Reads and Recipes

A literary lifestyle blog based in London, England.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

July in Review

 This month I read:
My Mad Fat Teenage Diary by Rae Earl, The Playground by Julia Kelly, Unexploded by Alison MacLeod

I visited:

I've spent most of July finishing off the first draft of my dissertation and preparing to move house so I haven't really been out and about much beyond walking the dogs. August will be different though!

These are now on my TBR pile:

The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies, Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware, What Milo Saw by Virginia Macgregor + then the booker prize longlist. 

I have been listening to:

What have you got planned for August?  
Are you going to be reading anything on the booker prize long list?


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Man Booker Prize Longlist: My Favourites

The day eagerly awaited by booklovers is here: the Man Booker Prize Long list has been announced.

You can find the full long list here.  Whilst I'll try to read most (if not all) of the books on the list, I've grabbed a selection to show case here -

Marlon James (Jamaica) - A Brief History of Seven Killings 

Jamaica, 1976: Seven men storm Bob Marley’s house with machine guns blazing. The reggae superstar survives, but leaves Jamaica the following day, not to return for two years. Inspired by this near-mythic event, A Brief History of Seven Killings is an imagined oral biography, told by ghosts, witnesses, killers, members of parliament, drug dealers, conmen, beauty queens, FBI and CIA agents, reporters, journalists, and even Keith Richards' drug dealer. Marlon James’s dazzling novel is a tour de force. It traverses strange landscapes and shady characters, as motivations are examined – and questions asked – in a masterpiece of imagination.

Laila Lalami (US) - The Moor's Account

In 1527 the Spanish conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez arrived on the coast of modern-day Florida with hundreds of settlers, and claimed the region for Spain. Almost immediately, the expedition was decimated by a combination of navigational errors, disease, starvation and fierce resistance from indigenous tribes. Within a year, only four survivors remained: three noblemen and a Moroccan slave called Estebanico . The official record, set down after a reunion with Spanish forces in 1536, contains only the three freemen s accounts. The fourth, to which the title of Laila Lalami s masterful novel alludes, is Estebanico s own. Lalami gives us Estebanico as history never did: as Mustafa, the vibrant merchant from Azemmur forced into slavery and a new name, and reborn as the first black explorer of the Americas, discovering and being discovered by various tribes both hostile and compassionate. In Estebanico s telling, the survivors journey across great swathes of the New World transforms would-be conquerors into humble servants and fearful outcasts into faith healers. He remains ever-observant, resourceful and hopeful that he might one day find his way back to his family, even as he experiences an unexpected (if ambiguous) camaraderie with his masters. The Moor s Account illuminates the ways in which stories can transmigrate into history, and how storytelling can offer a chance for redemption, reinvention and survival.

Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) - The Fishermen

In this dazzling debut novel, four young brothers in a small Nigerian town encounter a madman, whose prophecy of violence threatens the core of their family.  In a small town in western Nigeria, four young brothers - the youngest is nine, the oldest fifteen - use their strict father's absence from home to go fishing at a forbidden local river. They encounter a dangerous local madman who predicts that the oldest brother will be killed by another. This prophesy breaks their strong bond and unleashes a tragic chain of events of almost mythic proportions.


Anuradha Roy (India) - Sleeping on Jupiter

Jarmuli: a city of temples, a centre of healing on the edge of the ocean. Nomi, a young girl, is taken from her family and finds herself in an ashram, overseen by a charismatic guru. But Guruji's charm masks a predatory menace, and the young girl faces danger beyond her understanding.  Twenty years later, Nomi returns to Jarmuli with a documentary film crew. All has changed in a town that she no longer knows, as tourists and market traders bustle, banter and chase their dreams amidst the temples of her youth.  Seeking the truth about what happened to her and her family, Nomi finds herself chasing shadows in a town that has reinvented itself. But when she returns to the ashram that haunts her dreams, she discovers some scars cannot be washed away.

Sunjeev Sahota (UK) - The Year of the Runaways

The Year of the Runaways tells of the bold dreams and daily struggles of an unlikely family thrown together by circumstance. Thirteen young men live in a house in Sheffield, each in flight from India and in desperate search of a new life. Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his past in Bihar; and Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect the choatic Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa-wife in a flat on the other side of town: a clever, devout woman whose cupboards are full of her husband's clothes, in case the immigration men surprise her with a call.  Sweeping between India and England, and between childhood and the present day, Sunjeev Sahota's generous, unforgettable novel is - as with Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance - a story of dignity in the face of adversity and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

I think I'll be reading this one ^^ first!

Anna Smaill (New Zealand) - The Chimes

A mind-expanding literary debut composed of memory, music and imagination. A boy stands on the roadside on his way to London, alone in the rain. No memories, beyond what he can hold in his hands at any given moment. No directions, as written words have long since been forbidden. No parents - just a melody that tugs at him, a thread to follow. A song that says if he can just get to the capital, he may find some answers about what happened to them. The world around Simon sings, each movement a pulse of rhythm, each object weaving its own melody, music ringing in every drop of air. Welcome to the world of The Chimes. Here, life is orchestrated by a vast musical instrument that renders people unable to form new memories. The past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is blasphony. But slowly, inexplicably, Simon is beginning to remember. He emerges from sleep each morning with a pricking feeling, and sense there is something he urgently has to do. In the city Simon meets Lucien, who has a gift for hearing, some secrets of his own, and a theory about the danger lurking in Simon's past.

Anne Tyler (US) - A Spool of Blue Thread

‘It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon…’ This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer’s day in 1959. The whole family on the porch, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before. From that porch we spool back through the generations, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define the family. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century – four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their home…

Hanya Yanagihara (US) - A Little Life

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is an immensely powerful and heartbreaking novel of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance. When four graduates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he'll not only be unable to overcome - but that will define his life forever.

What about you?  
Have you read any of the books on the long list?  
Which ones are your favourites?  
Let me know in the comments!


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Links of the Week | July 26th 2015

How is it the end of July already?

In the wake of the Twitter storm over Taylor Swift misunderstanding Nicki Minaj's tweets, this field guide to intersectionality from Hellogiggles is a good place to start for those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept

This eggplant, tomato and chickpea curry recipe is something I shall definitely be trying - especially if the rubbish weather continues! (Is it just me who thinks that curries go well with rainy day weather?)

Another yummy recipe, this time from Half Baked Harvest, for a one pot greek oregano chicken and orzo with tomatoes in garlic oil.

on summer reading lists: I'd like to read them all, please.  Have you got a reading list for summer? I think I may finally have a chance to make one now term is over!

19 second-hand bookstores in the UK and I have only visited 3 (3!!), I'll have to up my game (plus it's a good excuse to visit smaller towns, the recognised homes for most of these cute bookshops!) Or there's this list of independent bookshops in London.

How delicious does this pasta look? YUM

What about you guys?  What have you been reading + enjoying this week?


Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Playground by Julia Kelly

Eve is left alone with a young daughter after her partner walks out on her. Facing adulthood and all of the responsibilities that come with it doesn’t come naturally to her. Her relationship with her mother, for instance, is rocky as she recognises the sharp comments followed by soothing reassurances. Nonetheless, they move to a rented flat in the seaside town of Bray, overcoming their initial prejudices about the town they settle in and form a community based around the playground. However, when Eve is blamed for an unfortunate accident she is left wondering if the personal development she’s made has been lost forever, can she move on in her life yet again?

Unusual inspiration

After attempting to write another novel, Kelly endured a tearful conversation with her agent who was telling her everything wrong with it. The novel was supposed to be the second of her two book deal with Quercus (the first being her bestselling With My Lazy Eye). In an interview with, Kelly speaks of the “pure panic” that inspired The Playground: “During a tearful telephone conversation with my agent….I stared out my sitting room window and watched children in the playground across the road. She asked if I had any other ideas. Needing to say something and needing to honour my deal, I said that I could maybe try writing about the playground. I talked a little bit about things I found interesting as a new mother: that primal instinct to protect your child, how everyone gives you advice that is so often conflicting, how people are expected to be parents when they haven’t quite grown up themselves and so on.”

Outstanding delivery

Whilst the inspiration was off-the-cuff, its delivery is not. Kelly’s writing style invites the reader to get inside her character’s mind: to see things that they alone witness. This allows for moments of pure insight as much as for comedy. At first I found this style of writing quite hard to get into. Soon enough, however, you overcome the initial discomfort and relish the unique perspective this style of writing offers you as a reader. I especially found the descriptions of the local community interesting, as you trace the character’s progression through their perception of those around them. If you read this novel for its plot alone, you will be disappointed. It isn’t a turbulent tale rushing from one disaster to another: it unravels slowly and carefully. In my opinion, it’s best read for the insight into the character’s mind, in what seems to be a fresh (and very welcome) style of writing. 

It is available from Amazon on Kindle for £3.99 or paperback for £7.99 

Have you read The Playground? Or anything else by Julia Kelly? 
If so, let me know what you thought of it in the comments!


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now by A.E. Housman

Loveliest of Trees, the Cherry Now

A. E.  H O U S M A N 

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.


This is a bit late in the year to be posting this as we've already enjoyed the cherry blossoms but I only discovered it today + didn't want to wait until next spring to share it.  In my opinion, the world would be a better place if cherry blossoms were appreciated all year round.

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