The Art of Baking Blind, by Sarah Vaughan

The Art of Baking Blind, by Sarah Vaughan

Do you have a favourite food writer? A book you go back to, time and again, because the recipes always work, and just reading them makes you happy? For my mum, it was her Marguerite Patten, the pale blue hardback coming apart at the edges from the years of use. My first one was Delia, a Christmas present from my granddad, one I still go back to for scones and plum ketchup. There is a cookbook at the centre of The Art of Baking Blind, one that is important for different reasons to Jenny, Vicki, Karen, Claire and Mike, the five bakers who have been chosen to take part in the competition to find the New Mrs Eaden. Kathleen Eaden, who gives The Art of Baking Blind its framework, is the wife of supermarket magnate, George Eaden. She’s missed out on the...

How To Make A Friend, by Fleur Smithwick

How To Make A Friend, by Fleur Smithwick

How To Make A Friend is, at its heart, a cautionary tale. Alice is a lonely child, very much the youngest in her family and overlooked by her siblings, her absent father and her narcissistic mother. Filling the gaps in her life is Sam, her imaginary friend who can be relied upon to say the right thing, play the games she wants to play, and be there whenever she needs him. Following the evocative prologue, in which we are introduced to the young Alice and Sam, the first chapter plunges us into the present. The scene is Alice’s father’s wedding day. Alice, now a beautiful and accomplished photographer, is fretting about being late. Her best friend, Rory, calms her down but the stresses of day (family, expectations, the presence of Rory’s brother...

Someone Else’s Conflict, by Alison Layland

Someone Else’s Conflict, by Alison Layland

Someone Else’s Conflict opens with a powerful, immediate prologue from the viewpoint of a young boy. He is Serbian, and caught out in the wrong place as Croatian forces come to take his village. Crouching out of sight, he watches his family being rounded up, unable to help, before stumbling into the path of one of the fighters. The man doesn’t kill him, though, instead gesturing towards escape from the horror. The main story, however, unfolds in present day England, and it is the Croatian characters we will find out about. But hold on to the boy’s viewpoint: he has an important part to play. The main narrative is set in the Dales, around the fictional small town of Holdwick. Marilyn has her purse stolen as she stands to listen to an itinerant...

The A to Z of You and Me, by James Hannah

The A to Z of You and Me, by James Hannah

Take Trainspotting, cut out the swearing, and add a filter of nuanced meditations on love: welcome to The A to Z of You and Me. Ivo is out of place in the hospice, because of both his age (forty) and his condition (kidneys, not cancer). To begin with, he doesn’t even seem that ill, even to himself: I’m not ill enough for this. I don’t feel like I should be waited on by all these people, using up their time when they should be tending to properly dying patients. Sheila, the sort of nurse you’d whatever your problem, is worried about him going bananas, lying in there with nothing to do but think about what’s coming next. She has a game she likes to suggest to her patients, aimed at taking their minds off more immediate matters. It...

All My Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Toews

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews My rating: 3 of 5 stars I found this a difficult one to rate. On Amazon, I’ve gone for 4 stars, to give credit to the exquisite writing. I can’t remember the last time I read a book where every page was a masterpiece. On the other hand, I found the pace a bit…glacial in its slowness. Don’t let that put you off giving it a try. Most reviews are glowing, which is why I feel OK about going for a 3 star rating here. It would have been a three and a half, if I’d had the option. View all my reviews Share:EmailMoreShare on...

Happy Birthday to me (and Rosemary Higgs)

Happy Birthday to me (and Rosemary Higgs)

This week, it’s all been about covers and copy edits, which have both been exciting, if in different ways. They mark a real staging point on the publication journey: it’s not about a pile of manuscript pages any more. Before long, now, I’ll have a proper book… Talking about the edits led to one of my favourite threads ever on Facebook, with writer friends sharing the overused words they’d had to cut out pre-publication. We all had our own: my characters are always ‘looking’, and spend a lot of time pushing themselves up on to their elbows. (nb. see how I now know that it’s ‘on to’ and not ‘onto’…). Everyone’s pet words were different: some that came up were ‘only’ and...

When We Were Sisters, by Beth Miller

When We Were Sisters, by Beth Miller

My friend Kate comes round Wednesdays and, on the first one back after Christmas, she spotted When We Were Sisters on my reading pile. For the rest of the day, whenever I turned my back, she had it open. Wednesdays are a busy day.We go to yoga, the girls do drama, the boys have Scouts. Kate had only made it through a couple of chapters by the time she had to leave. I am a Kind Friend. I don’t like to interrupt the enjoyment of a good book. But I wanted to read it as well… My better feelings won out, but it wasn’t much of a sacrifice in the end. Kate stayed up to two in the morning to finish it, and I had it back by Thursday evening. I’d polished it off by teatime Friday. Didn’t get much else done. It’s that good.   Laura...