Books #37 and #38

This time a couple of books via my local library’s Libby subscription:

Book #37 “The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware. This is a whodunnit set at sea – maybe guessable from the title. The plot is told mainly from the point of view of the protagonist in real time, with occasional flat forwards to email exchanges between her friends, which hints at what is to come. There are plenty of twists and turns, and I raced through it.

Book #38 “The Other Half of Augusta Hope” by Joanna Glen. Someone recommended this book, but I am not enjoying it, I am about a quarter of the way through, and someone else is waiting for the copy so I have decided to give it back. I think my problem is that it is beautifully written from two standpoints, and it is obvious terrible things will happen. i don’t think I can bear going through these horrors – so I will return it.

Books #35 and #36

Two very different books:

Book #35 “Grown Ups” by Marian Keyes. My daughter lent me this, it is one of those books that starts at the end and then the reader learns what has led to this disaster, and to understand the characters. Was certainly still confused in the early parts. But as I progressed the characters became clearer and I put the ending aside and concentrated on the forward moving plot. By the time I got to then end I understood who the characters were and even liked some of them!

Book #36 “Sleeper” by Jed Mercurio and Prasanna Puwanarajah. This is a graphic novel (illustrator Coke Navarro), which is not part of my usual reading, but it is science fiction – which I do like, and the second author is the brother of my daughter in law. The plot is based on a biologically-enhanced law enforcement officer, with flaws and a past. The action is set on Saturn’s moon Titan, and involves investigation of a mass murder and a missing geologist, with plenty of potential conspiracies and twists happening. My biggest complaint about it is that it too brief, I need to know more about the characters and what is actually happening! Fortunately it ends with “To be continued…”.

Books #30-#34

Book #30 “The Buried Giant” by Kazuo Ishiguro. This book had a complex plot set in a semi-imaginary past, involving different ethnic groups in Britain of the Middle Ages, with a touch of mythology. At times the plot seemed disjointed, and I was wondering if the twist would be similar to Robert Harris’ “The Second Sleep” – it isn’t! By the end I understood the disjointed parts and the whole thing fitted together to give an excellent tale.

Book #31 “The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett. Earlier this year following a recommendation I read “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett. I said then how I wanted to read more by her, but I was going to wait (as for a second chocolate) – well this book was just as enjoyable but completely different, taking us through the life of one member of a disjoint family and his lost inheritance.

Book #32 “The Quick Roasting Tin” by Rukmini Iyer. I don’t often read cookery books from cover to cover but this one I did. I bought the book on a National Trust trip because they have suffered during the closures and I like to support their shop. This book has beautiful photographs (the author is a food stylist) and the recipes are easy to follow and produce tasty meals. I am seriously considering buying another one of her books.

Book #33 “The Long, Long Afternoon” by Inga Vesper. Set in the American 1950s this is a whodunnit with layers of racism and sexism of the time. I found it gripping from the start to the end. I was reading my library’s copy on Libby, and found myself reading a few sneaky pages on my phone. I hope the author is writing more books.

Book #34 “Should We Stay or Should We Go” by Lionel Shriver. Another gripping library book read on Libby. The plot is based on a couple who in the 1990s discuss a mutual suicide plot when they turn 80 (in 2020) to avoid the problems associated with inherited Alzheimer’s. The book explores possible different futures depending if they agree to this plan, and if they both then go ahead with it. The author manages to include the current pandemic in many of these alternatives. Some of the alternatives seem far-fetched and other very close to home.

Gluten free Cheese Biscuits

I recently tried making GF cheese straws adapting a normal recipe they turned our VERY crumbly. I had completed forgotten I had my own tried and tested GF Cheese Straws recipe. But it got me thinking about cheese biscuits and I did some experimenting and came up with these crispy biscuits.

  • 100g GF plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon GF baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 50g grated cheese (eg Red Leicester)
  • beaten egg
  1. Line baking sheet with non-stick paper; heat oven to 180 C fan
  2. In the blender combine flour, baking powder, cheese, olive oil and 3 tablespoon of water.
  3. This maybe still crumble but should combine easily in your hand.
  4. Create a sausage about 4cm (1 1/2″) wide
  5. Cool in the fridge for about 1 hour.
  6. Slice thinly into discs. Lay out on the baking sheet, if they feel a bit fat squash a bit with your hand (I got 20 from this quantity)
  7. Paint each biscuit with beaten egg and then bake for 6 to 10 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Cool on the tray for a couple of minutes and then cool on a wire tray.
  9. Keep in a tin for up to 5 days.

Books #26-#29

Book #26 “The Hiding Place” by Jenny Quintana. This is gentle read, of a young woman (Marina) trying to find the secret of her birth. Set in South London the story is set in two periods the present (1990s) of Marina, and the past (1960s) which provides the back story. There is an element of intrigue and it made the book engaging. I will read more by this author.

Book #27 “The Long Call” by Ann Cleeves. A gripping whodunnit. Ann Cleeves introduces the reader to a new detective Matthew Venn, with a trouble past. The action takes place in North Devon and as well as providing an intriguing plot the book beautifully describes the coast. I look forward to reading more adventures of this new detective.

Book #28 “Into the Water” by Paula Hawkins. I think this is the second book by the author of the bests seller “Girl on the Train”, again a murder mystery, but with plenty of twists, it was definitely a page turner.

Book #29 “The Boleyn Inheritance” by Phillippa Gregory. This book tells a story of two of Henry VIII’s lesser known wives: Ann of Cleeves and Katherine Howard. I had to remind myself of the rhyme : divorced, beheaded, died, …. as I worried about their fates. It was another page turner, even though the rhyme had provided a bit of a spoiler. I have just realised that the author Ann Cleeves shares her name with the one time queen, wonder if there is some other link?

Books #21-#25

Book #21 “Those who are loved” by Victoria Hislop. When I started this book I felt it was a bit formulaic. With a grandmother telling the story of her life to two grown up grandchildren from different continents. But that said the story developed and the plot was engaging and it included lots of details of recent Greek history which I didn’t know. So it was a good read and I found myself pulled to reading it.

Book #22 “At the Edge of the Orchard” by Tracy Chevalier. Having recently read a book for Tracy Chevalier I remembered I like her style, and I spotted this book I hadn’t read. Like her other novels this is well researched, and it took me across the US in the days of the earlier settlers. The theme throughout linked to trees, and their growth. A very engaging book.

Book #23 “Anxious People” by Fredrik Backman. Another author I had previously enjoyed. This book is well described as both touching and funny. All the characters have flaws which are slowly revealed, their are lives are also linked by a house viewing that becomes an unlikely hostage situation. Great book.

Book #24 “Because of You” by Dawn French. A sad tale of two mothers and one baby, compelling told. some of the side characters are somewhat two-dimensional (as opposed to those in Anxious People”) but the main characters are real and the story does not have a happy ending but still it lifted my heart.

Book #25 “Mother Tongue” by Bill Bryson. This is a book about the English Language. I found it a bit annoying partially because it was echoing other books I had read on the subject. But the main problem is that it was published in 1990 and so didn’t include recent developments such as text abbreviations and emojis. So while I read the first 12 chapters I skimmed the remainder.

Books #16-#20

Book #16 “Agent Running in the Field” by John Le Carre. This was a gripping book set in (almost) current times, BREXIT features, but given it was published at the beginning of 2020 not the pandemic! I loved the way the plot unfolds from the protagonist’s point of view. The characters are believable and the scenarios well described – I was sorry to reach the end.

Book #17 “The Watchmaker of Filgree Street” by Natasha Pulley was recommended to me by a friend. It has a very clever plot set largely in Victorian London, but with sidelines in Oxford and Japan. The author has well researched her topics showing knowledge of clock making, Victorian Britain, as well as Japan – both at the time and historically. I loved the fantasy elements and the way the heroine avoided becoming predictable. the author has written other novels and I certainly will try to read them.

Book #18 “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” by Toshikazu Kawaguchi is set in a coffee shop in Tokyo. Where customers can time travel. But there are many rules majorly that you can only time travel from one seat that you can only take if it is unoccupied and you must remain in the seat, and you must return by finishing your coffee before it goes cold; and as with many time travel tales you can’t change the best. The book consists of four interconnected short stories and I found very engaging. There is a second book I am wondering if to buy it or whether it may spoil the jy of the first.

Book #19 “Rodham” by Curtis Sittenfeld, has a cover that tells the would-be-reader that this is A NOVEL – the reassurance is because the book is based on Hillary Clinton and what may have become had she not married Bill. One of my favourite writers Kate Atkinson said of it “Startlingly good. One of my favourite writers” – so when I saw it on my online library I had to borrow (having waited for the previous reader to return it). It is well written and the way that Hillary describes her life and the twists and turns is very engaging. Lots of real people feature not least Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, as well as Hillary – must be very strange to read about oneself in a novel – but maybe these people do not read novels.

Book #20 “Floodland” by Marcus Sedgwick. My daughter lent me this, and I expect she saw it as something suitable for her Year 6 class. The book predicts global warming and has led to wide-spread flooding, including East Anglia where this story start on the dystopian island of Norwich. The story is harrowing and includes many dangerous situations, but the book does offer hope and I am so many 10 year olds would enjoy it, I did.

Books #13-#15

Book #13 “Izzy the Indigo Fairy” by Daisy Meadows. My 7 year old grandson lent me this book, he said because the fairy on the cover looked like me; she has dark hair, a fringe and page boy cut – I certainly had that style a long time ago. The book is part of a set of reading books and within this are a number of series, my grandson loves reading and he enjoys getting involved in a series, the last book he lent me was from the Pokemon series. This book is really well written and tells an engaging story of two girls searching for a missing fairy, linking it to the tale of The Nutcracker. The tale developers over several chapters and has twists in the plot making a good story.

Book #14 “The Giver of Stars” by Jojo Moyes. This is a captivating story of an English girl in small town Kentucky, trapped in a loveless marriage, who becomes involved in a project called the Packhorse Library. The book captures many strands and aspects of rural America in the 1930s, including abject poverty, cruelty and injustice. I really enjoyed this.

Book #15 “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett. Post op I had arranged a Zoom knit and natter with a friend, she reads widely and mentioned the author Ann Patchett and recommended her to me. I ordered the particular book she mentioned, and saw my library had an e-copy of one book by Ann Patchett, I put it on “hold” and three days ago it arrived on my phone. I really loved this book and completed it this morning. The story is a mix of an international thriller, romantic comedy and tragedy, all set at the scene of a hostage situation in an unnamed South American country. The cast includes an opera singer, high powered international men of business, a translator, priest and the guerrillas: three generals and a number of young soldiers including two girls. the translator is much in demand as he has many languages, and few of the others have languages in common. The story was so engaging it kept me turning the page. I am going to wait a while before reading the next Ann Patchett book as I would wanting a second chocolate!

Books #11 and #12

Sebastian Faulk’s “Paris Echoes” I felt started slowly, and after a couple of pages I wondered if I would enjoy it. But then I got drawn in and the intertwined lives of the characters both present day and earlier kept drawing me back to the book. I was sorry to reach the end.

Joanna Trollope’s “Mum and Dad” hooked me from the start. It tells of three generations of a family in the almost present day, and their troubled lives. But still it is up lifting and I really enjoyed it.

Books #7 to #10

In the last few weeks I have read four really good books.

Book #7 “The Trouble with Goats and Sheep”, by Joanna Cannon, initially made me think of a children’s fiction I read recently – “The Goldfish Boy” by Lisa Thompson – about someone missing. However this tale had many layers and intertwining plots, essentially mixing a whodunit with the everyday life of friends and neighbours. I really enjoyed it – it was only at the end I realised the author had also wrote “Three Things about Elsie” – I wonder if she has written other books?

Book #8 “The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman has topped the best seller lists for weeks and it is a brilliant read. It reminded me a little of “Three Things about Elsie” given it was a set in a community for old people, but the characters were different with a leading quartet living in an upmarket development and meeting on Thursday to look at unsolved murders. With two murders linked to the development of their homes – they soon have a “live” case to solve. Apparently a film is to be made of the book, and a related novel is due out in September – I will be helping that into the bestsellers.

Book #9 “A Single Thread” by Tracy Chevalier is completely different a book about needlepoint and bell ringing, in Winchester in the 1930s – which written like that doesn’t sound promising – but it is a brilliant book. It tells of the life of women post World War 1, many of whom lost their men to to that war. The author most certainly has done her research and links vivid descriptions of the kneelers produced along with the life challenges of Violet and her circle.

Book #10 “The Girl who Lived Twice” by David Lagercratntz is the sixth book in the Millennium series which started with Steig Larsson’s “Girl with Dragon Tattoo”. It was an exciting read following a similar structure to other books in the series – including a climatic clash near the end, but the plot and setting were novel and believable. When the next book in the series comes out I will be reading it.