Tag Archives: Food

Woolsley’s Kitchen Nightmare by E.E. Knight

Overview
Image result for home improvement undead edition book cover

Title: Woolsley’s Kitchen Nightmare
Author: E.E. Knight
In: Home Improvement (Charlaine Harris & Toni L.P. Kelner)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Food, Humour, Paranormal fantasy
Dates read: 23rd August 2020
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Year: 2011
5th sentence, 74th page: Unless his accountant was as cluelessly skeevy as his decorator, a few customers were still braving the fugly to eat here every week.

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Synopsis

The paranormal version of Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. But so much better – less swearing and more blood.

Thoughts

This is such a GREAT take on Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. A fantastic, funny and just all round humorous paranormal version that had me laughing all the way throughout. I love how it took all of the elements of a kitchen renovation show and turned them on their head. Including putting humans on the menu and having zombies as employees… it was a bit gory. But seriously fun and funny.

This story is a great reminder that you really shouldn’t try to be fancy when you’re just not fancy. It’s trying waaaaayyyy too hard. And in this case, trying to be paranormal when you’re just not… it makes you end up kind of dead. Which I loved. But you know… I’m kind of bloodthirsty anyway. So that made me fairly happy.

Throughout all of this story, I did giggle and laugh a fair bit. It was light and funny. And, honestly, in spite of the whole eating humans thing – quite cute. Definitely a short story that I would read again.

<- The Strength InsideThrough This House ->

Image source: Hachette Australia

Cleaving by Julie Powell

Overview
Image result for cleaving julie powell book cover

Title: Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, & Obsession
Author: Julie Powell
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Food, Marriage, Memoirs
Dates read: 22nd February – 1st March 2020
Pace: Slow
Format: Novel
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Year: 2009
5th sentence, 74th page: Why do I more often than not decline Josh and Jessica’s invitations to dinner, Aaron’s elaborate weekend agendas?

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Synopsis

Julie Powell thought cooking her way through all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the craziest thing she’d ever do – until she embarked on the voyage recounted in Cleaving.

When her marriage is challenged by an insane, irresistible love affair, Julie decides to leave town and immerse herself in a new obsession: butchery. She finds her way to Fleisher’s, a butcher shop in upstate New York, where she buries herself in the details of food. She learns how to break down a side of beef and French a rack of ribs – tough, physical work that only sometimes distracts her from thoughts of afternoon trysts.

The camaraderie at Fleisher’s leads Julie to search out fellow butchers around the world – from South America to Europe to Africa. At the end of her odyssey, she has learned a new art and perhaps even mastered her unruly heart.

Thoughts

I wanted to love this book. I wanted to know more about the amazing woman who wrote Julie and Julia. I was seriously unimpressed with the woman who wrote this. Don’t get me wrong, the writing was still fantastic and made it an interesting journey to go on… but the journey. Not really my cup of tea.

I found the detail of the butchery kind of fascinating. In that disgusting, I can’t believe I’m watching this sort of way. Whilst I’m not a vegetarian, I’m also not really much of a meat eater. So the graphic details of how the meat that I eat is broken down… I did find that a little intense. Including recipes throughout of how to cook the cuts that Powell was slicing up was quite an interesting, intriguing way to go about moving the narrative forwards though.

I just can’t understand the need to cheat – the reasons why. The choices people make. And, more importantly, I really don’t get why Powell makes the decisions that she makes. Not only does she have an affair, but she does so in a way that systematically tears apart the man that she loves. He also hangs around and does something similar, but still. There is nothing in her actions that made me feel kindly towards her. Where Julie and Julia was something I could understand – that manic need to find meaning in life, and that constant, weird voice in your head making you constantly question your worth. Her thoughts and actions in this were completely foreign to me. Deplorable. And, honestly, in writing about her experiences, I found her to be a little self-indulgent about her own downfalls.

This isn’t the kind of book that I would normally enjoy. As I said, Powell is just WAY too self-indulgent and forgiving of her mistakes. Of the hurts that she puts on other people. But it is also exceedingly well written. And it was a book that I couldn’t stop talking about the whole time that I was reading it… it was a kind of insane experience. One that I probably won’t repeat, but also one that I won’t be throwing into the giveaway pile. Super mixed feelings in this corner.

<- One (Wo)man, One VoteJulie & Julia->

Image source: Goodreads

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Overview
Image result for book cover sweetbitter

Title: Sweetbitter
Author: Stephanie Danler
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Food, Wine
Dates read: 3rd – 14th December 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Oneworld
Year: 2016
5th sentence, 74th page: No change in temperature arrived.

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Synopsis

Tess is the 22-year-old narrator of this stunning first novel. Moving to New York, a place at the centre of the universe, from a place that feels like ‘nowhere to live’, she lands a job at a renowned Union Square restaurant and begins to navigate the chaotic and punihsing life of a waiter, on and off duty. As her appetites awaken – not just for food and wine but also for knowledge and friendship – Tess becomes helplessly drawn into a dark, alluring love triangle.

Sweetbitter is a novel of the senses. Of taste and hunger, of love and desire, and the wisdom that comes from our experiences, both sweet and bitter.

Thoughts

From the cover, the title and the blurb on this book, I was expecting something that was kind of sweet and easy. Sure, a little bit lustful. But overall? A nice, easy, sweet read. Man was I wrong. This was kind of dark, didn’t really have that hopeful feeling I was expecting. And really lent more towards the bitter end of the spectrum than sweet. But it was also brilliant and next to impossible to put down.

As someone who has worked on and off in hospitality for the past 13 years, there was a lot about this story that was completely relatable. I may not have ever worked in such a nice establishment (country pubs, tiny cafes and small wineries being my area of expertise), but the requirements and draining aspects of service… yup. I get that. And it made me very, very, very glad that I recently left the industry. I’m hoping this time forever… but I said that last time too…

One thing that I really didn’t have in common with Tess in this story was the sex, drugs and alcohol. It was one of the most relatable insights into this world and excess that I have ever read. I may push the boundaries a little, but I don’t have anything to do with drugs and even that level of alcohol consumption is off my charts. So it was intriguing to read a story that didn’t make it seem cool or great, but also didn’t completely condemn the practice either. Very intriguing. Which is probably why, even when I wanted to reach through the pages and tell her to get out of the whole she was digging, I couldn’t stop being fascinated by Tess’s choices.

I thought that Sweetbitter was an incredibly interesting title when I grabbed this up. I only got it because it had a wine glass on the cover, and I needed that for a reading challenge… but, regardless. After reading this, I completely understand where the title comes from. Although I mostly felt seriously uncomfortable about this story, and understood the bitter aspect… there were moments of incredible sweetness of self and a great sense of understanding of self at the end of the journey. It wasn’t hopeful, it wasn’t a great journey of self-discovery, but it had this idea of sweetness at the very conclusion.

I’ve always struggled with the fact that people think I’m pretty before they bother with my personality. I’m pretty sure that like Tess, I’ve probably been offered jobs based on this. But I’ve never wanted to trade on my physicality. It was intriguing to read a story with a heroine, not much younger than me went completely the opposite direction. She actually chose to trade on her looks, and ignore her own mind. That is, until she realised that she could have both. Something I’m still trying to figure out…

 <- More food reviewsMore wine reviews ->

Image source: Amazon

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell

Overview
Image result for julie and julia book cover

Title: Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously
Author: Julie Powell
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Book to Film, Food, Inspiration, Memoirs
Dates read: 18th – 20th November 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Novel
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Year: 2005
5th sentence, 74th page: But I did not live in 1961, nor did I live in France, which would have made things simpler.

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Synopsis

Julie & Julia, the bestselling memoir that’s “irresistible….A kind of Bridget Jones meets The French Chef” (Philadelphia Inquirer), is now a major motion picture. Julie Powell, nearing thirty and trapped in a dead-end secretarial job, resolves to reclaim her life by cooking in the span of a single year, every one of the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s legendary Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her unexpected reward: not just a newfound respect for calves’ livers and aspic, but a new life-lived with gusto. The film is written and directed by Nora Ephron and stars Amy Adams as Julie and Meryl Streep as Julia.

Thoughts

I absolutely loved the movie Julie and Julia, so when I found the book on sale, I was deliriously excited. Possibly a little too excited. But, as it turns out – I was probably all happy and hopped up on my new book purchase for a good reason. Because this novel is also amazing. I just couldn’t put it down. Actually, I think that my partner got kind of fed up with me talking about this non stop for about 24 hours.

Normally when I read a book that has been turned into a movie, I have a clear favourite. 99% of the time that favourite is the book – let’s face it, they just fit so much more in to a book than they can in a movie! That wasn’t the case with this! Both versions had amazing merit, but differed enough that I still couldn’t wait to read about the next insane experience that Julie Powell experienced in her year long quest for… something. She’s not entirely sure what, and neither am I. But I can tell you that it was a brilliant adventure regardless. And that I have to do something, but I don’t know what – well, that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling lately, so it was probably the best book for me to pick up at this point in my life.

One warning I do have about this book – don’t eat it while you’re hungry. Even if you’ve just eaten, you’re going to want to go into the kitchen and just whip up some random meal. At least, for my food obsessed self – I was constantly thinking about food and cooking while reading this. Sadly, I don’t really have the time to try and master French cooking… but it’s made me want to try!

Mostly this book is funny and cute. But, it’s also a great tale of finding yourself and figuring out what you want to do in your next life… or about a mid-life crisis. Either way, I could relate WAAAAAAY too much to this story. So maybe it’s not such a bad thing that I have NO IDEA what I’m doing with my life! Because you can find a random project to pursue and maybe find a little bit more about yourself in the mean time… although, a PhD could be that random project… I’m getting off track now.

 <- Cleaving ReviewOne (Wo)man, One Vote Review ->

Image source: Amazon

A Reversal of Fortune by Holly Black

Overview
Image result for coyote road book cover

Title: A Reversal of Fortune
Author: Holly Black
In: The Coyote Road (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: FamilyFoodTricksters
Dates read: 19th September 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Firebird Fantasy
Year: 2007
5th sentence, 74th page: Maybe without a soul she wouldn’t even care that Boo was dead.

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Synopsis

Nikki is just trying to have a good summer with her dog Boo. But when an accident causes her summer to take a tragic turn, she realises that she might just have to make a deal with the devil.

Thoughts

Eating competitions fascinate me. They’re weird, random and something that I couldn’t fathom doing myself… mostly because I already feel way too sick whenever I overeat even slightly. When I found out that actually being sick is a huge taboo and has its own name (a reversal of fortune), I was drawn completely into the tale. It had me laughing out loud, smiling, and chuckling at the ways in which Holly Black was able to take a fairly typical trickster tale and turn it on its head.

Being that this short story is in a collection of trickster tales, I figured that it was quite likely for Nikki to outsmart the devil. But using a food eating competition to do so. And quite a disgusting one at that… it was a little too humorous and fun for me to put the story down. A good reminder as to why I love Holly Black’s writing so much… she always has just the right amount of sass and surprise to leave me with a large smile on my face.

After finishing this story, I both wanted to go and eat my weight in sour worms… and never eat them again. There were some fairly strong emotions inspired by Nikki’s face off with the devil. But mostly what I loved was the fact that she did all of this for her dog. She faced up to the loss of her soul, because her dog is her soul. Or at least, that’s how I read it… and it’s something that I think I too would do. I can’t imagine not having my beautiful big dog by my side everyday…

 <- The Constable of Abal ReviewGod Clown Review ->
Image source: Amazon

Blood and Thyme by Camille Bacon-Smith

Overview
Image result for the mammoth book of vampire romance 2 book cover

Title: Blood and Thyme
Author: Camille Bacon-Smith
In: The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance 2 (Trisha Telep)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Food, Paranormal romance, Vampires
Dates read: 10th April 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Robinson
Year: 2009
5th sentence, 74th page: It turned out she liked working here.

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Synopsis

She’s the chef that could help him save his business. But, when he realises just how much she means to him, he’s not sure if he should risk his life or his livelihood first.

Thoughts

This was kind of cute. It’s not the first time that I’ve come across a story about a genetic vampire (rather than one that has been unwillingly changed), but it is probably the first one that featured entertainment and food so strongly. Actually, weirdly enough, it made me want to do a bit of cooking when I finished this story. After all, the lead female is a chef and the lead male almost gives up his life to make sure that he does have a great chef in his damn kitchen…

The sexuality in this short story was seriously damped down in comparison to some of the other paranormal romance stories that I’ve been reading lately. Which was kind of nice. It still had that component to it, but it was the first moments of courtship that really took centre stage. Those moments when there is almost no touching, but a lot of glances and curiosity about one another. Considering this is found in a whole collection of vampire romances, it was nice to have one romance that was a lot more cute, and a lot less sexual to balance out the intensity of some of the other tales.

 <- Deliver Us From Evil ReviewInto the Mist For Ever Review ->
Image source: Bookdepository

A Delicate Architecture by Catherynne M. Valente

Overview
Image result for troll's-eye view book cover

Title: A Delicate Architecture
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
In: Troll’s-Eye View (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fairy tales, Food, Villains
Dates read: 27th February 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Firebird Fantasy
Year: 2009
5th sentence, 74th page: He gave me a slice of honeycomb and shooed me into the garden, where raspberries grew along the white gate.

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Synopsis

Constanze has always wanted to go to Venice with her father, but when opportunity finally knocks, she finds that not everything is as it seems.

Thoughts

I’ve never really questioned why there was a gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel. Or why it seems to be something that is repeated across fairy tales. After all, it is a really impractical and useless way in which to make a house. And it kind of seems just… sticky to live in.

Valente was able to give a completely plausible reason for the building of a gingerbread house. And a completely understandable way in which the wicked witch from Hansel and Gretel turned out the way that she did… everything about this story just helped to create a reality in which the well-known fairy tale actually makes sense. After it had first poked the holes in it.

As much as I loved this story, it also made me feel kind of sad. The father betrays and then forgets his daughter. She is left unloved, unremembered and just completely stranded. All so he can regain the fame and fortune that he once had.

 <- ‘Skin ReviewMolly Review ->
Image source: Amazon

The Princess in the Tower by Elizabeth A. Lynn

Overview
Image result for snow white, blood red book cover

Title: The Princess in the Tower
Author: Elizabeth A. Lynn
In: Snow White, Blood Red (Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Easy reading, Fairy tales, Food
Date read: 28th January 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Signet
Year: 1993
5th sentence, 74th page: After the examination, he told Margherita to go outside, where she was instantly encircled by a small crowd of delighted urchins, who speculated aloud about the fatal, wasting disease she had obviously contracted.

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Synopsis

Margherita can’t seem to put on the weight that characterises the rest of her family. So they decide to put her in a tower to save her from her madness. Luckily for her, a nice young gentleman comes along and loves her… just the way she is.

Thoughts

This is the second Rapunzel story in the Snow White, Blood Red collection. And it is far more light-hearted and entertaining than the first. Where the previous story was a little dark and twisted, this one was fun, happy and had me smiling throughout. It also made me a little hungry with the constant mentions of pasta and food.

This short story really turns the idea of beauty on its head. Instead of being beautiful for her slenderness, Margherita is thought to be sick and mad. It makes those who are large and curvy beautiful, and those who are slender somehow “wrong”. A great way to flip current societal norms on its head. I also love that in the happily-ever-after a gain in weight and a lot of food feature. Again, something that wouldn’t normally involve a happily-ever-after and one that I really loved.

 <- The Root of the Matter ReviewPersimmon Review ->
Image source: Amazon

Reinventing Ruby by Deborah Blake

Overview

Reinventing RubyTitle: Reinventing Ruby
Author: Deborah Blake
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Chic lit, FoodRomance
Pace: Fast
Format: Novel
Publisher: Deborah Blake
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: As always, she found making bread to be a sensual experience, but this time it brought on a vivid erotic flashback to that wild night – something that had been happening on a regular basis ever since her unaccustomed fling.

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Synopsis

Ruby Tate is a cautious and controlled woman; her only passions are cooking and her restaurant, Jewels. Unless you count the uncharacteristic one-night stand she had with a charming stranger the night of her sister’s bachelorette party. And she doesn’t. After all, she got out of his bed the next morning and returned to her real life—dealing with a failing restaurant, a not-so-silent silent partner, and a difficult family. And now there’s this new problem, like a ticking time bomb hiding beneath her white chef’s jacket.

Jonathan Gautier is a rising star in the culinary world. With three successful restaurants, a best-selling cookbook, and a new television show, he should be happy, but after six months on the road filming Seven Worth Saving and working in everyone’s kitchens but his own, Jonathan is burned-out and uninspired. The closest thing he’s had to a social life was one amazing night with a woman whose name he isn’t even sure of. All he wants is to wrap up this last episode and get back to his own kitchen. Maybe there he’ll be able to recapture his love of cooking, because if he can’t, he doesn’t know what on earth he’ll do with his life.

When Jonathan walks into Jewels, Ruby is horrified. She can’t believe that the famous chef who is her only hope for saving her restaurant is the man who gave her the best night of her life, and a little something extra. All she wants now is for him to help her save her dreams—and then go away. But Jonathan has other ideas. Lots of other ideas; most of which involve Ruby, food, and nakedness. And Jonathan didn’t get to be the success that he is by taking “no” for an answer. Together, they must find a way to save Jewels, even if that means completely Reinventing Ruby.

Thoughts

Reading this made me incredibly hungry. And kind of sleepy to be honest. Because I just couldn’t put it down and so I didn’t go to sleep like a normal person.

I’m a bit disappointed that I read the blurb before this story though. It hinted at Ruby’s secret and she doesn’t even find out until about halfway through the story. Talk about a spoiler alert! But that didn’t truly ruin the story. It was so simply romantic and sweet. The combination of Ruby and Jonathan’s budding romance, and the cooking and the risk of her restaurant… it gave the story just enough spice and risk, but not enough that my heart was completely pounding throughout.

I can’t quite explain why, but on completing this book, I was completely relaxed, happy and ready to jump into the kitchen and try out some different recipes again. Although I don’t ever want to be a chef, I do love cooking, and this, combined with the romance of the story just worked so completely. Plus, there are recipes in the back of the story that I really, really, really want to try!

 <- More romance reviews More chic lit reviews ->
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