Monday, July 28, 2014

An Appetite for Violets | Martine Bailey

This is a delightful novel. Well worth reading as it has a good combination of story and suspense and adventure.
Set in 1772-3 it records the journey of a lowly assistant cook, Buddy Leigh, from northwest England to Florence. She travels with her Mistress Carinna, who is seeking to escape her marriage to an old man full of the pox to whom she was married so as to gain an inheritance.

The story is recorded by Biddy in the "The Cook's Jewel", an old recipe book she has inherited from the cook who apprenticed her. She records the behaviour of Lady Carinna and her maid, the journey to Italy and most enjoyable, the recipes of food she tastes along the way.
I love travel and food, so this was a lovely story to read. The history of food and eating is well researched, I particularly enjoyed the history of the 'notion' of restaurants. Each chapter begins with a recipe written out, from the UK fare right to Italian confections.

Mixed in with all that is a mystery of sorts, which is lightly handled and not too taxying.

A very enjoyable read. Makes you hungry though!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Town that Drowned | Riel Nason

This is a great story, well crafted, with strong characters. A young teenager Ruby Carson falls through the ice while skating, and as she plummets she sees a vision of her town submerged in a lake, and a few of the town's people float past her.  Ruby is not one of the popular kids, and is teased because of this vision, which she blurted out as she was being rescued.

We feel tension mount as Ruby struggles to find meaning in her vision, and as she tries to come to terms with being a teenager in a very small community.
As weeks go by, stakes are found in the ground, mysterious people show up measuring and marking things around the town. It transpires that a dam is going to be built upstream and they will all lose their homes and the town itself, as it will be submerged. People start dying, the same people Ruby saw in the vision.

The story is well worth reading, as Ruby and her younger brother are beautifully drawn, as are the many odd people who live in this community.

The Boy who harnessed the wind | William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer

Now here is an inspiring story. A young boy called William (born 1987), living in Malawi saw first hand the devastating effects of the famines that hit during his childhood. He was too poor to go to school so he read the books in the town's library. A series of science and engineering books had been donated from America. He studied there and learned about windmills, something he had never seen in Malawi.
He decided to build a windmill  by his house so his family could have electricity and power a water-pump so that in the future their crops would not fail. The villagers around him thought he was crazy or practising witchcraft, opposing at every turn. But this is why this story is inspiring above all else. William had a dream, he worked towards it undeterred by his circumstances or by the negative response of his community. He knew he could do it, so he did.
There were no 'proper' parts for him to build it with, so he scavenged around, looking for metal parts, bulbs, wiring etc in the local dump and old cars left out to rust. He made his components out of junk left lying about the village. I would love children to read this book and be inspired by what William achieved. His family was the first to have electricity, he figured out a way to make a plug so all those in the village could charge their cellphones.

Through a passing reporter's interest William became famous in Africa, attended the TED conference and has now travelled around the world inspiring other children to work on innovation enterprise.