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

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 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

For The Love of Books by Eva Jordan

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Image by RDRogers1971 from Pixabay

Last month I reviewed the beautifully illustrated children’s picture book, The Hospital Hoppities which you can read here. Inspired by such a lovely book and brilliant idea, I thought I’d take a look at why it’s so important for children to read books.

 

As a child I loved reading. I couldn’t wait to clamber up Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree or explore C. S. Lewis’s land of Narnia via the back of an old wardrobe.

 

 

Then, when my children were very little, I got the opportunity to go back to some of my childhood favourites by reading to them. I loved reading to my children, and they loved listening. Perched on my knee or snuggled up beside me they were always eager to listen to a bedtime story or two, including some I’d read as a child as well as new ones we discovered together. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Harry And The Terrible Whatzit were always firm favourites.

 

 

Reading to children provides a wonderful opportunity to bond with them, and a brilliant way to introduce them to the magical world of books. Even before they are born children recognise their parents’ voices, so reading to them from birth, just for a couple of minutes a day, gives them the comfort of hearing a familiar voice while increasing their exposure to language. 

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Image by 2081671 from Pixabay

 

However, as my children grew older and their enthusiasm to sit on my knee waned, I’m pleased to say their love of books didn’t. They enjoyed trips to the library almost as much as a day out.

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Image by Ben Kerckx from Pixabay

So, what do the experts have to say about it? Well, apparently reading for pleasure is really good for children, and here’s why.

Not only does reading encourage children to use their imagination, studies have also shown that reading for pleasure can make a great difference to a child’s educational performance.

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Image by Mandyme27 from Pixabay

They will often perform better in reading tests, develop a broader vocabulary, increased general knowledge and a better understanding of other cultures. In fact, Bali Rai, award-winning writer of novels for teenagers and younger readers suggests, “Reading for pleasure is the single biggest factor in success later in life, outside of an education. Study after study has shown that those children who read for pleasure are the ones who are most likely to fulfil their ambitions. If your child reads, they will succeed—it’s that simple”.

 

 

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Image by b0red from Pixabay

Eva Jordan in conversation with… Betsy Reavley

Eva Jordan in conversation with Betsy Reavley

On my blog I’ve been lucky enough to host some great interviews with some amazing local authors, and just recently that extended to a wonderful and informative Q&A session with prolific book blogger, Linda Hill, which you can read here. However, this month I’m really honoured to bring you an interview with someone who is both a successful author and one half of a successful husband and wife team behind the publishers Bloodhound Books and Bombshell Books, Betsy Freeman Reavley. 

  1. Hi Betsy, can you tell everyone a bit about yourself? 

I began my career as a writer and started my first novel when I was twenty-two years old. After having my first daughter and then getting married, I finally got round to finishing it and I was thrilled when an indie publisher offered me a contract and went on to publish the book.

The birth of eBooks and Amazon changed how people could publish and gave me, and my husband, an opportunity to start our own business, which we did in 2014. Bloodhound Books was born and we’ve never looked back. 

  1. What is the most difficult/frustrating part of being a publisher? 

The publishing world has changed since the birth of eBooks. Many authors still think of publishing in traditional terms and some authors struggle with the idea that our focus is on eBook sales, despite the fact we also produce paperbacks.

  1. As we all know, life can be difficult at times. Do you have a quote (either your own or someone else’s) or a motto that you try and live by, not just during the tough times but the good ones too? 

I listen to music to encourage me to focus my mind. Anything from BB King to Eminem will help me concentrate on what I want to achieve and keep going. The lyrics are all important to me and I take strength from them. I also love poetry, which inspires me to never give up.

  1. Truthfully, which do you prefer, writing or publishing?

They are both fulfilling but require very different skill sets. I couldn’t say. The pressure from publishing can be stressful but keeps life interesting. Writing is a lonely pursuit but one that I love.

  1. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones? 

I used to read every review, taking each to heart, whether those words were good or bad. I am grateful to anyone who takes the time to leave a review, be it good or bad, but I’ve grown a thicker skin and now worry much less. What I do care about are sales figures. I am not a literary writer who does it for the art of writing. I am a career woman and I want to make a good living.

  1. And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a writer or a publisher?

I don’t think you can advise someone how to become a writer. It’s either in you to do it or it isn’t. Writer’s write, it’s that simple. As for publishing, I never thought I’d end up being a publisher but I have discovered that I enjoy business and the opportunity to give talented writers a platform. The one thing I would always encourage people to remember is that publishing is based on opinions. Do I like this book? Can I sell it? What one publisher may think another may disagree with. Neither is wrong. It’s all just opinion. As long as you remember that, then you’ll keep your head screwed on properly.

 

 

Eva Jordan reviews… Over My Shoulder by Patricia Dixon

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This is the first book I’ve read by this particular author and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Over My Shoulder is no holds barred look at the physical, mental and emotional effects of a controlling, abusive relationship. A dark psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat racing through the final pages.

Set in Manchester, written in the first person, the story is narrated retrospectively through the voice of Freya, the main protagonist. Freya takes us back to where it all began, as a young woman in her twenties during the 1990s. I didn’t particularly warm to Freya, to begin with. It wasn’t that I disliked her as such, but first impressions painted a picture of someone shallow, materialistic, more concerned about her looks and labels, easily impressed by those who could afford the finer things in life.

However, I quickly realised my initial judgment was somewhat harsh. I also remembered what it was like to be a young woman at the start of my own adult life, all the angst, uncertainty and possibilities that lay ahead, the need to forge my own identity and yet at the same time the need to assimilate, to somehow fit in.

So in that sense, the author got Freya’s character bang on because she also demonstrated just how vulnerable young people are, how prone to manipulation they can be and therefore, despite coming from a loving and caring family, what a prime target for dangerous, and controlling individuals like Kane, they can be. Kane is the antagonist in this tale, a real anti-hero, the very epitome of evil, although, as with all good storytelling, the reader is not privy to the depths of Kane’s depravity until much further into the story.

Over My Shoulder is a dark tale of domestic abuse and the far-reaching, destructive effects such a relationship can have on the victim and their loved ones. Well written with a sympathetic understanding of a difficult subject matter, it is a rollercoaster of a read that also delves into the murky underworld of criminals and sexual predators. Gripping, hard-hitting, it is not a read for the faint hearted but it is one that will find you taking a sharp intake of breath towards the conclusion and will also, perhaps, at times, like me, find you looking over your shoulder.

You can purchase Over My Shoulder on Amazon

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Patricia Dixon on Social Media:
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Book Bloggers – The Unsung Heroes Of The Book World

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Once a month I write a column for a local lifestyle magazine called The Fens. As well as offering writing advice I’ve also had the pleasure of doing some great interviews with some amazing authors. However, this month I thought I’d chat with one of the many brilliant unsung heroes of the book world, namely Linda Hill – book blogger extraordinaire. Among other things, Linda – a prolific reader – writes book reviews, takes part in blog tours and regularly hosts author guest posts on her award-winning Book Blog, Linda’s Book Bag. And like many book bloggers, this is all done in her spare time for nothing more than the sheer love of books.

  1. Hi Linda, can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Hi Eva. I’m a passionate and eclectic reader (and a bit of a closet writer) who used to be an English teacher, inspector and educational consultant. I’m self-retired and love books and travel.

  1. Have you always enjoyed reading books and when did you first become a book blogger?

I was a late reader as my sight is so poor that I didn’t realise those squiggles on a page had meaning! Once I got glasses at 7 there was no stopping me and I still have my childhood Paddington books.

I began blogging three years ago when I decided life was too short to keep working and I wanted to share my love of books. Since then my blog has grown and I might even say has got out of hand!

  1. And finally, what advice would you offer anyone thinking of becoming a book blogger?

Learn to say ‘No’. There are only 24 hours in a day. It’s so tempting to accept every book you are offered for review and once you get known, the books keep arriving even if you’re not expecting them – I currently have over 900 physical books that have just turned up and I can’t get into my study.

Bloggers need to be very active on social media like Twitter and Facebook so that lots of readers see their blog posts.

I’d also say that authors never set out to write a bad book so be constructive and kind in reviews. A book that may not appeal to one person might be perfect for another reader.

I’d urge ALL readers to review on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, as well as a blog, as this is the only way many authors can get their books noticed.

And blog often!