How I Made You by Javier Goode

“Explore science, nature, hopes and dreams with your little one in this sweet tale of becoming.”

*Thank you to Ghost and Ribbon for sending me this copy in exchange for an honest review! #Ad

The first thing that struck me about this book, aimed at inquisitive young children about the facts of life and where they come from, was how it seamlessly combined science and nature in such a tender, soft way. Whilst there are no storks or pumpkin patches, fantastical images which children might better imagine, there is something magical about how science is softened and shaped in this story.

The cutesy layout with its soft pastel colours and sketched drawings of buttons – standing in for human beings – is particularly wonderful and easy to grasp. It sets out an important topic for children to learn about – how people are made – in an accessible, fun and unique way, combining the topic of science and nature with rhyme and story.

As I read, I was particularly impressed with the inclusivity shown in this book. It shows children that families can be “knit in different patterns, colours and styles”, an important learning point and one I was thrilled to see (the images of the buttons lent itself particularly well to this). The smooth prose skips between and around the illustrations, and whilst whimsical, it also very clearly aims to educate. 

“20,000 chromosomes, 46 chromosomes, 23 pairs, in our genome.”

This is certainly a children’s book that stirs up more questions – “what’s a chromosome? what’s DNA?”. My initial impression was “isn’t that too detailed for such a young audience?” as I remember learning this sort of information in secondary school. But then, teaching children at such a young age about scientific fact in such an easy to read format is a rarity amongst children’s books, and one that it can only be good to see more of. 

I suppose the question should have been “why shouldn’t they know?”. It is “nature in measure with just a bit extra” – the ‘bit extra’ being the a bonding experience between parent and child that comes from this whimsical read.

How to buy this book:

To be released on 28th August 2020, How I Made You by Javier Goode is soon to hit the shelves. You can preorder from the Ghost & Ribbon shop.

Rose’s Gold: A Comfort Food Cookbook by R.Shepherd

*Thank you to Ghost and Ribbon for sending me an advanced copy to review! #Ad 

There’s something historically poignant and rich about this book. As stated in the preface, this is a book that aims to share the “magic” of food, written to honour the life of Elma Rose Francis whose memory and inspiration lives on through this compilation of vibrant recipes. However, it is not just that. This book is a unique piece of history. After all, food is something very much tied to our culture and these dishes perfectly encapsulate the relationship the UK has with Jamaica through its cuisine (a topic woefully underrepresented and one I am thrilled to see explored).

A blend of Jamaican-British fusion recipes, this book offers a truly wonderful series of dishes to salivate over, whilst still being in the bracket of comfort food. I have no doubt that these dishes will be ones to be enjoyed by all, however adventurous your palate. 

The book itself is one that is split up into the three main meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a hint of sweetness in desserts (unashamedly, my favourite section to flip through!). The recipes are simple to follow, and easy enough to adapt depending on your tastebuds, giving general guidelines rather than strict instructions. The pictures too, are attractive and well thought out, the minimalist style really adding a sophisticated pop to the litany of home-cooked meals.

Food recipes are, after all, better when you can adapt and experiment, and the hallmark of a good cookbook is recognising this. I particularly loved the addition of a plantain recipe, and the Jamaican ginger cake – two recipes I could easily follow and really get stuck into. I look forward to reading and making more from this book, and perhaps getting brave enough to really add those scotch bonnet chillies in certain meals!

Final verdict:

Rose’s Gold is a book that exudes passion and warmth, with every recipe selected with care and insight. It is a wonderful way to honour the memory of a woman who clearly put heart and soul into dishes like these, with each one easy enough to experiment with or follow to the letter. You can purchase it from the Ghost & Ribbon shop.

Good Grace’s: A Rainy Day Cookbook by Grace Millard

*Thank you to Ghost & Ribbon for sending me this book, in exchange for an honest review! #ad

As we find ourselves in increasingly strange circumstances, largely advised to stay indoors with little human contact, more and more of us have turned to the comforts of cooking to see us through the long stretches of lockdown. Whether it’s experimenting with a sourdough loaf, mashing together another banana for your 5th attempt at a cake, or trying to learn how to poach the perfect egg, there is nothing quite like cooking.

Good Grace’s: A Rainy Day Cookbook could not have come at a better time. Its pages promise to sweep us away into a furor of wonderful sights, tastes, and smells – the kind that only home cooking and the satisfaction of a job well done can bring. It is a book that prides itself on “symbolising the ease of cooking at home” and is perfect for even the most simply stocked of kitchens.

It is this sense of comfort and familiarity behind every recipe that makes A Rainy Day Cookbook a joy to read. It has also had its foreword updated with the pandemic in mind, as a note in its introduction nods towards this “common understanding of isolation and loneliness” and the “fond appreciation of family, friends, and home” – something I particularly appreciated.

Another point I immensely liked about this book is its simplicity. Cooking does not have to be complex to be good. If you are new to cooking, the way in which the recipes are very easy to follow and – for the few recipes I tried – produce good results! Far too often, I find myself annoyed at cooking books which are filled with more words than are needed, when all I really want to do is turn to the practical element of making the meal. Grace’s book deftly fills that need.

It is not only that the recipes given are comforting, quintessentially English dishes, borne from the soul and heart of a Gloucester local, but it is also delightfully versatile. Every dish can be adapted to suit the dietary requirements and tastes of a person, a rare find in cooking books that now wedge themselves firmly in particular sections. In an age where the importance of buying locally and seasonally is important, or where the art of cooking simple dishes is slowly being lost, this cooking book tells us what choice is available, and I really enjoyed the little details that are mentioned, like how best to use individual ingredients in certain dishes.

My favourite recipes in this book to read – and try – were, understandably, the desserts. I have fond memories of my mum’s summer fruit pavlova, so seeing such a simple recipe written that I could easily follow was wonderful. It not only helped to bring that joy back, but also impressed my family in the process!

Final verdict:
Grace’s Rainy Day Cookbook is a charming gem, capturing and distilling an array of tasty dishes between its pages. If you wish to experience the magical joy of home cooking, and the satisfaction of eating a meal you made yourself – whether you are a seasoned pro or a beginner in the kitchen! – you need look no further than this book. You can purchase it from the Ghost & Ribbon shop.

Manuscripts of the Mind by Jessie J’ng

*Thank you Ghost and Ribbon for this gifted copy of Jessie J’ng’s poetry collection. #Ad

Poetry is a genre of literature which has the unique quality of needing so few words to affect us profoundly. Or as Edgar Allen Poe puts it, “poetry is the rhythmical creation of beauty in words”. That idea is precisely what Jessie J’ng’s poetry collection Manuscripts of the Mind aims to do, writing with ‘innate rhythm’, to explore bi-polar disorder, and the meaning of life more broadly, in a different light.

As she states in her foreword, her words are carefully chosen, each syllable and word placed like steps to a dance, poised and written down with such precise forethought and meaning, you cannot help but be impressed.

It has been a while since I read poetry, and so the opportunity to read a flourishing new poet and her collection was a joy. J’ng’s poems are largely freeform, and short, although that is not to say they are simplistic by any means.

Her attempts to explore bi-polar through the written word in such a unique context is an interesting one, and whilst I thought certain poems didn’t quite offer up any particular meaning, the rhyming couplets were too forced, or there was no apparent connecting thread that I could follow between certain lines, perhaps that is the point. As she states in her poem ‘Mind of Mine’ halfway through this collection ‘Yet mine / a mind / uncategorised’ putting her poems in a box to understand them better is precisely what we shouldn’t be doing.

My favourite poems were the ones which contained vivid metaphors or description, such as ‘Sinking Voyager’ or ‘Paralysis’ – the latter poem one which I felt really struck to the core of this collection’s exploration of bi-polar.

However, it should be said that poetry is a very polarising genre, and so the poems might not be to everyone’s taste, depending on what your opinion of what “good” poetry looks like. People who prefer a more modern twist – J’ng is not unlike Rupi Kaur in that sense – will undoubtedly like this. Indeed, the poetry evident in this collection, is as much about the highly aesthetic structure as it is about the words.

Her poem, ‘Consequence’, is one such example of a concrete poem (a poem that takes a shape, where the shape itself has meaning). Here, the words at the start symbolise raindrops, which form into block sentences towards the end. Just as the raindrops form a shape, so do smaller actions build up to larger consequences. It is this precise attention to detail in her work that I especially liked about this collection.

J’ng ends with a poem named (I think aptly so) ‘The Sound of Metamorphosis’. Metamorphosis, she says, ‘sounds like / Movement in silence / a moving stillness / a juxtaposition’ – and through this process and her work, the author herself has grown, distilling her unique sound and mind in one final symphonic note that lingers on the page.

About Manuscripts of the Mind:
This poetry collection can be bought in the Ghost and Ribbon online shop.

The Gift of Foresight by Raven Knox

Life was almost perfect until he left them.
Will was a good man, torn and confused.
Alyss was bitter, hurt, and lonely.
Harriet could never see what she always knew was there.
They always loved each other.

Blurb of ‘The Gift of Foresight’

*[This is a sponsored Ad review]

The Gift of Foresight is an intriguing and, at times, moving debut novel by Raven Knox, published by Ghost and Ribbon. It follows a fractured family – Alyss, Will and their daughter Harriet – as they each explore and come to terms with the ripples caused by Will and Alyss’ divorce, an event which takes place at the start of the book in an emotionally devastating flashback scene.

This is a novel which deals with divorce and disability; two weighty topics that are rarely explored in literature in one narrative, especially from the perspective of a young, disabled teenage girl. Knox explores this with a thoughtful and at times poignant hand, and I am a firm believer that representation in novels is important in today’s age so this is particularly wonderful to see tackled. To deal with such messy and stigmatic topics such as these is something that Knox should take credit for exploring and basing her novel around.

As the arguable main character of this piece, Harriet is a perceptive and bright girl who tries to navigate the choppy emotionally fraught waters left in the wake of her parent’s divorce since Will (her father) walked out 10 years ago. It is made clear that she harbours hopes that they might get back together, a drive that influences and shapes her behaviour in this book. She is also blind. Whilst I would say this is not the main point upon which Knox focuses her novel, it is still hugely important and rears its head at particular chosen moments in the text where it is discussed. It also makes for a simultaneously heart wrenching and heart-wrenching final chapter in the book.

“If knowledge and foresight are too penetrating and deep, unify them with ease and sincerity”

Xun Kuang, Chinese Philosopher (a quote used in the foreword of the book)

Will and Alyss’ relationship is a little more difficult to track, with their scenes and conversations at times slipping into melodrama, but Knox manages to teeter her work on the side of believability when it comes to this divorced couple. As the reader, we are granted a unique view, seeing every facet of these characters from their arguments to their quieter, more emotive moments. Their respective personalities take shape as the novel progresses, and you understand more how they met and fell in love in flashback scenes and discussions with other characters, which adds more depth and plausibility to Harriet’s desire to see her parents back together.

However, at times the book has a jumbled narrative voice and perspective – especially since Harriet’s blindness is aptly described and then, at times, strangely forgotten (for instance, there are times that she can “see” certain things – a jarring point which meant I had to re-read sentences to figure out just whose perspective this related to).

Despite this, I feel that Harriet’s characterisation is one aspect of Knox’s writing that is particularly strong. She is shown to be a normal teenage girl, with hopes and dreams and fears, and comes across as headstrong and funny. She is loved in spite of her disability and not alienated or ostracised for it. This is a refreshing approach I have not seen depicted much in novels, and is a welcome inclusive addition, which does much to break down any stigma perhaps associated with this disability.

At its core, this book is about the raw, tangled, messier parts of human relationships and the emotions that come with it. Although a little heavy-handed in the message it tries to present, it should not diminish the message it focuses on. Family and the relationships are poignant, complex things, and The Gift of Foresight aptly captures this with its unique, emotional perspective.

About the book: 

10% of the profit made by Ghost and Ribbon Limited per sale of this hard-copy book purchased by the consumer (plus VAT) shall be paid to RNIB Enterprises Limited which covenants all its taxable profits to RNIB, a registered charity with charity number 226227. RNIB have neither endorsed nor contributed towards the content of this book.

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