Sunday, 17 March 2019

Birdspotting and Deer watching on our riverbank

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

We've spent all week on our Chef Boutonne riverbank and I am loving being back here. We've got mallard ducks on the river, the solitary moorhen has returned, and Dave got this photo of one of the roe deer seemingly watching us as we watched it. It was so unconcerned that I actually doubt it realised we were here. The kingfishers haven't put in an appearance yet, but we do have a pair of collared doves, I spotted a jay and heard a woodpecker!

Dave has been very busy cleaning the inside and outside of the motorhome ready for our return to the UK next weekend. We decided it would probably be more prudent to be on that side of La Manche for Brexit Day on the 29th though, as the Government is still mired in incompetence and indecision, we still have absolutely no idea how everyone's lives will be affected. It's absolutely pathetic and, frankly, embarrassing! I have to try and avoid thinking about it because I get so angry! I don't think that three years ago anyone would have believed we'd be down to less than a fortnight to go and still no sodding resolution.

And breathe!!

In bookish news, I've spent most of the past few days with my head in rural China. To be honest, if I'd spotted that Empires Of Dust by Jiang Zilong was over 1200 pages I probably wouldn't have requested it from NetGalley. As a rule I just Don't Do Big Books. However, I'm glad I had the opportunity to read this historical epic, slow going though it seemed!

The novel inspired me to try out a new-to-me way of baking bread. Everybody kept eating 'steamed buns' so I googled to see if I could find out what they were. It's basically white bread rolls baked in a steamer - much more economical than using the oven. I found this Ken Hom recipe and made a half-batch this morning. They're great! I stuffed some of mine with tasty Wok-fried Shredded Cabbage for today's lunch.

Giveaways closing soon
20th Mar: Win a £15/$15 Amazon gift card to celebrate the Fox Halt Farm by Celia Moore blog tour.
21st Mar: Win a $50 Amazon gift card to celebrate the publication of The Witch's Tower by Tamara Grantham.
21st Mar: Win a $20 Amazon gift card to celebrate the My Name Is Rose by by Alexa Kingaard blog tour.
(All current giveaways here)

On my blogs this week were:

Stephanie Jane
Books From The Backlog - Minaret by Leila Aboulela

Literary Flits
The Witch's Tower by Tamara Grantham Spotlight + #Giveaway + Excerpt
Intimate Ties: Two Novellas by Robert Musil review
The Girl Across The Street by Vikki Patis review
Fox Halt Farm by Celia Moore Spotlight + #Giveaway + Excerpt
One By One: A Memoir of Love and Loss in the Shadows Of Opioid America by Nicholas Bush Spotlight + #Giveaway
My Name Is Rose by Alexa Kingaard Spotlight + #Giveaway + Excerpt
Empires of Dust by Jiang Zilong review

Have a great week!

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Books From The Backlog - Minaret by Leila Aboulela

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 posting one BFTB a fortnight and then Actually Reading The Book before the next post is due!

Last time I chose Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck and my review is on Literary Flits.

Next up is:

Minaret by Leila Aboulela

In her Muslim hijab, with her down-turned gaze, Najwa is invisible to most eyes, especially to the rich London families whose houses she cleans. But twenty years earlier, it was a different story. Najwa was at university in Khartoum and, as an upper-class westernized Sudanese, and her dreams were to marry well and raise a family. However, those days of innocence came to an abrupt end and tough years followed. Now Najwa finds solace in her visits to the Mosque, the companionship of the Muslims she meets there, and in the hijab she adopts. Her dreams may have shattered, but her awakening to Islam has given her a different peace. Then Najwa meets a younger man and slowly they begin to fall in love.

I bought six books at the excellent Hope Association book fair back in May last year and Minaret is one of two that I still haven't read. Oops! It looks like a great story and Aboulela would be a Sudanese WorldReads selection so this book should definitely have already been devoured. What have I been waiting for?!

Monday, 11 March 2019

Relaxing on our Chef Boutonne riverbank

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

Apologies for the lack of Sunday Post last week and the delayed arrival of this week's edition. Between long days of driving back up into France and a two-day stopover at our friend's offgrid place en route, I was pretty exhausted. I spent last week's post writing time trying to catch up on Comments instead - and, yes, I know I am still waaay behind!!

It's lovely to be back here in the Deux Sevres now. We were absolutely delighted to see two Roe deer just across the stream from our static caravan on our first morning back. We know there are lots of deer in the area, but hadn't ever just glanced through our window right towards them before so that was pretty exciting.

Also exciting was digging out the bathroom scales from the depths of the clutter in our Spare Oom (Mr Tumnus, Narnia!). You might remember my trousers problem a couple of weeks ago? Well, it's now official. I've lost a stone and a quarter since I last weighed myself back in late October and I am confident that it's all actually gone since the beginning of January, so over about ten weeks. Woo hoo hoo!

My new eating regime is certainly paying off, but I haven't given up sweet treats altogether. That would be taking it too far. Instead, I'm going with occasional baking so I know exactly what has gone in to what I am eating. My favourite recent discovery is Welsh Cakes. A simple pan-cooked cake-biscuit crossover flavoured with cinnamon, ginger and sultanas. Dangerously moreish! I use this Baking With Honey recipe.

Welsh Cakes 

In bookish news, I spotted the Jhalak Prize longlist announcement on Twitter yesterday. The Prize celebrates the work of BAME authors. I've already read Happiness by Aminatta Forna and Ponti by Sharlene Teo. Which of the longlist have you read?

Jhalak Prize longlist 

Giveaways closing soon
11th Mar: Win a signed copy of Consuming Fire by Catherine Fearns, plus Consuming Fire stationery and a cuddly peacock
(All current giveaways here)

On my blogs this week were:

Stephanie Jane
February Reading Challenges and Bookish Bingo
#WorldReads - Five Books From Kenya
Cover Characteristics - Looking Out To Sea

Literary Flits
Histoires à lire le soir by Marc Thil review
Trials And Trails by Jim Halverson review + #Giveaway
The Laughing Policeman by Sjowall And Wahloo review
The Pact We Made by Layla AlAmmar review
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton review
The Temporary Bride by Jennifer Klinec review
Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck review

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Cover Characteristics - Looking Out To Sea

I've long been a fan of the beautiful Cover Characteristics posts that Kristen curates over at Metaphors And Moonlight so I thought I might try putting together a similar post myself. The idea is to choose book covers which are linked in some way (featuring an object in common, perhaps, or a similar title font) and to then display them artfully. Sounds easy, turns out not to be! But it is fun to look back through my old reviews.

My third collection is:

Looking Out To Sea


Click each cover image to see its review on Literary Flits.

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

#WorldReads - Five Books From Kenya

If this is your first visit to my WorldReads blog series, the idea of the posts is to encourage and promote the reading of global literature. On the 5th of each month I highlight five books I have read from a particular country and you can see links to previous countries' posts at the end of this post as well as finding out how to join in the challenge.

Click the book titles or cover images to visit their Literary Flits book review pages.

This month we are going to Kenya!

Forbidden Fruit by Stanley Gazemba

Desperate to make ends meet, Ombima commits a "harmless" crime. When he tries to conceal his misdeed, the simple farm laborer becomes a reluctant participant in a sinister affair. If discovered, the consequences could be disastrous for Ombima's family, friends, and a spate of unwitting, gossipy villagers. A delicious tale of greed, lust, and betrayal, Stanley Gazemba's FORBIDDEN FRUIT is more than a dramatic tale of rural life in western Kenya. The moral slips and desperate cover-ups — sometimes sad, sometimes farcical — are the stories of time and place beyond the village of Maragoli.

Full Circle by Regina Timothy

Eight years after the 9/11 attacks, Samia-Al-Sayyid an Iraqi immigrant is living a quiet life in New York City after she fled her home to avoid imminent death.
She works hard for her cold, heartless, high-strung boss, loves her seventeen-year-old-son, and cherishes the close friendship she has formed with her best friend Susan.
Nothing can go wrong, or so she thinks – until the estranged brother she left back in Iraq shows up on her door step. Then she finds herself in a cab, on her way to the hospital to identify her son, a terror suspect who has blown the city, and with it her boss’ husband, and her best friend’s son. With everything lost, she is forced to flee to Iraq where she confronts her past. Will she make peace with her past? Can she get forgiveness for all the damage she has caused?
Full Circle is a contemporary fiction tale of friendship, family, and hope. It explores the devastation of loss, the great capacity to forgive and the lengths our loved ones will go to protect us.

Unexpected America by Wanjiru Warama

Ms. Warama leaves Kenya in a huff and heads to the United States where she doesn't know a soul. From the first day, she realizes she has to learn to live all over again in a new culture she knows nothing about. Loneliness debilitates her until she meets "Mr. Savior" who becomes not only her savior but her lover and abuser. Money runs out and she has to housekeep and babysit to buy a ticket back home. She keeps her tribulations hidden from her family and friends as the idealized American lifestyle turns into a mirage, which Warama plods along like one tethered, hoping her persistence pays off.

The Forgotten Pioneer by Anthea Ramsay

"My grandfather was one of the first white men to set foot in Kenya when it was a newly discovered, barren and dangerous place. Neither he or his family ever imagined that he would fall under the spell of Africa and remain there for the rest of his life…"
Anthea Ramsay was inspired to write her grandparents' story after being left their diaries, photographs and letters which described the terrible dangers and hardships they endured in East Africa in the early 1900s. The Forgotten Pioneer records their experiences as early pioneers, followed by the lives of their children, Anthea's parents, and the life of the author herself. 
There is never a dull moment in Anthea's family history, from one generation to the next. She describes the difficulty of her grandparents' experiences through a time when there were no hospitals or medicines and illnesses such as black water fever and typhoid were rife, her parents' decadent lives on the edge of the Happy Valley set and their connections with the murder of Lord Erroll, and finally her own experiences growing up in Africa and living in the shadow of the Mau Mau rebellion. 
The Forgotten Pioneer takes the reader on an enchanting journey, tracing the family through four generations. From her grandfather leaving his home in Kent to live in a tent and face many close encounters with man-eating lions and hostile African tribes with poisoned arrows, to her eldest daughter returning to Kenya to live and farm with her family, it seems each generation has been equally captivated by this magical place. 

Black Holes by Ochi

In this riveting and revolutionary anthology of poems , Ochi offers his personal reflections on a wide array of subjects ranging from globalization and self-awareness to the nature of good and evil in modern societies. Through indelible sonnets and proses, the importance of introspection, moral reasoning and of questioning authority and societal norms to enhance personal growth is revealed to the reader. Black Holes, a lyrical journey through emotions experienced in human life, breaks all barriers of individualism to voice the pain of the unfortunate, it also glorifies the beauty of unconditional love; the language simplicity conveys its message to people from all walks of life.

That's it for March's WorldReads from Kenya. I hope I have tempted you to try reading a book from this country and if you want more suggestions, click through to see all my Literary Flits reviews of Kenyan-authored books! If you fancy buying any of the five I have suggested, clicking through the links from this blog to do so would mean I earn a small commission payment.

You can join in my WorldReads Challenge at any time! Simply read 1 or more books from a different country each month, write a post about it/them, grab the button below and add it to your post. Don't forget to pop back here and Comment your link so I can visit!

Instructions: Select all code above, copy it and paste it inside your blog post as HTML

If you missed any earlier WorldReads posts, I have already 'visited'

Africa: Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe

Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Jamaica, United States of America,

Asia: India, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Turkey

Australasia: Australia, New Zealand,

Europe: Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,

In April I will be highlighting five books by Colombian authors. See you on the 5th to find out which ones!

Monday, 4 March 2019

February Reading Challenges and Bookish Bingo

I've got several challenges on the go this year so, instead of cramming all the information into my Month In Books roundups, I thought I would make these monthly Bookish Bingo posts into Challenge roundups. Visit my Current Reading Challenges page to see the whole year's links. Last month I added:

Alphabet Soup (2019): 2 in Feb / 13 overall

Books In French (2019): 0 in Feb / 0 overall

Classics Club (2018-23): 1 in Feb / 17 overall

Decade Challenge (2018-19): 0 in Feb / 10 overall

Mount TBR Challenge (2019): 2 in Feb / 8 overall

New Release Challenge (2019): 5 in Feb / 7 overall

Vegetarian / Vegan Character (ongoing): 1 in Feb / 4 overall

This challenge wrap-up post includes my new month of Bookish Bingo which is hosted each month at Chapter Break. I include books I actually read during January, but I might not have blogged all their reviews yet so if the cover image doesn't go anywhere when you click it, that's (probably) why!

This month I've got 17 squares completed

One word title

SciFi / Fantasy
Shelf love

Set in a boarding school

Library book

Curse / Spell
Free Space


Physical book
Not in a series
Secret identity / ability
In a series
Under 400 pages

Pink or red cover
Winter storm
Free book

Favourite author

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Book Blogger Hop - do you read print books or ebooks?

I spotted this Book Blogger Hop over at Sunny Buzzy Books this week and thought it would be fun to join in.

This week's question (1st - 7th March 2019) is:
Have you made the switch from print to e-books? Is either one exclusive? (submitted by Elizabeth @ Silver's Review)

I always used to be exclusively a print book person and was slow to appreciate the potential of ebooks. When we lived in a house and I had a job I didn't have the time to read as much as I now do so could feed my habit with visits to charity shops and the occasional borrowing of new books from my OH.
Since we have embraced the travelling life and I bought my beloved Kindle Fire though, I now nearly only read ebooks or rarely listen to a downloaded audiobook. There is limited book space in a caravan, or now a motorhome, so I have a half dozen print books stashed. These get swapped out at book exchanges when I've read them. Otherwise all my reads are ebooks. I have a serious NetGalley habit(!), often volunteer reviews for blog tours, and also keep an eye out for good Amazon deals. I love having access to global indie and small press ebooks that just wasn't possible via traditional print publishing.
I can't now imagine how I would cope without ebooks. Fingers crossed that dystopian hell never becomes reality!

The Book Blogger Hop was originally created by Jennifer from Crazy-For-Books in March 2010 and ended on December 31, 2012. With Jennifer's permission, Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer relaunched the meme on February 15, 2013.

Each week the hop will start on a Friday and end on Thursday. There will be a weekly prompt featuring a book related question. The hop's purpose is to give bloggers a chance to follow other blogs, learn about new books, befriend other bloggers, and receive new followers to your own blog.