Saturday, December 31, 2016

Books 2016 - A Year in Review

Back at the start of the year, I decided two things related to books: First, I set a goal of reading at least 100 books (approximately 2 per week, so it should be fairly reasonable to accomplish). And, harder to do, perhaps: I was going to try to read my way through the books I have on my To Be Read Shelf/List and not buy so many other books, even from charity shops, etc.

At the start of  January 2016, there were 55 books on the list. Of these, 7 had been on the list before the start of 2015 and the rest were acquired at some point during the year. There are now 47 books on the list, but of course, books have come and gone through the year, because who reads things in strictly the order they are bought, received or otherwise acquired? (OK, there may be some people out there who do, but I'm sure not one of them...)

Because I like to look at statistics, here are some possibly interesting figures:

Number of books read in 2016: 103
Number of books on my TBR list at the start of 2016: 55
Number of books on my TBR list now: 46
Number of books on my TBR list now which were on it at the start of 2016: 16
Number of books on my TBR list now which were on it at the start of 2015: 4
Number of books bought (for myself) in 2016: 35 (new: 18, used: 17)
Number of books acquired as gifts or for free otherwise: 8
Number of library books read: 6
Number of books re-read (which I own already): 42
Number of books read which other people in my house already owned: 5
Number of books tried and abandoned: 8

But more importantly (or interestingly, or both), which books that I read this year stood out? Well, not counting books which I re-read for whatever reason (obviously, they stand out in some way or another or you wouldn't re-read them), here's the list of books I read in 2016, with ones I thought good underlined, and those I thought particularly notable with some asterisks.  I chose 13 particular favourites in a variety of genres and subjects, which works out to approximately one per month plus one superstar (just a coincidence - I just chose the ones I liked best). The favourites are also the ones which make up the collage at the top.

Many years it's hard to pick one book which stands out as an absolute favourite, though some years, it's obvious (for insteance, the year I read Kate Atkinson's Life After Life). This year was another easy year - by far the most remarkable book I read this year, even among some pretty good stuff, was Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See. Just stunning.

I'm not too hard to please with reading - I like a wide variety of stuff and it just has to be well written and capture the imagination in whatever way. However, I seem to buck trends from time to time. Two books I read this year which were very hyped I didn't like at all - the first was My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. This was ok, it just didn't excite me. The second was one of those which everyone reads and raves about and I just absolutely hated (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn). Although it was reasonably well-written (which lack will often kill off an otherwise promising book for me) I hated all the characters and had a fairly good idea where the plot was heading and frankly, just didn't give a toss.

  • 103: Hollow City, Ransom Riggs
  • 102: The Hanging Tree, Ben Aaronovitch
  • 101: Two Moons, Jennifer Johnston
  • 100: Death in a Strange Country, Donna Leon
  • 99: Goldenhand, Garth Nix (SF/F)
  • 98: Abhorsen, Garth Nix (SF/F, re-read)
  • 97: Lirael, Garth Nix (SF/F, re-read)
  • 96: Sabriel, Garth Nix (SF/F, re-read)
  • 95: No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
  • **94: The Reader on the 6.27, Jean-Paul Didierlaurent
  • 93: Faery Tales, Carol Ann Duffy
  • 92: A Face Like Glass, Frances Hardinge (YA)
  • 91: Busman's Honeymoon, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)
  • 90: Gaudy Night, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)
  • 89: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs (re-read)
  • 88: The Nine Tailors, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)
  • 87: Ink and Bone, Rachel Caine (YA)
  • 86: Crooked Heart, Lissa Evans
  • 85: Winter, Marissa Meyer (YA)
  • **84: Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel
  • 83: Death at La Fenice, Donna Leon (re-read)
  • **82: The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
  • 81: Naked in Death, Nora Roberts (re-read)
  • 80: Shadow and Bone, Leigh Bardugo (YA)
  • 79: My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
  • 78:Cress, Marisa Meyer (YA)
  • 77: Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)
  • 76: Crystal Line, Anne McCaffrey (SF/F)
  • 75: Killashandra, Anne McCaffrey (re-read) (SF/F)
  • 74: Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  • **73: Shadow Scale, Rachel Hartman (SF/F)
  • **72: A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson
  • 71: Seraphina, Rachel Hartman (re-read) (SF/F)
  • 70: Crystal Singer, Anne McCaffrey (re-read) (SF/F)
  • 69: Scarlet, Marissa Meyer (YA)
  • 68: The White Dragon, Anne McCaffrey (re-read) (SF/F)
  • 67: A Christmas Party, Georgette Heyer
  • 66: Dragonquest, Anne McCaffrey (re-read) (SF/F)
  • 65: Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey (re-read) (SF/F)
  • 64: Dragondrums, Anne McCaffrey (re-read) (YA)
  • 63: Dragonsinger, Anne McCaffrey (re-read) (YA)
  • 62: Dragonsong, Anne McCaffrey (re-read) (YA)
  • 61: An English Ghost Story, Kim Newman
  • 60: Cinder, Marissa Meyer (YA)
  • 59: We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas
  • 58: Far, Far Away, Tom McNeal (YA)
  • 57: Have His Carcase, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)
  • 56: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J K Rowling (re-read)
  • 55: The Girl who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, Catherynne M Valente (YA)
  • 54: Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince, J K Rowling (re-read)
  • 53: Birdy, William Wharton (re-read)
  • 52: The Stand, Stephen King (re-read)
  • 51: Moriarty, Anthony Horowitz
  • 50: The Disappearing Spoon, Sam Kean
  • **49: Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell (YA)
  • 48: Five Red Herrings, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)
  • 47: Strong Poison, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)
  • **46: The Enchanted, Rene Denfeld
  • 45: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)
  • 44: Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix, J K Rowling (re-read)
  • 43: Beauty, Robin McKinley (re-read)
  • 42: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, Katarina Bivald
  • 41: Lord Peter Views the Body, Dorothy L Sayers
  • 40: The Shock of the Fall, Nathan Filer
  • 39: Unnatural Death, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)
  • 38: Bloodlines, Jan Burke
  • 37: Clouds of Witness, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)
  • 36: Whose Body, Dorothy L Sayers (re-read)
  • 35: The Illusionists, Rosie Thomas
  • **34: Wolf Winter, Cecilia Ekback
  • 33: Lisette's List, Susan Vreeland
  • **32: The Bees, Laline Paull
  • 31: Howards End, E M Forster
  • 30: Tregaron's Daughter, Madeleine Brent (re-read)
  • 29: Last Act, Jane Aiken Hodge (re-read)
  • 28: Summer of the Dragon, Elizabeth Peters (re-read)
  • 27: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J K Rowling (re-read)
  • **26: All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
  • 25: Eats, Shoots and Leaves, Lynne Truss
  • 24: Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo
  • 23: Downtown, Anne Rivers Siddons (re-read)
  • 22: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin
  • 21: The Unpierced Heart, Katy Darby
  • 20: The Girl Who Wasn't There, Ferdinand von Schirach
  • 19: Darkling, Laura Beatty
  • 18: Dreaming Spies, Laurie R King
  • 17: Abbatoir Blues, Peter Robinson
  • 16: Us, David Nicholls
  • 15: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (re-read)
  • 14: The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco (re-read)
  • 13: A Spool of Blue Thread, Anne Tyler
  • 12: Only Say the Word, Niall Williams
  • 11: The Anatomy of Ghosts, Andrew Taylor
  • **10: The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge
  • 9: Harry Potter & the Chamber of Secrets (re-read)
  • 8: Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith
  • 7: Play with Fire, Dana Stabenow
  • **6: The Good Italian, Stephen Burke
  • 5: Merivel, Rose Tremain
  • 4: Harry Potter & the Philosopher's Stone (re-read)
  • 3: Flight, Jan Burke
  • **2: Goodnight Nebraksa, Tom McNeal
  • 1: Sarasawati Park, Anjali Joseph

Book Plan Update - December

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)
  3. March: books removed from list: 8, books added:8; net result 0 (total YTD: -9)
  4. April: books removed from list: 6, books added: 0; net result -6 (total YTD: -15)
  5. May: books removed from list: 6, books added: 4; net result -2 (total YTD: -17)
  6. June: books removed from list: 3, books added: 0; net result -3 (total YTD: -20)
  7. July: books removed from list: 4; books added: 8; net result +4 (total YTD: -16)
  8. August: books removed from list: 2; books added: 0; net result -2 (total YTD: -18)
  9. September: books removed from list: 3; books added: 0; net result -3 (total YTD: -21)
  10. October: books removed from list: 4; books added: 13; net result  +9 (total YTD: -13)
  11. November: books removed from list: 3; books added 4; net result +1 (total YTD: -12)
In December:
  • I read one book I had in the house (Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon) - I thought it was a re-read at first, as I thought I'd read this whole series, but I don't remember this one at all, so perhaps I missed it out before. 
  • I read two books from my list (Two Moons by Jennifer Johnston and Hollow City by Ransom Riggs)
  • I read one library book (The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch)
  • I received two books for Christmas (A Strangeness in my Mind by Orhan Pamuk and In the Land of Paper Gods by Rebecca MacKenzie) and bought two (The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman and The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley)
December's tally is therefore:
books read: 4
books removed from list:  2 books added: 4; net result +2
[Goal (no more than 1 book added to the list 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 4 are left from before 2015. [Books with an asterisk]. 
  1. Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky (charity shop, October 2016)
  2. Leigh Bardugo, Seige and Storm (Abe Books, October 2016)
  3. Susan Barker, The Incarnations (charity shop, July 2016)
  4. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones Canterbury bargain bin, July 2015)
  5. Rachel Caine, Paper and Fire (birthday present, November 2016)
  6. Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead (AbeBooks, October 2015)
  7. Wilkie Collins, The Haunted Hotel (birthday present, November 2015)
  8. Anthony Doerr, About Grace (Waterstones Piccadilly, July 2016)
  9. Arthur Conan Doyle, Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (World of Books, October 2015)
  10. Helen Dunmore, Ingo (charity shop, October 2016)
  11. Helen Dunmore, Stormswept (charity shop, October 2016)
  12. Helen Dunmore, Tide Knot (charity shop, October 2016)
  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. 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...) *
  15. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (2014)*
  16. Kate Grenville, The Lieutenant (charity shop, December 2015)
  17. Matt Haig, The Humans (charity shop, October 2016)
  18. Melissa Harrison, At Hawthorn Time (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  19. Antonia Hodgkin, The Devil in the Marshalsea (charity shop, May 2016)
  20. Andrew Michael Hurley, The Loney (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  21. Neil MacGregor, Germany: Memories of  a Nation (birthday present, Nov 2016)
  22. Rebecca MacKenzie, In a Land of Paper Gods (Christmas Present, 2016)
  23. Maria McCain, The Wilding (charity shop, December 2015)
  24. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  25. John McGregor, This Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You (Waterstones Piccadilly, July 2016)
  26. Darragh McKeon, All That is Solid Melts into Air (Waterstones Kingston, May 2016)
  27. Philipp Meyer, American Rust (charity shop, December 2015)
  28. David Mitchell, Slade House (Waterstones online, October 2016)
  29. Alice Munro, Runaway (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  30. Patrick Ness, The Rest of Us Just Live Here (birthday present, November 2016)
  31. Flannery O'Connor, Complete Stories (charity shop, December 2015)
  32. Orhan Pamuk. A Strangeness in Mind (Christmas present 2016)
  33. Natasha Pulley, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (Waterstones Wimbledon, December 2016)
  34. Elizabeth Redfern, The Music of the Spheres  (charity shop, December 2015)
  35. Anna Richards, Little Gods (pound shop, November 2016)
  36. Ransom Riggs, Library of Souls (birthday present, November 2016)
  37. Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram (Abe Books, July 2016)
  38. Hannah Rothschild, The Improbability of Love (charity shop, October 2016)
  39. Sunjeev Sahota, The Year of the Runaways  (Mother's Day present, March 2016)
  40. Caterina Ingleman Sanders, The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules (charity shop, October 2016)
  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. M L Stedman, The Light Between Oceans (Waterstones Wimbledon, December 2016)
  44. Rose Tremain, Tresspass (charity shop, December 2015)
  45. Sarah Winman, A Year of Marvellous Ways (charity shop, October 2016)
  46. Gabrielle Zevin, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (charity shop, October 2016)

Dinner, 31/12/16: Pork Stroganoff (Mary Berry)

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Boook 102: The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch

Geoff and I both enjoy this series and look forward to a new installment. Neither of us thought this one was quite as good as some of the previous ones - it just seemed a little lacking in something. It's still a good series, but hopefully the next one will be back on form.

Lunch 29/12/16: Minestrone and other goodies

Geoff's brother and his wife came down from Leicester for a visit Wednesday and Thursday - we ate out on Wednesday night, but before they left to drive back home on Thursday, we had lunch at the house - I made a minestrone soup and we had various breads, crackers, cheese, meats, etc. It was a nice meal, and big enough that we didn't cook a proper dinner, just grazing on various leftovers in the house (it's still that post-Christmas food glut period, after all).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Dinner, 27/12/16: Christmas Curry (Geoff cooking)

A lovely curry with leftover pork and turkey from Christmas. Yum!

Books in

Sarah and I went off to Wimbledon today in search of a new dish drainer (how exciting is my life!) but of course we had to poke in a few shops as well, including the newly relocated Waterstones - it's been a tough few months with no Waterstones at all in Wimbledon, and we're very glad it's relocated!  So of course I had to pick up a few books...

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dinner, 25/12/16: Christmas Feast

So, I'm letting down the side, I know, by forgetting to photograph Christmas dinner. Luckily, Olivia took a quick snap on her phone, so you can see it in all its glory!  

Books in

A couple of Christmas presents- wouldn't be Christmas without a few books, right?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Dinner, 22/12/16: Bacon, Chard, Bread

Went to the famers' market this morning to collect the Christmas meat, and picked up some lovely fresh produce - the bacon is from our favourite meat guy at the market, the chard is from one of the veg stalls, the two kinds of bread are from a bread stall. One was full of artichokes, really interesting. (The other a ciabatta.)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Dinner, 19/12/16: Chicken Korma, Courgettes

A favourite recipe for homemade korma. Easy and low-fat. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Dinner, 18/12/16: Canneloni Pasta Bake, Garlic Bread, Salad

Had to be a low-effort dinner tonight (the canneloni were pre-made) because of spending the whole day baking...

Christmas Baking!

And here's the plate...


Chocolate and Pistachio Biscotti

Butter Horn Cookies (these were my dad's favourites)

Stained Glass Window Cookies

Russian Tea Cakes

Merry Christmas Cookies (lemon flavoured, iced)

Jam Thumbprints

Ginger and Hazelnut Florentines

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Dinner, 17/12/16: Carrot and Potato Tart, Mixed Greens

The crust of this tart is made from potatoes rather than pastry, which is tasty, and also excellent if someone is gluten free...

Friday, December 16, 2016

Dinner, 16/12/16: Potato, Taleggio & Spinach Tart

Yet another of the many variations on pizza we eat in our house - this one uses a bread crust instead of pizza dough, so it's more filling, but also takes longer to make, so I can't usually do it on a school night - with Sarah home, she was able to set the dough to making earlier, so it was ready for dinner time. Yay!  I made two (one used emmental rather than taleggio) so there will be leftovers for lunch tomorrow as well. Also yay!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Book 101: Two Moons by Jennifer Johnston

I always enjoy Jennifer Johnston, who I think is an underrated modern Irish author. This one I picked up in a charity shop a while back and it's a lovely story about an elderly woman and her family and various visitors and what ensues...

Dinner, 15/12/16: Bang Bang Chicken

This is a family favourite: chicken, cucumber, spring onions (and in this instance, bean sprouts as I had them leftover) with a peanuty sauce in Chinese pancakes. Yum!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Dinner, 12/12/16: Udon, Salmon & Spicy Leaves (itsu cookbook)

Another recipe from the itsu cookbook - this one much better than the last. We adapted it by frying the salmon skin (which you remove before breaking the salmon into pieces) and adding a piece on the top - very cheffy!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Dinner,11/12/16: Toad in the Hole, Cabbage, Cauliflower

Sarah's choice- enjoying things she probably wouldn't cook for herself.

Christmas Tree

Before and after, with a picture of my "little boy" being tall enough to put the angel on the top of the tree without needing to stand on anything. I used to have to call Geoff in to do it. Sigh...

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Book 100: Death in a Strange Country, Donna Leon

I am slowly re-reading through this series; this is the second one. However, I don't remember it at all, so I think I might have missed it the first time around. So it was a nice surprise. It's fun to re-read these after having actually been to Venice; I can imagine them walking around doing stuff, though I haven't been to all the locations, of course.

Dinner, 10/12/16: Steal, Brussel Sprout Tops, Bread

Had a trip to the Farmers' Market this morning to place my order for my Christmas roast. I had thought I might get some fish for dinner, but in the end, was inspired by these stakes. Yum.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Dinner, 9/12/16: Vegetarian Singapore Noodles (itsu cookbook)

This was ok, but not as good as it looked from the recipe - just a bit boring. A bit too much veg to noodles (there was a lot more veg at the bottom of the pan) and not a huge amount of flavour. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Dinner, 7/1/16: Celery and Stilton Soup

This started out from a recipe, but I've made it so many times, I don't really bother any more. I do keep the recipe in my book, just to remind me when I'm flipping through looking for soup inspiration, but I don't follow it.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Dinner, 4/12/16: Beef Stew

Did this in the slow cooker today. Love the way the whole house takes on the aroma!

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Dinner, 3/12/16: Red Thai Pork Curry (Good Food magazine)

A standby here - pork curry with green beans and hearts of palm. 

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Book 99: Goldenhand, Garth Nix

And this is the newest in the series - and a worthy addition. A few new characters and some more in depth information about some of the old ones. Garth Nix writes an excellent story and has created a very interesting fantasy world. I really like this series, and hope there are more planned.

November Roundup


  • 30th: Chili (Geoff cooking)
  • 29th: Leftover chicken, fried potatoes
  • 28th: Teriyaki Salmon, Broccoli, Potatoes
  • 27th: Mushroom risotto
  • 26th: Roast Chicken, stuffing, sweet potatoes
  • 25th: Seabass, etc (G& A only - K out)
  • 24th: everyone fend for yourself
  • 23rd: Lamb mince curry (Geoff cooking)
  • 22nd: leftover lasagne
  • 21st: Chicken Cacciatore
  • 20th: Lasagne
  • 19th: Birthday feast
  • 18th: Sticky onion and Sausage Pizza
  • 17th: everyone fend for yourself
  • 16th: Sticky Chinese Chicken Tray Bake (Olivia cooking)
  • 15th: Leek and Potato Soup
  • 14th: Butternut Squash and Potato Pasta
  • 13th: Paella
  • 12th: Butternut Squash and Lentil Samb
  • 11th: Stir Fried Pork with Cashews and Rice Noodles
  • 10th: Everyone fend for yourself
  • 9th: Ragu with Pasta (Geoff cooking)
  • 8th: Filled Pasta Bake (Olivia cooking)
  • 7th: Paper Potato Pizza
  • 6th: Out to birthday lunch in Leicester
  • 5th: Jacket Potatoes with toppings
  • 4th: leftover chili from freezer
  • 3rd: Everyone fend for yourself
  • 2nd: Mexican Bake
  • 1st: Leftover Chicken & Ham Pie