Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Book Plan Update - June

Back at the beginning of 2015, 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. Here's the scoop
  • 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)

and in June? 
  • I managed to read 11 titles from my list (All Bones and Lies by Anne Fine, Bloody Bones by Laurell K Hamilton, Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman,  The House of Sight and Shadow by Nicholas Griffin, The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch. The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale, The Twin by Gerhand Bakker, Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden, Damsel Under Stress by Shanna Swendson, The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly) 
  • I removed one book from my list after trying a bit of it and not really getting into it (The Door by Magda Szabo)
  • I bought 1 book from a charity shop (an emergency purchase when I was caught somewhere with a spare hour and no book - but I read it right away so it didn't even get added to the list!)
  • I bought two books from Waterstones online - an "emergency" purchase after I realised that what I thought was the second book in a series was actually the third, and I needed to get ahold of the second... (The other book being required to hit the free-shipping-over-£10)
  • I read 1 and a bit  library books this month (a bit of Dark Aemilia by Sally O'Reilly, all of Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson)
  • I re-read one book we own (Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor) to remind myself of it before reading the sequel.

June's tally is therefore...
books read: 13
titles removed: 11,  titles added: 3; net result -8

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2015.  There are now 48 books on the list, with 6 months to go -  8 books per month if I don't read anything else or buy anything else (which isn't going to happen, let's face it).
  1. Isabel Allende, City of Beasts (charity shop, March 2015)
  2. Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin (charity shop, March 2015)
  3. Charlotte Betts, The Apothecary's Daughter (Waterstones, March 2015)
  4. Jessie Burton, The Miniaturist (Mother's Day 2015)
  5. Michael Collins, The Resurrectionists
  6. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (this one would be a re-read)
  7. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
  8. Jim Crace, Harvest
  9. Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides (Waterstones, March 2015)
  10. Barbara Ewing, Circus of Ghosts  (charity shop, April 2015)
  11. Jim Fergus, One Thousand White Women (Summer 2013)
  12. Fannie Flagg, Can't Wait to get to Heaven (Feb 2015, charity shop)
  13. 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...)
  14. E M Forster, Howards End (late 2014)
  15. Karen Joy Fowler, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Christmas 2014)
  16. Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career
  17. Patrick Gale, Tree Surgery for Beginners (charity shop, April 2015)
  18. 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...)
  19. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South
  20. Graham Greene, Brighton Rock
  21. Jane Haddam, Glass Houses
  22. Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Waterstones online, June 2015)
  23. Anjali Joseph, Sarasawati Park
  24. Marina Lewycka, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian (charity shop, April 2015)
  25. W Somerset Maugham, The Magician
  26. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  27. 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)
  28. Tom McNeal, Goodnight, Nebraska (AbeBooks, March 2015)
  29. Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
  30. Patrick Ness, The Crane Wife (charity shop, April 2015)
  31. Kate O'Brien, The Land of Spices
  32. Tracy Rees, Amy Snow (WH Smith, May 2015)
  33. Kathy Reichs, Spider Bones
  34. Kathy Reichs, Virals (charity shop, March 2015)
  35. Anuradha Roy, An Atlas of Impossible Longing (Winter 2013, bought in a cheap shop in Oxford)
  36. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Watcher in the Shadows (Christmas 2014)
  37. Simon Sebag Montefiore, One Night in Winter (Waterstones Piccadilly, not sure of date)
  38. Mark Slouka, The Visible World
  39. Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Summer 2013 - a re-read, as I read it when a teen)
  40. Shanna Swendson,  Don't Hex with Texas (Abe Books, May 2015)
  41. Amy Tan, The Valley of Amazement
  42. Andrew Taylor, The Anatomy of Ghosts (passed on from Geoff, April 2015)
  43. Laini Taylor, Days of Blood and Starlight (Waterstones online, June 2015)
  44. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor (Waterstones, March 2015)
  45. Rosie Thomas, The Illusionists (WH Smith, May 2015)
  46. Rose Tremaine, Merivel (Birthdy, 2014)
  47. Barry Unsworth, The Ruby in her Navel 
  48. December, Elizabeth Winthrop

Monday, June 29, 2015

Book 62: Kingfishers Catch Fire by Rumer Godden

Another of Godden's India books. Like the other I've read (Black Narcissus) this is poignantly drawn; a portrait of someone touching and endearing and at the same time, desperately, worryingly naive and headed for disaster. These books are beautifully written, and while a bit old fashioned, not in a bad way. 

Dinner, 29/6/15: Greek Salad with Chicken

I was going to cook something else tonight, but decided it was too hot to want hot food, so I grabbed some lettuce, feta and olives from my local (Middle Eastern) grocers and threw in some tomatoes and cucumber from the fridge, along with a couple of cooked chicken breasts. Hey presto: summer dinner. And lots for lunch tomorrow, too.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Book 61: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

This was great - kind of a fairy tale for grownups. I picked this up in the charity shop to read when I got caught out without a book and was really glad I did as I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dinner, 24/6/15: Penne with Sausage, Fennel and Garlic

One we've had before, which is very tasty and quick for a post-work, pre-activities supper. This time instead of the creme fraiche I used up a combination of small amounts of creamy things we had in the fridge - a little creme fraiche, a little sour cream and half a pot of mascarpone... Worked fine!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dinner, 23/6/15: Mexican Bean Soup


We all really liked this - doesn't show to best effect, but with the garnishes of avocado, lightly pickled onions, sour cream and tortilla chips, it was very nice. The bird is what's at the bottom of the bowl - he doesn't get a look-in very often as he's usually covered in soup!

Stranger in the Garden


Here's one we don't get often in the garden - a green woodpecker. The other kind comes to the feeder a lot, but the green ones like to feed on the ground, and though they can often be seen leaving the fields behind our house when you are walking back there, they don't come in the garden so much. They like the short grass (they love to eat ants) and Geoff mowed today, so perhaps that's why this fella came along...

Monday, June 22, 2015

Dinner, 22/6/15: Cheddar and Mushroom Omelette, Green Beans

Books In


A couple of "emergency" purchases...  The left hand book I picked up today in a charity shop because I ran some errands between work and getting my hair cut and I still had about 45 minutes to kill - and no book!  Can't have a leisurely coffee with no book... I actually bought 3 books in the charity shop - one for Geoff (a PG Wodehouse) and one which was a shelf copy of a book I've read (from the library ages ago) but have been wanting to own a copy of (The Passion of Artemesia by Susan Vreeland) - so it was a bumper day for that shop. Those two don't count on my list, though, as they aren't going on my TBR shelf. Neither is the Connolly, really, as I started it right away and will carry on with it until it's finished (which shouldn't take long - it seems very readable).

The two on the right I ordered online because I thought I had the second book in the Laini Taylor trilogy at home. In fact, I even re-read the first one in preparation for reading the second. I picked it up to look at it while re-reading the first and realised that what I thought was the second was actually the THIRD - oops!  So I needed to pick up the second, pronto. The Alice Hoffman is a book from my buy list which I got because Waterstones does free UK shipping if you spend at least £10...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book 60: Damsel Under Stress by Shanna Swendson

By the time I got back from the quilt show today, I was totally exhausted (what with the trip to Warwick yesterday, too) so I put aside the other book I'm reading at the moment and really got into this - I had started it as a bedtime book, so had already read a few chapters. Cute and fun, like the previous two in the series and continuing to stay clever without wearing out the premise. I only have one more - haven't been able to find the rest of the series in the UK, but will keep looking...

Dinner, 21/6/15: Slow Cooked Minted Shoulder of Lamb

We've had this before and it's just gorgeous. Great one for the slow-cooker!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Book 59: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (re-read)

Re-read this to remind myself of the details before moving on to the other two books in the series (I have what I thought was the second; apparently it was the third, so I've ordered in number two...). Still very good - I really enjoyed it the first time and still enjoyed it, even though I knew one of the main elelements. It's an interesting world that the author has drawn, and the main characters are unusual and full of depth; I look forward to seeing what happens in the rest of the trilogy. Watch this space!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Dinner, 17/6/15: Chorizo, Olive & Rocket Penne

Book 58: The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker

This was a very spare, slightly odd story, quite short and a little very detached. I thought the writing (translation) lovely, and was curious to see where the story went - it starts from an odd sort of mid-point in the main character's life, which is somewhat unusual (thought not by any means unheard of). There are few characters, and most of them don't say (or do) much, but at the same time, it's very compelling in a way I find hard to describe. I am not at all familiar with the region of The Netherlands in which the book is set (nor, indeed, any region of The Netherlands) but I can imagine that the feel of the book suits that region; it seems like it would from the description in the book - flat, watery, isolated. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book 57: Bloody Bones by Laurell K Hamilton

Part of the Anita Blake, vampire hunter series. Been a while since I read any in this series, and while I liked this ok (it was my bedtime book for a while), I'm a bit out of touch with this particular vampire world, so it was less compelling than it might have been years ago when I was really into the series. I probably won't read any more (kept getting how it worked crossed in my mind with other supernatural series, like Sookie Stackhouse)...

Monday, June 15, 2015

Dinner, 15/6/15: Warm salad of chicken, bacon and peas

Nice. The salad of watercress, rocket and spinach in particular added some nice flavour to this. The recipe recommended new potatoes on the side; I threw them in the salad with good effect.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Book 56: The Whole Day Through by Patrick Gale

A short one from this author, whose works I always enjoy. Based around the action of one day (though recounting things from other days both recent and long past) it's the story of two old lovers who meet again in middle-age when both return to their home town to care for family members. As usual with Gale, the story addresses a number of issues about family, loyalty, love, and so forth.

Dinner, 14/6/15: Roast Pork, Roast Potatoes, Spring Greens

Book 55: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Often, when I put a book aside because I don't like it, I'll turn straight away to something I know I'll be happy with; this was the case with yesterday's lack of success; I immediately picked up this one and read at least 100 pages yesterday evening - great plot, very readable, I like the characters (or at least, the ones you are supposed to like) and I think it's a quicker starter than the first in the series. Having little else to do this evening (technically yesterday evening, by now), I stayed up until it was finished. I'm a night owl by nature anyway...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Dinner, 13/6/15: Courgettes stuffed with Orzo

The recipe was for marrow, but the supermarket didn't have one today, so I used courgettes - I will do this again in the summer when I see a marrow, though, as it was very nice. Quite a gentle flavour, despite all the sundried tomatoes (might actually put a few more in next time - not sure I used the 10 in the recipe) and the yogurt/egg topping wasn't too eggy, just added a nice bit of creaminess to it.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Dinner, 12/6/15: Roasted Butternut Squash salad with soy balsamic dressing

A loaf of bread, a roasted butternut squash salad, and thou... ?  OK, maybe and a plum shortcake!  A tried and true recipe here, and as my 12YO pointed out, something we "always" have when people come to lunch... not always, but yes, certainly sometimes!  A good one for feeding vegetarians (or even vegans, though there's a tiny bit of honey in the dressing, which you could easily sub to a different sweetener).

Book 54 1/2: Dark Aemilia by Sally O'Reilly

Only read about 50 pages of this; it sounded promising but it just didn't appeal - a bit too sexy/sensational, perhaps. Whatever. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Book 54: Not the End of the World by Kate Atkinson

I'm very fond of Kate Atkinson's writing, which is why I took a chance on this (loosely connected) collection of short stories - I'm not usually a short story fan, for various reasons, most of which are probably inconsistent and ill-defined*.  These were intriguing, with allusions to and inclusions of classical mythology, and leaving many questions unanswered. One which would definitely need several readings to feel you'd really cracked (possibly more). Still not entirely convinced about short stories, though.

*One of my main issues is that when I like a character or scenario, I want more. Short stories leave me feeling like a piece of music ending with an imperfect cadence...

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Dinner, 9/6/15: Broccoli Pesto Pasta

The squashed broccoli makes a nice pesto for the pasta, with or without cheese. Easy & tasty...

Monday, June 08, 2015

Dinner, 8/6/15: Black Bean Burritos

Had some leftover feta cheese this time, so used that instead of the usual cheddar - fresh tasting, but it worked. We were all hungry, and could easily have eaten another tin of beans (note to self: use 3 in future), so I used more cheese (and some leftover ham) to make some quesadillas after these were gone...

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Book 53: The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch

This was a great book - quite short, a sort of coming of age type story, with a lot about marine life and environmental issues (a bit). A young teenage boy finds a giant squid washed up in the bay near his home in the Pacific northwest; this is the story of what happens next - along with the story of his various friends (he's a bit of an outsider, so his friends are extremely various), over the course of his summer. I really enjoyed it. And yes, I did read it in more or less a single day - but then again, I did spend over 7 hours on trains over the course of the weekend!