Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Plan Update - July

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)
  • Great inroads in June (11 titles removed, 3 added; net result -8)
which brings us to July
  • I managed to read 9 titles from my list (Spider Bones by Kathy Reichs, Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor, The Magician by Somerset Maugham, The Visible World by Mark Slouka, The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton, City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka, Glass Houses by Jane Haddam and The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon) 
  • I bought one book from a bargain bin outside Waterstones in Canterbury (The Brothers Boswell by Philip Baruth)
  • I bought two books in the airport in Rome (By Its Cover by Donna Leon and The Good Italian by Stephen Burke), one of which I read straight away in the airport and on the plane to London (thanks to a 3 hour delay), so I'm not even adding it to the list.
  • I read 1  library book this month (The Surgeon of Crowthorne by Simon Winchester)
  • I re-read a book from my bookshelf (Goodnight Irene by Jan Burke) - been saving this crime fiction series in case I wanted to read them again, and decided I needed to make space on the shelves, so I'm going to re-read them in order and get rid of them as I go... plus there's three or so I haven't read, so I'll have to get ahold of those!)
  • I read two books we already own which weren't on my list (Alex's bedtime book, The Silver Chair by C S Lewis (ok, we aren't quite done with this, but it's nearly finished, so I've counted it in July)  and Clariel by Garth Nix)
  • I removed one title from my list because in entering all my old read books onto GoodReads I realised that the reason it always sounds familiar when I read the blurb was that I'd read it before (December by Elizabeth Winthrop)

July's tally is therefore...
books read: 14
titles removed: 10,  titles added: 2; net result -8

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2015.  There are now 40 books on the list, with 5 months to go - so that's 8 books per month excluding any additions which might sneak in there (as if!)...
  1. Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin (charity shop, March 2015)
  2. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones bargain bin, July 2015)
  3. Charlotte Betts, The Apothecary's Daughter (Waterstones, March 2015)
  4. Stephen Burke, The Good Italian (Fiumicino Airport, July 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 (Barnes & Noble (in MD), 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. Alice Hoffman, The Museum of Extraordinary Things (Waterstones online, June 2015)
  22. Anjali Joseph, Saraswati Park
  23. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  24. 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)
  25. Tom McNeal, Goodnight, Nebraska (AbeBooks, March 2015)
  26. Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
  27. Patrick Ness, The Crane Wife (charity shop, April 2015)
  28. Kate O'Brien, The Land of Spices
  29. Tracy Rees, Amy Snow (WH Smith, May 2015)
  30. Kathy Reichs, Virals (charity shop, March 2015)
  31. Anuradha Roy, An Atlas of Impossible Longing (Winter 2013, bought in a cheap shop in Oxford)
  32. Simon Sebag Montefiore, One Night in Winter (Waterstones Piccadilly, not sure of date)
  33. Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Barnes & Noble (in MD), Summer 2013 - a re-read, as I read it when a teen)
  34. Shanna Swendson,  Don't Hex with Texas (Abe Books, May 2015)
  35. Amy Tan, The Valley of Amazement
  36. Andrew Taylor, The Anatomy of Ghosts (passed on from Geoff, April 2015)
  37. Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Waterstones, March 2015)
  38. Rosie Thomas, The Illusionists (WH Smith, May 2015)
  39. Rose Tremaine, Merivel (Birthdy, 2014)
  40. Barry Unsworth, The Ruby in her Navel 

A day (part of one!) in Portsmouth Harbour

After a fiasco with trains (due to a fire, then having to be completely re-routed), Alex and I finally ended up in Portsmouth for our day out - luckily, we have been before and were using a repeat ticket, rather than hoping to spend a full day there, as we only had a few hours left by the time we actually got there...

We were able to take a harbour cruise, though

which we hadn't done before (and nice weather for it!)

and to go on the submarine, which we also hadn't done before - though we didn't have time for the sub museum. Maybe someday!

We also went up the Spinnaker tower to look at the views

which were pretty good!

and Alex braved the glass floor...

Then over to Gunwharf Quays for some much needed refreshment and a little shopping. And home again (trains a little silly, but nothing like the three hour delay on the way down...).

Book 75: The Watcher in the Shadows by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

This is one of the young adult books Zafon wrote early on in his career, and it's a good, gripping story. As with the Isabel Allende I read recently, it suffers slightly from being not as complex and multilayered as the same author's adult books, but it's still a good, creepy story.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dinner, 30/7/15: Roasted Vegetable and Lentil Salad

Home again, and cooking again...

Book 74: By Its Cover by Donna Leon

I always enjoy books in this series, though  I did think this one was a bit shorter and lighter than some of them. I picked it up in the airport in Rome while waiting for a flight home to London, and particularly enjoyed being able to picture much of the setting in my mind, as it's the first I've read since actually having visited Venice - I look forward to finding more of the books I haven't ready (this is, apparently, no 23 - I reckon there must be at least 5 or 6 I haven't read!) and enjoying the Venetian setting as well as the plot & characters...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Books In...

Well, when you are stuck in an airport for an extra three hours, you get a little desperate...  I had been wanting to read another Donna Leon because they are set in Venice, but the bookshop in Venice didn't have any I was sure I hadn't read (there are over 20 in this series, and I've read most but not all of them) - but the airport bookshop had a couple, including this one, which is pretty new. I finished it on the plane, so it's not going on my list. The other one can go on the list, though...

Book 73: Glass Houses by Jane Haddam

I've read most (or possibly all) of the books in this series (the Gregor Demarkian series), and they are very good, solid detective stories. Some more engaging than others. I had a fair idea where this one was going to end up (and I was mostly right) but it didn't matter, as the characters were still interesting and the plot reasonably so.

Last morning in Italy

Our last day here - flight home is in the evening, so plenty of time to do something in the morning. On the itinerary - the Castel Sant' Angelo. Followed by a stroll across the Tevere (Tiber) towards the Pantheon to hit Giolitti's (best ice cream in Rome) for a second time before heading home, then catching a bus back to the hotel to chill in the a/c before collecting our bags and heading to the airport.

Strolled down a great street between the Pantheon and picking up the bus at the Largo de Torre Argentina - this picture would be perfect if not for that rubbish bin -is it cheating to Photoshop it out?

(And here's the Largo de Torre Argentina - it's ruins of four Roman temples and Pompey's theatre, apparently.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

All the archaeology today

Today we travelled down to just south of Naples to Pompeii and Herculaneum - we hadn't booked tours in advance as we weren't sure whether we'd have time or not, but in the end, we decided it was something we really wanted to do, and it was easy enough to get a train on the day. Both were really impressive and interesting, though Sarah and I both preferred Herculaneum (Ercolano), which is better organised, more compact and more intimate feeling. Pompeii was impressive, but it's absolutely huge, and overwhelming and there are lots of bits which are just fenced off and you can't really see them. I wouldn't say not to go there, but if you don't have time for both, I'd recommend Herculaneum over Pompeii... But maybe that's just me.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Early Start (but worth it)

Most of our holiday, we didn't book in advance, preferring to decide on the day or the day before what we wanted to do.... The one exception was booking an early entry to the Vatican. We had to meet at around 7.15am, but the good thing was that we were the second group to be let into the Vatican museums, an hour and a half before it opened to the public. Which meant there were only about 100 people in the Sistine Chapel while we were trying to see it, rather than a billionty seven, which is how many people are there the rest of the time...

After our time at the Vatican, we went back to the hotel for the middle of the day, then headed out later to the Spanish Steps, Keats & Shelly House and the Hard Rock Cafe for a meal.

And finally, we met up with Sarah's friend Priyanka, who just happened to be in Rome for a few day overlapping us - we went for an ice cream with her and her dad...

Book 72: A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka

This was ok, but not as funny as it thought it was. I enjoyed learning about some of the history of the Ukrainian resistance, etc, and didn't really dislike the book, but just  constantly got the feeling that it was trying just a little too hard.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Roman Holiday

Spent most of the day at the Forum, Palatine Hill and the Colosseum - great tip from several friends - go to the Forum first, get your ticket there (it's for all three), then skip the mondo queue at the Colosseum.  Queue at the Forum was about 10 minutes. Queue at the Colosseum was about 2 hours...

Later we walked all over the place, into Trastravere, and many other bits of Rome. Then we went back to the hotel and collapsed!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Arrivederci Venezia; Buona Sera, Roma

After a last breakfast in the lovely courtyard at our hotel, it was off to Murano to look at the Glass Museum

and then, a long (but nicely airconditioned) train ride down to Rome...

It was fairly late when we got in, but we still had a stroll over to the Trevi Fountain (such as it is - undergoing serious renovations at the moment), tossed a coin in, and grabbed a slice of pizza for a late supper...

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.

Friday, July 24, 2015

More Things Venetian

More exploring, including the Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, recommended by a friend (and totally worth it), the Ponte Rialto and environs (not shown)

and then the Museum of the 18th Century (Ca' Rezzonico), which we both really enjoyed. 

After dinner, we went to a concert at La Fenice (the opera house - though not in the main opera house) and then had cocktails at Harry's Bar. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Thursday in Venice

In the morning we queued for the Basilica

and went to the Doge's Palace.

Then wandered various streets, and basically prowled around. Venice is good for prowling - it's all completely scenic.

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...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Arriving in Venice

Only blogging a few photos a day from my Italy trip - most of them are going into an album on Facebook - if you want to see them, that's the place to look!

A view from the water bus as we came into Venice, around towards San Marco.

View from the Ponte Accademia

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.