The books I read in September 2017

This episode of Show Us Your Books marks the three anniversary. I am a day late to the party thanks to having to be in the office yesterday, but congratulations Jana and Steph!

Let us take a look at what I read in September. There were 7 books, four of which were for the bonus round of Erin‘s reading challenge. As in previous months, I will list the challenge books first followed by the others.

show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

A Whole New World by Liz Braswell (376 pages, read for the category “a book relating to a Disney movie”). This basically takes the Disney version of Aladdin but changes one key feature, namely what if Aladdin had not kept the lamp but given it to Jafar like he was supposed to?  The beginning of the book was literally a retelling of the Disney version of Aladdin, even down to repeating parts of the dialogue word for word! The remainder is definitely fast-paced and there are a few good moments. The characters’ personalities never seemed to be properly developed – I felt like the author was relying on readers knowing them from the film. It passed the time okay and was entertaining enough but I think I’ll skip the rest of the series. 3 stars.

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Krause (264 pages, read for the “starts with B” category). Well, this was basically complete and utter trash… but entertaining trash! A YA werewolf book that somehow manages to make the transition from human to wolf form sound sexy. I wish I had found it back when it first came out because I’m sure I would have lapped it up then (ha, pun totally not intended but I’ve seen it now and I’m keeping it). Reading it as an adult I give it 3 stars.

The Dog Who Came in From the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith (352 pages, read for the “animal on the cover” category). I feel like I was missing something with this book. Maybe it’s because I didn’t read the first book in the series? It took me ages to figure out that all the characters with their little mini stories were somehow vaguely connected. And the poor dog, who is in the actual title, barely even features. Parts of it were quite good, others were really boring. 3 stars.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (320 pages, read for the “book featuring mental illness” category). I can’t say I enjoyed this book exactly – that isn’t the right word. It is really, really good but quite disturbing in some ways. It’s supposed to be for children, but I would definitely recommend an adult reading it first then deciding whether it’s suitable for the child in question! The mental illness concerned is never actually spelled out, but one of the main characters is a war veteran who is obviously suffering from some kind of PTSD. Betty (the bully) is a real nasty piece of work – far more than just an ordinary school-girl bully, and Annabelle (the main character) is far braver than I ever would have been. Sorry if this is confusing – it’s a difficult book to review! 4 stars anyway – read it!

That was the four challenge books, now on to the rest.

Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. Technically I didn’t read this one, but listened to it. Aaalso, I started listening to it over a year ago so I didn’t really “read” it in September 2017 at all. But I finished it! I would have been finished ages ago but I had to keep waiting for Jan to listen with me. Anyway, I can’t objectively review this one because I’m 90% sure I loved it because it was Night Vale and I got to listen to Cecil’s voice for HOURS, not just one measly little episode of the podcast (I mean, I never actually listened to only one episode, but that isn’t the point). Whether it actually works as a print novel? I have no idea. Whether anyone who doesn’t already know and love Night Vale and all its characters would enjoy it? Maybe not. So my 5 star rating is very, very biased, but I don’t care. Recommended to anybody who loves the weirdness that is Welcome to Night Vale.

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry. I interrupted my challenge reading for this one because I couldn’t resist reading it the day it arrived. It kept my attention and made me want to keep reading long after my bedtime. I really liked the different perspectives, especially the chance to get inside Kitty’s head. Towards the end it almost felt like there were too many twists and the final one just made me go “hmmm”, but overall I enjoyed it. 4 stars.

Bogwoppit by Ursula Moray Williams. I read Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat and The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse by this author when I was about 8, and now I’m sad that the big box of books my step-dad brought home for us one day didn’t contain Bogwoppit as well. This book is adorable. Basically it’s the story of Samantha, an orphan who is packed off to live with her spinster aunt when he guardian (another aunt) moves to America and decides she doesn’t want her any more. At the spinster aunt’s house, she discovers a creature that nobody else knows exists – the Bogwoppit – and various adventures ensue. I love the Bogwoppit (The One and Only), even if he is trouble at times. I love Samantha, she is mostly polite and kind, but knows how to stand up for herself and the way she spoke to adults would have amazed me as a child (I would never have dared!). It’s a little dated now but I think 7-10 year olds would still love it. 5 stars.

And that’s it for September. Quite a satisfactory reading month.

Have you read anything good lately? This is a link up, so scroll back up and follow the links (I’m too lazy to put them in again. Sorry!)

Advertisements

Recent doings #22

It’s time for the What’s New With You link up again, and that means yet another month is over and done with. I know I always say I can’t believe how quickly time is flying, but this time the month sped by so quickly that I almost didn’t post my brother’s birthday card in time! Luckily my brain just about managed to switch from “it’s only mid-September” to “crap, it’s nearly the end of September” in time for me to get it written and posted (his birthday was on Monday). Anywaaaay… let me tell you about what I was doing in September.

whats-new

Reading. Not books from the BBC Big Read even though I should be! I read six books in September… come back on Tuesday to find out what they were 😉

Listening to. Welcome to Night Vale. We actually finished listening to the audio book before the next novel was published! A miracle. We also listened to two episodes of the podcast and as of right now we are a mere three episodes behind. Wow!

Watching. There never seems to be anything interesting on when I switch on the TV., so I usually end up flicking through then switching it back off. Jan watches MoMa (German breakfast TV) and I kind of passively watch too, so I guess that.

Eating. Pumpkins! And squashes too, I suppose (although in German it’s all Kürbis). We’ve had pumpkin stew, pumpkin and chickpea curry, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin mash. I love pumpkin season!

Drinking. Nettle tea. I’m trying to be as healthy as possible and that means cutting down on caffeine (except my morning cuppa – that has to be normal tea). Plus nettles are full of calcium – important since I hate drinking milk.

Buying. Craft supplies – mainly stickers and buttons. Oh, and shoes for my sister’s wedding. (If we work on the assumption that Jan’s money is my money then we also a bookcase and some other bits from IKEA 😉 )

Going to. Castle Chillon on Lake Geneva. And also Karlsruhe to see Jan’s former choir perform and meet up with friends.

Chillon
Castle Chillon

Making. Cards, cards, cards. All for Post Pals.

Cross stitching. Designs for Christmas cards… not long now!

Unpacking. A box of books (uni books, not the fun kind). It had been sitting in my “office” since we moved in but with the new small Billy we bought I was finally able to get it unpacked. Hurrah!

And that’s about it – the only other thing I did in September was work. I lost count of the number of times I was given so much to do in the morning that I couldn’t even think about taking a lunch break until 2 p.m. On a few of those occasions, I then had very little to do for the rest of the day. I’m hoping things will be a little more evenly spread in October…

Linking up with Kristen and Gretch, of course.

What have you been doing recently?

Making cards with stickers (and stencils)

Recently Kezzie wrote about some easy cards she had made using stickers.
It just so happens that there are a lot of Post Pals birthdays in October – too many for me to cross stitch a card for all of them – so I, too, have been making cards using stickers… and stencils. Here are the few that I actually remembered to take a photo of. Apologies for the blurriness of some photos – I think my camera is officially dying.

unicorn card

 

football card

 

Happy birthday

 

lion-fox card

If you’re wondering where the stencils come in the “Happy Birthday” on the unicorn card (including the frame around it) was a stencil (that card is also the only one that doesn’t include any stickers) and on Harrison’s card both the banner and the speech bubbles were drawn using a stencil and then cut out.

My favourite of these is Samuel’s – I especially love the 3D letter stickers. The one I’m least sure about is the football one.

Do you make cards using stickers? Any tips for me? And what do you think of these ones?

If you would like to send a birthday card to a sick child, go here and scroll through the list to see which pals have birthdays coming up. And to make life just a little easier for you, here are two links: Rida and Harrison both have birthdays on 8th October – plenty of time for you to choose and send a card!

Friday fun

It’s Friday again and I’ve apparently been MIA since last Friday. Sorry about that. Partly I’ve been busy, but if I’m honest mostly I just couldn’t be bothered to sort out the photos for the post I’ve been planning to write. I’m off work next week though, so hopefully I’ll find lots of time for my blog then.

In the meantime, here’s a tag thing that’s been going around Facebook. I didn’t do it there because that’s not my style, but my blog readers are fair game for such annoyance 😉

On Facebook it says “Can you fill this out without lying”, which is just silly. Why would I feel the need to lie?

1. What was the last thing you put in your mouth?
Tomato and Marscapone soup. Sadly not home-made, but it came from the fridge section so that’s at least healthier than a tin, right? (Actually, the technically correct answer is probably a spoon, but whatever.)

2. Where was profile picture taken?
My Gravatar picture (which is what you see when I respond to your comments) is from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

3. Worst pain you‘ve felt?
Probably when I had my wisdom teeth out.

4. Favourite place you‘ve travelled to?
New Zealand or Taiwan.

Taiwan
Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan

5. How late did you stay up last night?
10 pm. Not very rock and roll but I had work today.

6. If you could move somewhere else, where would it be?
I like it here and I don’t want to move again for a while, so pass.

7. Ever been kissed under fireworks?
Only every New Year since Jan and I got together 😉

8. Which of your Facebook friends blog readers live closest to you? (Yeah, I altered that one)
Probably Our Girl in Zurich. (She’s awesome – go say hi).

9. When was the last time you cried?
Not sure.

10. Who took your profile pic?
Jan.

11. Who was the last person you took a picture with?
You mean had my picture taken with? Also Jan. Before that my mam and my brother.

12. What’s your favourite season?
Late summer/ early autumn. I know that’s not a real season, but I like it when it’s not tooo hot but it’s also not dark/cold/rainy/miserable yet.

Basel-autumn
Basel in autumn

 

13. If you could have any career, what would it be?
I always wanted to be a writer but my writing just isn’t that good, so translating someone else’s words is the next best thing.

14. Can you go a day without TV?
I went without a TV for 5 years, so I would say so. Even now it’s rarely me that switches the TV on…

15. You have the remote. What are you watching?
Pointless or Come Dine With Me. The latter is more likely to actually be on since they show about six of them in a row.

16. Does pineapple belong on a pizza?
Absolutely not!

17. Was yesterday better than today?
Yesterday was Thursday, today is Friday. That alone gives today the edge. Other than that they were about the same though.

18.How do you feel about Dr Pepper?
I have no particular feelings about it, but I think the last time I drank it I was about 14!

19. What are you doing right now?
Seriously? I’m on question 19 or 20… what do you think I’m doing? Obviously answering the stupidest question ever!

20. Who do you think will play along?
Nobody – it’s really not that interesting.

Okay, that’s it – I need to get back to work. Happy weekend everyone.

Christmas cards for the first day of autumn

Yes, you read that correctly! I bet at least one of you is now sitting there thinking “But it’s September”… and believe me I muttered those exact words at the display of Lebkuchen and other Christmas treats that have somehow snuck their way into the supermarket in the past week. But if you saw the length of my Christmas card list you would understand why I say when it comes to crafting it’s just different, okay? Anyway, I recently received some new wooden buttons I had ordered and I was desperate to try them out!

Of course, I don’t really have to pester my poor readers with thoughts of the festive season when autumn has only just begun, but I haven’t posted for an entire week and I can’t think of anything else to day, so Christmas cards it is. If you don’t like it, you should have looked away by now 😉 For the rest of you, here are some of the fruits of my labours.

let it snow card

 

Christmas button card

As well as being the first day of autumn, apparently in Switzerland today is the day of the apple. I know this because the local supermarket was giving away apples to celebrate. Free fruit? I’ll take it!

Happy first day of autumn, happy apple day and, most importantly, happy Friday everyone! Have a great weekend.

Friday letters

There’s nothing quite like the disappointment of feeling like it’s Friday only to remember that, actually, you still have another entire day to go before the weekend. Repeat every 2-3 hours and you have my day yesterday. But now, finally, it really is Friday. Hurrah! How about some letters?

Friday letters

Dear godson. So, you’re a big 5 years old already! Glad you liked your present (I gave you a marble run because I secretly want one for myself).

Dear weather. Umm, you know it’s supposed to be late summer, right? You’ll have plenty of time for your cold and wind and rain over the next few months so could you at least try to let us down gently please?

Dear rainbow I saw last night. You were beautiful – the biggest (width-wise) and brightest I have ever seen. It’s just a shame you had already disappeared by the time I ran inside and grabbed my camera.

Dear Christmas cross stitch. (Yes, I used the C-word. In September.). I really need to get a move on if I’m going to get all my cards finished in time! It’s less than three months until my sister’s wedding, and I’m hoping to take all the family cards with me when I go to England for that…

Dear scales. Well, at least the number you’re showing my now is back to my previous highest-ever weight from before the holiday completely threw everything out the window. You seem to have stalled again now though. Let’s see some downward movement next week, okay?

That’s all folks. Much love to all who are reading. Have a great weekend.

The books I read in August 2017

It’s the first Tuesday of the month again, and that means it’s time for Show Us Your Books. In August, I read six books (or really read five and finished a sixth) – four of which were for the bonus Erin‘s reading challenge. I am listing the challenge books first in the order I read them, followed by the the two books I read that weren’t part of the challenge.

show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (358 pages, read for the “published in 2017 category). So, the basic idea is that five students walk into detention, but only four walk out. The fifth dies and the other four are all under suspicion of murdering him. I loved this book so, so much. All the characters had something to hide and in the beginning not all of them were likeable (particularly Addy who was basically a puppet with no mind of her own!), but by halfway through I liked them all and didn’t want any of them to be the murderer! I actually guessed who did it before the end, but with so many twists and turns I doubted myself and changed my mind several times. I kept going back to the same theory though and in the end I turned out to be right… sort of. I didn’t guess the entire story. My only small issue with the book was that the ending came too suddenly. It would have been nice to see the why explored a bit more. After everything that went on I feel like the ending should maybe have been a bit darker. Oh, and Nate, the bad guy, drug dealer, was kind of a cliché. Despite those few issues I gave it 5 stars. Such a fun read!

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes (217 pages, read for the “banned/challenged books category). Olive is a girl who died in an accident. Martha was in her class at school. The synopsis says there were “eerie connections” between the girls and they “share a secret”. Given that, I was expecting something much more dramatic, but the connections are tenuous at best. One of them is Olive always wanted to go to the ocean, Martha goes every year. Wow, so eerie! I’ve always wanted to go to Japan.. do any of my readers go regularly? Wow, such an eerie connection between us! And the “secret” wasn’t much of one at all – maybe I read too many heavy books so when something tame comes along I don’t expect it? Anyway, overall this is a quick little read, the baby sister is cute and Martha’s relationship with her grandmother is sweet and touching, but honestly the best description I can think of is “nice”. Pleasant enough to read but basically forgettable. 3 stars and zero idea why it was challenged!

Gracefully Grayson Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky (256 pages, read for the “yellow cover” category. Photo as evidence). For as long as Grayson can remember, he’s been keeping a secret: he’s trapped in the wrong body – inside, “he” is a girl. Telling anyone would mean, rejection, ridicule or even worse. Then “he” tries out for a female part in the school play… This book is totally adorable! I just wanted to give Grayson a big hug and tell him everything was going to be okay. Parts of the book felt a bit repetitive and in places it seemed almost too simple/lacking in detail, but maybe that’s just because of the target audience. But basically it’s a quick and lovely read. 4 stars.

The Posionwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (526 pages, read for my freebie book). I had zero idea what this book was going to be about when I read it. I chose it because a) it’s on the BBC Big Read list and b) it had previously been chosen for the challenge. It turns out to be the story of an evangelical Baptist family who go on a mission to the Congo in 1959, their time there and the aftermath, told from the perspective of the minister’s four daughters and his wife. Some parts of this book dragged and I wanted to skip them. Other parts were fascinating. I really liked the different points of view and different attitudes to colonialism, westernisation, religious missions, etc. It’s a looong read but overall worth it. 4 stars.

And that was my four books for Erin’s challenge. Here are the other two books I read.

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake. I had started this in July then when I had to go into the office, I forgot to put a challenge book in my bag so this was all I had to read. This was another one that was fantastic in places but dragged in others. I actually slightly preferred the first book in the series – Titus Groan. There wasn’t enough Fuchsia on this one! But especially towards the end I got sucked in and didn’t want to stop reading. 4 stars. I don’t think I will bother with part 3 though – this is the one that’s on the BBC Big Read list.

One by Sarah Crossan. This one has a yellow cover, so if anyone is doing Erin’s challenge and still needs something to fill that category I can recommend. This is the story of Tippi and Grace, co-joined twins. It’s written in verse, which I hadn’t realised when I bought it and at first it was a bit off-putting. The style actually turned out to be perfect for this story though. It’s a gorgeous book: emotional, affecting, moving and somehow just beautiful. (So many adjectives!) I would have liked to hear from Tippi as well – the story felt a bit one-sided with only the one twin’s point of view – but overall it was a really good book. I think having co-joined twins as the main characters is probably unique in YA literature and I thought Sarah Crossan did a good job of handling the topic sensitively. To me, it read like she had really done her research. Another 4 star read, but a very different 4 stars to the last two. Probably more like 4.5. Not perfect but I 100% recommend.

And that makes six. Have you read anything good recently?

Linking up with Jana and Steph, of course.