Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Bookish Quotes: Real Art

I have both listened to Normal People and watched the TV adaptation over the last few months. 

One of the things about listening to a book is that if you hear something that think would make a good quote, it's really difficult to get the quote to share. It's also a bit difficult to skip to the end of the book I probably shouldn't mention that.

When I was listening to the book there were a couple of lines in this quote that really caught my attention, so I straight away requested the ebook from the library. It has taken months for the book to come in and then I nearly missed it because you don't get a notification when the books comes in on the app. Luckily, I checked just in time.

This was also the only book that I borrowed from the library this week too, so this post is doubling up as my Library Loot post as well.

But here's the quote:

This is what it's like in Dublin. All Connell's classmates have identical accents and carry the same size MacBook under their arms. In seminars they express their opinions passionately and conduct impromptu debates. Unable to form such straightforward views or express them with any force, Connell initially felt a sense of crushing inferiority to his fellow students, as if he had upgraded himself to an intellectual level far above his own, where he had to strain to make sense of the most basic premises. He did gradually start to wonder why all their classroom discussions were so abstract and lacking in textual detail, and eventually he realised that most people were not actually doing the reading. They were coming into college every day to have heated debates about books they had not read. He understands now that his classmates are not like him. It's easy for them to have opinions, and to express them with confidence. They don't worry about appearing ignorant or conceited. They are not stupid people, but they're not so much smarter than him either. They just move through the world in a different way, and he'll probably never really understand them, and he knows they will never understand him, or even try.

He only has a few classes every week anyway, so he fills the rest of the time by reading. In the evenings he stays late in the library, reading assigned texts, novels, works of literary criticism. Not having friends to eat with, he reads over lunch. At the weekends when there's football on, he checks the team news and then goes back to reading instead of watching the build-up. One night the library started closing just as he reached the passage in Emma when it  seems like Mr Knightley is going to marry Harriet, and he had to close the book and walk home in a strange state of emotional agitation.  He's amused at himself, getting wrapped up in the drama of novels like that. It feels intellectually unserious to concern himself with fictional people marrying one another. But there it is: literature moves him. One of his professors calls it "the pleasure of being touched by real art." In those words it almost sounds sexual. And in a way, the feeling provoked in Connell when Mr Knightley kisses Emma's hand is not completely asexual, though its relation to sexuality is indirect. It suggests to Connell that the same imagination he uses as a reader is necessary to understand real people also, and to be intimate with them.

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Sharlene from Real Life Reading that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Colour in the Titles

Welcome to this week's edition of Top Ten Tuesday which is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is Books with Colours in the Title.

When I looked at my books read spreadsheet, I realised that I could have done entire Top Ten lists of red and blue books. Instead, I am going to focus on the primary colours - red blue and yellow - to make up my list for this week.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chinamanda Ngozi Adiche - I have long had an interest in reading books set in Nigeria. This was a particularly good one.

The Girl in the Yellow Vest by Loretta Hill - This is a book features a female engineer working in a construction environment in Queensland. I really enjoyed Loretta Hill's writing. It doesn't look like she is writing anymore which is a shame.

The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey - I do enjoy a book set in Ireland. This one is set in Northern Ireland in the early years of the 1900's which was quite a tumultuous time.

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland  - This book follows a painting of a girl (in hyacinth blue) through the years from owner to owner. I really enjoyed this book!

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore - This is the third book in the Graceling YA fantasy series. Just thinking about this book makes me want to revist the series.

Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith - This is the seventh book in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series and features a pair of talking shoes.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant - This book holds a special place in my blogging heart. I read this book and I just wanted to talk to someone about it and it become the first book I wrote a review of. When I read it years later it wasn't a great review but it was the start of this blogging journey.

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan - Shaun Tan writes and illustrates the most amazing books. Whilst The Arrival is my favourite, and probably always will be, this was an enjoyable.

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley - Among the many series that I keep on saying I really need to get back to soon is the Flavia de Luce mystery series, featuring a precocious young girl as the sleuth. This is book 3 in the series.

The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett - I am cheating for this last book because once you have all the primary colours you can make all the other colours, which quite frankly is magic!

What colourful reads do you have on your Top Ten list.

Monday, August 03, 2020

This week...

I'm reading....

While I am spending plenty of time writing blog posts and visiting other bloggers, I am not doing much reading, which obviously is going to have an impact soon because how can you write about books when you aren't readingmuch?

I did start reading Jenna Guillaume's new book You Were Made For Me. I am not really the target audience for this book, but it is a lot of fun. It was perfect 4am reading over the weekend.

I am also a mere couple of hours away from finishing The Switch by Beth O'Leary and then it will be time to pick a new audiobook. There are several options,but I don't really know which one I am going to pick yet.

I'm watching...

Over the last couple of weeks we have been all about the feel good crafty type shows. Last week I mentioned that we were watching Great Canadian Baking Show and The Repair Shop. We are still watching those, as well as shows like Selling Houses Australia.

This week we added another crafty show into the mix - Making It which is hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman. This show is so much fun. The only thing that was a bit odd is that the first five episodes were available to stream, but the sixth episode, which also happens to be the final, was not available. In order to watch it wehave now had to subscribe to yet another streaming provider.  We got a free two week trial so I assume we will see what else is  available on there, and then maybe cancel it, if we remember.

We did start a couple of other drama series this week. The first was Trackers, which is based on
a series books by Deon Meyer featuring a former policeman by the name of Lemmer. I have read one of the books in the series. This show is set in South Africa which is where my husband was originally from, and the series rated really highly there, even beating out Game of Thrones apparently. The first episode was a fair bit of set up and introduction of the characters  so was a bit slow but there was enough to keep us interested in what happens next.

We did come up with one fun game. I pronounced all the place names in the most Aussie way possible and he got to correct my pronunciation. Hours of fun. Although he does win because he doesn't need to read the subtitles when the characters are speaking Afrikaans.

We also starting watching Singapore Grip which is a story set during WWII. The series starts just before the Japanese invasion of Singapore. The main families are involved in the rubber industry and live a lavish colonial lifestyle. Years ago I read a book called Tanamera by Noel Barber and it had a very similar premise and I loved that book. There was also a mini series made of that back in the 80s.

It's interesting to think how huge mini series used to be back in the day. The whole coming soon scenario, a stunning/gripping/enticing 4 part series. And there was some great TV. Series like North and South, The Thorn Birds and so many more. There is some times that sense of anticipation now, but it is usually expected that it will be for a whole series, rather than a 4 part epic, and of course, there's always the expectation that there has be

In Life

It was very exciting this weekend. Remember we bought a car a month ago. We finally put petrol in the car! It is so economical. I mean, it's taken a month to need to put petrol in. Let's not talk about the fact that is because we aren't allowed to go anywhere.

On that basis, the current tank of fuel may end up lasting us until November because we have now gone into Stage 4 Lockdown for at least the next six weeks. There has been a state of disaster declared and as such there is a curfew in place from 8pm to 5am. You can only leave home for work, medical reasons and caregiving. Only one person per household can leave once each day to purchase food but you have to stay within a 5km radius of your home. Schools go back to online learning, and non essential businesses are closing. There's more but that is most of the rules.

While the numbers continue to increase I do understand the need to put these restrictions in place, but it is disheartening. We have now been working from home for nearly 5 months, and as much as we are trying to keep ourselves entertained, there are moments in the day where it is easy to feel discouraged.

Don't forget you can now follow my blog on Facebook here.

I've linked this post to It's Monday, what are you reading? as hosted by Book Date

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: How to Do Nothing to What I Like About Me

Welcome to this month's edition of Six Degrees of Separation, which is a monthly meme hosted by Kate from Books Are My Favourite and Best.  The idea is to start with a specific book and make a series of links from one book to the next using whatever link you can find and see where you end up after six links.  I am also linking this post up with The Sunday Salon, hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.

This month's starting book is How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny ODell. I don't read a lot of non fiction so this is a book that I wasn't familiar with, and I am unlikely to read.

Having done this for a few months now, I am coming to realise that often the first idea is the best, if you have an idea in the first place! I probably should at least look at the cover before I decide on a theme though because I could have done something around flowers too. Anyway, the first thing that I thought of when I saw the title was to focus on the word how, and that then led to other interrogative words like how, who, what, where, why, when.

So here are my connections:

How to Bake a Perfect Life by Barbara O'Neal - I first read Barbara O'Neal around 9 years ago when this book beat out two other books that I loved to win a RITA award in the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category. I have since read a lot of this author's books and I always enjoy them. (review here)

The Ape Who Guards the Balance by Elizabeth Peters -  This is the tenth book in the Amelia Peabody mystery series, which is predominantly set in Egypt in the late 1880s through the 1920s. It is such a fun series, featuring Egyptian archaeology, a dastardly archenemy, humour,crimes and so much more. I might need to go back and pick up where I left off. Or maybe, restart at a point in the series and then go forward. (review here)

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens - This is one of those books that sticks around the bestsellers list for a long time. It was also a selection for Reese Witherspoon's book club and then with a movie adaptation in the works, it will probably stay around for a while longer yet. I listened to it on audio earlier this year.

Why Shoot a Butler? by Georgette Heyer -Georgette Heyer was much better known for her regency romances but she also wrote a number of mysteries. I read this one many years ago!

When It All Went to Custard by Danielle Hawkins
- From a book that I read many years ago to an author I have only discovered this year, Danielle Hawkins is a New Zealand author who writes rural romance. I have read a couple of her books so far and I have thoroughly enjoyed them

What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume
- This was Australian YA author Jenna Guillaume's debut novel. I am due to read her second novel in the next few weeks.

Next month's starting point is Rodham by Curtis Sittenfield. As of now, I don't even have a first idea. Good thing I have a month to come up with something.

Where has your six degrees taken you this month?

Saturday, August 01, 2020

Reading Reflections: July 2020

July felt like a very slow reading month for me. I am not sure why. I think it is partially as a result of us going back into lockdown and I just felt unsettled. Who knows. Maybe August will be better. Maybe not.

Here's what I did read

The Goldminer's Sister by Alison Stuart 5/5 (Australian Author)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book as you can see from my review here. Only my second 5/5 read for the year.

Something to Talk About by Rachael Johns 4.5/5 (Australlian Author)

Rachael Johns is one of my go to authors. Even when I wasn't reading I would read her books. This is the follow up book to Talk of the Town, set in a small town in country Western Australia.

Tiny White Lies by Fiona Palmer 3.5/5 (Australian Author)

Two families decide to go on a roughing it holiday to get away from their normal lives, but this may lead to lots of secrets being revealed.

Miss Graham's Cold War Cook Book by Celia Rees 4.5/5

I read this for a blog tour and I am so glad that I got the chance to read it as it was a very unusual book from the setting to the events in the book. You can read my review (and see a recipe for a Beesting cake) here.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl 4.5/5

I feel like I am cheating a bit by counting this as a book read, but the reality is that it is not dissimilar to listening to an audiobook. Listening to Taika Waititi and his celebrity friends perform this book is nothing less than pure delight. This is also yet another opportunity to share the first video. If you haven't yet watched this, treat yourself because it is a delight.

I am linking my post up to the Monthly Wrap up which is hosted at Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Weekend Cooking: Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees

Welcome to today's stop on the blog tour for Miss Graham's Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees and to this week's Weekend Cooking post.

It's 1946 and the war is over. It's time for everyone to go home and start to heal. And yet, as much as it was the end of the war, it was also the beginning of the Cold War. Germany has been divided into sectors amongst the Allies and the tensions that shaped the world for decades were building. The rebuilding of cities and countries across Europe has to start, rehousing of displaced persons needs to begin, and the search is on for the Nazi's who disappeared into the general population at the end of the war, with the assistance of some of the population who still were believers.

For teacher Edith Graham this is also the chance for a new beginning. She has spent the war at home looking after her mother. Now, she's been recruited by the British Control Commission to go Germany. Her job while she is there is to set up schooling in the ruins that is the city of Lubeck. The city is full of people living in the amongst the rubble, with barely enough food or clothes, scrounging the ruins for an existence with little time for schooling.

But Edith is not only there for the recovery effort. She has also been recruited to provide information to the British government. They are keen to located her former lover Kurt von Stavenow who was a doctor that they believe was involved in the medical "research" during the War. Edith and Kurt were close in the years before the war and she can't believe that the Kurt that she knew could possibly be the same man. After all, she had spent time with him and his aristocratic wife, Elisabeth, in Prussia before the war, and now Edith is tasked with finding either of them.

Von Stavenow is the kind of man that has caught the attention of lots of interested parties. The US and the Russians are both interested in what they can learn from him in the name of science. And even in the British government there are those are that are interested in the same thing. And then there are the parties that want to see people like him face justice for what they did during the war.

With all of these different agendas at play, it's hard for Edith to know who to trust. Everyone wants the information that Edith has collected, not least of all her friend Dori who is still in London. In order to pass information back Edith and Dori come up with a code that is centred around sharing recipes. And then there is Edith's American friend Adeline who pops up with alarming regularity. How is she involved?

In addition to Edith's female friends who all bring interesting voices, there are other characters like her driver Jack, the young refugee Luka who appoints himself as Edith's protector, and her occasional romantic interest Harry. Even within those closest to her, Edith has to question if they have their own agendas.

This book is very unusual. There are plenty of historical novels out there which talk about the female spy experience during war time, but I don't think I have ever read one in this kind of post war setting. The book also had a Cold War thriller feeling where it was hard for Edith to know who in her life she can trust, where there was danger and betrayal at every turn. And the ending. Oh my goodness I did not see that coming.

Celia Rees has written a lot of young adult historical fiction novels, but this is her first for adults. Based on this book I will definitely be looking forward to reading more from her in the future.

Using the idea of recipe as code was a very clever touch. There were plenty of examples of delicious sounding recipes mentioned, but this was also in the immediate aftermath of the war. There were shortages everywhere, and so there were also several recipes that I would be happy to never have to eat.

When I was reading the book I was trying to come up with how I was going to include a recipe for this post. There were a couple of recipes in the book that I have made before and shared on the blog including Lebkuchen (recipe here) and Apfelkuchen (recipe here) but the one that I decided to post is Bienenstich or Beesting Cake. I made it a while ago using this recipe from the Queen website. It's an unusual cake as it is made from brioche dough rather than cake but the combination with the custard was delicious.

Beesting Cake

2 cups (500ml) full cream milk
4 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
6 large egg yolks (approx. 110g)
½ cup (110g) caster sugar
1/3 cup (50g) corn flour
45g butter, room temperature

½ cup (125ml) lukewarm milk
¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
1 ½ tsp dried yeast
2 cups (300g) plain flour
50g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg

70g unsalted butter
¼ cup (55g) caster sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp thickened cream
1 cup (120g) flaked almonds

For the Custard

1. Place milk, and Vanilla Bean Paste in a large saucepan over a low heat and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.

2. Combine egg yolks, sugar and corn flour in a large bowl and whisk to form a thick paste. Add a few tablespoons of warm milk mixture to thin out the mixture if necessary.

3. Slowly add half a cup of milk at a time to the egg mixture while whisking. Continue until all the milk has been added. Pour mixture back into saucepan over a low heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Once mixture starts to boil, keep mixing for 1 minute and then remove from the heat and pour into a clean bowl.

4. Place a piece of cling wrap directly over the pastry cream and allow to cool for 30 minutes before whisking through butter. Allow to cool completely, before refrigerating until chilled.

For the Brioche
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment, combine milk, sugar and yeast and allow to sit until foamy. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low for 1 minute, before increasing the speed and mixing for a further 5 minutes. Place cling over mixer bowl and allow dough to rise for 1 hour or until almost doubled.

2. Grease and line the base and sides of a deep 20cm round cake tin. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for 4 minutes, adding more flour if needed. Press into the base of prepared tin, ensuring dough covers the base of the tin. Allow to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Method - Topping

1. Preheat oven to 180°C (fan forced). Prepare topping at the start of the second rise. Place all ingredients excluding flaked almonds in a medium saucepan over a low to medium heat until butter melts and mixture starts to simmer, cook for 1 minute until slightly thickened, do not brown. Remove from the heat and add flaked almonds, stirring well to combine. Set aside to cool.
2. Spoon almond topping over risen dough, do not worry about spreading the almond mixture as it will flatten out during baking. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in tin, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
3. Slice cake in half and spread custard over the base of the cake. Place top half on top of custard.

    Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Thanks to Random Thing Blog Tours for the invitation to participate for the blog tour and the review copy of this very interesting book, and for a review copy. Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour!


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