2017: A year in books

One of my 2017 goals was to read more books and take advantage of my commute. I didn't hit my goal of 10 books this year but I did hit eight which I didn't think was too bad at all. A lot better than the three I read in 2016! I'm determined to read even more of my kindle this year. I'd love to hear any recommendations please. So what did I read?

Room - Emma Donoghue
Written from a little boy's perspective, this harrowing novel follows the story of a a woman who was kidnapped and kept as a prisoner. Half the book takes place in a garden prison so you really get a feel for the trauma the pair are going through. No stone is left uncovered as to how they're coping. It starts off slightly mundane to read but really picks up pace halfway through the book. It's such a heartbreaking read and brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion. I saw the film before I read the book but I'd recommend not doing that. In order to get the most out of the book, you have to go in it with a completely clear mind.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
Francie is a second-generation Irish American in New York City, growing up in poverty. The story follows her from an adolescent child in the summer of 1912 to an adult working in the big, bad world, with all her trials and tribulations along the way. Despite being written in 1943, the novel feels timeless. Sometimes I want to shake Francie and sometimes I want to give her a hug. The sign of a good book is when you get invested in the protagonist. It's a great read if you don't want to invest too much of your time - it's easy to pick up on a daily commute.

The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton
I fell for the hype for this and wanted to jump on the bandwagon. But now thinking about it, I'm not quite sure I enjoyed it. The novel tells the tale of a young naive woman married off in the 17th century Amsterdam to a man she doesn't know in a house full of secrets. I just feel like it never really got going for me. I did find the twists compelling and some of the secrets I never saw coming. But I can't quite put my finger on what I didn't like about it. I would be interested to see the TV show though as it'd be fascinating to see it portrayed on screen.

The Night Manager - John Le Carre
Slow at first, this book is addicting. John Le Carre has such a way with words that you find yourself holding your breath from one page to the next, being sucked into a web unsure of how everything is going to pan out. Jonathan Pine gets recruited as a spy to take down an arms seller,  and before he knows it has has dived head first into deceit and danger. I found myself willing Jonathan on and berating him for being careless. John Le Carre really never fails to deliver.

A Storm of Swords: Part 1 Steel and Snow -George R. R. Martin
I'm a massive Game of Thrones nut but by good do the books take me a long time to get through. I think I spent about five months reading this one. It's not the type in book you can pick up and get back into it straight away. As I don't read every day, I found myself having to go back a few pages each time to get my bearings. That said I just love the world that George R. R. Martin has created. I just need a break for a while before I start on the next one!

The Maze Runner - James Dashner
I found this dystopian future trilogy in a charity shop so thought they were worth the £3 investment as I'd seen the first film. As they're young adult fiction, they're pretty easy to read and aren't very big. The perfect commuter book! I really enjoyed it as its an interesting concept. A group of teenagers are at a place called 'The Glade' with no idea why or who they are.

The Thing Around Your Neck - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This collection of 12 short stories all focus on Nigerian women.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of my favourite authors, I love how I can just lose myself in her writing and she chooses subjects that I don't know too much about, so they're always so interesting. I'm always left with so many questions and informations swirling around in my head. They encourage me to dig deeper and find out more. I'm not really sure short stories are for me as I find just as I get into them, they suddenly end and I'm left wanting more. Saying that they were really easy to read.

SSGB - Len Deighton
WWII is the period in history that I find the most interesting. I've been intrigued with toying with a couple of alternative history books for a while. I decided to take the plunge with this one. The United Kingdom lost the Battle of Britain and are not under Nazi occupations. There's a resistance in the north but the south is basically Nazi puppets. The story follows a British policeman who is trying to do the right thing. It's a fantastic book and one which I finished in a week. Not mean feat for this slow reader!

Not being a Girl boss doesn't make you a failure

Beige oversize mac: ASOS (similar)
Skinny jeans: George at ASDA (similar)
Red gazelles: Adidas (similar)
Red checked scarf: Accessorize (similar)
Burgandy rucksack: Fjallraven kanken via ASOS

Girl boss is one of those buzz words at the minute. Women all over my social media timeline and in real life seem to be absolutely bossing at life. They're setting up businesses, choosing to work for themselves and climbing to the top of the career ladder. Without seeming to take a breath, they're at the top of their game and doing it with ease. I love seeing women do well, it gives me such a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

But I'm not a girl boss. Most days I feel like I can barely keep my head above water and I'm drowning thanks to poor time management skills. I don't really have any side hustles unless you count making an extra £30 a month on eBay selling my old clothes. After working 9-5 every week I just don't have the capacity in my brain to think about anything else. I can barely sometimes find enough energy to write on this blog even though once I settle down, it's one of my favourite things to do. I'm not an over-achiever, in fact it could be said that I'm probably a little bit of an underachiever because all I long for is a quiet life. Working to the point of exhaustion tends to be a badge of honour. I don't get enough gratification from working that I feel the need to own this badge.

But most of all, I don't want to to be a girl boss. Work really isn't the be all and end for me. I don't think I really want to climb to the very top of my career ladder. It may be lack of ambition but all I ever wanted was to have a job that I enjoy going into work every day in the career that I always dreamed off. That's always been enough for me. I've never been motivated by money and never wanted the insane responsibility that came with a large wage packet. I work hard, I try to do everything I can to the best of my ability so I know I gave it my all but I don't want work to define me.

It's ok to not want to do it all. It doesn't mean you're a failure.


Batch cooking with John Lewis

Earlier in the week I popped along to the Waitrose cookery school in Kings Cross for a lesson in batch cooking with John Lewis. I've been to the cookery school twice now and I always have such a great evening. The chefs are so knowledgeable and patient. It's a brilliant way to find out more tricks in the kitchen. I vowed to become the batch cooking master when I moved into my new house but six week later, I still haven't gotten round to making it a regular thing. This will change though. I can't believe just how easy it is! It will hardly take any time at all to be prepared on a Sunday night.

We were taught how to make a basic tomato, basil and garlic sauce which can then be kept in the fridge for the week. It's best to un-season it, salt and pepper can be added when you make the different dishes, and to use plum tomatoes as these are the best quality. Try not to let the garlic burn as this will make it taste bitter. We were then given a demonstration on how the sauce could be used on a pizza and in a Shakshuka, a Middle Eastern dish of baked eggs. The dishes were prepared in what felt like no time at all and made me feel rather silly for not being too adventurous during the week. When it's THIS easy!

After stuffing our faces with the delicious pizza and one of the best Shaksukas I've had the pleasure of trying, it was time for us to make our own dinner with the sauce. I don't know how on earth I didn't realise it was this simple to make pasta or how I don't own a pasta machine yet. Next payday one will be mine. We made the classic Italian dish of pasta puttanesca. Homemade tagliatelle was tossed in a tasty concoction of salty anchovies, plump olives, flavoursome capers and the tomato sauce. Once the pasta was made, the dish came together in around 10 minutes. Amazing!

Thanks for such a lovely evening guys! It's always great to meet up with some old blogging friends and meet some new ones at the same time.

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