Friday, September 19, 2014

Book review: Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 1 August 2014 by HarperCollins, 528 pages.

Description: Detective Gabi Versado has hunted down many monsters during her eight years in Homicide. But she’s never seen anything like this.

He is a broken man. The ambitions which once drove him are dead. Now he has new dreams – of flesh and bone made disturbingly, beautifully real.

Detroit is the decaying corpse of the American Dream. Motor-city. Murder-city.

And home to a killer opening doors into the dark heart of humanity.

A killer who wants to make you whole again…

Rating:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Dinner at 106 Baker Street



Baker Street is no longer just the home of Britain's most famous consulting detective, but also that of a nameless new café, which doesn't hide behind fancy branding but lets the wealth of natural and wholesome produce used in their daily changing menu speak for itself.

Particularly busy during the lunch rush because of their wealth of sandwiches, quiches and take-away salads on offer, the café on 106 Baker Street was blissfully quiet when we visited this week for an early dinner. The light wooden interior and spare seating spaces create an open and inviting establishment, which is a welcome change from the hustle and bustle just outside.

We started the meal with some freshly made drinks; an almond milk, banana and chocolate smoothie for me and a cantaloupe watermelon juice for my friend. The smoothie was really interesting in that all three of the different flavours could be tasted individually which each sip, but I'm still not quite sure whether I was merely intrigued or if I genuinely liked it! The watermelon juice on the other hand refreshing and fruity, going down really quickly.


For dinner fare the cafe offers fish, meat, pasta and a veggie dish, all of which changes slightly on a daily basis, depending on what produce has been sourced from the markets. Both my guest and myself opted for the wonderfully presented gratined herb salmon, which was a delicious piece of beautifully pink fish, complimented well by its flavoursome herb crust.

To accompany the fish, we picked three out of a wealth of brightly coloured salads displayed: brown quinoa with tomatoes and cucumber; pearl barley, broccoli, green beans and sunripe tomatoes; and a stunning dish comprised of thick slices of yellow, orange, red, green and even deep purple tomatoes. Each of the salads tasted impeccable and with so many fantastic ingredients it wasn't only super tasty but felt like a real health boost as well.


Of course no dinner is complete without a tasty dessert and since it was 'Great British Bake Off Wednesday', cake definitely needed to be part of the meal. As soon as I spotted a beautiful carrot cake on display my mind was made up, as that is one of my all-time favourite sweet treats. And I wasn't disappointed; the cake was moist (but no soggy bottom to be spotted) and flavoursome, though it was the taste of the spices rather than the carrot that were really prominent to me.

My friend chose the French toast which was made to order, so very fresh when she received it. This did mean that it took a little while to arrive and she commented that it unfortunately had gone cold by the time it was served. It did however look lovely on the plate and the slight disappointed was more than made up for when we also had a taste of the chocolate ricotta cake, which came highly recommend and we were told was a must-try. They were absolutely right.


With a beautiful array of colourful dishes made with produce sourced from London markets and Italy, this newly opened café on Baker Street really stands out from the otherwise unimaginative range of chain restaurants located on the same street as the home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective.

So even without an official name we are certain they will soon make a name for themselves as the place to be for a delicious and healthy lunch or early dinner.

106 Baker St, London W1U 6TW.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book review: The Marriage Mender by Linda Green


My edition: Paperback, published on 28 August 2014 by Quercus, 432 pages.

Description: Alison is a marriage mender. Her job is to help couples who fear they have reached the end of the line. But the trouble with spending your time sorting out other people's problems is that you tend to take your eye off your own.

Even when her husband's ex Lydia arrives on the doorstep demanding to see her son, Alison thinks she can handle it.

But what Alison doesn't realise is that Lydia is the one person who has the ability to destroy their happy family. And sometimes the cracks can run so deep that even a marriage mender can't repair them.

Rating:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Book review: The Honeymoon Hotel by Hester Browne


My edition: Paperback, published on 11 September 2014 by Quercus, 471 pages.

Description: The Bonneville Hotel is the best kept secret in Mayfair: its art deco suites and glittering ballrooms a former home-away-from-home for royalty and film stars alike. Recent years haven’t been kind, but thanks to Events Manager Rosie, the Bonneville is reclaiming some of its old cachet as a chic retro-glam wedding venue.

While Rosie’s weddings are the ultimate in romance, Rosie herself isn’t; she’s focused on the details, not the dramas. But when the hotel owner appoints his eccentric son Joe to the Bonneville staff, Rosie finds herself up against an unprecedented challenge: a rival whose predilection for the unconventional could derail not only Rosie’s own career, but the most elaborate, high-profile wedding the Bonneville has ever seen.

Rating:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Book review: Daughter by Jane Shemilt


My edition: paperback, published on 28 August 2014 by Penguin, 390 pages.

Description: THE NIGHT OF THE DISAPPEARANCE

She used to tell me everything.

They have a picture. It'll help.

But it doesn't show the way her hair shines so brightly it looks like sheets of gold.

She has a tiny mole, just beneath her left eyebrow.

She smells very faintly of lemons.

She bites her nails.

She never cries.

She loves autumn, I wanted to tell them. She collects leaves, like a child does. She is just a child.

FIND HER.

ONE YEAR LATER

Naomi is still missing. Jenny is a mother on the brink of obsession. The Malcolm family is in pieces.

Is finding the truth about Naomi the only way to put them back together?

Or is the truth the thing that will finally tear them apart?

Rating:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hester Browne shares her top 5 places to write



Hester Browne's wonderful new novel, The Honeymoon Hotel, is published today and I'm very excited to be welcoming her to my blog to celebrate! She shares with us her top five places to write:

1. In my study at home

It's my favourite place in the house and was the first room I renovated in the Epic Building Works of 2013. It's got oak floors, deep red limeplastered walls, a Victorian fireplace and fitted bookshelves with all my foreign editions. It can get a bit creaky and spooky in the winter, especially during late-night deadline crises, but I like to think it's the previous residents of the house being curious about how the book I'm writing will finish.

2. At my mum's house up in Cumbria

My parents live on the beach, so I take my dogs for a long walk every day along the sea shore and rehearse dialogue aloud so no one can hear me.

3. In Peter Jones 5th Floor cafe in Sloane Square

It's light, it's airy, it's full of people gossiping, it has wonderful views over Chelsea, extremely good cake, and lovely staff. And when you need a break, you can go and buy imaginary furniture for your imaginary Chelsea townhouse.

4. On any London bus

Not strictly writing, but my favourite way of sparking off some inspiration. People get on and off, they have indiscreet phone conversations, they stagger on with shopping bags or rucksacks, they have their moods written all over their faces. I love getting on a bus and just travelling round and round London, seeing all the sights for the price of a day's travelcard - the city's an inspiration in itself, like watching a film unfold from your bus window. Despite what people think, it's actually quite hard to get lost in London, if you stick to public transport!

5. My friend Chrissie Manby's kitchen table

I finished The Honeymoon Hotel in her kitchen. She turned off the wifi. I was quite surprised how much work I managed to get done.

* * * * * 

Thank you very much Hester for telling me your top 5 places to write! The Honeymoon Hotel is published today by Quercus, so get your copy from Waterstones, Amazon or your own preferred retailer. I thought the novel was utterly delightful and my review will be published on here soon.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 10th September 2014 by Picador, 384 pages.

Description: DAY ONE

The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.

News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.

WEEK TWO

Civilization has crumbled.

YEAR TWENTY

A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe.

But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.

STATION ELEVEN

Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan - warned about the flu just in time; Arthur's first wife Miranda; Arthur's oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed 'prophet'.


Rating:

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Book review: The Year I Met You by Cecelia Ahern


My edition: Paperback, to be published on 9 October 2014 by HarperCollins, 438 pages.

Description: Jasmine know two things: one, she loves her vulnerable sister unconditionally, and will fight to the death to protect her from anyone who upsets her. Two, she's only ever been good at one thing – her job helping business start-ups.

So when she’s sacked and put on gardening leave, Jasmine realises that she has nothing else to fill her life. Insomnia keeps her staring out of her bedroom window, and she finds herself watching the antics of her neighbour, shock jock Matt, with more than a casual eye. Matt is also taking a forced leave of absence from work, after one of his controversial chat shows went too far…

Jasmine has every reason to dislike Matt, and the feeling appears to be mutual. But not everything is as it seems, and soon Jasmine and Matt are forced to think again…

Rating:

Monday, September 8, 2014

Book review: Panic by Lauren Oliver


My edition: Paperback, published on 6 March 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton, 343 pages.

Description: Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Rating:

Friday, September 5, 2014

Living Nature's Firming Flax Serum



As the season change, so does the weather, with temperatures instantly dropping as rain and wind pick up. Just a few weeks ago I was still wearing sleeveless tops and sandals, but now I'm sure I'm not the only one wearing multiple layers to protect myself. However, my face isn't quite as easy to cover up and is easily exposed to the elements.

Regardless of age and skin type, facial skin is already more delicate than on other parts of your body; often turning dry, lacking firmness and elasticity. The result is the formation of unwanted fine lines and wrinkles as well as skin that lacks vitality and looks dull and tired. To counteract these issues, Living Nature has created Firming Flax Serum.

Harnessing the therapeutic properties of some of New Zealand's unique botanicals - such as Manuka Honey, Harake (the New Zealand Flax plant) and Rosehip - this natural face care serum aims to provide a vital boost of hydration and nourishment to pep-up your complexion as the seasons change. What's more, it promises to help add firmness and elasticity to facial skin, which in turn helps minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

When I saw the product I admit that the first thing I thought was that it was very small and wouldn't last long at all. At 13ml a bottle it isn't super tiny, but the packaging is compact and does make it very suitable to carry around in your handbag without adding extra weight and size to it. And actually, after several weeks of regular use, I've found that a little goes a long way and so the bottle is still plenty full.

The product is thin in consistency, but not runny, making it easy to spread a little bit over a large area of skin. It instantly absorbs, leaving my skin feeling not only more nourished than before application but also a little tighter. I don't have obvious lines on my face yet (knock on wood), and so I cannot observe how well the serum would work on those, but the firm feeling left after application is certainly promising.

Another positive characteristic of the serum is its lack of a distinct scent. I love a good orange blossom or rose scented lotion and often lather it generously on my skin, however the one place I don't want a very fragrant cream is on or near my face, so I was pleased that this product is almost scentless.

And while I cannot attest that using the serum regularly makes me look years younger, I like the nourishing qualities of the product and the way it makes my facial skin feel. It will definitely be an asset to my beauty regime this autumn.

Giveaway: The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais


*** GIVEAWAY ***


The Hundred-Foot Journey is the story of Hassan Haji, a boy from Mumbai who embarks, along with his boisterous family, on a picaresque journey first to London and then across Europe, before they ultimately open a restaurant opposite a famous chef, Madame Mallory, in the remote French village of Lumiere. A culinary war ensues, pitting Hassan's Mumbai-toughened father against the imperious Michelin-starred cordon bleu, until Madame Mallory realizes that Hassan is a cook with natural talents far superior to her own.


Recently I have received some review novels in the post more than once. Rather than forcing them upon my friends (I've had a lot of clear-outs this year and I think everyone's bookshelves are pretty full by now) I thought I'd hold giveaways for you guys each Friday for the next few weeks ^_^

The first giveaways (now closed) were for Paper Swans by Jessica Thompson and One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson. The final giveaway (for now) is for a paperback copy of The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais.

The film adaption with Helen Mirren is out today (it's like I timed it!), which is delicious and very charming, and I cannot wait to dig into the book to see how it compares!

If you're the winner it'd be brilliant if you can write a review for the novel on your blog or a bookish site such as Amazon and Goodreads, but you don't have to if you don't want to :)


Giveaway

For your chance to win the beautiful paperback pictured above, just follow me on twitter (@zarinatweets) and retweet the tweet linked below:

RT & FLW for your chance to win a paperback copy of The Hundred-Foot Journey by @richardcmorais. T&Cs http://www.pagetostagereviews.com/2014/09/giveaway-hundred-foot-journey-by.html @almabooks

Terms and conditions:

• Giveaway closes Thursday 11 September at 11.59pm.
• Open to UK residents only (sorry, postage is expensive!).
• Only those who retweet the Tweet linked above will be entered (manual RTs or copied Tweets do not count).
• The winner is selected at random and will be contacted on Twitter within 48 hours after the giveaway has closed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Film review: The Hundred-Foot Journey



Based on the best-selling novel by Richard C. Morais, The Hundred-Food Journey tells the story of Hassan Kadam and his family's quest to find a place in Europe to open an authentic Indian restaurant. They had a very successful eatery in India but after tragedy strikes the establishment and their family, they pack up their belongings and go on a quest for a new place to call home.

As their car breaks down in rural France, they end up in a small village and Hassan's persuasive father soon decides that it will do. However, the little town already has a very successful restaurant. People travel for many miles to visit Madame Mallory's Michelin-starred establishment and so when the Kadam family move in just across the street, a mere hundred feet away, an instant rivalry is born.


While this is definitely a foodie film and there are some delicious (and some peculiar) dishes prepared and eaten on screen, this is foremost the story of Hassan and his passion for bringing amazing flavours together into truly unique creations. While his cooking background is prominently Indian, he soon picks up inspiration and ingredients from both his French surroundings and a possible love interest, the latter who for a touch of drama works in the rival restaurant across the road.

Manish Dayal plays Hassan incredibly likeable and you can't help but root for the character to succeed in whatever he does. His stubborn but sweet father (and excellent portrayal by Om Puri) and loud siblings provide all the opportunities possible to do just that. As for the equally stubborn and not quite as nice Madame Mallory across the road, while we initially thought it odd that she wasn't portrayed by a French actress, Helen Mirren quickly won us over with her convincing performance and soon we'd forgotten that she is British at all.

Reminiscent of a colourful feel-good story such as The Great Exotic Marigold Hotel, this is a charming and heart-warming film and one we'd happily go see again.

The Hundred-Foot Journey opens in cinemas across the UK on 5th September 2014.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige


My edition: Paperback, published on 3 July 2014 by HarperCollins, 452 pages.

Description: I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.

But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy.

They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.

I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.

I've been trained to fight.

And I have a mission.

Rating:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Theatre review: Autobahn at The King's Head Theatre‏


About: Regarded as one of the most celebrated American playwrights, Neil LaBute has enthralled audiences all over the world with his layered characters, sharp dialogue and subtle social commentaries. Savio(u)r return to the King's Head Theatre after the success of 2013's Our Town with the London premiere of LaBute's play, Autobahn, directed by Off-West End Award nominee Tim Sullivan.

This short-play cycle follows colorful, complicated people making their way across America's highways and their stops, starts, and stalls along the way. The London cast includes Sharon Maughan (Holby City, The Bank Job, She's Out of My League), Henry Everett (Michael Grandage's A Midsummer Night's Dream), Tom Slatter (Robot Overloards), and Zoë Swenson-Graham (Our Town).

Rating:

Friday, August 29, 2014

Giveaway: One Step Closer To You by Alice Peterson (proof copy)


*** GIVEAWAY ***


After Polly ends her relationship with the father of her young son, Louis, she is determined to move on. All she wants is to focus on her job, her friends and to be a good mum. No more looking over her shoulder. No more complications…

Then Polly meets Ben.

Ben is guardian of his niece, Emily. They become close, with Polly teaching Ben how to plait Emily’s hair, and Ben playing football with Louis. Their friendship is unexpected. Polly’s never been happier.

But when Louis’s dad reappears in their life, all Polly’s mistakes come back to haunt her and her resolve weakens when he swears he has changed.

Will she give herself a second chance to love?


Recently I have received some review novels in the post more than once. Rather than forcing them upon my friends (I've had a lot of clear-outs this year and I think everyone's bookshelves are pretty full by now) I thought I'd hold giveaways for you guys each Friday for the next few weeks ^_^

The first giveaway (now closed) was for a paperback of Paper Swans by Jessica Thompson and this week's giveaway is for a special proof copy of One Step Closer To You by Alice Peterson (out September 25).

I am super excited to start reading this novel myself (don't worry, your copy will be unread!). Last year I reviewed Alice's stunning By My Side (read my review here) and I even had the privilege to meet her at Quercus headquarters! She's such a lovely person and I am positive that this novel will be another fantastic read by her hand.

If you're the winner it'd be brilliant if you can write a review for the novel on your blog or a bookish site such as Amazon and Goodreads, but you don't have to if you don't want to :)

Giveaway

For your chance to win a special proof copy of the novel, just follow me on twitter (@zarinatweets) and retweet the tweet linked below:

RT & FLW for your chance to #win a paperback proof of One Step Closer To You by @AlicePeterson1! T&Cs http://www.pagetostagereviews.com/2014/08/giveaway-one-step-closer-to-you-by.html @QuercusBooks

Terms and conditions:

• Giveaway closes Thursday 4 September at 11.59pm.
• Open to UK residents only (sorry, postage is expensive!).
• Only those who retweet the Tweet linked above will be entered (manual RTs or copied Tweets do not count).
• The winner is selected at random and will be contacted on Twitter within 48 hours after the giveaway has closed.