Book Review: Bloodlines By Chris Wraight

Bloodlines by Chris Wraight book cover

I’ve been reading the Warhammer 40k novels for years. It’s a gigantic universe with a lore so deep that you could read about it for days and still not be done. But it does tend to focus heavily on space marines and bolter porn, as well as a Horus Heresy series that seems to be going on forever. It reminds me of Star Wars in that there are so many tales to tell, but it was always a bit too focused on the Skywalker clan. I don’t mind reading space marine novels, but I want to see how the common person lives in this brutal universe. I want to get down on the dirty streets. That’s why I loved Bloodlines by Chris Wraight, as it shows a side of the Warhammer 40K universe that we rarely see. 

Book Review: James May Oh Cook! Cookbook

James May has done a cookbook? The James May of Top Gear and The Grand Tour fame? Yep, that’s the one. Not only has he made a cookbook, he’s also got a TV show of the same name on Amazon Prime Video. James May Oh Cook! Is described as ‘60 easy recipes that any idiot can make’ and, as Mr. May himself shows you on the show, he’s right! 

James May Oh Cook! cookbook
As you’d expect, it’s in hardback form, but it’s not as heft and thick as those giant doorstop cookbooks that gather dust on your shelves.

It’s perhaps not all that surprising that James May has gone down the cooking route, given that May founded FoodTribe, a spin-off from DriveTribe, with his The Grand Tour co-stars Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond. It’s also the third show he’s done for Amazon, with the other shows being The Grand Tour and James May: Our Man In Japan.  

The show itself was a fun watch. May isn’t exactly fond of the way that cooking shows are normally filmed, so he fills the time with his usual brand of random facts about things like history and his life. He also likes to show you the bits of television production that you normally don’t see, so you’ll see him talking to the crew and complaining about how long they’re taking to get the perfect shot when he just wants to eat the food he’s managed to cook. 

Shakshuka recipe from the James May Oh Cook! cookbook
This turned out pretty good!

The whole point of the show, and the accompanying book (which, as May points out in the introduction, was written after the show was filmed), is to teach people who can’t cook the basics of making a satisfying meal. May himself says he can’t cook, often calling for the help of Nikki, a ‘home economist’, who appears from a cupboard (a joke that quickly gets old). But, to be fair on May, he does a pretty good job for someone who supposedly can’t cook. 

Curry night chapter from the James May Oh Cook! cookbook
We all love a good curry night!

Each episode of the show is dedicated to various categories of meals, and the book mirrors this. For example, chapter one is all about brunch, so you’ll get recipes for a classic omelette to shakshuka. Chapter five covers curry night, while the final chapter is all about store-cupboard saviours. This latter chapter has recipes involving things such as Spam and sardines, to give you some ideas of what you can make from leftover basics in the cupboard.  

Unlike other cookbooks where recipes can be complicated and involve a thousand different ingredients that your local supermarket doesn’t stock, May does his best to keep things simple. He stresses that while fresh ingredients are obviously better, you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to and can use packet or frozen ingredients instead.  

I’m not a regular cook myself, as my wife is much better at it and we’ve got into the habit of her doing most of the cooking while I handle most of the cleaning. But this book is perfect for the likes of me, when I do get around to trying some of the recipes myself. However, my wife has done a great job at trying out some of the recipes, and most of them have turned out to be pretty great.  

Black pudding hash recipe from the James May Oh Cook! cookbook
This was the best recipe we’ve tried so far.

Highlights include the very tasty black pudding hash (I only tried black pudding in the last few years, in Edinburgh of all places, and I’m a little annoyed that I avoided it for so long), the shakshuka and the sticky buffalo wings. We also tried the boiled egg with avocado and prosciutto ‘soldiers,’ but this was a disappointment. Nothing can beat toast soldiers dipped in egg. 

If you’ve watched the show and want to try the recipes out for yourself, then the James May Oh Cook! cookbook is a no-brainer. But even if you haven’t watched the show and you’re just someone who hasn’t cooked much and wants to get to grips with the basics, this is the perfect place to start. 

You can buy James May Oh Cook! On Amazon through this link*. You can also watch the show by signing up to Amazon Prime Video*. 

Please note: Links to products on Amazon generate a commission that helps pay the costs for hosting this website. These links have a ‘*’ next to them. Find out more in my disclaimer.

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World Book Day 2021 & Why You Should Read To Your Children

Today is World Book Day 2021!  

This is a fantastic initiative that I’m 100% behind. Its mission is to promote reading for pleasure to kids around the world, saying that it’s ‘the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income’.  

I completely agree with this and I believe it’s important to start reading to your child as early as possible. While it may feel a bit silly to read aloud to a 4-month-old who isn’t understanding a word you’re saying, it gets you in the habit of doing it for when your child is older. Plus, their brain is already developing the fundamentals of language before they can even speak. The more words they hear, the more words they’ll ultimately start to learn. 

Reading has always been a massive part of my life and I want the same for Noah. I vividly remember when I was first learning to properly read, lying in bed with a Biff, Chip and Kipper book and suddenly realising that I understood the words. When a child finally learns to read, it opens up a whole new magical world for them. Until then, parents should take the time to read to their kids. We do with Noah, and while it may not seem like he’s always listening, he’s definitely still taking in the words (and he’s getting pretty good at words too, as I wrote about in this post).  

As the years rolled by, I’d be that kid who tried to read with a light under his covers, frantically turning it off when I heard one of my parents coming upstairs. I fell in love with the worlds on the page. They allowed my imagination to run wild while also teaching me a hell of a lot about life. I was always baffled when a friend would say to me that they never read books, other than what they had to for school. Reading for pleasure was a foreign concept when TV and video games existed, and I imagine that maybe their parents didn’t read to them much as a child. While I love TV and video games things too, one of my favourite parts of the day was climbing in bed with a good book at night – and still is – even if it cost me a couple of hours of sleep.  

To help Noah develop a love for books, we’ve made sure that our house is filled with books. We’ve got three bookcases upstairs and a bookcase downstairs, which is a feat considering that we don’t live in a large house. One of the bookcases is a smaller one in Noah’s room, and it’s now rammed full of books. Some of the books may be for kids a few years older than him, but we’re planning ahead. Just look at him getting a book from it here: 

Noah reading a book in his bedroom.

Whenever he goes into his bedroom, he’ll always run over and grab a book off the shelf (ok, usually more than one!). He’ll then flick through it to look at all the pictures, and we’ll read it to him on the floor or when he’s in his cot.  

When the lockdown is over and our local library opens to visitors again, I can’t wait to take Noah there to browse through the children’s section. Hell, I can’t wait to go there just for myself. I love the library and regularly have around 4 or 5 books out at a time. It’s a great way to read without spending a fortune (which I end up doing anyway, as I still buy books) and also supports a valuable institution that should be a part of every community. 

I’ll write more on libraries in the future, because I really want to stress how much we should support them. For now, remember to read to your kids. It will expand their minds and help them develop into a well-rounded, intelligent adult. Plus, you may just unlock a passion that will be with them for life, and you may just catch them reading a book instead of watching mindless YouTube videos of people unboxing toys. 

My wife, Alexandra, also posted about World Book Day on her blog. You can read it here.  

You can find out more about World Book Day 2021 over on the website

Quick Book Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix R. Harrow

Image credit: Orbit/Little Brown Book Group

I adored The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. It’s a beautifully written, magical, and often heart-breaking story that captivated me from start to finish.  Plus, the pacing is just right in that it doesn’t speed the story along, but it also doesn’t hold everything back while it goes through hundreds of pages of fluff.

I didn’t actually read this book, I listened to it after using one of my credits on Audible. I always have to be a bit picky with audiobooks as the narrator can have a voice that I just can’t get along with. So, my tip here is to always listen to the sample on Audible first, that way you instantly know if it’s a voice that’s going to grate on you or not. Thankfully, The Ten Thousand Doors of January is brilliantly performed by January LaVoy (I see what you did there!) who manages to make all the different characters sound unique.  

The Ten Thousand Doors of January tells the story of January Scaller, a young girl who lives a mostly closeted life in the care of the wealthy Mr. Locke. Her father is never around, as he’s off doing the bidding of Mr. Locke by collecting unique artefacts from around the world, artefacts that don’t actually belong in our world. Without getting into spoiler territory, January’s world eventually expands when she begins to learn about her father’s past, the existence of thousands of other worlds, as well as the means to access these worlds through various doors. 

One thing I loved is the intriguing text within a text approach where January is both telling the story from the POV of her future self, as well as interspersing the text with chapters from the book within a book (which features the same name as the book you’re reading: The Ten Thousand Doors of January).  Through these you’ll learn about how January came to end up at Mr. Locke’s and just how special a girl she really is.

I do wish there had been some more exploring of other worlds, although one of the worlds, The Written, is described in such detail that I’d love to live there. Harrow has crafted an absorbing world that I want to delve into again and again, so hopefully she’ll return to it in the future (on Goodreads Harrow has said that ‘there’s room for further adventures’ in response to a question).

I’m sure there would be plenty more I want to say about this book and it’s themes, but I neglected to make notes as I listened and I’m finding it hard to delve deeper when I have nothing to refer to (I don’t want to read other reviews, as that will just colour my opinion). I also think listening to it on Audible can mean you miss chunks as your mind wanders, although in this case I listened to the majority of it while I was washing dishes every night and that monotonous task did help me soak more of the novel in. Besides, this is supposed to be a short review, so I don’t want to go on forever. This is also the first ‘proper’ book review I’ve written in years.

To sum up, this is an imaginative and wonderful book. I’m a real sucker for stories that feature mysterious or parallel worlds that butt up against our own (I’m also reading The Long Earth series that has a similar setting) that may just turn out to be my favourite book of 2021, and it’s only February! 

You can purchase The Ten Thousand Doors of January on Amazon*. Here’s the version I listened to on Audible*.

Please note: Links to products on Amazon generate a commission that helps pay the costs for hosting this website. These links have a ‘*’ next to them. Find out more in my disclaimer.