Sunday, April 30, 2017

Books and Reading, April 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 or otherwise get rid of 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
In February: books read: 12; list reduced by: 11; pre-2015 reduction: 0; pre-2016 reduction: 1
In March: books read: 8; list increased by: 1;  pre-2015 reduction: 0; pre-2016 reduction: 0.

Here's what happened in April:
  • I read four titles from my list, more or less (didn't read all of two of them, but I read as much as I'm going to before getting rid of them) (The Adventures & Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (this is a single book with two volumes in it, so it counts as two books read but only as one removed from the list); The Little Old Lady Who Broke all the Rules by Catarina Ingleman Sanders, The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith - I read this many many years ago, as a child, but honestly, remember almost nothing of it at all)
  • I read part of one of the books on my list, but didn't really get into it (American Rust by Philip Meyer)
  • I read one book from my cousin's stash in Florida (Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store by Robin Sloan)
  • I left a book from my list at my cousin's place in Florida, as I decided I wasn't going to read it (Trespass by Rose Tremain) 
  • I read one book loaned to me by a friend (Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick)
  • I read two books already owned by someone else in our house (The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Numbers by Rachel Ward)
  • I read, possibly re-read, but I don't remember it a book in Donna Leon's Brunetti series, which I am re-reading my way through, filling in any gaps as I go along (A Venetian Reckoning)
  • I bought six books in the enormous Waterstones in Piccadilly Circus (Olivia's fault, she dragged me in kicking and screaming)...
  • I took a book home from my cousin's stash in Florida (Mr Darcy's Daughters by Elizabeth Aston)
  • I bought a book in the $1 section of a used book store in Florida (The Book Borrower by Alice Mattison)
  • I went into a bunch of charity shops with Sarah (who is also terrible for my book habit - it's all my kids' fault!) and bought, yes, some more books. (Six. Yes, I'm a terrible person. But at least I'm supporting charity, right? And technically one of these books came from Waterstones, but who's counting.)

April goal progress:
  1. books read: 10 of 72 books 
  2. books removed from list: 6; books added:14 ; net result +8
  3. books read/removed from list from before 2015: 1 of 4;  from before 2016: 3 of 10

Here's the updated list of Books to Read in 2017.  There were 46 books at the beginning of January, and now there are 41 (but a lot of them are different!).
  1. Peter Ackroyd, Hawksmoor (charity shop, April 2017)
  2. Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky (charity shop, October 2016)
  3. Elizabeth Aston, Mr Darcy's Daughters (from Taffy's house in Florida, April 2017)
  4. Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom (Waterstones Wimbledon, February 2017)
  5. Susan Barker, The Incarnations (charity shop, July 2016)
  6. Philip Baruth, The Brothers Boswell (Waterstones Canterbury bargain bin, July 2015)
  7. Mikhail Bulgokov, The Master and Margarita (charity shop, April 2017)
  8. Jessie Burton, The Muse (Waitrose, January 2017)
  9. Joanna Cannon, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (Mother's Day 2017)
  10. Tracy Chevalier, At the Edge of the Orchard  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  11. Chris Cleave, Everyone Brave is Forgiven (Mother's Day, 2017)
  12. Wilkie Collins, The Haunted Hotel (birthday present, November 2015)
  13. Anthony Doerr, About Grace (Waterstones Piccadilly, July 2016)
  14. 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...) *
  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. Kate Grenville, The Lieutenant (charity shop, December 2015)
  18. Mark Haddon (Introduction), Experiences at the Edge of Consciousness (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  19. Antonia Hodgkin, The Devil in the Marshalsea (charity shop, May 2016)
  20. John Irving, Avenue of Mysteries  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  21. Lynn Knight, The Button Box  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  22. Alexander MacColl Smith, Emma (charity shop, April 2017)
  23. Neil MacGregor, Germany: Memories of  a Nation (birthday present, Nov 2016)
  24. Rebecca MacKenzie, In a Land of Paper Gods (Christmas Present, 2016)
  25. Alice Mattison, The Book Borrower (Used Book Depot, Vero Beach, April 2017)
  26. Elizabeth McKenzie, The Portable Veblen (Mother's Day, 2017)
  27. Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian (charity table, Wetland Centre, May 2015)
  28. Kiran Millweed Hargrave, The Girl of Ink and Stars (Waterstones Wimbledon, April 2017)
  29. Alice Munro, Runaway (Waterstones Piccadilly, March 2016)
  30. Patrick Ness, More than This  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  31. Flannery O'Connor, Complete Stories (charity shop, December 2015)
  32. Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero (charity shop , April 2017)
  33. Orhan Pamuk. A Strangeness in Mind (Christmas present 2016)
  34. Natasha Pulley, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (Waterstones Wimbledon, December 2016)
  35. Elizabeth Redfern, The Music of the Spheres  (charity shop, December 2015)
  36. Anna Richards, Little Gods (pound shop, November 2016)
  37. Julia Rochester, The House at the Edge of the World (charity shop, April 2017)
  38. Gregory David Roberts, Shantaram (Abe Books, July 2016)
  39. Marcus Sedgewick, The Foreshadowing  (Waterstones Piccadilly, April 2017)
  40. Jane Smiley, Some Luck (Waterstones Reading, October 2015)
  41. M L Stedman, The Light Between Oceans (Waterstones Wimbledon, December 2016)

Book 38: A Venetian Reckoning by Donna Leon

Another (of the earliest ones) in the series by Donna Leon. I don't really remembe reading this one before, so perhaps I missed it along the way. Or perhaps it's just faded with time. I do really enjoy this series, though, so it's a pleasure whether or not I remember it well. I liked the series before I'd ever been to Venice, and now that I've been, it's fun to place myself in certain scenes. 

Dinner, 30/4/17: Lamb Steaks, Chard, Baked Potatoes

The lamb steaks and the chard both courtesy of a trip to the Farmers' Market on Saturday morning. Yum.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Dinner, 28/4/17: Ravioli with Artichokes and Parmesan

A quick dinner as Olivia was going out and I was tired from my work week. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Book 37: Numbers by Rachel Ward

A quick young adult read, based around the idea that the main character can see the dates when people will die, and all the various events that happen when she gets involved in something bigger than she'd planned to. It's a high speed chase, almost, but not in a bad way. There are two more; we have them in the house, so I'll probably read them to see what happens.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Book 36: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith (re-read, but...)

This is a book I read many years ago, as a young teen. However, I remembered almost nothing of it, so it really counts as a new read. And well worth reading again, or for the first time, or whatever. Such a good book, the characters really well drawn and sympathetic. I love how this book is both gentle and gritty at the same time. Truly deserving of its reputation as a modern classic.

Dinner, 24/4/17: Pizza, Doughballs, Cucumber Salad

Geoff's away at our nephew's wedding in The Netherlands, time for a quick & easy supper of pizza & bits...

Friday, April 21, 2017

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dinner, 19/4/17: Black Olive & Artichoke Pasta

I thought this was pretty boring - we have a lot of pasta meals, many of which are more interesting than this. There was nothing wrong with it, it just wasn't exciting.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Dinner, 18/4/17: Meatballs, Oven Potatoes, Veg & Hummous

This is one of those meals for when you are short on time - Sarah threw this one together for us - Tuesday night is usually one of those nights when it's too complicated for me to cook. In this instance, we used ready-made meatballs...

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dinner, 15/4/17: Pork Mince and New Potato Curry

A standby in our house - sometimes with other mince, depends on what we have hanging around.

Book 35; The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness

Jeez Louise - the tension in this one!  This was a great story, or rather, beginning of a story as the ending is rather a cliff hanger and I'm going to have to quickly find the next in the trilogy to read. I am continually impressed by the quality of young adult fiction being written these days, and this is no exception. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Dinner, 14/4/17: Greek(ish) chicken salad

...And I should stay out of charity shops as well... (Books in)

But I like poking around with my girls. In this case, Sarah. Two of these books are actually on my list of stuff to look for (the Michael Ondaatje and the Austen Project one), and one was one which kept coming up on Lists of Books To Read Before you Die (the Bulgakov), so they don't really count. Ok, they do, but...  at least I'm supporting charities, right?  The one at bottom right actually came from Waterstones, but the other five were all second hand...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Books in

These two came home from Florida with me - one belonged to my cousin (the Jane Austen tie-in), the other came from a trawl through a used book store - it was in the $1 shelves.  I didn't look too hard - didn't need a big stack of books to bring back with me!

A week in Florida

So, I had a week in Florida over Easter, to help celebrate my uncle's 90th birthday. It was a lovely visit once I got there (tornadoes in Georgia grounded all flights in and out of Atlanta, which was where I was connecting, for a while - I did finally get to Orlando, but it took a long time and took my bag even longer). 

On Saturday, we had a picnic in the park with some of my aunt & uncle's friends. 

I visited McKee Botanical Gardens, where I'd last been as a small child (when it was called McKee Jungle Gardens).

We did some manatee watching, 

walked on the beach (this is my cousin, Terry), 

and looked for shells (my brother).

We had another birthday dinner at Taffy's house (what we call the house that used to belong to my grandparents - my aunt and uncle don't live there, they live in a retirement community, but the family uses the house still) on Sunday, the actual birthday. My mom was missing, despite being my uncle's younger sister, because her flights were so badly affected by bad weather and the knock on effect that she just ended up cancelling her trip and getting a full refund.

My two cousins, Diane and Terry.

Terry took this one - a decent picture of me - almost never happens!

We had a final birthday celebratory meal on Monday at the Ocean Grill, a nice restaurant where we used to go for fancy meals over the course of many years visiting Florida.

Dinner, 13/4/17: Pork & Vegetable Stir Fry

I did manage to recover from my jetlag enough to go buy some food, but in the end, I got the kids to cook as I was ready to fall over. We cheated a little and bought a pack of pre-marinated pork (it was in the reduced to clear section)...

Book 34: The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

I liked the idea of this book, but wasn't that taken with the book itself, and probably wouldn't have read nearly as much of it as I did if I hadn't been on an airplane with it. As it was, I didn't really read the whole thing, but it was enough to count...

Book 33; Mr Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Picked this up in the house in Florida on my holiday and read it in two sittings (admittedly, one was on a plane) - really good fun, quirky, kinda strange, but in a good way. I always enjoy books about bookshops; books about bookshops with magic or mysticism involved - so much the better!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book 32: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle

The other half of the book with two Sherlock Holmes collections in it... 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Book 31: The Little Old Lady Who Broke All The Rules by Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg

This novel is very much in the of Jonas Jonasson's The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Through the Window and Disappeared, except it's nowhere near as good. It was ok, amusing in places, but just didn't really catch me. I skimmed bits of it. 

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Book 30: Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle

I actually own this book in a single volume with Memoirs, but they were written as separate books, so I'm counting them separately. This was one of my  Florida books - meaning, one I decided to take on my trip to Florida, because I know I won't mind leaving it there when finished with it - I will no doubt bring some different books back with me!  I've read a handful of Sherlock Holmes before, but never worked my way through the whole canon; I'm enjoying them, though.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Dinner, 4/4/17: Root and Lentil Stew (Good Food Magazine)

This is an old recipe, which I've made before, but not in a long time. It was really warming and tasty, though I've renamed it "stew" - the recipe called it a casserole, but it's not, really. 

Monday, April 03, 2017

Books in (or, Why I Should Not Go Into Bookshops)

We were up in town today and Olivia wanted to pop into Waterstones (the big one, in Piccadilly) to look at some recommended titles. 

"Mum," she asked, "Have you ever gone into a bookshop and only bought one book?"

"Hmm," I replied, "I think maybe I did, once, but I could be wrong."

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Book 29: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick

An excellent young adult novel loaned to me by a friend at work; this traces the multiple incarnations of two spirits, backwards, through their many lives on a remote island (or in some cases, related to the island rather than on it).  Really gripping and brilliantly written.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Dinner, 1/4/17: Mini Toad in the Hole, Spring Greens

March Roundup


  • 31st: Wahaca (K out)
  • 30th: Chicken Escallopes, shoestring potatoes, green beans
  • 29th: Fish & Chips
  • 28th: Goat's Cheese and Pesto Canneloni
  • 27th: Chickpea & Spinach Curry
  • 26th: Shepherd's Pie (Geoff cooking)
  • 25th: Spiralized Sweet Potato Carbonara
  • 24th: Pizza
  • 23rd: Dinner out (Wagamama)
  • 22nd: Spaghetti with Peas
  • 21st: Bean & Chorizo Soup
  • 20th: Sausages, etc (Geoff & Alex)
  • 19th: Pork Paprikash with Mushrooms
  • 18th: Salmon Teriyaki with courgette noodles
  • 17th: Potato & Pesto Pizzas
  • 16th: Fend for yourself
  • 15th: Chicken Curry, Okra
  • 14th: Leftover pork, etc
  • 13th: Enchiladas
  • 12th: Roast Pork, etc
  • 11th: Oriental Chicken Noodle Soup
  • 10th: Tagliatelli with Sausage and Mushrooms
  • 9th: Fend for yourself
  • 8th: Vegetable Stir Fry
  • 7th: Herby Butterbean Broth
  • 6th: Pea, creme fraiche & mint gnocchi
  • 5th: Asian Steamed Chicken Dumplings
  • 4th: Red Lentil & Spinach Lasagne
  • 3rd: Sausages, Peas, Potatoes (G & A - K & O out)
  • 2nd: Fend for yourself
  • 1st: One Pan Spicy Rice