Blogging Recipe

Koji Alchemy: Rediscovering the Magic of Mold-Based Fermentation by Jeremy Umansky and Rich Shih

I founded Umami Chef, the UKs first manufacturer of koji, and so I have been eagerly awaiting this book for a long time. I would suggest you to check Mossgreen Childrens Books for latest books updates.  I wasn’t disappointed. Koji Alchemy contains a wealth of information, even for someone like me who has been using koji for years.

But, that doesn’t mean this book isn’t for beginners. It carefully explains many ways in which koji can be used; so that even those with no previous knowledge can be inspired to try this special mold.

Koji Alchemy begins by detailing what koji is and how to make it. The rest of the book is then broken down into chapters on Amino Pastes; Amino Sauces; Alcohol and Vinegar; Aging Meat and Charcuterie; Dairy and Eggs; Vegetables; Sweet Applications and Baking; followed by a reference section with numerous charts and resources.

Koji Alchemy contains many recipes, but what is really special is that it explains the science behind the miraculous transformations koji performs on food; explaining how each recipe can be adapted to create new dishes. This means that any reader has the knowledge to develop their own recipes and be inspired by the depth of flavour koji can bring to almost any ingredient.

If you’re interested in koji this is a must read. This is the most important book on koji ever published and it will remain a classic forever.


Those in the UK can follow the link to buy a copy of Koji Alchemy, with a free packet of Umami Chef Koji, so you can see the magic of koji for yourselves!

Blogging Other Recommended books Uncategorized

Farm Lane Books is Five!



Five Years Ago

Five years ago I published my first post on this blog. The blogging world was very different back then. I followed about 250 blogs on google reader and that enabled me to know and interact with almost everyone in the world that had a book blog at the time. It was a close-knit community and I commented on YA, science fiction and chick-lit blogs just as often as literature ones. Finding someone with a similar taste in books was a rare, joyous celebration and many of the bloggers I met back then became good friends – both real and virtual.


Since then things have changed a lot. The number of blogs has exploded and it is no longer possible to follow everyone with a similar taste in books, let alone keep up with different genres. Google reader no longer exists and social media is now dominating the blogging world. I’ve cut back on my blogging time and no longer try to post every day. I’m hoping that I can maintain 2 or 3  posts a week and concentrate on books that beg to be talked about. I’ll continue to review every book I finish, but I suspect that many more will be bundled together in shorter summary posts. I also hope to include more posts that enable you to discover books you hadn’t heard of. To begin that process I’m going to celebrate five years with a 5×5 of book love: my five favorite books in five different categories….


My Five Favourite Fiction Books

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Blindness by José Saramago

The Prestige by Christopher Priest

HHhH by Laurent Binet


Far From The Tree: A Dozen Kinds of Love

My Five Favourite Non-Fiction Books

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon

The Mountain People by Colin Turnbull

Leviathan by Philip Hoare

People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry

Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick



My Five Favourite Audio Books

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Testimony by Anita Shreve

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher



My Five Favourite Children’s Books

George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl

Z For Zachariah by Robert C O’Brien

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

Duncton Wood by William Horwood

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O’Brien


The Half Brother

My Five Favourite Lesser Known Books

The Harlot’s Progress: Yorkshire Molly – Peter Mottley

Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller

When I Was Five I Killed Howard Buten

The History of History – Ida Hattemer-Higgins

The Half Brother by Lars Saaybye Christensen


Do I share any of my favourites with you?

Do you plan to try any of my favourite books soon?



Blogging Other

Book Blogger Interview Swap

As part of Book Blogger Apreciation Week I’m interviewing Suey from It’s All About Books.

Suey lives in Utah, USA. She focuses on YA books, but also enjoys reading a variety of different genres including science fiction, fantasy and literary fiction. She ran the famous Book Word Game and has a wonderful feature where authors pick the five books that have been the most influential in their lives. I recommend that you take a look at her lively blog.

The beautiful mountains near Suey's home

You’ve been blogging for over 5 years now. How has blogging changed your reading habits and which books have you read as a direct result of your blog?

Yes, five and a half years now! The biggest thing about my reading habits that blogging has changed is the amount of YA I read and enjoy now. My reading used to be mostly classics and literary fiction. Now, I read tons more (probably because you can finish YA books much faster!) and about half the books I read are YA. And while I enjoy these books a great deal, I’m quite sad that the classics have fallen by the wayside. I’m always making an effort to still fit them in, but wow… they suddenly got hard to read!

There are so many books that I’ve read as a direct result of the blog. How can even begin to name them?? 🙂 Some recent ones would be: For Darkness Shows the Stars, The Scorpio Races, Code Name Verity, The Wise Man’s Fear, The House at Tynford… etc. I think I should look into this further and see what percentage of books I read are directly related to my blogging connections and what books I would have discovered anyway. That would be an interesting number to me!

I’d love to know that figure too! I think mine must be at least 50%, if not higher.

I see that you have children too. How old are they and which books have they especially enjoyed recently?


Suey and her family

I’ve got four kids; two boys and two girls. Sadly, the boys don’t love reading quite as much as the girls do. I guess this is a fairly normal thing? I don’t know. But my son, age 23, does love The Catcher in the Rye and for some reason can really relate to Holden Caulfield! I’ve tried to get him to read some John Green books this summer, thinking those are a bit in the same style, but he never seems to be able to stick with it.

My 20 year old daughter reads all sorts of YA like I enjoy. This summer she read Sara Zarr’s new book, How to Save a Life. She also manged to fit in The Hollow City by Dan Wells. She didn’t read as much this summer as she has in the past… there was a boy, you see.

Next is my 17 year old son. I thought he would love Ready Player One, but he didn’t make it through. He is in a phase of wanting “learning” books (ie. non fiction!) so I gave him a book I have called Discover Your Genius and he seems to be enjoying bits and pieces of that.

My 13 year old recently read and loved The Hunger Games series, and she loves the Pendragon series (by D.J. MacHale) and the princess books by Jessica Day George. Also this summer she’s been devouring the Wings series by Aprilynne Pike. She looks forward to the day when I’ll let her read Dan Well’s I Am Not a Serial Killer series. I’m feeling like she needs to be a bit older for those still!

Do you still work at a library? If so, what is the weirdest thing a customer has asked you?

The library where Suey works

Yes, I do still work at the library, but I work upstairs in the administration office as the administrative assistant’s assistant! So I don’t get much interaction with the patrons, though I do hear some funny stories quite a bit. However, one day a guy came upstairs into the office, hoping to get some community service hours. While he was waiting for the lady he needed to talk to, he started chatting with me. First all, you must know, he was wearing a kilt. We don’t see that much around here!  So we knew right off he was a little different. And then he said something about the weather and how hot it was and how he wasn’t used to that where he was from.  Of course, he wanted me to ask…”So where are you from?” … so I obliged. He proudly said Ireland! I said, “Oh, funny, I don’t hear one bit of an accent!” He said, well, that’s because he hated his accent and had taught himself in the last few years since he’d been in the US to hide it. And I said, weird, why would you want to do that? And he went off on some story, I can’t even remember now. But about that time I began to realize he was a pretty big nut case! And I wasn’t’ believing a word he said! When the lady he was waiting for came out, she mentioned his kilt and asked was he from such and such a clan? He said, “Oh, no…. these aren’t a clan plaid… I’ve been banned from my clan and can’t wear their plaid!” Oh boy… whatever! As he left, we could all barely contain our giggles until he got out of earshot! Sheesh? Hide your Irish accent? CRAZY!! Doesn’t he know that he’d have girls swooning at his feet? But… if you’d seen his feet (he was wearing flip flops with the kilt) I think maybe not after all! Oh… and then we suddenly realized… isn’t it in Scotland that they wear kilts? Hmmmm……

Are there any books published recently that you think deserve more attention? How about a fantastic older book that people no longer talk about?

The Hollow City

My friend and I decided we are on a campaign to make Dan Wells and his book The Hollow City, a New York Times bestseller. We are baffled that some writers of quite low caliber get so much attention, and then other awesome writers, such as Dan Wells, seem to fall between the cracks. I mean, he is getting to be more well known, but has yet to make it to that very prestigious club. An older book that I really loved and never hear anyone talking about is The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye. Oh, I would love to re-read that book. And I wonder if very many people have read it and if they loved it too, or not.

I haven’t heard of The Hollow City, but you’ve sold it to me! I’ll keep an eye out for a copy. I have The Far Pavilions on my shelf. I bought it after I saw some very positive comments on a blog (I wonder if it was yours?) I’ll try to actually get it off the shelf and read it sometime soon.

What is your favourite book at the moment? Has that always been your favourite or do you regularly get new favourites?

The Hollow City

My favorite book at the moment continues to be The Book Thief. It’s held that place for several years now. Perhaps something will someday bump it from that spot, but my guess is, it will be another Markus Zusak book… if he ever gets another one done! 🙂 But like all readers, I have several favorites…. several that I  hug to myself with much love. Other such books would be Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, The Grapes of Wrath, Life of Pi, Wives and Daughters… just to name a few.

Thanks to Suey for answering my questions.

You can see my answers to Suey’s questions over on her blog,  It’s All About Books



Blogging Other

Publishing Events, Jean Auel and World Book Night

When I began blogging I never dreamt that it would lead to the events I’ve been lucky enough to experience recently. The past few weeks have been particularly exciting and so I thought I’d take the opportunity to let you know what I’ve been up to.

A Celebration of Women’s Fiction

Pan Macmillan invited me to attend an evening celebrating women’s fiction.

Pan Macmillan Night
I'm in green, at the back, in the middle of the photo.

I felt a little out of place as the event focused on chick lit, but I met up with Elle from Trashionista and I enjoyed learning about the world of UK Romance blogging. I hadn’t heard of her blog before, but it made me realise how little interaction I have with bloggers from different genres. I’m going to make the effort to familiarise myself with a wider range of bloggers (especially on Twitter) as we all share that passion for books and have many of the same issues with blogging, reading and balancing the two.

The night was very glamourous and several celebrities were in attendance. Unfortunately I’m very unobservant and so failed to spot any!

I came away with copies of two books:


Emma Donoghue’s Room was also being promoted that night and so I was able to let people know how wonderful it was. I don’t think that was necessary though – copies of her book were flying off the shelves and lots of other people were raving about it too!

It was a lovely evening and I felt very spoilt.

Author Speed Dating

You may have already seen that Chris Cleave mentioned this event on the Guardian blog. Sceptre invited several bloggers to meet a wonderful group of authors in central London. I was particularly excited to meet Andrew Miller and Chris Cleave, two authors I love (if you haven’t read their books then you really should). I was also introduced to many new-to-me authors including Jenn Ashworth, Jill Dawson and Giles Milton. 

Me with Andrew Miller

Me with Chris Cleave


I got to talk to a group of three or four authors for 20 minutes before moving on to another set. They let us know about their new books and I explained a little about my life as a blogger. I have never felt more like a celebrity and was embarrassed by the attention lavished on us. Time flew past and the whole day was very special. I’m looking forward to reading the books written by these authors when they are released later this year.

An Evening with Jean Auel

Last Monday I headed to The Natural History Museum in London to hear Jean Auel talk about her Earth’s Children series. I found her fascinating. She was in conversation with palaeoanthropologist, Professor Chris Stringer, and I was impressed by how knowlegable Jean Auel was about the life of early humans. She has been deeply involved in archaeological research since she began writing the series 30-years-ago and seemed to have a close relationship with those in the field.

I loved hearing her talk about her trips around the world to visit important archaeological sites and was impressed to learn that she has tried most of the techniques mentioned in the books herself. She didn’t stop at making snow caves and starting fires, but even went as far as tanning leather using the brain of the animal. It is always nice to know that the facts in books like these are based on thorough research, but I’m glad she is the one squashing brains and I only have to read about them! If you ever get the chance to listen to Jean Auel talk then I highly recommend that you go.

World Book Night

For World Book Night I gave away copies of A Fine Balance at my son’s school. It was a wonderful experience! I was worried that people wouldn’t be interested in a literary chunkster, but they seemed genuinely delighted to receive a copy. The great thing was that it became a catalyst for conversation about books. By the time I’d finished giving away my copies all the little groups of parents/teachers were talking about books. I could hear people recommending a whole range of different genres to each other and I think that this conversation about books was the most important aspect of World Book Night. I’m sure that many people will read books based on the recommendations they received and if that is the case then WBN can be declared a success.

Blogging Other

My New Year’s Resolution #2: Only Read Fantastic Fiction

I have come to the conclusion that life is too short to read anything that isn’t amazing. Last year I spent far too much time reading things that were OK, but nothing special. I was sucked into completing entire prize lists, despite not falling in love with the books on them.

I’m making big changes on this blog

This year I’m going to make a big effort to abandon any book that doesn’t excite me. I hope that this blog will have no books rated 3.5 stars or less from now on. I also hope that I’ll be able to give up on books far sooner than previously. My experiments over Christmas have shown that I find this really hard, but I find the 80 – 100 pages I have given books in the past far too long. In my heart I normally know a book isn’t for me after just a few pages.

I am aware that some books take a while to get into and I would hate to miss out on a fantastic book with a slow start – so I am going to launch a new feature on my blog:

Read or Reject?

Once or twice a month I will write mini reviews for all the books I have abandoned, explaining exactly why I did so. If you have read and loved any of the books mentioned then I hope you will be able to prevent me from missing out on a gem, or at least let me know if the book is likely to change in style towards the end.

I’m hoping that this change in approach will mean I can quickly work through my massive TBR pile, allowing me to reject anything that is failing to entertain me whilst highlighting all the wonderful books that are out there. 

I was particularly struck by a comment made by Rebecca from The Book Lady’s Blog on her end of year summary

I said “yes” to everything I was genuinely interested in reading. And since one can only tell so much about a book from a canned email pitch, I organized my galley shelves according to month of publication and did the actual deciding in the comfort of my living room, where I could pick up the books, flip through them, read a few pages or a few chapters, and make a more informed (and, ahem, deliberate) choice about what to read next.

And HOO BOY, it was amazing!

I’m not planning to do exactly the same as Rebecca, but her basic principle really interested me. 

I hope that this will help me to work through my massive stack of books, the majority of which were bought for the wrong reason (because they were cheap!) and only complete the best of the bunch.

How will this affect my prize list reading?

I still plan to try all the books on the prize lists, but I’m not going to force myself to finish any that aren’t to my taste. I was interested to see how insightfully Gav from Next Read was able to review the Booker short list just by reading the first chapter of each book and I hope I can do a similar thing.

I hope that my blog will become a much more positive place to be. I will end up completing far fewer books this year, but you will know that the ones I do are special.  

This is the hardest resolution I have ever made. I find it really hard to abandon books, but I need to be strict with myself or I will never find the time to read the ones that are already on my wishlist. 

What do you think?

How many pages of a book do you think you need to read to know you’ll enjoy the book?



Blogging Other

My Favourite New Book Blogs

Book Blogger Appreciation Week starts today!

The idea is to celebrate all the wonderful book blogs that are out there through a series of posts.

Today book bloggers are highlighting their favourite new blogs – so if you are interested in seeing which blogs others highlighted, take a look at Mr. Linky on the BBAW site.


The Reading Ape

When I first discovered this blog I was convinced it was attached to a newspaper or some other professional publication. I was so impressed by the well researched articles and the intelligent reviews that I remained a lurker for a while, convinced that it would already be receiving hundreds of comments. I was therefore shocked to discover that this blog was brand new, run by a lone blogger and had a relatively small following. A blog of this quality deserves a far greater audience and so I urge you to take a look. I’m sure you’ll love it!

The Pink Sheep Cafe

There are so many blogs out there that I often confuse them, so it is quite unusual for me to discover a blog and instantly remember it. The Pink Sheep Cafe is an example of a very well branded blog. I love those pink sheep, but more importantly I love the humor in the thoughtful reviews. Robbie currently lives in Croatia and claims to like isolation, but I’d prefer it if his blog wasn’t so isolated. Go and take a look!

Park Benches & Bookends

Park Benches & Bookends is run by husband and wife, Jess and Chris. Both have a different taste in books and so the blog is a rich mixture of genres. They also include fantastic summaries of their visits to literary places of interest. I’m sure you’ll love it.

Lovely Treez Reads

Teresa has a very similar taste in books to me and always seems to be reading the books that I want to read; so if you like my blog you’re probably better off reading hers as she’ll get to the books months before I will!

Leeswammes’s Blog 

Judith’s blog has only been running for six months, but she has already made a name for herself by starting the wonderful Book Bloggers Abroad feature. She uses this to show how different blogging/book buying is in countries around the world by highlighting a different blogger each week. She lives in the Netherlands and reads a wide variety of fiction. I hope that you’ll decide to add her to your blog roll.

I could go on recommending blogs for a long time, but I wanted to limit it to five. There are lots of blogs that I love, but I felt that these most deserved a wider audience.

Happy BBAW!!!