Sunday, 27 November 2011

Liebster Blog Award

I was delighted to receive this Liebster Blog Award from Pamreader.  I've followed Pam's blog and on Twitter for some time now.  Her posts are always entertaining, I've picked up some great book tips and I've vowed that one day soon I will make the trip to Nottingham to see her at her Book Group.

Pam's blog informs me that the word Liebster is the German meaning of dearest.

Here's what to do if you are given the Liebster Award:
1. Thank the giver, and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on to your blog
4. Hope that the people you have awarded it to forward it to their five favourite bloggers to keep it going!

Here are my Five Favourite Picks:

Lainy, my friend from Scotland who blogs here.  I met Lainy via and she's been a great friend to me, I was lucky enough to meet her in real life at our Reader's Day in Birmingham this year.  Lainy blogs about some really unusual books.  I love her, she's a little star!

Josie and her adorable ginger cat Jaffa tell us all about their adventures with books at Jaffa Reads Too.  Josie is another lady that I know through Readitswapit, and although I've never met her in person, I feel as though she's been a friend for a very long time.

Linda lives in Italy, she blogs about her life there at Lindy Lou Mac In Italy, she is also an avid reader, just like myself and tells us about the books that she has enjoyed here.  I really enjoy reading about Linda's Italian life and also her wonderful holidays.

Last Christmas a friend of mine sent me a wonderful recipe book called A Slice Of Cherry Pie, and I've spent most of this year trying out the lovely ideas.  The book is written by Julia Parsons and evolved from her blog which you can find here .  After books and reading, cooking and eating is my next love so any foodie books are always welcome in my house  - this one and the blog are amongst the best.

One of the most exciting new British writers around is Jenn Ashworth, who also writes an entertaining blog, check it out here.  Jenn writes topical and up to the minute books, she doesn't hold back and can often be shocking but her talent shines through.  She's going to be huge!

Thanks so much Pam, for giving me this award and letting me pass it on to other fabulous bloggers.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Her Giant Octopus Moment by Kay Langdale

What a great title for a book, it most certainly caught my attention and made me look twice, and reading the synopsis convinced me that Her Giant Octopus Moment by Kay Langdale was going to be just my cup of tea.

Due to be published in January 2012 by Hodder and Stoughton, this is Kay Langdale's third novel, but the first of hers that I have read.

The story centres around two main characters, Joanie Simpson and her eleven year old daughter Scout.

Joanie was never supposed to be a mother, not in the conventional sense anyway.   Joanie had made one of her trademark snap decisions and offered to be a surrogate mother, her next snap decision was to decide to keep her baby after all, destroying the dreams of the potential new parents and changing her own life forever.

When an eagle-eyed embryologist spots Joanie and Scout in a park eleven years later, their past starts to catch up with them.

Scout Simpson, named after Demi Moore and Bruce Willis' daughter and not taken from Harper Lee's novel as most people would assume, is one of the most wonderful child characters I've ever come across.

Despite her gypsy-like lifestyle and Joanie's dubious parenting skills, Scout is a happy, adaptable little girl with an enormous thirst for knowledge who loves nothing better than to teach herself a few words of a new language, or to work out a difficult mathematical problem.  

When Joanie receives a letter from Social Services, their flight begins.   Scout is dragged from place to place, not attending school but learning all the time.  From a cold and lonely block of flats in Birmingham to the fruit fields of Norfolk, Scout adapts and learns.

A story about motherhood about survival and about surrogacy.  A story about choices and why people make them, and their consequences.    Just what makes a good mother?   Is it someone who is there when you finish school?  Someone who makes sure you are fed and your teeth are brushed?   Is is someone who brings adventure into your life, and shows you new places and experiences?

Kay Langdale draws fabulous characters, both Scout and Joanie are lovable and real.  Mr Groves, the ex butler who lives in the flats in Birmingham is beautifully described, a gentleman who teaches Scout about the finer things in life, and Mr Mohammed, the shopkeeper who makes sure she is learning something new every day.

Both funny and poignant, warm and witty, with some fabulous characters and a thought provoking plot line - I enjoyed the read immensely.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

All the cliched terms can be applied to Annabel Pitcher's wonderful novel,  My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece published earlier this year by Orion Books.   
"Beautiful, stunning, blown away"  and the rest can all be used to describe my feelings about this fabulous debut novel from an incredibly gifted young author. 
I don't have many connections these days with ten year old boys, and wondered whether I would relate to James's story.  

It only took a couple of pages for me to fall completely in love with his character, his language and his feelings.  James and his sister Jasmine are living in a remote Lake District village with their Father, not cared for by their Father, just sharing a house with him.   
Since their sister Rose was killed five years ago by a terrorist bomb in central London, their family has slowly fallen to pieces.   

Dad drowns his sorrows in the bottom of a beer can whilst worshipping the urn of Rose's ashes that lives on the mantelpiece and ignoring the needs of his remaining children.   

Mum upped and left them, to go to live with Nigel from her 'support group' - turning her back on the grief of her husband and making a new life for herself is her way of coping.
James and Jasmine deal with the after effects of this in their own little ways.   Jas decides to dress in black and dye her hair pink, that's her public face, her private way of coping with things includes not eating until her bones stick through her clothes and bunking off school to spend time with her green-haired boyfriend.    

James has Roger the cat to comfort him, along with his Spider Man inspired dreams and most recently Sunya - the girl he sits next to in school.    

Sunya is a Muslim and 'Muslims killed Rose', well, according to his Dad they did.   James struggles terribly with what his Dad has told him about Muslims and how he feels about Sunya - he's is split down the middle.   

Should he please his Dad, who ignores him?   Or should he spend time with Sunya, who appears to care for him and makes him happy?
Annabel Pitcher
This is very very brave writing, it tackles relevant and topical subjects heads on with painfully honest writing and wonderfully realistic characters and settings.  

The story is compelling, it's often heart-breaking but it's often joyful - just as young children are in real life.  

Although aimed initially at the Children and Young Adult market, adults should read this and learn.
An outstanding debut novel.  I believe Annabel Pitcher's next book is due for release early next year - I will be first in the queue to buy it.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Things I Couldn't Tell My Mother by Sue Johnston

I was 16 in 1984 when Channel 4 was launched and I remember it clearly - the first programme was Countdown, followed by Brookside.  

I was hooked from the first episode.   Brookside was a soap opera like none of the others, fresh and new and dared to cover issues that hadn't been seen before on a soap.  I watched it from episode one right up until the end - even through the very odd storylines towards the end.

Although Sue Johnston is now more famous as Barbara Royle from the Royle Family, she will always be Sheila Grant to me.  

I loved the Grants.  Sheila and Bobby and three children Barry, Damon and Karen.  I had a massive crush on Barry Grant played by Paul Usher.

Things I Couldn't Tell My Mother published by Ebury Press is Sue Johnston's memoir and it's a warm and honest read.

You can almost hear Sue's voice as she tells of her childhood, her relationship with her parents, her marriages and her career.

What struck me the most is the fact that Sue has stayed 'real' throughout her career, despite the success and the fame and the OBE, she never strayed far from her roots and never lost that no nonsense attitude or her belief in social justice.

Sue's relationship with her Mother is a theme that runs throughout the book, they loved each other, of that there is no doubt, but it was never an easy love.   Sue never felt that her Mother was proud of what she did and knew deep down that if she had married a plumber, stayed at home and had two kids, her Mother would have been happier.

Despite this, their relationship was strong and her recollection of their last days together is very moving.

This is not a showbiz gossipy type of memoir, although Sue has many famous friends, this is a story about a real woman, who achieved her dream and has stayed true to herself.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Comfort And Spice: Recipes for Modern Living by Niamh Shields

Niamh Shields is the person behind the food blog Eat Like A Girl and Comfort And Spice, from Quadrille Publishing is her recipe book that complements the blog.

The book is beautifully presented, my copy is somewhere between a hardback and a paperback, with the cover made from a cardboard material which folds out inside and contains some wonderful colour pictures.  The majority of the recipes are illustrated and each one has an introduction from Niamh, telling the reader about the dish, it's history and what it means to her.

The recipes are easy to follow, with simple, easily found ingredients and every one that I have tried so far has been delicious.

I'm a massive fan of cooking with pork and so is Niamh, I especially love slow cooked belly of pork and have recently tried pig's cheeks for the first time - Niamh is passionate about the use of these ingredients and there are some great new ways of cooking them described in the book.

This had already become one of my favourite cookery books - I'm looking forward to more from Niamh.

Friday, 11 November 2011

What's Tha Up T Nah? More Memories of a Sheffield Bobby by Martyn Johnson

Back in July I reviewed and enjoyed Martyn Johnson's first book What's Tha Up To?, you can read my thoughts here.  

My review was spotted by Emma from Martyn's publisher; Pen And Sword Books and she kindly sent me a copy of his second memoir What's Tha Up To Nah? for review.

What's Tha Up To Nah? is not a sequel or a follow on from Martyn Johnson's first book, but more stories from the same era.

Yet again his humour and compassion for other people and his love for the city of Sheffield shine through each story.

Martyn Johnson is a born story teller and the reader is soon captured up and taken back to the days of the bobby on the beat, police boxes, a clip round the ear and respect for the local copper.

Like his first book, this one contains some incredibly funny stories and some extremely sad and heart breaking recollections too.

From dealing with the death of a small boy who has been run over to the suspected shoplifter with a pocket full of combs, Martyn Johnson could adjust himself to any situation, handling each one with care and sympathy, and sometimes with the back of his hand!

The city of Sheffield and it's people are the main stars of his stories and whilst the city may have changed dramatically since the days that Martyn walked the beat, the people and the humour are still there.

I hope that Martyn Johnson has more stories to tell and that he will continue to share them with readers for a few more books yet.