Books I’ve enjoyed 001

The Aerialists by Katie Munnik is a fictionalised account of a true event which happened in Cardiff at the Fine Art, Industrial and Maritime exhibition in 1896. I was unaware of this exhibition despite it being on a scale to rival England’s 1851 Great Exhibition, held at Crystal Palace. It’s such an interesting story, but I do not want to give any spoilers. At it’s heart this is a story about Laura, we find out about the journey that brought her to the streets of Paris and her life with the Gauldrons. Her story, as you’ve probably guessed, involves flying!

I have to be honest and say that I felt there were some weaknesses in the writing and depiction of the behaviours and dialogue of the characters, particularly as it is set during Victorian times, but overall the story is a good one.

When you’ve read it look up the BBC article published on 24/07/21, 125 years after the festival. (Not before, because it will ruin the book for you.)

French Braid by Anne Tyler follows one family from the 1950s up to the pandemic present day.

The Garrett family take their first and last family holiday in the summer of 1959. They hardly leave their home city Baltimore, but despite this are not a close family.

I love Mercy, the mother of the family. She is definitely a free spirit!

As an Anne Tyler fan I read everything that she publishes, this was definitely a five star read, one of my favourites, alongside Breathing Lessons.

The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the fictionalised account of the real life and work of Eliza Acton, while she wrote her famous cookery book in England in 1837. The story also focuses upon Ann Kirby although no facts about her are known, beyond that she worked for Eliza and her mother. But her story helps to round out the book and is a good device to compare and contrast the differing lives and opportunities of the two women.

The Language of Food explores women’s freedoms (or lack of) and limited opportunities to work creatively under their own name. I felt the author successfully conveys the frustration and difficulties which must have been felt by so many.

And finally of course; the food! Luscious descriptions and well written passages illuminate Eliza’s process of developing and testing recipes. (Perhaps luscious is the wrong word for the recipe for brawn featured at the end?!)

Other People Manage by Ellen Hawley is written by a new-to-me author, but I will certainly look out for more of her books.

Set in Minneapolis in the 1970s, it tells the story of two women who meet in a cafe. Marge is a bus driver and Peg is training to be a psychotherapist. You find out about their relationship, the challenges and surprises they face over the next twenty years. Then one day things drastically change. It’s a story about family, love and loss.

I really enjoyed it; the style of writing and low-key tone reminded me of an Anne Tyler novel.

If you read this and don’t fancy making meatloaf (veggies excepted) by the end I’ll be really surprised!

One Day I Shall Astonish the World by Nina Stibbe. Have you read any of Nina’s books? If not, then do! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read Love Nina. And seen the TV adaptation. That’s one of my comfort reads / watches.

I also really liked Paradise Lodge, that’s great fun, with laugh out loud moments. I recommend the Audible version with Helen Baxendale narrating. She really cracked the Leicestershire accent, that isn’t easy.

Anyway, back to One Day I Shall Astonish the World; it focuses on the friendship between Susan and Norma. They are thrown together in a haberdashery shop in Leicestershire in the 1990s. Thirty years later Susan begins to wonder about the choices she has made in her life.

I’m sure all of us can agree that female friendships are weird, brilliant and challenging, when they’re good they can be one of the best things, but strange and stressful when they go awry. I think Nina Stibbe has captured this complex mix extremely well.

A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin. I have a confession to make; this was my first book by Rankin, although I’ve heard him interviewed about every new John Rebus crime novel for years.

It was a bit mad to start with this one, because it is his latest. Number 23 in the series! I haven’t stayed up reading and chanting ‘just one more chapter’ for a long time, but found myself still reading this at 1 AM a few weeks ago. I just couldn’t put it down. I will look out for others in the series now.

Rebus is now retired, but definitely not planning on avoiding looking into other people’s secrets and crimes, he has kept hold of a large pile of folders of unsolved cases…

Before he evens finishes unpacking from downsizing his home, his daughter calls to say that her husband has been missing for two days. Rebus fears the worst and knows that his daughter will be prime suspect. He has to decide if he’s going to go to her as a father, or a detective.

The Keeper of Stories by Sally Page I read last week. It’s such a goody! I felt a little bereft at the end.

Janice is a cleaner and notices people always tell her their stories. (I’ve always experienced that too, so I was drawn to Janice.) Her rule is that she can save one story from each person, but she is very clear: she is the Keeper of Stories and doesn’t have a story to tell about herself. But when she meets Mrs B (who is no fool) things begin to change. Set in Cambridge this is a really lovely story about supporting other people, while finding yourself and realising what you do and do not want. There’s much empathy and masses of everything practical, including DIY. If Janice’s skills don’t leave you feeling a tad inadequate, then I’ll be surprised. There is lots of humour, I laughed out loud often. Look out for the dog. (Warning for the faint-hearted…he swears. A lot.)

Let me know if you decide to read any of the books I’ve recommended. Or maybe you’ve already read some of them? I’d love to know your take.

Time to make a G&T (it’s not Dry Lent anymore woohoo!) and quickly sort out what I want to watch. Someone is fishing with a friend this evening, so I shall make the most of the P&Q. New Grace & Frankie eps are now on Neflix, or do I rewatch The Split’s third series and cry all over again? Or…?

Taking Stock – December

Making: knitting a chunky yellow and grey cowl

Cooking: chicken, bacon & puy lentil soup. I’ve had a run on making chicken soup; one week with noodles, another with diced potato. So good to leave in the slow cooker to cook, while I do other things. Ready to dish up when it’s dinner. Easy and tasty

Sipping: Brewdog’s Zealots Heart gin

Reading: A Literary Christmas – a lovely collection of writing and poems put together by The British Library. It was delivered last night

Waiting: for Christmas dinner! My favourite roast ever

Looking: at all the lights on houses, trees and in gardens. Love them!

Listening: to a beautiful song on the radio: Love is a Compass by Griff. It was used in a Disney Ad. The cute ad gave me tingles!

Wishing: for a dry afternoon / evening as we’re going to walk a Christmas lights trail

Enjoying: my new Let’s Knit and Inside Crochet magazines, a real treat. I also bought some new wool at my lovely local yarn shop, to knit another Edenvale Cowl. I wear my other all the time when walking. The chill wind can’t get me!

Appreciating: this year’s quiet build up to Christmas, it feels a lot less frantic

Eating: mince pies laced with cognac, brandy & port

Liking: some of the new Christmas songs, others are dreadful, naming no names (Robbie Williams!)

Loving: HFW Refried Beans recipe from his Veg book, I made them to go with tacos last night

Buying: crunchy veg for a Red Cabbage, Apple & Walnut Winter Coleslaw. It will go perfectly with cold cuts next weekend

Managing: to avoid wrapping a single present, it’s always the same every single year. All in a rush at the last minute!

Zoom in to see the water droplets on the branches

Watching: The Prom film on Netflix tonight

Hoping: still the same as everyone else…

Wearing: a furry polo neck top and nightwear, it’s earlyish

Following: the news…dithering about Tiers / Christmas….

Noticing: people wearing funky masks, a guy had a great Movember type one on yesterday, I told him I liked it, of course. Maybe he grinned? So hard to tell. He did thank me

Sorting: baubles, on Tuesday, when we bring the tree in to decorate

Getting: excited

Bookmarking: recipes for January. I’ve found this Slow cooker Honey Mustard Chicken recipe on BBC Good Food and these Tesco Midweek Meals

Coveting: new clothes! Haven’t bought any this year as not being about to try them on doesn’t work. I’m reluctant to spend lots of time queuing in a PO to return online items which don’t fit (might be repeating other TS posts?)

A carousel 2020 style: sanitiser, covers on some horses to distance people and spaces to queue on ….

Feeling: relaxed

Hearing: birds tweeting in the hedge outside my bedroom window

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Tell me a few Taking Stock type things of your own, please? It’s always good to hear from you

Yarn Along – January

Today it’s a dark afternoon and steadily growing colder. I made spicy lentil and coconut vegetable soup for lunch and read some Yarn Along blog posts while it cooked. After taking this photo I swapped the peppermint tea for hot chocolate with mini marshmallows. That’s my treat.

I don’t know about you, but after Christmas I always want to eat more veggie food than usual. I think it’s an intuitive thing to find more of a balance after quite a few meals with turkey, sausage meat and ham. If you can recommend any recipes, please do. Hugh is off my bookshelf ready and waiting too.

I’m desperately trying to ignore the fact that I have Hotel Chocolat goodies calling me. Today is Day One post-Christmas and epiphany (which is when we take down all the decs.) Monday and Tuesday were also Day One but ended with less success than planned chocolate.

Ignoring the total craft ban I optimistically tried again for 10 minutes of crochet during the Crimbo Limbo week, that gorgeously lazy time between Christmas and New Year. Of course it turned into 30 minutes, because I’m desperate to be making again after months of nothing, so I had to admit to stupidity and run for an ice pack. I won’t tell the Hand Therapist when I see her at the end of the month. My hand is definitely improving, but it’s a painfully slow process. Still, the upside is I have a legitimate photo to share for Ginny’s monthly Yarn Along. Hurrah!

The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton was ready to be collected from the library a few days ago. It’s an absolute brick of a hardback. Actually, hang on while I go and weigh it….blimey, it’s nearly a kilo, at 982g! This is not going to be a book to read in bed. I won’t be able to hold it. I’ll rest it on a cushion on my lap and read it downstairs instead.

I know, the plant above (a goose foot?) needs some R&R after being popped down somewhere inappropriate to make room for the tree at Christmas. Luckily it’s always very forgiving and seems to bounce back with glossy leaves and a perky demeanour. This poinsettia’s much happier…

What are you making and reading?

Happy New Year!