What I’ve Read: January 2019

It wasn’t a terrible start to the year! Here’s January’s list complete with a picture of where most of my reading takes place

Ocean Light – Nalini Singh

I love Singh’s book crack but I’m impatient with the Trinity section of the story. The problem I’m having is that all the men and women are beginning to be the same and have the same problems/strengths/weaknesses. I need one of the woman in her stories to not have a trauma based in the loss of her close family at a young age or an unfeeling mother and to be carrying that trauma around in a bloody backpack. I don’t doubt that losing a parent at a young age is traumatic and gives children a certain outlook. When I was born, my mother was 24, 10 years earlier her mother died, I lived with someone whose mother died when he was 6, I have two godchildren who’s father died when they were coming up to 4. Was/is there emotions and reactions that they carry that I don’t, yes but it’s much more subtle than Singh’s characters have. Memories, even traumatic ones, are generally not remembered in the vivid detail that her heroines remember them, and it come up as much as you’d think. This is their normal, the trauma you carry isn’t as easy to define or recognise as Singh seems to think. The stuff that was interesting was about the ‘pack’, how did a divergent, bunch of water changelings make a pack and how you lead and live within that (and you can fuck off with the dominance, they’re not wolves or cats, where that makes some sense), it should have been far more interesting than it was although there were some great tentacle jokes though. I want to know more about what is happening in the overall story and the next book is another spirited away heroine, which is just repeating the Sahara/Kaleb story from Heart of Obsidian although it seems we have a damaged hero who needs love to solve all their problems. Actually that’s my issue. Love doesn’t solve deep seated emotional trauma and anxiety, at best you learn to cope and deal (sure after a while that dealing looks like a cure but it’s not entirely) but in the interest of a HEA, Singh shortcuts that and given that she gives them such a terrible backstory, I struggle with how easily they overcome it. She’s a better author than that.  So it was good for keeping up with the overarching story, but not enough depth for the main characters or that overarching story. There was also a ‘twist’ that I saw coming as soon as I met the character. Could do better but still a very enjoyable way to spend a day.

A Perilous Undertaking – Deanna Raybourn 

A Treacherous Curse – Deanna RaybournIt took me ages to read the first one of these books and then I read the others in a matter of days and I’m going to write about both of them, rather than each one. They are so much fun. On the one hand they feel out of time but on the other they really suit. I really enjoyed them and I love Veronica and her attitude but I also am enjoying how she’s learning to understand how to be a friend. I think it’s deliberate that she and Stoker are both on the outside looking in and I’m glad we finally got to meet Stoker’s ex wife in ‘A Treacherous Curse’ and put that piece of the puzzle together. I suspect though that we’ll see in the next book that Stoker could have family, if he’d let his brothers in, whereas Veronica won’t because they are all horrible and that was brilliantly observed.

To Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery in the Gilded Age – Gail McColl and Carol McD. Wallace

This has been sitting in my Kindle TBR list since 2014 and it should have been fascinating but it was badly written. It’s not that it wasn’t interesting but it didn’t have a proper narrative, the typesetting was all over the place and it was clearly written to cash in on Americans interest while Downton Abbey was running. It’s such a good story, why they came to England, that Edward VII was receptive because he was bored and his mother wouldn’t let him do any work (and he was a bit thick in mind and later, in stature!) but it’s badly told we know that many of these marriages didn’t work but we never follow them from beginning to end and get a sense of why these women and/or their families wanted to do this. I would also say that in completely ignoring the Caton sisters. It could have been so much better and I’m sure that there are better books on the subject.

The Girl in the Mask – Marie-Louise JensenThis was so much fun, it’s set in Bath at the time of the George I and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. I don’t know much about this period of English history, I tend to stop at the Civil War, know a bit the reign of  Charles II and then pick up again around George III. So the later Stuarts and the early Hanovers are a bit of a mystery. So I didn’t know a lot about this although I do at least know who the Old and Young Prentenders are! This is so good on how few options girls had at this time. I love that the nicest men in this story are also completely obstructive, not because they are bad people but because they lack the imagination to see a young woman who has energy and is clever and can’t possible imagine that they could look after themselves or aren’t interested in dresses and balls and might be  in fear of being married off or sent into white slavery! It was a fun book and I’m going to recommend it to every young girl that I know.

Tess of the Road – Rachel Hartman This was my birthday present to my back in August. Could we also just take a minute to admire the cover. I managed to leave it at Christina and Fred’s and didn’t get it back until October and then didn’t pick it up until this month. It was delightful but not light. The book is about finding out how to be a decent human being, to live a worthwhile life when you feel worthless and are full of grief and shame. Yes, I did say it was delightful, it has lots of other things going on, but it right at the end when Tess apologised for something she had done and meant it but didn’t hate herself. That was lovely. This is apparently a two part story and I know from other books that Hartman has written that she takes her time, I hope she doesn’t take a lot longer because I want to read more about Tess.

The Nothing Girl – Jodi Taylor

This is written by the mind behind The Chronicles of St Mary’s, I think it’s supposed to be less weird than St Mary’s and it mostly is with the exception of an imaginary horse who smells of ginger biscuits! It actually put me in mind of Katie Fforde, it was a fun romp and had some very emotional moments. I haven’t bought the next book, but it’s only a matter of time

Overnight Sensation – Sarina Bowen

Another Brooklyn Bruisers ice hockey novel. It was fun while I was reading it but it felt like a novella because the h/h were underdeveloped. There was more here, the other ‘Bruisers’ books have been better developed.

Conversations with Friends – Sally Rooney

This was my Christmas book (thanks Ma) and Sally Rooney is quite the sensation about now. This brilliantly captures the mix of certainty and uncertainty of being 21, and it’s lovely to read a Dublin novel that’s comfortable and unapologetically Irish in a way I haven’t seen before. Having said that I finished the novel without being any clearer about Frances and who she is. I might have to read it again but I was reminded of Barbara Pym and that’s not a compliment from me.

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Allotment Adventures: Busy doing nothing

Honestly the week has passed and we’ve done nothing except re-up the birdfeeders. This week we harvested leeks, kale and chard and bought seed potatoes. We have settled on five bags of nicola, one of pink fir apple and two of sharpes express. That gives us eight bags of potatoes, which is three more than last year. Ma says I’m obsessed with potatoes and blames my father, I would like more but note the compromise, they are all salad potatoes, which are the ones that she prefers. They are currently in the living room chitting…I also bought the remaining seeds we need, Ma’s favourite cucumbers Boothby’s Blonde and two new to us winter squash, North Georgia Candy Roaster and Burgess Buttercup. For those of you following along that’s four types of winter squash, which should keep Ma happy – her favourite things to eat from the plot are beetroot, winter squash and broad beans.

My extra purchase was the tree onions also known as Egyptian Walking Onions, I have a place to put them, as I don’t have enough space to grow onions and shallots at the moment this will have to satisfy my onion needs.The allotment looks ok and there is work I need to get to but realistically, we’re not going to do much more heavy work done over the next couple of weeks because we’re busy next weekend AND the week after so mid February we’ll really start, I want to set the cloche up, dig up the raspberries and re-site them, top up the beds that need it, and sow sweet peas, leeks and kale. I’m holding off until the light is better because everything gets leggy indoors (oh for a greenhouse or even windowsills!).


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Food Lately: January and February 2019

I found cooking in January difficult. I had a really good first week but generally if I don’t spend a chunk of the weekend making sure that the food for the week is good to go then it all tends to go a bit wrong! January has seen a lot of ‘I feel to tired and/or sick to cook, so things on toast or a ham and coleslaw sandwich, there was a meal that consisted of mashed potatoes and raw carrots, which is the definition of can’t be arsed dinners.I did cook a great meal of meatballs and pasta with pesto bread for Ma and me and I had a great work lunch for the PA’s but when I have cooked it’s been basic and frankly half arsed.This weekend, I pulled myself together and did some proper meal prep. Breakfasts this week are yoghurt and compote, lunches are salads (grated red cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, peppers and mushrooms with sausage egg cups. Snacks are orange jelly, a small square of brownie (this one), and an apple, a pear and some mango. Dinners will be some veggie crispbakes (I needed to use up some mash and some veg) with more vegetables, a sausage and chickpea stew with rice and more vegetables, stir fry and pizza (I’m out on Wed night). I’ve prepped the veg (chard, kale, leeks) and made a massive ready to roast bag of winter veg (squash, swede, onions and carrots). It’s been nice to have veg from the plot and I’m planning on growing more winter veg this year because it’s been a good reason to go to the plot and it’s lovely to eat what you grow.

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Monday Miscellany: Stupid Suppressed Immune System

I didn’t have a great week health wise and I’m very unhappy about it. Other than the vomiting and fever, there was work, marmalade and reading, so a pretty normal week. But I missed a haircut which makes me sad….

Oh London had about five minutes of snow…and I bought seed potatoesThis week is a very busy work week (I’m minuting 4 meetings) and at the weekend I’m in Ramsgate on Saturday for a 70th birthday celebration. I’ve prepared myself, there is food all prepped, the flat is tidy and all laundry done. I need to make sure that I get outside very lunchtime and to bed early all week. Let’s do this…

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Sunday Music: It’s Yer Money, I’m After Baby – The Wonder Stuff

Last weekend, Matt, Ruth and I referenced this and the godchildren and their grandfather were baffled. So for those of you that weren’t around for the Wonder Stuff, here it is…

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Friday Links: It’s not normal

Happy Friday!

The Unique Pleasures of Watching Alexa Deny Children What They Want

Growing pains: how the climate crisis is changing British gardens

While politicians get het up about Brexit, this is happening, anyone with eyes can see it. There is nothing strong or stable or compassionate about this government.  My walk to work shows me how homelessness is transforming Britain.

‘I don’t trust the government to look after me or my dog’: meet the Brexit stockpilers

This is only the end of the beginning of our Brexit civil war

A century of adult education has been tossed aside – is it too late to rescue it?

This is worth watching, thanks to Jem for sharing.

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Allotment Adventures: Autumn Raspberries and buying seeds

The weather last weekend was grey and miserable, it wasn’t properly cold but felt cold because it was so grey. The herb patch is looking green but straggly (you can see how warm it’s been because the lemon verbena is still hanging on!)We didn’t have huge plans for work on the plot, I was thinking about making a start on removing the raspberries but I’m still not really 100% fit so instead we thought we’d go and have a look, harvest some stuff and see how everything was looking. But on Friday, one of the other plot holders asked on Facebook if anyone wanted some autumn raspberries as she was changing the layout of her plot. Free autumn raspberries! We said yes and picked them up on Saturday and planted them in a bed. We’ll add some more compost and mulch them later.

We harvested leeks, kale and chard.Ma took the netting off the garlic and nearly brained herself tripping over the bed, which is another reason to take the raspberries up!

The broad beans are popping up too.So it’s all good but by the end of February I want to do the following

  • tidy up a couple of beds, top up with compost and cover
  • dig up the summer raspberries
  • plant some summer raspberries in new home
  • weed and tidy herb plot
  • create new beds where the raspberries were
  • sow leeks, kale and sweet peas
  • buy seed potatoes and order additional seed

We also did the first seed buying of the year, we have loads of seeds already and last week went through and sorted out what we have and what we need. We have no need to buy courgette or tomato seeds but needed winter squash (butternuts and uchiki kuri) extra sweetcorn, carrots, beetroot and sweetpeas. I wanted to grow gerkins and try fennel of florence so they will be new for 2019! They didn’t have all the seed potatoes in yet so we can wait. Ma and I talked about more potatoes this year but decided to stick with the wilko ones. We are going for pink fir apple, nicola, anya. The packets come in 3 or five so we’ll grow four bags of nicola, one pink fir apple and two anya. I also want to grow kestral or swift but we’ll see how we go with space!We also need to do a tiny real seed order for boothby’s blonde cucumbers (Ma’s favourite!), some other winter squash (I want to grow candy roaster this year and we need a mini squash for the three sisters bed), I also want to try walking onions this year but I haven’t told Ma that yet!



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