Chocolate

Now corrected – chocolate BARS not chocolate bras…

Totally off-topic today.

Is it any surprise that I like chocolate? It fills the gap between cups of tea very nicely. Some of my favourite chocolates, all of which aren’t made in the UK and therefore either have to be bought at ridiculous import prices or bought overseas and saved up, are:

Ritter Sport, especially the dark chocolate and marzipan one. It is totally impossible not to eat the entire 16 squares at once.

Mint Slice biscuits, made by Arnott’s in Australia. These, believe it or not, are greatly improved in taste, texture and longevity (at least, duration of time they can be in my house before I eat them) by keeping them in the freezer.

Violet Crumble and Cherry Ripe chocolate bars, again Australian. These are The Musician’s and The Book Accumulator’s favourite Aussie chocolate bars respectively so always seemed like a huge treat. And they’re so yummy.

Golden Rough (again, Australian) – this is a pretty cheap 6/7cm disc of milk chocolate with coconut mixed through it. So good.

Oh, and Choco Leibniz and Ohne Gleichen biscuits from Germany as well.

The common factor for most of these is dark chocolate. Do we just like dark chocolate less in the UK?

What are your favourite chocolates?

Book admin – and books I had forgotten

Obviously, what you do on the first morning you’re feeling better after a cold, is to sit and go through your LibraryThing and Goodreads histories, cross-referencing to blog reviews and spreadsheets.

Obviously.

Anyway in the process I discovered a load of books I had totally forgotten I had read. By this I don’t just mean I didn’t remember what I thought of the book, but that if you’d asked me, I would have said that I’d never read it. Even looking at my records, I don’t remember reading the book, despite having given them good marks! They include (links to reviews!):

The Kingmaker’s Daughter by Philippa Gregory – 8/10

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards – 7/10

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin – 8/10

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips – 7/10

Does this happen to anyone else?

(buying a book you have forgotten that you own is totally normal and acceptable, right?)

Top Ten Tuesday – New Series

TTT

Because Booking Through Thursday often doesn’t post until too late in the day for me (thanks to time differences), I have decided that on Thursdays I’ll either answer a Booking Through Thursday question or a Top Ten Tuesday question (the latter are run on The Broke and The Bookish blog), although I might let myself stop at 5 rather than going all the way to a list of 10! This week’s:

October 21: Top New Series I Want To Start (New..let’s say within the last year or two)

Well. What new series do I want to start?

I can definitely think of some series that I have started in the past and would love to complete or re-read. Anne of Green Gables, the Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone “A is for Alibi” series, Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series… in fact:

1. Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series. I’ve only read the first one (Crocodile on the Sandbank) so that definitely nearly counts as a new series.

Crocodile on the Sandbank

2. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I’ve heard so much good stuff about them, how can I resist?

3. Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall series (is it a stretch, at two published and one more intended, to call it a series?). I’ve had The Musician’s copy of Wolf Hall for at least 2 if not 3 years now. No excuse that I haven’t read it.

wolf hall

4. Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series. I love the TV series, when I get a minute to watch it; I suspect I’d get through the books faster.

phryne

and finally, though perhaps not quite within the next 2 years,

5. The Little Golden Books series – I had some of these as a child and have no doubt I’ll be reading a lot with baby RWT eventually!

Inner Peace for Busy People – Joan Borysenko – 8/10

“Remember that letting people help you gives them an opportunity to be kind. Refusing help is a subtle kind of selfishness, you know.”

Inner peace2

In this simple and approachable book, Borysenko sets out weekly strategies for bringing a little more serenity into fraught daily lives.

I did not expect to get on with this one, but at no point was I bored reading it (and on one occasion I had a panic on the Tube, thinking I’d missed my stop!). Borysenko doesn’t talk down the way I had expected; instead I think her aim is that if a reader can implement 3 or 4 of the 52 weeks’ worth of strategies, she will have done some good.

The strategies are simple but memorable and crucially, varied – this is not 200 pages on why one should take up meditation.

I read it straight through as an ebook, bookmarking lots of passages (including the names of other books the author cites) but am tempted to buy a dead-tree copy to keep on the shelf and flick through.

Additional information:

Apparently I bought this on the Kindle. Suspect it was a £0.99 deal?
Publisher: Hay House, 228 pages
Order Inner Peace for Busy People: 52 Simple Strategies for Transforming Lifefrom Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting

Some recent DNFs

I’ve struggled with some books recently and a recognition that I have too many of them means I am abandoning them pretty quickly. I thought I’d make a note here of them.

Torn by Casey Hill. I really enjoyed Taboo, but something in the writing here just irritated me too much.

The Silversmith’s Wife by Sophia Tobin. This was a review copy that had been loitering in my house for a very long time, and when I finally cracked it open on the commute this week, I found the incredibly short chapters which constantly switched perspective and time (before and after a death) too much.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson. Iris raves about Jansson, as do many others, but I’ve struggled with her before and again the slow, simple writing irritated me. I imagine she writes extremely well for children.

I’ve been depositing them at the Oval Tube bookswap shelf, which looks like it does a roaring trade (certainly in terms of people taking books from it). While I don’t permit myself to take books (I’ve got more than enough at home) it’s a very convenient place to drop them off! Plus I always get an enthusiastic thank you from the station staff, especially if I’m dropping off multiple books.

(pictures are affiliate links, if you really want to check the books out on Amazon…)

The Bonesetter’s Daughter – Amy Tan – 6/10

“Those were the small rituals we had, what comforted us, what we loved, what we could look forward to, what we could be thankful for. And remember afterward.”

bonesetter
Ruth Young doesn’t know what to do about her ailing mother LuLing – she’s forgetful and argumentative, clearly on the cusp of Alzheimer’s. In an effort to break through her mother’s increasing paranoia, she finally makes time to sit down and read the memoirs her mother has been asking her to read for years. She learns about her mother’s difficult childhood, the time in a Christian orphanage, the struggle to get to America, and suddenly so much is clear.

The book is divided into three sections – Ruth’s initial struggles with her mother, the written account of her mother’s life in China before and during the Second World War, including the Japanese occupation, and the ending.

I actually particularly enjoyed the first section; Ruth’s struggles as the put-upon daughter, her relationship issues and distrust of her partner’s ex-wife. It’s standard commercial fiction stuff, but tempered by the cultural conflict, and more sensibly introspective than most.

The middle section is the longest. It feels like this is section that the book is really supposed to be about and the other bits are bookends (literally?) but I couldn’t have made it through the whole book if it was all in the tragic, disaster-ridden tone of the middle section. So many of these books seem to tell the same story – The Kitchen God’s Wife, Chinese Cinderella etc. i.e. the story of a daughter of the family who is somehow apart from the others, and her shameful treatment at the hands of the family. This novel is a little happier than average, and LuLing gets her happy ending without too many disasters. I found this section at once the least interestingly written and the most interesting subject matter.

The ending is a little saccharine – the domestic battle that has been bubbling for months is forgotten through a lavish financial contribution; the step-daughters who are surly and difficult at the start of the book suddenly want to spend time with Ruth and her mother. There is a late discussion with someone who would actually have been able to help with Ruth’s troubles had she only thought to ask earlier (as was the case in The Kitchen God’s wife). I wonder whether the concluding section was actually carved too savagely by an editor? In any case, all the issues are neatly wrapped up.

As I always do with this type of book, I found the female characters strong and easily identifiable, while the men were one-dimensional and muddled. Why is this always the case? Something to do with the fact that the whole narrative is from a female perspective? Ruth is a sympathetic protagonist; struggling with her duties as a good daughter, partner and step-mother. LuLing is a more difficult character to understand, but she holds her own well enough.

A perfectly good holiday book, but there’s better works in this genre (by this author, too).

Additional info

Copy from Bookmooch, I think. It has moved house with me twice, judging by the 15/10/10 post-it on the inside cover. 
Publisher: Flamingo, 339 pages (paperback)
Order The Bonesetter’s Daughterfrom Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting

Sunday Salon – Sniffles

TSS

Atchoo! It’s been sneeze-central here at Maison RWT as I came down with my first bad cold of the year. Unfortunately, my normal method of “dose up on everything that might be helpful and proceed as normal” was stymied by the fact that pretty much every cold med I would normally take is not permitted during pregnancy. So I had to tough it out the traditional way. Which was less fun. I spent yesterday sleeping and watching BBC shows on iPlayer until 2pm, then made it as far as the sofa for a lot of episodes of Friends, then back to bed. It was an exciting day.

Today I feel MUCH better and have got as far as tea, the study, and actual thought again.

Quick recap of reviews that went up this week:

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, an introspective, very personal account of grief

How It All Began by Penelope Lively, a study of inter-connected lives thrown into turmoil by a mugging.

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff, the experience of being a 20-something working in the literary industry in New York.

Coming up this week:

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan (which has moved house with me at least twice)

and anything else I get around to reviewing today!

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