Archive > December 2011

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone Laini Taylor, book reviewKarou lives a double life. On the one hand she is a seventeen year old art student in Prague, only concerned about fending off her ex-boyfriend. On the other, she runs errands for Brimstone, a decidedly non-human being who raised her. Then one day, she meets an angel…

This is the premise of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It does get a lot more complex than that, but this is an adequate summary for the purpose of this review.


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Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life

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Balasaraswati: Her Art and Life,  Jr. Douglas M. Knight, book reviewBalasaraswati was unique in that she was one of the few lightbearers for her community of dancers and represented a form that was almost lost after Independence took Bharat Natyam over and brought it within strict, almost sanitized guidelines. Balasaraswati along with Rukmini Devi Arundale belonged to the form’s renaissance. She came from the matrilineal devidasi tradition of South India, which like Indian classical music performed by the courtesans of Delhi and Lucknow, has a long heritage of artistic practices. Before she turned thirty, this dancer had become a legend in her own time. However she and her family relocated to the United States in an attempt to preserve what had been handed down to them through the generations, which was gradually being sidelined in the post 1950’s since it was seen as being very far from the mainstream.


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The BFG

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The BFG, Roald Dahl, book reviewThe BFG is short for the Big Friendly Giant. There were nine bad giants. Sophie lived with the BFG in the cave. The BFG and other nine giants lived in Giant Country. My favourite characters were the BFG and the Fleshlumpeater because they were funny.


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Extreme Frontiers: Racing Across Canada

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Extreme Frontiers: Racing Across Canada from Newfoundland to the Rockies,  Charley Boorman, book reviewExtreme Frontiers: Racing Across Canada from Newfoundland to the Rockies,  Charley Boorman, book reviewBack in 2004, I saw some adverts on TV for a new show called Long Way Round, featuring Ewan McGregor and his best friend Charley Boorman travelling around the world on motorcycles. I decided to give it a go – after all, I’ve been a fan of Ewan’s for year. Within minutes I was hooked, on the adventure, the fun and the camaraderie between the pair. Since then the intrepid duo have travelled through Africa in Long Way Down, and Charley has branched into solo projects, with Race to Dakar, By Any Means and Right to the Edge (By Any Means 2). Now he’s back with a new adventure, Extreme Frontiers: Racing Across Canada.

In November this year I was lucky enough to see Charley’s live show, in which he talks in detail about the trips he has undertaken.


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Toilets of the World

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Toilets of the World , Morna E. Gregory, By (author) Sian James, book reviewAround Christmas time the bookshelves of the nation groan under the weight of books targeting the ‘difficult relative’ market; those people you have to buy for but don’t really know well enough to know what to give. People seem to think books are safe but rather boring and that may well be true if you get the wrong one. I’d like to make a recommendation for the perfect book for a friend or relative who’s not the type to sit and read a book from start to finish, who likes a book to dip in and out of and the type who likes lots of pictures and a chance to be fascinated by how other people ‘do’ things. In short, this is the perfect present for the person who likes to do their reading in the ‘smallest room’. Toilets of the World by Morna E Gregory and Sian James will fascinate, horrify and entertain in equal measure and will certainly beat that 15 year old copy of the Guinness Book of Records that’s been stuffed behind the U-bend for the last ten years.

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World Vegetarian Cookbook

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Sarah Brown’s World Vegetarian Cookbook was given to me by a friend who knows I love to travel and that I don’t eat meat. Clever girl! It looked like she picked a good one. Unfortunately she didn’t realise that I’m a lazy cook who hardly ever follows a recipe. For a cookbook to make an impact on my lazy ways it needs to be pretty special – luckily this one fits the bill.

The book sat on my cookbook shelf for several years before I eventually needed help and inspiration to come up with some tasty ideas during a couple of enforced fortnights of strict vegetarianism. Normally I’m a lazy fishitarian who uses fish as a substitute for imagination or inspiration so going ‘cold turkey’ on not only the seafood but also a whole bunch of other staples was quite a challenge.


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Mr. Gum and the Goblins

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Mr. Gum and the Goblins,  Andy Stanton, Illustrated by David TazzymanThe book is about Mr. Gum having a Goblin army and how he is trying to rule Lamonic Biber (the town). The main characters are Mr. Gum, Billy William the Third and Polly. My favourite character was Mr. Gum because he was funny.

My favourite part of the book was when the Goblins sang a really funny song. I liked the song because there was a burp solo in it. This book is similar to Mr. Gum and the Cherry Tree because there was another similar song in it.

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Clean Breaks

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Clean Breaks by Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith, book reviewClean Breaks by Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith is a guide to 500 things you could do around the world without a high environmental impact. The green aspirations of the book make it pretty clear that it’s not going to be the Richard Hammond of Top Gear fame that wrote it – I can’t somehow see him and his co-presenters offsetting their carbon when they head off to burn up the road in the latest super car. This is the kind of book that’s ideal for friends and relatives who love to travel and love to dream about where they might go next. If they suffer at least a basic level of environnmental ‘guilt’ about their travel, this is a nice choice to help them feel better about themselves.

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It’s a Walkover

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 Fourteen Historic Walks in Delhi by Swapna Liddle, book reviewThey say the best way to get to know a city is to walk through it and there are many Delhis to walk through since it is like an onion, city within city, with the hallmarks of different conquerors, culminating in Lutyen’s city. A hundred years ago, Delhi had not spread beyond the protecting walls of Shahjahanabad, the city Shahjahan built as his capital in 1638 and the population was just about one lakh. Now that area is known as Old Delhi and lacks the grandeur of the city that the British built but it had its own quirky character, tastes and alleyways.

On the anniversary of Delhi’s centenary as India’s capital, came this book on Delhi’s historic walks.


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Egypt: 4000 Years of Art

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Egypt: 4000 Years of Art, Jaromir Malek, book reviewMy husband knows I love big lavish picture books that you can dip in and out of at will and a couple of years ago he bought me a big chunky picture book called Egypt – 4000 Years of Art by Jaromir Malek. He got it from the Phaidon shop at Bicester Village outlet centre and swears he didn’t pay much for it. Perhaps he was hoping it would inspire me to book a trip to Egypt but so far it’s not worked its magic on me.

Jaromir Malek is the Keeper of the Archive at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum, one of my favourite museums and a place where I always hunt down the mummies and have a good gawp at the Egyptian section.


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Hit the Road

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Hot Tea Across India by  Rishad Saam Mehta, book reviewThe book is an accumulation of the columns that Mehta wrote for various papers, including HT Brunch. A compendium of some of the road trips that he took across India. Mehta’s chosen to group them according to all the chai stalls that he met on the road. ‘There’s not a highway, road or dirt track in India where you can’t find a cup of chai whenever you want it’ he writes and so he sets out to write about travelling down India’s rickety or mountainous roads fuelled by a passion for seeing new places and cups of tea. To begin with the chaiwala is a constant factor along with odd or touching encounters over cups of tea, like the saffron tea that he shares with a Kashmiri shepherd, but along the way tea gets overtaken by a love for Enfield Bullets.


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Catlopaedia – A Complete Guide to Cat Care

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Catlopaedia A Complete Guide to Cat Care J.M. Evans and Kay White, book reviewCats can be such independent pets, yet they are bound to need proper care just like any other living creature, especially now that they seem to be living longer lives. Nearly ten years ago I adopted a sixteen-year-old cat when I moved into her house, and she lived for another four years. When I eventually had to have her put to sleep, I was horrified to be told by the vet that one of her kidneys was only the size of a baked bean. Not long after that I acquired a rescue kitten, and I decided that it would be a good idea to buy a book about cat care as I had realised how little I knew. The Catlopaedia is a slim volume, but its 206 pages are crammed with information covering everything from breeds to diseases.

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