Wednesday 25 August 2021

Catching up and currently reading

I seem to do more 'catching up' than anything else these days! The garden is the main culprit - picking courgettes, tomatoes, raspberries, courgettes, runner beans, French beans, caterpillers off the kale and sprouts, did I mention courgettes? And tomorrow we're changing our ISP provider so who knows how much joy and merriment we have in store with that. Best to get a quick post in while I can...

First up, The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman.

Irene works for the Invisible Library as an agent who searches out books. This library collects books from alternate universes, important books that can somehow affect reality and that shouldn't fall into the wrong hands.This time she's been sent to a version of Victorian London but not as we know it. It's full of 'chaos' so there are fae and vampires added to the glorious soup that London was at that time. The book Irene is searching for is an edition of Grimm's Fairy Tales and helping her is Kai who has been foisted upon her and clearly has secrets of his own. When they cross over they discover the book's been stolen and naturally the whole mission is far more complicated than they could ever imagine. I quite enjoyed this slightly steampunk Victorian themed novel. It even had it's own version of Sherlock Holmes to help solve a murder and there was a lot of quirkiness about it to enjoy. Kai is intriguing and you discover what he is towards the end. Books don't feature quite as much as I would have liked but I suspect that will change as the series progresses, plus we'll get more about the fae and so on. A promising start to a series that's now seven books long with the eighth book due out in December. 

Next, Through Siberia by Accident by Dervla Murphy.

This non-fiction travelogue charts the author's trip to Siberia in the early 2000s. It doesn't start well. Murphy had planned a cycling holiday but an accident damaged her knee and that changed everything. Unable to even walk properly the injury was going to take weeks to heal, but she was lucky. People in the Lake Baikal region of Russia were thrilled to have a western writer among them and could not have been kinder. She was offered accommodation wherever she went and people wanted to talk to her, delighted to have some relief from the monotony of their lives. She did manage to explore, only not the way she had planned. Instead she took busses, boats and trains and reading about the people she encouuntered was fascinating. I found the historical explanations dragged a bit but Russian history has never been my thing. What has stuck with me is the kindness she met with almost everywhere (one or two officials, not so much). She was put up by strangers, fed, accompanied to awkward places, never abandoned and talked to about everything as people had never seen a westerner and wanted to hear real opinions from her. And the region around Lake Baikal sounded utterly stunning although, as always, it's suffering from the usual suspects - developers and horrendous historical pollution. A good read but for some reason Dervla Murphy is not my favourite travel writer and I'm not sure why. 

I'm currently reading these two books in the manner that sometimes books take ages to read and you get a bit antsy to start something new. 

Crawling Horror: Creeping Tales of the Insect World edited by Daisy Butcher and Janette Leaf is not as horrifying as it sounds. The stories are vintage and 'weird' and thus well written, but vary a bit in quality. 

Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor is pretty interesting in parts but again varies a bit and is slightly worrying because the author suggests we're all breathing incorrectly and it's not good for us. Oh.

Is anyone else busy making plans for autumn reading? I know I am. More on that next week providing I ever get the internet back after tomorrow. *Fingers crossed*


Vallypee said...

Another interesting selection, Cath. I like the sound of the travels through Siberia, though. I shall investigate that. I'm currently reading a book by one of my favourite authors of Victorian novels. Maybe you've come across them too? Carol Hedges' books. I've read and loved them all and am reading the last in the series now.

Lark said...

I have a ton of summer squash sitting on my kitchen countertop right now (though we call them zucchini here rather than courgettes). I think I have enough to make zucchini bread, zucchini cake and a batch of zucchini relish, too. But they are one of my favorite vegetables, so I don't mind. I really enjoyed The Invisible Library, but when I read it the second book hadn't come out yet...and then by the time it did I'd moved on to other reading lists. So now I'm seven books behind in that series! Seems to happen a lot to me. ;D

Sam said...

Wow...your garden sounds as if it's really done well this year. I can see why it's taking so much of your time.

The Invisible Library sounded good to me until I saw that it didn't focus on the books as much as you had expected it would. With that title, that would have been the main thing I would have been hoping for from this one. I do love the sound of that travel book, especially since Siberia is a place I will never get to see with my own eyes.

You guys stay well.

Nan said...

I keep seeing runner beans on Gardeners' World but I don't really know what they are. Do you eat the whole bean or the beans inside? With butter?
My courgettes aka zucchini didn't do well this year. Think of that!
I wish I had a raspberry patch. I could eat them all day.

Cath said...

Val: The Siberia book is well worth a look, it will leave you with a very strong sense of the vastness of the region and of the people who live there.

Yes, I've come across Carol Hedges' series and have in fact read the first book (in March). Plan to read more at some stage.

Lark: I have about a dozen courgettes to use tomorrow... I'll be making ratatouille to store in the freezer for use in the winter. I also like them cooked in layers with slices of tomato, a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and then cheese on the top. The other thing I do is grate them for use in soups. They're not my favourite veg but I like them well enough.

Yeah, that happens a lot to me too. Whether I'll ever read all of the Invisible Library series I'm not sure but I'll read at least one more I think.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

You have quite the garden Cath. I know it must be a lot of work but, I bet it's quite rewarding. I admit to having to look up the word "courgettes" but now I know it's like zucchini:) You always find the most intriguing books, the one about Siberia makes me especially curious for more.

Cath said...

Sam: Yes, we've had an excellent year in the garden, pretty much everything's done well. But we've had a bad attack of caterpillers on the brassicas from the cabbage white butterflies, which is quite annoying.

The Invisible Library is more of a romp around a fantasy Victorian London than a book about books. It'll be interesting to see if that changes, if it doesn't I may not stick with it, we'll see.

If you fancy a book about Siberia this would be a good one as it has a very strong sense of place which is still with me now.

Nan: Runner beans are a long green bean that you eat all of and are grown up a wigwam of bamboo poles. Yes, you can serve them with a knob of butter but people don't tend to so much these days. I suspect you have them but call them something else.

We've had several years with no, or very few, courgettes but this year they've gone crazy. We're also having a good squash year with some giants up there in the patch. But it's the first year for a long time that the sweetcorn don't look that great. Oh well, swings and roundabouts. The raspberries however are pretty consistant and as usual we've had a lot... the summer ones are over and now the autumn ones are just coming in. I love them cooked with blueberries.

Cath said...

Diane: Yes, it is very rewarding in that we end up with two freezers full of vegetables for the winter and all organic. I hope it helps to keep us healthy!

Yes, the Siberia book was very interesting, I realised as I read it that I had very little idea what life was like there. Also how brave the author was to go there on her own and she's not young.

Jeane said...

Sounds like your garden is very productive! I only got a few zucchini this year- maybe one or two a week, but good-sized. I have made 'zucchini boats' (stuffed and baked in the oven), tossed them in stir-fry, sliced up like noodles, and just sauteed in butter as a side dish for many things. We really only eat zucchini once a week in my house but the kids complain it's far too much! I guess they're not fond of it. Until I make zucchini bread or chocolate zucchini cookies that is.

Cath said...

Jeane: We seem to either get a good year for zucchini or a poor year. We've had poor years for several years but this year they've exploded. What do you stuff your zucchini boats with? They're quite nice sliced and layered with tomatoes with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and cheese on top. I make courgette chocolate cake too. They're also ok grated into veggie rice. Like your kids I'm not that fond of it but have found a few ways to eat it where it's quite acceptable.

TracyK said...

Gardening is a good reason to leave the blogging and reading behind for a while, especially when real food is the result.

I will have to check out The Invisible Library. It sounds like it could be an interesting story and it would all depend on liking the writing style and characters.

I have read some books about breathing off and on for years, and I think the authors are right but it has not made a dent in my breathing. That is not entirely true. I have picked up some deep breathing techniques for relaxation that sometimes help me sleep.

Jeane said...

Pretty much the same. Minced tomatoes and onions, with melted sharp cheese on top. Not really hollowed to 'stuff', just scraped out the seeds and the chopped things go in the middle. I like it alright.

CLM said...

The garden sounds delightful although a lot of work! I do love raspberries and purchased a plant one year but the results were disastrous. Not one berry but it proliferated and I think I am allergic to the vines. I am pretty sure that is what gives me a poison ivy-like rash so I now wear elbow length gloves even when mowing the lawn.

Susan said...

Lark answered the question I was going to ask - what's a courgette? Zucchini! There's a joke where I grew up about not leaving the windows of your car down at church because you'll end up with bags of zucchini filling your seats. Here in Arizona, it's citrus. Everyone gets too many oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, so they're always trying to give them away.

Cath said...

Jeane: Thanks, that actually sounds quite nice!

Constance: Yes, the garden is quite a lot of work. I'm surprised your raspberries didn't produce any fruit as they are generally good croppers. But no good growing them if you might be allergic.

Susan: Yes, you call courgettes, zucchini. Oh my gosh, that's so funny. The joke here is about how many courgette plants to grow. Answer, plant two and hope one dies. We have 'six'. I would be so happy to be given citrus fruit!

Cath said...

Tracy: Yes, we do tend to prioritise the garden in the summer, especially with the pandemic on as it seemed like a good plan to grow as much of our own food as possible.

The breathing book was interesting but I found the author seemed intent on alarming people. Like you though I did pick up a few hints about deep breathing on occasions.