Guest Post from Mintcustard

Today, I’m delighted to turn my blog over to my sister-in-law. I shall hand you over forthwith and she’ll tell you more …

* * * * *

As a regular reader of Annabel’s blog I was delighted that she asked me to write a guest blog post. Kindly she left the choice of topic and format entirely up to me. That may of course change in the edit but I’m not precious about that.

Why would I be asked, you might be thinking? Who on Earth is Becky Thorn? Quite right too!

Well, I have to set the record straight and say I’m married to Annabel’s brother. I hope, however, I was also asked as I’m a fellow blogger. I blog at Mintcustard, mostly about food and occasionally about drinks too. In my real life I’m a primary school teacher who happens to have written three cookery books.

Annabel mentioned that I might like to reflect on the books that have influenced me over the years. I could easily have chosen the Ladybird Key Words reading books. Just the right size for chubby hands, my Mum taught me to read using them before I went to school. She released me into a world of my own imagination long before my peers, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I can see in the children I teach how hard some have to work to become fluent readers. A favourite author of mine, Allan Ahlberg, put it beautifully in his poem:

Slow Reader from Please Mrs. Butler, Allan Ahlberg (Penguin, 1983)

I – am – in – the – slow – read – ers’ – group –
my – broth – er – is – in – the – foot – ball – team –
my – sis – ter – is – a – ser – ver –
my – lit – tle – broth – er – was – a – wise – man –
in – the – in -fants’ – Christ – mas – play –
I – am – in – the – slow – read – ers’ – group –
that – is – all – I – am – in –
I – hate – it.”

So “Please Mrs Butler”, might have been a contender

Whilst visiting friends in Ely during a particularly damp half term I can vividly recall devouring a copy of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate factory. I must have been about seven years old and it was the first book I read cover to cover in one sitting. I must have reluctantly had lunch but that was it. Charlie opened the door to a world of longer books, both by Dahl and others. Tom’s Midnight Garden, Children of the Oregon Trail and The incredible adventures of Professor Brainstawm.

I was having a real problem. Which genre to choose, let alone which book within that genre. I decided to do what I do best, pop into the kitchen and have a look at my favourite cook books. It was then that I spotted it. The book that has probably influenced me most. I’m sure by now you have guessed it must be a cook book. Have I chosen Nigella? Does Jamie float my boat? Would Heston ignite my passions?

fun to cookNo, sorry, none of them. I have chosen a book that belonged to me when I was eight and I still have now.

My Fun-to-Cook Book, written by Ursula Sedgwick and illustrated by Martin Mayhew. This book didn’t pander to the young cook who read it. Oh, no. We were encouraged to bake sausage popovers, fry Poor Knights of Windsor and boil sugar to make honeycomb. I did it all. The honeycomb was a little over caramelised but huge fun. The wonderful comic strip style illustrations, with asides from the cat and dog, led us through the recipe step by step. This book helped me to be independent in the kitchen, to take risks and to show off my skills to the rest of the family.

topsyMy signature dish from the book was Topsy turvy cakes. I was a baker even then it seems. If you want to see how they turn out when I make them today then please pop over to Mintcustard where I’ll be blogging my attempts to turn back time.

Thank you to Annabel for asking me to share my thoughts with you. I have had a blast! I’d love to know what your favourite cook books are. Did you have favourites that have stayed with you?

* * * * *

Thank you so much for being my guest today Becky.  Now, if you’d like to find out how her Topsy-Turvy Cakes turned out, head over here.

* * * * *

P1010963 (2)

Ginny reads about Chicken Pie in Beckys book School Dinners

As Becky is too polite to plug her own books, I’ll do it for her. To explore Becky’s cookbooks on Amazon UK, please click below:
– Good Old Fashioned School Dinners: The Good, the Bad and the Spotted Dick
– The No-Waste Meal Planner: Create Your Own Meal Chain That Won’t Waste an Ingredient
– Movie Dinners


Guest review of Ash by James Herbert

A few weeks ago I accepted a copy of British horror-meister James Herbert’s new novel ‘Ash‘ to review. I loved reading Herbert when I was younger, and thought it would be really fun to revisit him.

But I haven’t had time to fit reading it in yet, so I lent it to my good friend Julia, and today I’m turning over my blog to her for a guest post. Julia is a bookseller at my fab local indie bookshop Mostly Books and she specialises in SF&F, paranormal and YA books, and is a big fan of historical novels too…

Ash by James Herbert

James Herbert was one of my favourite authors in my teenage years and I spent many sleepless nights first reading his books and then hiding under the covers from the ghosts, rats and monsters he described so well. I was very excited to hear he had written a new book and clutching my copy of Ash I rushed home to read it and was not disappointed, the long wait was worth it.

In this book we revisit David Ash, the parapsychologist from Haunted and The Ghosts of Sleath, for a third installment of hauntings and mystery. Set in the Scottish castle of Comraich, run by the mysterious Inner Circle, sinister paranormal events, which culminate in the discovery of one of it’s residents hanging from a wall severely wounded and attached only by his own congealing blood, prompt the I.C. to contact Ash and ask for his help in investigating the strange occurrences.

To read a very gory quotation, highlight the text below! It’s not nice – you have been warned…

In sheer desperation Ash pushed his free left hand into his assailants snarling, brutish face. He thrust two stiffened fingers directly into the madman’s right eye, wincing as they passed through the half-closed lids and pushed against the repugnant softness of the eyeball itself. Then beyond, his fingers slithered over the white globe until they reached the hard matter behind.
Lukovic screeched as blood gushed from the ruined eye socket, a sound amplified by the limited confines of the lift, and instinctively yanked his head backwards. But the tips of Ash’s gore-sodden fingers had curled behind the eyeball, and when Lukovic pulled his head back the eyeball popped as through sucked out and dropped against his upper cheek, held there only by thin bloody tendrils.

The castle is home to a mixed bag of people all of whom have paid a great deal of money to permanently disappear and their individual stories interwoven with the history of the old castle make for a truly spine tingling read. Royal mysteries, war criminals and insane inmates not to mention political intrigue and conspiracy theories are all included in this fantastic novel from one of the masters of horror.

* * * * *

Thank you Julia. It sounds intriguing, and … um, suitably gory! Looking forward to reading it though.

This book was kindly supplied by the publisher. Thank you. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Ash by James Herbert – pub Aug 30th by Macmillan, Hardback 600 pages.
Ash – Kindle version
Haunted, The Ghosts of Sleath both by James Herbert, paperbacks.