Thursday, December 31, 2015

Book 116: Bones of the Lost, Kathy Reichs

Another in the Tempe Brennan series, very low-effort reading, perfect for lounging around. Technically, I have a couple of chapters to finish tomorrow morning, but I'm counting it as my final reading of 2015.

Dinner, 31/12/15: Roast Saddle of Lamb, Roast Potatoes, Green Beans

Book Plan 2015 - Review

Back at the start of the year, I decided I was going to try to read my way through the books I have on my To Be Read Shelf and not buy so many other books, even from charity shops, etc. I've had mixed results from month to month in 2015 - some months I've bought/been given/otherwise acquired no books or almost none; others have not been so successful. I have, however, managed to read a number of books - and my TBR list is smaller than it was overall, as well (though I admit, only slightly, thanks to a massive influx of books in December!).

In January, there were 57 books on the list - of those books, there are now only 10 on the list, which means I've read or tried to read  almost 50 of the books I started with. That's pretty good, I reckon.

Of course, I've added more books as well - and read some of them already, and some not yet.

Because I like the whole numbers thing, here are some possibly interesting figures:

Number of books read in 2015: 116
Number of books on my TBR list at the start of 2015: 57
Number of books on my TBR list now: 55
Number of books on my TBR list which were on it at the start of 2015: 10
Number of books bought (for myself) in 2015: 66 (new: 30, used: 36)
Number of books acquired as gifts or for free otherwise: 7
Number of library books read: at least 20
Number of books re-read (which I own already): about 25
Number of books read which other people in my house already owned: 6
Number of books tried and abandoned: 8

I know there are people out there who get a book, read it, then go get another one, but I've never been like that - I always have to have at least a few at hand to suit whatever mood I might be in when I go to pick up a new book. Do I want something challenging? Something comforting? Something happy? Something with beautiful but possibly more difficult prose? A mystery? A fantasy story? Something with romance? Something which I know I am almost certain to like (series, favourite author, recommendation from a friend with very similar taste)? Something I know I ought to have read years ago but never have? What book to read is so dependent on what mood you are in; I can't imagine not having a good selection to choose from!

I've enjoyed tracking this year of reading, so yes, I'm going to carry it on next year as well - and it will help me keep track of my book buying next year, too...  Ideally, I'd like to get that TBR shelf down to about two dozen books, so another year or two (or three) of moderation should do the trick! I think I'll go back to something I tried the year before, which was a 2:1 purchase ratio - in order to buy one new (to me) book, I have to read or otherwise get rid of 2 books from my TBR list. The problem, of course, is being strict about it!

So, what did I read in 2015? What were my favourites?  Here's my reading list from 2015, in reverse chronological order (most recent first). Books with an underline were ones I thought particularly good; those highlighted were my very favourite ones. Normally I wouldn't count  any re-reads in my favourites list, though - after all, that's frequently why we re-read things - but I'm making an exception this year for a book I haven't read in probably 30 years, maybe longer, but which really deserves to be on the list. If you've been on the planet this year and ever read books, you can probably guess which one as it was very widely in the news...

My favourites include books by authors I've read before, and those which were new to me. They include classics and modern novels; historical and contemporary fictions; adult and young adult books. No non-fiction in my favourites list this year (not surprising as I read very little of it) but certainly a broad range of subjects & characters, including hermaphrodites, displaced Jews, Stalin, George III, a comic romp and a missing diamond bigger than you've ever seen. My runners up list includes freaks, Alzheimers, Indian brides, gods, monsters, a giant squid, a somewhat creepy doll house, teenagers, blues musicians and even a collection of short stories, which is not at all like me!

Bones of the Lost, Kathy Reichs
Bones are Forever, Kathy Reichs
The Nature of the Beast, Louise Penny
The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins
Longbourn, Jo Baker
The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides 
Bones, Jan Burke (re-read)
Flash and Bones, Kathy Reichs
Liar, Jan Burke (re-read)
The Song Collector, Natasha Solomons
Ranger's Apprentice, John
One Night in Winter, Simon Sebag Montefiore
The Museum of Extraordinary Things, Alice Hoffman
Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi 
Hocus, Jan Burke (re-read)
The Crane Wife, Patrick Ness
Ender's Game, Orson Scott Card
Hanging by a Thread, Monica Ferris
A Cold Day for Murder (re-read), Dana Stabenow
The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle
Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey
Vendetta, Michael Dibdin 
One Thousand White Women, Jim Fergus
Virals, Kathy Reichs
The Resurrectionists, Michael Collins
The Valley of Amazement, Amy Tan 
Don't Hex with Texas, Shanna Swendson
Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee
Amy Snow, Tracy Rees
Remember Me, Irene, Jan Burke (re-read)
The Silver Chair, CS Lewis
Dreams of Gods and Monsters, Laini Taylor
Ratking, Michael Dibdin
Dear Irene, Jan Burke (re-read)
We are all Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler
Tree Surgery for Beginners, Patrick Gale
Sweet Dreams, Irene, Jan Burke (re-read)
Can't Wait to Get to Heaven, Fannie Flagg
Harvest, Jim Crace
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (re-read)
The Heroine's Sister, Frances Murray (re-read) 
Watcher in the Shadows, Carlos Ruiz Zafon (YA)
By its Cover, Donna Leon
Glass Houses, Jane Haddam
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, Marina Lewycka
City of the Beasts, Isabel Allende (YA)
The Miniaturist, Jesse Burton
Clariel, Garth Nix
The Visible World, Mark Slouka
Goodnight, Irene, Jan Burke (re-read)
The Magician, W Somerset Maugham
Days of Blood and Starlight, Laini Taylor
The Surgeon of Crowthorne, Simon Winchester
Spider Bones, Kathy Reichs
Kingfishers Catch Fire, Rumer Godden
The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly
Damsel Under Stress, Shanna Swendson
Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor (re-read)
The Twin, Gerbrand Bakker
Bloody Bones, Laurell K Hamilton
The Whole Day Through, Patrick Gale
The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith
Dark Aemilia, Sally O'Reilly (50pp)
Not the End of the World, Kate Atkinson
The Highest Tide, Jim Lynch
The House of Sight and Shadow, Nicholas Griffin
Love and Treasure, Ayelet Waldman
All Bones and Lies, Anne Fine 
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, Catheryne Valente (re-read, aloud)
Music and Silence, Rose Tremain
This Rough Magic, Mary Stewart (re-read)
The Rake, Mary Jo Putney (re-read)
The Diabolical Baron, Mary Jo Putney (re-read)
Once Upon Stilettos, Shanna Swendson
Dead Ever After, Charlaine Harris
Balthazar Jones and the Tower of London Zoo, Julia Stewart (50 pp)
Straight Man, Richard Russo
Deadlocked, Charlaine Harris
The Ivy Tree, Mary Stewart (re-read)
Memento Mori, Muriel Spark
Lila, Marilynne Robinson
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Cbosky 
A Humble Companion, Laurie Graham
Rough Music, Patrick Gale
Thornyhold, Mary Stewart (re-read)
Enchanted, Inc (Shanna Swendson)
My Brother Michael, Mary Stewart (re-read)
The Cat's Table, Michael Ondaatje
The Buried Giant, Kazuo Ishiguro
Climbing the Mango Trees, Madhur Jaffrey
Half Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan
The Book of Madness and Cures, Regina O'Melveny
Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C S Lewis (re-read, aloud) 
The Affair of the Blood-Stained Egg Cosy, James Anderson
The Cukoo's Calling, Robert Galbraith
To Be Sung Underwater, Tom McNeal
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
The Maze Runner Trilogy, James Dashner (YA)
Island of Wings, Karin Altinburg 
Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons
The Girl Who Cicumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own Making, (re-read, JF)
Foolish Mortals, Jennifer Johnston
Losing Nelson, Barry Unsworth
Let it Snow, various (re-read, YA)
The Distant Hours, Kate Morton
A Gate at the Stairs, Lorrie Moore
PopCo, Scarlett Thomas 
The Night Falling, Katherine Webb
A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness/Siobhan Dowd
Dead Reckoning, Charlaine Harris
Frankie and Stankie, Barbara Trapido
The Long Way Home, Louise Penny
The Seas, Samantha Hunt
Foxglove Summer, Ben Aaronovitch
Arabella, Georgette Heyer (re-read)

Watership Down (re-read) (aloud) 

Book plan update - December

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)
  • In November, I didn't read many books, and of those, only a few were on my list to start with. But I also only bought one book (and got a few for birthday presents):  (3 titles removed, 4 added: net result +1)
And finally, December: 
  • I  read 3 titles from my list (The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, Longbourn by Jo Baker, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins)
  • and removed one which I started, but didn't like the writing in at all (The Apothecary's Daughter by Charlotte Betts)
  • I read 3 library books (The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny, Bones are Forever by Kathy Reichs, Bones of the Lost by Kathy Reichs)
  • I also bought a load of books in charity shops (10)  and three books in Waterstones Kingston in the Boxing Day sales - just to start the new year's reading off with a bang...  Plus my mother left a book for me to read (which is a mystery set at Christmas, so it probably won't get read until next December)
December's tally is therefore...
books read: 6
titles removed: 4,  titles added: 14; net result +9

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2015.  There are 55 books left at the end of the year, but only 10 which were on the list at the start of the year  [Books with an asterisk]. I've read 112 books this year, so that's not bad, either. 
  1. Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows (Waterstones online, November 2015)
  2. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones Canterbury bargain bin, July 2015)
  3. Laura Beatty, Darkling (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  4. Stephen Burke, The Good Italian (Fiumicino Airport, July 2015)
  5. Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead (AbeBooks, October 2015)
  6. Wilkie Collins, The Haunted Hotel (birthday present, November 2015)
  7. Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (Waterstones Kingston, Boxing Day 2015)
  8. Arthur Conan Doyle, Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (World of Books, October 2015)
  9. Rene Denfield, The Enchanted (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  10. Anthony Doerr, All the Light we Cannot See (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  11. Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin (car boot sale, Bristol, Sept 2015)
  12. Nathan Filer, The Shock of the Fall (charity shop, August 2015)
  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. 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...) *
  16. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South *
  17. Graham Greene, Brighton Rock *
  18. Kate Grenville, The Lieutenant (charity shop, December 2015)
  19. Frances Hardinge, The Lie Tree (Waterstones Durham, August 2015)
  20. Smith Henderson, Fourth of July Creek (Big Waterstones, August 2015)
  21. Georgette Heyer, A Christmas Party (from my mother, December 2015)
  22. Anthony Horowitz, Moriarty (Waterstones Kingston, Boxing Day 2015)
  23. Anjali Joseph, Saraswati Park *
  24. Laurie R King, Dreaming Spies (birthday present, November 2015)
  25. Donna Leon, Doctored Evidence (charity shop, December 2015)
  26. Maria McCain, The Wilding (charity shop, December 2015)
  27. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  28. Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men (charity shop, December 2015)
  29. 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)
  30. Tom McNeal, Goodnight, Nebraska (AbeBooks, March 2015)
  31. Philipp Meyer, American Rust (charity shop, December 2015)
  32. Kim Newman, An English Ghost Story (The Last Bookshop, Brisol, Sept 2015)
  33. David Nicholls, Us (Waterstones Durham, August 2015)
  34. Kate O'Brien, The Land of Spices *
  35. Flannery O'Connor, Complete Stories (charity shop, December 2015)
  36. Liliane Paul, The Bees (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  37. Elizabeth Redfern, The Music of the Spheres  (charity shop, December 2015)
  38. Peter Robinson, Abbatoir Blues (charity shop, August 2015)
  39. Peter Robinson, Bad Boy  (charity shop, December 2015)
  40. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Prisoner of Heaven (charity shop, August 2015)
  41. Jane Smiley, Some Luck (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  42. Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Barnes & Noble (in MD), Summer 2013 - a re-read, as I read it when a teen) *
  43. Dana Stabenow, Play with Fire (charity shop, August 2015)
  44. Andrew Taylor, The Anatomy of Ghosts (passed on from Geoff, April 2015)
  45. Matthew Thomas, We Are Not Ourselves (Waterstones Kingston, Boxing Day 2015)
  46. Rosie Thomas, The Illusionists (WH Smith, May 2015)
  47. Rose Tremain, Merivel (Birthday, 2014) *
  48. Rose Tremain, Tresspass (charity shop, December 2015)
  49. Anne Tyler, A Spool of Blue Thread (World of Books, October 2015)
  50. Barry Unsworth, The Ruby in her Navel  *
  51. Ferdinand von Schirach, The Girl who wasn't There (charity shop, December 2015)
  52. Susan Vreeland, Lisette's List (birthday present, November 2015)
  53. William Wharton, Birdy (The Last Bookshop, Bristol, Sept 2015)
  54. Niall Williams, Only Say the Word (charity shop, August 2015)
  55. Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A J Firky (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A walk at Syon Park

Lovely sunny day yesterday, so we met up with my brother in law and sister in law and their dogs, who came down to London (from Leicester) to see us - we don't have space for them, but they've found a nice hotel in Syon Park which allows dogs, so they'll stay over the night there and we'll do stuff a couple of days.  Today we had a little walk and some tea at Syon Park with these cuties:


and Ziggy, who you can see here...

Book 115: Bones are Forever, Kathy Reichs

Another in the Tempe Brennan, forensic anthropologist series. I usually enjoy these, though occasionally the plots are a bit farfetched. This one was fine, and made a nice, no-effort read, during the lazy Christmas/NY period.  I have another one from the library to read next as well!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Dinner, 28/12/15: Beef Curry, courgettes

Geoff made a nice curry to use up the bits of beef leftover from Christmas - we ate a lot of the meat which was on the rarer side, but we don't really like the more well-done meat, so it was perfect for a curry. Because my mother can't eat really spicy food or things with heavy tomatoey sauces, it had to be a mild, not-too-tomatoey curry, but that was alright - it was still really tasty.

Still Christmassy in Wimbledon

Olivia and I took a brief trip to Wimbledon today, mostly to (finally) spend time with some old friends, and meet some new ones:

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Book 114: The Nature of the Beast, Louise Penny

The latest in this series, which I really like - they are always well written and well-plotted (even allowing for the How Much Crime can Happen in  Small Town syndrome).  It's hard to talk much about the plot of a mystery novel without giving things away, but it was nice to see some different elements in the story than what we've ever had before - and to involve some people not local to Three Pines as well as the usual locals. Also nice to get a little more background about some of the history of village and its in habitants...

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Books in (again)!

The female portion of our household decided to hit the Boxing Day sales, and while the girls were looking in H&M and New Look, my mother and I decided to hit Waterstones...  I won't say they were having much of a sale, but that's never stopped me before. I did actually buy four books, but one was a Christmas present for my mother.  She'll probably read it while she's here and leave it with me, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Dinner, 25/12/15: Christmas Feast!

As is our custom, Christmas dinner with friends. Here are chipoloatas in bacon, brussels sprouts, bread stuffing...

...roast parsnips, roast beef, roast potatoes...

and of course Yorkshire puddings and a stuffed turkey crown. 

And of course there was gravy, too.  And yes, I did eat the whole plate of food!

Dessert, I hear you say? Key Lime Pie and a Raspberry Meringue Frozen Thingy.

Stockings at the ready...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Party!

Our friends down the road always have a party on Christmas Eve (it's their son's birthday) - I always make some treats to share.  This year I had "pizzadillas" (like quesadillas, but with pizza tomato sauce, mozzarella and salami inside), feta and dill cucumber bites, 

and parma ham and celeriac parcels (I make these every year - everyone loves them).   There was lots more food there, but these are the things I brought along!

Book 113: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

I was thinking I'd read this years ago (though I couldn't remember the plot exactly, just sort of knowing the overall arc from years of hearing it mentioned in discussions of the development of the detective novel). Having now read it, I don't think I ever did read it years ago.  I certainly didn't remember much about it.  That said, it was great. More Wilkie Collins for me, and soon!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas windows

Our annual trip up to London to see all the windows and Christmas lights today - usually we find that we prefer Selfridges' windows to Harrods, but this year was a definite exception - Harrods' windows were really sweet and very clever. I haven't actually taken any photos of the main parts of the windows, which were cute, but quite plain - just some largeish mice "helping" in various scenes like at a ballet, etc - the good part, though, was the sub-windows, down near the bottom of the display, which showed the secret world of the mice. For those with children, you might be reminded of Brambley Hedge - we were.  (Found this article which shows a good view of the windows overall). We just loved all the little scenes with the mice, though - I took loads of photos!

The windows at Selfridges were totally different - based on the zodiac - and were very hard to photograph, but we enjoyed them. 

...and here's some lights in Regent Street as well!