Reading in 2021, Books #1 to #4

Well I decide to continue trying to read more, and have started 2021 reasonably well, if I can remember the first 4 books I have read:

Book #1 Pokemon’s “Ash’s Big Challenge” Over the last year all four of the older grandchildren have got into Pokemon. At various times I have talked to each of them about Pokemon, and when possible played Pokemon with them. Mr 6 got this book for Christmas and let me read it. Nicely written and I have bought a set for his cousin’s birthday when he turns 6. I now know people can be a Pokemon Watcher, I will take that role when next I am playing, should save me have to lure reluctant Pokemon to be caught!

Book #2 Dilly Court “Tilly True”. I read an article about Dilly Court saying she was a best selling author, but often ignored. Her books are described as family sagas, and are aimed at an audience who like romantic fiction. This story about a poor East End girl, takes the reader from the East End to India and back, with Tilly getting into a number of scrapes. It was an easy read and kept me engaged. It reminded me of serials that used to appear in my mum’s weekly copy of the magazine “Woman”. I will probably read more, particularly if I don’t want something too challenging.

Book #3 Robert Harris “The Second Sleep”. Robert harris is one of my favourite authors. His books are very different from each other. This book took unexpected turns along the way, and certainly the final reveal was not what I expected. The tag line of the cover is “What if your future lies in the past?” is really a good summary. My husband is now reading and other family member waiting their turn!

Book #4 Matt Haig “The Midnight Library”. Like some other of Haig’s books this is sad in place. But the plot is original and takes us through many possible lives. Really gripping, and while I was sorry to finish it, I was satisfied with the ending, although it wasn’t quite a happy ever after.

Book #22, #23 and #24

So in the end last year I read 24 books. The final three were:

“Machines Like Me” by Ian McEwan. A brilliant book set in a slightly alternative world, in which Alan Turing was lauded and became Sir Alan Turing, and we lost the Falklands War. Artificial Intelligence had developed to a stage were robots had man-like intelligence. This book explores what might happen. I really enjoyed it.

“The Little Book of Embroidery” by Lazy May. Arguably this is not book – more a booklet – but a useful introduction to embroidery stitches.

“The Bee Keeper of Aleppo” by Christy Lefteri. A harrowing story of a refugee couple fleeing war torn Aleppo, and their arrival in the UK. A difficult read.

Book #20 and #21

Book #20″The House with Chicken Legs” by Sophie Anderson: another example of children’s literature lent to me by my daughter. This book sat on the “to read” pile for a while – I think the title didn’t engage me. But when I read it I found it gripping. The plot was different to any book I had read before, the tale unfolded (rather like the house’s legs) and took me to new places. Brilliantly written,

Book #21 “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens. Another book loaned by my daughter, this time adult fiction and recently among the best sellers. The book it is set in marsh lands of US in the 1950s and 1960s. It is about poverty, prejudice and the marshes, anti is a murder mystery. I was sorry when I reached the end of the book – hopefully the author will write more fiction,

Books #15-#19

Book #15 “Three Weeks to Say Goodbye” by C.J. Box. My library’s online version (RBDigital) recommended this. I found it very small town US centric, with what seemed like stereo-typical characters. So I am afraid I gave up on it, and returned it early.

Book #16 “The Silence of Girls” by Pat Barker. Another recommendation – and this time it was gripping. The Trojan war from a woman’s perspective, who started off as a wealthy wife and then became a slave to Achilles. A story brilliantly told.

Book #17 “The Art of Being Normal” by Lisa Williamson. A story of two children – born as the wrong gender and the challenges they face. Gender reassignment of children has received a lot of negative press, but this explains why for some it is what they want.

Book #18 “This is Going to Hurt” by Adam Kay. My daughter lent me this – which she hasn’t read. It is an account of an ex-doctor’s early days working in hospitals. There are plenty of funny stories, but there is also heartbreak. I do not think anyone who is pregnant should read this.

Book #19 “Ten Poems about Knitting” – the author of each poem is given, and the introduction is written by Di Stanley, but no editor is given. My friend gave me this to celebrate my recent knitting successes (I have taught myself Fair Isle and made 3 of the grandchildren jumpers – now working on 3 for the others). Beautiful poems celebrating knitters male and female.

Books #10-14

#10 “Sword of Kings” by Bernard Cornwell. I usually enjoy books by Bernard Cornwell but recently I have found them formulaic – however this book was very readable. He continued to use his formula of building up to fights in great details – and even more detail of the battle – but this story had sufficient plot that the fights weren’t the main emphasis. I am not sure how many more battles the hero Uhtred can face he is definitely ageing. But I enjoyed this book and hope Cornwell can extend the life of his hero by a few more years!

Book #11 “The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse” by Charlie Mackery. My daughter lent me this, and then I saw a friend quoting from it – and so i was intrigued to read it. The book is beautifully written and the text is all handwritten. One reviewer described it as “A book of hope for uncertain times” – which sums it up nicely. I am glad I have read it.

Book #12 “Back to School After Lockdown: How to prepare your child” by Dawn Willoughby, Angela Buckley. Dawn Willoughby is a neighbour and former colleague, with lots of experience of education across age ranges, and so I was intrigued when I saw she had written this with the help of her sister. It was a timely book coming out in August with UK children due to start back at school i September. It was well written full of common sense advice for a situation none of us had imagined last year. I bought copies for my grandchildren’s parents and recommended it for friends. I hope a second edition isn’t needed!

The other two books both belong to my 6 year old grandson and he is lending them to his 5 year old cousin and I am acting as courier. So while I had them I thought I would read them

Book #13 “Caterpillars and Butterflies” by Stephanie Turnbull. This is a well illustrated book about the subject of the title. I have often walked the children around our local lake and there are some “interpretation boards” with facts about the natural life in the area, including one about caterpillars and butterflies, this book provides an excellent resource to provide even more details. The publishers have three sets of related books on topics relating to: science, nature and history. The 6 year old has all of these, and so i have now bought the 5 year olds family the set on science.

Book #14 “Sophie Squirrel” by Lily Small. This book is part of a series about Fairy Animals. the 6 year old has read all of them and has previously offered to lend me one. The story is well told and uses a range of vocabulary, there are quite a lot of words to each page but they are designed to be readable by a child. I may read a few others because it will help in talking to the children.

Books #9, 10 and 11

Recently read three very different books:

Book #9 “Something New to Learn about Helical Knitting” by Jen Arnall-Culliford. Helical knitting is essentially knitting in the round with getting a jog (obvious join) where the colour changes. There are various techniques around, but most of them just make the jog less obvious. People describe the technique in this book as a “game changer” and it is. Once set up you are working with several colours at once but the rounds flow inside each other (rather like the stairs in Chemistry at the University of Reading). My only complaint is the book is an e-book – and if it was a hard copy I would be buying them as gifts for friends that knit.

Book #10:”Three Things About Elsie” by Joanna Cannon. This book is largely based on recollections made by Florence, of her best friend Elsie. Intermingled with a bit of “who did it” or maybe “who did what”. A beautiful read.

Book #11: “Hitler’s Canary” by Sandi Toksvig. This is a children’s book, but it is well written and told me lots about Denmark in the Second World War. An excellent read.

Books #5, 6, 7 and 8

So over the past few weeks I have read three books and abandoned one.

Book #5: “My Sister, the Serial Killer” by Oyinkan Braithwaite. I borrowed this book because I had read a recommendation, although I had also read a review in which the reader was not sure if it was supposed to be humorous. I found it low key funny, not a laugh out loud. Definitely an easy read

Book#6: “Rooftoppers” by Katherine Rundell. This is children’s literature and my daughter thought I would like it. It was well written, the worlds described are imaginative but believable, as was the plot mostly. I was slightly concerned about the baby Sophie seemingly entrusted to a committed bachelor with minimal support. But that helped the plot.

Book #7: “Why Mummy Drinks” by Gill Sims. I had heard of this book when it was first released, and when I saw it on the virtual library self I decided to read it. It is a well known scenario, overworked mother with children who could be angels but aren’t, seeing other mothers who seem to be living a perfect life… But the brilliant writing and puts twists makes for a very amusing novel, easily read.

Book #8: “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernadine Evaristo. I picked this off the virtual library shelf after hearing others discussing it. I should have paid more attention to one of them who described it as challenging. In theory I should like this book as it develops a number of characters. But I found it verbose and I was really irritated by the lack of full stops and capital letters at the start of what appears to be a sentence. So after about 20% of the book I decided I really wasn’t enjoying it and it would be better to read something more enjoyable.

Books #4, 5 and 6

A friend had lent me some books, and so they were my first choice of reading material.

Book #4 “How the Dead Speak” by Val McDermid, a gripping police drama, with the story told from different angles and interconnected plot lines, including historic child abuse. Kept drawing me back and really enjoyable.

Book #5 “Big Sky” by Kate Atkinson. Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite authors Her plot lines and story lines are not predictable. This one is based around her character Jackson Brodie and he is in North Yorkshire. The plot line is sad and linked like the previous book to historic child abuse. But the description of the Scarborough area – including a car chase to Flamborough does add colour. Definitely a good book – and I wonder if I should re-read some of her early work?

Book #6 “The Vanishing Point” by Val McDermid. This was a very different tale to the previous books I have read by Val McDermid. The book starts with the abduction of a child from his carer in a US airport, and story moves back about how the child was with the carer. Candidates for the abdunction are introduced and then ruled out. The story then moves forward – to the big reveal as to who did it.

I am about a third of my way through my next book – so I think I may be back into reading.

Book #3 “Knife” by Jo Nesbo

You would think with months of lockdown I would have read a lot. But no we came back from Lanzarote in February and I had read two books. I started Jo Nesbo’s “Knife” and I just stalled.

I didn’t find the book readable I kept going back to it, but I just couldn’t engage. So a few weeks ago I decided I really must abandon it – and read something else.

Gluten Free Apple Muffins

I have made these a few times, and tweaked the original recipe so here is my version of a relatively healthy muffin (they are healthier if you omit the optional sugar).

Ingredients

  • 1 Egg
  • A knob of butter melted
  • 50 g ground almonds
  • 1/2 teasp of baking powder (check it is GF)
  • 1 eating apple coarsely grated
  • 1/2 teasp of cinnamon or other spice
  • Optional – 1 level tblsp of soft brown sugar

Method

  1. Whiz all the ingredients in a blender
  2. Spoon in to bun cases that are stood in bun tins
  3. Bake at 180 C Fan (200 C ordinary) for 15-18 minutes, check they are cooked with a skewer put in the mixture which should come out clean, give them a couple of more minutes if they are not set.

Notes

  • The sugar can be omitted but they are tastier with it
  • Using traditional UK bun cases I get 6-8 from this mixture.
  • If eaten on the day made the muffin sticks a bit to the case – but after a day or so they will be loose.
  • The apple can be replaced by other fruit or veg, change the spice to match.