my other love alongside books so hopefully I'll be able to feature both.

27 June 2011

Review 32: The Confession of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn

I have a love/hate relationship with historical fiction, particularly that which is set in the Tudor period. I studied Tudor history at university, focusing on the reign of Henry VIII and so am fairly familiar with the accepted historical fact of this era and I'm particularly interested in the lives of his wives and their relationship to him. I find myself reading quite a lot of these novels as I just find these women so fascinating, however more often than not I am frustrated by the novels as being inaccurate or just plain awful. I particularly struggle with Philippa Gregory as she presents herself as a serious historian writing fiction whereas in fact she is not a historian and bases her books on secondary sources, not the primary sources. She completely lost me after I read The Other Boleyn Girl as I have a bit of a thing for Anne Boleyn who I think was a remarkable women and she was presented as a scheming, obnoxious trollop in that book! Anyway, onto the actual book in hand!

I was interested to read The Confession of Katherine Howard as she is the wife that we know the least about historically, there is little evidence relating to her childhood and she was queen for only just over a year before she was executed. She was never actually crowned and had little to do with politics or religion whilst she was married to Henry. It is therefore interesting to see how authors characterise her and as we know very little, I thought there might be less opportunity for me to be frustrated by inaccuracies.

Review 31: The Unwritten Vol. 1 - Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey

The Unwritten is the first graphic novel I have bought, rather than borrowed from someone. I liked Watchmen and I really enjoyed the Fables series, both of which were recommended to me by someone who knew what they were talking about. The Unwritten is my first time striking off on my own and trying something I'd chosen myself. The Unwritten seemed to be something I would enjoy as it is packed with literary references and is based on the concept of real life and literature merging, something I've enjoyed in Fables but also in novels such as Jasper Ffordes work.

The Unwritten Vol. 1 does a lot of introducing and setting the scene. It is the story of Tom Taylor, the son of the prolific author Wilson Taylor who mysteriously disappeared at the height of his popularity. Wilson was the author of the Tommy Taylor series about a boy wizard who was inspired by his son. The books are basically Harry Potter and Carey really enjoys gently mocking that series and using themes from Harry Potter in his work. Tommy Taylor has a mysterious tattoo style mark on the back of his hand, a brainy female friend and a earnest male friend, a malicious evil wizard to defeat etc. etc.

23 June 2011

Carnegie Winner

The winner of the 2011 Carnegie Medal was announced at 12.30pm today as being...

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness!

I am super-pleased because it was my favourite by far from the shortlist and the one I chose as my winner in my summary of all the shortlisted books.

You can read his superb acceptance speech at the Guardian website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/childrens-books-site/2011/jun/23/patrick-ness-carnegie-prize-libraries

15 June 2011

Carnegie Summary

Over the last few weeks I've been reading the shortlist for the 2011 Carnegie Medal which celebrates excellent young adult writing in the UK. As a school librarian, the Carnegie Medal is a book prize I'm particularly invested in. I am always impressed by the shortlist and it always includes a great selection of brilliant writing. Last years winner was The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which was superb.

I've just finished reading the sixth of the shortlist and this is my rundown of the books and which are my favourites. So here is a brief summary of each one in descending order from my least to most favourite. (Having said that, I did enjoy all of them!)

Review 30: A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

At school recently, I asked members of staff to be photographed reading their favourite books to make posters to promote reading around school. One of my colleagues, who is actually also a good friend, chose A Town Like Alice and was amazed, considering our very similar taste in books, to find out that I hadn't read it. So I borrowed it and was pleased to discover this unusual romance which is set across Malaysia, Australia and England.

A Town Like Alice is the story of Jean Paget, a young woman who is taken captive in Malaysia by the Japanese forces. The men in the group are sent to a labour camp and the women and children are forced to walk hundreds of miles across Malaysia whilst the Japanese decide what to do with them. On the way they meet, and are helped by, an Australian man, Joe Harman who is horrifically punished for trying to get them some food. The book begins after she has returned, and the part of the story in Malaysia is related as she tells her lawyer what happened. She has a lawyer because at the start of the novel she finds out that she has come into a huge amount of money from a distant Scottish relative. The rest of the review below the jump gives away some plot points, some of which were made obvious by the blurb on my copy of the book, which was frustrating, so if you haven't read this and would like to don't read on.

If you do stop reading here then in summary this is a wonderful book with adventure, romance and history that is slightly tinged by occasional sexist and racist element which make you pause slightly and remind you that this book was written 60 years ago.

8 June 2011

Review 29: Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace

My final stop of my tour of the 2011 Carnegie Medal shortlist. I had put this one off as it didn't really appeal; male protagonist in an all boys boarding school set in 1980s Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe, not something I know a lot about, to my shame. However, once I started I couldn't put down this exciting, thought-provoking and moving story of race, friendship and loyalty.

Out of Shadows is the story of Robert Jacklin, an English boy who moves to Zimbabwe with his parents. He is enrolled in a prestigious boys boarding school which has recently been moved to start accepting black boys after Mugabe took control of Zimbabwe. At school, Robert encounters Ivan a white boy who is determined to follow through with his plan to restore what he sees as the right way for 'his' country to be.

4 June 2011

Review 28: Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin

This is the gripping story of Saulo and Zarita in fifteen century Spain during the Inquisition. It covers religion, explorers, revenge, family and more through its engaging two main characters and is a worthy addition to the Carnegie shortlist.

Zarita is the daughter of the local magistrate; confident, pampered and wealthy. Saulo is the son of a beggar and his dying wife. One day, Saulo's father begs money from Zarita; when Saulo's father touches her arm he is chased down by her chaperon and then executed immediately by Zarita's father. Saulo sees it all happen and swears his revenge on the magistrate and his family; this revenge is however put on hold as he is sold into slavery on a ship when he is caught watching the execution. Zarita, meanwhile, has to deal with the Inquisition arriving in his town with the malicious Father Besain.