Book Review–F*ck, That’s Delicious: An annotated Guide to Eating Well by @ActionBronson and @rachelwharton Published by @ABRAMSbooks

“Food has been a part of my life, always.”

I can safely say this cookbook is, without a doubt, unlike any other I have read or reviewed before. Written by Ariyan Arslan, better known by the stage name Action Bronson––an American rapper, writer, chef, and television presenter—this unique cookbook was a birthday gift to my son from my daughter, partly inspired by his love of rap music but mostly because of his recent interest in cooking. He was thrilled when he received it and immediately took to the kitchen to try his hand at one of the recipes, which I have to say looked and smelled remarkably good.

Born to an American Jewish mother and an Albanian Muslim father, Bronson—described in the foreword as a “dude that looks like a cross between Godzilla, a handsome 1950s movie star from Europe, and a cult Mexican wrestler”—grew up in a small two-bedroomed apartment in Queens, New York, with his parents and grandparents. Home life, he says, was hectic, but always filled with love and the smell of good cooking. His grandmother, or nonna, who the book is dedicated to, would often bake three times a day, and it’s clear her love of food rubbed off on her grandson.

However, unlike standard cookbooks, this one is not just a compilation of illustrated recipes, of which there are a number, ranging from bagels to pizza, burgers to opihi, and bebidas to coffee cake, it is also jam-packed with pages of Bronson’s tours and travel, as well as some of his favourite eateries, both locally and around the world. But be warned… if you’re looking for healthy food, you won’t find it here. These recipes are all about flavour. Sprinkled with wit, swearing, and humorous back-stories (as well as a whole page dedicated to toothpicks), this colourful culinary journal is the perfect gift for all rap music and foodie enthusiasts alike.

You can purchase your copy below on Amazon

Pumpkins and Dragonflies: A Short Story for Halloween by Eva Jordan

Sally’s brother waited for her by the school gate. Arms folded, he was grinning, watching the other students file past. He was fatter in the face now. Looked more like the Ben from before. Before he got sick… before the cancer. He spotted her, raised his hand and waved. Sally waved back. Two girls walking beside her looked to see who she was waving at: exchanged glances and sniggered. Sally blushed; turned away.

            ‘Hey,’ said Ben, when she reached him. ‘Are those girls being mean?’        

            Sally waved her hand dismissively. ‘Nothing I can’t handle. They just think I’m a bit… weird. Anyway… how’s you?’

            Ben’s face deflated like a balloon. ‘OK… I suppose. Can’t wait till I’m well enough to start school again, though. Then I won’t have to listen to Mum and Dad arguing all the time.’

            ‘Did they argue this morning?’

            ‘Yep. As soon as you left. Then Dad stormed off and Mum started crying… again… before falling asleep. I wouldn’t mind, but she keeps sleeping on my bed for some weird reason?’               

            Sally’s heart sank.      

            ‘Do you think they’ll split up?’ continued Ben.

            Sally shrugged, unease fizzing in her belly. ‘I hope not. C’mon, let’s go home.’ They walked in silence for a few minutes; a copper carpet of leaves crunching beneath their feet. It was Halloween and scary looking pumpkin faces glared at them from the windows of the various houses they passed.

            ‘Do you remember that year we went Trick or Treating and you dressed up as a dragonfly?’

            Ben laughed. ‘Yeah. I do. I love dragonflies.’

            A sudden gust of wind stirred the leaves at their feet, scattering them like confetti. Giggling, Sally threw her hands up; caught a handful. Amongst them was a white feather. ‘Look,’ she said, showing Ben. ‘It’s a sign. It’s Nanna.’

            Ben rolled his eyes. ‘You don’t still believe in that rubbish do you… about angels and ghosts?’

            Sally shrugged. ‘Maybe…’

            At home, their mother, eyes red and still wearing her dressing gown, said she needed a nap. Sally made herself something to eat, then sat beside Ben at the table. He was studying the white feather she’d brought home.           

            ‘Before she passed away,’ said Sally, ‘Nanna used to say that a ghost is the spirit of a dead person stuck in this world because a loved one can’t or won’t let them go… and the only way for the ghost to move on is to give their loved one a sign; let them know they’re OK.’

            Ben looked stunned.

            The following day Ben didn’t meet Sally outside school, which saddened her a little, but it was a relief to see her Mum dressed and smiling again.

            ‘Look,’ said Sally’s mother, pointing to a picture of a dragonfly in one of Ben’s books. ‘It opened on this page when I picked it up. Then I heard a tapping noise at the window and when I looked up, I saw the most amazing dragonfly. And I knew, Sal… I just knew Ben was OK.’

©Eva Jordan

Eva Jordan In Conversation With @SELynesAuthor @bookouture

My book review this month, The Lies We Hide (which you can read here) is written by one of my favourite authors, Susie Lynes. It is both an emotional and moving story, exploring the fall-out of domestic abuse and the far-reaching effect it often has on all those involved. It is also, Susie explained, her sixth published novel, but was in fact the first book she ever wrote, making it very close to her heart. Here we find out why… and get to know her a little better…

Welcome Susie, thanks for chatting to me today. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself – I understand you used to work as a producer for the BBC?

I used to be a radio programme producer for the BBC in Scotland. I started by making five-minute features and progressed to producing a weekly magazine show. I left the BBC when I moved to Rome with my husband, Paul, and two kids, Alistair and Maddie. We lived there for five years before moving to Teddington. By this time we had our third child, Francesca. After settling the troops, I did a creative writing course at my local adult college then an MA in creative writing and went on to teach creative writing at Richmond Adult Community College. I wrote four novels before I broke through with my debut, Valentina.

Did you always want to be a writer, and if so what writers have inspired you?

Nothing in my working-class upbringing would have led me to aspire to writing novels; I would have felt embarrassed even mentioning it. Becoming an author is something that has happened on the side, while no one was looking. I just kept plugging away, returning always to the fact that I loved doing it. I have been inspired by many writers – Pat Barker, Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, Gillian Flynn, Patricia Highsmith, Hilary Mantel, Barbara Vine and Sarah Waters are but a few.

How does the discipline of writing compare to teaching it?

I used to get so nervous before teaching that all I could eat beforehand was cake but there was no choice as to whether or not I turned up. When I teach, the discipline required is more along the lines of keeping the classes focussed and varied. I do get nervous before I sit and write sometimes, particularly if it’s a new project. The discipline consists of making myself sit at the desk, even if I’m not in the mood. It can take over an hour to get in the zone. I work best in solitude because I am naturally quite gregarious. I leave my phone in another room!

Do you believe taking a Masters in Creative Writing helped you? Is it a path to writing you would recommend to others?

It helped me personally because I struggled with confidence, especially after having children and leaving my career to live in Italy. But the MA gave me more than validation. I learnt the craft and even now I am quite a technical writer. I would recommend an MA to anyone as a worthwhile journey to take for its own sake but not as a way of getting published. It’s not necessary.

I’ve now read three of your novels and I’ve loved them all! But for me, The Lies We Hide was particularly good. Why is this story so close to your heart?

Thank you! The Lies We Hide is my only non-thriller so perhaps there was more latitude, more depth. It is close to my heart because it is pulled from my roots. When I spent a day in Lancaster prison for research, I found I didn’t need to change anything about my character Graham because I went to school with boys like him. TLWH is the first book I ever wrote and I was grateful to Bookouture for publishing it for me. The final version benefitted from all the elements of craft I’d learnt over the years through writing thrillers.

And finally, the question I love to ask all writers! For anyone thinking of becoming a writer, what advice would you offer?

Write every day. Set yourself a time and don’t agree to anything else at that time. Write before you do your chores because they will always get done while your writing will not. Take it seriously. You don’t have to tell anyone you’re taking it seriously; this can be your secret. Only do it if, when you sit down to write, you ‘awake’ hours later with no awareness of time passing. If you never get around to doing it, it could be that writing is not for you. It’s not for everyone, and there is no shame in that. Try and hold onto the fact that being rubbish or thinking you’re rubbish is part of the process. Ask yourself: do I enjoy it? If the answer is yes, carry on. The rest is vanity, after all.

If you’d like to know more about Susie, you can find her and her books at the following:

Amazon          https://goo.gl/HjLcMD

Kobo              https://goo.gl/hqp8so

iTunes            https://goo.gl/QLP25K

Facebook       http://goo.gl/fvGGpK

Twitter             http://goo.gl/WCuhh3

Book Review – The Lies We Hide by @SELynesAuthor @bookouture

“The truth can set you free, or make you a prisoner”

Susie Lynes is fast becoming my “go to” author for a guaranteed page turning read. The Lies We Hide, the third book I’ve read by this brilliant writer, didn’t disappoint.

Years ago, I worked for a short time at a Women’s Refuge, covering their ‘out of hours’ phone rota on a voluntary basis when I left, which I continued to do for a number of years. It was a sobering experience and one of the main reasons that drew me to this story. The author’s note explains how the seeds for this cautionary tale were sown way back in the 80s when she was a reporter for the BBC and was given an assignment to look into domestic violence. She visited a refuge to interview two women who had fled the abuse of their husbands. One of them explained how her husband had held her under the bathwater, and how she was convinced she was going to die. She vowed to herself, if she survived, she’d leave that night, which she did, taking her two young sons with her. This in turn inspired the author to write The Lies We Hide.

Listed as psychological Literary Fiction, this is a family drama narrated through four main voices, namely Carol, her two children Graham and Nicola, and Richard, a prison chaplain. As stories go it is an uncomfortable read. However, it is written with such compassion and authenticity it’s difficult to put down. This in part is because, rather than just focussing on the day-to-day fear of living with an abusive partner, which the author does chillingly brilliant at times – “his anger [she thinks] will write itself on her body later, invisible ink that reveals its black message by degrees” – she also pans back, showing us the much wider picture. Including the terrible decisions that those affected by domestic violence sometimes choose, or feel forced to make.

When confronted with long-term domestic violence, whether directly on the receiving end of it or simply witnessing and/or hearing it on a day-to-day basis, everyone copes and reacts differently. Carol, an abused wife, will do anything to protect her children. Whereas Graham, Carol’s son becomes, “silent, since speaking was difficult; violent, since no one speaks out against a fist; mean, since kindness got you nowhere”. Later, Graham finds himself in prison for murder, but eventually finds redemption by confessing to Richard, a voluntary chaplain who, it turns out, is struggling with his own demons. Then there is Nicola, Graham’s sister and Carol’s studious daughter. Nicola is younger than her brother, and is therefore less exposed and somewhat shielded from her father’s violence. She chooses a different path to Graham and makes her escape through hard work and education. However, when her mother passes away, Nicola discovers the true extent of the sacrifices made on her behalf. The lengths her mother and brother went to to protect her, enabling her to become the successful city lawyer she eventually becomes – which in part is influenced by her brother’s incarceration.

The lies, in fact, they have hidden from her…  

You can find The Lies We Hide here on Amazon.

Book Review—Live Green: 52 steps for a more sustainable life by Jen Chillingworth Published by @QuadrilleBooks

“Less buying, more doing, less wanting, more enjoying.”

I can’t stand unnecessary waste, or littering, especially plastic. An invention I both love and loathe in equal measure. Cheap and durable it is believed that 8.3 billion metric tonnes of the stuff has been produced during the last 70 years alone, 79 percent of which has been thrown away either into landfill sites or the general environment, including 8 million tonnes into our oceans every year. Estimates suggest that by the year 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in our seas and 99 percent of all seabirds will have consumed some. For this reason alone I believe we owe it to our planet to act and think a little greener, but not just with plastic but all aspects of our daily life. 

Live Green is a handy sized and thoughtful collection of 52 tips, one for each week of the year, offering ideas about the changes we can make to our home and lifestyle including the reduction and recycling of plastic. It looks at things like cleaning products and the advantages of making your own, and the benefit of mindful shopping and eating green. It also addresses personal care, including how to create a capsule wardrobe and buying vintage, plus some helpful advice on hair care, cosmetics and beauty routines. 

With a fab section at the back containing useful links to other green sources of information and helpful recipe ideas (including a great sloe gin, and a rather lovely sea salt and lemon and lavender body scrub) scattered throughout, Live Greenis an easy to read and beautifully illustrated guide to help start you on your way to a more healthy and eco friendly lifestyle. 

Eva Jordan reviews Dead Inside by @nholten40 published by @OneMoreChapter

“The crash at the bottom of the stairs woke me instantly… I didn’t want to move. I couldn’t, I was paralysed with fear. I had always accepted the verbal abuse that was thrown at me. I could take that. It was the physical abuse that filled me with shame.”

Dead Inside is the debut novel of award winning blogger, and writer, Noelle Holten, and the first in her DC Maggie Jamieson Police Procedural series. Written in the third person (except the prologue), the central theme of this story is domestic abuse, a subject matter the writer handles with great sensitivity and professionalism. The cast of characters is large, so it’s important to keep up with who’s who; otherwise you run the risk of becoming a little confused. However, the chapters are short and snappy, making it easy to read as well as adding to the pace of the storyline.

Some reviewers have said there is one main protagonist in this killer thriller, however, I’d argue there are two. The first is Lucy Sherwood who, based on Noelle’s own career experience, is a probation officer. In her professional life, Lucy comes across as a tough, no nonsense individual: a given for a probation officer dealing with offenders who have abused their partners, which is also rather ironic when juxtaposed to Lucy’s private life. The second protagonist in this story is DC Maggie Jamieson who, like Lucy, is a strong individual, the right balance of firm but fair, and it’s her job to solve the recent murder of a man connected to a domestic abuse case.

However, when a second body turns up, followed by a third, and the discovery of a connection between the said individuals in that all three men had either been previously charged, or linked to separate domestic abuse cases, it quickly becomes apparent there’s a serial killer on the loose.

With the clock ticking will DC Maggie Jamieson and her team find their suspect? I suggest you buy the book and find out!

A fab debut and a great start to a new series.

For buying links, or if you’d like to know a little more about Noelle, click here where you can read my brilliant Q&A with her, including a fascinating insight into her former career as a Senior Probation Officer, as well as a wealth of knowledge and advice on blogging and writing… which I strongly urge you to take a look at.

Eva Jordan in conversation with @nholten @OneMoreChapter

Although we’ve never met in person, I’ve been an online friend of Noelle’s for over 5 years now, and like many bloggers and writers, I’ve found her to be both extremely supportive and encouraging to all those linked with the book world. Today we get to know her a little better…

  • Welcome Noelle, thanks for chatting to me. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself – I understand you used to be a probation officer?

Hi Eva! Thanks so much. A little about myself – hmmm. By day I am the PR & Social Media Manager at a leading digital publisher in the UK – Bookouture and by night I write the DC Maggie Jamieson series for Harper Collins imprint, One More Chapter and read/review on my blog: CrimeBookJunkie. Yes, I was a Senior Probation Officer for nearly 18 years. I managed two teams of officers and one of the teams was based in a police station. I left in 2017 when my dream of working for a publisher came true!

  • Did you always want to be a writer, and if so what writers inspired you?

The short answer to that is no! I always wanted to work in the criminal justice field. I used to write morbid, teenage poetry in my youth and a few short stories in high school but I never believed I could actually write a novel myself. I was an avid reader from a young age and my favourite genre has always been true crime/crime fiction. My interest in writing came when I was about 44/45 yrs. old and every crime author I read (there’s been a lot) are the ones who inspired me. I was in awe of their talent to pull a reader into a story and I wanted to see if I could do the same. So far, so good! My series isn’t for everyone, but that’s the great thing about books – some people will love them, others won’t but there are plenty of great crime writers out there to choose from!

  • How does writing compare to probation?

The only murders I now have to deal with are those I create myself on the page! Probation can be a very stressful and emotional draining job. Even though I left in 2017, I still consider myself a probation officer – albeit an ex one! It is challenging and the rewards can be few. I admire all my colleagues who still go in and do their very best to ensure the public are protected. I loved my time in Probation but once politics became involved and split us into Public/Private sectors – I knew my time was limited. What I love about writing is I can still be ‘involved’ in probation and other criminal justice fields – without the stress.

  • And finally, for anyone thinking of starting a blog, or becoming a writer, what advice would you offer?

For starting a blog, I’d say – just go for it! Be yourself, read and review what you love and make it your own. There are no rules!

In terms of writing, I would say read as many books in the genre you want to write about as you can. See how your favourite authors keep you turning those pages. I would also suggest that if you seek any advice, by all means take it on board, but find what works for you. If you don’t have a thick skin… develop one! You need to be able to accept constructive criticism, rejections as well as negative reviews. And finally, persevere! Not everyone gets a book deal the first time around. You may have to keep at it for years – but if it is something you are serious about, think of it like a job – you need to keep doing it and hopefully you’ll find that agent or publisher who sees your potential. There’s always the self publishing route too – but I’d suggest that you make sure you invest the time and money into making your self publishing journey as successful as possible – like Mark Dawson, L.J Ross or M.A. Comley to name a few!  

To read my review of Dead Inside click here

Connect with Noelle on Social Media here:

Twitter: (@nholten40) https://twitter.com/nholten40
Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/noelleholtenauthor/
Blog FB page:https://www.facebook.com/crimebookjunkie/
Instagram:@crimebookjunkie (https://www.instagram.com/crimebookjunkie/
Website: https://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk  
Bookbub Author page: https://bit.ly/2LkT4LB
Newsletter:https://bit.ly/3glVZlO

Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2Y1kCM1

Goodreads Author Page: http://bit.ly/37P4t0C

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/2Y1lQ9Y

Harper Collins Website: http://bit.ly/2OAnBYJ

Buy Links – Dead Inside 

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2PtcKk7 

Apple: https://apple.co/2SBRpqt 

Kobo: https://bit.ly/2DZwZ2M 

Googleplay: http://ow.ly/T17w30nCWp3 

Audiobook: https://adbl.co/2qiQVJR 

Eva Jordan reviews The Railway Carriage Child by Wendy Fletcher, Published by Whittlesey Wordsmiths

Last month I interviewed local writer to me, Wendy Fletcher (which you can read here). We discussed, among other things, her memoir, The Railway Carriage Child, and this is my review.

Wendy was born in the small fenland market town of Whittlesey, which, as mentioned in the foreword, includes two medieval churches, a 19th century Butter Cross and rare examples of 18th century mud boundary walls. Less well known is a pair of Victorian railway carriages, which stand just outside the town. These Great Eastern Railway carriages, built in 1887, later converted to living accommodation in the 1920s, were Wendy’s childhood home, and are still home to Wendy’s family to the present day.

Beginning around the mid-twentieth century, Wendy starts her story with her birth, introducing us to a life that seems a million miles away from our present one – “the ‘web’ was where the spiders lived [and] ‘Broadband’ was something that kept your hair tidy.” Moving through her childhood, she paints a picture of a time that, although arguably much physically harder for most than it is today, was also, mostly, a much simpler one too. One much closer to nature and one that, with none of the gadgets and technology of today, carried a wonderful sense of innocence about it. “I look back on a child’s lifetime of listening to the gentle sounds of dawn through the changing seasons. Each morning as I woke, I was bathed in the early light, spreading from the blurred patches that were the windows above my bed… It seemed that there was always plenty of time. I knew mother wouldn’t allow me out to play too early. She would say ‘Wait ‘til the day’s got up proper,’ as I pleaded to be released from the kitchen door.”

Filled with memories of scorching hot summers and fun-filled coach trips to the seaside, juxtaposed to bitterly cold winters (without central heating!) that required much-needed knitted shawls and woolly hats, not to mention lots of huddling round the hearth for heat, The Railway Carriage Child is both wonderfully warm and evocative. An easy to read but beautifully crafted memoir that, although heartfelt and reflective, is at times, delightfully humorous. An innocent account of an unconventional childhood but also a reassuringly familiar one, especially when I discovered that like me, Wendy also developed a keen love of books and reading whilst growing up.

However, if this review leaves you with one burning question, namely how, or why, Wendy’s family came to live in two Victorian railway carriages… well… I suggest you buy a copy of the book and therein find your answer.

Click here to purchase your copy of The Railway Carriage Child from Amazon

Eva Jordan reviews The Giver of Stars by @jojomoyes published by @PenguinUKBooks

Jojo Moyes

 

Wow, just wow! This is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. Beautifully written and heartfelt, The Giver of Stars is, above all else, a testament to the power of positive friendships and the simple joy of books.

Set in 1930s America, this story is based on a fascinating piece of American history regarding the horseback librarians of rural Kentucky. The aim of the Pack Horse Library Project, which was set up in 1934 by Eleanor Roosevelt, was to aid the education of those living in the more remote parts of the state, often hit hardest by the Great Depression. Hazardous work, including travel across tough terrain, often in adverse weather conditions, it was no easy task for the librarians (who were mostly women) who would regularly ride 20-mile routes into the Appalachian Kentucky Mountains via horseback. However, this band of women, who proved to be as determined as they were dedicated, delivered books and magazines to the people and families that requested them, as committed to their jobs as the mail carriers were.

Narrated in the third person, the main protagonist of this story is Alice, a young English woman who, desperate to escape the rigid confines of polite society and her well-to-do family, marries a handsome young American called Bennett, whom she meets when he is visiting Europe on an outreach mission. However, when she arrives at her new home in America, all is not as Alice imagined it to be. She does her best to adjust to her new surroundings but it soon becomes apparent that her new life in the small Kentucky town of Baileyville, despite the cultural shift from Sussex, is almost as stifling as her old one. Things change, however, when she volunteers to become a horseback librarian where she discovers new friends, including Margery O’Hare. Margery is unlike the other townswomen, or any of the women Alice knew in England. She wears leather breeches and unpolished boots. ‘I suit myself [she said], and people generally leave me be… That’s how I like it.’ The two women develop an unlikely friendship which, set against the vibrantly drawn landscape and mountains, interwoven amongst the beautiful imagery of the ever-changing seasons, we follow the ups and downs of this pioneering duo alongside their other spirited friends.

However, when tragedy strikes, their friendship is truly tested…

With vividly drawn characters, including the villain of the peace, The Giver of Stars is a beautifully crafted and meticulously researched work of art. A real page-turner, both evocative and thought provoking, and full of heartfelt love and hope. Succinctly put, it is a story about a group of women finding themselves and their tribe, but above all else, it is a wonderful celebration of friendship and books.

 

 

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with writer Wendy Fletcher

In convo with Wendy

 

I’m currently reading a beautiful memoir called The Railway Carriage Child, written by the lovely Wendy Fletcher. Look out for my review in next month’s magazine. In the meantime I thought we’d get to know Wendy a little better…

 

Hi Wendy, thanks for agreeing to chat with me. Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

Hi Eva, I live in the railway carriages just outside Whittlesey, the last ones still occupied in this area – as far as I am aware. These have been in my family since 1935 and I spent my childhood there with my parents and grandmother; attending school at King’s Dyke and March. I returned to the carriages in 2009. Then my mother died and I realized how much history was lost with each generation. I started to record my memories, originally just for the family. Edward Storey, well-known chronicler of the Fens, suggested that this might appeal to a wider audience and The Railway Carriage Child evolved.

 

Your memoir is beautifully written. Have you written any other books and do you have plans to write more in the future?

This is my first book. I am currently collecting material for a book on the social history of King’s Dyke, which I hope to publish as a tribute to the families who lived and worked in that small community just outside Whittlesey. I am also 12,000 words into writing a novel and have started two children’s books. I am enjoying having a variety of projects and swap from one to the other, as inspiration takes me.

 

Finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of writing a memoir?

My first experience of writing was very lonely and isolating. I was surrounded by piles of notes and half-remembered images from more than fifty years ago. I found the balance for this by setting up a creative writing group (U3A Whittlesey Wordsmiths). Through them, I have met like-minded people and received support and encouragement. My advice to anyone considering a similar project would be ‘You don’t need to do it on your own’.

 

You can purchase The Railway Carriage Child here at Amazon or locally (when they re-open) at the Whittlesey Museum, and Parkers Newsagents. Plus, if you’d like to read more by Wendy, you can read a number of her short stories in two anthologies published by the Whittlesey Wordsmiths, Where the Wild Winds Blow (read my review here) and A Following Wind, also available at Amazon and at the Whittlesey Museum.