Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book in...sort of

Bought this in a bookshop in Venice for obvious won't go on my reading shelf, though, it will get read (or at least read at) straight away...

Book 71: City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende

 This was a little disappointing. The story was good but the writing was not what I'd expect from Allende. I know the book is aimed at a younger audience, but in simplifying, I think she lost a bit of the magic her writing usually contains. The story is a good one, though, so not a bad read, just not quite as satisfying as I'd hoped.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Book 70: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

This was great. Not really sure quite how I'd describe it, but the story was gripping, with interesting, well drawn characters who don't always act the way you might expect. Might have more to say later, when I'm on an actual keyboard and not my phone, which is annoying to type long things on...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dinner, 21/7/15: Pork, Hoisin & Spinach Stiry Fry

This was ok, but not as good as I expected it to be. I think we were a little low on hoisin sauce, which probably didn't help.

Book 69: Clariel by Garth Nix

The long-awaited fourth book in the Abhorsen series - this one is a prequel, set many hundreds of years before the action of the other three, and explains a few things mentioned vaguely in Lirael (I think). Most of the characters are, of course, not familiar ones (though with magical creatures, all normal bets are off). This book deals with a young girl called Clariel, a member of the royal family/Abhorsen family (though not an immediate heir in either line), unhappy at moving to the city from her beloved forest, the plots and machinations of a political figure in the absence of a strong ruling king and of course, various magic both Free and Charter. I thought it very good, though perhaps without quite the strength of the other three. My husband felt that it lacked some of the detailed stuff about magic, the charter and so on which runs through the other books (especially Lirael and Abhorsen), but then he's male and men tend to like all that "let's-explain-the-heck-out-of-how-the-magical-world-i've-established-works" stuff better than women, which is why you don't find nearly as many women reading stuff like, for instance, the Silmarillion.  I just thought it was a very good fantasy which fit well into the established world and addressed some of the questions and issues raised in the other books. Though not entirely.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Dinner, 20/7/15: Lemon Chicken and Artichoke Pasta

Used the leftover roast chicken instead of fresh chicken; didn't have any fresh parsley, so I used dried. Geoff thought it might be nice with olives added as well (as Sarah pointed out, what pasta dish isn't improved by the addition of olives?)...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dinner, 19/7/15: Roast Chicken, Roast Potatoes, Swiss Chard

Book 68: The Visible World by Mark Slouka

This beautifully written novel is an account of a member of the Czech Resistance movement during WWII and her life and family afterwards - sort of. Beginning with her son  in the US much later, the story begins to explore her pervasive sadness/depression, which centres around a lover from the days of the War. As we see his boyhood, then learn more about her and her experiences when he as a grown man travels to the Czech Republic & other surrounding bits of Europe, the story of her involvement with a (fictional) member of Operation Anthropoid (a real event*) and the aftermath of that, the reasons for her lifelong struggle with life begin to become clear. Although we know it won't come out well from quite early on, I didn't work out where it was really going until right at the end.  I really enjoyed this; in addition to introducing me to a part of history I knew very little about - I know lots of stuff about WWII, but this is an aspect not really focused on (unless, presumably, you are from the former Czechoslovakia...).  

This book is a super example to promote my belief in the importance of reading fiction.  Yes, it's beautiful writing, and yes, it was interesting, but even more importantly than that, a book like this gives you the chance to be inside someone else's experience and help you understand what it was like in that time, situation and experience. If everyone had the ability to have empathy for others, the world would be a better place; fiction is a great way to build empathy.

*Operation Arthropoid was the (successful) plot by the Czech government-in-exile and the British Special Operations Executive to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Nazi security services and Hitler's leader in Bohemia and Moravia.  In reprisal, Hitler had thousands and thousands of unconnected citizens arrested and killed, and destroyed whole villages on mere rumours of their involvement. It's fascinating, and horrible - look it up, even if you don't read this book!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dinner, 15/7/15: Prawn Curry

Book 67: Goodnight, Irene by Jan Burke

A re-read - I've had this series on my shelf (except the most recent two or three) for years because I really enjoyed it and thought I might re-read it someday, and finally, deciding I needed more space on that bookcase, I decided the time had come for a re-read of the series, and catching up with the two most recent ones, which I haven't read. I always like to have something readable and not-too taxing, but still excellently written on hand for when my brain is a little tired, and this fits the bill perfectly.  The story is well done, and the characters well-drawn and believeable.  I'll look forward to going back through the series over the next few months, on the way to the new ones.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Monday, July 13, 2015

Book 66: The Magician by W. Somerset Maugham

An engrossing story of the a young woman, Margaret, and her fiance, in Paris at the turn of the century. They meet a gross occultist, Oliver Haddo (apparently modelled on the English occultist Aleister Crowley) and events ensue, with Arthur and Haddo fighting and in revenge, Haddo enslaving Margaret to his "charms".  I won't spoil the ending by revealing what happens, but I did find this very readable, for the most part, and was interested to see how it would come (not quite as I expected, I admit). 

Dinner, 13/7/15: Crispy Filo Tart with Seasonal Veg

Kind of like a quiche, only with filo pastry. Excellent except the filo slumped down at the edges, making it a bit thick; next time I will use a different pan/tray. Not sure what, but different.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dinner, 12/7/15: Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Corn on the Cob, Curly Fries - oh and Strawberry Tart!

Pulled pork is all the rage at the moment; seems to be everywhere. This is the first time I've made it myself, though - wanted something summery to test my new slow-cooker (old one finally got on my nerves too much - the temperature dial has been falling off for years and the knob finally broke, along with the handle to the lid - still had a load of John Lewis vouchers from class presents end of last year, so I thought it was time to invest in a new one!).

And a strawberry tart, because I can't believe it's July and I'm only just making the first one of the year - you can tell I haven't been home much on weekends this summer!