- Start by looking at some recommendation sites and work out which ones are closest to your interest. Some good ones are: For Books Sake which specialises in women authors; opening the book.com/which book; bookreporter.com send a regular email with reviews and details from author events such as talks they go to. US oriented but…
- Join GoodReads and then look further at any sites they recommend. In GoodReads you will find a large number of sub-groups which are chatty or specialise in particular genre. You can find friends to discuss books with and also lots of book reviews. Some groups pair you up with a buddy to read a set book with over a month or two and then you can swap ideas.
- If you are confident you can read fairly fast and can write a review of each book you read – then join NetGalley as a reviewer. You will be given free books – as document downloads – some of which as proof copies and thus will have spelling/grammar or formatting mistakes. Ignore all of these and concentrate on the story, style and general quality of the writing in the book. They have some information about how to review a book well also. If you can manage to write good reviews – not necessarily praising the book, but explaining and justifying your comments, and are prepared to post onto Amazon and GoodReads, then you may be auto authorised by some publishers, which means you will always obtain their books. Note: you will not always be given the book you ask for. Check out what the publisher says they want from a reviewer and see how your bio agrees with it.
- Build a reputation as a reviewer, if you want to read free books. Start a WordPress blog that has lots of book reviews on it. Look at other WordPress sites for book reviews and how they do it and what they are reading. You will find lots of people writing about books on WordPress and Tumblr so ensure you look through them as you will find lots of ideas for books for you to read also.
- Try and have a mix of genres when you are reading and try and read some non-fiction as well as fiction (or vice versa of course). Stretch yourself into genres you wouldn’t have first thought of – keep that mind active! You may surprise yourself.
- Don’t force yourself to finish every book you start. Read around 40-50 pages or 1/3 of the book. If you still don’t like it. Put it aside – delete it from your electronic book store but try and think wny you didn’t like it – you an build up a review of pet hates in books that way!
- Join a book club. Physical or Virtual – or more than one. You may hate what people have chosen, but you will be forced to try new things.
- Look at the Bibliotherapist at the School of Life where you can get recommendations for reading for ‘what ails you’.
- Follow authors. Read their blogs and comments.
- Finally. Ensure that you are warm, comfortable, and have your favourite tea/ coffee and biscuits/cake near at hand. Get your cat to sit on your lap and start…
Book Review: [For NetGalley and Brash Books]
Poor Poor Ophelia by Carolyn Weston
“Traditionalist veteran cop Lt. Mike Stone is partnered with Inspector Steve Keller, a young, inexperienced college-educated go-getter in the homicide division of the San Francisco Police Department. The two enjoy a bantering relationship while they hunt down the bad guys..”
Except that this isn’t a summary of the book but of the TV series that was created from the book!
First aired in 1972. Yes 1972.
This another book that has been taken and re-issued by Brash as a digital book, and yet despite it having been written some 40+ years ago has stayed the test of time and you wouldn’t necessarily have realised just how old it was until you looked up the author’s bio.
You might remember the somewhat tinny theme song if you heard it (and are old enough of course!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgPZ81xA_Ao to listen to it and then do look at the actors too… you must surely recognise that rather pitted and jowly face of Karl Malden and the young Michael Douglas.
It ran until 1977, was filmed actually in San Francisco (that makes a change but close to Hollywood of course), there was even a TV movie made, but no episode covered the storyline of Poor Poor Ophelia that I can work out. *
So in this book story there is a lawyer who gets reluctantly involved with the police investigation of a drowned girl to whom he gave a laminated business card, which she was found clutching. It was a very suspicious death as the pathologist Deacon remarked – ‘Deacon was famous for preliminary reports full of what he called ‘details’, and the card being one of these famous details.
The girl lived in a bedsit with a very nosy landlord -‘It’s a crime or something to keep an eye on your property?’ – perhaps a voyeur? And yet the landlord didn’t ask for any proof of identity when a man claiming to be the dead girl’s uncle – a man he had never seen before – came and collected her post after her disappearance – more than once.
The cop looking for her murderer was
‘Depressed by the idea of another air-tight compartment in a society hellbent in separating itself into rival camps…tribalism’
when looking at her set of apartments for singles only.
I liked this book a lot and will give 3.5 stars rounded up to 4.
I have been told by Brash Books that The book *was* filmed as the pilot episode of STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO. Robert Wagner played the attorney!
You can watch the whole thing on YouTube. Here’s the link to the pilot episode.
You make some soup to add vitamins or you can make soup to add bulk or just as a meal in a pot. Soup is incredibly versatile and I have lots of recipes that I try from time to time and then ring the changes on them.
So here are two for you to try. Let me know if you find a nice addition to either!
2 bunches watercress
2 pints stock; 1.5 oz butter; bayleaf; garlic; salt; pepper;
Wash cress. Peel and slice potatoes and onions.
Put cress, pots , onions, stock, butter, bayleaf, garlic into large pan. Season. Boil and then simmer until ingredients soft.
Liquidise. Return to pan and stir in cream and then heat very gently.
Serve chilled if wanted.
Winter Lunch in a soup
Potatoes – left over boiled will do fine
Mixed soup base – buy in a packet as a mix of beans and peas dried – if not available use a mix of dried peas; split peas; lentils green, black and red; and barley;
Stock – preferably a good herby stock base or add some herbs such as parsley, oregano etc. mixed herbs or French herbs.
Hot dogs – I use the vegetarian ones.
The amounts of each ingredient are variable but I use a small handful of everything to around 2 pints of stock.
You can flavour with tomato ketchup for a variant.
Gently fry onion until soft and then add stock and bring to boil. Add the soup mix next and bring to boil. There is likely to be a scum on the top of the pan – carefully scoop this off – try not to take the lentils with it.. until the top of the soup seems clear. Then add the potatoes, salt/pepper and simmer for 1 hour. Test if soup mix and barley cooked.
If so, add hot dogs cut into bite sized pieces – 2 per person is plenty and bring to boil again. Simmer for another 10 minutes for vegetarian hot dogs. Serve big ladles of this for lunch!
You can miss out the hot dogs and add grated cheese instead.
Vary the different pulses to your taste …
In our garden group we frequently have guest speakers. Recently David Bevan came to speak to us twice. His first talk was about the wild flowers of London.
David Bevan use the definition of the London Natural History Society, i.e. the area within a 20-mile radius of St. Paul’s to define the area as London for the purposes of considering wild flowers..
London has a very rich and diverse mixture of native ‘weeds’ and ‘escaped exotics’ (such as buddleja – an escapee from China). Surveying has recently started for a new ‘Flora of the London area’ – the original one was published by the London Natural History Society in 1983. This survey identified approximately 2,050 plants – even more than the number in Dorset, which is the richest county in England, botanically. A recent survey of Hyde Park alone identified 287 wild plants.
Reasons for London’s rich flora:
- As a great commercial city historically seeds have come in from all over the world.
- The large number of gardens in London: more than one-fifth of London is occupied by gardens (GLA estimate), and plants tend to escape from gardens.
- Survival of relict populations: London contains little pockets where rare native plants still survive, whereas in rural areas they tend to get destroyed by hedge-cutting, herbicides etc.
- London’s very varied geology offers a wide range of habitats, each with its own distinct flora – from chalk to Bagshot Sands (e.g. Hampstead Heath) to London Clay.
- The ‘heat island’ effect: There are fewer frost days, hotter summer temperatures and about three weeks extra growing time compared with surrounding rural areas. An example of a plant which reflects this effect is the Chinese Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, which only flowers in a mild late November. Shown below.
The anticancer activity of flavones isolated from Chinese mugwort against several cancer cell lines has been documented in numerous in vitro and animal studies. However, clinical trials are lacking to support use in cancer treatment or prevention. What has been documented however is that below:
- Medicinal Uses:* Amenorrhea * Fibromyalgia * Herbal Teas * IBS * Sleep/Insomnia
- Properties:* Abortifacient * Aromatic * Diaphoretic/sudorific * Diuretic * Emmenagogue * Midsummer * Nervine
- Parts Used:Leaves, roots
- Constituents:volatile oil, bitter principle (absinthin), flavonoids, tannin.
Sometimes overlooked for more “flashy” herbs in this current day, mugwort is still a favorite of wise women. Mugwort has an affinity for the female reproductive system and is used as a uterine stimulant that can bring on delayed menstruation and help restore a woman’s natural monthly cycle.
As all the bitter herbs, mugwort is an excellentdigestive stimulant and is quite effective taken before or after heavy meals to alleviate gas and bloating.
One of the more interesting traditional uses of mugwort is that of a dream herb. It is often used as one of the main ingredients insleep pillows, and it said to bring the dreamer more lucid dreams. Mugwort is also often used as a smudging (burning) ceremonial herb. It is mildly sedative and useful in calming frayed nerves and easing stress. A combination of agrimony, mugwort and vinegar is an excellent treatment for sciatica or muscular stiffness.
Preparation Methods & Dosage: Mugwort can be taken in teas, or tinctures. Often mixed with lemon balm or other sweeter herbs.
London Rocket, (Sisymbrium irio) shown growing near Tower Bridge and near St. Paul’s. A Mediterranean plant, it came in via the port and had grown in London since the Great Fire (1666) when it grew in the ashes. It is specific to London, growing nowhere else in the country and reflects the ‘heat island’ effect, nowhere else being warm enough. The little beaded seed pods top the flowers and it has deeply-cut leaves. Since most of the little open sites around Tower Hill have now been built on there are very few sites where it is now found, but it has survived in one small area.
It is a plant in the family Brassicaceae and an annual. The leaves are broad and often lobed, while the upper leaves are linear in shape and up to four inches long. The fruit is a long narrow cylindrical silique which stays green when ripe. The younger pods overtop the flowers. When dried the fruit has small red oblong seeds.
London rocket is used in the Middle East to treat coughs and chest congestion, to relieve rheumatism, to detoxify the liver and spleen, and to reduce swelling and clean wounds. The Bedouin use the leaf of London Rocket as a tobacco substitute.
Rosebay Willow Herb Chamaenerion angustifolium and Buddleja around Gloucester Place: The London bomb sites were renowned for being quickly colonised by rosebay willow herb, but have almost all now disappeared. A small bomb-site ‘relic’ remained until recently near Gloucester Place, where this plant still survives and where buddleja (one of the best ‘escapers’) also thrives. In the Springtime the young shoots and leaves of the rosebay willowherb can be eaten raw, and as they get older need to be steamed or boiled for 10 minutes. Treat the shoots like asparagus. The root can be cooked as a vegetable, added to stews. If you split the stem you can scrape out the sweet pith as a cucumber-like snack, though this can be quite astringent.. The flower stalks when in bud can be snacked upon raw and added to soups for flavour.
Medicine: Peel the roots, gently pound them and use as a poultice for skin damage such as burns, sores, swellings, boils and other similar hindrances. The leaves as a tea act as a tonic for the whole system, helping digestion and inflammation, but don’t drink too much because they’re also a laxative (unless you need loosening).
Now the pink variety spreads by seeds and is thus invasive, but the white variety shown above spreads through its root system and thus is not only not invasive but considered a prize plant in a garden. I have some and they are lovely.
- Buddleja came firstly to France and then to Britain in the 19th.Century from Western China. The last remaining bomb site has now gone, but a slide showed a buddleja growing out of the wall of a building, reminiscent of the cliffs where it thrives in Western China. Although the shrub can be invasive it has the benefit of attracting butterflies and moths, and for this reason is a welcome addition to London’s wildlife. If you go to the flickr site https://www.flickr.com/photos/brize/7653052874/ you will find a selection of ‘feral buddleia’ photos showing how the plant colonises walls, railway cuttings and even roofs and house walls that are less than well kept up.
- The Sumatran Fleabane: First recorded in London (the first place where it was seen) in the 1980’s. Now it is a dominant plant in much of London and has invaded a large part of Southern England, including Dorset. It has greyish-green leaves and a large number of tiny white flowers.
- The Argentinean Fleabane: Conyza_bonariensisAn ‘invadee’ from South America, related to the Sumatran Fleabane..
- Opium poppy: loves open spaces.
- Coltsfoot: a native English plant, a real harbinger of spring, which likes to grow in cracks in concrete and is one of the most successful native plants found in central London.
- Oxford Ragwort: Its distribution reflects the migration of plant species along railway lines. It grows as a native plant in Italy, especially on the lava-rich soil around Mount Etna. It was introduced in GB around the end of the 18th.Century in the Oxford Botanical Gardens and ‘escaped’ to grow in the stone walls in and around Oxford. When the railway was built in the 19th. Century it found a favourable habitat in the clinker at the side of the railway which ‘reminded’ it of the lava around Mount Etna.
- Ratstail Fescue: likes infertile, well-drained sites and also found the railway environment favourable.
Other plants finding the railway lines a favourable environment and which have spread along the railways include:-
- Sticky Groundsel, which has produced a hybrid.
- ‘Little Robin’ – a geranium purpureum, similar to Herb Robert but with yellow stamens in the purple flowers. This came originally from Cornwall and the south-west, spreading to London along the railway line.
Haringey : Railway Fields: David showed examples of numerous wild plants growing and previously growing in a small nature reserve (formerly a coalyard) at Green Lanes, Haringey which he was involved in developing for the London Borough of Haringey some years ago. The splendid gate to Railway Fields depicts many of the wild flowers growing there.
- Birdsfoot Trefoil (‘Bacon & Eggs’), which needs full sun. This used to grow on the embankments of the Parkland Walk, but has now been squeezed out by stronger wild plants.
- Common Fleabane: whose nectar-filled flowers are very attractive to butterflies.
- Haringey Knotweed
- Queen Anne’s Lace (referred to by Shakespeare as ‘keck’), aka the wild carrot, from which modern carrots were derived.
- Russian Vine – very closely related to Japanese Knotweed. Along the Parkland Walk there is also a hybrid between the Russian vine and Japanese Knotweed which has only been found in a couple of other places – one in the former Czechoslovakia, where it is known as ‘The Railway Yard Knotweed’.
Haringey: site alongside the North Circular Road: A site which has now been developed for a Tesco store was previously full of wild plants, including Rosebay Willow Herb, Great Hairy Willow Herb, Mare’s Tail, Goat’s Beard, and Golden Dock, which had previously disappeared, not having been recorded in London since 1924.
‘Tottenham Marsh’ (no longer a marsh): alongside the Walthamstow Reservoir: two foreign exotic plants were shown flourishing in this area: Chinese Mugwort and Greek Dock – and a new-to-science hybrid between Chinese Mugwort and Field Mugwort, belonging to the Wormwood (artemisia) family.
Highgate Cemetery: London’s cemeteries are wonderful wild flower havens and provide little fragments of unspoiled land within London with a rich and varied flora, in contrast to the surrounding countryside where habitats are usually disturbed by chemicals and farming activities. Plants shown included:-
- Ferns: The Victorians planted many varieties of ferns in the cemeteries.
- Rosebay Willow Herb: The plant used to be confined to northern England, but the London rosebay willow herb probably originated from North America’
- Lesser White Plantain (Ranunculoides family) – the only surviving colony in southern England
- Thread-leaved Crowfoot: previously not seen in London since the 1940’s, but David found it in Highgate Cemetery in the 1990’s.
Walthamstow Nature Reserve:
- Creeping Marshwort: This used to be more widespread but has disappeared from other parts of the country, and the only other place where it is found now is in a marsh near Oxford.
Hampstead Heath: This has been historically the most surveyed botanical site in the world, and there is evidence that the flora has changed a lot since the sixteenth century. Because of the nature of the geology the flora is very ‘heath-like’, including European gorse, birch, and the Long-leaved Sundew.
I shall be writing another post later this year which looks at the importance of some of our gardens and plants wild or otherwise and wildlife in London.