Tag Archives: charlaine harris

The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook – a review

When an email dropped into my box asking if I would be interested in reviewing a copy of the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook it is true to say that I was rather overly excited. As you’ll know if you read my blog I am a huge fan of crime fiction. As you may not know although it’s still true, I am also a lover of a good cookbook. Notice I don’t say a lover of cooking. Don’t get me wrong when I’ve got the time I really enjoy cooking and I try as often as I can to make something new out of the very large collection of cookbooks I already own. Yet it’s more than that. I like reading cookbooks just as much as fiction sometimes. I love it when I get a new book that isn’t just recipes (although these have their place) but is also more than that. I like those that include history of the people behind the books, the chef’s perspective and what the recipes mean to them.

Therefore it is quite possible that this is my most favourite book in the world (it’s only downside being I’m a vegetarian and the book is American so clearly there is a lot of meat. Luckily Mr F is very far from a vegetarian and is pretty handy in the kitchen himself so all recipes will get some use!)

The book combines some great sounding recipes with some interesting crime facts. Did you know for example that Miss Marple drank 143 cups of tea during her stories. All the recipes are provided by authors, including some of my favourites such as Harlen Coben (myron’s crabmeat dip) and Lee Child (a pot of coffee so not the trickiest of recipes but easy to get wrong) The book is split into sections making it easy to follow, and as well as appetisers and mains there is even a section of drinks at the back.

Obviously as this is an american book there are alot of bits that we don’t have over here, however that’s the joy of the internet. If you can’t find them in the supermarket you know you’ll be able to source an alternative. The recipes are all reasonably simple, and many have a short list of ingredients which makes them nice and easy to follow.

Of course the proof of a good cook book is in the eating. So i wanted to try some recipes before reviewing. My attempts started well with Scott Turow’s ‘Innocent Frittata’ which was very tasty, and Alan Orloff’s ‘Killer Tofu’ which went well with a stir fry. However things went downhill when I attempted Linda Stasi’s baked cheesecake. I was heading to some friends for Sunday dinner so thought I’d enlist their help in testing a recipe and the cheesecake seemed to fit the bill. Unfortunately I’d never made a baked cheesecake before, and I don’t think I’ll be trying again in a hurry. Admittedly part of the problem was that I burnt it, one minute it looked liked a souffle that was about to explode, the next it was like I was building a scale model of the grand canyon, all brown and sunken. My friends being the true friends they are, valiantly battled on, scraping the burnt bits off and trying not to crack their teeth on the base but the remaining was truly dreadful, more scrambled egg than cheesecake. It was that bad even the dogs turned their noses up at it. Yet one bad cheesecake does not a bad book make.

The book is a beautiful thing, with lots of pictures and quotes from authors which makes it a pleasure to read. I love the style of the book with each recipe being introduced by the author saying where the recipe comes from. The Harrogate crime festival even gets a mention under Joseph Finder’s apple crumble. I would highly recommend this book for all fans of crime fiction, whether cooks or not, the only problem being I’ve now got a load of new authors to add to my to read list.

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Crime Writers: A decade of crime

Well it’s all over for another year. The weekend before last the sun was shining, the deck chairs were out and the pimms was ready on ice as Harrogate got taken over by 100s of people all with one thing in common, an obsession with crime fiction.

The Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Festival really is the highlight of the year for anyone with an interest in crime fiction. This year to celebrate the festivals tenth anniversary they had gone full out for the festival theme, there was a bookshop in a tent (or yurt if you listened to Mark Lawson) lots of outdoor chairs and of course plenty of drink. The weekend began with the award of the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year which for the second year running went to Denise Mina. I think we may be her lucky charm.

The days go in a blur of talks and queuing (beware there is a lot of queuing for sessions and signings, all worth it though) and chatting about crime fiction.

To me and the sister one of the highlights of the conference is always the New Blood Panel and this year was no exception. Anya Lipska shared the stage with Malcolm Mackay, Collette McBeth and Derek Miller and it was interesting to hear them discuss with Val their new books and of course get a sneak preview of what to expect next.

One of the things I like about this festival is the wide range of topics (within crime of course) and one of the most fascinating was Val McDermid in conversation with Prof Sue Black. There were certainly some memorable moments, and were I not already a vegetarian I doubt I’d ever eat tuna fish again.

Despite the heat and the sunshine outside, the sessions were all packed, and none more so than ‘Vera’ where alongside Ann Cleeves we were treated to a reading of her latest novel by Vera herself the lovely Brenda Blethyn.

The evenings in the bar are just as much fun as the sessions during the day, and being able to just mingle with the authors to us is like getting to go back stage at a Bon Jovi concert (insert most favourite band here) Where else would you sit down with a glass of wine and be next to Baroness Ruth Rendall, Jeanette Winterson and Val McDermid?

The dinner was a last minute addition to our booking as neither of us are James Bond fans. Yet this turned out to be a great decision as we got to join a table with Julia Crouch who was an excellent host. Despite not guessing the murderer we were with a lovely group of people and to top it off we got a copy of Julia Crouch’s new book.

After a quick listen to Lee Child talking to Sarah Millican (and of course being asked about Tom Cruise) it was straight into the quiz. This is always a great way to spend an evening, and is a perfect example of how friendly everyone is. Someone will always come and join you to make up a team. Sadly we didn’t do as well as last year although were by no means last which I always say is all you can ask for.

Charlaine Harris was the final talk of the event and the queue for her book signing broke all records. Luckily she obviously didn’t finish too late and we spotted her heading upstairs in Betty’s for afternoon tea before we left.

The whole weekend was once again a fantastic experience and coming home and making Mr F look at every single book, signature, photo and freebie I got is just part of the fun (for me not him)

Roll on TOPCWF2014.

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The Hunger Games – a comment

Now for those of you who have been living in some kind of bookless filmless world, you may not know the general basis of the Hunger Games. In which case, essentially its a reality show where the winner is the last one standing. A kind of souped up big brother where they win by killing the others (which actually sounds quite a good idea based on the bits of big brother I’ve seen) The two main protagonists are Katniss and Peeta who are both from district 12 and get chosen to be the tributes in that years hunger games. There are 2 tributes from each district and the winner is whoever is still alive at the end of the games.

Now I hesitate to call this post a review, because I’m afraid I am completely in a minority of one here, in that I did not think it was the best thing I have ever read. I realise that people have been raving about it, and I thought it was ok but nothing special. I should point out here that this is a book for teenagers, and I am not one, therefore I am not the target audience by any means. I had the same issue with the Twilight series, I’ve read them and they were ok but I prefer a good Charlaine Harris for my vampire fix.

I think it was reasonably well written, especially when compared to some of the other most popular books of last year but alongside 50 shades of grey, and the twilight series I think this is probably a book loved by non readers. As I’ve often said before, anything that gets people reading is a good thing, 50 shades of grey whilst I’ve not read it myself is a phemonenon that has got people (women mostly I imagine) out buying books, but I’d love to know how many of those actually bought anything else? I have no problem with adults reading either ‘mummy porn’ or childrens books, but I just hope these people venture outside of that bubble.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Hunger Games, it was a quick read on a train and I will no doubt read the rest of the trilogy if I saw them on offer, but I wouldn’t rush to read them. I also think that when I was a teenager I wouldn’t have wanted the adults taking over all my good teenage reads so maybe we should just let them have it. There are after all a few billion good adult books ready to be picked up. As I saw on a shop front in Brighton a few weeks ago, the most avid reader can never get to the end of a good bookshop.

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A necessary end

The Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival 2012 is over. The books have been put on the shelf, the ‘tossergate’ explosion on twitter has died down, and the reservations have been made for 2013.

Therefore Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival Challenge 2012 has come to an end.

As I’ve said before technically I failed the initial challenge. However its my challenge and my rules therefore the abridged version of the challenge was to read a book by an author in every session. This was much more manageable, and I’m proud to say I read a book by an author in all 18 sessions, including Crime in another dimension.

For those of you wanting more figures – during the festival there were 50 authors appearing over the three days (Mark Lawson was mistakenly counted as an author in my previous post) In total if I include some books that I read prior to starting the blog, although have read since last august when we first booked to attend the festival, I have read 33 of them which I think is quite impressive! 20 of the books have been read in the past 5 months.

I’ve enjoyed every minute of the challenge, and also the blogging. Its been a great chance for me to revisit authors I knew as well as find some new ones to try. Having a target has meant that at times I’ve read books that I would not normally have picked up. Its also meant that very occasionally I’ve wanted a break from crime and have been tempted to pick up some pink fluffy stuff, but luckily I’ve always resisted! Coming back from Harrogate I did wander if I would want to have a total crime break, but I’m pleased to report thats not the case. In fact completely the opposite and I can’t wait to devour the huge pile of books I brought back with me.

So as one door closes another opens as they say. This time its in the guise of guess what… yes the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2013! We have our places reserved and I’m looking forward to it. Val McDermid is going to be chairing the programme committee (a decade after she chaired the very first festival) Already lined up to talk is Charlaine Harris, Kate Atkinson and Ruth Rendell, so its going to be another action packed weekend and this time giving myself a whole year to do it I’m once again going to aim to complete the TOPCWFC take 2!


List of novels read:

  1. Amanda Kyle Williams – Stranger you seek
  2. Ann Cleaves – The glass room
  3. Camilla Lackberg – Hidden child
  4. Chris Mooney – Soul collectors
  5. David Mark – The dark winter
  6. Deon Myer – Devils peak
  7. Elizabeth Haynes – Into the darkest corner
  8. Gillian Flynn – Dark Places
  9. Gregg Hurwitz – You’re next
  10. Harlen Coben – Live Wire
  11. Ian Rankin – The impossible dead
  12. Jilliane Hoffman – Plea of insanity
  13. Jo Nesbo – The Leopard
  14. John Connolly – Burning Soul
  15. Julia Crouch – The Cuckoo
  16. Kate Mosse – The Winterghosts
  17. Laura Lippman – Don’t look back
  18. Megan Abbott – The end of everything
  19. Mark Billingham – Bloodline
  20. Neil Cross – Captured
  21. Nicola Upson – Two for sorrow
  22. Oliver Harris – The hollow man
  23. Penny Hancock – Tideline
  24. Peter James – Dead like you
  25. Peter Robinson – Before the poison
  26. Ryan David Jahn – Acts of violence
  27. Stephen Leather – The basement
  28. Stuart MacBride – Shatter the bones
  29. Stuart Neville – The twelve
  30. Tania Carver – Cage of bones
  31. Tim Weaver – Dead tracks
  32. Tony Thompson – Gangland
  33. Val McDermid – The retribution

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