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Independent Book Reviews

By Sara Mayos

Three Men On Their Bikes by Richard Mapes

 

Published by Thistle Publishing, July 2018

 

The humour in this book is carefully crafted into the story of three un-grown-up, unfit men deciding to go on a cycle tour around Lancashire. Three mischievous blokes on the cusp of life considering careers, commitments and beer gardens. This is a young man version of Last of the Summer Wine, but these are graduates, challenged by technology, officious railway personnel, bicycle clips and brightly coloured Lycra. They encounter cramped hotel rooms and sober women cyclists. They argue the merits of padded shorts over checked trousers belted above the calf. Short cuts and gut instincts sometimes win over GPS and Google searches. Their friendships and stamina go through the pain barrier in the hills and valleys of The Penines, and none are quite the same at the end of the journey.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

 

About the author:

 

Richard Mapes is a writer of comic novels. Of his other books ‘Three Men on Tour’ was published in November 2015 and ‘Under the Night Sky’ was co-authored by Bethan Mapes and Juliet Beaumont and published in July 2016. He can be contacted on Facebook and Twitter and has author profiles on Amazon.co.uk and Goodreads.com

Dinner Party by Tracy Bloom

Published by Bookouture, an imprint of StoryFire Ltd, September 2018.

Please fasten your seat belts. Tracy Bloom is an accomplished writer of humour and has 7 other published books in the same genre.

 

She exposes, through three main characters, the frustrations, deceptions and insecurities that frequently sit inside normal married life. Three couples who know each well, take it in turns to host a dinner party and soon the criticisms, bickering, asides and recriminations often bubble to the surface.

 

A hunk is unexpectedly thrown into this mixture, invited by one of the guests, who felt sorry for him, due to his wife having dumped him. All the women ogle at the new arrival, with his well developed physique.

 

Old jealousies and rivalries emerge, claws come out and its more than the food that gets roasted. The husbands try to hatch a plan to get rid of him.

 

A flying bomb explodes amongst the group when the hunk’s ex, the saucy Candice, arrives on the scene.

 

A lively entertaining read.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book through Bookouture via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Sharp & Sugar Tooth. Edited by Octavia Cate

 

Published 26 Mar 2019  by Upper Rubber Boot Books Independent Book Publishers Association.

All 22 short stories collated for this ‘women up to no good series’ are well-written works of fiction. The book is the winner of 13 awards and shortlisted for 3. I cannot fault the writing. Each author deserves to be followed up.

 

Octavia Cade, the editor, has pulled together a pack of writers whose brief was to write about the sweet and the sour, the mouth-watering, the edible, the dark and dirty side of the pleasures of eating, chopping, cooking, and consumption of anything and anyone. Some readers might care about these topics, or are daring readers of the dark and different.

 

Every story highlights the bite-able, chop-up-able, lick-able, poison-able and obsession-able. Knives and stakes are sharpened, people are tortured, sliced and consumed on a regular basis for the merest of reasons. Cannibalism, horror, sex and eating, sit side by side.

 

One story sums up the genre. Gimme Sugar by Katharine Duckett. A woman in a bar shares her confession of the unbearable loss of love. It all seems fairly normal until she tells a stranger of a possible cure. The cure takes her into a dark fantasy world of pastries and sweet things, her ex-lover is recreated into a life-size gingerbread model, which she makes love to and then gorges herself out of her romantic delusion. The stranger begs to be taken to this place as a form of absolution for a wife who ditched him and he is still obsessed with.

 

Overall, I found the content of women and their obsessions with food, consumption, pleasure, fetish and addictions with people fascinating.

 

However, these works took it too close to the dark edges of insanity, for me. I could imagine psychiatric wards containing people who think these thoughts and they are driven mad by it. I could imagine a commuter train filled with a batch of people who might consider cannibalism. Most stories are creepy and at times my stomach churned uncomfortably. I could not finish reading it.

 

I received this complimentary book via Net Galley and chose to review it due to its obsession with food and consumption. The following is my own, honest opinion.

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The bake shop by amy clipston

This is a delightful story with a unique insight into Amish culture. Amy Clipston, has written and published 42 books, loosely based around the Amish community and their faith in God.

 

In this work, The Bake Shop, she takes the reader into the heart of the home, where the main decisions about everyday matters are made by the father of the household. A place where women are ruled by domestic grit, a simple lifestyle and their faith in God.

 

There are strict rules about who and what might contaminate their culture and these are cleverly slipped into the narrative without losing the beat of this engaging story.

 

The main character Christiana is unmarried and is attracted to Jeff, 28. He is her neighbor at the market, where they have booths selling home-made items. Why is the good-looking Jeff unmarried and why he has such a moody temperament?

 

They go through a number of trials and tribulations, the author cleverly building the tension of whether or not they will end up together. Christiana has to ask her father if she can date him and whether or not he will approve of her meeting his family. Everyone knows how strict her father is.

 

He discovers that Jeff uses electricity to burnish his leather crafts at the market and he stops her from having anything to do with him. Jeff has to come up with a solution or risk losing Christiana forever.

 

This was a good read and I was intrigued by the bakery goods that were mentioned in the text. Macadamia nut kichlin, whoppie and shoofly pies. I would love to have seen a recipe or two for the favourite pastries that were so popular at Christiana’s bakery booth.

 

It was slightly off-putting, to read the Amish words for everyday vocabulary like mother, father and the various Amish greetings, but the writer has listed all these unusual terms at the beginning of the book.

 

The publishing house, Zondervan say they publish “… stories that inspire, illuminate, and transform. Stories that captivate the imagination, enlighten the mind, and strengthen the spirit”.

 

It was refreshing to be taken to a place of simplicity, of old fashioned values, where communities support each other and yet we still find couples struggling with the same angst that everyone else does.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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The Colorful family table

       Seasonal Plant-Based Recipes for the Whole Family

                         by Ilene Godofsky Moreno

Ilene Godofsky Moreno is also the author of The Colourful Kitchen as well as a health coach. I felt in good hands reviewing her book, as she lives the life of a vegan with her young family.

 

Her recipes are written for the novice and she gives simple shopping tips to make cooking the dishes easier. There is little sophisticated kitchen equipment to worry about.

 

The pages are bursting with colour, making the dishes look appetizing and fun, especially for children and fussy eaters. I also like, that along with the dish, she might suggest other vegan foods that accompany it.

 

My favorite recipes were things I would never have considered putting on the table: Brussel Sprout Chips, Pumpkin-Stuffed Pumpkin Mac n Cheese, Watermelon and Tofu Feta Salad and Apple Soup.

 

For a vegan chef looking for original ideas, or anyone new to the vegan lifestyle, jump right in, she is full of culinary surprises.

 

I loved her take on chickpeas, which when plain boiled can be tasteless and boring, but with pumpkin spiced chickpeas, my tongue was hanging out to try it.

 

The recipes are mostly for an American audience, and if you can source or replace ingredients like pumpkin dry spice, maple syrup, and cashew cheese, this book would work for you.

 

As a writer, I did find the introduction about her life before a move to plant-based living, along with shopping tips, rather long. It takes up 10% of the book.

 

Personally, I wanted to get straight to the wonderful recipes.

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book through BenBella Books, via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.