We owe it to each other to tell stories - Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The Agony Chef - Kate Sidley

Title: The Agony Chef

Author: Kate Sidley

Pages: 156

Publisher: Pan Macmillan South Africa

Source: Review copy from Pan Macmillan

The Synopsis

The Agony Chef is a unique concept in cookery books that puts hilarious, fictitious agony aunt columns alongside delicious, real recipes. Join Agony Chef Delilah as she shares her wit and wisdom, her opinions and recipes and her touching belief that food and humour can mend fences and hearts and solve the vexing problems of modern life.

The Review

Brilliant. Funny. Brilliantly Funny. If you had to read The Agony Chef in one sitting you would have to be admitted to hospital for abdominal pain from all the laughing, but you would probably have killer muscles after all the laughing that happens whilst you read this brilliant book.

Delilah, our Agony Chef is the kind of person that you want to be. She is well travelled, well read, and has fantastic stories and experiences. She is the kind of person you wish you knew. With this wonderful combination of traits, she is the perfect person to offer you advice and supply you with recipes that are perfect for your situation. She knows just what food will offer comfort, display gratitude and earn forgiveness or even seduce. Delilah is the best friend we all deserve. The best friend that we all dream of having or of being ourselves.

A word of caution: if you do not want people to think that you are crazy, do not read this book in public, as they will think that you are on drugs with all the silly laughing that will come from you, or that you have just lost your mind or that someone is drugging you with laughing gas.

But then you should share the stories that you read in The Agony Chef, because it is always so much nicer to have someone to laugh with you. My favourite problem and response in The Agony Chef is from Martin who is worried that his wife is having an affair, who confronted his wife and was duly given a black eye after being thrown with a muffin. The sharp Delilah offers advice on how to make harmless muffins, and confirms that Martin certainly has a problem with his wife. Of course my retelling is not nearly as funny as the experience of reading it. I could regale you better with that story in person using the cadence of my voice.

For now you'll have to trust me about how wonderful The Agony Chef is, and get a copy and see for yourself how brilliant this book is. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. I baked the Buttermilk Chocolate Cake that Delilah gave the recipe for on page 49 - and it was superb. So superb that it did not last a day. Luckily I managed to take a few photos before this delectable cake was devoured...

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair - Nina Sankovitch

Title: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair

Subtitle: My Year of Magical Reading

Author: Nina Sankovitch

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Pages: 240

Source: bought

The Synopsis

Caught up in grief after the death of her sister, Nina Sankovitch decided to stop running and start reading. For once in her life she would put all other obligations on hold and devote herself to reading a book a day: one year of magical reading in which she found joy, healing, and wisdom.

With grace and deep insight, Sankovitch weaves together poignant family memories with the unforgettable lives of the characters she reads about. She finds a lesson in each book, ultimately realizing the ability of a good story to console, inspire, and open our lives to new places and experiences. A moving story of recovery, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is also a resonant reminder of the all-encompassing power and delight of reading. 

The Review

Whilst I had been aware of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair for quite a while, I only recently took it off of my 'to buy' list and put it onto my 'own' list. I ordered this book to help me cope with the looming death of my sister, and whilst it was supposed to arrive at the end of July, it came on the day after my sister died. A message from the universe? Undoubtedly. This book was what I needed to take the first steps to recovery after the loss.

It is no secret that bookish folk like me look to books for the cues and expected reactions, and advice for how to react to things. I don't need to expand on this, but for those who do not understand what all reading gives us, I have to tell you. Reading is more than just an idle activity to pass by time. Those who read are not lazy. Reading is not used to hide away. Reading gives the reader so much more than a non-reader could know. Reading makes you more insightful and compassionate. Reading provides you with skills and insight. But now I feel like I am arguing, and that is the last thing I want to do. Also, I am digressing - what I am trying to say is that reading arms you with more knowledge and skills than watching TV or movies.

I felt particularly drawn to Tolstoy and the Purple Chair because the author and I had 2 things in common. 1. We both lost sisters to cancer. 2. We are both avid readers. Not very many people are willing to speak candidly of death and loss. I have mentioned this before in a previous post so I am not going to rehash that. This book, for me was almost like a guide for recovery, some hope in a dark time, and a friend that understood. Having said that, I did notice a flurry of posts around the blogosphere on Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, and the reviews I have read have been a mixed response to it. Having said that, I believe that at a certain time in your life, no matter how much you want to read a book, if it is not the right time for you, or you do not share the situation with the author, you are not going to be the ideal reader and you are not going to get the full value of the book.

The ideal reader for Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is obviously someone who enjoys reading, but aside from that the ideal reader has to have experienced a loss that they are presently dealing with, or should have experienced a loss that affected them greatly. This book is not meant to share only the author's experience, but it is meant as a part of a club that you can only join once you have lost someone close to you. If this is not you right now, do not read this book as you won't get what you are supposed to from  it.

The purpose of this book is two fold: 1. It gives you hope for your recovery from loss in sharing Nina's loss of her sister. She shares her insights, and one of my favourite lines in  the book is when she says that amidst the  sadness that you feel, you will still be surprised by the beauty that the world has to offer. This was something that I needed to hear, or in this case needed to read. This has been a point of reference, and it reminds me greatly of the words that J.K. Rowling gave to Dumbledore:

Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.

2. This book gives you something more to  think about as a reader. Why does reading mean so much to you? What does reading offer you other than an escape and a journey to another world? It allows you the reader as an avid reader the opportunity to see reading once again for the amazing activity that it is, and reminds you what reading means to you and the healing it can offer.

Books allow experiences to be relived, and allow lessons to be learned. P137

Nina Sankovitch was very lucky to be able to take a year out of life, and make reading a priority. I think it is a marvellous thing, because books can help you, books can heal you, books can show you the rainbow that was previously just dark clouds. But not just the cathartic and healing effect of reading, also the healing effect of blogging - your mind can become rather bogged down by all the thoughts that you fail to express. In blogging we share what a book has made us feel and see, we share it with online friends who often understand better than real life ones. This expression of the lessons we have learnt through the books that we have read often has blogging as our only platform - and Nina used her site ReadAllDay as her platform and her map on her road to healing. But then you all know that, and I am just preaching to the choir... 

And in reading, I discovered that the burden of living is the uneven and unlimited allotment of pain. Tragedy is conferred randomly and unfairly. Any promise of easy times to come is a false one. But I know I can survive the hard times, taking the worst of what happens to me as a burden but not as a noose. Books mirrored life - my life! And now I understood that all the bad and sad stuff happens to me, and that happened to the people I was reading about, is both the cost and the proof of resilience. P138

My only critique is that I wish the paperback and hardcover covers were the same!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Show Must Go On

When I started this blog almost 3 years ago, I started it because I was turning to books to help me to fight against the depression that had taken me away from who I used to be. I sought the comfort of books to help me see  that no matter how bad things may seem, they can get better. I looked to books to take me away from myself and my sadness, and the lack of control I felt. I turned to books to help save me. And it worked. It helped. I overcame depression.  I learnt a lot, I experienced so much, I became a stronger person. I saw that it was okay to get lost, so long as you never stopped looking for how to get back home again.

my beautiful sister
3 weeks ago my sister lost her battle against cancer. A battle that she had waged so valiantly, so bravely, so strongly for 8 years. Cancer invaded her body and our lives when she was 14, and after quite a fight from my sister, it beat her at the tender age of 22.

We knew it was coming, this time it had spread too far, chemo and radiation could do nothing to help her this time, and yet she stayed brave. I thought that knowing that her death was coming, and that it would be better because she wouldn't suffer anymore would make it easier to deal with, but it hasn't. It still hit me hard. It unsettled me. It took me back to where I was 3 years ago, lost and searching for answers.

Death is not an easy thing. It is an uncomfortable topic. No one knows what to say. Nothing anyone says can make it better. Living seems frivolous in the face of all of our impending deaths. This is not something that anyone can prepare you for. They don't teach it to you at school. It shakes you to your core, and that is what this has done to me. I have been very sad, and I have been quite angry. It is just not fair that my sister only got to see 22 years of life. It is not fair that such a beautiful and spirited person's life has to be cut so short, and yet there are disturbing people who cause nothing but destruction that go on to see more than 60, 70 years. Why? What is the point? This I have been pondering a lot lately.

I was furious at her funeral, granted I have not been to very many funerals, but I was under the impression that the funeral was about the dearly departed, and not about the people of zion and how they covered themselves in ashes. I wanted to punch the person preaching - what the hell does zion have to do with my sister? And  then at the burial, everyone was so sombre and sad, which is what we should all be at a funeral, especially a funeral for someone like my sister, who was not only taken too soon, but was also a wonderful person. Flash forward to half an hour later at the cake and tea afterwards and everyone is just all so happy and noisy, and honestly I was furious. How flippant can you be? I know that life goes on, but do you have to be ready to move on so soon? The world, my world has stopped in many ways since my sister has died, I am looking for reasons, and for answers, and I am trying to see what the point is. But the world goes on, no one is going to stop the world until I am ready for it to start moving again, but why could the world not stop for those people there that day?

In preparing myself for my sister's inevitable death, I ordered Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, which I will be reviewing soon. It was supposed to arrive at the end of July, but through some wonderous way the universe delivered it to me the day after my sister died.

I once again turn to books to show me how to go back to where I used to be, but a new normal - a world that goes on without my sister. In this way, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair has been a godsend. And though I am turning to books again, I don't know how well I am going to do with the kind of reading I have done before. I am just questioning so many things that I am not even sure that I want to continue blogging. But I feel I must, so that I can have something that grounds me so that I cannot blow away as easily as a balloon, but hopefully find myself again, and regain my view on the world and the wonders within it, and sing like Freddie Mercury, because the Show Must Go On...

Does anybody know what we are looking for?
Does anybody want to take it anymore?

The Show must go on
The Show must go on

Inside my heart is breaking
My makeup may be flaking
But my smile still stays on

Another heartache

Does anybody know what we are living for?

I'll face it with a grin
I'm never giving in

On with the show

I have to find the will to carry on with the show

The show must go on

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Last Degree

Title: The Last Degree
Series: Book #1
Author: Dina Rae
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Paranormal, Political, Suspense, Thriller, Christian
Publisher: Dina Rae
Words: 93000

Purchase for only $1.99:

Book Description

The Last Degree is a fictionalized account of how Freemasons and other secret societies set up the world for takeover. Ancient writings foretell a ‘Shining One’ who emerges as the world’s prophet. A murder of a Most Worshipful mason resembles a secret oath. A cop gets too close to solving the crime. Paranoid preppers go underground, preparing for war.

Headlines such as the Norway massacre, meltdown of the European Union, unscrupulous media, animal die-offs, Middle Eastern unrest, and U.S. shrinking power make the plot relevant to present day. This book is an ode to Christians, Birthers, 2012ers, Truthers, preppers, and/or other conspiracy junkies who enjoy Dan Brown, Jesse Ventura, Brad Meltzer, Alex Jones, Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.


Dwight took off his crown, signifying he was no longer playing King Solomon.
“Sacrifice is expected for ones that you love.  Do you love me?” Dwight shouted.  “Then bow down before me and offer praise!”
Everyone knelt and laid their head down to the floor, chanting 'Most Worshipful,
Most Worshipful' several times before Dwight commanded them to get up.
In a manic energetic state, Dwight vociferated, “Et vitam impendere vero!”  All repeated, with the three new pledges joining in.  Minutes later, he began to calm down.  “To sacrifice life for truth - that is what we must always do!  You must trust me as your Most Worshipful and sacrifice at my command!  Are you prepared to do this?”  All three pledges nodded.

Dwight pulled the content baby out of Arthur's arms and threw it high into the air.  As the baby began to descend, Dwight took his sword and hacked through its neck, decapitating it before it hit the floor.  Only the three pledges shrieked in horror.  He sinisterly smiled as he picked up the head and body, revealing it was only a doll.
“Don't believe with your eyes, but believe with your knowledge.  We are his chosen and will soon be exalted.”
The three men looked down at their hands and tried not to scream.  They were covered in blood.
“Sacrifice, my brothers, sacrifice.  I will teach you well.  You are all Chiefs of the Tabernacle!  Let us go and celebrate!” Dwight gleamed.

Check out The Last Degree Prequel as well—Be Paranoid Be Prepared!

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Promo Post: Books for Bunnies

Book’s for Bunnies
Books for Bunnies is an event set up by the blogger over at The Bunny’s Review and coordinated with the help of blogger Alchemy of Scrawl. 
These two ladies have worked tirelessly in getting authors to donate eBooks’ for the event.   Currently there are over 100 eBooks that have been donates.  Along with over 30 print books donated.  Some of the print books are even signed by the author’s themselves.
The event is to help raise money for the House Rabbit Society.  The House Rabbit Society or HRS is a 501 non-profit organization to help raise awareness and to rescue rabbits from animal shelters.  Below is a little about the background of the HRS.

House Rabbit Society Background

House Rabbit Society is a national, nonprofit animal welfare organization based in Richmond, California. Our mission has two parts:
  • Through our fostering program, volunteers rescue abandoned rabbits and find permanent adoptive homes for them.
  • Through education, we seek to reduce the number of unwanted rabbits — and to improve bunnies' lives — by helping people better understand these often misunderstood companion animals.
In line with our mission, we are against the exploitation of rabbits.
Since HRS was founded in 1988, over 25,000 rabbits have been rescued through our foster homes across the United States. Many of these bunnies had run out of time at animal shelters and were scheduled for euthanasia; others had been deemed "unadoptable" because of age, health, or disposition. Because there is no time limit on our rescued rabbits, HRS foster parents are able to spend time getting to know each individual bunny and can then match him or her with an appropriate home. We neuter/spay all incoming rabbits, obtain any necessary veterinary care, and attend to their social needs.

In caring for so many diverse bunnies, our all-volunteer organization has learned a tremendous amount about their social, behavioral, and medical requirements. By sharing the collected information these rabbits have taught us, we are able to help other people improve their relationships with their rabbits. HRS provides educational materials to veterinarians and humane societies and helps individual rabbit people solve behavior and health problems, primarily through our web site, www.rabbit.org, and our quarterly publication, House Rabbit Journal.

Over the past 20 years, HRS has grown from 300 to more than 8,000 members, with local chapters and educators in over 30 states plus Canada, Italy, Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore. Our web site, www.rabbit.org, is accessed over 100,000 times a day by people in dozens of countries around the world.

How to help

We are asking people to donate money to the HRS at this link through Network for Good.  The person that makes a donation will receive either an eBook or print book equal to the amount donated.  There are books ranging in price from 99 cents to $27.00.  There are several print copies of the books that have been autographed by the author. 
The person that donates will receive an email thanking them for donating.  That email needs to be forwarded to books4bunnys@bunnysreview.com.  This will show the amount that has been donated.  Please remember there is not any donation that is too small.  Any amount will be greatly appreciated.   The HRS will use the money to either help pay for vet bills or help in finding a forever home for the hundreds of bunnies in their care.
Please if possible take a moment to donate a couple of dollars to the HRS you never know what bunnies life you might be saving.
Suzie & The Bunnies - CupCake & Coale


Wednesday, 1 August 2012

August Classics Club Meme

Every month the Classics Club Meme will pose a questions to those participating in the Classics Club so that we can get to know one another a bit better.

This month's question is: What is your favourite Classics Book? Why?

This is a tricky question for 2 reasons. 1. There are so many amazing Classics out there, that it is difficult to choose only one. 2. I am not nearly well read enough in the Classics to be able to answer this as well as I should. I think that this is a question I should ask myself every 6 months, or once a year.

Bearing all  that in mind, I have to say that for now, Gone with the Wind is probably my favourite Classic. I have only read it once so far, but it is on my Classics Club list, so I'll be reading it at the veryleast once more. With more than a thousand pages, looking at this book does intimidate you the first time around. I had my library's copy for months before I finally read it. I got tired of putting off reading it, I thought I should just get it over and done with, and I thought it was going to be a real chore, especially when I checked to see the number of pages. But then I started page one, and I was hooked. I got sucked into the story right away. I was swept away on a journey to the 1800s, I experienced life in the Confederacy, I saw how life became unstable in the South, I saw fiery, passionate Scarlet O'Hara fight, I saw how Atlanta changed, I saw how Scarlet eventually grew up, I felt Scarlet's losses. I was mesemerised by the beauty of the story, the words washed over me. I was never bored by the descriptions of the way the railway expanded, the beauty of the words just blew me away.

I had planned to read Gone with the Wind slowly after I realised that it was such an amazing book, part by part, but after part 3 I could delay knowing the whole story no longer. I just had to know where Margaret Mitchell was taking me. I stayed up through the night for 2 whole nights, I could not put the book down, I slept during the day and then picked the book up again, I just had to finish it. I had to see the full picture. And it was so worth the sleep that I lost, but then you get to the end, and you get to that iconic movie line "[frankly] my dear I don't give a damn" and it breaks your heart.

But all that pales a bit in comparison to the fact that you got to live another life in another time, and you got to see what the world was like, and you got to see how much it changed in such a short period of time. Well, that is what Gone with the Wind was like for me.

And that is the beauty of reading, you get to visit a world you other wise would not have been able to, and you emerge a different person - and it makes me feel so sorry for those who find no joy or pleasure in reading for fun.