Monday, November 30, 2015

Book Plan Update - November

At the start 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. 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)
  • In August, there was a lot of book-buying (8 titles removed, 13 titles added; net result +5)
  • In September, I didn't read very much - I did read a couple of longish books, but I've just been so busy that not much reading got done (4 titles removed, 4 titles added: net result +/- 0)
  • In October, I read/got rid of slightly more than I bought (8 titles removed, 7 added; net result -1)
How about November: 
  • I  read 2 titles from my list (The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman, One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore)
  • and removed one which I started, but just couldn't get into (The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood)
  • I read 3 library books (Ranger's Apprentice: Ruins of Gurlan by John Flanagan, The Song Collector by Natasha Solmons, Flash and Bones by Kathy Reichs)
  • I re-read two books I already owned, before giving it to the charity shop (Liar and Bones, both by Jan Burke)
  • I bought 1 book from Waterstones online to bring a Christmas present order up to the free shipping level (Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo)
  • I got 3 books as birthday presents (Dreaming Spies by Laurie R King, The Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins, Lisette's List by Susan Vreeland)
November's tally is therefore...
books read: 7
titles removed: 3,  titles added: 4 ; net result +1

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2015.  There are now 45 books on the list, with 1 month to go. That's still a lot of books, but fewer than I started the year with. And are only 11 books on the list were there at the start of the year  [Books with an asterisk].
  1. Jo Baker, Longbourn (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  2. Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows (Waterstones online, November 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. Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead (AbeBooks, October 2015)
  8. Wilkie Collins, The Haunted Hotel (birthday present, November 2015)
  9. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (this one would be a re-read) *
  10. Arthur Conan Doyle, Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (World of Books, October 2015)
  11. Rene Denfield, The Enchanted (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  12. Anthony Doerr, All the Light we Cannot See (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  13. Jeffrey Eugenides, The Virgin Suicides (Waterstones Kingston, March 2015)
  14. Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin (car boot sale, Bristol, Sept 2015)
  15. Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall (charity shop, August 2015)
  16. 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...) *
  17. E M Forster, Howards End (late 2014) *
  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. Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree (Waterstones Durham, August 2015)
  22. Smith Henderson, Fourth of July Creek (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  23. Anjali Joseph, Saraswati Park *
  24. Laurie R King, Dreaming Spies (birthday present, November 2015)
  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. Kim Newman, An English Ghost Story (The Last Bookshop, Brisol, Sept 2015)
  29. David Nicholls, Us (Waterstones Durham, August 2015)
  30. Kate O'Brien, The Land of Spices *
  31. Liliane Paul, The Bees (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  32. Peter Robinson, Abbatoir Blues (charity shop, August 2015)
  33. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Prisoner of Heaven (charity shop, August 2015)
  34. Jane Smiley, Some Luck (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  35. Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Barnes & Noble (in MD), Summer 2013 - a re-read, as I read it when a teen) *
  36. Dana Stabenow, Play with Fire (charity shop, August 2015)
  37. Andrew Taylor, The Anatomy of Ghosts (passed on from Geoff, April 2015)
  38. Rosie Thomas, The Illusionists (WH Smith, May 2015)
  39. Rose Tremaine, Merivel (Birthday, 2014) *
  40. Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread (World of Books, October 2015)
  41. Barry Unsworth, The Ruby in her Navel  *
  42. Susan Vreeland, Lisette's List (birthday present, November 2015)
  43. William Wharton, Birdy (The Last Bookshop, Bristol, Sept 2015)
  44. Niall Williams, Only Say the Word (charity shop, August 2015)
  45. Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A J Firky (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Dinner, 29/11/15: Roast Chicken, Roast Potatoes, Stuffing, Red Brussels Sprouts

A slightly late homage to Thanksgiving, though without any serious intent...

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Book 110: Bones by Jan Burke

After not being able to get into my previous book (The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood*) despite several attempts, I decided to head back to something I knew would catch my attention. I'm nearly caught up with these now - I have three more, and I think there are only one or two beyond that. An excellent serial killer type story, with good development (as usual) of both the plot and the characters.

*I seem to have trouble with Margaret Atwood - some of her books I love, others I just can't get into. This, unfortunately, was one of the latter.

Dinner, 28/11/15: Vegetable Curry

...and a big stack of poppadoms...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book 109: Flash and Bones, Kathy Reichs

Another in the Temperence Brennan, forensic anthropologist series. This one centres (sort of) around NASCAR racing, about which I know nothing, but it didn't matter. Very readable, if not particularly distinguished.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book 108: Liar by Jan Burke

This is a re-read, though it's been a while since I read it, and I didn't really remember most of it (which is fine!). In making space on my bookcases recently, I decided to get rid of this series, but only after re-reading it, which I've been really enjoying. I can't imagine I'd read them a third time, though, so it will be nice to have the space - and perhaps someone else will find one in a charity shop and really enjoy the series, and the author will have a new fan.

This one is a nice, solid story, skillfully plotted, with well-drawn characters, even the minor ones. I always enjoy this series.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Dinner, 22/11/15: Cottage Pie

Because my actual birthday was a Thursday (a day on which we rarely eat together as a family due to a number of committments for everyone except Geoff), it wasn't practical for Geoff to cook a birthday meal then - so he did it today, when Alex and I were out for a good chunk of the day doing some Christmas shopping at a large mall with a Lego Store (Westfield Stratford City).  For various reasons, Geoff is doing more cooking lately, so there are many nights on which I don't cook, but it's still lovely to have another one - especially when you've been out shopping for several hours (not to mention the travel across London)...

Birthday goodies

Goodies from friends and family - admittedly, it's not about the presents (I'd be happy to have my friends over with no presents at all), but the presents are a nice addition!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Annual Birthday Feast

All kinds of goodies this year (all vegetarian, as two vegetarian friends were attending) - Yotam Ottolenghi's Quinoa Cakes, which I made recently for the family, a Butter Bean Stew, Halloumi Stuffed Peppers, a Lentil Shepherd's Pie, Broccoli Casserole and Roasted Squash with Pumpkin Seeds & Fenugreek (also Ottolenghi). 

and for pudding - a cherry and blueberry clafoutis and pumpkin pie. With homemade vanilla ice cream, of course.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Books in

A few books in, as it's my birthday...  The one below wasn't a birthday present, just a book from my list, ordered to top up a Waterstone's order of something else to make it to the free postage mark (and technically it came in the post yesterday, but who's counting...). The top three are birthday gifts - the Laurie King is the latest in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series (about the 12th or 13th, I think); the Susan Vreeland is her newest (I've read all the others) and the Wilkie Collins, in addition to being Wilkie Collins, is set in Venice, apparently...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book 107: The Song Collector by Natasha Solomons

This was one I picked up off the display shelf at the library, and it was a really enjoyable read, family relations, music, more family relations, betrayal, happiness, death, music and various other things. And all around good novel. 

Dinner, 18/11/15: Sausages, Jacket Potatoes, Chard

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Dinner, 15/11/15: Chicken Pie, Braised Chard with Lentils, Roast New Potatoes. Chocolate Tart

Book 106: Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan

This one was an incidental read: we started it as a class book, but aren't going to finish it (the teacher read half to try to get kids interested in what happens next, and pick up the book themselves...). I wanted to know what happened, so I grabbed a library copy and read it in a few hours.  It's juvenile fiction, but decently written and I can see the appeal, especially for boys of a certain age. And now I know how it comes out - the first one at least.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Dinner, 14/11/15: Five Spice Beef and Sugar Snap Noodles


Book 105: One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore

A great historical novel, set in (just) post war Russia, full of intrigue (sort of) and terror. Is what originally appears to be a rather silly teen Romantics Club actually an anti-Bolshevik plot by the children of top Soviet officials or are the Powers that Be just paranoid psychopathic egomaniacs who use appalling methods to keep the people firmly under their thumb? Whatever the answer, you'll certainly be glad you didn't live in Russia in the late 40s. Compelling story with excellent historical detail, based (loosely) on some actual historical incidents and peppered with real characters, this is a definite recommendation for those who like their historical fiction to be realistic.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dinner, 13/11/15: Chicken with Black Bean Sauce

A Ken Hom recipe which I've made many times before. We really like this - not only is it tasty and quick and healthy, but the chicken stays really moist, which is lovely. 

Monday, November 09, 2015

Dinner, 9/11/15: Spanakopita Lasagne

Another make ahead dish, which we've had before. As you might imagine, this is a cross between a spanakopita (Greek spinach pie) and a lasagne, but it works nicely. I made it up (or rather, Sarah did most of the work) yesterday and then we cooked it tonight, so it took almost no prep time on the night. Ate with the leftover salad from last night.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Dinner, 8/11/15: Mexican Bean and Tortilla Bake

We've had this before, but it's a nice, easy, cheap, tasty dinner, especially when paired with some salad and other sides, like bread, etc. Healthy, too, despite the cheese topping, as it's largely made up of beans. I used a lot more than in the recipe, but the basic idea is there (I think I used 5 tins in total, but there will be 1 or 2 servings left for lunch as well as feeding five of us for dinner).

Spiced Apple Cake; Plum Shortcake

A couple of bakes today - baking in my house often happens when there is fruit which wants to be used up.  But I've resolved to bake more because it doesn't really take that long, and it's nice to have fresh stuff in the house.  The main issue will be not to eat too much of it, of course!  This one is a spiced toffee apple cake, except I didn't do the toffee part. Recipe is from Good Food Magazine online.

And this one is my usual plum shortcake, the easiest cake ever...

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Dinner, 4/11/15: Lamb Curry, Okra

Geoff cooking today - used the leftover lamb from the roast on Sunday to do a lovely lamb curry, which fed 4 of us tonight and will leave lunch for both Geoff and me tomorrow. Awesome!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Book 104: The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman

I've read pretty much all of Alice Hoffman's books, and most of them I enjoy, though sometimes I feel like they are a bit similar in elements. This one was quite different, and the better for it. There are still elements of magic and otherwordliness, but much more realism, with some nice historical context as well. 

Monday, November 02, 2015

Dinner, 2/11/15: Roast Beetroot Soup

From the freezer - made a few weeks ago when there was some extra beetroot from the farmers' market.  There are some other roast veg in the soup as well - carrots, onions - but the beetroot pretty much overwhelms everything. 

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Dinner, 1/11/15: Roast leg of lamb with mint and basil pesto; layered thyme potatoes

Book 103: Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

I read most of this, though I confess, not quite all of it. I enjoyed parts of it very much; it painted an interesting picture about the Revolution in Iran and how different women with different religious and political beliefs coped with that life. In parts, I found it a bit disjointed, jumping about in time back and forth, which I appreciate is often the nature of memoirs - that they are often episodic with incidents sparked by association rather than by chronology. And part of the problem was that I hadn't read all of the books mentioned (primarily Lolita; some of the others I am familiar enough with the work of the author in general that discussion of a book, even if I hadn't read that precise text, was ok - e.g. Henry James). But on the whole, an interesting, enjoyable read.