Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fabulous food, minus the boombah: by Jane Kennedy

Funny lady Jane Kennedy loves cooking and eating but not the results of eating anything she wants. After having five children in six years and trying all sorts of fad diets in an attempt to shift excess weight, she developed her own recipes. They sound scrumptious and better still, come without the boombah: in Kennedy's parlance, the "word to describe food that makes your arse huge."
There's something for every occasion in this book, whether it's a family meal at home, something snatched on the run or entertaining. Recipes range from the simple - frittatas, baked eggs wrapped in bacon,roasted beetroot or red pepper soup- to the sublime, such as barbecued quail with lime, swordfish with capsicum relish or seared beef fillet with chilli, ginger, radish and soy. Desserts are fresh and fruity. Yum! Kennedy believes 'you need food you can look forward to' and there is plenty to look forward to in this lavishly illustrated, engaging book.
Rating - I give this 5/5
Reviewed by Jan@ Ballarat branch

The reluctant hero, by Michael Dobbs

"When Harry Jones discovers that former friend Zac Kravitz's life is in danger, a debt of honour sends him on a perilous rescue mission to Ta'argistan, a mountainous and landlocked former Soviet republic bordering Russia, China and Afghanistan. Muscling his way onto a delegation of MPs who happen to be paying the state a visit, Harry finds an unlikely ally in the stubbornly independent Martha and together they devise a plan to break Zac out of the grim prison Bodima. But when the attempt backfires and he finds himself himself stuck in prison in Zac's place, little by little Harry realises that all is not as it seemed and that he has been lured into a web of international conspiracy. (from the publisher's notes.)
There's more than a touch of Boys' Own Adventure to this book, which also reminds me of tales by Alistair MacLean in his early days. Derivative or not, this is a cracking read. Yes, the boundaries of reality are stretched at times, but it's fast-paced, edgy and exciting. If you're a fan of adventure stories, give this a go.
Rating - I give this 4/5
Not bad!
Get this from the library
Reviewed by Jan @ Ballarat branch

Friday, February 19, 2010

The beacon, by Susan Hill

Prizewinning novelist and short story author Susan Hill has long had a grip on mystery and suspense and these talents are very much to the fore in this gripping tale.
The Beacon is the bleak North Country property where Colin, May, Frank and Berenice Prime grew up. Colin, Berenice and Frank married and moved away; May tried university in London, but fearfulness got the better of her and she moved back home to look after her ageing parents.
It was a hard-working, contented childhood - but when Frank, who nobody really talks about, publishes a memoir, there are many questions. Could he really have been so miserable, so mistreated as a child? And suddenly a family that has been long-established and respected in the district is shamed, bewildered and shunned by the community.
The Beacon is a powerful story, with well-drawn, believeable characters. I've long been an admirer of Susan Hill's work and my admiration continues.
Rating - I give this 4/5
Get this from the library
Reviewed by Jan @ Ballarat branch

Bottle Shock - DVD

Sommelier and wine shop owner Steven Spurrier, a British expatriate living in Paris, concocts a plan to hold a blind taste-test intended to introduce Parisians to the quality wines coming from elsewhere in the world (and save his business in the process). He travels to the not-yet-famous Napa Valley in search of contestants for his Judgement of Paris taste test, where a chance meeting introduces him to floundering vintner Jim Barrett of Chateau Montelena. Barrett wants no part in the competition, believing it is all a set-up designed by the French to humiliate New World wine producers (from the publisher).
I hadn't anything about this movie, just thought it would offer something a little different to watch. I was pleasantly surprised. It's not a film that will set the world alight, but does make a good story. Based on a true story.
Rating - I give this 3.5/5 Not bad!
Get this DVD from the library
Reviewed by Michelle @ admin

Friday, February 12, 2010

The help, by Kathryn Stockett

It's the early '60s, and racist Mississippi is reluctantly on the edge of change. But while laws are beginning to be changed to give black people the right to go to the same school as whites and use the same public areas, attitudes are slow to follow. These are dangerous times - but this does not stop white Skeeter and two black maids coming together in a clandestine project that will put them all at risk.
Skeeter is desparate to be a writer, but although she has been brought up in a traditional household, she is also very well aware of the disparities between the races. She wants the black women who make white lives so comfortable to tell their stories...
The stories in this book were so moving - Constantine, who raised Skeeter, was forced to give up her own child, for example. The background of racism made me angry and it really wasn't so long ago.
Spurred on by her own childhood experiences in a white family with black servants, Stockell has done her research into the period and its attitudes so well that everything rings true.
A must-read!
Rating - I give this 5/5
Reviewed by Jan @ Ballarat

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The girl who kicked the hornet's nest, by Stieg Larsson

" Lisbeth Salander is plotting her revenge - against the men who tried to kill her, and against the government institutions that nearly destroyed her life. But it is not going to be a straightforward campaign. After taking a bullet to the head, Salander is under close supervision in intensive care, and is set to face trial for three murders and one attempted murder on her eventual release. With the help of journalist Mikael Blomkvist from Millennium magazine, Salander must not only prove her innocence, but identify and denounce the corrupt politicians that have allowed the vulnerable to become victims of abuse and violence. Once a victim herself, Salander is ready to fight back."
The above is from the publisher's notes, and I couldn't have put it better myself.
"Wow!" was my reaction when I finished this book, the third in the Millenium trilogy - it was so impressive. "Phew" was in there somewhere too - it's not only an engrossing read, it's a big one; around 600 pages. And I probably murmured "What a shame" - because its Swedish author, Stieg Larsson, died before the hugely successful trilogy was published
Do yourself a favour and read this trilogy, beginning with The girl with the dragon tattoo. Murder, intrigue and an in-depth look at Sweden's political and social climate have resulted in books that in my experience are put down only reluctantly.
Rating - I give this 5/5
Get this from the library
Reviewed by Jan @ Ballarat branch