Thursday, 31 January 2019

Books From The Backlog - White Walls And Straitjackets by David Owain Hughes

Books from the Backlog is a weekly post hosted at Carole's Random Life In Books. Carole says it's "a fun way to feature some of those neglected books sitting on your bookshelf unread. If you are anything like me, you might be surprised by some of the unread books hiding in your stacks." Find out more and link up your own posts on Carole's Random Life In Books.

I enjoyed taking part in Books From The Backlog last year, but got out of the habit of the weekly posts. Now I hope to use this meme to stoke my enthusiasm for my 2019 Mount TBR Challenge. I'm going to post one BFTB a fortnight and then Actually Read The Book before the next post is due!

Last time I chose The Judgement Of Richard Richter by Igor Stiks and my review is on Literary Flits today.

Next up is:


White Walls and Straitjackets by David Owain Hughes

Meet Crystal and Harry – lovers who work in the entertainment business: after murdering three critics for poor reviews, they decide to skip town and head for the coastline. Once there, they know things will be fine – it’ll be a chance to start fresh. A new beginning. But, before they head to the seaside, Crystal must first visit her sister at a mental hospital – after all, it’s Crystal’s fault her sibling is there…

As they start their journey, Harry discovers a book in the van’s glove compartment – White Walls & Straitjackets. The author is unknown, but whoever he is, he seems to know a lot about the deadly duo and other nutjobs who inhabit the Rhondda Valleys, south Wales.

As lives and stories collide, Crystal and Harry soon discover escaping the Valleys won’t be as easy as they think. Especially with another serial killer hot on their heels


I downloaded White Walls And Straitjackets, for free I think,  from its publisher's website in July last year and promptly lost sight of it in my browser's download folder. Spotting it again while clearing out recently my first thought was why on earth had I got myself a horror book? I don't read horror, or very rarely at least. Then I thought further about the author's name and the penny dropped. It's a Welsh #WorldReads!

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

State Of The ARC - January 2019

I saw this State of the ARC meme over at Avalinah's Books blog in January 2018 and thought it would be fun to join in.

The idea is to keep track of all the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) books I've got awaiting reading and reviewing, and to make headway through the overdue pile. For my State of the ARC, I am including all books sent to me for review whether they are pre-publication copies (as ARCs should be) or simply review copies of books already available publicly. I don't include books that I have purchased myself, book exchange swaps, or free downloads.

In January I blogged my reviews of these ARCs:
(Click the cover images to visit their reviews)

  
  
 

Here's my State of the ARC numbers as of today:

Awaiting Reading

Read / Reviewed / Blogged

Overdue

NetGalley

22

1 RRB

0

From Authors

0

0

0

Blog Tours

3

0

0

From Publishers

0

0

0


RRB (Read, Reviewed and Blogged) essentially means those book reviews are completed and I'm just waiting for their scheduled blog post date.


No State Of The ARC would be complete without checking out the additions to my ARC stash. I might have got a bit carried away on NetGalley but there are just so many fab-looking translations on offer right now!

Here are January's new arrivals






If you want to join this State of the ARC meme check out This Page at Avalinah's Books.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

#Veganuary Food Diary - Week Four

Vegan Goulash at Glow Steady 
This is a post about my experiences during Veganuary 2019. I'm going to talk about vegan food. If that's going to offend you, please feel welcome to discover My Travels in Spain or read Reviews of My Favourite Books instead!

As in previous posts, appetising photos have been 'borrowed' from their respective websites. Click pretty pics to see their recipes!

Here's what I ate this week:

Breakfast
Every day: Porridge made with flaked oats and soy milk

Lunch
Tues, Wed, Thur: Pita bread with Tumaca, apple
Fri: Soy sausage and Pita bread sandwich, apple
Sat: Pita bread with Tumaca, Alpro soy yoghurt, apple
Sun, Mon: Pita bread with homemade hummus, apple

Yes, this week I ate pita bread for lunch every day. Is that good or bad? They're just so easy to make and a batch lasts me three days. I love that they taste good both fresh from the pan when they are soft and fluffy, and when refreshed in the pan for subsequent days which makes them almost crisp.

Dinner
Saag Aloo at AllRecipes 
Tues: Soy sausages with fried potato and baked beans
Wed, Thur: Sweet And Sour Tofu with brown rice
Fri, Sat: Hungarian-style Vegetable Goulash with mashed potato
Sun: Carrot soup
Mon: Saag Aloo with brown rice

I had a 'junk food' dinner last Tuesday with processed soy salchichas (sausages). They pretty much tasted like standard frankfurters to be honest and were fine with the meal, but were pricey. I've realised that's probably why a vegan diet can look expensive. The Eroski supermarket in Velez-Malaga has an impressive vegan/vegetarian alternatives selection of sliced not-meats and various burgers. I've tried some of the burgers before and, like the sausages, they taste nice, but I can't help thinking why I'm paying €3 for two burgers when I could make a similar product myself for pennies and have the time to do so. Plus there's the whole 'swathed in plastic' problem too! There's never just one easy decision, is there?

My new recipe triumph this week was the Hungarian Goulash from Glow Steady. I used a mix of veggies - celery, carrot, mouli, red pepper, courgette - and served mine over lots of lovely mashed potato. If you make this, don't be shy with the paprika. It's delicious!


And finally my vegan motivation book suggestion this week is a bit different. I haven't read any more fiction books with vegan characters so, instead, here's a non-vegan non-fiction book that discusses responsible farming and healthy meat production.
Farmageddon by Philip Lymbery, opened my eyes to the realities of food production in Britain (and across Europe and America). It doesn't advocate veganism as The Answer, but did get me questioning what I actually eat. You can Read My Review Here.

Are you doing Veganuary too? If so, please link up your recipe successes in the Comments so I can visit and be inspired!


Sunday, 27 January 2019

Hill walking in rural Andalucia

I'm linking up with The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Reviewer.

I've had a fab week here in Andalusia! Our current campsite, Camping Rural Presa La Vinuela, has fab views out over a reservoir lake and we have been going walking by the water and over the hills for a couple of hours pretty much every day. We initially thought we might be here 3-4 nights. Tonight will be the 10th night and I think we might well be doing a few more yet. Right now I am watching a flock of 200-300 (at least) smallish seagulls (terns maybe?) who group together and fly around the lake every evening, presumably just for the hell of it!

Yesterday I amazed myself by walking to the local grocery shop without stopping on the way. It's only a kilometre or so away and I know that doesn't sound like much of an achievement! However, as you can see if you squint at the photo below, the campsite is just downhill behind me. The shop is one of the white buildings at the top of this hill in front of me. I swear if it was any steeper, I'd need ropes and crampons to get there ;-)


We've managed to avoid ghastly weather so far this month. There are frequently high winds here, but it's dry and there's no sign of snow coming this way. (That's a cloud on the hill in the top pic.) Commiserations to anyone who's already fed up with miserable winter weather or who is baking in Australia. I can't even imagine how to cope with day after day of over 45 degrees.


In bookish news, congratulations to Ichabod who won the Witch's Moonstone Locket by Marsha A Moore giveaway! Hope you love the book, Icky!
Did you all get your free Mamachari Matchmaker by S J Pajonas short story? Stephanie (fab name, no?!) is offering free downloads until the 1st Feb to celebrate her birthday so Happy Birthday to her!

Giveaways closing soon
27th Jan: A Moleskine travel journal to celebrate the A Heart in the Right Place by Heide Goody and Iain Grant blog tour
31st Jan: Winter's Heist by Emily Duvall paperback
$25 Amazon gift card to celebrate the By Any Means by James Morris blog tour
$10 Amazon gift card to celebrate the The Princess of Baker Street by Mia Kerick blog tour
Free Literary Flits Spotlight book promo post
3rd Feb: (post on 1st Feb) Oh What A Pavlova by Isabella May to celebrate her The Cocktail Bar blog tour)
(All current giveaways here)

On my blogs this week were:

Stephanie Jane
#Veganuary Food Diary - Week Three
The best of Gibraltar? Alameda Botanical Gardens

Literary Flits
By Any Means by James Morris Spotlight + Giveaway + Excerpt
The Princess of Baker Street by Mia Kerick Spotlight + Giveaway + Excerpt
Mamachari Matchmaker by S J Pajonas short story review + Free Book
A Heart in the Right Place by Heide Goody and Iain Grant Spotlight + Giveaway + Excerpt
The Monsoon Ghost Image by Tom Vater thriller review
Vizilsan: Blue Rabbit's Crystal by Marko Marković graphic novel review
Pocket Poets: Rupert Brooke poetry review

Airing Out
Aire - Alcaidesa Marina - La Linea de la Concepcion - Spain


Love this Patricia Vonne song Guitarras y Castanuelas, inspired by her Andalusian heritage

Friday, 25 January 2019

The best of Gibraltar? Alameda Botanical Gardens

Tree sculpture at Alameda 
We spent three nights last week parked up at the Alcaidesa Marina at La Linea de la Concepcion in order to spend time with a friend whose boat was berthed there. Being within easy walking distance of the Rock of Gibraltar we decided to visit. It's a strange place! Still owned by Britain, our visit began with having to show our passports, then we had to wait a few minutes for a Moroccan Airlines aeroplane to take off before we could walk across the airport runway to enter Gibraltar proper. Neither of us had ever walked across an international airport runway before so it seemed quite weird. It was easy to spot the tourists because we were all taking pictures and videos of ourselves right by this plane! The locals weren't at all fazed.

To be honest I didn't much like Gibraltar. After the relaxed attitude of Spain it was difficult to immediately adjust to the British all-in-a-rush style. Even things like pedestrian crossing etiquette becomes British - in Spain cars nearly always voluntarily stop when a pedestrian appears to want to cross the road. On Gibraltar (and in Britain) cars won't stop unless they have a red traffic light and absolutely have to. The shops are predominantly British chains - Marks And Spencer, Costa Coffee, etc - aI was overwhelmed by just how packed and busy it is. And expensive! We had been told that the monkeys at the top of the Rock are essential viewing, but it was going to cost over €15 for the return cable car ride. €15 each! And I hate heights!


Instead, we kept walking just past the cable car base station and climbed a crescent-shaped flight of steps into a welcome oasis of calm - The Alameda Botanical Gardens! The Gardens were founded just over 200 years ago, in 1816, but had been allowed to fall into disrepair in the 1970s. The Gardens we strolled around are a result of rehabilitation started in 1991. There is an outdoor theatre, a small wildlife area which houses exotic pets confiscated by Gibraltar customs officers, an allotment area where local children are growing their own food plants, an outdoor art gallery with additional sculptures dotted around the Gardens, and, of course, an impressive array of botanical specimens from countries around the world. We didn't visit the wildlife, but did spend a while admiring the art which, at the moment, is a selection of winning images from the Photographer Of The Year competition. Our favourite was this photograph which was taken in South America:




Ingenious irrigation system in the allotment 
Alcaidesa Marina at sunset

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

#Veganuary Food Diary - Week Three

Mushroom Stroganoff by
Amuse Your Bouche 
This is a post about my experiences during Veganuary 2019. I'm going to talk about vegan food. If that's going to offend you, please feel welcome to discover My Travels in Spain or read Reviews of My Favourite Books instead!

As in previous posts, appetising photos have been 'borrowed' from their respective websites, dodgy photography is my own! Click pretty pics to see their recipes!

New recipes this week include Mushroom And Smoked Tofu Stroganoff from an Amuse Your Bouche recipe. I just swapped out the sour cream for coconut milk with a 1/2 tsp of turmeric. The stroganoff sauce was absolutely delicious, but sadly the mushrooms themselves were bland. I'd used a mix of quartered white and chestnut mushrooms and think all their flavour had gone into the sauce! Next time I would probably cut much smaller mushroom pieces so this wasn't so obvious, or make the stroganoff a day or two in advance. By the time I finished up the leftovers on Saturday, the mushrooms and tofu had absorbed the paprika flavours and were much tastier.
The week ended with Lentil And Spinach Curry from a recipe by Shannon at Yup It's Vegan. This one contains a seriously massive amount of spinach and has a lovely complex flavour. Shannon serves her curry with Coconut Rice so I learned how to make that too.

I also made a Vegan Chocolate Scone in our small slow cooker - based on this BakingQueen74 recipe. I've seen Lucy's slow cooker scones before, but hadn't tried to make them - let alone a veganised version - so this was a fun baking experiment. The photo doesn't really give a sense of the size of this scone. It cut into four large portions! Here's my tweaked recipe:

Chocolate Scone 
Ingredients
225g plain white flour
3 tsp baking powder
28g cocoa powder
pinch of salt
50g peanut butter
20g olive oil
30g light demerera sugar
Soy milk

Method
Grease the slow cooker insert (or use a paper liner if you have one) and set cooker to high.
Add the first seven ingredients to a large bowl. Mix well to combine, then gradually add soy milk while continuing to mix until you have a soft-but-not-sticky dough.
Shape dough into a thick disc and place in slow cooker.
Put the lid on and cook on high for one and a half hours. When cooked through, invert onto a plate and then set right-side-up again to serve.


Here's what I ate this week:

Breakfast
Every day: Porridge made with flaked oats and soy milk

Lunch
Tues: Bean and sweetcorn salad
Wed: Pea And Spinach burgers with HP sauce, apple
Thur: Gingerbread muffin, Apple and rhubarb pasty
Fri: Bean and sweetcorn salad, apple
Sat: Roti with peanut butter, apple
Sun: Chocolate Scone with strawberry jam
Mon: Pita bread stuffed with Cinnamon Apple Slices

We visited Gibraltar on Thursday and I couldn't find vegan food there despite (or perhaps because of) being overwhelmed with restaurant and cafe choices. Actually we struggled to find anything we liked about The Rock except for the tranquil Alameda botanical garden which was a beautiful oasis amid the chaos.

Dinner
Lentil And Spinach Curry
by Yup It's Vegan 
Tues: Vegetable curry with white rice, arroz con leche
Wed: Mushroom And Smoked Tofu Stroganoff with white rice, mini desserts selection
Thur: Vegetable biriany with balti sauce, naan bread
Fri: Cauliflower and parsley soup with wholemeal toast
Sat: Mushroom Stroganoff with cauliflower and brown rice
Sun, Mon: Lentil And Spinach Curry with Coconut Rice

Oh dear! There's way too much red text this week, isn't there? I've learned that while eating vegan is pretty easy when I'm cooking for myself, it's far trickier when eating out or entertaining. Tuesday we met up with an old friend of Dave's who kindly - and unexpectedly - offered to cook dinner for us. He dashed to the shops to vegify his planned chicken curry! Wednesday evening we returned the hosting, and Thursday we all ate out at an Indian restaurant together. I don't know if my biriany was just veggie or actually vegan and didn't have the language skills to ask (we're in Spain at the moment) so I've red-ed it just in case. I'm pretty sure naans contain yoghurt, though this one wasn't also drenched with ghee.


And finally my vegan motivation book suggestion this week is:
All Things (a Rev. Alma Lee mystery) by Amber Belldene, a fun San Francisco-set take on the traditional clergy sleuth mystery. You can Read My Review Here.

Are you doing Veganuary too? If so, please link up your recipe successes in the Comments so I can visit and be inspired!


Sunday, 20 January 2019

Discovering proper Sherry in Jerez de la Frontera

I'm linking up with The Sunday Post at Caffeinated Reviewer.

Our two-night stay in Jerez de la Frontera got off to a great start when, upon arriving at our motorhome aire, La Morada Del Sur, we were each given a complimentary glass of locally made sherry. I remembered sherry as a dubiously tasting liqueur that Nana might sip out of a tiny glass at Christmas. The dust-covered English bottles are a totally different beverage to the real Spanish version. Spanish cream sherry is delicious and dangerously moreish! We just had to buy ourselves a whole bottle!

Jerez de la Frontera is a lovely historic town. It's a little bit touristy, but not too much so and we enjoyed spending a day wandering around and pointing at things. The highlight was undoubtedly the beautiful Alcazar which was bought in the 1920s by one of the rich sherry families and has been restored for the town. Originally a Moor fortress and palace, it contains a bath house and a small mosque, both with wonderfully elegant architecture. The three-roomed palace overlooks a fountained courtyard, and the current custodians have recreated a typical kitchen garden as well.


There's a small art gallery within the main house displaying a dozen or so large vintage posters for Jerez events and fiestas - one was from the late 1800s. On the top floor is a superb recreated pharmacy which was rescued from a convent in the early 20th century. It has huge dark wood display units with all kinds of bottles and jars as well as lots of the pharmacist's tools and equipment for making lotions and potions. Jerez Alcazar is a fascinating place and excellent value at just €1.80 each to get in.



In bookish news, I'm currently reading a memoir written by a Vietnamese woman who is not going to survive colon cancer: The Unwinding Of The Miracle by Julie Yip-Williams. It sounds like it should be depressing, but is unexpectedly uplifting. I hope to blog my review on Literary Flits on Wednesday.

Giveaways closing soon
I've got four new Literary Flits giveaways for you this week starting with romantic suspense novel Winter's Heist by Emily Duvall today. There's several closing this week too:

24th Jan: Win paperback copies of of Flygirl by R D Kardon plus a notebook and a mug
24th Jan: Win a signed copy of all three books in the Women of Purgatory series (Raven's Breaths, Dark Abigail, and Holli's Hellfire) to celebrate the release of Holli's Hellfire by Tish Thawer
26th Jan: Win an ebook copy of Witch's Moonstone Locket by Marsha A Moore
27th Jan: (post on 24th) Win a Moleskine Journal to celebrate the A Heart In The Right Place by Heide Goody and Iain Grant blog tour
(All current giveaways here)

On my blogs this week were:

Stephanie Jane
#Veganuary Food Diary - Week Two
Books From The Backlog - The Judgement Of Richard Richter by Igor Stiks

Literary Flits
Flygirl by R D Kardon Spotlight + #Giveaway + Excerpt
Spiral Of Silence by Elvira Sanchez-Blake review
Holli's Hellfire by Tish Thawer Spotlight + #Giveaway
Spiral Into Darkness by Joseph Lewis Spotlight
UK2 by Terry Tyler review
All Things by Amber Belldene review (Veganuary read)
Winter's Heist by Emily Duvall Spotlight + #Giveaway + Q And A

Airing Out
Aire - La Morada Del Sur Parking - Jerez De La Frontera - Spain



Thursday, 17 January 2019

Books From The Backlog - The Judgement Of Richard Richter by Igor Stiks

Books from the Backlog is a weekly post hosted at Carole's Random Life In Books. Carole says it's "a fun way to feature some of those neglected books sitting on your bookshelf unread. If you are anything like me, you might be surprised by some of the unread books hiding in your stacks." Find out more and link up your own posts on Carole's Random Life In Books.

I enjoyed taking part in Books From The Backlog last year, but got out of the habit of the weekly posts. Now I hope to use this meme to stoke my enthusiasm for my 2019 Mount TBR Challenge. I'm going to post one BFTB a fortnight and then Actually Read The Book before the next post is due!

Last time I chose UK2 by Terry Tyler and my review will be on Literary Flits tomorrow.

Next up is:



The Judgement Of Richard Richter by Igor Stiks

In this gripping, war-torn epic novel, author Igor Å tiks, a nominee for the IMPAC Dublin Award, tells the story of a celebrated writer who travels to Sarajevo to unearth devastating family secrets and the lies that have defined his life.

Author Richard Richter’s mother and father were always phantoms, both parents having died by the time he was four. His life, now at a crossroads, has been a jumble of invention, elusive memories, and handed-down stories. But when Richard finds his mother’s hidden notebook, written by her during World War II, he discovers a confession that was never meant to be read by anyone—least of all, her son.

Richard’s quest for the truth about his life leads him to an embattled Sarajevo. In the chaos of the besieged city, he discovers something more: a transformative romance and unexpected new friendships that will change the course of his search. But fate has been playing with all of them. And just as fate determines the lives of the characters in his novel, a betrayal reaching back half a century has yet to loosen its grip—on Richard, on everyone he has come to love, and on those he has no choice but to try to forgive.


I bought The Judgement Of Richard Richter almost exactly a year ago and it has languished on my Kindle ever since. I was intrigued by the Sarajevo setting and Igor Stiks being a Bosnian author makes this #ownvoices as well as #WorldReads. On a shallower level, I loved the cover's glacial blue tones!