Book Review: Relish – My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Book Review: Relish – My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Shelved: Non-fiction (graphic novel, memoir)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

In the spirit of a foodie Bank Holiday weekend (I blogged about Penguin’s Great Food series yesterday), it seemed only appropriate to start my review of Relish: My Life in the Kitchen too. I first came across this foodie graphic memoir when I saw that it had been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in 2013. I love books and I love food, so I added it to my wishlist straight away. It wasn’t until last month that I finally got around to buying it, after a trip to Gosh! Comics with Debbie. We had never visited Gosh! before (neither of us have read many graphic novels or comics) and were looking forward to it. We loved the huge curated display table as soon as you set foot through the door, and this is where we found Relish (Debbie bought Friends with Boys). We both definitely want to go back, especially because the staff were super friendly.

I loved Relish as soon as I started reading it. It’s 29-year-old Lucy’s graphic memoir of growing up surrounded by food and food lovers, from her chef mum’s home cooking to exotic foodie adventures on trips abroad – what food means to her and what food she particularly loves, and what memories they bring back. She says, ‘I can remember exactly the look and taste of a precious honey stick, balanced between my berry-stained fingers, but my times tables are long gone, forgotten, in favour of better, tastier memories’. Lucy’s drawings are wonderful and colourful – an exquisite mix of food writing and delicious illustrations. You can’t really ask for more.

I relate to her because she’s a foodie, but not a food snob. She love artisan bread and good quality chocolate, but she won’t say no to McDonald’s or a packet of Oreos. (‘We wouldn’t be eating it if it didn’t taste good’). She writes so eloquently, but clearly, showing us how memories of food are memories of growing up, and how tasting all the different flavours – from home and from other cultures – is like no other experience. I craved so many different kinds of food while reading Relish, including food I’ve never even tried (where can I find a tomatillo or honey sticks?). At the end of each chapter, there’s an easy-to-follow tasty recipe to make one of the foods featured in that chapter, such as the best chocolate chip cookies and sushi rolls. It was perfect for bedtime reading and it made me want to pick up more graphic novels – and eat more food!

I can’t wait to pick up her travelogue, French Milk, next and her new book, An Age of License: A Travelogue, is published in September. She also posts lots of lovely things on Tumblr.

Published: 26th April 2013
Publisher: First Second
Pages: 192

Behold the Pretty Books! / July Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / July Book Haul

Penguin’s Great Food Series

Penguin's Great Food Series

When I saw that the Penguin Great Food series was only £5 for 20 books from The Book People, did you really think I’d be able to resist? I love food. I love books. It just wasn’t going to happen. All booksellers seem to acknowledge how beautiful they are because I’ve seen them on display in so many different shops. I can’t help but pick them up each time yet I’ve never been able to decide which one to buy – now I don’t have to worry! They’re all pretty wonderful, designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith (who’s also the designer of the Penguin English Library series, which I also love) and typography by Stephen Raw.

Throughout the history of civilization, food has been more than simple necessity. In countless cultures, it has been livelihood, status symbol, entertainment – and passion. In the GREAT FOOD series, Penguin brings you the finest food writing from the last 400 years, and opens the door to the wonders of every kitchen.

I’ve started reading The Pleasures of the Table by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin as it was the first book: “His 1825 book The Physiology of Taste defined our notions of French gastronomy, and his insistence that food be a civilizing pleasure for all has inspired the slow food movement and guided chefs worldwide. From discourses on the erotic properties of truffles and the origins of chocolate, to a defence of gourmandism and why ‘a dessert without cheese is like a pretty woman with only one eye’, the delightful writings in this selection are a hymn to the art of eating well”.

If you love food. I mean, if you really love food – if you can’t wait to go on a trip/on holiday because it means eating out and the chance to visit food markets; if you look up the menu before visiting a restaurant because you just can’t wait; if when someone asks you for suggestions for places to visit, you can only name restaurants or bakeries or cafes; or if the perfect day out is a visit to a dessert bar (okay, I think we both know we’re talking about me here), then you probably won’t be able to resist this colourful, eclectic food writing series either. I cannot comment on the essays themselves yet, but I can’t wait to delve in.

Penguin's Great Food Series Penguin's Great Food Series Continue reading

Top Ten / Books People Have Been Telling Me to READ RIGHT NOW!

I participate in Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week the theme is Top Ten Books People Have Been Telling You That You MUST Read. I’m always surrounded by bookish people, mainly book bloggers and publishing people (and sometimes they tend to be both!), but also booksellers and librarians. It means I get to hear about a lot of books. Here’s a list of books that these people have been telling me to read right now – I’ve picked a mix of books on my wishlist and books on my bookshelves (or Kindle), but just haven’t gotten round to reading yet (much to my friends’ despair). Click the book’s title to find out more about the book on Gooreads.

Top Ten / Books People Have Been Telling Me to READ RIGHT NOW!

Solitaire by Alice Oseman, especially around YALC when everyone was scrabbling to get a copy! Lucy, Debbie, Caitlin have been telling me to read it since and have all said it’s one of their favourite books of the year so far, which is very high praise indeed.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo because even though my friends know I’m not much of a fantasy reader, they think I’ll like this. After starting the Throne of Glass series and really enjoying it, I’m looking forward to giving this one a shot! Charlie in particular has been nudging me about it.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio is probably the middle grade novel that has been recommended to me the most. I finally got my own copy a couple of months ago, so I can’t wait to read it. I feel like the only one in the world who hasn’t.

Lobsters by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison, which is another YA contemporary novel that everyone has been talking about. I’ve been promised that I’ll laugh out loud!

Far From You by Tess Sharpe is one I’ve borrowed from Debbie and still haven’t read (sorry Debbie!). It’s very high up on my TBR though!

Top Ten / Books People Have Been Telling Me to READ RIGHT NOW!

Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud is one I’ve had on my Kindle since last October. I’m usually not one for paranormal entities, but there’s just something about ghosts that I love… My book blogger friends (who read all sorts of different genres) have all been telling me to read it. Perhaps I’ll read it in October as the sequel will be out then too!

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson because she’s one of my favourite authors (I loved Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer) and so people are surprised that I haven’t read her third novel yet. I’m surprised at myself too.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, which people aren’t necessarily telling me to read ‘RIGHT NOW’ since it’s not yet published, but I saw that my friend Anna was reading (and really enjoying) it, and there’s been a few quite excellent comments about it on Twitter so far. It’s the perfect excuse to buy this beautiful book. I also have tickets to see David Mitchell talk about it in a few months.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab, which is another YA fantasy novel that people have been raving about, particularly Caitlin and Daphne. I don’t like to miss out on excellent things, so I’ll give this one a go too.

The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier, which is the newest addition to the list! I was chatting to my friends Colette and Kate last week and they both said this should be the Daphne du Maurier novel that I read next, since I’ve already read Rebecca.

Have you read any of these? Which one should I READ RIGHT NOW?

Behold the Pretty Books! / July Book Haul

Behold the Pretty Books! / July Book Haul

I went to quite a lot of bookshops and bookish events in July, so here’s the latest book haul:

John Diamond by Leon Garfield
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List by David Levithan & Rachel Cohn
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Vivian Versus America by Katie Coyle
This Book is Gay by James Dawson
Hollow Pike by James Dawson
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
The Templeton Twins Have an Idea by Ellis Weiner and illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (UK Special Collector’s Edition)
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (eBook)
The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (eBook)

You may know that #BookshopCrawl took place as part of Independent Booksellers Week last month and even thought I couldn’t participate, I did visit a few bookshops that day. Blackwell’s Charing Cross unfortunately has had to relocate, but that did mean they had an amazing 50% ‘move our stock’ sale. You’ll be pleased to know that I couldn’t go too crazy because I had to leave to meet my family for lunch. But before I left, I couldn’t resist two Vintage Children’s Classics editions: Little Women and John Diamond. I also bought The Templeton Twins Have an Idea because I added it to my wishlist two years ago. I was drawn to the cover and Lemony Snicket-style storyline. I also visited the wonderful Gosh! Comics the same day and picked up Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, which I’ve already read. It’s a perfect combination of books + illustrations + food. I’m looking forward to picking up her upcoming graphic memoir, An Age of License: A Travelogue. Rainbow Rowell came to visit the UK (I wrote about her event as part of the Landline blog tour) and so I picked up this special collector’s edition of Fangirl from Waterstones Piccadilly to get signed. It’s beautiful and I posted a few photos of it on Tumblr.

I also attended the UK’s first Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) and purchased Vivian Versus America even though I haven’t yet read the first book, Vivian Versus the Apocalypse – I will do, promise! I donated a book to the book swap and picked up James Dawson’s Hollow Pike in return – I now have all his books! A few of my friends will be happy that I’ll finally get around to reading it. We were also given This Book is Gay and Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List at the Blogger Brunch. It was an incredibly fun convention, but the best part was meeting up with all my bookish friends.

I’m also a member of Caboodle because I received a few National Book Tokens gift cards this year and I got to claim a free book – Wuthering Heights. It’s now my second Penguin English Library edition; I also bought Two on a Tower in June. I’ve never read it, so it’s another one to add to my 2014 Classics Challenge. I was also given Elizabeth is Missing by a colleague after I said that I kept seeing it everywhere, and Finnikin of the Rock by a friend because it’s our August book club choice.

Lastly, a friend of mine pointed out that The Cuckoo’s Calling and its sequel were incredibly cheap on Kindle, so I thought I’d downloaded those because I bought the hardback of the physical book when it was revealed that J.K. Rowling was the author, but I still haven’t read it. It’s much too large to take with me on my commute to work, so I thought the eBook might be more of an incentive to finally pick it up!

Phew! I would like to add that I got most of these books in the first week and a half in July… I’ve been rather good since, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

Which books did you get in July?

Behold the Pretty Books! / July Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / July Book Haul
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A Day Out: Finchingfield & Thaxted in Essex, plus a Bookish Surprise

I haven’t done a Where Are the Books? post in a few months, so I thought I’d finally share some photos from my day out in Finchingfield and Thaxted in Essex. If you only know Essex from The Only Way is Essex, you’re missing out. It might have a certain reputation, but Essex has some really lovely villages and there’s so much to do. One of my favourite weekend trips is driving into ‘deepest Essex’, discovering somewhere new.

Last August, we headed to Finchingfield after seeing that it had been described as ‘the most beautiful village in England’ and ‘a chocolate-box village’ – and it certainly is! We spent the day wandering around the village, looking at the pretty houses and old buildings, and the beautiful countryside. We visited a tea room – my idea, of course – and had a lunch of sandwiches, salad, scones with clotted cream and jam, cakes and coffee. After lunch, we came across the local church. I wouldn’t be the first person to volunteer to visit a church, but I’m so happy we did because we discovered an amazing bookish surprise. Over the summer the local church was home to an exhibition. The local kids had decorated it with creative displays inspired by various children’s books, including Dodie Smith’s 101 Dalmations as she was a resident of Finchingfield.

After we had walked everywhere and were full from all the cake and sandwiches, we headed to Thaxted, another lovely village a few miles from Finchingfield, to explore the countryside a bit more and track down the windmill. It was such a fun day out, so if you’re in the south of England and looking for something to do one weekend… head to Essex!

A Day Out: Finchingfield & Thaxted in Essex, plus a Bookish SurpriseA Day Out: Finchingfield & Thaxted in Essex, plus a Bookish Surprise Continue reading

Book Review: Boys Don’t Knit by T.S. Easton

Book Review: Boys Don't Knit by T.S. Easton

Boys Don’t Knit (#1)
Young adult fiction (contemporary)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Boys Don’t Knit was the second book I read in June for #aryaclub, a young adult book club. Tom Easton read from Boy’s Don’t Knit back in March at the Drink Shop Do Speakeasy. I rarely find books that are ‘laugh out out’-funny, but Tom’s reading was so hilarious that it made everyone on my table want to read the book even more – so we did.

After Ben Fletcher gets into a kerfuffle with a lollipop lady, which isn’t really his fault at all, he narrowly avoids the Young Offenders Unit by pledging to Give Something Back to the community. He has to take an extra-curricular activity at the local community college, choosing between Car Maintenance (run by his Dad – no way), Microsoft Office (boring), Pottery (embarrassing) and Knitting (even more embarrassing). He reluctantly chooses Knitting because it’s taught by his favourite teacher, Jessica Swallow, only to find out there was a mistake in the scheduling. It’s run by a different teacher (the mother of a girl he quite likes), so now he’s going to have to convince her not to mention it to anyone. Ever. Ben starts lessons only to find that he has quite a knack for it. Not telling anyone starts to become tricky when he actually begins to enjoy it…

Boys Don’t Knit takes place over 8 months and we see Ben Fletcher go from Knitting Sceptic to Knitter Extraordinaire. He’s such a fantastic protagonist, with a realistic, stand out voice. His passion for knitting is contagious and it got us all talking about learning to knit (and trying to convince some of our friends to teach us). It’s something that I’ve ‘always’ said that I ‘want to learn’, but never have. Reading about the impressive clothes Ben creates (plus he jots down all the knowledge that is needed in knitting!) shows just how much hard work goes into it. I loved hearing about knitting groups and knitting podcasts – it made me realise how it’s not that different from when a bunch of book lovers get together. I also loved the Britishness (something which I hope isn’t taken away when it’s published in the US next year). I realised this year that I don’t read as much UKYA as I should, and Boys Don’t Knit shows how much fun a book can be when you recognise all the cultural references, no matter how tiny and insignificant they are. I read a lot of contemporary YA lately, but Boys Don’t Knit offers something new and fresh – and not just because it has a male protagonist.

Boys Don’t Knit is entertaining, silly and ridiculous – it’s a lot of fun! But it’ll also get your rooting for Ben Fletcher and for the right for boys and girls to take up any hobby they want, regardless of gender stereotypes. An English Boy in New York is the next book in the series, which I’m really looking forward to reading. I can only imagine what Ben Fletcher might get up to next as he continues to navigate the world of knitting and girls…

Published: 2nd January 2014
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 288
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

Top Ten / Children’s and Young Adult Books Set During WWI

Did you know that 100 years ago today was the start of the First World War? World War One (WWI), the First World War or the Great War began on 28th July 1914 and lasted until 11th November 1918. It was one of the deadliest conflicts in history, but there’s few children’s and young adult books set during it (you’ll find much more about WWII). The centenary has meant that a whole host of children’s books surrounding WWI were published this year, so here’s a selection that I’ve come across, some read, some just on my wishlist.

Top Ten / Children's and Young Adult Books Set During WWI

Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer, set in a 1960s boarding school until young Charlotte Makepeace slips back in time to 1918, where everyone starts to call her Clare.

Stay Where You Are and Then Leave by John Boyne, about Alfie Summerfield, just five years old when World War I broke out. His young father, Georgie, promised he wouldn’t enlist voluntarily, only to break his promise the very next day, walking into the house in full uniform. Stay Where You Are and Then Leave is beautifully written and does not shy away from the harshness of wartime and the effect the war had on the entire country. I loved it and reviewed it last year.

Poppy by Mary Hooper, about a young girl whose life is about to be thrown dramatically off course. Poppy is fifteen, beautiful and clever, but society has already carved out her destiny. There’s no question of her attending the grammar school – it’s too expensive and unsuitable for a girl. Instead, Poppy will become a servant at the big house.

Valentine Joe by Rebecca Stevens, in which Rose’s granddad takes her on a trip to Ypres, Belgium to visit the graves of those who died in the Great War. When she goes up to her room that night, she hears the sound of marching feet and glimpses from her window a young soldier on his way to the front line…

Remembrance by Theresa Breslin, where a group of teenagers from two families meet for a picnic, but the war across the Channel is soon to tear them away from such youthful pleasures.

Top Ten / Children's and Young Adult Books Set During WWI

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is one you’ve all heard of: the story of Joey, a thoroughbred horse, and how he is forced into the thick of the harrowing, poorly-led battles of the First World War.

War Girls: A Collection of First World War Stories Through the Eyes of Young Women by Various is a collection of short stories explores how the First World War changed and shaped the lives of women forever, which I read and reviewed this year. I also interviewed Sally Nicholls about her story, Going Spare.

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Objects from the First World War by Various is a collection of stories, each inspired by a different object from the First World War. Each object illuminates an aspect of life during the war, and each story reminds us of the millions of individual lives that were changed forever by the fighting. It’s beautifully illustrated by Jim Kay.

Stories of World War One edited by Tony Bradman is a collection of short stories chronicles the events of World War One – imagining the conflicts and emotions of those people caught up in the war and its aftermath.

Ellen’s People by Dennis Hamley begins at the start of the war. When recruiting officers come to her village and her brother enlists, Ellen knows that her life will never be the same again. She longs for something more than her life as a housemaid. When her brother returns home after losing a leg, through helping him, she realises she wants to be a nurse at the front.

I will have missed some, so suggest more in the comments below! Tony Bradman also wrote a similar article for the Guardian earlier this month.

Book Review: Say Her Name by James Dawson

Book Review: Say Her Name by James Dawson

Young adult fiction (horror)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Say Her Name was one of two books I read in June for #aryaclub, a young adult book club. We’re all super fans of James Dawson (I’ve previously read Cruel Summer, his YA thriller) so it was an obvious choice, although some of us (not me!) were worried about reading horror. Horror is a under-represented genre in young adult fiction, but that seems to be changing, and James Dawson shows that you can write horror and do it well enough so it to be considered ‘definitely YA’.

Did Say Her Name scare me? No, but then I watched movies like The Exorcist, Scream (all of them!) and The Sixth Sense with my Dad when I was 12-13. (I’m more likely to be scared by horror movies now than I was then!). So, it didn’t scare me, but it was incredibly enjoyable for someone looking forward to reading horror and it was deliciously eerie. One of my favourite horror movies of all time is The Ring and if you enjoyed that, you’ll love Say Her Name. James Dawson brings remnants of The Ring into his story, but with a brilliantly modern twist – a contemporary boarding school setting.

Bobbie and Naya, best friends and roommates, are students at Piper’s Hall School for Young Ladies, an English boarding school. There’s a legend that’s been passed around the school for generations that claims if you say ‘Bloody Mary’ five times in front of a candlelit mirror, ‘Mary’ will come. Bobbie and Naya, alongside fellow teenagers Sadie and Caine (a cute boy who Bobbie wants to impress), dare each other to perform the ritual, so they do it. It’s just a joke, right? But in five days, they find out just what happens when you Say Her Name.

Piper’s Hall, being a boarding school, is the perfect setting for most YA novels if you ask me, but YA horror in particular. It’s enough to peak my interest, but Bloody Mary is a fabulous… ghost zombie? Think The Returned, but much more nightmarish. She’ll make you never want to have a shower ever again. I cannot say much because the best part is not knowing what is going to happen next, but parts of Say Her Name were seriously chilling to think about, and Bloody Mary has a tragic backstory that makes everything seem real. You don’t often get to see the human side of the supernatural in horror, but this makes her even more terrifying. Mary doesn’t just ‘get’ people for the sake of it and I loved getting to know her before she became Bloody Mary, while equally hoping that she would stay away from Bobbie, Naya and Caine, who are realistic teenage characters – they’re afraid and don’t believe they can ‘defeat’ Mary – that you want to keep safe.

Say Her Name is an eerily awesome introduction to YA horror, with a frighteningly believable story and fantastic ending. You’ll want to talk about what you’ve just read, so it was the perfect book club book. I adore the cover, designed by Jet Purdie, and so purchased a finished copy at the Say Her Name book launch last month, where we ate creepy cake and got to see James Dawson dressed up as a Bloody Mary. Don’t be scared – pick it up (but definitely do not say her name).

Published: 5th June 2014
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 240

Behold the Pretty Books! / May & June Book Haul
Behold the Pretty Books! / May & June Book Haul