Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Plan Update - August


Back in January, I  made a plan to try to read through books I owned, and not buy new books until I'd made a substantial reduction in the (unread) books I already had. I've been tracking my progress/recidivism:
  • In January I didn't gain any books, but also didn't remove many titles from my list as I read a lot of library books and had some re-reads. (2 titles removed, 0 added; net result -2)
  • In February, I made bigger inroads in my owned titles (7 titles removed, 1 added; net result -6)
  • In March, well, you win some, you lose some (4 titles removed, 10 titles added; net result +6)
  • In April, better, but not perfect (6 titles removed, 7 added; net result +1)
  • Not too bad in May, either (5 titles removed, 6 added; net result +1)
  • Great inroads in June (11 titles removed, 3 added; net result -8)
  • Well done for July, as well (10 titles removed, 2 added; net result -8)
and so, on to August: 
  • I managed to read 7 titles from my list (Harvest by Jim Crace, Can't Wait to Get to Heaven by Fannie Flagg, Tree Surgery for Beginners by Patrick Gale, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor, Amy Snow by Tracy Rees, Don't Hex with Texas by Shanna Swendson)
  • I started (and abandoned) 1 title from my list, which I just couldn't get into (Circus of Ghosts by Barbara Ewing)
  • I bought 4 books in the Big Waterstones in Piccadilly (Longbourn by Jo Baker, Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson, All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Darkling by Laura Beatty) and three books in the Waterstones in Durham (The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, Us by David Nicholls)
  • I bought 1 book at a church jumble sale (The Mammoth Book of Edwardian and Victorian Ghost Stories) but it's one of those I will dip in and out of, so it won't go on the To be Read shelf.
  • I bought 6 books in charity shops, including some crime fiction, so although they will go on the list, I'm sure it won't be long until at least some of them are read (A Cold Day for Murder and Play with Fire by Dana Stabenow, Abbatoir Blues by Peter Robinson, The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruis Zafon, Only Say the Word by Niall Williams, The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer)
  • I read 2 library books this month (Ratking by Michael Dibdin, Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee)
  • I re-read 5 books I already own (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - as I had ordered Go Set a Watchman from the library I thought I'd re-read Mockingbird, as it's probably been 30 years since I first read it, Sweet Dreams, IreneDear Irene and Remember Me, Irene by Jan Burke (working my way through the series again as I get rid of the books) and The Heroine's Sister by France Murray because it's set in Venice)
August's tally is therefore...
books read: 14
titles removed: 8,  titles added: 13 ; net result +5


Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2015.  There are now 45 books on the list, with 4 months to go - so that's 10 and a half books per month if I buy/receive no more books before the end of the year (unlikely with both a birthday and Christmas to come!) (Books with an asterisk are ones which were on the list at the start of the year.)
  1. Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin (charity shop, March 2015)
  2. Jo Baker, Longbourn (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  3. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones Canterbury bargain bin, July 2015)
  4. Laura Beatty, Darkling (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  5. Charlotte Betts, The Apothecary's Daughter (Waterstones Kingston, March 2015)
  6. Stephen Burke, The Good Italian (Fiumicino Airport, July 2015)
  7. Michael Collins, The Resurrectionists *
  8. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (this one would be a re-read) *
  9. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles *
  10. Anthony Doerr, All the Light we Cannot See (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  11. Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides (Waterstones Kingston, March 2015)
  12. Jim Fergus, One Thousand White Women (Barnes & Noble (in MD), Summer 2013) *
  13. Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall (charity shop, August 2015)
  14. Ford Maddox Ford, Parade's End (Nov 2012 - birthday present - bought after the BBC adaptation - but I knew I wouldn't read it straight away as I wanted to let time pass from the adaptation.  Enough time has probably passed now...) *
  15. E M Forster, Howards End (late 2014) *
  16. Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career *
  17. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (would be a re-read, bought shortly after his death - spring 2014 - as I was reminded how much I enjoyed it and I didn't seem to own a copy - think my old one fell apart, probably...) *
  18. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South *
  19. Graham Greene, Brighton Rock *
  20. Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree (Waterstones Durham, August 2015)
  21. Emma, Healey, Elizabeth is Missing (Waterstones Durham, August 2015)
  22. Smith Henderson, Fourth of July Creek (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  23. Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Waterstones online, June 2015)
  24. Anjali Joseph, Saraswati Park *
  25. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  26. John McGregor, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things (charity shop, April 2015 - will be a re-read as have read it in (apparently) October 2004 for a book group)
  27. Tom McNeal, Goodnight, Nebraska (AbeBooks, March 2015)
  28. Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran *
  29. Patrick Ness, The Crane Wife (charity shop, April 2015)
  30. David Nicholls, Us (Waterstones Durham, August 2015)
  31. Kate O'Brien, The Land of Spices *
  32. Kathy Reichs, Virals (charity shop, March 2015)
  33. Peter Robinson, Abbatoir Blues (charity shop, August 2015)
  34. Anuradha Roy, An Atlas of Impossible Longing (Winter 2013, bought in a cheap shop in Oxford) *
  35. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Prisoner of Heaven (charity shop, August 2015)
  36. Simon Sebag Montefiore, One Night in Winter (Waterstones Piccadilly, not sure of date) *
  37. Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Barnes & Noble (in MD), Summer 2013 - a re-read, as I read it when a teen) *
  38. Dana Stabenow, A Cold Day for Murder (charity shop, August 2015)
  39. Dana Stabenow, Play with Fire (charity shop, August 2015)
  40. Amy Tan, Valley of Amazement *
  41. Andrew Taylor, The Anatomy of Ghosts (passed on from Geoff, April 2015)
  42. Rosie Thomas, The Illusionists (WH Smith, May 2015)
  43. Rose Tremaine, Merivel (Birthday, 2014) *
  44. Barry Unsworth, The Ruby in her Navel  *
  45. Niall Williams, Only Say the Word (charity shop, August 2015)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Book 90: Don't Hex with Texas by Shanna Swendson


The fourth in this cute series. The others don't seem to be readily available in paperback, but I might get them for the kindle (Alex has one; he'll let me borrow it.)  This was my bedtime book for the past few days, but when I finished Go Set a Watchman earlier today  I decided to finish this one off this evening...

Apricot & Plum Shortcake



This is one of those really simple recipes, which is great for using up fruit which is getting past its best. I know the recipe in imperial measures rather than metric because of the fours, but it would be simple to convert:  4oz sugar, 4 oz butter, 4 oz self-raising flour, 4 oz ground almonds, 1 egg. Process in food processor until it forms a rough dough.  Pat half of the dough into a lightly greased small cake tin (I think I use one which is about 6 inches in diameter). Now add a layer of fruit - I think stone fruit works best (stones removed), or perhaps berries - we are partial to plums and I know tonight's shortcake with apricots worked very nicely indeed.  Then put the rest of the dough on top - I usually pat it into thin pieces and patchwork it on the top - it looks like it won't be enough to cover, but it will.  Now, into a moderate oven (Gas 4/180C) for 40 minutes (or so).  And that's that.

Dinner, 30/8/15: Mexican Bake, Crudites





Book 89: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee


Well, there it is - the much touted other book by Harper Lee. I find it very hard to judge this book independently of To Kill a Mockingbird, as it's so entwined with it in many ways. I wasn't shocked and horrified as some people were, by revelations that many of Scout's family and friends had less-than-progressive attitudes about certain aspects of civil rights - after all, the book is set in the deep south; what should we expect? I wasn't even shocked by Scout's discovery that even Atticus isn't perfect - he's a man; what man (and in this instance, I mean "person") IS perfect? My main issue with this book, if I have one at all, is that there's such an assumption of underlying knowledge about history and literature that I found myself, from time to time, feeling like I had no idea what the characters were referring obliquely to. Yes, I could go look stuff up, but that's not the point.  And frankly, I'm a person who knows a lot of literary stuff and usually gets references, more or less [Dorothy L Sayers always makes me feel undereducated in this way...].  In all, I'd say this was an interesting, and yes, valuable, companion piece to To Kill a Mockingbird, especially if one is looking at the literature & history of the South. I have a hard time imagining it standing on it's own, which isn't to say it couldn't - perhaps on its own it's a reasonably solid coming-of-age novel, valuable for that as well as its insights into the South.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dinner, 29/8/15: Paella style rice with chicken and black olives


Altered the recipe on this a little to use less chicken and add chorizo, which we all like. Very easy and yummy - not quite paella, but also, easier to make!



Friday, August 28, 2015

Dinner, 28/8/15: Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs


We've had this before, though not in a while. I added celery and peppers to it, which bulk it out to a proper meal with vegetables, along with the carrots. Very tasty.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Durham Collages


I didn't actually take that many pictures in Durham, as the main things I thought were great to look at were the Cathedral and the Castle, neither of which allowed photos inside. But here are a few from the Botanic Gardens, Oriental Museum and Heritage Centre, as well as some external shots of the Cathedral and Castle, and a shot of the large Lego model they are building of the Cathedral, which was cool, but hard to photograph, as it's behind plastic walls. (Great idea - for £1 you can buy a brick and place it yourself on the current module they are building, which then gets added to the model. Unfortunately, we were there too late and the lego building station had closed. You can read about the project here and see some better photos, though...)


Of course, we did some eating out while we were there - tapas one night, mixed oriental the other, and pizza for a late lunch/early dinner the last day. And of course, there was cooked breakfast at the hotel. Yum!


Also noticed loads of really nice doors around Durham - only have photos of a few - these are all just on the streets, except the top left, which was in the Oriental Museum. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book 88: Amy Snow by Tracy Rees


I took this to Durham with me because I thougt it would be an engrossing story, easy to read on trains, in hotel rooms, etc - and I was right. This was a well written, light, fairly compelling, very readable story (though I wouldn't call it a mystery, as it seemed fairly obvious what much of the secret was) about a young girl found abandoned as a baby in the snow and taking in, reluctantly, by the local Big House - though mainly it's the story of her subsequent friendship with Aurelia, the daughter of the house,  and her journey to find out about herself and her friend after Aurelia's death. Nothing earth shattering, but a good story.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Yes, more books in. I know.


The problem with going into bookshops with one's children is that they encourage you to buy books... One of these is even from the teen section, so I'm sure I can blame it all on the girls...

Book 87: Remember Me, Irene by Jan Burke


Another in the Irene Kelly series, which I read most if on the train today. Once again, good characters, good plotting, good writing...


Monday, August 24, 2015

Dinner, 24/8/15: Panzanella (Tuscan Bread Salad), Lamb Steaks


Panzanella is one of those things I've been meaning to try for a while, and finally got around to.  Verdict: we weren't impressed. The recipe I used was one that soaks the bread, and we just found this made the bread too soggy.  Subsequent research around the interwebs has suggested that there are ways around this, so we might try again with one which either just combines the bread with the juices and dressing in the salad, or just uses a bit of vinegar sprinkled on the bread, or which does pretty much anything else than soak the bread.  The lamb steaks were nice, though.

Books In


Miserable, horrible rainy day today - good day for browsing around charity shops with a teenage daughter... We found a few things - Olivia picked up a couple of shirts and a belt and I got a pair of grey jeans, a denim jacket and of course, a handful of books. All by authors I've read before except The Shock of the Fall, which just sounded good...

Blueberry muffin...in a mug


I recently purchased the book Mug Cakes by Mima Sinclair as a gift for the girls - the idea is you make them in the microwave. They've been testing out a lot of the recipes (with success) and this morning, when I noticed a punnet of blueberries beginning to get a bit old in the fridge, I thought it would be the perfect chance to try for myself. Verdict: Awesome and Easy. I reckon this would be a great present for someone off to university...


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book 86: The Silver Chair, C S Lewis (aloud)


Realised that although Alex and I finished this right at the start of August, I didn't blog it- which means it wasn't in my count. Silly me. This is the penultimate book in the Narnia series, and I don't think I'd read it before, though I've read most of the series (I haven't read the last one, either). Anyway, it was enjoyable, if slightly old-fashioned, which could be said of most of the Narnia books, of course...

Book 85: Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor


The third (and last) in the series; it was very good. Some interesting new characters, and satisfying (more or less) resolutions to some of the issues hanging over the series, as well as some explanations of how certain things came to be in the first place. Hard to say much more without spoilers...

Dinner, 23/8/15: Spiced Indian Sweet Potato Wraps


This was really tasty - we especially liked the contrasts between the sweetness of the potatoes, the spiciness of the spices, the sourness of the pickled onions and the creaminess of the yogurt.  Also easy, so it's definitely a repeater...


Saturday, August 22, 2015