February 5, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books, Culture, Food

James Wong’s 5 tips to superpower your food

James Wong certainly knows his stuff about eating well. As the author of bestselling books such as Grow Your Own Drugs and Homegrown Revolution, and presenter of programmes such as BBC2’s award-winning Grow Your Own Drugs and Radio 4’s Gardeners’ Question Time, he’s the man you need if you’re looking to improve your diet and give your health a boost.

James has got a new book out in March, the rather brilliant Grow for Flavour, and he’s been kind enough to give us a bit of a preview of what to expect. Here are a few simple tips from James to help superpower your fruit and veg….


Simply not boiling carrots, cooking them any other way, can make them up to 25% sweeter and more nutritious according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation. If you don’t fancy roasting, baking or steaming, try boiling them whole and slicing them after, to ensure flavour and nutrients are not lost to the cooking water.

Want to go one better? Try growing the almost pitch black ‘Purple Sun’ carrots, whose intense colour stems from the same antioxidant pigments that give red wine and blueberries their purported health benefits. Not only that, but they are also sweeter and just as easy to grow.


Storing these fruit on the counter (instead of in the fridge) for a few days triggers chemical reactions that will make them more fragrant, brighter in colour and higher in antioxidants. In one Canadian study, strawberries stored at 20C for four days experienced a whopping 700% increase in their flavour compounds. Be warned that these reactions will not take place at lower temperatures though, so avoid the fridge at all costs.


Hailed as a ‘superfood’ for their antioxidant content, what most non-geeks don’t know about blueberries is that their content of these health promoting compounds varies dramatically between varieties. The homegrown variety ‘Rubel’, for example, delivers three times the antioxidant payload of supermarket staple ‘Bluecrop’. With these easy to grow plants kicking out up to 6kg of crop a year (worth £80 in supermarkets) its a real no brainer.

The best bit? One trial has found that lightly cooking blueberries (for example in pie) doubles their absorbable antioxidant content. Talk about having your pie and eating it.


Popping store-bought mushrooms on a windowsill for just a few hours can result in over x10 increase in their Vitamin D content. When exposed to the UV light from the sun, a chemical known as ergosterol is converted into Vitamin D2, with just 30-60 minutes anytime between 10am to 3pm capable of making a measurable difference. Placing them with the gills side facing up can spike this even further. A nutritional supercharge for zero work.


Unbelievably spraying a dilute aspirin solution onto tomato plants (we are talking 1/2 a soluble tablet per litre of water) is capable of causing their sugar content to soar one and a half times and boost their Vitamin C content 50%. This treatment can even make your plants more resistant to cold, drought and, not that we’ll ever need it in the UK, heat stress. This works as aspirin is a close chemical copy of the plant stress hormone, salicylic acid, which turns on the genes that regulate their immune system. The more stress a plant ‘thinks’ it is under the more sugars that it sends to the fruit to ensure they are eaten and their seeds dispersed to save the next generation.

Jwong coverGrow for Flavour by James Wong is published by Octopus on March 5th.
Find out more here

February 3, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books

Win a signed copy of Holy Cow by David Duchovny!

David Duchovny has written a book. Yep, THE David Duchovny. It’s called Holy Cow and it’s ace. A unique, hilarious, rollicking adventure about a talking cow and her turkey and pig friends, it’s unlike anything else you’ll read this year. It’s out now in hardback and ebook, and we’ve got three signed copies to give away.

To enter, just scroll and fill in the funny little form. The question is ridiculously easy.

And to find out more about the novel, head on down to the Holy Cow farm: www.holycownovel.co.uk


Fields marked with a * are required.

Win a signed copy of Holy Cow by David Duchovny!

Simply answer the following question to be in with a chance to win 1 of 3 copies of the book:

What was the name of David Duchovny's character in The X-Files?

A) Fox Mulder
B) Badger Murder
C) Squirrel Outrage

Competition terms and conditions: closes 11.59pm GMT on 15/2/2015. 3 winners will be selected at random from correct entries received. There is no purchase necessary to enter. Only one entry per person allowed. The prize draw is open to anyone aged 16 or over in in the UK.

February 3, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books

New Richard Ford cover reveal: Lord of Ashes

The third and final book in the epic Steelhaven trilogy by Richard Ford is coming this May. Lord of Ashes follows the awesome, bloody, action-packed Herald of the Storm and sequel The Shattered Crown, and is another big slice of epic fantasy adventure. If you love Game of Thrones then this is right up your street.

Although it’s still a few months away, we’ve been give a sneak preview of the cover and are delighted to be able to exclusively reveal it here. Feast your eyes on Lord of Ashes


Lord of Ashes will be published on May 7th 2015. Herald of the Storm and The Shattered Crown are out now in paperback and ebook. Follow Richard on Twitter: @Rich4ord

January 30, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books

#BookPitches – 3 new books (possibly) coming soon…

We’ve been tracking recent trends in the book market, and have decided we can easily make a ton of cash. Here are some of our suggestions for new books, potentially coming soon to a library, bestseller list OR clearance warehouse near you…

albert-spoonThe Amazingly Curious Tale of Mr Albert B. Spoon by R. J. Roper

Albert is 150 years old and lives in Wicklebottom-on-Sea, Sussex. The locals regard him with nothing but contemptuous politeness, yet there is more to Albert than Werther’s Originals and Jeremy, his loyal, wisecracking parrot. By turns hilarious and quite funny, The Amazingly Curious Tale of Mr Albert B. Spoon is a curiously amazing romp through amazing curiousness.SHOCKWAVESShockwaves by Thomas Noble

It’s the book everyone is talking about. Trapped in a loveless marriage that has lost its spark, Nicola and Andy are at breaking point. Something has to give, and that means one of them will go missing and/or end up dead, and it will probably involve flashbacks. A gripping, dual-narrative psychological thriller that is this year’s ultimate poolside read.

sugarfree The Carb Free, Sugar Free, Fun Free Cookbook by Dr. T. Troughton

It’s a popular belief that dieting means giving up on the good stuff in life: sweets, chocolate, carbs. However, this is not true at all. Whether you’re hanging out with friends, planning a meal for work, or preparing snacks for the weekend, The Carb Free, Sugar Free, Fun Free Cookbook will prove that there is an uninspired and tasteless recipe for every occasion.

Would you read any of these? Or got any #BookPitches of your own?

January 28, 2015, Posted by Beau Merchant in Books

Paul Fraser Collard on taking inspiration from imposters

With the third Jack Lark adventure, The Devil’s Assassin, out this week, author Paul Fraser Collard discusses the inspiration behind Jack, a soldier who climbs the ranks by impersonating his superiors. The cheeky devil. Over to Paul…

The idea of an imposter is not perhaps as lacking in creditability as some would assume. I am not the first writer to use such a device. Anthony Hope used the device of an imposter back in 1894, in his fabulous Prisoner of Zenda, that sees a travelling English gentleman convinced to act as a political decoy for the kidnapped king of Ruritania. The story was so good that the wonderful George MacDonald Fraser used the story in his Flashman adventure, Royal Flash, and if something is good enough for good old Flashy then it is most certainly good enough for young Jack Lack.

Then there are the true stories of men, and women, who succeeded as imposters. One of my favourites is the story of Wilhelm Voigt, a career criminal in Prussia in the early twentieth century who was imprisoned many times for theft, forgery and burglary. Voigt was to find fame as the fabulously titled, Captain of Köpenick. The quick-witted Voigt managed to acquire enough parts of an officer’s uniform to look the part. He put it on and marched into a local barracks where he took command of a number of soldiers. He took them all by train to the town of Köpenick where he arrested the town mayor and treasurer on a charge of crooked book-keeping, confiscated 4000 marks before disappearing into the night. Although captured he was pardoned by Kaiser Wilhelm himself who called Voigt, “an amiable scoundrel’. It is amazing what can be achieved with a confident demeanour and the right uniform.

Voigt is not alone. There are many others who have carried off seemingly impossible masquerades. There is the true story of Mary Anne Talbot, an Englishwoman who served in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. She was only forced to reveal her sex when she was press-ganged later in her career. Surely it is harder to hide one’s sex on a man-of-war than it is to hide a lack of class or manners?

Then there are the stories around the fabulously titled, Chevalier d’Eon, a French diplomat, spy and soldier who fought in the Seven Years War. No one is really sure if the Chevalier was a man or a woman and, after a successful 40-year career serving his country, he spent the last 33 years of his life living as a woman.

Finally I must mention my favourite story of an imposter and the one who really inspired my Jack. Percy Toplis was a boy from a mining town in the north of England. He was to find fame as the Monocled Mutineer during the mutiny of the British army at Etaples in 1917. Toplis had long masqueraded as an officer, stealing uniforms to access the facilities that were for “officers only”. Percy was a northern lad from a pit town with very little schooling, yet he found it easy to impersonate the officer class without anyone objecting. If a lad like Percy could do it then so could my Jack.

With so many imposters as inspiration it was clear that it would be a wonderful way to create a character. For an imposter the world is there for the taking. There will be no ties to regiments or campaigns; no need to be anywhere at a specific time. Such freedom is a wonderful licence for an author and one I plan to exploit for as long as I am allowed.

The Devil’s Assassin is published January 29th in hardback and ebook. Books 1 and 2, The Scarlet Thief and The Maharajah’s General, are also out now. You can buy signed, first edition hardback copies of all three from the good people at Goldsboro Books.

devils assassin

January 23, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books

The Best Bizarre Books and Covers

Last week on the old Twitter, we asked you to send us your favourite weird, twisted, and often quite scary bizarre books and their odd covers, and you didn’t let us down. So what could be creepier than compiling a few of the best into one single collection? Here are a few of our choices and some of our favourites from your #bizarrebooks suggestions…

(And if anyone has actually read any of these, please, please, please do let us know)

Thank you to everyone who tweeted. All images © the respective publishers. If you’ve got any other suggestions, do tweet us and let us know using #BizarreBooks

January 19, 2015, Posted by Tom in Books, Music

Frank Turner book cover revealed

Frank Turner has written a book. That’s right, the hardcore folk punk hero’s new book, The Road Beneath My Feet, will be published on March 20th.

Told through his tour reminiscences, this is a blisteringly honest story of Frank’s career from the drug-fuelled house parties and grimy club scene to filling out arenas, fans roaring every word back at him. But more than that, it is an intimate account of what it’s like to spend your life constantly on the road, sleeping on floors, invariably jetlagged, all for the love of playing live music.

The cover has now been revealed, and what a cracker it is…

Frank Turner Book

The Road Beneath My Feet is published on March 26th.

January 9, 2015, Posted by Tom Troughton in Books, Culture, Film & TV

7 Cool James Bond Book Covers

Bond fans unite. The twenty-fourth James Bond film Spectre is set to be released later on this year and to celebrate, we’ve decided to take a look at some of the best Bond book covers (after all guys, we need to remember that the films are based on Ian Fleming’s much-loved series…).

Sure, some of you hardcore fans may point out that Spectre isn’t actually an Ian Fleming book and therefore question the purpose of this article? If so – back the hell off. We like books and want an excuse to look at some pretty covers, ok?!

Starring the likes of Christopher Waltz, Andrew Scott and, of course, Daniel Craig, Spectre is set for release on November 6th 2015. It’s going to be a long 11 months…

Some of our favourite James Bond book covers:

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 All images © the respective publishers
(Goldfinger: Jonathan Cape, Octopussy: Vintage, Moonraker: Jonathan Cape, Live and Let Die: Penguin, From Russia with Love: Penguin, Quantum of Solace: unknown, Casino Royale: Jonathan Cape)