Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Books & Reading, February 2017

At the start of the year, I set a few reading goals, with the overall aim of trying to make my way through books I've had for a while and haven't read, and trying not to acquire too many new books. The goals were:
  1. Read at least 100 books in 2017 (approximately 2 per week; hopefully I can accomplish this)
  2. Buy/acquire fewer books each month than I remove from my TBR shelf/list
  3. Read at least 1 of the books I've had since before 2015 (there were 4 on the list at the start of the year) and at least three of the books I  bought during 2015 (12 on the list)
They are (fairly) reasonable goals, which shouldn't stress me too much.

In January:  books read: 8, list reduced by: 2; pre-2015 reduction: 0; pre-2016 reduction: 1

Did February fare any better?:
  • I read a book which was in the house but not on my list (The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh)
  • I read nine books from my list (The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota, Slade House by David Mitchell, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, The Wilding by Maria McCann, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin, The Humans by Matt Haig, The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley, Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo, This isn't the Sort of Thing that Happens to Someone Like You by Jon McGregor)
  • I read one book which belongs to someone else in the house (Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton)
  • I re-read a book which I had in the house already (The Anonymous Venetian by Donna Leon)
  • I decided to get rid of a couple of books on my list that I won't read (Ingo & related titles by Helen Dunmore) they are children's books, and I'm sure they are good, but they just don't really appeal)
  • I bought one book in Waterstones in Wimbledon (Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo)

February goal progress:
  1. books read: 12 of 92 books 
  2. books removed from list: 12 books added: 1; net result  -11
  3. books read/removed from list from before 2015: 0 of 4;  from before 2016: 1 of 11

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2017.  There were 46 books at the beginning of January, and now there are 32.
  1. Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky (charity shop, October 2016)
  2. Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom (Waterstones Wimbledon, February 2017)
  3. Susan Barker, The Incarnations (charity shop, July 2016)
  4. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones Canterbury bargain bin, July 2015)
  5. Jessie Burton, The Muse (Waitrose, January 2017)
  6. Rachel Caine, Paper and Fire (birthday present, November 2016)
  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. 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...) *
  11. 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...) *
  12. Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South (2014)*
  13. Kate Grenville, The Lieutenant (charity shop, December 2015)
  14. Antonia Hodgkin, The Devil in the Marshalsea (charity shop, May 2016)
  15. Neil MacGregor, Germany: Memories of  a Nation (birthday present, Nov 2016)
  16. Rebecca MacKenzie, In a Land of Paper Gods (Christmas Present, 2016)
  17. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  18. Philipp Meyer, American Rust (charity shop, December 2015)
  19. Alice Munro, Runaway (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  20. Flannery O'Connor, Complete Stories (charity shop, December 2015)
  21. Orhan Pamuk. A Strangeness in Mind (Christmas present 2016)
  22. Natasha Pulley, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (Waterstones Wimbledon, December 2016)
  23. Elizabeth Redfern, The Music of the Spheres  (charity shop, December 2015)
  24. Anna Richards, Little Gods (pound shop, November 2016)
  25. Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram (Abe Books, July 2016)
  26. Hannah Rothschild, The Improbability of Love (charity shop, October 2016)
  27. Caterina Ingleman Sanders, The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules (charity shop, October 2016)
  28. Jane Smiley, Some Luck (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  29. Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Barnes & Noble (in MD), Summer 2013 - a re-read, as I read it when a teen) *
  30. M L Stedman, The Light Between Oceans (Waterstones Wimbledon, December 2016)
  31. Rose Tremain, Tresspass (charity shop, December 2015)
  32. Sarah Winman, A Year of Marvellous Ways (charity shop, October 2016)

Monday, February 27, 2017

Dinner, 27/2/17: Pasta with potato, sweet potato & bacon

A very quick supper before heading up town; Geoff and I had tickets for Amadeus for our anniversary.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Dinner, 26/2/17: Beef Stew

A nice one for the slow-cooker...

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Book 19: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

This is the third in the Grisha trilogy and a satisfying conclusion to it, with a bit more on character and a bit less on mystic magic (which is fine with me) - also felt a bit less rushed than the second (which was ok, don't get me wrong, just quite intensely paced). There's another series about the Grisha of which I've read the first (Six of Crows) previously. I have the second, but think I might re-read Six of Crows to remind myself and also, in light of knowing more about the world, it would be interesting to re-read...

Dinner, 25/2/17: Cauliflower "Steaks" with Chimichurri (Niomi Smart); Spicy Wedges

These were seriously awesome. We love cauliflower anyway - such a versatile veggie and lots of people don't really use it to its full potential - and this was great. Roasting it adds a lovely touch and the chimichurri sauce was super. The wedges were plain and sweet potatoes and weren't anything special (but tasted nice anyway) - I just dumped some peri-peri salt on them and did them in the oven.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Book 18: The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley

This was a creepy, atmospheric, gripping story. Not sure how I feel about the end, but it's still a very good read. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dinner, 22/2/17: Jacket Potatoes, Cheese, Beans, Bacon

A good one for when people have to be different places at different times as the potatoes can keep warm in the oven until needed. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Dinner, 20/2/17: Sausage and Rocket Linguine

This is an easy pasta dish which can be thrown together in a hurry - perfect weeknight supper. And tasty.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Book 17: The Humans by Matt Haig

An interesting take on what it's like - both good and bad - to be human, from the point of view of someone who isn't. Clever idea for a story which doesn't overwork itself too much (though it comes close a couple of times) and a nice reflection on the joys and pains of humanity. 

Dinner, 18/2/17: Vegetable Biryani

This is one we make fairly often - and though the recipe uses sweet potato rather than squash, the fact that I had half a cauliflower and half a butternut in my fridge seemed to call out for it... It's easy to make and always tastes great. And usually there are leftovers for lunches, which is always a bonus.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Book 16: The Anonymous Venetian by Donna Leon (re-read)

Re-reading my way through this series, now that I've been to Venice. They all seem a little more real somehow because I can picture some of the places. But I enjoyed the series before, so I expect to do so again. And many of them, I read so long ago that I don't remember much of the plot, I just have a  vague sense of familiarity...

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Dinner, 16/2/17: Macaroni with Minced Meat and Onions (Gino D'Acampo)

This was like a ragu sauce but with no tomato - rich and tasty, but not quite as overwhelming as a bolognese. Really nice.

Books in

Several books bought today - in fact, this is only a small selection of them. However, only one (Crooked Kingdom) counts towards my reading list. Traitor to the Throne, I will read, but I technically bought it for Sarah as it's second in a series she owns the first of; the Rough Guide to Amsterdam is a travel guide. I also bought a cookbook by a blogger, which Olivia was really keen to own, a book for Geoff (The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore) which we've been waiting for in paperback, plus an Andrew Taylor mystery, which I bought with the other book to take advantage of a multi-buy deal.  I also chose a few titles which will go away for Mother's Day presents for next month and Alex bought two manga.  Quite a haul, but in all, only one title for the list (though the Mother's Day titles will go on it in March, so they will count in the end).

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book 15: Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

I enjoyed this. Zevin writes realistic (only in the sense that the people act real) stories about teens (and grownups) - this was a quick read, but enjoyable.

Dinner, 15/2/17: Sweet and Sour Pork with Daikon Noodles (Spiralise Every Day)

This was very good, but we thought it needed a lot more daikon (mooli) - I used one large one, I think it wants at least another whole one.  Definitely one to have again, though. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Book 14: The Wilding by Maria McCann

I enjoyed this. Set in the late 17th century, with a tone to match (but not too much, as that would be annoying) it's a compelling story of family secretts. A good read.

Dinner, 14/2/17: Potato and Cauliflower Curry, Black Rice (Aine Carlin)

Like an aloo gobi, but not as dry. The black rice was nice, but regular rice would have been just fine. But very tasty, overall. I liked the kale (and cavolo nero, as suggested as an alternative in the recipe, would have been excellent, too). 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book 13: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

I wouldn't want to be a teenager again - not for a lot of money, not even for a short time. However, if I had to do it, the one - possibly the only - good thing (other than not aching every time I sit on the floor for more than five minutes) about the experience would be the vast array of truly excellent books aimed at the young adult market. I mean, I was virtually inseperable from whatever my book was at the time, and there was very little actually AIMED at people my age. I read a lot of YA books now. Because on the whole, they are fairly awesome. This book, though, wow. I just loved it. It manages to be an extremely serious novel about teen angst and mental health and not fitting in and loneliness and insecurity while at the same time not taking itself in the least seriously, and being truly laugh-aloud funny at the same time (and not just the great epigraphs at the top of each chapter). It's less accurate to say that I read this, than that I inhaled it. Just fantastic. And if you are a big fan of Buffy who doesn't take yourself too seriously (not sure any true fan of Buffy can take themselves too seriously) you will just love the Indie side plot where Ness teases and pokes fun at Buffy (and its ilk) in the way you only can when secretly, Buffy is your BFF or favourite child. 

Dinner, 13/2/17: Crusted Pumpkin Wedges (Yotam Ottolenghi)

This is another from the book Plenty, and again, very tasty. I served it with leftover couscous from last night's peppers, a salad made from thinly sliced celery, cucumber, apple & grated carrot and some nice crusty bread. Sour Cream topping optional...  Recipe can be found online...

Book 12: Slade House by David Mitchell

Pretty much read this in one sitting (it's fairly short) with a little time in the middle to watch a little telly with the family, pick Olivia up from work and talk to my mum on the phone. Thought the book was really compelling, and the first 4 or 5 sections read well completely independently of other stories; the end was a bit more complicated, and I'm trying to work out how it would read if one hadn't read The Bone Clocks (ok, I think) - of course, I have, so the fact that some of it is intertwined there is hard to escape. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Dinner, 12/2/17: Mediterranean Stuffed Peppers

Yes, there are peppers (Romano peppers - longish, thinnish red ones) under that couscous filling. Not sure where this recipe is from - it just says "Christmas Collection" but not the name of the magazine - but it was tasty, and pretty yummy. We had it with salad and crusty bread. 

Book 11: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Another good young adult fantasy novel which Sarah passed me when she'd read it; this one set in a desert land full of magic - Geoff will ask me if he'd like this and it's probably a little more aimed at the female audience, but I'm looking forward to the next one in the series...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Dinner, 11/2/17: Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Aubergines

I used little baby aubergines - Geoff and I both like aubergines (eggplant) the kids, not so much, so I let them just eat the chicken & green beans. Because I'm nice that way (I'm not really, but there weren't that many aubergines, and there was an alternative vegetable, so what the heck.)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Book 10: The Year of the Runaways, Sunjeev Sahota

This is an engrossing book about three young Indian men who come to England for a year to find work - they come from different backgrounds and come in different ways and for different reasons. It's a compelling, if somewhat bleak, picture of difficult choices, and hard lives, in a culture which, for all I'm exposed to different aspects of it fairly often, I don't have a very thorough understand of. (Not really accurate to say it's a single culture, of course, a point very obvious in the book.) Not surprised it was shortlisted for the Booker. A good read.

Dinner, 10/2/17: Omelette, Oven Chips

A good night for omelettes - just Geoff, Alex & me - Olivia (who doesn't really like eggs) was out. Leftover oven chips from the freezer... Easy, tasty.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Dinner, 8/2/17: Cheeseburger Quesadillas (John Whaite)

These are great;  we've had them before - they don't photograph well, though, so I'm also sharing the photo from the book, below. This is from the Perfect Plates in Five Ingredients book, which I like a lot.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Dinner, 7/2/17: Pasta Bake with meatballs

This one was an assemble-ahead dish - we put it together on Sunday (we being Alex and me) - using some meatballs, a bag of pasta and several bits of leftover tomato sauces from various things from fridge and freezer. And a bag of mozzarella cheese. It was very flavourful, and will make nice leftovers for lunch for a couple of days this week, as well.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Dinner, 6/2/17: Macaroni Cheese, salad

I had originally intended to throw a little roasted pureed butternut squash into this, as I had half a squash in the fridge, but I forgot about a committment (Homework Club at school - my favourite!) which meant I had less time than I originally thought I would. I made the cheese sauce and cooked a little pancetta, then left Alex to cook the pasta, assemble the dish, put it in the oven and make the salad, ready for when I got back from my tutoring.  

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Dinner, 5/2/17: Cheat's Sausage Cassoulet (Sainsbury's Magazine)

More of a sausage and bean casserole than a cassoulet, but it was easy and warming. Although it was Alex's birthday, we didn't do anything too special for dinner as it was just the three of us (Olivia works on a Sunday afternoon and evening), and we'd gone out to dinner the night before.

Birthday Boy

One of the primary purposes of social media being to publish slightly embarrassing photos of your relatively grownup children when they were small(er) and cute(r), I offer this little birthday collage of my "baby". My baby who is now taller than all the female members of his immediate family and rapidly encroaching on his last remaining family member...  Happy 14th birthday, Alex!

Friday, February 03, 2017

Dinner, 3/2/17: Courgette rice with feta & olives

A quick, easy, fairly cheap (though not at the moment, given the non-availability of courgettes) weeknight meal. I meant to have this on Monday, and something else tonight, but well, whatever. Just means we'll end up eating pasta two nights in a row, though the dishes will be quite different.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Book 9: The Late Scholar by Jill Paton Walsh

The latest (I think) of the new books using Dorothy L Sayers' characters, Peter Wimsey & Harriet Vane. This one was set in Oxford again, which was fun. A good, solid mystery and the characters do, more or less, stay in character. The books aren't quite as intellectual (by which I mean full of obscure literary references) as the originals, but they are still a welcome addition to the life stories of some favourite characters.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Dinner, 1/2/17: Stir Fried vegetables with noodles

January Round Up


  • 31st: Carrot & Tomato Soup (freezer)
  • 30th: Butternut Squash Spaghetti with Walnut & Rocket Pesto
  • 29th: Greek Lamb Shanks
  • 28th: Baked Eggs
  • 27th: Prawn curry with spinach rotis
  • 26th: Fend for yourself
  • 25th: Ravioli with artichokes, rocket, and lemon
  • 24th: Pesto Pizza with Artichokes
  • 23rd: Coconut Chicken Soup
  • 22nd: Meat and Potato Pie
  • 21st: Roast Chicken, Roast Potatoes, Carrots
  • 20th: Homemade Pizza Night
  • 19th: Fend for yourself
  • 18th: Bacon, Potato & Onion Casserole (Geoff)
  • 17th: Carrot and Tomato Soup
  • 16th: Linguine with creamy tomato and caper sauce
  • 15th: Slow-cooked beetroot and beef curry
  • 14th: Leftover chili from freezer (K out)
  • 13th: Plaice, peas, potatoes (G&A only - girls out)
  • 12th: Fend for yourself
  • 11th: Cheese & lemon pasta with olive pesto
  • 10th: Hot dogs, sauerkraut, salad, oven chips
  • 9th: Leek, barley & chickpea soup
  • 8th: Roasted Vegetable and Lentil Salad
  • 7th: Chili Beef Pies
  • 6th: Pasta with pancetta, chili & lemon
  • 5th: Shredded Chicken with Sesame Seeds
  • 4th: Spanakopita
  • 3rd: Cauliflower & Broccoli Cheese with Walnuts
  • 2nd: Fajitas
  • 1st: Pizza Express!