QBD’s 25 Books of Christmas: #17


The elves are embracing their inner comic book geek with this addition to their wishlist!

In this gorgeously illustrated, full-color graphic memoir, Stan Lee—comic book legend and cocreator of Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Avengers, the Incredible Hulk, and a legion of other Marvel superheroes—shares his iconic legacy and the story of how modern comics came to be.

This funny, moving, and incredibly honest memoir is a must-have for collectors and fans of comic books and graphic novels of every age.

Reviewsday: His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman


A little recap of Book 1, Northern Lights (just to get you hooked):

Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford's Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called "Gobblers"—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person's inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

imagesI started this series because of the movie 'The Golden Compass.' I LOVED the movie and thought I would love the books just as much. But I didn't. The first two books were alright but the third was just downright boring! This is because I was 11 and kept skipping chapters to read only about Lyra and not Mrs Coulter. But because I am determined to never leave a book unfinished, 5 years later I gave it another try and I LOVED IT!!! The ending especially was something I'll never forget. It just made me keep reading, and reading, and reading. It is so perfect, so beautiful and so sad. But I wouldn't have it any other way. The end is the reason I love this series so much. I definitely recommend it as a truly great story.

~Steph, QBD Strathpine

QBD’s 25 Books of Christmas: #18


Our QBD elves love Australian fiction, and you really can do no better than Judy Nunn!

Perfect for: Lovers of Australian or mystery fiction

It is 2001 and as the world charges into the new Millennium, a century-old dream is about to be realised in the Red Centre of Australia: the completion of the mighty Ghan railway, a long-lived vision to create the 'backbone of the continent', a line that will finally link Adelaide with the Top End.

But construction of the final leg between Alice Springs and Darwin will not be without its complications, for much of the desert it will cross is Aboriginal land.

Hired as a negotiator, Jessica Manning must walk a delicate line to reassure the Elders their sacred sites will be protected. Will her innate understanding of the spiritual landscape, rooted in her own Arunta Heritage, win their trust? It's not easy to keep the peace when Matthew Witherton and his survey team are quite literally blasting a rail corridor through the timeless land of the Never-Never.

When the paths of Jessica and Matthew finally cross, their respective cultures collide to reveal a mystery that demands attention. As they struggle against time to solve the puzzle, an ancient wrong is awakened and calls hauntingly across the vastness of the outback . . .

Simply Nigella: Free Recipe!

We've been lucky enough to get our hands on a free recipe from Nigella Lawson's
fabulous new cookbook, Simply Nigella! Get your forks ready folks, this one is super-tasty!

Chicken traybake with bitter orange and fennel

rsz_9780701189358-1-editiondefaultoriginal-1I don’t think I could say how often I’ve made this since settling into my new kitchen. Not that I’m ashamed of being repetitive – I find that comforting – but I’ve simply cooked it too often to count. It will always, no matter wherever and whenever I cook it, be the taste of my new home, evoking the strength and robust sense of cosiness that emanates from that.

I never quite feel that a house is a home until a chicken has been roasted in it (with apologies to all vegetarians and, indeed, chickens) and this, as it cooks, fills your kitchen with its gentle anise and citrus scent, working as well in midwinter with in-season Seville oranges as it does in summer with eating oranges, their sweetness soured by lemon. Apropos of this, although I normally consider not using the zest of a lemon a culinary hanging offence, here I don’t use it, as it would flagrantly, if fragrantly, overpower the essential orange.

I always get the chicken in its marinade a day ahead, but if you don’t have time, an hour would be fine (out of the fridge, but in a cool place) so long as you start off with good chicken. If you can afford good organic chicken, buy it. It is this chicken that provides a strong natural “gravy”, and the other reasons to do so are even more compelling.

The fennel I’ve been finding lately has been large but no less full of herbal flavour for all that; if you find only smaller bulbs of fennel, maybe use 3, and just quarter them.

As for what to serve alongside, depending on the time of year, I’d say a pile of mashed potatoes or steamed new potatoes and perhaps some just-blanched sugar snaps, glossed with butter or oil, for crunch.

rsz_rha_simplynigella_dine2 large bulbs fennel (approx. 1kg total, though less wouldn’t matter)
100ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil or extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 x 15ml tablespoon or so for drizzling on the chicken when cooking
zest and juice of 2 Seville oranges (about 100ml juice), or zest and juice of 1 eating orange and juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
4 teaspoons fennel seeds
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
12 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in, preferably organic

* Remove the fronds from the fennel and put them in a resealable bag in the fridge for serving. I discard (that’s to say, eat) the tubey bits of the fennel, but if you have a roasting tin big enough, use everything. Cut the bulbs of fennel into quarters and then cut each quarter, lengthways, into 3. Leave on the chopping board while you get on with the marinade.

* Placing a large freezer bag in position inside a wide-necked-measuring jug or similar, pour in the oil, add the orange zest and juice (and lemon juice, if using), and spoon in the salt, fennel seeds and mustard. Stir briefly to mix.

* Remove the bag from the jug and, holding it up, add a quarter of the chicken pieces, followed by a quarter of the fennel pieces, and so on until everything’s been used up.

* Seal the bag tightly at the top, lay the bag in something like a lasagne dish and squelch it about so that you make the small amount of marinade cover as much of the chicken as possible. It will look as if it isn’t enough, but it is, I promise. Leave in the fridge overnight or up to 1 day.

* When you want to cook, remove the marinating chicken and fennel from the fridge and tip the contents of the bag – marinade and all – into a large shallow roasting tin (I use a tin that measures 46 x 34cm with a lip of 1.5cm). Using tongs, or whatever implement(s) you prefer, arrange the chicken pieces so that they are sitting, skin-side up, on top of the fennel, leave it for 30 minutes or so, to come up to room temperature while you preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6.

* Drizzle some more golden oil onto the chicken, and cook in the oven for 1 hour, by which time the fennel will be soft and the chicken cooked through and bronzed on top.

* Put the chicken and fennel onto a warmed serving plate and put the pan over a medium heat (use a saucepan if your tin isn’t hob-friendly) and boil the juices, stirring as you watch it turn syrupy; this should take about 1 ½ – 2 minutes in the tin, and about 5 in a saucepan.

* Pour the reduced sauce over the chicken and fennel, and then tear over the reserves fennel fronds.

MAKE AHEAD NOTE: The chicken can be marinated 1 day ahead. Store in fridge until needed.
STORE NOTE: Cool leftovers, then cover and refrigerate within 2 hours of making. Will keep in fridge for up to 3 days

Recipe extracted from SIMPLY NIGELLA by Nigella Lawson.

QBD’s 25 Books of Christmas: #19

Book19socialLooks like our elves want to join the adult colouring craze!

A beautiful new colouring book that takes you on a magical journey beneath the waves, from the creator of the worldwide bestsellers, Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest.

With Lost Ocean, Johanna Basford invites colour-inners of all ages to discover an enchanting underwater world hidden within the depths of the sea.

With intricate pen and ink illustrations to complete, colour and embellish, readers will meet shoals of exotic fish, curious octopi and delicately penned seahorses, visit coral reefs and barnacle-studded shipwrecks, and discover intricate shells and pirate treasure. Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest fans and newcomers alike will delight in this creative journey into an inky new world.