Thursday, March 31, 2016

Book Plan Update - March 2016

Continuing in 2016 to make inroads on the books I own (un-read) and not buy too many new ones. Progress to date:
  1. January: books removed from list: 7,  books added: 2; net result -5
  2. February: books removed from list: 4, books added: 0; net result -4 (total YTD: -9)
And now for March:
  • I  read 8 titles from my list (Us by David Nicholls, Abbatoir Blues by Peter Robinson, Dreaming Spies by Laurie R King, Darkling by Laura Beatty, The Girl who Wasn't There by Ferdinand von Schirach, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr)
  • I read one book which was on my shelf with my TBR books, but doesn't seem to have been on my list, not sure why (The Unpierced Heart, by Katy Darby)
  • I re-read one book which I was going to send to the charity shop in a recent shelf clearout; I still will send it along (or save it for a friend) but I'm glad I read it again first (Downtown by Anne Rivers Siddons)
  • I re-read one book we owned already (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J K Rowling)
  • I read one book from my book corner at school, which I'd been meaning to read for ages (Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss)
  • I bought one book used through Abe Books, five books in Waterstones Piccadilly and received two books as Mothers' Day presents. It's been a big month for book intake. 
March's tally is therefore...
books read: 12
books removed from list: 8,  books added: 8; net result +/- 0
[Goal (no more than 1 book in for every two books removed) not achieved this month.]

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2016.  There were 55 books at the beginning of January, and now there are 46 - of those, only 7 are left from before 2015. [Books with an asterisk]. 
  1. Kate Atkinson, A God in Ruins (Waterstones Kingston, January 2016)
  2. Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone (AbeBooks, March 2016)
  3. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones Canterbury bargain bin, July 2015)
  4. Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead (AbeBooks, October 2015)
  5. Wilkie Collins, The Haunted Hotel (birthday present, November 2015)
  6. Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White (Waterstones Kingston, Boxing Day 2015)
  7. Arthur Conan Doyle, Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (World of Books, October 2015)
  8. Rene Denfield, The Enchanted (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  9. Jean-Paul Didierlaurente, The Reader on the 6.27 (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  10. Hans Fallada, Alone in Berlin (car boot sale, Bristol, Sept 2015)
  11. Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  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 (2014)*
  17. Graham Greene, Brighton Rock (2014)*
  18. Kate Grenville, The Lieutenant (charity shop, December 2015)
  19. Frances Hardinge, A Face Like Glass (Mother's Day present, March 2016)
  20. Melissa Harrison, At Hawthorn Time (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  21. Georgette Heyer, A Christmas Party (from my mother, December 2015)
  22. Anthony Horowitz, Moriarty (Waterstones Kingston, Boxing Day 2015)
  23. Andrew Michael Hurley, The Loney (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  24. Donna Leon, Doctored Evidence (charity shop, December 2015)
  25. Maria McCain, The Wilding (charity shop, December 2015)
  26. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  27. Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men (charity shop, December 2015)
  28. 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)
  29. Tom McNeal, Far Far Away (AbeBooks, January 2016)
  30. Philipp Meyer, American Rust (charity shop, December 2015)
  31. Alice Munro, Runaway (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  32. Kim Newman, An English Ghost Story (The Last Bookshop, Brisol, Sept 2015)
  33. Flannery O'Connor, Complete Stories (charity shop, December 2015)
  34. Liliane Paul, The Bees (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  35. Elizabeth Redfern, The Music of the Spheres  (charity shop, December 2015)
  36. Peter Robinson, Bad Boy  (charity shop, December 2015)
  37. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, The Prisoner of Heaven (charity shop, August 2015)
  38. Sunjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways  (Mother's Day present, March 2016)
  39. Jane Smiley, Some Luck (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  40. Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Barnes & Noble (in MD), Summer 2013 - a re-read, as I read it when a teen) *
  41. Matthew Thomas, We Are Not Ourselves (Waterstones Kingston, Boxing Day 2015)
  42. Rosie Thomas, The Illusionists (WH Smith, May 2015)
  43. Rose Tremain, Tresspass (charity shop, December 2015)
  44. Barry Unsworth, The Ruby in her Navel (2014) *
  45. Susan Vreeland, Lisette's List (birthday present, November 2015)
  46. William Wharton, Birdy (The Last Bookshop, Bristol, Sept 2016

Book 26: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Well, this was just super. Recommended all over the place, and rightfully so - winner of the Pullitzer Prize as well, I think. And such a lovely, beautiful novel. Every time I pick up a novel set during WWII I wonder if the author can possibly have anything to say which hasn't been said before; here, the answer is clearly, and resoundingly: yes. Do go read this. 

More books in!

As predicted.  There were a few more purchased as well, but one was for Geoff (though I will probably read it) and a couple for the girls. Ah, books. 

Dinner, 31/3/16: Cold Noodle Salad with Chicken and Vegetables

Book in!

Arrived in the post this morning, courtesy of a seller on AbeBooks (one of my favourite websites, these days). This is the first in a series which takes place in the world in which my recent read, Six of Crows, was set. I'm hoping for some more background on the magic and political/ethnic structure of the fantasy world.  Should be a good read...

Watch this space - there will probably be more books later today as Olivia and I are off up to town and one stop on our list is the Gigantic Waterstones in Piccadilly. Can't imagine leaving there without at least a few books. Each.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Dinner, 30/3/16: "Bonfire Night" Baked Potatoes (Good Food)

Ok, so I'm not a conformist when it comes to seasonal recipes...  These were great, though - I'm fairly fond of a baked potato anyway, but these had the filling taken out, mashed up with cheese and cream and bacon and parsley and yummmmm... Then back in the oven with some more cheese on top till they got all melty. Gorgeous!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dinner, 29/3/16: Spicy Sausage and Sprouting Broccoli Pasta (Abel & Cole)

Pretty good, especially the broccoli (tenderstem instead of purple sprouting, but same basic principle). I thought it would also be nice with some cream or something added to make it a bit saucier. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Dinner, 28/3/16: Artichoke Gratin, Lettuce Salad (both Yotom Ottolenghi)

Geoff wasn't so keen on this gratin, but I really liked it - thought it would be even better if I'd had some crusty bread to use as a scoop. The salad was great: mixed leaves including some chicory, radishes, sundried tomatoes, capers. Unusual, but very nice.

Book 25: Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

A humourous look at punctuation - the usage and the history thereof. I enjoyed this - and yes, it's remarkable that someone as interested in correctly punctuating things as I am hasn't read this before, but somehow I just never got around to it.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Dinner, 26/3/16: Courgette & Feta pancakes (New Moosewood Cookbook), Roasted Carrots

Yet another in the pancake/fritter variations - these were really light. Not sure which our favourite are (probably still the cauliflower) but all have been successful. 

Book 24: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

A nice bit of young adult fantasy stuff, set in an interesting world. Looking forward to another in the series (due out in the autumn); in the meantime, going to go back and read the original series based in this world to hopefully get a better understanding of the relationships between the different races and how the magic of this world works, a bit better.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Dinner 25/3/16: Spanish Style Chicken One Pot (Sainsbury's Magazine)

A great traybake, with chicken, chorizo, beans, peppers, sweet potato and other yummy goodness. Served it with some lovely Swiss chard.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dinner, 24/3/16: Pesto Pizza with Prosciutto & Artichokes (Good Food) (Alex cooking)

A family favourite - and yes, you may have noticed, we are really big on artichokes in our family - which this time, I put Alex in charge of. I did put the pizza dough in the bread machine for him before I left but otherwise, I think he pretty much sorted it. It's not complicated, though it does involve skinning tomatoes, which is somewhat fiddly.  My budding cook is doing an excellent job!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Book 23: Downtown by Anne Rivers Siddons (re-read)

Was going to send this to the charity shop on a recent shelf clear-out; decided to read it again first. Still an excellent story - very character based and a portrait of a time (Atlanta in the late 60s, mostly). What I'd consider a relaxing, holiday read (which isn't a bad thing).

Dinner, 22/3/16: Ravioli with Artichokes, leeks and lemon (Good Food)

This was a great quick midweek meal - took about 20 minutes start to finish, using bought ravioli, of course. Lovely, though. Definitely going in the rotation!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Book 22: The Storied Life of A.J.Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A quick but excellent read. I liked pretty much everything about this book: the structure, the characters, the story, the writing. Lots of people will like this, but those who love books and reading even more so.

Dinner, 19/3/16: Lentil Shepherd's Pie

Book 21: The Unpierced Heart by Katy Darby

This was very good. Written in the style of a period novel, though modern, with a compelling story and interesting characters.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Book 20: The Girl Who Wasn't There by Ferdinand von Schirach

This wasn't really what I expected from the back, which makes it sound like a thriller; instead it's an odd but interesting portrait of an artist, with an unusual view of the world, art and truth, who happens at one point to be accused of a murder. I admit I was fairly sure what the outcome would be (more or less) and I was right, but that didn't change my enjoyment of this very readable and well-written short book. Hard to quantify, but worth a read. 

Dinner, 16/3/16: Spaghetti with Lemon and Olives (Good Food) (Alex cooking)

A really easy, quick meal we've had lots of times before; I'm trying to get Alex to cook once every week or two - partly because we have such a busy schedule that it's helpful, and partly to get him independent in the kitchen - he's 13, so it's well within his ability to begin to learn some simple meals.  The girls both are reasonable at cooking, but both have so much homework and revision at the moment with serious exams coming up that I don't want to ask them to cook too often. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dinner, 15/3/16: One Pan Spicy Rice (Good Food) (Sarah cooking)

Also served with a lovely flatbread from our local Iranian shop - this particular one has a spicy lamb topping. Mmmm.  I'm going to tag this one vegetarian anyway, despite the flatbread, as the main part of the meal we've had many times as a vegetarian dinner...

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Book 19: Darkling by Laura Beatty

In the modern day, Mia is researching a book about Lady Brilliana Harley, a Puritan  living during the English Civil War (and rather a remarkable woman in many ways). The story alternates between Mia's gradual recovery from the death of her partner and Brilliana's life as the Cavaliers & Roundheads become increasingly at odds, her husband is away at Parliament, and eventually, the king orders her castle to be seiged by local Roundhead lords. 

As with many novels these days, the narrative slips back and forth between times, though this one even more than many, sometimes slipping back and forth within a given paragraph. Brilliana's story is often told using words from her letters  (many of which survive, and she was a prolific letter writer) or in the style thereof, which means a little getting used to the language and spelling of the day. 

I really enjoyed this; thought the interspersing of the worlds worked well, despite the very quick changes, and liked the delicate, distanced view of events sometimes present, even when inside a character's head. 

Dinner, 13/3/16: Chicken with peas and lettuce (Good Food), mashed potato

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Dinner, 12/3/16: Leek Fritters (Yotam Ottolenghi), Roasted Carrots, Cornbread

Another fritter - we liked these, too, but not as much as the cauliflower ones from last week. And I always forget to make twice as many roasted carrots as we think we could possibly eat. But still a lovely meal.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Dinner, 11/3/16: Broccoli Pesto Pasta (Good Food)

A quick and easy one we've had before. Particularly useful as I was going out and didn't want something which took too long - also, on a Friday, who has the energy to cook something complicated?

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Dinner, 9/3/16: Cauliflower & Spinach Dhansak (Good Food) (Geoff cooking)

Currently trying to expand his repertoire a bit, away from the largely mince-based meals he often cooks (which he does extremely well, mind you), Geoff had a go at this curry we've often had in the past.  Excellent flavour and I liked the addition of the fried onions, which I don't usually bother with, but the whole thing could have cooked a bit longer than the recipe states, as the yellow split peas take ages...

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Dinner, 8/3/16: Roasted Parsnip & Parmesan Soup (Covent Garden Soup Book)

Lovely, creamy soup; tempting to eat the roasted parmesan parsnips as is, without souping them!

Book 18: Dreaming Spies by Laurie R King

The latest in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series (number 13), set partly in Japan. I have loved this series since the first one came out in 1994 (I was already reading another series by the author at the time she started this one), though some I like better than others.  This one is set partly aboard a cruise ship, partly in Japan and partly in Oxford, and I liked some of the new characters a lot. And of course, as usual, nothing is quite what it seems.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Dinner, 6/3/16: Cottage Pie, Veg (Geoff cooking) final Mother's Day present of the day. I'm not Geoff's mother of course (though sometimes...) but although I'm sure the girls would have been happy to cook, we both felt they were better off doing homework/revision. I don't mind cooking - and sometimes really enjoy it - but it's also lovely to just be able to laze around on a Sunday afternoon and not have to worry about making dinner...

Books in

Along with some other lovely Mother's Day presents, two books. I don't know anything about the Sahota title (other than it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, which is often a good recommendation, though not always, I find). The Frances Hardinge I chose because of really enjoying The Lie Tree recently.  Both titles I shall look forward to!

Book 17: Abbatoir Blues by Peter Robinson

Peter Robinson's DCI Banks books are a series I've read a few of here and there. They are always good reading, but I've never really bothered to do the whole series in order. As usual, this one was entertaining and gripping and luckily, the fact that I'm not totally up with the events of the recent novels didn't detract too much from the main plot elements of this one.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Dinner, 5/3/16: Roasted Beetroot Penne (Abel & Cole)

This wasn't bad, but even those of us in the house who love beetroot thought it a little odd. Not quite sure it really works, somehow.  There was lots leftover, though, so we'll be trying the suggestion for leftovers (adding feta cheese & baking like a weird, alien mac&cheese (my wording, not theirs!))  Watch  this space...

Friday, March 04, 2016

Book 16: Us by David Nicholls

This was pretty good - the reviews and blurbs all bigged it up as better than One Day, his previous, very famous, novel, but I actually liked One Day better. My main issue with this was that I just didn't really like any of the three main characters.  I appreciate my teenagers may be atypical, but I do get a little tired of portrayals of teens in books where they are totally rude and dismissive to one or both parents; lots of teens aren't like that at all - not as a good a book, I know. Also, being married to a science guy and therefore knowing tons of people in science, I can attest that many of them are actually just as knowledgeable about the arts as most non-science people I know, if not more so (my husband certainly is), so I guess the whole "I'm-a-scientist-I-don't-really-get-art-and-I'm-kind-of-autistic" vibe doesn't work as well for me. That said, it was still well constructed and there was a lot of real feeling in the book, it just didn't grab me the way One Day did.

Dinner, 4/3/16: Spinach and Cheese Burritos (Moosewood Cookbook)

This was lovely. I served it with yellow rice, as recommended in the book (basically, rice cooked with a bit of saffron), which was also very tasty.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Book 15: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (re-read)

Enjoying re-reading the series, especially spotting the differences between the books and the films...

Dinner, 2/3/16: Chili con Carne (Geoff cooking)

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Dinner, 1/3/16: Chickpea Soup (Sainsbury's Magazine)

This was one of the easiest soup recipes ever, and pretty tasty.

February Round Up


  • 29th: Sweet Potato & Chorizo Quesadillas
  • 28th: Cauliflower & Pecorino Fritters, Green Bean Salad
  • 27th: Tikka Salmon
  • 26th: K & G out - Nopi
  • 25th: Everyone fend for yourself
  • 24th: Chicken Curry (Geoff Cooking)
  • 23rd: Leek and Lentil Soup
  • 22nd: Pasta with Chorizo, Spinach and Ricotta (Alex cooking)
  • 21st: Two potato vindaloo
  • 20th: Potato, Bacon & Onion Casserole (Geoff cooking, G&S only)
  • 19th: Fish (G only)
  • 18th: BLT Tart (G&K only)
  • 17th: Most everyone out
  • 16th: Sausages (Geoff cooking, G&S only)
  • 15th: Spag bol (Geoff cooking; G&S only)
  • 14th: Roast pork, roast potatoes, cabbage
  • 13th: Cauiflower/broccoli cheese
  • 12th: Schechuan Pork/vegetable noodles
  • 11th: Everyone fend for yourself
  • 10th: Meatballs and Pasta
  • 9th: Chicken Korma, courgettes
  • 8th: Chicken chasseur (freezer)
  • 7th: Legume Noodle Soup
  • 6th: Mushroom Risotto
  • 5th: Out - Wagamama (Alex's birthday)
  • 4th: Everyone fend for yourself
  • 3rd: Spaghetti with Pine Nuts and Ricotta (Sarah cooking)
  • 2nd: Omelettes, etc (Geoff, Alex)
  • 1st: Haddock, peas, potatoes