Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Review: The Borribles Go For Broke by Michael De Larrabeiti


What is a Borrible? 

Borribles are runaways who dwell in the shadows of London. Apart from their pointed ears, they look just like ordinary children. They live by their wits and a few Borrible laws—the chief one being, Don’t Get Caught! The Borribles are outcasts—but they wouldn’t have it any other way….

The Borribles Go For Broke

On the Great Rumble Hunt, Chalotte, a Borrible from Whitechapel, very nearly lost her life—and good friends had been left for dead—all because of the Rumble Treasure Chest. To Chalotte the treasure was evil and she had sworn never to go on another adventure. But when Chalotte and the other survivors discover that Sam the horse is in danger they know they have no choice—Borribles always help their friends. Their attempts to rescue Sam lead them into the second Great Borrible Adventure!


WARNING: This is the second book in a series and therefore, this review will likely have spoilers for the first book but is spoiler free for this book.

I'd been meaning to pick this book up off the review pile for quite a while but I often like to space out reading books in a series to give the previous book some time to settle in my head and to look forward to the next one even more.

We enter back into the world of the Borribles and meet the remaining Borribles from the Great Rumble Hunt as they try to piece their lives back together and are confronted with the chance to save an old friend they thought was lost.  However; this adventure is blighted with meetings with old foes and new ones that are even more terrifying.  Will everyone make it out alive and how many secrets will be revealed to us?  Will the Borribles ever be the same again?

I loved the first book for it's quirkiness and strange dialogue as it mapped the London landscape with new eyes.  The city is like a new beast to discover and play in as Michael presents a different way of seeing someone that we think we know but can be surprised by.  I found it wonderful to see locations that I know well but feel like I was visiting them for the first time.  

It's been suggested in other reviews that this book isn't as good as the first and not of the same standard of adventure; and it's true but I see that as a positive.  This is a much darker and richer book because these characters have seen awful things and survived and by surviving you are forever changed.  This is the book from a more mature view point and shows great development in terms of characters and mythology.  I loved the introduction of new characters like the drunken trap who aids them in their mission as well as the evil new villain that has a heart blacker than night.  It gave me chills when reading him encounter our heroes.

I look forward to reading the next book to see where it goes and how it develops from here.  It's a clever way of storytelling and gives the audience something to grip onto rather than just shelling out a poor rehashed adventure based on the original.  Dark Mid-Grade with a great set of characters.
Published by Piccolo and is available online and selected bookshops now

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Cooking with Spooky: Meatloaf

So, I treated myself to another cook book and this one jumped off the shelf in my local bookshop.  It looked cool, the recipes seemed easy to follow and the photos are great visuals.  I love a cook book with good photos and easy to follow instructions.  

This recipe for Meatloaf seemed like a good one to try and I've tried Meatloaf on the US once and loved it.  
New gorgeous book!
So, Meatloaf, is just like it sounds because it's essentially a loaf of meat, but the flavours are delicious.  

You start with cooking mushrooms, celery, onions etc to soften them and you prep the other ingredients in a bowl for mixing.  That means chuck in the meats, the breadcrumbs, egg and then the cooked bits into a bowl and mix them really well.  I think that the cooked bits should have been sliced smaller but I followed the recipe.  If I do it again, I'll be dicing them up into teeny pieces to make the mix hold together better.  I also used dry breadcrumbs and think fresh ones would work better.

The mixing up part is a bit gross, so make sure you roll up your sleeves and take off rings and other jewellery to save you bother later on.  Then you add in ketchup and tabasco sauce.  These are key ingredients and MAKE the meatloaf.  It's a lot of ketchup but I'd recommend adding it in parts and judging the wetness of the mix as you go.  I didn't have tabasco to hand so I used a well-known chicken restaurant's sauce that was knocking around.  

I then put it all in a bread tin and more ketchup goes on the top.

Another big tip: don't put it in the tin!  The recipe's says to do it this way but when the meatloaf is cooking, there is a lot of fat that runs off and no where to go.  I had to drain it off after (very messy) and then the loaf wouldn't hold it's shape, I think, because it was so wet.  So, next time, I will make sure the mix isn't so wet and make a freeform loaf on a baking tray so the fat has somewhere else to go and hopefully it will then slice well.  The other trouble with the loaf tin is that it is VERY hard to remove the whole loaf once it's cooked in there without it falling apart.

However; the taste was fantastic and there was so much that it could be saved for the next day and it tastes just as good (if not better).  I'd be keen to try different meats in the mix.  This mixture was beef mince and veal (as the recipe states) but I'd love to try a stronger flavour; perhaps a game meat like venison.

Overall; top marks and things learnt!

I served mine with peas and a jacket potato but mash and gravy is traditional.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Blog Tour: UKYA Extravaganza with ... Christina Banach

As part of the UKYA Extravaganza event being held at Waterstones Birmingham,  I've joined in with the blog tour fun and today I have Christina Banach on the blog talking about her writing in the run-up to her very first author event appearance!

Over to Christina:

Hi, Christina!  What is an average writing day for you?  Do you have any set routines you like to keep?

Hi Laura, thank you for having me on your blog. 

I’m lucky enough to write full-time. My usual routine is to wake early, check Twitter, shower, grab some breakfast and start writing. I aim to be at my desk by 8am and, apart from a quick lunch break and walking my dogs, I press on until my husband returns from work at 5.30. After dinner, depending on what stage I’m at in the writing process, I might write some more. 

Who are your writing inspirations?

Gosh, so many - Malorie Blackman, Kevin Brooks and Sally Gardner, amongst others. However, David Almond is my greatest inspiration. It was his exquisite book, Skellig, which compelled me to write for young people. 

Why did you want to become a writer?

Since childhood I’d harboured a secret dream to become a writer. Nevertheless, I didn’t believe that someone like me could be a published author so I put my ambition aside and became a teacher instead. However, many years later, during a period of ill-health and trauma in my personal life, I began to write again. I suppose, at first, it was a way of making sense of what had happened to me. But then I rediscovered the joy of storytelling, the freedom of transforming ideas into sentences, the enjoyment of playing with words and crafting a story – of giving voice to what concerns me about the world I live in. And I knew then, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Why did you choose to write about the life and death situation that Minty finds herself in?  Was it based on a real incident? 

It’s really weird, but it was as if the story chose me. The idea appeared early one summer morning, just as the sun came up. During the night I’d thought I sensed my late father's presence, after which, unable to get back to sleep, I sat in the sunroom contemplating what had actually happened. Then I heard my dog panting and put out my hand to stroke her. Until it struck me – how could it be my pet? She had died the month before. That’s when it came to me, the story of a teenaged girl to whom the unimaginable happens. Sadly, I know of two people who lost someone in a drowning accident so I expect that might have had some influence on the story. However, the incident in the book is entirely fictional.

What other UKYA are you a fan of and would recommend?

As well as the authors I’ve already mentioned, I’m a fan of L A Weatherly, Tim Bowler, Sophia Bennett, Keith Gray – I could go on. I’d recommend checking out their books or those of any of my fellow UKYA Extravaganza authors (see the Goodreads list). Also look out for Mind Games by Teri Terry (author of the excellent Slated trilogy), which is published next month. I was given a proof copy of this. For me, it’s her best book yet.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a contemporary ghost story/psychological thriller set in the legendary village of Glencoe, in the Scottish Highlands.

Thanks to Christina for answering these Questions and to Kerry and Emma for organising everything.  The event is SOLD OUT already but watch their twitter for info and updates and more blog tour fun.

Christina is on various social media ports and all information about these and her work can be found on her website here.  Her debut book, Minty, is published by Three Hares Publishing.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Review: A Web of Air by Philip Reeve


Two years ago, Fever Crumb escaped the war-torn city of London in a travelling theatre. Now she arrives in the extraordinary crater city of Mayda, where buildings ascend the cliffs on funicular rails, and a mysterious recluse is building a machine that can fly. Fever is the engineer he needs - but ruthless enemies will kill to possess their secrets. This is the fabulous sixth book in the "Mortal Engines" series, from the brilliant and award-winning Philip Reeve.


WARNING: This is the second in the series and this review may contain spoilers for the previous book in the series, as well as the other Mortal Engines series.

I've been saving this series to slowly gobble-up on the run up to the new release from Philip Reeve (Railhead, which I think will be out this September if all goes to plan).  I only have one more and I already know that there was meant to be a fourth in the series that isn't published.  It's a heart-ache that I'll just have to grin and bare.  Until then; at least I have these books still read.

A Web of Air takes place two years after the great events in Fever Crumb, as we see Fever trying to settle into a new life away from the order and logic of the Engineers.  However, trouble seems to always find Fever no matter where she runs to.  She becomes involved in the idea of making flight a reality; a crazy idea from a man that might be crazy himself but it's an idea that could be a possibility.  It's too much to ignore and she decides to follow up her hunger for discovery, only to become sucked into a turf war, murder and a race against time to finish before others try to snatch the idea away or just crush it completely.  Fever also has to contend with something she's never had to consider before: romance.  Can someone that has existed inside her own head for her whole life, finally listen to her heart for a moment?

I threw myself back into the world of Fever Crumb, like jumping back into a bed after a long  road journey, and snuggled down into the warm duvet of words.  This is a fab continuation of the world of the Mortal Engines and yet again I got to enjoy seeing little nods to the Mortal Engines series of books as well as simply enjoying a good adventure story.  Fever is a great female MC and holds the story together in a  completely refreshing fashion; it's not all about boys and being the victim because she's the one kicking some butt on occasion and saving the boy too.

I look forward to the final book in this series and to see how it all ties together but I shall hold off until I get my grubby hands on Mr Reeve's next book.  The wait is a bit unbearable already. 
Published by Scholastic UK and is available online and in bookshops now

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

UKYABA Shortlist: Holy Moley

So I wasn't exactly planning on writing anymore about this UKYABA thing until after the big event on March 7th.  Then I saw a tweet at the weekend saying I'd been shortlisted for THREE awards.  I'm up for Champion of YA, Bloggers' Blogger and Champion Adult Blogger. I thought, "Crumbs; this a bit real isn't it?" but I still thought I'd just leave it be and try to not get worked up about the idea that I might possibly win something or not.  I tweeted my thanks and left it there.

The UK Children's Laureate.

And then, later that same day, the UKYABA twitter posted this picture of one of the trophies:

Now it's all seeming a whole lot of realness.  So I'm going to have to say something, I think, because it's a bit rude if I don't do this properly, like so many of my fellow bloggers have been doing.

So this is me, saying a huge thank you to all the publishers, authors, editors, publicists, marketing staff, illustrators and generally lovely industry people that thought to nominate me in the first place.  It's a real honour to be there amongst a bunch of people that I know deserve the acknowledgement just as much as I do and for the blogging community to be seen as a serious thing in this way.  We all slog our guts out over our blogs and it's wonderful see these awards existing and to be part of them.

I said online, earlier, that I was just going to rock up in any old outfit but now I think I might take these awards just as seriously as they're taking me.  I'm going to dress up a little (no black tie or nothing, but perhaps a dress at least) and go into the evening looking to celebrate this amazing community I'm part of.  I think it would be a laugh for all of us to do it.

Then I'll probably have a few glasses of plonk and embarrass myself.  I hope I win something, like anyone would because those trophies look LUUUURVLEY but, if I don't, I won't be disappointed because I know the other people nominated bloody-well deserve it too.

Roll on March 7th at Waterstones High Street Kensington

... which I'm shortlisted for :)

Monday, 16 February 2015

Cooking with Spooky: Nigel Slater's Moroccan Lamb Shanks


This is slightly different from the first post because I used a recipe book for this creation and had to follow guidelines and instructions.  I bought Nigel Slater's Real Cooking the previous weekend and, after much flicking through and browsing I settled on the Moroccan Spiced Lamb Shanks with aubergine.  Mainly because I'd not cooked Lamb Shanks before and I like things that have lots of flavour and veggies.

First I tackled the shanks.  They had to be floured and then browned off before and I was a bit of a flutter about if they should be prepared differently.  If you are search out images of them, you'll see that they are 'Frenched", which means the stuff around the thin end is cut away to expose the bone.  This is just for a nice visual from what I can work out so I thought: sod it.  I browned them, and then did the same with the aubergines.  (The recipe didn't call for it, but I salted the sliced aubergines and then let the water and impurities come out first.  I only knew this from using them before but I don't think it's a requirement.  Not really sure but I did it anyway).

Then the real work starts: browning onions (I was fancy and used a red and white onion) and then a bunch of other stuff including tomato puree, a cinnamon stick (not ground cinnamon as I nearly added.  Whoops!) and harissa paste.  This all cooks off before you add back in the browned aubergines and lamb and adding a tin of chopped tomatoes.  I also chucked in a small tin of chickpeas because I had them and love them.

Then, it goes in the oven to slow cook for what seems like FOREVER because it smells so bloody good.  However, it's worth the wait and I was pleased with my addition of chickpeas as they were a really good extra bonus.

The shanks seemed to have 'frenched' themselves which I guess must be due to the slow cooking process and how the muscles and such contract with the heat.  Not only did I have a delicious meal to serve up but I was feeling so chuffed with my skills that I tweeted the photo to Nigel Slater and he only went and bloody replied.  DIAMOND!

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Review: The Wombles by Elisabeth Beresford


The Wombles is the first in the Wombles series of books and introduces many of the favourite Womble characters, including the stern but kindly Great Uncle Bulgaria and Orinoco, fond of his food and a subsequent forty winks.

Illustrated throughout in full colour by the talented Nick Price, this hardback edition of the first in the much-loved and classic Wombles series will make the perfect gift.


This was a Christmas gift that I was really excited about because it is a lovely edition of The Wombles and included a free CD with audio readings from Bernard Cribbins; the voice of The Wombles TV series.  The Wombles were something in the orbit of my childhood as I have family from the Wimbledon area and it's part of the heritage there.  I knew of these creatures but had never read the stories before now.

This gorgeous collection covers a year in the life of the Wimbledon Wombles with a few key faces that are the leading figures in the troop.  Great Uncle Bulgaria is their leader and guides their decisions and the others all have important roles; from cooking, building and guard-duty.  A Womble's main role in life is to protect the environment they live in and for this troop of Wombles, that means collecting all the human rubbish that blows onto Wimbledon Common, cleaning up the grounds and then re-using the found objects or even repairing them.  They are very ingenious bunch and love their lives and the little family they've built up.

This book was a delight to read and I truly fell in love with all the little personalities with their individual traits and interests.  The beauty of this book is that it reads like everyday real life with highs and lows that we all experience.  Bad weather, lack of money to going on a fab group outing and eating lots of lovely cakes.

A fabulous book that is divided by the seasons and silly antics of all the Wombles as they live and learn.  My favourite adventures was when Orinoco tried to use an umbrella on a windy day and the outing to watch the Wimbledon Tennis.  A must-have family collection book that will no doubt be read over and over to many generations.

Published by Bloomsbury and is available online and in bookshops now