After the effort of reading the big Robert Galbraith novel, Lethal White, in record time, I was overtaken by the usual Silly Season hurly burly of shopping, planning, and socializing which didn’t leave much reading time.

Despite it’s misleading title, Himmler’s Cook proved to be a historical novel, ranging from the Armenian genocide in the early 1900s up to the current decade, focusing on the colourful life of Rose (the cook ), who survived by whatever methods she could, to live to age 105. What kept her going so vigorously for so long? Vengeance! Forget about the Christian virtues!

Consulting my Reading Diary I discover I haven’t reached any of my optimistic 2018 targets. I despatched 9 from the TBR pile and not the target 12. And of course I didn’t stick to my promise of buying only a measly 18 new books. My additions to the bookshelves totaled 25. Not so bad, really. In my defense, I donated many books to my local Library, so a Noddy Badge for this one. However, I was indeed ruthless about abandoning boring books. The latest casualty was my first Helen Oyeyemi novel : Boy, Snow, Bird. I know she’s widely read and admired, but I simply lost interest in the book. Sometimes one does!


So: I have written up a new Reading Diary for 2019, and have made my annual list of Reading Promises to myself. Actually, they serve as guidelines and reminders, more than anything else.

My dear daughter gifted me with an Amazon gift voucher, so tomorrow I shall be carefully selecting as many titles as I can possibly cram into the money, to read on my Amazon Kindle.

Wishing you all a splendid, enjoyable and wonderful reading year in 2019 !


Lethal White – Robert Galbraith. Reviewed on this blog.
Himmler’s Cook – Franz-Olivier Giesbert. Story proves you should never upset the cook – this cook took revenge! Historical novel with a difference. Life in France, then WWII Berlin and the Nazis, then the USA. A long & lusty life!
The Lonely Desert – Sarah Challis. An easy read with an unusual background – the Tuareg in Mali. Dorset-born Clemmie falls in love with a Tuareg and choses to stay with him. Holiday reading!

Rotherweird – Andrew Caldecott. A 5-star historical Fantasy, blending Elizabethan history with modern day; written by a QC so well written and intelligent, but still entertaining. I’m looking forward to Book 2. Ken Mogi


Helen Oyeyemi

The Little Book of Ikigai – Ken Mogi. My big Life Changing Book of 2018.  Review to follow.

Boy, Snow, Bird – Helen Oyeyemi



It’s that time of year again. List time! I must admit I enjoy other readers’ reading lists. I’ve gained insights and inspirations over the years, so thanks to all the list-makers. I hope you find a few new authors & ideas in my list.

2018 has seen me reading more non-fiction, and certainly more short story collections. It’s been noticeable how many short story collections are being published. A few years back the big publishing thing was essay collections. Some of which I bought and enjoyed, notably Rebecca Solnit. Now it’s trend time for short story collections. Prompting delicious dithering on my part, choosing which new books to buy with my December book voucher gifts.

Unhampered by on-line challenges I’ve flitted happily around the Garden of Genres, and had a wonderful reading year. I hope you did too!
Happy reading!



The End of the Day – Clare North

A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

Less  –  Andrew  Sean Greer

Everything Under – Daisy Johnson

Golden Delicious – Christopher Boucher
The High Mountains of Portugal – Yann Martel

Bonemeal for Roses – Miranda Sherry

Memory Wall – Anthony Doerr

The Paper Menagerie – Ken Liu
Difficult Women – Roxanne Gay

A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
The Pigeon Tunnel – John le Carre
The Song Collector – Natasha Solomons
The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Clare North
Lethal White – Robert Galbraith

Wabi Sabi for Writers – Richard Powell
The Lost Empire of Atlantis – Gavin Menzies

Mountains of the Mind – Robert MacFarlane
Why do Birds Suddenly Disappear? – Lev Parikian

The Little Book of Ikigai – Ken Mogi

District Six Huis Kombuis : Food & Memory Cookbook – Tina Smith

City of Saints and Madmen – Jeff vander Meer
How to be Both – Ali Smith
Postcard Stories – Jan Carson

LETHAL WHITE – Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling


Now I’m a Cormoran Strike fan, but when I was handed  #4 in the series, my heart sank. 649 pages is a solid brick of a book, and I’m kinda over books like bricks. Give me a light, nifty novella and away I go.  However, I girded my literary loins and plunged in.

Two days later, I emerged, with sprained eyeballs and a happy smile on my face. Yup: she’s done it again. JK Rowling tells one hell of a story. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

The book is a convoluted who-dunnit, set against the background of the British upper classes (politics, Westminster,  family feuds, money, wives, horses  – upper class Brits, so naturally there’s horses)  and in the end all is revealed.

But perhaps  of more interest is the on-going  personal relationship of Strike – the battered Afghan war amputee –  now a private detective in London, and his assistant/partner, Robin who is miserably married to an accountant. Things are not going well. Not for Strike, hampered by his war injury and a sinking bank balance, nor for Robin struggling to maintain her marriage which was a non-starter from the words ‘I do’ at the altar. At first I wearied of the on-going romantic tension between Strike and Robin – after all, this has been going on since Book #1 and I’m beginning to think oh for goodness sake! Enough already!  But then JKR swept me away and I stopped grumbling.

BTW, JKR does a fair bit of grumbling herself, having a jolly good go at the arrogance and greed of the British elite. She mercilessly parodies their accents, snobbish  social networking, their family nicknames and their penchant for  preposterous names. Who names their child Torquil, for heaven’s sake? Or how about Peregrine, shortened to Pringle  – which immediately reminded me of the crisps.

And on the topic of names: I didn’t care for the title. Because I live in a country with a shark patrolled coast, it reminded me immediately of the fearsome creatures. Ultimately, the title is relevant, but it jarred for me.

At the other end of the social spectrum there’s a sub-theme featuring a working class, leftie, politically correct, socially anarchic protest group which Robin infiltrates undercover. Reading those sections of the book I felt  I was witnessing JKR’s personal  political credo. To which she is fully entitled, of course. My trawling of Wikipedia revealed her as holding centre-left views, and I thought this might account for the parody of the upper class Brits in the novel.

All in all, a wonderfully meaty read, crammed with unforgettable characters. Like Strike’s long-time ex-girlfriend Charlotte – beautiful, heavily pregnant with twins, and desperately trying to reel him back in; not to worry that she’s married  … details, details. With which fascinating tidbit I will leave you. You’ll have to read the book.

Enjoy!  I did.



I finally crossed another book off the TBR list, The Road to Oxiana, although I only managed to stagger through four-fifths of the journey. There were two DNFs in November, but I’m copacetic about this. One of my 2018 Reading Resolutions was: I will not continue reading boring or unappealing books. It’s a waste of valuable eyesight & reading time!
I finished another TBR Basket Case by my favourite funny-man, Carl Hiaasen. For me not one of his best crime novels , because there was a huge secondary thread to the story, an impassioned rant about the fate of small town newspapers once a mega-media house takes them over; the decline of journalism, the focus on profit, and celebrity so-called news. Hiaasen is a long-time journo on a Miami Herald and Tribune Content Agency, and his hobby-horse rears up largely in this Florida crime caper.
Spurred on by other Lit-bloggers enthusiasm for novelist Muriel Spark, I tried one of her novellas. Whilst I can admire her sharp satirical pen, I didn’t enjoy it.

Bad Monkey – Carl Hiaasen. 5 star fun on every page of this crime caper. Reviewed on this blog:

Basket Case – Carl Hiaasen. Murder with a music industry background. The usual wonderful snappy dialogue and deadly funny phrases.
The Good Father – Noah Hawley . The trauma of a father discovering his son has killed the next President of the USA. Literary thriller.
The Finishing School – Muriel Spark. A novella exploring jealousy and obsession. Not for me.

A Cook’s Tour – in search of the Perfect Meal – Anthony Bourdain. A great travel & food read. Reviewed on this blog:

On Leopard Rock – A life of adventure – Wilbur Smith. Autobiography of one of the world’s most successful and popular adventure novelists. Reviewed on this blog:

The Road to Oxiana – Robert Byron. Dense scholarly detail about Byzantine architecture, art & history. DNF
Country Driving – Peter Hessler. Journo follows road alongside Great Wall of China. DNF.

The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry – Ed. J D Mc Clatchy. What a treasure trove. A marvellous anthology that I return to, again and again.