This year I have started using my local library more, especially as you can order books from anywhere in the state, and then just pick them up from whichever location is the most convenient. It’s like online book shopping without the price tag. It’s also the perfect way to test out a book before buying, which I especially love doing for beauty, health and cookbooks, as they can sometimes be hit and miss.

Here are some of the books I’ve borrowed and read in the first half of the year, and my quick mini reviews.

The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree

This is one of those cookbooks that I love to own because it’s more than just a collection of recipes. Along with the wonderfully nostalgic recipes are tips for putting together the perfect vintage tea party, such as ideas for serving the dishes and decorating the table; crafts; clothes, hair and makeup; and generally getting into the vintage spirit.

This book is filled with beautiful illustrations as well as gorgeously styled food photos. I really just makes me want to host an afternoon tea every weekend.

Although I wasn’t interested in making every single dish in here, that’s not a measure of success for a book like this. I think even if you didn’t make a single thing, just flipping through it and feeling inspired means it’s done its job.

I love all the personal stories that Angel shares about each recipe too, which makes this almost like a memoir as well as a cookbook. As if someone was teaching you the recipe in person and sharing their background about how they came to know and love it.

I borrowed this book from the library but I am definitely adding it to my wishlist as it would be a great addition to my own cookbook collection.

The Health and Beauty Botanical Handbook by Pip Waller

Books about herbal remedies for health and beauty can be a bit hit and miss for me, but thankfully this book was definitely a hit. It starts with some information about herbs and making herbal recipes, then the recipes themselves, and then a herb dictionary. Although this book doesn’t have any photographs, it’s illustrated beautifully.

One of the reasons I don’t enjoy some herbal books is that the uses for the recipes can be too wild for me, and the ingredients too hard to source. This book hit the sweet spot. As I was reading it, I was making notes of heaps of recipes to try and my shopping list for the herbs and other ingredients seemed reasonable. Each recipe has a little blurb and there are extra notes and cautions throughout the book too. The ingredient dictionary at the end is so helpful for someone like me who isn’t experienced in making herbal remedies. One of the best things about this book is that each recipe lists how long it keeps for, and instructions on how to store, which is great for peace of mind so you know you’re only consuming/using fresh and safe products.

I really liked this book, and found myself inspired to try out some of the recipes and read up about herbs and their healing properties. Although I got this book from the library, I am putting it on my wishlist to purchase for myself once I’ve given a few of the recipes a try.

The Little Pocket Book of Natural Beauty by Karen Gilbert

I love books about making your own natural skincare and beauty products and this one has a lot going for it. It contains heaps of information about the ingredients and processes involved in making natural products, and then step by step recipes, including photographs, showing you what to do.

I liked the sound of many of the recipes in here and I always love when recipe books include a little blurb about each recipe with some extra tips and tricks to making it.

The only downside to this book, and the reason that I didn’t make a note of any recipes to try later, is that some of the information about storage, shelf-life and preservatives is a little vague. Although there is a section on shelf-lives of products, you’re left to make your own assessment about how long each of the products in this book will last, and when a recipe calls for a preservative it just says ‘preservative (according to manufacturer’s instructions).’ As a newbie to making my own products, I felt a little overwhelmed and out of my depth without having more concrete instructions about keeping the products fresh and safe to use.

The Frugal Cook by Fiona Beckett

Perhaps it’s my love of the vintage, especially 40s and 50s, aesthetic that also makes me romanticise old fashioned thrifty cooking. I’m currently a gal on a budget and I was excited to have a look at the recipes in this book, and hopefully whip up some tasty meals without breaking the bank.

Unfortunately, even though I went through the book three times over, I only found 2 recipes that caught my eye. I think this says more about me than the book itself, as I am sure that many of the dishes in here are delicious, they just didn’t capture my attention. I am also partial to styled food photography in my recipe books, and the photographs are few and far between here.

There is some interesting information about thrifty shopping in the front of this book, but it’s fairly standard common sense and not really new to me. This book wasn’t what I was looking for, but I’m glad I was able to get it from the library and have a look through it for myself.

The Joyful Frugalista by Serina Bird

This book is the most recent in a long list of self-improvement books that have not been at all what I was looking for. Like the ones that came before it, I didn’t bother finishing The Joyful Frugalista. It’s as though books about saving money, or tidying up, or not giving a fuck are aimed at people that want to be the absolute best at saving money, or tidying up, or not giving a fuck. I should have known that this book was going in that direction from the tag line, ‘hundreds of secrets from a single mum turned millionaire.’

I’m not interested in draft-proofing my house, calling up utility companies to beg for discounts, or darning my socks to save my way to being a millionaire. I am sure this kind of thing is inspiring to some people, who then go on to make positive changes in their lives, but I find it pretentious, especially when the writers all seem to start from a life of privilege that then comes crashing down suddenly. Oh boo hoo, you lost your fat bank account and investment properties in the recession, or your life as a socialite ended when you split up from your husband, or your high paying job was too stressful so you quit and started your own freelance business and wrote a book about how your high paying job was too stressful so you quit and started your own business and wrote a book about it. What about those people who have done it tough all their lives – a camp I do not put myself in by the way – and have never had a taste of the ‘good life’?

I just wanted some inspo to not buy so many new clothes and take my lunch to work more often. I don’t see myself as, or aspire to be a millionaire in the future and I think that’s why these types of books lose me. Note to self: stop reading these books!

The Woman’s Herbal Apothecary by JJ Pursell

I picked up this book from the library during a work day, and let me tell you, it’s gorgeous! My copy was brand new and it’s just so aesthetically pleasing. I started flicking though it at my desk and it opened to the page on vaginal steaming, and went hilariously downhill from there.

I took offense to JJ Pursell breaking women’s lives into three parts: dawning, living and fulfilment and not even the beautiful illustrations could get me past it. The recipes in here for medical conditions also didn’t sit right with me. I accept that this is just my personal preference, and I am completely on board with herbal concoctions as beauty preparations or for mild afflictions, just not for things that could be life threatening if not properly treated.

If you like the idea of a kindly grandma asking after your menses and recommending a salve for your vaginal fissures, then this is the book for you. It’s informative with easy to follow recipes, and plenty of information about herbs and their uses. This is generally the kind of book I like having around to flick through, usually on the loo, but sadly it was a bit too ‘woo’ for me. Still, if you’re interested in herbal remedies I think it’s worth a look.

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