30 September 2013

How To Climb Mont Blanc In A Skirt

Author: Mick Conefrey
Year published: 2011
Pages: 224
Time It Took To Read: Two days, but it's light and easy

I am an armchair traveller. The thought of being trapped in the Himalayas in winter with nought but a donkey and a six year old for company makes me want to weep, but give me a book with the same (Where The Indus Is Young by Dervla Murphy)and I'll devour it. My personal travelling has taken me to er, most of England, North Wales, Scotland (just), Benidorm,Verdun and Reims. But through the power of books, I've been all over the world. Travel was my first book obsession. I think I must've got out every book the library had when I was 16 or so, and I have a huge collection of books.

This book charts the history of the female traveller, largely before the feminist movement, when a woman travelling at all was considered inappropriate. The book, which is in the humour section on Amazon, explains how male adventurers hates women trespassing into their territory, even deliberately sabotaging female attempts to climb mountains. It covers women who have travelled disguised as men, or as natives, and those who have been sexually assaulted or threatened for travelling without disguise.
I got a bit fed up of the "LOL! WIMMIN TRAVELLING? WOTEVER NEXT!" attitude in places, but some of the stories are amazing. One woman, a doctor in the Antarctic, administered her own chemotherapy when dying of breast cancer. There are stories of tragedy, bereavement and injury mixed in with tales of silliness and invention.There's also a good segment on pioneers in female aviation and solo sailing.
All in all, a pretty good read, with plenty of references to other material if you're particularly interested in the field of female travel.

Book count: 43/50

25 September 2013

The Flavour Thesaurus

Author: Niki Segnit
Year published: 2010
Pages: 400
Time It Took To Read: A few weeks, during breakfast

Life's been a bit stressful recently. My eldest started school, and is now under investigation for suspected Aspergers or ADHD. This has meant many meetings, many alterations in routine and currently he only goes to school in the morning because he becomes unmanageable in the afternoon. 
We finally got rid of the mouse, my partner moved in and all my uni books arrived. I am now afeared of uni work because I have about half the quiet time I thought I would have to study in. But I'll manage. I'm good at managing.
I haven't done much reading at all. I've been reading my enormous uni set text on the evolution of modern medicine, and that has effectively stopped me reading anything else during the day. However, I did, finally, get round to reading this book which I've owned for nearly two years.
It took me by surprise. I was expecting a scientific tract on flavour molecules, and instead this is a chatty, informal book which lists different combinations of flavour - some which work, some which don't - with suggestions of how to use them in daily cooking. Some of it comes across as TERRIBLY upper-middle class, with talk of living in Belgravia and truffles, and some of the combinations you'd be hard pushed to find in your local Asda. BUT it's a well written, thoroughly enjoyable book and if you want inspiration for cooking, it's excellent. 

Book count: 42/50

9 September 2013

Bring Up The Bodies

 Author: Hilary Mantel
Series: Thomas Cromwell trilogy, book 2
Year published: 2012
Pages: 482
Time It Took To Read: Two days 
I have had a truly awful couple of weeks. I came back from holiday to discover a mouse had taken up residence. I am absolutely phobic about mice - proper hyperventilating, sobbing, vomiting, petrified phobic. We didn't really get anywhere with sorting them out til Thursday, when the exterminator came out and on Saturday we got a cat, so I finally feel able to relax at home. I can't tell you what a mess I've been. Constantly on edge, crying all the time, severe insomnia, not wanting to be here but having no choice because my eldest has started school so I can't just bugger off. My family (extended and immediate) have been brilliant, giving us somewhere to stay when I couldn't handle it anymore. But now, I can actually sit at home without jumping a mile when a fly buzzes, so I got some reading done.

I ordered Bring Up The Bodies immediately after finishing Wolf Hall, and am gutted that Hilary Mantel hasn't written the third book yet. These books are fabulous. Immersive, detailed, realistic and nuanced dialogue and beautiful characterisation. If you're aware of the circumstances surrounding the death of Anne Boleyn, so much the better, and I think you really need to read Wolf Hall first to get the best out of the book, but even as a stand alone volume, it is amazing. Thomas Cromwell remains the central figure, though you get to know other characters a lot better.
I have been and bought more Mantel today, but suspect I will be re-reading David Starkey's Tudor histories over the next few days to remind myself of the historical truth behind these astonishing books.

Book count: 41/50