The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

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The Well of Ascension is set about a year after the events of The Final Empire (reviewed here); the young nobleman Elend is King, replacing the tyrannical Lord Ruler, and the city of Luthadel is besieged by three different armies, all intent on seizing power for themselves, one of which is lead by Elend’s own father.

The surviving leaders of the rebellion are all floundering without Kelsier to guide and unite them. Vin is still testing her newfound abilities and trying to figure out her relationship with Elend. Meanwhile, Elend is struggling with the responsibilities of being King and trying to maintain his integrity and ideals.

While The Final Empire had a tight narrative perspective focusing on Kelsier and Vin (and Elend at the very end), The Well of Ascension follows several different characters’ perspectives and sometimes seemed too diffuse. I also found this slower paced and lacking the momentum of the first book, though it was redeemed by the last 150 pages, which had me riveted and ended on a cliffhanger that made sense of the Lord Ruler’s dying words and left me desperate to know what happens next.

It’s always hard to review the middle book in a trilogy as it has to bridge the first and final parts, and it’s often difficult to judge how well it foreshadows or sets up things for the conclusion until you’ve finished the series – so I may change my mind in the future – but unfortunately The Well of Ascension didn’t manage to live up to my expectations.

Have a lovely week! X

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Paneer Tikka Masala Recipe

A homemade, vegetarian version of a takeaway favourite, ideal comfort food for cold, winter evenings.

paneer tikka masala

Ingredients (Serves 2):

Paneer Spices:

250g of Paneer, cut into cubes
2 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Curry Powder
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Tumeric

For Tikka Masala:

1tsp Cumin Seeds
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Curry Powder
2 tsp Garam Masala
1 Clove of Garlic, crushed
1 inch of Fresh Root Ginger, peeled and finely diced
1 Onion, diced
1 cup of frozen Peas
150g of Yoghurt
400g of Chopped Tomatoes

Method:

Mix spices for the paneer marinade together in a bowl, then put paneer in the marinade, stir or shake to ensure that it is evenly coated in spices.

Heat a splash of oil in a pan, add cumin seeds, when the seeds start to pop, pour in the marinaded paneer and cook on a medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes or until warm through and the spice marinade has stuck to the paneer, then set aside in a bowl.

Add a tablespoon of oil to a medium sized pan and heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook for one minute.

Add onion, the remaining spices and up to 2 tablespoons of water to make a thin paste. Simmer to reduce liquid.

Add chopped tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes, then add yoghurt and frozen peas, mixing well and then cook until liquid starts to reduce to until a thick sauce.

Add the paneer, stir in to mix and cook until warm through.

Serve with plain boiled rice and papadums.

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

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I’ve been binge-reading fantasy lately, and decided to re-read an old favourite from a series that I started but never finished for some reason. Retribution Falls is the first in a series of four books following the misadventures of the Ketty Jay and her crew.

At the helm is Captain Darian Frey, a charming rogue, trying to make his way in the world with a bit of petty thieving and smuggling but struggling to keep his ship afloat and his crew together; then there’s Jez the navigator, Crake the Daemonist (and his golem Bess), Silo the engineer, Malvery the Doctor, Pinn and Harkins the pilots and Slag the feral cat. With the exception of the cat, all of the crew seem to have their own mysterious or tragic background and they’re all trying to out-run their personal demons, yet along the way they learn to work together and develop a sense of camaraderie.

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The gist of the story is that the crew attempt a heist that turns out to be a set-up, and fed up with being pawns in a game of more powerful players, they end up uncovering a conspiracy.

Daemonism is a refreshing alternative to magic as daemons are enthralled to various objects like keys, teeth, cutlasses and golems to give them unique and special powers.

Retribution Falls is an action packed swashbuckler with plenty of twists, suspense, humour, and a lovable bunch of underdogs triumphing against some truly unfavourable odds. Have a lovely week! X

A New Year’s Day Walk on the Beach

Arran and the Holy Isle

We were up bright and early yesterday for a New Year’s Day walk at our favourite beach, Croy Shore in Ayrshire. We never remember to check the tides before visiting but we were happy to discover that it was out when we arrived giving us an opportunity to meander towards the rocky outcrops that are usually inaccessible when the tide is in.

Strolling side by side with our hoods up against the chill wind and the sun warming our backs, the pale blue skies gave us a perfect view of the Isle of Arran and the Holy Isle. My spouse and I weren’t brave enough to take a dip in the sea, but it was a refreshing walk and felt like we were breathing in all the hope of a new year and letting go of the year before. I always feel inspired by new beginnings, and it’s exciting to think of all the opportunities to meet new people, visit new places, try new experiences, to learn and grow that a new year promises.

This week I’m enjoying a few more days off at home before we put the Christmas decorations away for another year, we return to work and normality resumes. Happy New Year and have a lovely week! X

2018 ~ Looking Back, Looking Forward

End of the Year

We’re in the midst of that peaceful and cosy time between Christmas and New Year when everything seems to slow down and I struggle to remember what day of the week it is.

2018 has been a year full of adventures and experiences for us, and it’s genuinely hard to pick out personal highlights because there have been so many from our roadtrip around Iceland (something my husband and I have been talking about since our first visit to Reykjavik in 2014) to day trips around Scotland, and slowly but surely transforming our garden.

The three most popular posts on my blog this year were:

  1. On the road around Iceland
  2. Pottering around with houseplants
  3. An Unruly Tangle of Flowers

I always find it interesting to see which posts seem to resonate with readers, but I try not to worry too much about likes and followers, and focus on writing about what interests me and what’s going on in our lives.

I was just shy of my reading target this year, which I blame on three books I started but didn’t finish. I’ve accepted that I’ll never read 52 books a year, but a couple of books a month seems like a realistic goal. This week I re-organised my bookshelves (still two rows deep) and I like seeing old favourites rubbing shoulders with new books waiting to be read.

I didn’t share many recipes this year, which was largely due to my husband and I adopting a gluten-free diet as he has suspected Crohn’s Disease. We both enjoy cooking (almost as much as eating!) and make as much as we can from scratch and I’m hoping to share a few new vegetarian and gluten-free recipes soon.

Looking back at our photos and all the memories we’ve made, I’m a little sad this wonderful year is ending, but I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 holds. Wishing everyone a very happy New Year when it comes, and thank you so much to everyone who takes the time to read, like, comment on or follow my little blog. X

Twinkle and Jingle

Curious Mara

There always seems to be a mad dash in December to get everything ready for Christmas, but now that the shopping is done, cards have been posted and presents wrapped, things are finally starting to wind down and we’re very much looking forward to some time off between Christmas and New Year.

My husband and I have been trying to simplify Christmas for a few years now, gradually stripping away the stress, excess and waste to find all the peace, love, joy and wonder that the festive period holds.

Everything seems to twinkle and jingle in December, and I always look forward to the simple pleasure of putting up our Christmas decorations, and especially decorating the tree. I love unwrapping the trinkets and baubles we’ve collected over the years, and reminiscing about where each of them came from. The newest addition to our collection is a wooden nutcracker soldier that I bought from Jólagarðurinn (The Christmas Garden) outside Akureyri in Iceland, a little souvenir from our holiday in April. Our cat Mara also loves investigating the tree, though luckily she doesn’t attempt to climb it or attack the baubles.

My favourite part of Christmas though is spending time with my family, free from the distractions and time constraints that are often present throughout the rest of the year. This Christmas many of our plans will revolve around the older generation of our family, as we try to make things as easy and inclusive as possible for my 92-year-old nanna, and visit another member of the family who might be spending Christmas in hospital. Christmas is a time of love and joy for many, yet it can be tinged with loss and loneliness for others, and I always feel lucky and grateful to be able to share it with the people I love most.

Wishing everyone a peaceful winter Solstice and a very happy Christmas! X

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

I’ve always been an impulse book buyer, easily persuaded by a pretty cover and an intriguing first chapter, so I picked up The Invisible Library on a whim recently, and I’m very glad I did.

The story follows Irene, a Librarian from a secret society known as the Invisible Library, which collects rare and unique books from alternate realities. Instructed to collect a specific version of a text, Irene and her apprentice, Kai, arrive to find the book’s owner has been murdered and the book has already been stolen.

Irene is such a likeable heroine, she’s curious, resourceful and self-deprecating, and I really enjoyed the interplay between Irene and the other characters from her charming and enigmatic apprentice Kai to her femme-fatale rival Bradamant, and the mysterious villain, Alberich.

The Invisible Library subverts a few fantasy norms, instead of the usual battle between good and evil, the librarians try to restore order to chaos-infested worlds; and instead of magic, the Librarians use the Language, which allows them to influence reality with specific commands and instructions.

This is a quirky fantasy-mystery with lots of humour and a few twists; The Invisible Library is a bit different from the epic fantasies I usually read but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Have a lovely week! X