Saturday, 22 November 2014

Review: Pegasus to Paradise by Michael Tappenden

Saturday, 22 November 2014





Title
Pegasus to Paradise
Author
Michael Tappenden
Publisher
Hippocrene Books, Inc, New York
Publication Date
May 2014
Pages
374
Genre
family history, WW2



Blurb:
1944. In the early hours of the sixth of June, Ted Tappenden and an elite glider-borne force of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, successfully attack and capture the vital Horsa and Pegasus bridges in the first allied assault of D-Day. Ted returns from the war apparently unscathed and a hero. However, a strange England awaits him. It has been through too much, and so has he. As he tries to ease his way back into mundane suburban life with the sweetheart of his pre-war youth, he is silently haunted by the terrors of battle. Domestic life too is not without its threats… 

Florrie is relieved to have her Ted back where he belongs, but like many of her neighbours, she sees a distance in her husband where once there was joy and passion. Neither husband nor wife can explain their suffering to anyone, least of all each other, and they soon find themselves inhabiting different worlds under the same roof. 

Based on the true lives of Ted “Ham and Jam” Tappenden and his wife Florrie and spanning three generations of the Tappenden family, Pegasus to Paradise is an ode to both the extraordinary efforts of ordinary men and women during the Second World War and a moving portrait of trauma, survival and the power of love in post-war Britain. 




My review:  

I was particularly excited to read a book which is set mainly in my local area. There aren't that many around. Even though I was not born in Kent, I do feel very much settled here and couldn't image living anywhere else. 

This is the story of Ted and Florrie. They are young couple when World War II breaks out. 2 sons are born during the war years, and Ted is of of the lucky ones who does return. But he is not the same Ted. Still, lives goes on and the couple will have to cope. 

In the early chapters, the book tells us about Ted's war adventures. I am usually not one for war and battle descriptions but here, it is firstly necessary for the story, and I also found myself quickly getting into it and rooting for the boys. It does not get too technical and easy to read and understand what actually went on.  Ted returns, but after the initial euphoria he finds he now faces a different world, very different from the battlefield where he exactly knew what to do: 'Just kill the enemy and stay alive'. 

What I really enjoyed about this book is relationship of Ted and his wife Florrie. Both are very different persons, and Florrie is certainly a real character. In later chapters, Florrie and her passions in life take the centre stage. But Ted is always there. Typical of a man of his generation, he just gets on with it, even when it does get difficult and both are facing physical and psychological problems as they get older. It was a very moving read, and certainly made me think about how a couple copes when they get older, maybe if one if the partners is not any more as able as the other. 

I also enjoyed that Ted's mates from his war years a re-visited in later chapters during a veteran's meeting. 

This book was written by Ted's son as a memory to his dad. He certainly has the balance right between providing a very interesting story, personal details and wonderful memory for future generation. I think it was a very good decision from the author that he mainly sticks with Ted and Florrie's story only in this book (not too many details are given about other family members and friends  though we do follow a few neighbours and close friends through the book). Apart from an interesting and moving read, I would also recommend this book for someone who would like to write down their family history as an alternative to the usual 'autobiography and family story'. 




About the author:  







Sunday, 16 November 2014

Review: Spices & Seasons by Rinku Bhattacharya

Sunday, 16 November 2014





Title
Spices & Seasons
Author
Rinku Bhattacharya
Publisher
Hippocrene Books, Inc, New York
Publication Date
May 2014
Pages
374
Genre
cookery, non-fiction



Blurb:
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This cookbook combines her two great loves -- Indian cooking and sustainable living -- to give readers a simple, accessible way to cook seasonally, locally and flavourfully. Inspired by the bounty of local produce, mostly from her own backyard, Rinku set out to create recipes for busy, time-strapped home cooks who want to bring Indian flavours to nutritious family meals. Arranged in chapters from appetisers through desserts, the cookbook includes everything from small bites, soups, seafood, meat, poultry and vegetables, to condiments, breads and sweets. You will find recipes for tempting fare like "Mango and Goat Cheese Mini Crisps", "Roasted Red Pepper Chutney", "Crisped Okra with Dry Spice Rub", "Smoky Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Puree" and "Red Harvest Masala Cornish Hens", to name a few. As exotic and enticing as these recipes sound, the ingredients are easily found and the instructions are simple. Includes: Over 15 recipes, mostly gluten-free and Vegetarian / Vegan; Gluten-free / Vegetarian / Vegan recipes are clearly labelled; Helpful sections on spices, ingredients and utensils; Tips and tricks for getting the best results and "green tips" for making your kitchen eco-friendly; Colour photographs for each recipe.


My review:  
First impression: I like the sturdy look of this book. I know we shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but let's face it, if you are going to use your cook book a lot, it can't be too flimsy. A quick browse through the pages (as you would do if you were to pick the book up in a book shop) reveals pictures with ever recipe, and that for me is what a good cook book is all about, as essentially presentation in cooking is very important. 

The emphasis in this book is on sustainability, and at the beginning, the author provides a short paragraph, taking her back to her grandmother's and mother's kitchen which were often much more efficient and less wasteful than our modern day variety. I do like this, and my grandmother was exactly the same. In fact, where I grew up in East Germany, we did not always had many ingredients available, so often it was about 'making do' but with the use of the right spices, it always tasted nice. 

Also in the introduction the chapter 'Learning the essentials' teaches as the 'Indian approach to cooking'. Even if you are an experienced cook, give this one a quick read. I found it very interesting, particularly the benefits of the spices, green tips and how to set up a 'Starter Kit' with spices. Not as difficult as you might imagine. 

The cooking chapters are divided in: Appetizers; Salads Condiments & Chutneys; Soups and Lentils; Protein: Eggs Paneer and Tofu; Vegetables; Fish; Meat and Poultry; Holiday Season cooking; Rice Grains and Pasta; Breads; Desserts and Sweets. The final chapter outlines the authors 'Spice Chest' - her mixed spices collection. I loved this and have never seen it before in a cook book. It has inspired me to make my own spice chest, indeed I was already using a few of my own spice mixes without realising it.

Importantly, and as with this author's previous cook book, all the ingredients for the recipes are really easy to find. Certainly here in the UK you will find them in the big supermarkets or in smaller Indian shops. Once you have a certain amount of spices in your larder, it really is only the fresh ingredients you have to get which is no different from your day-to-day cooking. My favourite recipes which I have cooked so far: Chicken Tikka Kebabs (page 39) - I have cooked this dish  before but never with yoghurt. It turned out absolutely lovely and (apart from the marinating) took me no longer than 5 minutes to prepare. I further cooked the Creamy Coconut Egg Curry. I do love anything with coconut and also eggs, and the one thing about Indian cooking is that it uses eggs in 'proper' dishes as the main ingredient rather than just one of the ingredients. If you do like this - than there are plenty of egg recipes here. The one thing I have not tried but will finally do give it a go now is Kulfi, the delicious Indian ice-cream.

In summery - I did love this book and even though so for I have only cooked 2 of its recipes, I am sure I will use many more in times to come. If you are a fan of Indian cooking, you can't go wrong. If not yet, give it a try. I would say that it probably does help if you are a little bit experienced in the kitchen, but by no means do you need to be a kitchen goddess. I am not, believe me! 




About the author:  
Rinku Bhattacharya was born in Kolkata, India and currently resides in Westchester, New York. She teaches cooking classes, maintains a popular food blog, Cooking in Westchester, and writes a weekly column, Spices and Seasons, for the Journal News website.



I have received this book from the author in return for an honest review. 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Review: Harbour Views by Philip Chatting

Sunday, 9 November 2014




Title
Harbour Views
Author
Philip Chatting
Publisher
Book Guild Publishing
Publication Date
May 2014
Pages
384
Genre
novel


<blockquote>Blurb:</strong> 
Swedish expatriate Jakob Obergaard rules his successful furniture corporation with a ruthlessness and egotism that draws comment even in the merciless cut and thrust of the Hong Kong business world. His tyranny warps the lives of all around him – his imperiously bitter wife Dagmar, his estranged hippyish daughter Sigrid and his sexually frustrated administrator, Mrs Tung, among them. Not even the blithely laddish Anil Patel, a company courier, is immune. 

In this jet-black comedy, lives are as tangled, messy and precarious as the streets of downtown Kowloon. In a world where ambition collides with passion, tradition with modernity, East with West, no one comes away unscathed. 

This is the accomplished debut novel by Hong Kong resident Philip Chatting, a sharply witty portrayal of one of the world’s great cosmopolitan cities. 


<blockquote>My review:  

A good start which got me straight into the book. As an immigrant to another country (though nothing like Mr Odergaard and certainly not as rich!), I wanted to know his story. But the book took me a bit by surprise, as it is not so much a 'story of his life' but more of a character study of various people in Hong Kong. The book is clearly very much character-driven. 

There is the very rich and obnoxious Mr Odergaard and his even more obnoxious wife Dagmar, their hippy daughter and her somewhat humble teacher husband who has his own problems with his son. Than Carol Tung who works for Odergaard and is sexually frustrated, her son Wai Pang and their domestic helper Budiwati. Claude Halt, the Odergaard's company 2nd in command who in turn is pathologically obsessed with small-time actress Mandy Plumpkin. Than there is Anil Patel, a driver at Odergaards company, and probably my favourite character. I very much like his closing sentiments in the last chapter. A bit of a lad, but honest. I also liked the fact that almost all of the characters link up during the course of the book as their lives intersect.

The book is described as black comedy, and I will agree with this. You have to look behind the scenes here. The clever structure of the sentences makes it not always a very easy read, but if you do take your time, you will be rewarded with the author's clever way with words. Here is a quick example I picked out as I liked it so much:

...."Only the cook, who relished the fruits of her precession too much for her own good, was left to patch and recycle apparel purchased years ago to accommodate a once-younger girth...."

Excellent example of the black humour and way of words here. Can't we just all picture that rather oversized cook now? 

 Chatting lets us in into Hong Kong behind the scenes and some of those will stay with me, for example the way the domestic helpers are treated as a matter of norm or how children are educated just to get results i.e. Art is discouraged as a subject which does not bring a good job. 

This is not a cosy 'all is good at the end' read.  I would recommend this book if you are interested in expats stories, live in foreign countries and would like to read a different, more darker version which engages you to think. The characters may be exaggerated caricatures, but than maybe they are not, but that's the beauty of the book. 



<blockquote>About the author:  

Philip Chatting was born in Chester and schooled in London and California. He has spent the majority of his working life in human resource management, located variously in Africa, the Middle East, the USA and Asia, and for industries including copper mining, construction, newspapers and publishing. He is presently the Vice President of Human Resources for an export marketing company based in Hong Kong, where he lives with his wife and son.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Review: Essential Hindi by Richard Delacy (non-fiction)

Sunday, 2 November 2014




Title
Essential Hindi
Author
Richard Delacy
Publisher
Tuttle Publishing
Publication Date
2014
Pages
192
Genre
non-fiction, languages




Blurb:
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Start speaking Hindi right away with this Hindi phrasebook, basic grammar and pronunciation guide to help you. Essential Hindi presents the practical Hindi language of everyday interactions in a way that's clear, concise, accessible and enjoyable. It includes fundamental sentences to use when meeting people, starting conversations, and asking and replying to questions. All Hindi words are presented in both romanised form and Hindi script. Terms and phrases cover all your conversations via mobile phones, internet, and social media in a way that will help you make the most of the language. In addition, sentences on the essentials of travel make it easier for visitors to navigate the basics of arranging accommodations, dining out, dealing with transportation and emergencies, and much more. Essential Hindi includes: Over 1,500 necessary sentences for everyday use. A glossary containing over 2,000 terms and expressions. A handy format for finding the information you need quickly and easily. Look up the latest Hindi vocabulary and phrases for smart phones, blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Let Essential Hindi guide you in making the right word choices when communicating with friends and business colleagues, and the world!



My review:  

Thank you to Tuttle Publishing who gifted me this book.

I have been interested in South East Asian Languages and studied Urdu for a while. I have to say at the beginning that I did not study Hindi as it is very different from Urdu in the script, though in spoken word it is very very similar. Therefore, this review will look at the book from the view of someone who intends to buy it in a book shop or online and has not fully used it. 

The short introduction tells us that the book is aimed as a basic guide for getting you started in communicating in Hindi. As such, I think it would be particularly useful for anyone who has  connections to SE India (whether business, private or as a tourist) and would like to take their knowledge of the language further than just 'hello' and 'my name is'. 

The book starts with a pronunciation guide and basic grammar. These are not too complex and even for a complete beginner easy to understand. In my opinion, you have to work through those in order to go on to the first lesson and actually learning words. But fear not, there are only 5 pages of pronunciation and 13 pages of grammar. 

As with most language learning books, the chapter start with simple and basic information (Personal Details, time, numbers) etc and coach you on to more complex sentences. The chapters have example sentences and a list of words as well as useful information (i.e. holidays, info on religion ) The chapters do not cover exercises - I think that would require a much more extensive book and this one here is only intended to get you started.

Again...I did not learn the language yet, but I think this can not only an excellent starting point, but it may also help you decide whether this is the language for you. 








Saturday, 1 November 2014

Review - Gone Girl (the movie)

Saturday, 1 November 2014



You read the book - now go out and watch the movie!




I couldn't wait for this movie. I absolutely loved the book. Here is my review of the book. I even liked the ending of the book (I know lots of reviewers didn't).

It is difficult to review the film without giving away major plot lines. Simple enough story. Amy and Nick are a young couple who both lose their jobs in the recession in New York and move to Missouri. It is the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary and Amy goes missing. What follows is the search for Amy and Nick slowly becoming a suspect. Things don't add up for him. But all is not what it seems here. In the words of Nick's defence attorney Tanner Bolt (and I paraphrase here because I can't find the exact quote...): "I have seem some messed up people in my career, but boy, you two are something...".

Honestly, even though I was looking forward to the movie, I was also a bit hesitant. Mainly because I am always disappointed when I read a book and than watch the movie. It usually just doesn't compare. And for the first 1/2 hour of the movie, I almost prepared myself to be disappointed. I mean, I knew the story - importantly knew the twists - so could I enjoy the movie. But than it happened - the movie really took me in and I almost forgot that I knew what was going to happen. 

Both Rosemunde Pike as Amy and Ben Affleck as Nick are doing a great job and are very believable. In fact, the became Amy and Nick for me. 

What was slightly missing for me was the extent that Amy's parents are also very very messed up. And I personally felt that Margo (Nick's sister) was given a bit too much time? But no big deal. 

Honstley? This is one of the best book to movie adaptations I have seen in a long time. If you haven't seen it yet, go now. I can't wait until it is on Netflix. 


Peggy xx 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Review: By all Men's Judgements by Brad Cotton

Friday, 10 October 2014




Title
By all Men's Judgements
Author
Brad Cotton
Publisher
Prinia Press
Publication Date
April 2014
Pages
418
Genre
novel, Western





Blurb:
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Knowing she doesn’t have long to live, Liza Meacham summons local newspaper writer Nathaniel to her bedside to share a story she’s kept to herself for seven decades. It’s the story of a man named Joseph Tilley, a man she came to know quite well. With her granddaughter, Madeline, also by her side, Liza begins to reveal how an innocent Oklahoma farm boy fell into a life of crime to become a notorious outlaw in the early 1920s. 

Over the following weeks Madeline and Nathaniel begin piecing together the mysteries that remain where Liza’s recollection leaves off. The secrets they uncover may change their lives forever – if they can find their way to the end . . . and to the truth. 




My review:  
This sweet story needs more exposure.

I absolutely loved this book from the very first page and it is clear that Brad Cotton can tell a story and keep you hooked. The book has structure and the writing style is not over-complicated. (I have a pet-hate for long and windy sentences in books. Books are meant to entertain - I don't want to read an academic essay)

By all Men's Judgements plays in two different time frames. Firstly, there is grandma Liza, her niece Madeline and writer Nathaniel in present day. Liza is terminally ill and knows she has not a lot of time left so calls local writer Nathaniel to her house. She has a story to tell and wants Nathaniel to write it down. Not quite sure what to expect, Nathaniel and Madeline is quickly enthralled with the story - and so are we as readers. 

Liza takes us back to the 1920's Oklahoma where young Joe witnesses his parents murder and gets send to stay with his cousin's family. Joe quickly develops a friendship with his cousin Buck.This is prohibition-age America, and Buck knows where money is to be made with home-brewed alcohol. They quickly start to make a name for themselves, starting out as rookies working for the big boss and almost innocently going about their business. But Joe, of course, can never forget what has happened to his parents. The story cuts back in intervals to Madeline and Nathaniel who slowly start to put the pieces of the puzzle together. 

There is a bit of a 'Western-like' feel to this story. I am not usually one for Westerns and surprised myself that I liked this book so much. It had me rooting for Joe and ... and I finished the book in 2 days. A story about friendship to the end, betrayal, courage. And yes, there is a twist at the end which I did not see coming.

Anything I didn't like? I think I would have liked a different cover. Maybe a 1920's style picture of Joe? The current cover picture is, in my humble opinion, a bit non-descriptive and as many readers do pick up their books by the cover (yes, it has been proven to be true!!), I think this lovely little book will be overlooked. 






Thursday, 9 October 2014

Book Super Thursday in the UK

Thursday, 9 October 2014




http://news.sky.com/story/1349848/book-shops-hope-for-super-thursday-boost
Just found this on Sky News today. So what do you think? I would say anything to support book sales,. In reality, of course, it is the big High Street book chains who, if anyone, profits. And as they are called in the article ' hotly anticipated hardbacks' it's probably authors who don't need a lot of publicity and sell in any event? Still, anything which promotes books and reading I suppose. 



High street book shops, facing competition from online retailers and supermarkets, will hope to receive a boost from Super Thursday.
The nationwide event sees the largest number of titles being published in a single day this year.
Some 315 of the most hotly anticipated hardbacks are coming out today.
Super Thursday is the book world's equivalent of Black Friday and Mega Monday - where there are promotional sales deals in the run up to Christmas.
And the event is aimed at getting more customers into high street book shops and increasing revenue.
There are now only just over 2,300 such shops in the UK with many closing due to customers opting for cheap prices at the supermarkets and on the internet.
Sheryl Shurville from Chorleywood Bookshop in Hertfordshire owns a very successful independent shop but has had to diversify to survive.
She puts on events and festivals to boost sales and is very enthusiastic about initiatives like Super Thursday as a means of increasing business.
She said: "Super Thursday is a great time of year for us. It creates a big buzz in publishing and in the book selling industry.
Westlife's Shane Filan
"So it creates a lot of interest which is really important at a time when we're up against a lot of competition from Amazon, ebooks and supermarkets.
"So anything that brings attention to the independent bookshop and the passion we have for reading and selling books is great for us".
Shane Filan's autobiography My Side of Life reveals all about his days in boyband Westlife.
It is just one of the many celebrity reads that publishers rely on over the festive period and Filan told Sky News it can only be a good thing to be included in the book push.
He said: "To be picked to come out on this day is a great thing to start off with.
"There's a lot of books out and it’s the one of the biggest ever for autobiographies so I'm chuffed to be chosen to be out this day."
Super Thursday is not new - it was first identified in 2008 - but it is only now the industry is pulling together and the latest tool in the fight against low price competition.
Katy Guest, literary editor of The Independent on Sunday, said it was about time the industry was unified in its approach.
She said: "Maybe the fact that publishers and booksellers are all coming together - instead of working against each other and pitting their books against each other for sales - will help."
 
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