January 2017 Books

January

Not a stellar start to the year for reading in terms of numbers – I was hoping to start as I mean to go on with plenty of reading, but January got away from me. Luckily, in terms of quality, it was a good month; three really good books!

The Dry by Jane Harper *
This is the story of a murdered family in a small farming town in Australia. The inhabitants are already having to deal with the years-long drought that is devastating their livelihoods, so when the family are murdered in an apparent murder-suicide by the husband and father of the victims, tensions run high. Into this comes Aaron, childhood friend of the chief suspect; as a police officer he is drawn into the investigation, and finds secrets from years ago resurfacing. You can read my full review here; it’s a taut and tense thriller with the brutality of the drought conditions adding to the oppressive atmosphere.

The One Memory of Flora Banks *
Flora Banks has anterrograde amnesia, preventing her from creating new memories. She remembers everything since before she was ten, but since then, she relies on information that her mum gives her via a book to discover who she is; she had a brain tumour that caused her memory problems, but she has a best friend and parents who love her and who will always look after her. This has been her life for seven years, but when she kisses a boy on a beach, she suddenly finds herself with a new memory that she is able to retain. She is in love with the boy from the beach, and despite her limitations, she ends up on a journey to Svalbard to find him. This is a beautiful story, and though it might seem as though it’s a lazy YA book about a boy and a girl, it’s really not. It’s a journey of self-discovery for Flora, and although she thinks she has set out to find a boy, what she’s really done is set out to find herself. As cliched as that may sound, the story is anything but. It even turns itself into a bit of a thriller at the end, and it’s well worth a read. 

English Animals by Laura Kaye *
19 year old Mirka is Slovakian, drawn to the UK to escape a family situation at home. She finds herself in the employ of an upper-middle class couple at a country house, helping them with their new taxidermy business. To say too much about the story would be to give things away, but the story follows Mirka for a year as she becomes a part of this couple’s life, and things take a turn. Written from the perspective of Mirka, a woman whose first language is not English, emphasis is place on the otherness of people like Richard and Sophie, the couple for whom she works. Read my full review here.

Books marked with an asterisk were sent to be by publishers for a review.

Because my start of the year posts never got written, I never got around to rounding up last year’s reads, or setting myself a target for this year. I still might right a round up of 2016 in books, but for now, I’ve decided on 75 again. I didn’t manage it last year, but I’m nothing if not a tryer.

Books in 2017 – 3

Looking Back ~ January 2017

Who can believe that the first month of the year has come and gone already? Of course anyone with a basic understanding of how time works probably can believe it, but January always feels like a challenge, and getting through it is something that has to be ticked off, instead of enjoyed.

Whatever else has happened personally, January 2017 will always be the month when I was scared to turn on the news. Unbelievably, as I write this, it’s been nine days since the inauguration, and each new day just brings more terrifying developments. I can’t imagine what the next four years will bring.

But to forget about the macro, and concentrate on the micro, January was a fairly uneventful month, as the long first month of the year tends to be. I spent the first weekend of the month working at an event at Alexandra Palace, where I managed to grab a photo with Evy Lynch, also known as Harry Potter’s Luna Lovegood. I try not to be a total loser, but inevitably from time to time it spills out, but luckily she was happy enough to let me take a photo with her. (In the writing of this, I’ve decided not to share the photo here. It’s on my Instagram if anyone cares enough to take a look!)

Pizza Express Prosecco

I toddled along to Pizza Express to try out their Ultimate Comforts menu, review can be found here; I also went to The Den at 23 in Colchester so my friend Hannah could try their Quarter Pounder Cheeze Burger, which is apparently a vegan version of a Big Mac. I didn’t have it, opting for the hot dog instead, but Hannah gave it a massive thumbs up.

Vegan hotdog

And finally, as ever with a monthly round-up post, I should mention another Mark Kermode in 3D has been and gone with myself and my buddies in the audience. He’s booked in for another year there, so no doubt you’ll hear me mention it a lot again, though I think my attempts to attend them all will once more be stymied. January’s saw two top guests; Anna Smith, president of the Critics’ Circle and film critic, and none other than Mark Gatiss, who was on top form, very funny and engaging.

Mark Kermode BFI Southbank

Fun to Come in February

• Another MK3D at the BFI Southbank

• The wedding of a very dear friend from school 

• Hopefully another weekend with my niece and great-niece

Ultimate Comforts at Pizza Express

January isn’t traditionally the best of months, so popping along to Pizza Express to try out their new Ultimate Comforts menu was a welcome bright spot in a bleak month! The range of comforting and warming dishes has been launched to help us all get through the winter months with a treat.

I headed along to Pizza Express in Colchester; I took advantage of a day off after a long weekend of working hard, and took Hannah along with me (she had spent all weekend working hard too!). The new menu actually features dishes that have all previously appeared on the main menu, but are making a comeback due to customer demand.

Ultimate Comforts Pizza ExpressThe only starter on the Ultimate Comforts menu is Pennette Formaggi, a Pizza Express take on Mac & Cheese. As delicious as this looked, for me, it’s a little too much for a starter, so I opted for the old favourite of Dough Balls. You can also order the pasta starter as a  main, but when I go to Pizza Express, I want pizza!

 

I chose the Barbacoa Pizza – pulled Barbacoa beef, spicy chipotle salsa, garlic oil, mozzarella and tomato. It was quite spicy, but really tasty. it was huge though – I couldn’t manage it all!

Barbacoa Pizza - Pizza Express

As a vegan, unfortunately there wasn’t anything on the special menu for Hannah to have, so she went for her tried and trusted Pizza Express pizza – the Pianta. It’s a cheeseless pizza, and comes with spinach, mushrooms, artichoke, rocket and pine kernels.

Vegan Pianta Pizza - Pizza Express

Despite vague intentions to participate in Dry January (and maybe dry 2017), I ended up ordering an alcoholic drink, because I couldn’t resist the lure of Sloe Prosecco.

Pizza Express Colchester

The dessert option on the Ultimate Comforts menu is a delicious Chocolate Fondant. Three courses might seem a bit decadent, but when the food is this good, it’s necessary! Again, there wasn’t a vegan option on the dessert menu for Hannah, so unfortunately she had to sit and watch me eat.

Chocolate Fondant Pizza Express

Now that we’ve finally made it to January payday, if you’re still feeling that post-Christmas slump, get yourself to Pizza Express!

This meal at Pizza Express was provided free of charge. This does not affect the integrity of my review, all opinions are my own. 

 

Photo an Hour #41 ~ December 2016

December’s Photo an Hour fell on one of those days (as Photo an Hours often seem to) when I was doing nothing. Last year’s December was odd for me in that I had a couple of entire weekends where I didn’t have any plans; usually the weeks leading up to Christmas fill up really quickly and I end the month feeling totally overwhelmed and needing to spend a week on my own to recover. But luckily that wasn’t the case this year, and this was one of those days where I had a festive day doing not a lot at all.

Zoey Fools Around Advent Jar

8am | Waking up and reading is my favourite way to start the day, particularly in the winter! At this point I was reading a book I’d bought from eBay called Zoey Fools Around, the first in a YA series I read when I was a teenager. I want to reread the whole series so I’m in the process of trying to find them all.

9am | My friend Anna made an advent jar for the four of us in our group; she put challenges and festive ideas into it for us to open each day. I cannot remember what day 17 was!

wrapping paper Spotify Christmas Playlist

10am | Doing some wrapping to get some last minute gifts sent. I hate wrapping. I’m rubbish at it!

12pm | I had a phone issue at 11 while I was in the village, so missed an hour – by noon I was back at home, listening to a typically cheesy Christmas playlist while Hannah and I cleaned the kitchen.

Library Books 14

1pm | For basically all of my life, Saturdays have been library day. I don’t go every single week, but it always feels like a proper weekend when I do. These are the books that I grabbed on this particular Saturday.

2pm | Settled in front of the television, watching Hustle, and trying to resist the urge to eat an entire packet of biscuits. I’m fairly sure I resisted.

Love Always, Santa Christmas Tree

3pm | Still in front of the television – didn’t I say it was a lazy day? – with a terrible Channel 5 Christmas film on. It’s called Love Always, Santa, and it’s awful, but Christmas isn’t Christmas without at least one terrible Hallmark movie.

4pm | It’s hard to be inventive when you don’t move for an entire afternoon, but the Christmas tree is pretty, so I shared a photo of that.

Smithy Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special Shepherd's Pie

5pm | Christmas truly isn’t Christmas without watching the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special.

6pm | Time for dinner.

Strictly Come Dancing Final

7pm | Last photo of the day, and unfortunately I obviously didn’t realise I was on an odd number! It was the live final of Strictly, and it was a total disappointment for me, because I did not want Ore and Joanne to win. Even though I knew they were going to.

January’s Photo an Hour took place this weekend, so my round up will be up soon, and February’s will take place on a date soon to be decided. If you’d like a reminder as to when it will be taking place, please leave your email address here, and I’ll send you a reminder a couple of days in advance.

 

Album of the Week 006 ~ Wolves by Rag’n’Bone Man

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Album : Wolves by Rag’n’Bone Man

Release Date : October 2014

My Favourite Tracks : No Mother, Guilty, Life In Her Yet

Album Notes

Unfortunately, I’ve broken one of my rules of this little project, because this is an EP rather than an album. I didn’t realise this when I was listening to it, as there are nine tracks, which seems rather a lot for an EP. Regardless of this, I’m glad I listened, because I blooming loved it.

I saw Rag’n’Bone Man on Jools Holland on New Year’s Eve, and this was the first that I had ever heard of him. Since then, he’s come second in the BBC Sound of 2017. With his debut album due for release this year, it seems as though he is very much coming to the attention of the public at large, though I assume there are plenty of people out there who have known about him for years.

As I’ve mentioned before, I know nothing about music. I wouldn’t even really have known how to characterise this type of music. I’m reliably informed that it’s bluesy soul, with a bit of drum and bass, and rap thrown in for good measure. BBC Sound of 2017 says he “puts a modern twist on the raw soul of Joe Cocker.”

All I know is that I love his music. It’s so powerful, and raw, and it feels familiar in a wonderful way. My favourite track of all is No Mother; whether it comes from a real-life experience or not, it’s a powerful song about separating with the other parent of your child.

Now that I know that so far all we’ve had is EP releases from Rag’n’Bone man, I’m eagerly awaiting his debut album, Human, due for release in a couple of months.

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