I don’t know much about culinary art … but I know what I like


Not only can I not cook, but if I turn on the television again and spot another Masterchef-type programme I will spit up my microwaveable pasta snack!   However if you do like to cook, then the Culinary Arts Collection is definitely for you.

Suitable for the novice, the student and the professional chef it has thousands of searchable recipes, nutational advice, industry information and practical instruction, including:

  • Preparing popular recipes;
  • Choosing the right wine;
  • Practical advice on opening a restaurant;
  • Developing healthy eating habits.

The Culinary Arts Collection  is part of  the Source, our collection of electronic resources you can access from home with your library card number and PIN, or at one of our community libraries.

The importance of a good ending

One chapter into Kim Edwards‘ latest novel The Lake of Dreams and I was already writing the review in my head. But when I got to the end, everything I had planned to say about it changed.

This piece of contemporary relationship fiction starts off well. Really well. Traveller Lucy Jarrett  finds herself in Japan with a steady boyfriend and no job. She feels like she is drifting aimlessly, unsure of where to go from here. Japan’s shaky earth (trust me to pick up a novel that features earthquakes) makes her uneasy, stirring up thoughts she’d rather not think. So when her mother contacts her from America, she decides to go home for a while, to settle things from her past in order to move into the future.

Cover image of "The memory keeper's daughter"Edwards has stuck with many of the same themes she explored in The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (which I adored) – secrets, guilt, family, and love. Her writing is just as detailed and absorbing too, and I turned each page with both impatience and dread. I couldn’t wait to find out how it all ended, but I wasn’t ready for the story to be over, either.

When I did get to the end, it was a bit like taking a bite of a delicious piece of cake only to realise you’re running late for something and having to cram the rest of it into your mouth as you rush out the door. Surprisingly unsatisfying and nothing to really savour. It seemed like Edwards was in a hurry to tie up every loose end within a couple of pages, and it all felt a little too perfect.  I think it would have been better if somethings were left to the reader’s imagination. In fact, had I been the author, I would have chosen another fate for the main character altogether.

I’m sorry to say that the ending for The Lake of Dreams changed this book from “you’ve got to read it!” to “it was okay, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it” for me.

Am I being unfair? Does the quality of the ending really matter, as long as the beginning and middle are good? What books have you enjoyed reading, only to have that enjoyment ruined by the ending? What books have you read that end exactly as you hoped they would, or even better than you expected?

Hit and Ms.

Like Roberta I love a good list, so reserved the Autumn 2010 issue of Ms. magazine, which features a list of “click” lit – Young Adult books that “awaken girls to their feminism.”  It’s an interesting list –  I gave some entries the nod of agreement , some a shrug of apathy, others a howl of opposition. See what you think, and get your reserves on for those you might want to check out when libraries are open. Bibliocommons, the new library catalogue, is great for getting your reading organised.

Ms.’ favourites were

Honourable mentions included characters like Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice, Jo March of Little Women and Anne Shirley Blythe of Anne of Green Gables.

Unsurprisingly Ms. likes  a good issue novel for its modern honourable mentions. Mixed race?  Caramelo,  and The house on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros.  Poor and violent background? The Outsiders , by S.E. Hinton.  Rape? Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. See also Anderson’s Catalyst (perfectionism) and Wintergirls (anorexia).

In the Fantasy and Science Fiction genre Ms likes Liar, by Justine Larbalestier, The Spiderwick chronicles, by Holly Black and The mortal instruments, by Cassandra Clare.

Did a book ever give you a “click” moment in the midst of teenage angst? A moment  when, as Ms. says, “we realise the problem’s not us, it’s society, and we’re not alone.”

Make mine a lemon, lime and bitters

Raise your glasses to Tea Obreht and her prizewinning novel The Tiger’s Wife. The Orange Prize has just awarded her  £30,000 and a limited edition bronze figurine known as a ‘Bessie’. She was just 22 when she wrote the book and at 25 is the youngest person to win this prestigious award.

I love book prizes, they stir up strong emotions. This year alone V.S Naipaul has put his foot in it over women writers (like Tea could care as she banks her cheque and sips her Cointreau) and Carmen Callil, the founder of Virago Press, walked away from the Man Booker Prize selection panel after sticking the boot into Philip Roth.

All this emotion reminds me that writing isn’t only a cerebral activity, but that passions run high. Most of all I love the accompanying lists. One click of the mouse and you have at your fingertips the recommendations of some really well informed readers – and more than half  the fun is when you don’t agree with their selections at all. Try these links:

I’ve not read The Tiger’s Wife yet (instead have a look at Catherine’s blog), but  it’s now on my list. Still, I struggle to get past the 22-ness of her. I can see myself at that age: the minis, the sports car, the job teaching geography to the Geometric Drawing class (does that subject even exist anymore?), the new marriage, the deranged neighbour. Surely there was a novel somewhere in there.

The mean spirited might say that Obreht has peaked too young, but that is only because most of us are long past the point of peaking altogether. How about you – what twenty-something novel are you waiting to unleash on an unsuspecting world?