Posts Tagged 'books'

Holiday Reading

I’m in the middle of my big summer holiday break, and have a thesis to write… so I’ve been procrastinating with all the good books I can find.  I thought I’d share my picks of the bunch with you – some will be familiar to friends reading this blog as I took their suggestions over what to buy!

I finished off the school term with some Camilla Lackberg novels. I owe the librarian at school for her suggestion (and yes, I’ll return the book pronto Maureen!), as I really enjoyed these. One awesome benefit of teaching, for me, has to be the school library. I can saunter in on  Friday and come out with a pile of weekend reads – and they even loan DVDs, which has allowed me to catch up a little on the recent movies I’ve missed by being too cheap to shell out for the cinema experience. Ah, but back to Lackberg – I read all four of the Patrik Hedstrom books, The Stonecutter, The Preacher, The Hidden Child, and The Gallows Bird.  Lackberg writes in her native Swedish, I read these in translation, and even found myself buying the final one in Kindle format when it wasn’t available from the local library.  Can’t wait for The Drowning to be released now too!  These are mystery stories, set in Fjallbacka, a small Swedish town.  It was lovely to read more stories set in Sweden after my Dragon Tattoo-fest last year. I enjoyed the main characters, and was engaged by the various stories.  A good, fast read.

I was totally captured by The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This is Morgenstern’s debut novel, and what a way to start! I loved the imagination behind the story itself – and the realms of what is possible within the circus and magic, but the pace, structure and description really added to this.  I was really fortunate it was as engaging as it was – this I took with me on a recent trip overnight where I had far too much caffine and couldn’t get to sleep until after 3am.  The Night Circus kept me company.

I found the main characters Celia and Marco very sympathetic, and the cast of minor characters were also very engaging. There were a raft of them, and their relationships were tightly interwoven, as were their fates.  This book isn’t just for circus lovers – it has tension, mystery, romance and magic within its pages. Definitely one to re-read for me!

I also really enjoyed Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin.

I’ve been jumping about genres a little bit – this is a little bit mystery, a bit drama. Set in Mississippi, it explores the tensions of small town life through two major characters – Larry, a white boy who grew into a man, shadowed by suspicion about a girl who went missing after his date with her, and Silas, a black boy who moves back to his old hometown as a policeman.  The tensions that occur in the short period after another local lady goes missing are contextualised with flashbacks to the 1970s explaining the history of Larry and Silas’ friendship, and look at the way their re-acquaintance affects their present lives.

Larry and Silas aren’t the most sympathetic of main characters.  But as you get to know more about the history of each through the flashbacks, you come to care more deeply for them.  The novel is well crafted in this, and other regards, and I enjoyed it.

Some lighter reading was found in a bit of chick lit – Three Girls and Baby by Rachel Schuring fulfilled my criteria. It was cheap and fun.  Just $2.99US in Kindle format, it did me nicely.  This book looks at the life of Ginny, and what happens when she falls pregnant to her former boyfriend when she’s fresh out of college and fresh from their breakup.  There are some fun times to be had for her and her two besties as they decide to stay flatting together despite the pregnancy and to raise the baby together.  Realistic? Maybe not, but since when is chick lit meant to be realistic? It’s supposed to be escapist isn’t it!  Anyway, there are Kindle editions available of two follow-up novels already – which given the first book was released in July 2011 defies belief really! The speed at which the world moves these days is kinda scary!

Anyway – that’s it from me for now.  I’ve got more holiday time and more books on my Kindle waiting reading, not to mention a nice being Amazon.co.uk order waiting for me at home (I hope!) so I’ll be found with my nose buried in a book for quite some time to come.

March Update

I’m not exactly sure how, but March appears to have arrived.  And with March, Autumn has also arrived.  Just 7 days in and already mornings are darker, and colder. The weather is much more changeable, with rainy days alternating with fine days.  This morning we woke to the mountain dusted with its first sprinking of snow.  The girls had gone to bed in their summer jammies the night before… maybe for the last time this season, unless we have an unseasonably warm spell I guess! 

Of course autumn and winter are lovely times for year for knitters. Already I seem to have more ideas on what to knit, and am starting to put together a ‘knit list’ for the girls and I.  I do have a few finished items to photograph, so I’ll rope in DS tomorrow to get some pictures to share.

In the meantime I’ll show you my latest toy…

Yep ( my sister will likely be laughing now as she showed off her Nook to me at Christmas time…) I decided it was time I got with the information age and bought a Kindle.  It’s been a lot of fun getting used to it, and it has been fabulous so far.  I have read a number of books on it already, including some bought for very little.  Notably I bought, for the grand sum of 99c US a copy of The Works of L.M. Montgomery and have spent some weeks reading through old favourites: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne’s House of Dreams, Rainbow Valley, and Rilla of Ingleside.  In fact I don’t know if I ever read the last of these novels, I didn’t recall at all the final book which is set during the first World War.  There are four more books in the collection to read, but I’ve put these aside for now. 

I’ve also read a few of the free books, most of them are short and easily read… After the Leaves Fall, Homespun Bride, Goodness Gracious Green, Just as I am, and Stuck in the Middle.  None of them are hugely recommended but neither are any of them awful.  Very light reading!

One book that came highly recommended to me was Room by Emma Donoghue.  A stunningly written book, I loved the language and viewpoint: it’s narrated by a five year old who has never been outside the room that he shares with his mother: never been outside, or seen the world outside his room. The characterisation of Jack is great – his development throughout the novel and looking back at how he became to be the unique character he is, is very insightful.  His Ma is also really well written, she and her actions really resonate.  It’s not a cheerful story, but it is well worth reading.  I can’t recommend this highly enough for both the quality of the writing, and the story. I’m delighted to hear that it has been shortlisted for the Man Booker prize – it’s certainly a quality piece of writing that deserves recognition.

Or if you want some light reading, I can recommend the Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke. It’s the first in a series that are available either on Kindle or the old fashioned paper copies.  The heroine, Hannah Swensen mixes cookie dough and runs of cookie/coffee shop as a job and dabbles in solving murders in her spare time. Filled with delectable sounding recipes, this is probably not recommended for people on diets… But for the interests of reporting in here, I felt it important to bake at least one of the recipes and report back!  I chose the Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies, and they were a huge success.

I wasn’t sure about putting the recipe here, but a quick online search showed me it’s already published online, so here goes (with thanks to About.com.

Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies
1 cup butter (2 sticks melted)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 beaten eggs (beat with fork)
2 1/2 cups flour (not sifted)
2 cups crushed corn flakes
(crush them with your hands)
1 – 2 cups chocolate chips
Melt butter, add the sugars and stir. Add soda, salt, vanilla and beaten eggs. Mix well. Then add flour and stir it in. Add crushed corn flakes and chocolate chips and mix it all thoroughly.Form dough into walnut-sized balls with your fingers and place on a greased cookie sheet, 12 to a standard sheet. Press them down with a floured or greased fork in a crisscross pattern (the same method as peanut butter cookies).

Bake at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then remove to a wire rack until they’re completely cool. (The rack is important — it makes them crisp).  I made around 60 cookies from this size mix.  They didn’t last the week out. All gone.

I also tested the Pecan Chews recipe – and since I found that on Wikipedia, I’ll pop it on here too… But with a warning. Miss 4 told me that they were ‘bland’. It’s her new favorite word. I didn’t think they were bland. But I did need to add another half cup of flour to the recipe so it wasn’t so sticky.

Pecan Chews Hannah Swensen Cookie Recipe from Joanne Fluke’s book, “The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder”

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, rack in middle of oven.

1 Cup butter 3 Cups brown sugar 4 eggs, beaten with a fork 1 tsp salt 1 tsp baking soda 3 tsp vanilla 2 Cups finely chopped pecans 4 Cups flour, unsifted

Melt butter. Add sugar and mix. Add eggs and mix. Add salt, soda and vanilla and mix. Add pecans and flour and mix thoroughly.

Roll into walnut-sized balls. If dough is too sticky, chill for an hour or so and try again. 12 cookies per sheet. Flatten balls with spatula. Bake at 350 for 10–12 minutes.

Cool for a minute or so on cookie sheet, then move to cooling racks. Don’t leave too long on cookie sheets after baking because these cookies will stick.

I halved this recipe, so got around 40 cookies. They also disappeared quick smart (I made the batches a week of so apart…) and I think everyone liked them. Or maybe they were just pleased to get a break from food with zuchinni and/or lemons in them. 

I do have a couple more books I’ve read since I last posted about reading here, but I can’t think what they were right now – so I’ll check my bookshelf and fill you in more later.

Some sewing at last!

I’ve been busy at the sewing machine over the past few days, making the most of some pretty fabric and finishing off the work in progress bags I have orders for plus a few more.  I have also been working on an outfit each for the girls, although the fact they are incomplete didn’t stop me from working on something entirely different today.

Inspired by our library visit today, I took the opportunity to (finally) cut out the second and third library bags I got the fabric for several months ago.  I got one done too – it was one of those magic days where both girls slept and slept.  This bag is for me, I adore the fabric, and have enough to make myself a WIP bag which will be made tomorrow, as there is no time like the present!

Like the other library bag, I used a pattern made from an old cloth bag we had worn out, which I cut apart.  I added a patchwork panel and contrast of my own design.  The fabric is some lovely decorator weight Amy Bulter from her Nigella range. I totally adore it and am glad I have made something ‘useful’ from it. I love having the library books stored in the bags, as they girls books stay in them between visits, so I have an excuse for the bags staying out looking pretty all the time. 

We visit the library fortnightly on a Sunday, and today was our library day.  A while ago, a friend’s husband was bemoaning to me the pathetic collection of fly fishing books in the library and I pointed out that the section was approximately four times larger than the knitting section. It seems in recent months they have actually been buying some new knitting books though. I was able to get out these good old stitch dictionaries, as well as two new additions.

I have borrowed the Simply Baby book before, in fact the lovely knitted teddies I made were sourced from this book, and while I might not *use* any patterns from either book, it is lovely to flick through the patterns and admire them. 

I can see the days ahead taking shape – lots of finishing projects, secret Christmas knitting, and enjoying the spring sunshine before my marking contract tears me away from my life of leisure.

I’ve been…

Time traveling lately.

 

Given that I’m not a science-fiction fan, I find the concept of time travel as presented in these novels as quite acceptable. And it makes me question my statement that I prefer my books believeable.  Especially when you consider how many cars Stephanie Plum has blown up or destroyed over the years… I think I prefer my fiction to have the ring of truth to it. But, I don’t think that it’s likely I will start avoiding standing stones at certain times of the year, or accepting explanations from stark naked men I see on the street that blame time travel for their condition…

My lovely sisters read Diana Gabaldon’s novels before I did – in fact I read the first of them about 5 years ago now, and took a small stack with me when I travelled away on a school camp, thus infecting a colleage with the desire to read them too.  Yes, I have to confess, it was the teacher reading by torchlight after hours on that camp. And, given we were sleeping on a marae, I was setting a very bad example for the girls as we all slept together on matresses in one big room. 

An Echo in the Bone is vintage Gabaldon. Nothing unexpected about this novel – it has strong plot lines, multiple stories happening at once, and a assumption that you remember who each character is without going over and over their histories (unlike some other authors I could name).  There is war, time travel, twists and turns, losses and gains, a stranger or two, and of course some interesting medical treatments.  I enjoyed this book – it’s not a fast read at all, it took me over a week to read, but coming home to familiar characters who are treated with respect by an author is always fun.

Audrey Niffenigger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife has recently been made into a movie, so in the hopes I might get to see it, I re-read this too.  Chances are I won’t get to = I think the last ‘grown up movie’ I saw might have been the recent(ish) adaptation of Pride and Prejudice – before Miss 3 was born!!  Somehow movie-going has slipped off the agenda over the years.  It’s nice to re-read a book several years after you last read it, so that you can’t remember all the intricacies of the storyline.  This is a delight to read, an amazing first novel, and I am hoping to put Niiffenigger’s new novel on my Christmas wish-list, with the confirmation that she is a solid writer – it’s not just about the story. I love the structure of this novel, the gradual unfolding of information to the reader, and to each of the characters too.  It’s funny how you can want to stay up at night to read, when you already know how  the book ends. But I wanted to, and I did.  Lots of fun – I highly recommend it.

Stay tuned for more things that I’ve been doing – I have to distract you all from asking how my knitting is going!!


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