06 December 2016

Enter this great Giveaway!

Who would like 250$ to buy books with? 

I know I would.

 This Christmas giveaway is run by I Am a Reader, it runs from December 5th to 22, and the prize is a 250$ Amazon Gift Code or $250 in Paypal Cash! Good not just for buying books (although that's what I would use it on).

What would you buy if you won?

http://www.iamareader.com/2016/12/just-in-the-nick-of-time-250-christmas-cash-giveaway.html
Thanks to this awesome group of bloggers and authors who have joined with me to bring you one fabulous prize!!

Click on the image to read all about and enter the contest!

05 December 2016

Reading report, Monday 5 December 2016


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date and is "a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week."

Visit the Book Date to see what various other book bloggers have been up to in the past week.
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I can hardly believe it's December already. It feels like summer was only yesterday, and now Christmas season is here. I'm caught in a time phenomenon where days pass very slowly, but weeks zip by. Before I know it, it will be April and I'll start preparing my VW mini-motorhome for my trip to Germany. 

Plans for the trip itself are ongoing, although I am taking a short break from planning that trip and am instead getting ready to fly to Frankfurt with my mother to visit Christmas markets in Hessen and Baden-Württemberg later this week. We will be staying in Heidelberg. Last week the long-term weather forecast was for rain, but the forecast has changed and now it looks like it will be dry the whole time and we might even see some sun.

As for reading, I didn't finish any books worth mentioning in the week before last, so I didn't write up a report. Instead of reading as much as I usually do, I was busy working on some Christmas presents. One of them is a large, crocheted bedspread that is made up of granny hexagons that need to be crocheted together. It's about 3/4 done and I'll post a photo once it's finished.

The books I finished last week were mostly romances, with a couple of mysteries and a travel book thrown in for variety. This is a time of year when I'm at risk for depression, so I usually turn to the guaranteed happy endings provided by romance novels.

The non-romance books were: 
  • Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie, an audio book read by Hugh Fraser. First-time listen, but I have read it before.
  • Hercule Poirot's Christmas by Agatha Christie, another audio book read by Hugh Fraser. I do not remember reading this book before. Fraser is a good reader, and does a creditable French accent for Poirot, but I have noticed that when he does other accents, they all sound vaguely Russian, which is very incongruous when the character he's speaking for is supposed to be South-African. On the other hand, he does outraged Englishness very well indeed.
  • Campervan Crazy: Travels With My Bus by David and Cee Eccles, which is the book I chose as my prize for the money I won in October's prize drawing on The Book Date. Loved it! It's about the Volkswagen Transporter, mostly T1 and T2 camper conversions, and the people who love them. These vans have been everywhere and seem able to get to places where usually only 4WD vehicles would venture into. My own campervan is a new VW Caddy, but I get a glint in my eye whenever I see a classic Transporter on the road.

The romances were all Christmas-themed novellas and long short stories: 
  • Bluebird Winter by Linda Howard is a rather creepy contemporary romance novella in which a doctor comes to the rescue of a woman in labour, delivers the baby and coerces her into marrying him because, hey! insta-love!, all within 48 hours of meeting her for the first time. Cue misunderstandings and a "getting to know you" period which mostly seems to consist of her being told by everyone what a wonderful man he is. I found the story unsatisfactory due to the unconvincing way he fell in love with her and the aforesaid creepiness factor.
  • When Love Flue In by Lillian Francis is a gay romance novella in which a rich businessman has been in love for several years, with the man who comes in once a year to clean his chimney, and finally gets the chance to get to know him better. I liked this one. The romance didn't feel rushed, as the characters had both been half in love with each other and only needed an opportunity to get to know each other in order to start a romance.
  • Jesse's Christmas by R.J. Scott. I can't remember anything about this one, so it must have been pretty mediocre because I would remember if it was good or bad.
  • The Christmas Throwaway by R.J. Scott. This one I did like. It's a sweet and slightly sappy Christmas story about a policeman who rescues a young man who has been driven out of his childhood home for being gay. They fall for each other, but the cop is very careful to keep things proper and fearful of being seen as a predator, so the story actually takes three Christmases to get to the coming together part of the romance.

Currently, I'm reading several books, but I don't expect I'll finish any, what with concentrating on finishing the bedspread and my long weekend in Heidelberg. I do plan on taking one - just one - book with me, but which one? Books to take travelling are always a difficult choice, but I'll probably pick a a book of short stories or essays, or my go-to in-flight read: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It's due for a re-read.

02 December 2016

Friday links for December 2, 2016

Today's collection of links is mostly stuff I have found over the last several weeks and months:

Food: 
Here's a scrumptious literary food blog:The Little Library Café, where blogger Kate Young cooks and bakes food inspired by her favourite works of fiction.

Famous people:
I've been reading Casanova by Ian Kelly in stops and starts since the summer and found this article on him and his writings interesting: How Casanova's X-rated Memoir Created a Legend.

The book is dead. Long live the book! 
Once again, the book's demise has been announced and  yet the book lives on: The myth of the disappearing book: Misplaced hype overebooks dates back to the phonograph in 1894.

Book porn: 
16 Beautiful Jane Eyre Book Covers.

Art:
On my tour of Colorado, Wyoming and Utah's national parks this summer I bought a number of lovely retro-style fridge magnets with artwork related to each of the parks I visited, and I also bought a handful of stickers with similar art to use in and on my travel journal of the trip. When I got home I started looking for information about them and found this article: The Forgotten History of Those Iconic National Parks Posters.

Apropos of the last item, here´s this week's book list:  
100 Must-Read Books About the National Parks. I have only read one book on this list, Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, but it is one of my favourite pieces of nature writing. I would quite like to find books about the other parks I have visited, especially Yellowstone and Yosemite.

Finally, a book I am considering ordering:


30 November 2016

List love: 12 foods/dishes I discovered or want to try thanks to books other than cookbooks

I haven't written a List Love post in ages, but while going through some of my files I found a fully written post from several years ago and decided to post it, with a few minor adjustments. 

Note that it was written before I was diagnosed with diabetes, so I would have to make certain adjustments if I was planning to make some of the recipes today. 

This really should go on my cooking blog, but I thought it would be fun to do a cross-over post.

It’s no secret that I like to cook and eat and discover new recipes, and thanks to my reading of all kinds of novels and non-fiction over the space of 40+ years I have come across lots of different interesting foods and dishes.

I am not counting stuff I have come across in actual cookbooks and recipe collections and I am not including any books deliberately written as foodie books, but only books that made me take notice of some particular dish. However, I might do a post on mouth-watering foodie books later. Goodness knows there are enough books to choose from.

For an example, there are plenty of foodie mysteries out there, in series like the Goldie Bear books by Diane Mott Davidson in which the sleuth is a caterer, the three Charly Poisson books by Cecile Lamalle where the sleuth is a chef (and so is the author) and the tea shop mysteries by Laura Childs with a sleuth who owns a tea shop. There are also stand-alones, e.g. Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Cruise & Bob Mayer, where Agnes is a food columnist, and as part of other series otherwise not food-oriented, like Too Many Cooks from the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout where Nero is a serious foodie and the victim and some of the suspects are chefs. But that's enough about a possible future post. Let's get to the books and dishes/foods:

  1. Chicken Marsala. Min, the heroine of Bet Me, a romance novel by Jennifer Crusie, becomes enamored of this dish after Cal, the hero, takes her out to dinner and orders it for her, breaking the diet her mother has imposed on her. Min has a culinary orgasm whenever she tastes it, whereas I can’t say the earth moved for me. It was okay, but maybe I just haven’t found the right recipe yet. Possibly it was not sensible to use Marsala marked as cooking wine.
  2. Damper bread. Jeannie Gunn’s description of making her first damper, in We of the Never-Never, is funny, and I want to try it - but not to bake in an oven but using coals like the genuine article.
  3. Fried green tomatoes. The book Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg is full of mentions of different kinds of U.S. southern food, but it was the fried green tomatoes that stood out, and they proved to be quite good once I got the hang of getting the coating to stay on them.
  4. Mayan hot chocolate. Discovered in Chocolat by Joanne Harris. I am yet to try this, but it sounds delicious.
  5. American pancakes. I can’t pinpoint the exact book where I read about American pancakes with butter and maple syrup, but I do remember I was itching to try them. I now make them occasionally for brunch.
  6. Seed cake. This is mentioned in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, and in such terms as to make it sound like a delicacy. It’s quite a nice cake, not too sweet and a nice change from chocolate cake.
  7. Treacle tart.This I encountered in the Harry Potter books by J.K Rowling. Harry helps himself to a slice of treacle tart at least once in each book (except, I think, The Deathly Hallows). While listening to Stephen Fry reading The Half-Blood Prince one day I suddenly found myself filled with curiosity to try it. I did, using this recipe. It was more like a heavy pudding than a pie/tart, came out stodgy with a weird texture and the two small slices I ate gave me a bellyache. I might try a modernised version as I think the addition of eggs and cream would make it lighter. Gordon Ramsay's recipe looks tempting.
  8. Cassoulet. First heard of in Gigi by Colette, although I suspect it’s more the movie than the novelette that awakened that longing in me. Still haven’t tried it.
  9. Beef tongue. I was an avid reader of Enid Blyton as a kid, and when the Famous Five were having one of their picnics it usually included boiled tongue. This I have tried and liked. It makes a nice alternative to ham in sandwiches.
  10. Tuna noodle casserole. I can’t remember the first mention of this, but it seems when someone dies in American novels, movies and TV shows, the neighbours inevitably bring the mourners this dish. I tried it and either the recipe was a bad one or the whole comfort thing is a joke, because it turned out disgusting.
  11. Macaroni and cheese. Another American comfort food I can’t remember where I first read of. Tried it recently and found it nice, if a little bland, definitely the kind of food you have to discover as a child to fall in love with. However, it has much potential for experimentation and improvement and I intend to try adding different stuff to the basic sauce, like Parmesan, mushrooms, ham and bacon. (The Icelandic equivalent would be macaroni milk).
  12. Durian fruit. I’m not sure where I first read about this, but it may have been in Michael Palin’s travelogue Full Circle, or Anthony Bourdain’s A Chef’s Tour. It’s supposed to smell like a combination of sewer sludge and rotting meat, but taste delicious.

25 November 2016

Friday links, November 25, 2016

Last week's first link was to a Roundworld reference in a Discworld book. Here is another one: Treacle mining. Treacle Mine Road is frequently mentioned in those Discworld books that take place in Ankh-Morpork, and treacle mines are mentioned as well.

Do all those books with "girl" in the title annoy you? Me too. Someone decided to investigate and came up with this: The Gone Girl With The Dragon Tattoo On The Train.

Love France but can't afford to go there? Try this:
Food-and-Book Pairings in Lieu of Travelling to France. 

A useful blog for writers, full of cautionary tales exposing less than ethical (and sometimes illegal) practices in the publishing industry that writers should be aware of: Writer Beware


The book list:
The 86 Greatest Travel Books of All Time. Why 86? Why not the usual 100, or 17 or 42? 
I rather think it's because these are ones you can buy through the website. But don't let that disturb you: there are some great reads on that list. I've read 16 of these books, own another 7 but haven't got round to reading them yet (although 2 are currently on the monster "books with bookmarks in them" list), 22 are on my wishlist and one I gave up on reading.

Book I'm thinking about ordering:



24 November 2016

Review: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Genre: Urban fantasy police procedural.
Setting: Modern London.
Themes: Violence, death, crime, gods, magic, ghosts.


Constable-in-training Peter Grant is facing a career at a desk, writing reports for other policemen, at the end of his probationary period, due to being easily distracted. Things start looking up when he meets a ghost at a murder scene he is guarding. Next thing he knows, he's been recruited into a special branch of the London police that deals with paranormal and supernatural crime, has become a wizard's apprentice and is learning how to use magic. However, finding out he's able to see ghosts and do magic is soon the least of Peter's worries as a series of bizarre acts of violence and murder sweep the city. To add to the confusion, the river gods of London seem to be heading into a turf war.

I first heard of this book when I was browsing the Discworld discussion forum on Reddit, where it was recommended as something a Discworld fan might like to read. So I did some googling and decided it sounded like my cup of tea and ordered it.What I found was nothing like Pratchett, but still funny, intricately plotted and well-written, with an engaging narrator and an interesting supporting cast.

Aaronovitch draws on the tradition of classic whodunnits and police procedurals and mixes it with magic, but magic that follows scientific principles, many of which were discovered and codified by none other than Sir Isaac Newton. Therefore magic is not just a matter of doing some spells and poof! you have magic. The power for the magic has to come from somewhere, and Peter discovers that doing a spell will fry any nearby electrically connected device containing a microchip. This means he has found a reliable, solid way of knowing if magic has been done, but it also means he ends up having to replace his cell phone several times throughout the book.

There is murder, mayhem and violence in this story, but also plenty of funny incidents and interactions and interesting characters, and I have already ordered book number two, Moon over Soho, from the Book Depository.

Highly recommended for fans of both urban fantasy and whodunnits.

23 November 2016

Last week's book haul

I acquired four books last week.


  • Professor Stewart's Cabinet of Mathematical Curiosities was written by Ian Stewart, who I am familiar with as one of the co-authors of The Science of Discworld books, and it will be interesting to read this as I have been wanting to study maths again. I had my interest and joy in maths severely maimed by bad teachers when I was a teenager and I have always wanted to go back and study maths without the pressure of having to get passing grades.
  • Rivers of London is an entertaining urban fantasy police procedural. I will post a review tomorrow.
  • I was very happy to get my hands on a lovely, illustrated hardcover edition of Mark Twain's Diaries of Adam & Eve. I've already read both diaries, but it will not hurt to read them again in such a lovely book.
  • Why Not? looks like a nice loo book - I am beginning to see an end to my current toilet book (1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die) and need something totally different to read.

22 November 2016

Review: Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann

Translated by: Carol Brown Janeway.
Genre: Historical novel.
Themes: Mathematics, science, travel, human interactions.


Kehlmann's novel is about two great men of the 19th century: Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrick Gauss.


Von Humboldt is best known as a naturalist, geographer and explorer, and Gauss is considered to have been one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. Both were pioneers in their respective fields and what Kehlmann focuses on in his book is that both men measured the known world - one travelling far and wide to do so and the other doing it all inside his own head, rarely leaving his home state.

The narrative jumps around with alternating chapters about each man, going back and forth in time a little and showing the reader both men at various ages and stages of their careers. We also get to see parts of the story through the eyes of von Humboldt's long-suffering travel companion and collaborator, the French physician and botanist Aimé Bonpland, and those of Gauss' son, Eugene.

We are shown two vastly different but equally driven men, one from a family of high status, the other the son of illiterate labourers, both of whom were young men when they began to attract attention for their brilliance.

The narrative style is funny and occasionally poignant and always sparkling, and the translation is smooth and readable.

Well worth reading, especially if you like narratives of travel/exploration and historical figures.





21 November 2016

Weekly Monday Round-up (November 21, 2016)


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at the Book Date and is "a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week."

Visit the Book Date to see what various other book bloggers have been up to in the past week.




Books I finished reading last week: 
  • Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann. Historical novel. I'm working on a review.
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Fantasy police procedural, set in modern London. I'm working on a review.
  • What the Butler Saw: Two Hundred and Fifty Years of the Servant Problem by E.S. Turner. This is an informative account of life in service in England (and America) and a look at the upstairs-downstairs dichotomy. 

Books I acquired last week:


I will discuss them in more detail later in the week.


Weather report: 
We had the first frost in the Reykjavík area last week, with a little snow, which then melted and re-froze. The slippery pavements are preventing me from walking at my usual speed on my daily walks. Instead I am sort of shuffling along, trying to stay on my feet. If this keeps up I will either have to lengthen my walks from 5 km to 7 km a day to get in the same exercise, or join a gym so I can use a treadmill. Or maybe I'll start swimming instead. The hot pools here are a lovely, lovely way to end an hour of exercise.

Other things I did last week:
A meringue so shiny it looks like a blob of mayonnaise.
Baked sugar-free meringues. I'm diabetic and therefore sugar is EVIL and I wanted to try a recipe I found for sugarless meringues, using sucralose (Splenda). They were the whitest, shiniest meringues I have ever seen, but tasted horrible, metallic and nasty, and ended up in the trash. Next I'm trying with erythritol, which has less of an after-taste.



Ordered three books from the  Book Depository - the follow-up to Rivers of London and a later book in the series that was on sale, and a hardcover edition of the Science of Discworld IV. I figured it might not be available in hard covers for much longer and since my copies of volumes I-III are all in hard covers I decided this one had better be as well.

Ordered two new pairs of eyeglasses. My eyesight finally seems to have stabilised after getting messed up by the diabetes and I decided to order one pair of progressives and another single vision pair to use as sunglasses.

Booked a flight to Frankfurt, Germany for a long weekend in December. I'm taking my mother with me and we are driving to Heidelberg and staying there and going to the Christmas market.

18 November 2016

Juicy Friday links, November 18, 2016

I decided to make some changes to the Friday links. There will no longer be a fixed number of links, but any number up to 10, depending on what interesting stuff I have discovered during the week's web surfing. I will also start posting links that are not related to books and reading, or only indirectly or marginally so, because I often find interesting, fascinating or funny links related to my other interests that I want to share. I will continue to post one link to a book list per week, and I am considering putting in links to books on my TBR wishlist. Here are today's links:

  • Link the first relates to Terry Pratchett's Discworld, specifically to the resograph, the "thingness-writer" in Moving Pictures that measured disturbances in reality. It was made from a large vase and expelled steel balls from an aperture in the direction of the disturbance. It has a Roundworld counterpart, an ancient Chinese seismometer.
  • Link the third is about a bit of literary history. Whatever you might think of the writings of the Marquis de Sade, his story and that of his books is fascinating:‘The most impure tale ever written’: how The 120 Days of Sodom became a ‘classic’. 

Today's book list:
10 Books to Know and Celebrate Leonard Cohen. I didn't cry over Bowie or Prince, but I came close with Leonard Cohen. I have loved his music for years and can always find a song in his song catalogue for any mood I'm in.

In honour of Cohen, here's a video related to the last link - a live performance of his tour de force prophetic song, The Future:

 

That's enough for today.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy reading!