27 April 2011

18. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

I have had this in the library for ages and I must admit the concept didn't really appeal to me despite the positive reviews but I finally picked it up as Patrick Ness is visiting my library in two weeks and it seems polite to have read his work! Also, the third in the trilogy has just been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal therefore putting it on my to-read list. Thank goodness I did as it is outstanding.

Baked: Chocolate Chip Cookies

 The first recipe I tried from Baked was their basic chocolate chip cookies. I had an afternoon free but was pretty tired so wanted to try something fairly familiar and also something snacky rather than a dessert.

It must be said they turned out very nicely although the recipe was more wordy and lengthy than cookie recipes I've used in the past. There were a lot of instructions about mixing various ingredients that could have been summed up in far less words. It seems as though they're catering for unconfident bakers but I can't help feeling that most of the recipes aren't really for unconfident bakers so they end up just frustrating everyone else.

17. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

I have read David Lebovitz's blog for a while now (www.davidlebovitz.com/) and really enjoyed his musings on food and his life in Paris. Prompted by an upcoming holiday to France (albeit Brittany, not Paris) I bought a copy of his book, The Sweet Life in Paris, a lovely non-fiction book about life and food in Paris "the most glorious and perplexing city in the world".

The book is mainly on the subject of food and each chapter ends with a handful of recipes vaguely related to the contents of the chapter. I am yet to try any of the recipes but there were a fair few that looked tempting and I'm sure I will try a few at some point, the madeleines looked particularly tasty. For me personally, the recipes weren't the chief appeal but it does give a nice selection of Parisian inspired, fairly simple recipes if that is what you are looking for.

9 April 2011

16. Sparks by Ally Kennen

Sparks was one of three books shortlisted for the Solihull Children's Book Award which I am involved in peripherally. Some of the students in my Book Club read and voted for their choice for the winner, and we attended the ceremony as well, which, as always was great. This year, two of my students were also asked to announce the winner and present the award which was a lovely opportunity for them and they did us proud. The SCBA is great because the shortlisted authors all come to the awards ceremony which is attended by children from Solihull who have read and voted. The children get the opportunity to meet the authors and have books signed afterwards so it's a really accessible award for children to get involved in.

Whilst The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh ended up winning, Sparks was my personal favourite. I started reading it in a hurry to try and read all the shortlisted novels before the ceremony and was pleasantly surprised to find myself genuinely really enjoying it. 

It's the story of Carla, and her brother and sister, whose Grandpa dies suddenly one half term holiday. Whilst their parents are organising a normal funeral, Carla finds a letter that her Grandpa left her where he writes of his desire to have a traditional Viking funeral where a body is put onto a burning boat and floated out to sea. He writes though that he knows that this is illegal so asks Carla to burn some old letters like this instead. However this gets Carla thinking about whether she and her siblings could actually pull of a proper Viking funeral and so begins the epic task of giving Grandpa the Viking funeral he always dreamed of.

3 April 2011

Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

This will, at some point in the distant future and probably not in 2011, become part of a Cannonball Read but it is actually part of a different challenge.

Inspired by things such as Julie & Julia and various similar projects I am going to try to bake every recipe in this book.  I'm not setting myself a time limit as it's purpose is to discover some new recipes, to improve my baking skills and to have fun. I'm fairly into cooking and particularly baking so we shall see!There are 92 recipes in the book (including some recipes for drinks) so there's no way I could reasonably do this in a year as that is already nearly two recipes a week and I no way have time or occasion for that. So this is a long term project.

I asked my Mum for this book for Christmas after one of my frequent Amazon trawls of various cookery books. I love recipe books and I enjoy reading them as much as cooking from them. I own a lot of cookery books and actually rarely cook from most of them. This is an American book with American measurements (I'm sure you will hear plenty about my frustrations with cups!) and has lots of exciting and fairly unique recipes. The few I've tried so far have all had similar results: amazing concept, really tasty but I've had to play around with the measurements a bit and felt that the wording of the recipes isn't as helpful as it could be. I don't know if this the style recipes are written in in America or what but it hasn't been arduous enough to stop me wanting to try more.

So this does vaguely fall under a theme of books in that I am baking my way through a book but I am aiming to upload photos and mini reviews of each recipe alongside my Cannonball reviews.

Carnegie Shortlist 2011

The CILIP Carnegie shortlist has just been announced which is always rather exciting in the UK children's book world. Last year, the award was won by Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book which I thought was spectacular. The award is shadowed by reading groups across the country and the winner is chosen by childrens librarians. The 2011 shortlist is as follows:

  • Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin
  • The Death Defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
  • The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff
  • White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick
  • Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace
All in all, a good shortlist. I was particularly excited to see Marcus Sedgwick and Patrick Ness on the shortlist as they are both visiting my school in May so I have inadvertently managed to book two Carnegie shortlisted authors which is pretty good going. 

There has been a bit of criticism for Ness' nomination purely because it is the third book in a trilogy which means that it doesn't stand alone well and children will have to read the whole trilogy in order to understand it. I haven't read it yet but I'm sure it won't have been shortlisted without it being brilliant. The only one I have read so far is White Crow, which I reviewed earlier this year but I am a big fan of Meg Rosoff and The Bride's Farewell is in my pile of books to read. I'm sure you will see reviews of all of these books in the next few months. 

15. Fables Vol. 14: Witches by Bill Willingham

This is the fourteenth volume in the graphic novel series, Fables, created by Bill Willingham. It's difficult to review graphic novels in the first place, let alone the fourteenth volume, without spoiling them totally but here we go anyway.

Until recently, the only graphic novel I had read was Watchmen but one of the teachers at the school I work at is a huge graphic novel enthusiast. We've been working together on building a graphic novel section in the library and along the way I have read a fair few graphic novels. Said teacher recommended Fables to me last year as something he thought I would enjoy, he was proved right and fourteen volumes later here we are.