Unlike my previous read, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which took me over two weeks to read and I finished and reviewed yesterday, I read Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, in pretty much one sitting (ok I couldn’t resist reading the first 25 pages in bed before I fell asleep last night, but other than that I read it all in one rather long morning bath).
I opted for Coraline out of my trawl through Neil Gaiman’s back catalogue next because I have been intrigued by the trailers for the upcoming movie (watch here for a behind the scenes featurette talking about the story and featuring Neil Gaiman) and I was not disappointed by the book itself. Telling the story of Coraline and her parents who move into a flat in an old house, it’s the dog end of the summer holidays and Coraline is bored and her parents too busy to play with her, so she goes exploring and discovers a door in the wall that leads to a flat just like hers, complete with parents just like hers, although these parents cook her nice food and pay her attention, thing is they’ve got buttons for eyes . . .
What follows is a rather scary tale as Coraline realises that her ‘other mother’ is not what she seems and want to keep Coraline trapped in her created world. Coraline has to find and rescue the souls of three children who had been trapped by the other mother before and also rescue her parents, aided by the cat who needs no name. A great fun read, which I would have loved even more as a child (and would have consequently been sleeping a little more nervously afterwards!).
On a Sunday Salon note, this may be my last Salon until after Christmas. From next Saturday I’m working for the next three weekends at a Christmas Fair in the grounds of a lovely local National Trust house, which hopefully will be a least a little magically Christmassy, how excellent would it be if it snowed (it feels cold enough)? However, much as I’ll be surrounded by books all day, I doubt I’ll have much time and energy to read, let alone post, so if I don’t may I wish you all a very (early) Merry Christmas and very much happy reading!
I’ve finally finished The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, it was a long book and put it this way I’m now looking forward to my next planned read, which is considerably shorter, with much glee. Although it was a struggle to get through at times, being overly doggy (for someone who is not that into dogs), as I mentioned in my two Sunday Salon posts on the matter and at times the writing of this lengthy book was a little patchy in quality*, I overall enjoyed this impressive (for a first timer) book.
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle tells the story of the Sawtelle family and in a way the story of the farm they house their dog breeding business on, from birth to destruction. Edgar is the son of the current owners, Gar and Trudy, a boy mute from birth, he has an affinity with the dogs. When Gar’s brother Claude comes back from service overseas, old sibling rivalries spring back up, resulting in Gar’s initially mysterious death and it’s only when Edgar sees the ghost of his father (the way how Wroblewski makes the ghost appear is a lovely idea but it was sadly one of the bits of the book that for me reads ‘odd’) does Edgar realise what really happens. A brilliant scene follows on, a silent confrontation between Edgar and Claude through a kitchen window and it is absolutely chilling but then Wroblewski switches to Claude’s viewpoint and again I felt the writing suffered a bit. Anyway, things escalate resulting in another death at the kennel, forcing Edgar to flee with his dogs, there follows a slightly overlong section in the woods as he runs away, followed by a nice few chapters as Edgar makes his home with Henry who is trying not to be ordinary. Edgar ultimately realises he has to go back home, the book then switches viewpoints in a more quicker succession, but I think more successfully, with tension building unbearably towards the final scene, leaving only slight dissatisfaction that we never really truly know why Claude did what he originally did other than perhaps hie s really just a nasty piece of work.
* I always feel horrible criticising a writer’s writing because as an aspiring writer myself, David Wroblewski and any other published writer I’m going to be picky about has obviously done better than me, as they’ve got their book out there, I haven’t. I think however it’s just me applying that mantra that they give to all aspiring writers, to read and learn from other writers’ work, to look and analyse, see what works and what most importantly doesn’t, so I think that was what I was seeing plus the quality of most of the rest of the book was so good, it made the not so good bits stand out all the more.
I’ve been tempted by the Kyuuto! Japanese Crafts Woolly Emboidery book for some time. I saw it on the incredibly shrinking shelves of the craft section in my local Waterstones but it was shrink wrapped and so just like on Amazon, I could just stare at the lovely front cover. However, when I finally got a payment from Amazon Associates (thank you anyone who clicks through the Amazon links on my site), I was like a kiddie in a toy shop, I had been depriving myself of my book purchasing fix and Woolly Embroidery was going to get brought! (I also brought Coraline and The Meaning of Night).
After a long trek through the rain to get my Amazon parcel today, I couldn’t resist tearing open my package under the shelter of the nearest supermarket awning, to finally see what Woolly Embroidery was like inside and . . . I had some mixed feelings towards it. I’m a big fan of Japanese craft, I love Aranzi Aranzo and was impressed by the Zakka Sewing that I reviewed last week, with it’s sashiko embroidery, both of which are (obviously) very Japanese but the Woolly Embroidery book is, at least in part, very English, with lots of cute, fluffy, old fashioned animal motifs and old fashioned roses, which I suppose it very Japanese in a way, as I realise that sort of styling is very popular, more popular possibly in Japan than it is here, where I think most young crafters would think it was old fashioned. However I did like;
- a lovely cross stitch snow flake design on a stole, however the instructions call for a very specific kind of stole of exact dimensions and I can imagine how easy that would be to find,
- an arabesque tote bag
- a wool handbag, with a nice, more modern floral design
- the tree cushion which you can see part of on the front cover is very cute
- some older period crewel designs
I’m not sure how easy it will be to exactly replicate these designs, this certainly is not a book for a beginner (it is a step up from Sublime Stitching!) and it also I suspect, quite difficult to get all the required components in Britain, as the books Japanese instructions have been adapted more towards an American rather than a British audience. However I suspect I will try and make something from this, one day.
The Christmas gift making continues unabashed and this year I’m doing tea towels, majorly.
Julie West patterns from Sublime Stitching
These are for my aunt and her family, she’s difficult to shop / make for and I’m not totally sure she’ll like these but then again I’m not sure what she’d like and well, I guess it’s the thought that counts.
Teeth and ear from Sublime Stitching’s Vital Organs pattern
These are for my sister’s boyfriend, he’s from Korea and I’m not totally sure how he’ll take these!
Chickens based on illustrations from Where’s the Cat? illustrated by Debbie Harter
These are for my dad, not the first time I’ve given him tea towels either but he gets through a lot of them for some reason. The designs are based on illustration from a board book rather close to my heart (in connection with Boy Lacer and my minuscule book selling business) called Where’s the Cat? by Stella Blackstone and illustrated by Debbie Harter. Basically the child finds the cat, which is hidden on the page, Boy Lacer used to ‘get it’ but recently has become confused by the fact that I’m asking him where the cat is and there’s the cat on the opposite page clearly visible from the previous ‘where’s the cat?’ question, Girl Lacer tries to get round this problem when trying to do the book with Boy Lacer by sitting on the page Boy Lacer isn’t meant to be looking at! Anyway on one page the cat is stalking some chickens and I used the chicken illustrations for my dad’s tea towels as he has two chickens himself, including a speckled one, which he is rather attached to. These are the tea towels I like the most, so I hope my dad likes them. Much as I like Sublime Stitching’s patterns, they are all very much a certain style and I’m feeling drawn more to my own style now, which would be a bit more delicate, more old fashioned but definitely not chintzy! Ok the chicken design isn’t mine either but it would be the sort of thing I’d do, just need to work on my drawing!
Ok I’m a bit late on this but I’ve just brought Jamie’s Ministry of Food: Anyone Can Learn to Cook in 24 Hours (It’s under a tenner in John Lewis), my friends, most of them not keen cooks, have been raving on about this book for ages.
Right, when I can tear the book away from Boy Lacer, who likes recipe books generally but is particularly fascinated by the fact right now that there’s the same man on mummy’s computer as there is on the book, I think it looks quite good. As an experienced cook (I learnt to cook thanks to Jamie’s Naked Chef days), I don’t particularly need this book to learn to cook and I think looking at some of the recipes I could adapt them to my tastes quite easily but it is great to have all the basic, standard recipes, that everyone eats, all one book, nicely photographed and explained simply. There are some recipes, like his bolognaise and lasagne, where I’m not going to depart from my standard Tana Ramsay recipes because just reading Jamie’s recipes, I don’t think they’d taste quite as nice (Tana Ramsay cooks her meat for longer for a start, which I think is one of the secrets of a good bolognaise) but other than that, I think Jamie’s Ministry of Food may be the book I go to when I want to find a basic, standard recipe because my problem these days is that I have so many recipe books, if I want to cook something basic but still need the recipe, I have trouble remembering which book has which recipe, which is why recently I’ve been cooking from the BBC website’s excellent recipe section a lot, it’s easier to find a recipe by typing it into a search box! Anyway, as per usual, here are the recipes I want to try out;
- Chicken and leek stroganoff – my friends say this is yummy but a bit watery
- Asian chicken noodle broth
- Chicken fajitas
- Chicken tikka masala
- the variations of the Light and Fluffy rice
- the Homemade Curry Pastes
- the Jam Jar dressings
- Evolution Green Salad (which looks a bit like a Nigella salad I like)
- Evolution Potato salad
- Everyday green chopped salad
- Posh chopped salad
- Rice salad
- Leek and potato soup
- Sweet potato and chorizo soup (now this looks yummy!)
- Parsnip and ginger soup
- Best ever French beans (with garlic and parmesan cheese, yummmm!)
- Baked creamy leeks (might make my Christmas table)
- Baked french potatos (now I’m drooling)
- Crunchy garlic chicken
- Parmesan chicken breasts with crispy posh ham
- Quick steamed microwave puddings
- Mega chocolate fudge cake
Me and Girl Lacer made our Christmas cake a few weeks ago, we defected from the normal Nigella recipe and went for the Christmas cake in Rachel Allen’s Bake, which looked a tad more exotic and fruity, I’m quite looking forward to seeing what dried apricots in Christmas cake is like, but obviously I don’t know quite yet, but I’ll let you know, ooh about 21st December (last day of work).
Uniced Rachel Allen Christmas Cake
I’d brought quite a lot of dried fruit to make the Christmas Cake and it was killing me not being able to eat it straight away, so not having much else to do with the remaining fruit I made a second fruit cake yesterday, this time using the fruit cake recipe from Jane Brocket’s Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer (she writes about the cake here). Now this one I can eat and it’s delicious, soft, chewy, crunchy, spicy, fruity, buttery, in just one slice, it smells amazing when you cook it to. Plus it’s really filling, so not too much cake gorging!
Jane Brocket Fruit Cake
And as someone who’s not too keen on glace cherries (which Brocket’s cake calls for but not in Allen’s cake), may I recommend Waitrose’s own brand glace cherries, they’re darker than those horribly brightly coloured corner shop things and they taste rather nice). Oh and I still have loads of currants left, I think I know what I’ll be making with those and another Brocket recipe at that.