Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Oh, I love a bit of cake.

Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake! High in calories? Low in calories? Cake. Oh, I love a bit of cake! (Little Britain reference. I'm not crazy).

This week the team at Auckland Libraries have received some delicious looking cookbooks featuring a few of my favourite things (namely cake). I thought you guys might be interested as cake is delicious and tastes like happiness.

One of my personal favourite cookbook writers Delia Smith has bought out this lovely new book called Delia's Cakes. It looks very British and amazing. I can't wait to make the cherry cake and then eat the whole thing, probably by myself.

From timeless classics like coffee and walnut sponge and old-fashioned cherry cake, to exciting new recipes such as iced hidden strawberry cup cakes and chunky marmalade muffins, Delia brings her touch of baking magic to your kitchen.

The Caker 
I really like the look of this one because Jordan Rondel has really tried to write a cookbook that isn't like very other one on the shelf; it sounds like her company has tried to do that too! Full of beautiful, colourful pictures and beautiful, colourful cakes this book is even a treat to look at. Plus she's a Kiwi so we've got to show her some love! Check out her website here.

Absolutely not your ordinary baking book: 50 outstanding and delicious recipes for cakes, cookies and cupcakes to bake at home, presented by the talented Jordan Rondel aka The Caker. The cakes are specialty treats not usually seen in cake shops. Some are gluten free, dairy free or vegan and Jordan uses as many organic ingredients as possible. The flavours are surprising combinations that will thrill your taste buds. From fig and raspberry cake, brown butter spice cake and earl grey tea cookies, to flourless black forest cupcakes, chai latte cake with condensed milk icing and black pepper, and peanut butter and jelly cake. Includes 15 gorgeous icings and toppings, and top baking tips from The Caker herself.

Last but not least is girl who I had never heard of until today but the cake on the cover of her book Stacie Bakes caught my attention. Apparently Stacie Stewart was on Masterfchef and now she's a judge on a show that involves Simon Cowell. Okay, so I don't know much about her but her book looks scrumptious!

Since reaching the finals in Masterchef in 2010, Stacie Stewart has launched her Beehive Bakery to critical acclaim. Her bakes and cakes have proved enormously popular at festivals and events around the country- and now she has been named judge in the sweet baking category on Simon Cowell's new show, Food.glorious.Food, to be aired in 9 hour-long parts on prime time ITV1. This book includes all of Stacie's most well-loved recipes, from Beehive bars to Cheesecake brownies. She gives a modern twist on traditional bakes, so there's a lemon meringue pie cake, a coconut baked Alaska and a ginger parkin. There are gluten-free recipes too, including Old school bakewell tart and an orange and almond cake. You will find tarts, cakes, biscuits, bars, puddings, breads, sweets and savoury pies. There's something to suit every occasion, with chapters ranging from Hello summer and Mother's Day & vintage tea to The homemade valentine and New year, new you and new baking rules. 

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

New book release now available!

Time for a shameless advertisement from your sponsors.

There is a HOT new fantasy romance available now called Cursed, by Emma Benedict. Who happens to be me, writing under yet another pseudonym. Appealing to fans of Stardust and The Princess Bride, it's a medieval romantic comedy with fairy tale stuff thrown in. Click here for the blurb, and to request it. Although if you want to download it or purchase the paperback, I'd be even more grateful!

I got sick of waiting for publication to happen through normal channels, and frankly I'm too tired. Between full-time work at busy Auckland Libraries, studying for my library qualifications and writing a new novel, I'm just too exhausted to go chasing and marketing and pushing myself out there. My previous publishers say Cursed isn't "Kiwi enough". Tell that to Margaret Mahy. Others aren't quite sure whether it's teen or it's adult, or which genre to stuff it in.

So I cheated. I self-published on Amazon.

I am hanging my head.

Does self-publishing count as real publishing? Somehow I don't think so. If a book pops up in cyberspace, where there's no one around to read it, does it really exist? After all, to publish is to make public. Not very public if it's festering in a dark corner of the internet, is it, along with the airport pick-up schedule from the Tampa Proctology Conference 2006?

It's terribly snobbish of me, I know, but it's kind of true. When you print your own work, it's only your judgement that it's any good. And usually, I'm sorry, it isn't. Although a lot of what comes out of professional publishing houses is a load of arsebiscuits, at least they know how to punctuate. Also, nothing compares with the lottery feeling of someone thinking you're worth it. Someone making you feel Chosen.

I've been feeling pretty depressed about the whole gig lately, anyway. It'd be easier if I could just resign myself to a life of 9-5, but unfortunately the writing disease is incurable. My blood is one part ink. Someday, someday my print deal must come.

Meanwhile, for the love of God, someone buy my book.

Friday, 19 April 2013

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound...

A shortish post from me this week.

The body as they say is willing but the brain has decided  to go on complete strike and be bloody difficult. Writer's block sucks.

Big time.

Still it could be worse.  This post could have started with "See Jane run.  See Dick run." which is just about the standard that my brain is capable of at the moment.

I'm going to blame it all on the BBC and Big Finish.

Now I never thought of myself as an audio book fan.  I had, of course, tried some many years ago but somehow I found them just a bit... flat.

Then I got onto Big Finish.  First with their array of Stargate audio books and then with their 8th Doctor Who adventures starring Paul McGann as the Doctor. Wanting to expand my horizons from just listening to science fiction I then discovered the BBC or more accurately BBC4.

It was like finding the holy grail.  Or least what I imagine it would be like.

The variety that the BBC produces is enormous.  From comedies to crime dramas to Shakespeare and Sci-Fi.  I have become hooked.

And like all addictions I just have to share.  So here's just a small taste of what I have been listening to and more.

Murder in the title [compact disc] : a Charles Paris mystery / Simon Brett.

I *adore* Bill Nighy.  So when I found that he featured in a series of radio dramas featuring an alcoholic, womanising actor who seems to constantly stumble across dead bodies where ever he goes I just had to give them a try.

And I'm so glad I did.  The Charles Paris mysteries featuring him are just marvellous with Nighy being... well Nighy..

Cabin pressure. Complete series 2 [compact disc] / written by John Finnemore.

A BBC4 find.  The appeal of this was that it featured Benedict Cumberbatch.  Or the Cumberbeast as he is known as to his many fans.  It also sounded really funny.

And it is. Gloriously so.

 In fact I guarantee this will have you laughing out aloud.

The adventure collection. Volume 2 [compact disc]

As a Doctor Who fan I just had to try these series of adventures read by David Tennant.

Though they don't have a full-cast like the ones above, Tennant's voice worked really well for me.

Then again I'm probably biased.

Torchwood [electronic resource] : the lost files.

The last story in this audio book made me cry.


I bawled my eyes out.

If that's not a recommendation I don't know what is.

Desert Island Discs [compact disc]

I haven't listened to this - yet.

But it's on my list.

The idea of famous people being interviewed about what book, music etc they would take to a desert island sounds fascinating, so how could I not give it a go.

The big sleep [compact disc] / Raymond Chandler.

I love the movie The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart so finding out that there was a audio-dramas - done by the BBC no less, I just had to add it my list of To Be Listened To.

It also features Toby Stephens (member of the RSC,  son of Dame Maggie Smith and the villain in the James Bond movie Die Another Day).

I can so imagine him as P.I. Philip Marlowe.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

How I went from Rebel Wilson to North Korea in a few clicks of my mouse

I was browsing Youtube the other day when I cam across a video by Hank Green from Vlogbrothers about North Korea. Aside from the fact that the Vlogbrothers are my absolute favorite YouTubers I decided to watch the video because I don't know a huge amount about North Korea when I really should. It's a really great video so I encourage you to check it out:

In response to this video John Green (the other half of Vlogbrothers and the author I talk about all the time) made this video about the book Escape from Camp 14 : one man's remarkable odyssey from North Korea to freedom in the west which is about the only known prisoner to escape from a North Korean concentration camp called Camp 14. John does a much better job of explaining the book than I ever could so I've posted the video below. 

This is what I love about the internet. I go on YouTube so watch Rebel Wilson opening the MTV Movie Awards and end up learning about North Korean concentration camps. Thank you internet, you make me smarter. Obviously the videos/book that I stumbled across are much more important than the cast of Pitch Perfect gyrating. So I've requested this book in hope of educating myself about the world we live in. I encourage you to do the same. Check out the publisher's description of Escape from Camp 14 below:

"North Korea is isolated and hungry, bankrupt and belligerent. It is also armed with nuclear weapons. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in its political prison camps, which have existed twice as long as Stalin's Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped. But Shin Donghyuk did. In Escape from Camp 14, acclaimed journalist Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk and through the lens of Shin's life unlocks the secrets of the world's most repressive totalitarian state. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence - he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his own family. Through Harden's harrowing narrative of Shin's life and remarkable escape, he offers an unequaled inside account of one of the world's darkest nations and a riveting tale of endurance, courage, and survival." 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Why Auckland Libraries is mostly off Twitter today

"What you hear
What you see
Ain't always what's it's s'posed, to be..."

- Misty Frequencies by Che Fu

The day is a little bit crazy, and certainly nothing is as it's supposed to be right now.

In light of the explosions that took place during the Boston Marathon, our Auckland Libraries tweetstream will keep the channel clear for today. We will, of course, respond to queries and feedback as needed.

I feel that it is not the time to be all about us. It is not the time to tell people what events they should come and see, what books to read, what blog posts we've written lately, or which community libraries to visit. Even less is it the appropriate time to be my usual fangirl squeeing self about all things geeky. At a time when people are needing updates, and to contact family and friends, and to make sense of the day's events, I feel like anything we have to say today on Twitter would only get in the way of that.

Take care of each other, people.

Boston, you are in my thoughts.
 - tosca

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Just a little out there...

This post celebrates the quirks and queernesses of today's literature, with some of the oddest titles and concepts in print. These can give us a laugh on a quiet day in the office - hope they bring a grin to your face too.

You've all heard of Pig Tits and Parsley Sauce (and if not, where have you been?) It's a guide to scrimping and saving in these tough times, and generally using baking soda for everything short of contact lens solution. The book is proving very popular - which just goes to show the power of a what the _?! title.

Now let me introduce one for the kids: The Perplexing Pineapple. It's actually short for The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta: The Perplexing Pineapple. Try squeezing that on the spine of a book with just 68 pages. While I'm intrigued by the idea of a perplexing piece of fruit, I'm rather at a loss. I mean, what's wrong with it? Is it a purple perplexing pineapple? Does it tap dance across the table? Out next year - The Loquacious Loquat, featuring a fruit that won't shut up. Followed by The Irritable Bowl.

For non-fiction nuts, here's The Nazi Occult. It's all about the crazy experiments Hitler
encouraged into things like werewolves, mythical spears that make you invincible, the Holy Grail and the like. Because watching Disney's Snow White every day wasn't lala enough.

Now for the title that I liked best: I Know What You Did Last Supper. Regardless of your views on the Bible, it's a fabulous concept, and a great cover too. Judas receives a note shortly after the crucifixion of Christ saying I KNOW WHAT YOU DID. With the note is an eye, and a tooth. As his friends are murdered in mysterious - and extremely gruesome - ways, Judas must find a way to atone, and track down the killer. Not recommended for those with weak stomachs.

Or if you want to live a gluten-free life, there's Gluten is My Bitch, featuring wit and recipes for coeliacs. Who said health books can't have a sense of humour?

Last but not least, here's a book I found on the prescribed reading list for my trends in children's literature paper:
Brains for Lunch: A Zombie Novel in Haiku. It details a school where zombies, humans and chupacabras are forced to co-exist. All in three-line verse.

Rejoice, all - for creativity is undead.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Justin Handsomelake

Swoon! Justin Timberlake is back! He never really went too far away just kind of hopped into terrible movies for a couple of years, but now JT has returned to us with a new album and it's a hell of a lot better than his movies.

The 20/20 Experience  is the new album. If you have heard the 2 singles 'Suit and Tie' and 'Mirrors' then you will have a pretty good idea of what this album is about. It's very much a Justin Timberlake record, and some consider it a little bit too similar to his previous album Futuresex/Lovesounds but I wont condemn it for that because I really liked that album. My only criticism is that the lyrics are quite generic party/'I like to watch girls dance' lyrics but I think most JT fans buy his music expecting that and wont be disappointed. As if one album wasn't exciting enough last month JT announced that the 'second half' of The 20/20 experience will be tentatively released in September!

If you only listen to a few songs off of 20/20 make sure you check out Mirrors (which is easily the best song on the album), That Girl and Let the Groove Get In.

All in all I think this new album is on par with Futuresex/Lovesounds and a hell of a lot better than 2002's Justified so give it a listen and maybe have a bit of a dance to it in your living room like I do.

Check out this AMAZING performance of Mirrors on SNL:

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Somehow I've become obsessed with Game of Thrones

'Long ago, an enigmatic event forever changed the seasons in Winterfell. Thus the land was blessed with lush summers and simultaneously cursed with harsh winters. Now, Winterfell's borders are being increasingly encroached, forcing the prominent Stark family to defend its kingdom from enemies both old and new, including the rival Lannister House and a legendary demon.'

I resisted as long as I could, I scoffed as my friends discussed weather Jon Snow or Robb Stark was hotter, I avoided even opening the books simply because they're so long but it was pointless; Game of Thrones has got me hooked.

I started off watching the first season while on sick leave from work. My first impression was that this show was a bit grim and rapey for my liking but as I kept watching I suddenly found myself thinking about the show all the time and planning what each character should do in order to claim the iron throne. Within a few days I had finished the first 2 seasons and filled my time waiting for the start of season 3 by arguing with friends about why Robb Stark is such a babe.

I've started reading the books now so I would say that the obsession is in full force. I invite you to join me and daydream about what a great couple Jon and Daenerys would make.