The Great Alone is about Alaska in the 1970s; beautiful, remote, harsh, and populated with a small and tightly knit community. Ernt Allbright, recently returned from Vietnam and deeply scarred by the experience, brings his wife and thirteen year old daughter, Leni, to start afresh. Their struggle to survive both breaks and makes them. The characters, including Alaska itself, are strong and compelling, and while I found the story a little overwrought towards the end, on the whole it was a moving story about love, damage, kindness and belonging.
This is a really beautiful book; gorgeous photography, lovely stories to go with the recipes. There are some showstopping recipes, definitely at the fancier end of the scale, but there are some simple ones as well. The great thing about borrowing cookbooks from the library, is that you can see how many recipes you will actually make before you buy it. I made five recipes while I had the book, and want to make many more, so this is one to buy, or borrow again! I made lemon and poppy seed cake, raspberry and rose powder puffs, the take home chocolate cake, pistachio and rose water semolina cake, and apricot and almond cake with cinnamon topping. I don’t eat sugar, so didn’t taste any, but they were enjoyable to bake, and all went down well with those who did eat them!
I have long been encouraged to read Terry Pratchett, and I put it off, I’m not sure why. I think, somehow, I just had a sense that he wasn’t for me. Perhaps I chose the wrong book. The Colour of Magic is very imaginative, funny, or at least amusing, and action packed, but I didn’t really enjoy it. All action and jokes, no character development and no heart. It’s kind of like a video game, with one dimensional characters moving quickly from one life-threatening situation to the next. If you like that sort of thing, it’s great, but I read for something different.
Bees are fascinating, beautiful, important little creatures, and I thoroughly enjoyed imagining life in a hive. Flora 717 is different from the other bees, even those from her own, low born kin, and through her journey we get to see the many different jobs of bees in a hive. This particular hive has dark secrets, that Flora cannot escape. There is a very strong sense of place and scent, compelling characters, and a tale of sisterhood, faith, love, betrayal, strength and sacrifice.
A sweet, quirky and amusing little book, I wasn’t in raptures over it as I was the first. Flavia de Luce is a precocious, eleven year old chemistry enthusiast and amateur detective, solving mysteries in her little village in 1950’s England.
The third out of five tales set in an evocatively conjured country based on feudal Japan, Brilliance of the Moon continues to follow Takeo and Kaede as they deal with the consequences of their actions. The setting as always is lush, full of colour and beauty, the characters are compelling and the story is full of action, contemplation, loyalty, betrayal and the search for one’s destiny.
Across the Nightingale Floor is set in an imagined time and place, based on feudal Japan. A young man is rescued, after his family is killed, by a man who adopts him. He discovers he has unusual skills that are highly prized, and bring him a great deal of danger and adventure. The setting is lush and luminous, the characters are compelling and it is a great story of loyalty, treachery, love, loss and honour.
The sort-of-Japanese setting is lush, evocative and almost the best thing about this series. Continuing on from the first book, Takeo is a young man, forced into a life he hates, and Kaede a young woman trying to overcome her misfortunes, and learn to command respect like a man. They both have a difficult journey ahead, made harder by their youthful impetuousness. I found the relationships a little too much in this book, but I am still keen for the rest of the series.
I have had my sourdough starter for years now, and make bread from this book around twice a week. There’s a huge variety of sourdough, sourish dough, and yeasted bread recipes. The photos are gorgeous, and there is lots of information on background and technique information, as well as the recipes.
Set in a 2021 when no children have been born in twenty-five years, The Children of Men is a most thought-provoking dystopian novel. Theo Faren is an Oxford don, solitary and rather self-centred, until he is drawn into contact with a group of dissenters. There is a great sense of place, this beautiful, crumbling Oxford, and increasing tension as Theo’s life changes dramatically, and he is pulled out of his apathy. A clever, disturbing, and satisfying mystery.