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cook*create*read: January 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

January Wrap-Up

11 books and 2 novellas happened in January.  That's a lot of reading!  No more TV for me!

So first let's have a look at how I got on with the TBR Jar choices .... My kids had great pleasure in picking out these seven books and seeing my face fall, and they were very good at making me read the chosen books, even when I wasn't keen.  I did try to read all of them ... here's how I got on.

The Aunt Sally Team by Flick Merauld: I'm afraid I gave up on this one.  I just wasn't interested in any of the characters or the plot and I couldn't force myself to continue!

Stitch by Samantha Durante:  This was a Young Adult/supernatural/ghost story that I just couldn't get into at all.  Another one I gave up on I'm afraid!

The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid:  Nope, couldn't get on with this one either.  The plot held no interest for me whatsoever.  One for the charity shop!

Don't worry, things get better from now on in!

If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch:  This is a young adult novel.  It follows the story of two girls whose mother basically kidnaps them and abandons them in the woods while she goes off for days or weeks at a time to feed her drug habit.  It is a sad, touching tale, and I really enjoyed it.  A rare 5 stars!

Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi:  This is a novella that tells a different side of the story to Shatter Me.  It was interesting to read Warner's point of view, though I wasn't as taken with him as most others seem to be!  4 stars

The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman: (TBR Jar choice) This was a beautifully written, moving tale about a lighthouse keeper, his wife and a baby.  I absolutely loved this book and didn't want it to end!  5 stars, and one of my favourite reads ever!

House Rules by Jodi Picoult:  (TBR Jar choice) This was a book that has been on my shelf for a long time - since May 2010 according to my Goodreads!  I've read a few of Jodi Picoult's books; some I love and so I couldn't finish.  House Rules belongs to the former group, I'm pleased to say.  This tells the story of a teenager with Aspergers Syndrome, a murder and family loyalty.  At some points this book made me so angry and at other points I wanted to cry.  A solid 4 stars.

The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin:  I was given this book for Christmas, as part of the Man Booker Prize shortlist collection.  It is a really short book, a novella really, and gives Mary's viewpoint of the death of her son, Jesus.  As a non-religious person who went to a Catholic primary school, I found this book interesting and beautifully written.  3 stars.

Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert: (TBR Jar choice)  Another one from my dusty shelves!  This one has been gathering dust since November 2008!  I originally bought this book because the author is South African - I love reading books by South African authors or set in South Africa.  I was slightly concerned by the length of this, but once I was into the story I couldn't put it down and raced through it.  A very interesting concept, and a different view of witches.  4 stars.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell:  I bought this for my daughter for Christmas, and she read and really enjoyed it, so I thought I'd give it a go.  I was a little shocked at the language (not for myself, but for my daughter! :D).  It is quite a sad story but told in a really cute way.  I loved all the references to music and the '80s.  Really enjoyed this and will definitely read some more of Ms Rowell's books!  4 stars.

This Is A Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl by Paul Brannigan:  (TBR Jar Choice) According to Goodreads, I bought this book in April 2013, so I was quite pleased to finally pick it up.   I am a huge Nirvana fan, a huge Foo Fighters fan, and a huge Dave Grohl fan, so I was really looking forward to learning more about him.  Unfortunately this book contained a lot of waffle about the general punk music/grunge music scene and not very much new about Dave.  There were some interesting snippets, but it seemed like it was mainly a summary of lots of different interviews that I'd already read elsewhere.  A disappointing 2 stars.

A musical interlude!  Behold the gorgeousness that is Dave Grohl!

The Bone Collector by Jeffery Deaver:  I picked this book up in Tescos January sale - I think it was £1.  I'd never read anything by this author before.  This book is the first in the Lincoln Rhyme series, and follows Lincoln through the investigation of a murder case ... the slight hitch being that Lincoln is paralysed from the neck down and hasn't left his bed for a very long time.  This is a really interesting premise, and I have found myself a new crime series to work through.  4 stars.

The Evolution of Inanimate Objects by Harry Karlinsky:  Here's an odd little book!  This is a novel about the fictitious youngest son of Charles Darwin, who becomes obsessed with cutlery.  It is odd because it is written like a non-fiction book, and I had to keep reminding myself that it was a work of fiction.  3 stars.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion:  Whenever I see a book proclaimed as 'laugh out loud funny' I shudder.  I don't think I have ever read a book that has had me laughing out loud.  I think I relate more to 'spoken' humour.  This book, however, did have me laughing out loud within the first few pages ... the rest of the book was amusing, enjoyable and readable, but I didn't 'laugh out loud' again.  Another story about Asperger Syndrome, I really enjoyed this.  4 stars.

Y by Marjorie Celona:  Now here is a bleak and depressing book.  This follows the story of a newborn baby abandoned on the steps of the YMCA.  It is told from two different viewpoints - the abandoned baby and the young mother who abandoned her.  A sad story that held my attention, I was hoping for a happy ending.  If you're after an uplifting tale, this is not it!  3 stars.

And finally ...

Wake by Anna Hope:  I received a copy of this from NetGalley for review ... which will be up in a separate post very soon!

Phew! That was a long post!  Next month I think I will do a mid-month wrap-up post to cut down on the length, and to get more regular posts going.  The TBR jars worked well this month and I will continue with that with a little change - as I have set my Goodreads Challenge to 72 books, I want to choose 6 books each month from the jars, but I have 7 jars.  So I have decided to smoosh two together into one, so have amalgamated the 'non-fiction' jar with the 'big 'uns/classics' to make 6 jars instead of 7.  I love the fact that this is making me read some books I've had on my shelf for years!  That makes me happy! :)

So what have you been reading in January?!

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Bout of Books: Update Post

Current book: House Rules by Jodi Picoult
Pages read: 207
Blogs commented on: 3

Current book: House Rules by Jodi Picoult
Pages read: 289 (finished)
Blogs commented on: 0 - bad me! (rectifying that right now!)

Book read: The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin
Pages read: 104 (finished)
Currently reading: Stitch by Samantha Durante
Pages read:
Total pages read today:
Blogs commented on: 3 (making up for yesterdays lack of commentage) and will do more later ... :)

Number of books read so far:  2! (yay me!)

Monday, January 06, 2014

Bout of Books 9.0 ... Goals!

This is my first time participating in Bout of Books.  As it happens, I have just started a humungous book - House Rules by Jodi Picoult - so I think my goal will be just to finish it!  IF I do manage to finish House Rules, my aim is to then read the much shorter The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin.  Sadly I go back to work tomorrow, so my reading time will be cut down.  I don't want to be too ambitious in my goals!  I think I would also like to participate in at least one of the challenges, and the twitter chat.

So my goals are:

1. Finish reading House Rules by Jodi Picoult (currently on page 80 of 556)
2. Participate in at least one challenge and one twitter chat
3. Comment on at least 3 blogs per day

I'll create a new post at the end of each day for my updates! :)

Thursday, January 02, 2014

2014 Goals/January TBR

In 2014, I hope to do more of the things I enjoy - namely cooking, reading, and messing about with arty things.  I hate that I get into slumps so regularly and would really like to keep something up for the whole year!

I will be attempting to take part in Journal 52, a year long art journalling workshop with weekly prompts (and it's free!).  I may or may not record some videos for YouTube.

I will once again be attempting to keep up with Fatmumslim's photo a day challenge.

I will be attempting to cook more recipes from the hundreds (well, dozens) of cookbooks I have instead of just random scrabbled together dinners.

(This is all sounding very similar to last year's "resolutions"!)

I have set my Goodreads challenge to 72 books.  I read 42 this year, so this target may be a bit ambitious, but the last two months of 2013 have shown me what is possible! (I read 8 books in November and 10 in December, so 6 a month should be achievable ...).  In order to get through books that have been sitting gathering dust on my shelf for ages, I have devised a system for choosing books each month.  I have 7 tbr jars (I know that's one more than I plan to read a month but I couldn't condense them any more than this!) each containing all the books I own split into (very loose) genres.  I have a jar for each of the following:

  • General (the biggest selection!)
  • Other Worldly (sci-fi, dystopian, paranormal, etc)
  • Classics/Big 'Uns (those that might take a bit longer to get through!)
  • Young Adult (pilfered from my daughter's bookshelf!)
  • Thriller/Mystery
  • Non-Fiction
  • New Books (anything I buy and want to read as soon as possible!)
Each month I will choose a book from each jar.  If I get through all those books, I can treat myself to choose another from the 'new books' jar.  Of course, we all know what will happen.  I won't fancy any of the books chosen and will read other books entirely, or end up not reading anything!  In the case of the latter, if I find myself in a reading slump, I will force myself to pick up a Harry Potter book to re-read - that usually gets me back into the mood for reading!

So, here are the chosen books for January:

General: The Aunt Sally Team by Flick Merauld - I think I bought this one when I first got my Kindle (it might have been free, definitely not more than 99p).  Really not sure about reading this one, but I will give it a go!

Other Worldly:  Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert - quite looking forward to this one ... I think I might have started it a while back, but will start again.

Classics/Big 'Uns:  House Rules by Jodie Picoult - a hit and miss author for me, so hopefully I will get on with this one!

Young Adult:  Stitch by Samantha Durante - on my Kindle, a free or under 99p purchase.  I've heard good things about this one.

Thriller/Mystery:  The Grave Tattoo by Val McDermid - been on my shelf forever!

New Books:  The Light Between Oceans by M L Stedman - this one sounds very interesting, but I've heard it is a slow read, so we shall see ...

What will you be reading in January?

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December Reads

Here's my roundup of reading in December! I actually managed to read 10 books in December! I am astounded by that but so excited to have found my reading mojo again! Most of these were Young Adult books and one was a re-read.

Firstly, I went to the library (why??) and picked up three Young Adult books that I'd heard much talk about.  I read Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher first.  This was interesting and quite sad read about a teenage girl who has done a terrible thing, feels terribly guilty and ends up writing to a murder on death row.  I enjoyed this and gave it 4/5 star.

I then read The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.  I had heard so much hype about this book, and it is being made into a movie (or may already be out, I'm not sure) and I was expecting great things.  I should know better!  This was a real struggle to get through, I found it really slow going and not much really happened at all.  A disappointing 2/5!

After that I felt I needed a bit of a break from YA books and picked up Joyland by Stephen King.  I had high hopes for this book - not one of his horror books as such, but more a murder mystery set in a theme park which I thought sounded really interesting.  It was ok, the characters were good, but the plot itself was a little thin.  Just a 3/5 stars.

Next up was another book I'd heard so much about from watching bookish types on YouTube ... Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.  Apart from anything else ... what a gorgeous cover! Behold!

This sounded really interested.  It follows the story of a girl who is locked up in prison because she is too dangerous ... she kills people simply by touching them.  This one didn't disappoint me.  I really enjoyed this story and will definitely be reading the other books in this series (I think it is a trilogy, with 2 in-betweeny novellas).  4/5 stars!

I then won a book in a Goodreads giveaway, World After by Susan Ee, but it is the second in a series so I had to buy the first - Angelfall.  This was an action-packed dystopian novel about evil angels and was an interesting take on the subject.  I enjoyed it and gave it 4/5.

Back to the library books after that, and I read The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey.  A book about aliens.  I'd heard a lot about this one, but to be honest I wasn't expecting to enjoy it at all.  However, it was a really great read and I will definitely pick up the sequel when it comes out.  Another 4/5!

Christmas was then approaching, and I wasn't feeling too festive, so I picked up Let It Snow - three short, intertwined stories by Lauren Myracle, John Green and Maureen Johnson.  This was a fun read, I enjoyed all the stories and gave this 4/5 stars too.

The world of angels was then calling to me again, so I picked up World After by Susan Ee, the second in the series.  It picked up right where Angelfall finished, and I enjoyed this just as much as the first book.  4/5!

Another Christmassy read came next - Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.  I really enjoyed this one and it succeeded in making me feel a little bit festive :)  4/5 stars.

After all that reading, and after Christmas, I was after something familiar that wouldn't require too much concentration and brain power, so I picked up Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling.  I haven't re-read this series for a while, and I really enjoyed this one again.  The whole series is just the best thing ever and gets a 5/5 from me!

So that was December!

What did you read in December?

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