Sunday, 28 September 2014

Two Year Blogoversary!

So it’s been two years since I created and first posted to Bookshelf Butterfly and since my one year anniversary post, I’ve had a rollercoaster of year!

I started a new full time job at the end of last September and found that the long days really affect my reading. On top of an active social life I have found it quite difficult at times to keep up with reading and regular posts. 

My passion for reading or blogging hasn’t ebbed and I try not to be too hard on myself if I’m behind on posts; I don’t want it to become like homework or a chore and I have to face the fact that sometimes life just gets in the way. 

However, once again I’ve been so lucky to review some fantastic books. I’ve had quite an obsession with historical fiction this year; I love history anyway and hist-fic is fast becoming a favourite genre! I’m still enjoying trying reads that I wouldn’t initially pick for myself and trying to be more adventurous with my book choices. 

I’ve continued to build good relationships with other bloggers, readers and people in the publishing industry which I am so grateful for and it makes the blogging and reviewing much more interesting and sociable. One thing I haven’t managed to do much of is attend bookish events such as launches, talks and literary festivals. There have been invites and opportunities but I’ve found it hard with the hours I work to make it. So one aim I have for the future is to try and attend more book events. If anyone knows of any let me know! 

As well as some great reads and plenty to say about them, I’ve also started expanding my Features page as an addition to all the reviews, and I hope to keep adding fresh things as I go along. I’m finding that as I expand my literary horizons, I’m even more vocal with friends and family about giving book recommendations which is lots of fun. My mother is also a voracious reader. We often swap books and have long and I even got her to write her own review for the blog under pen-name Mother Butterfly, which she really enjoyed. 

I think the blog is doing well although I’m always hoping for more comments and feedback. I have plenty of great conversations on social media and would love to transmit some of that onto the blog. So despite being crazy busy, I’ve had a good year of books and I know what areas I want to add to and things I want to achieve.

Once again I’d like to thank all the publishers who keep me updated with book news and review copies and for all the readers and bloggers who take the time to read my posts, make comments or even just say hi. I really do welcome contact with other bookworms and I would definitely like to hear from you to share the love of books and blogging!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Viper Wine by Hermione Eyre

The bright arty cover drew me to Viper Wine, but it was the deliciousness within that kept me hooked! 

The court of Charles I is filled with rich and titled ladies, all vying to the most beautiful or most accomplished. They have come across a new beauty secret known as Viper Wine; a potent beauty potion distilled by a charismatic physician that claims to hold back the ageing process and promote stunning looks. 

Famed beauty Venetia Stanley has found that as her ages increases, her reputation as a beauty to behold also wanes and her self confidence takes a nose-dive. She already partakes in a number of beautifying rituals but they are not enough to satisfy her need to be the best. 

She falls under the spell of Viper Wine; keeping her daily drinks a secret from her husband, she becomes a rejuvenated beauty of old, much to the surprise of her friends and the rest of court. But as her addiction to the drink takes hold and her need for beauty consumes her, she takes her aspirations too far with devastating effects. 

As well as Venetia’s tale of pride, we also follow the story of her devoted husband, Sir Kenelm Digby, whose alchemical experiments and forward thinking push him to expand the boundaries of his knowledge (and his library), even in the face of religious conflict and a society plagued by a crushing fear of the unknown. 

This book is set in the 1600s but with quotes and references spanning before and after this time. I smiled when I came across some David Bowie lyrics unassumingly quoted in part of the story and Kenelm’s visions of the future were cleverly worked in. 

As a couple, the Digbys are wondrous to read about. Venetia’s cause is understandable, if not condonable, and her character is glamorous, wily and headstrong and I loved her for it! I was a little bit in love with Kenelm; with his passion for science and learning, his seemingly limitless imagination and overflowing library and his true devotion to his wife. 

Based on real events, this story is wonderfully painted with the rich colours of the scandal-mongering court, the dirty hues of a secretive underworld of suspect beauty practices and the glittering brightness of an advanced future just around the corner. 

This book really had it all for me; history, love, intelligence, humour and scandal. It was sexy, witty and exquisitely described with memorable characters and intelligently crafted prose.  I really can’t praise this book enough; I think this is a new favourite of mine; having devoured it quicker than Venetia could down a vial of her Viper Wine and being left thirsty for more! 

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Roald Dahl Books

“The success of a short story is simple, it must have a beginning, a middle and an end. The reader must never want to put it down.” – Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl was a huge part of my childhood reading. My sister and I had most of his books, from his single stories, picture and rhyming books and even a short story anthology. There was something magic about his way of storytelling that was the perfect mix of entertainment and genuinely engaging storyline. And of course who could forget the iconic illustrations by Quentin Blake!

One winning formula that I loved with a lot of his stories was the wily nature of the hero of the tale who would use cunning and brains in quite a humorous way to overcome their situation. For example in George’s Marvellous Medicine, my favourite part was always when George mixes his most foulest mixture of medicine to administer to his awful grandmother. And in Fantastic Mr Fox when he pulls of his amazing heist is another classic moment. 

There is usually quite a clear division between the hero and the villain and some kind of comeuppance is dealt out in the funniest way possible. Roald Dahl’s books have given us some of the most memorable characters in children’s literature. Who could forget the zany Willy Wonka and the Oompa-Loompas? Or magic Matilda and her awesome powers? 

He has also given us some iconic story imagery such as the spectacular chocolate factory or James’ giant peach. It’s not even just great stories and characters, he also included lots of nonsense words into his world of tales that make it so much more fun and interesting (I won’t try and spell any here!) 

As well as growing up with the books, a lot of his stories have been turned into some amazing films. The BFG, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach and The Witches were the ones that truly enchanted me as a child but even now, movies are still being made and I could happily revisit the books over and over again.

If I had to pick a favourite (although that’s a hard decision to make) I would have to say that Danny the Champion of the World as I was captivated with the relationship Danny has with his father and the way they work together to exact their revenge on the nasty landowner. 

Imaginative, fun and still going strong, I think Roald Dahl’s books will live forever and I’m sure my own future children will love them as much as I did and still do! 

If you loved Roald Dahl books as a child or still do today I would love to hear from you! Favourites? Recommendations? Views on movie adaptations? Please feel free to comment, tweet or facebook your thoughts!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Never Saw It Coming by Linwood Barclay

Crime fiction is a staple in my household. I’ve grown up with all manner of crime writers on the shelves and so I’m not a stranger to one Mr Linwood Barclay. My mother bought this book ages ago and after recently rediscovering it, insisted I read it as soon as possible! 

With such praise as that, I find it hard to resist for too long! Keisha Ceylon in a phony psychic. She studies the news for stories of missing people, and then approaches the family with claims of visions and offers her services, with a hefty price tag attached. 

Her next target is a man whose wife has gone missing. Her disappearance is completely out of character and she has left behind her doting husband and pregnant daughter. 

After seeing his TV appeal, Keisha visits the man claiming she has had glimpses as to where his missing wife may be. As Keisha spins her yarn of supposed visions, what she has to say is a little too close to the truth which ends up putting her in grave danger.

I always love that with a Linwood Barclay novel there is always a well-written interesting storyline that you race to see how it plays out. There are no gimmicks, no glaring obvious red herrings or plots so twisted you end up dizzy. Just simple yet clever writing with substantial characters, all of which have a part to play, and solid storylines that keep you engaged. 

I loved the idea of the con artist psychic having her so call gifts finally pay off but in the wrong way. Karma in its deadliest form. You would think Keisha would be the villain of the piece straight away, but as you uncover her story and as she uncovers a darker story that could get her killed, you end up kind of rooting for her as there are even worse people than she in the world. 

An interesting subject choice that is thrilling from the word go, Never Saw It Coming is an exciting and satisfying crime read from a talented storyteller. 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

I love a foodie read. I enjoy cooking and there is something quite delectable about reading novels that feature food. This week, I already explored the Catalan region of Spain when I read the novel Vanilla Salt and went on to try my hand at Catalan cooking. 

In The Hundred Foot Journey, I was not bound to one area, but propelled from India to London, through Europe and into France in a spell of tasty reading goodness! 

This story tells of the Hassan Haji and his family who have a successful restaurant in their native India. When tragedy befalls them, the family uproots itself and begins a journey of self-discovery, eating their way across Europe until in a twist of fate, they settle in France. 

In an old mansion in a remote, picturesque village is where they not only decide to make their home, but also start an Indian restaurant. They do not bet on incurring the wrath of eminent chef Madame Mallory who is has her prestigious dining establishment just over the road from the where the Hajis are building their mini Indian empire. 

The Hajis and Madame Mallory go head to head, before another twist of fate sees budding chef Hassan crossing the hundred foot divide into her employ. Worlds away from his own culture, Hassan learns a new style of cooking and this is his story from young naive kitchen hand, to renowned chef and restaurateur. 

I loved the clash of cultures in this tale. The Hajis are a loud and proud family and they seem to attract attention, both good and bad wherever they go. There are tons of colourful characters and interweaving storylines that encompasses many themes including family, ambition, business, politics and of course food! 

The first half of the story is so descriptive in food terms, you could almost eat the book! I loved the contrast between colourful, spicy Indian, and the more chilled, refined palates of France. The descriptions of the food and settings are gloriously rich and make the story beautiful. 

I found when I first read a Richard C. Morais novel, Buddhaland Brooklyn, the story was also very descriptive, the prose was calming and the story life affirming and philosophical. The Hundred Foot Journey is life affirming and philosophical but in a riot of colours and cultures and vivid food imagery! 

A fantastic journey for any reader to be a part of, and with the movie adaptation starring Dame Helen Mirren out this month, it’s easy to see why this novel is set to be a big hit.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Catalan Curiosity – Vanilla Salt Inspiration

As well as being a heart-warming tale of love and life, Vanilla Salt is a mouthwatering tale of Catalan cuisine. The main characters have a huge passion for food, and as this novel is written by acclaimed chef Ada Parellada, the food passion that seeps through the pages is so strong you can almost taste in. Reading this book made me feel hungry a lot of the time, and Catalan food is not something I’ve really experienced before.

So this book inspired me to do a little research and get creative in the kitchen with an attempt to make some Catalan inspired dishes! At the back of Vanilla Salt is a handy glossary of the foods mentioned throughout the story so I used this as my starting point and let the good old internet fill in the rest!

For a main course I decided to attempt botifarra amb mongetes which is Catalan sausage with white beans. As much as I would have loved to have sourced authentic Catalan ingredients I decided to make this a bit last minute. For the botifarra, I ended up getting some chorizo-style pork sausages (which was about as Spanish as I could get.

I cooked pancetta in a pan of olive oil until it was brown and then added the sausages for about 5-10 minutes until they browned as well. I then removed the meat and used the remaining oil to fry up some white onions, garlic and parsley. 

After a few minutes I added a tin of white beans and cooked for about 10 minutes, being careful not to burn everything! I re-added the meat until it was cooked and it was then ready to serve! 

In addition to this, as a kind of side dish, I attempted sofregit, which should be a mixture of onions and tomatoes (and sometimes other veg) cooked in olive oil and reduced to a jammy consistency. This I did, minus the jammy consistency part, but it was still delicious.

I had also wanted to make escalivada, an appetizer made from strips aubergine and red peppers, but didn’t realise I had no red peppers until it was too late! So my supposed escalivada turned into olive-oil fried aubergine strips instead, which also went quite well with the main.

 Being a bit slap dash and last minute, my Catalan inspired meal actually turned out quite nice, full of simple ingredients, yet colourful and full of flavour. I had lots of fun in the kitchen (feeling a bit chefy with my multiple dishes going all at once) and enjoyed a meal that was something different.

I would definitely recommend Vanilla Salt to foodie fans and if anyone else has been inspired to try some Catalan cooking (or has any pointers for me!) I would really love to hear from you.