Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Man Booker longlist 2010

As many of you are already aware, the Man Booker longlist was announced late last month and as this coincides nicely with the creation of Eye Candy for Magpies I figure it would make a good start to try and read and review at least a couple of the books on the list, especially considering I have never read any of the authors before.

The first book I am drawn to is Emma Donoghue's - Room about a boy and his mother who are held captive in one room for many years, the boy believing that the room is all there is only to escape and suddenly be catapulted into a world that is completely unfamiliar and terrifying in which he has to learn to adjust to the idea of sharing his space and his life with many other people. Freedom rather than captivity being the frighting concept.
Perhaps it was Donoghue's short article on Anne Lister in the Guardian's Saturday review that peaked my interest in this author, or maybe it was the full page advert on the back page that stuck in my mind (ah, the power of advertising), either way I will be picking this book up as soon as possible and hopefully have a review ready in a couple of weeks.

Anyone who has read and can recommend any of the books on the longlist this year or your thoughts on who is in the running for the prize, your feedback would be most welcome.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Organic carrot and cream cheese cupcakes

Some of the tastiest cupcakes I have ever made, perfect accompaniment to a nice cup of earl grey and a good book!

For the original recipe I used 100g of butter in the icing but it was a little too soft and I had to add more icing sugar and I had loads left over, so I have reduced the amount to 75g.


(all ingredients organic where possible)

175g brown muscovado sugar
100g wholemeal self-raising flour
100g self-raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp allspice
zest of 1 orange
2 eggs
150ml sunflower or rapeseed oil
200g grated carrot (approx 2 large carrots)

for the icing

75g butter, softened
300g soft cheese
100g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cases. In a large mixing bowl, mix the sugar, flours, bicarbonate of soda, mixed spice and orange zest (leave a little zest aside for the icing). Squeeze a little of the orange juice into the mixture for moisture. Whisk together the eggs and oil, then stir into the dry ingredients with the grated carrot. Divide the mixture between cases and bake for 20-22 mins until a skewer poked in comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before icing.
  2. For the icing, beat the butter until really soft, then beat in the soft cheese, icing sugar and vanilla. Use a palette or cutlery knife to swirl the icing on top of the cakes, then sprinkle with leftover orange zest.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Eye Candy for Mapgpies

This inaugural post is going by the same name I chose for the blog; apparently the title of the last novel ever written by Angela Carter before she died and held back from publication by the trustees of her estate until 2006. According to this arguably dubious website Carter was in the final stages of terminal lung cancer when she wrote it thus giving the novel a cathartic sense of loss and a sorrowful perspective not found in her previous novels.

The problem is, I cannot find evidence of the actual existence of this book anywhere! Is it a literary myth? Angela Carter is possibly my favourite author of all time. Her novels, short-fiction and essays envelope wonderfully many things I love in literature - fantasy, fairy-tale, feminism, post-modernism and the picaresque to name but a few. Moreover, I'm fixated by magpies, particularly the superstition and folklore associated with them. Since I was old enough to remember I would never pass a magpie without a discreet salute or a polite enquiry into the state of his family's health. In short, if this book exists, I want to find it...

And thus my blog begins. Not only by setting a precedent for my literary tastes and for the kind of books I want to share by writing this, but also with a message in a bottle... cast out into cyber-space to similar minded readers in the hope that someone can enlighten me regarding the mystery of the magpie...