Category Archives: Books

Love on the bookshelf

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Mills And Boon (Large Print)

Mills And Boon (Large Print) (Photo credit: Caro Wallis)

There was a time, many years ago, when I subscribed to a monthly delivery of Mills and Boon romance novels. I’m afraid to say, it’s true.

Forbidden love, unspoken love, love in the most unlikely of places. He was often rich, she was often vulnerable. They were guaranteed to misunderstand each other’s intentions on more than one occasion. But in the end, love conquered all.

Some were steamy, some were sweet, some were wholly dissatisfying and eventually – after many free gifts and a cupboard full of Mills and Boon coffee mugs – I called it quits on that monthly delivery.

It took a few years, but I finally got rid of all those books – some to the library, some to my sister, a few to my neighbours and one or two relegated to supressing weeds in the garden.

But I have a confession to make. On Saturday, in a moment of weakness, I succumbed to the charms of the supermarket bookshelf and bought the rather dramatically titled ‘Proof Of Their Sin’, by Dani Collins.

And it lived up to expectations. He was rich and so was she . . . but less so. They both had excellent back stories which slowly emerged and intertwined to explain their perpetual misunderstanding of one another. They had shared a one night dalliance three months earlier with consequences which underpinned the story. Time went by, the chemistry was undeniable, the friction palpable, but eventually they found themselves on the same page (literally and figuratively).

The thing that made this book stand out was the closing sequence. Fast forward. The wedding had been and gone, the baby had just arrived and the creases in their relationship had all been ironed out. As the husband sucked on the oxygen in the back of the ambulance (mum and bub were fine), he remarked:

“The next one is planned, start to finish.”
“Agreed.”
Four months later they accidentally conceived on a flight to Hong Kong. Their daughter arrived three weeks early in a limousine under the Arc de Triomphe.

After the drawn out tension of the 183 pages prior to the epilogue, their future was summed up in three short sentences. The contrast and the content made me laugh out loud. I suspect the author Dani Collins was relieved to write them.

My only problem now is having to return to the supermarket when the food runs out, knowing that there’s more of these little gems just waiting for me on a bookshelf near the frozen foods. Give me strength . . .

 

Dogs vs cats – it’s simple really

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101 Uses for a Dead Cat

101 Uses for a Dead Cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s those quiet moments – when the head-rest doesn’t quite do the job, when the pencils need sharpening or the cleavage needs a boost – that I often lament not owning a cat. A dead one.

One of the greatest books ever published takes pride of place on my bookshelf. Created by Simon Bond, ‘101 Uses for a Dead Cat’ was the starting point for my lifelong aversion to felines.

And if you need convincing, you have only to consult my extensive collection of anti-cat/pro-dog literature to confirm the extent of this loathing.

Cats are evil and I have the research to back me up.

Everyone knows that a cat only loves you when it’s hungry while a dog will give you endless devotion no matter what’s on the menu.

The relationship between a cat and a cat owner is largely one-sided, fuelled mainly by insecurity, loneliness and sheer volume of numbers.

A dog is your equal – it will give you more than you ever give to him or her while a cat is just a sponge – it takes and takes and then it dies.

A cat will slink away (as only a cat can do) when the going gets tough. But a dog? Well, a dog will be your fiercest protector in the face of pure evil (which is often a cat).

The only bad dogs I’ve ever known had bad owners while the only cats I’ve ever known were . . . cats (and you know what I think about them).

And yes, I know there have been instances where cats walked miles to find their owners but the cold reality of this scenario comes back to those fickle feline stomachs. I’m sorry to say, but your cat – it never liked you. He thought the tuna would be pinker on the other side of the settee and only came back because he realised he already had you trained.

Dogs by contrast, are loving, loyal and delightful. They make you a better person and they know that any person who’s a dog person is a person worth knowing.

Join me in a toast to the dog!

Boomerang bureaucracy . . .

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It’s bureaucracy gone mad. MAD I tell you! Why would a chain of supermarkets be so anti-boomerangs?

And why has no-one spoken up until now?

The signs have been there for a while. But I just can’t figure out why you would ban something that has never even happened. I mean, when was the last time you saw a boomerang being thrown in a supermarket car park?

Yes, I agree, there is the risk of damage to vehicles, individuals and possibly lamp posts. But all in all, it’s a pretty harmless sport, especially after some practice. And where better to practice than a wide open supermarket car park? They’re meant to come back, right? If you’re good at it, that boomerang won’t hit anything except the palm of your hand.

And in this day and age of over-eating, under-exercising and over-thinking, I would have thought a little car park sport would be welcomed.

It’s safer than trolley racing, more fun that gutter balancing and just as skilful as dodging cars driven by hunger-crazed motorists whose only thought is to get home and tuck into that box of Tim Tams they’ve hidden at the bottom of their green bag. I’ve been there. I understand your pain.

Some may call it pro-active. I beg to differ.Snettisham, Norfolk - No right turn sign

Even my five-year old has an opinion on this. He’s tugging at my sleeve as I fume at the sign before me.

“It’s not a boomerang, Mum. It’s a traffic sign. You can’t turn here.”

“Oh.”

So boomerang throwing isn’t banned in car parks? Hmm. Perhaps we should try it.

Oh, Miguel! Where are you?

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P3101501

P3101501 (Photo credit: a_b_normal123)

I didn’t plan it this way. When I woke up this morning, it didn’t even cross my mind. But just a few hours later I found myself standing in line buying a book I didn’t want, just to get an autograph I never knew I needed.

Perhaps it was the delectable Spanish accent that kept me waiting in line for so long. Maybe it was the whole tall-dark-handsome thing or the roguish smile and cheeky sense of humour.

All I know is that I paid $30 for a book about Spanish cooking that I will probably never use. And let’s face it – this is no audio-book. So we don’t even get to hear that Spanish-English accent that makes Miguel Maestre so appealing.

That said, my kids were pretty chuffed about meeting a celebrity chef. So we stood in line as countless women before us got the kiss on both cheeks and the signature we so desperately wanted.

Then it was our turn. Miguel Maestre stood before us, pen in hand, smile at the ready. But before he could reach for our book, there was a whisper in his ear. He was needed for a taste-test. Could we wait just a minute?

“Sure,” I said. The kids had waited this long, a few more minutes wouldn’t kill us.

Moments passed and a woman appeared where Miguel should have been. He was going to be another hour. The taste-test had turned into a cook-off. Could we come back?

Probably not, I thought to myself. “Sure,” I said and turned away.

The couple behind me stepped forward. “Oh, but we’re leaving,” they gushed. “Could we just get his autograph?”

“Follow me,” said the woman while I stood back, just a little bit annoyed.

Minutes later, the couple re-appeared. He was smiling. She was glowing. What on earth had gone on back there?

Having never planned to buy Miguel’s book, much less get his autograph, I was now oddly peeved.

What to do? I gave up. There was no way I was entertaining three kids while we waited for Miguel to finish cooking.

But my husband was not so easily put off. He sat through that cooking demonstration, lined up with the throngs of excited fans and got that autograph.

The only thing he didn’t get was the double kiss. Oh well. The book is signed. It’s on a shelf. Mission accomplished.

Cooking the old-fashioned way

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I have a ‘new’ favourite book. But it’s not new at all. It’s from 1946 and I love everything about it.

Firstly there’s the title – ‘How to Cook Well’. No fast, furious, low-fuss cookery mania here. No boutique, chef hat, posh nosh in sight. No sir-ee. From the out-set, the author, Ann Roe Robbins, is keeping her expectations low, which suits me fine.

As it happens, we actually have a bit in common. In her preface, Ann Roe Robbins admits she never cooked until she was married. Unless you count cakes, I too was in the same boat. In between leaving home and getting married (perhaps a little longer if I’m honest) my diet consisted largely of peanut butter and honey on toast. Things improved somewhat after the nuptials but there was always a jar of peanut butter on standby in the fridge.

Around this time, I was given one good, contemporary cookbook. It covered some of the basics until I eventually inherited Ann Roe Robbins’ answer to all things culinary. It’s just what I needed. It seems she wasn’t interested in simply compiling a book of recipes. She wanted to explain why things were done the way they were done. She believed in instructions over instinct and measuring over guess-work. She wanted to share her money saving techniques and make sure her readers were eating healthy, flavoursome food.

That meant rules – always have a hot dish with every meal even in the summer; include flavour, colour and texture to ensure every meal is appetising; avoid dishes that require last minute attention, and; don’t be scared of a long list of ingredients.

Not every rule rings true today, but her enthusiasm and passion for food shines through. Ann Roe Robbins and her sky blue cookbook with its linen cover, gold embellishments and understated title would give any of today’s chefs a run for their money.

Lost without my laptop

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MSI laptop computer

MSI laptop computer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve had time to ponder my internal dialogue just recently. No, I’m not on some existential quest for enlightenment or journey of self discovery. The reason is much simpler. My laptop has been in the shop for repairs.

Suddenly I’ve had time on my hands, time that would normally be spent writing, researching and seeking answers to those big questions that only the good old internet can provide.

With time to spare, it seems one question comes to mind with alarming regularity – “I wonder what Google would say about that?”

It seems that Google has taken up residence in almost every aspect of my daily life.

Can Google offer some inspiration for the kids’ lunch boxes? Has Google got an address for the kids’ favourite singer so they can send some fan mail? Is there any solution out there for the ongoing problem of kids who are incapable of identifying mess yet comfortable living in it?

Surely Google knows. Google knows everything.

But when the laptop is down, Google is silent.

Without an excuse to track down random pieces of information I have time for other things. Shocking, isn’t it?

I’ve finally finished a book that’s been gathering dust on my book shelf for years. I’ve had time to peruse the contents of the pantry and find a use for those decade-old, tinned asparagus stalks. And I’ve cleaned under the couch only to discover that my kids are even more immune to mess than I originally thought.

But now the laptop is back. My missing limb reinstated. And Google has been getting a workout.

Absence made the heart grow fonder but I couldn’t have lasted much longer.

 

 

Hooked on books . . .

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So my holiday reading list lasted about three days.

Matthew Reilly was as reliable as ever with Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves. His love of weaponry and all their acronyms proved endearing and the fast-paced action propelled me through until the end. Frankly, Mr Reilly, you had me at Scarecrow.

Miranda Hart’s autobiography Is It Just Me? was a rollicking read. Her chapter on weight loss, though brief, was highly practical – eat less, exercise more. Now you know.

I suspect she began writing the book when composing a letter to your younger self was in vogue. However, by the time it had reached publication, the premise was a bit naff, so no mention of it during the book’s promotion. Never mind. You don’t see many of these offerings where the younger self talks back and expresses her disappointment at how bits of her life have turned out. It was all in good fun.

Last on my list was The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. This one was the tear-jerker my sister promised it would be. It was simple, heartfelt and beautiful all at once. A quick read, but a lingering memory.

Well, that took three days. What to do next? Hit up the kids’ book shelves, of course!

Andy Griffiths (the author, not the similarly named actor) knows how to turn gross into fabulous with alarming ease. He takes the worst case scenario and tries to figure out how it could possibly be even more unpleasant, life-threatening or stomach churning. There should be more of this in adult fiction! I read my way through Just Tricking and Just Doomed along with The Very Bad Book, The 13 Storey Treehouse and its sequel. Safe to say I will be following them up with some of his other titles.

All in all, the holiday reading proved very therapeutic and a fabulous distraction from warring children.

Now how long til the next holidays?