Book Challenge by Erin 6.0: Preliminary list

What, another book challenge…. is I’m sure what my readers are thinking. Especially those who aren’t interested in my book posts. Sorry, but they’re not going to stop any time soon!

Erin’s next book challenge starts on 1 January and she’s asked us to try and get our preliminary lists up by 15 December. I don’t want my (full) real name being associated with my blog on Facebook, so my list is going here instead. The image below links to the Facebook group (I hope!). If you want to join in you can track your progress there, on your blog or on Goodreads (there’s a group). Erin is the most accommodating host ever!

bookchallengebyerin6-0

So, the basic rules: All books must be at least 200 pages. Only one re-read allowed. Only books read between 1 January and 30 April 2017 count. Most important: HAVE FUN!

Now the categories and my (tentative) choices.

5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages.
TBD based on what I cannot resist reading the second I get my hands on it during the challenge time frame.

10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “W”.
Without a Trace by Lesley Pearse because it’s been sitting on my bookshelf for I don’t even know how long waiting for me to read it.

10 points: Read a book with six words in the title.
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez because it’s on the BBC Big Read list.

15 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) green cover.
I looked at all the books on my shelves that I haven’t read yet and would you believe not a single one had a green(ish) cover? So this one is TBD until I find a green book.

20 points: Read a book with a homonym in the title (inspired by the book Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin that I read last challenge with a character who is obsessed with homonyms.) Only ONE word in the title needs to be a homonym. Helpful link: https://www.cooper.com/alan/homonym_list.html
The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas. Homonym = by (bye/buy). Yes, it’s that simple!

20 points: (Submitted by Linda) Read a book by your favourite author.
I love how this one assumes I have one favourite author! Really? Just one? Umm, nope! That said, I am choosing a book by an author whose books I really, really love. The Trespasser by Tana French.

25 points: (Submitted by Christina) Read a book set in the city/town/state/territory/county/province where you live.
Umm, does anyone know of any book that’s set in Basel? Other than a small part of The Night Circus? Didn’t think so! I will either have to find one of the local crime novels that are so popular in the German-speaking world or take Erin up on her kind offer to use a book that’s set near where I’m from in England, in which case I will read Broken Silence by Danielle Ramsay. It’s set in Whitley Bay, which I think is close enough to Northumberland, and I already own it having bought it precisely because it’s set in Whitley Bay…

30 points: (Submitted by Peggy) Read a “Rory Gilmore” book. The character of Rory from the Gilmore Girls was shown reading over 300 different books throughout the series. Choose one of them from this helpful link: https://www.buzzfeed.com/…/all-339-books-referenced-in-gilm…

I am currently very tentatively saying Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, but it’s long so please forgive me if I later change my mind Erin!

• 30 points: (Submitted by Stef Read a book from a genre that you’ve never read (or rarely read.)
The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat is a war story and I hate war stories! If I can’t bring myself to read that one for the challenge, I also have Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, which is a science fiction/space travel novel. Also not my favourite genre… unless Douglas Adams is involved. So we’ll see which of those books I can force myself to read😉

35 points: (Submitted by Ferne) Read a book with time travel. Helpful link: https://www.goodreads.com/…/4018.The_Best_Time_Travel_Books…

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill. I was considering this one for the homonyms category (our/hour), but then I read the synopsis and remembered that it mentions travelling back in time, so it’s going in this one.

So, that will be my reading for the start of next year… providing I can manage to resist the lure of some of them until then (The Trespasser and The Secret by the Lake, I’m, looking at you!)

Will you be taking part in the challenge?

Chocolate Christmas biscuits

Since this first December weekend was a rare one in which we had no plans, I decided it was time for some Christmas baking. After all, it is the month of all the sweet treats! I used Nigella’s recipe for Chocolate Christmas Biscuits, but I added in some cinnamon and vanilla along with the cocoa powder because I don’t see how just sticking some sprinkles on top magically makes a biscuit Christmassy! You can’t really taste the cinnamon, but I know it’s there and that’s what counts😉

Here are some of the biscuits fresh from the oven:

Instead of making cocoa powder/icing sugar/water icing, I decided to melt white chocolate for the decoration. My initial plan was to make some of the biscuits look like Christmas puddings and just put some white chocolate in the middle of the others and then decorate with sparkly things, but I quickly got bored of that and started drawing random patterns with white chocolate. When you bear in mind that I did all my drawing with a teaspoon I think they came out okay!

Apart from the Christmas puddings, I think the Christmas trees are my favourite!

Have you done any Christmas baking yet this year? What’s your favourite Christmas biscuit (I still have 3 more types of biscuits to bake for my 35 before 35… give me ideas!)

Friday letters (it’s all about Christmas)

Hello! How is everyone doing? Christmas plans coming along okay? I feel like now December has hit it’s all I can think about! Will I get my cards made and set in time? What will I get that final difficult person for Christmas? Should I bake biscuits this weekend? Question upon question…

Anyway, some letters are in order, I think.

Letters

Dear sunshine. How lovely to see you! Do you think you could maybe stick around for the weekend as well?

Dear Christmas gifts. I finally only have one more of you to get, then everyone I need to buy for is sorted. Next step: wrapping.

Dear Christmas markets. Thank you for making the dark, cold days so much more bearable! (Let’s not talk about what we’re going to do when it’s still cold and grey in January yet, okay?)

Dear Lebkuchen. Now it’s December, I think it’s about time I started eating you. Tis the season (to stuff our faces) after all😉

Dear 2017. I see you lurking! You’d better be planning good things for me😉

Happy weekend, dear readers! I hope you all have a good one.

Recent doings #12

Can you believe it’s December today? December!! How did that happen?! It’s also a Thursday, which means it’s time for another round of “What’s New With You?” with Kristen and Gretch.

So what did I get up to in November?

Reading. Well, obviously I already told you about everything I read for the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge, but I feel that I should mention here that Darkly Dreaming Dexter was my 75th book of the year, meaning I achieved my Goodreads goal for 2016 on 20th November! I also read The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson since it’s on the BBC Big Read list.

Looking at. Art… So. Much. Art. Our friend came for a weekend because he wanted to see an exhibition at the Fondation Bayerle and then the next day we went to Basel’s art museum. All very cultural, but so much walking! (The art museum is huge!).

Hosting. The aforementioned friend, of course, then this past weekend my mum, brother and two friends of my mum. It was fun showing more people around Basel.

Visiting. The autumn fair at the beginning of the month and then the Christmas market with my mum, etc.

Drinking. Glühwein… or mulled wine for the English speakers among you. ‘Tis the season, after all!

Cross stitching. Do I even need to say it? Christmas card pictures, obviously. Plus a teapot card.

Making. Christmas cards! Although I’m still stitching, I’ve also  started to put some of the actual cards together now. Here… have a picture of the first card I completed, weeks before the rest, because it had to go all the way to New Zealand together with a gift for my cousin who is 4 on 12th December:

robin-card

Buying: Mooore Christmas presents. I think I’m done now though. Also a few books (but much fewer than usual).

Planning. New Year! We are in England for Christmas, so we decided to pick a New Year’s destination in the UK and settled on Glasgow. Our fabulous friend K (who has been mentioned on the blog before) will be joining us so we’ve been planning accommodation and where to spend Hogmanay. K was brought up in Glasgow so she’ll be taking us to all the best places to eat!

Arranging. My trip home for Christmas. I guess this is kind of also planning, but whatever… I booked a flight and made tentative arrangements to meet up with a friend.

Seeing. The musical West Side Story. The tickets were my birthday present, but the show wasn’t until November! It wasn’t as good as some musicals I’ve been to (the acting wasn’t brilliant) but it was still enjoyable.

I can’t think of anything else that I did in November, so I’ll leave this here. Linking up Kristen and Gretch, as always.

What have you been doing recently?

Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Book Challenge: month 1

I’m hardly likely to read four whole books by the end of today, so I might as well get my check-in post out there today and use tomorrow for Kristen‘s link up🙂

I changed some of my books from my original ideas (and of course some categories were still blank when I made my preliminary list), so here’s what I ended up reading in November:

winter-reading

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 150 pages long.

Saturday Requiem by Nicci French. I could not resist reading this book the minute it arrived, which is how it ended up being my freebie for this challenge. I adore these books, and this one was an excellent installment. I definitely did not guess who the killer was! The ending made me desperately wish the next book would come out right now (although I’m also sad because Sunday will presumably be the last in the series). 5 stars.

10 points: Read a 2016 finalist (longlist or shortlist) for one of the following literary prizes: National Book Award, Man Booker or Man Booker International.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon was a 2016 National Book Award finalist in the Young People’s Literature category. I loved everything about this book! The characters… the style of writing. Admittedly the love story was little far-fetched, but it kind of had to be to work, and it didn’t spoil my enjoyment in any way. 5 stars.

10 points: Read a brand-new release (something published between November 1, 2016, and January 31, 2017).

Before You Leap by Keith Houghton was published on 1 November 2016! The synopsis sounded good, all the ingredients were there for it to be good, but it just… wasn’t. The plot managed to hold my attention well enough, but I didn’t really like the narrator and the style of writing didn’t do it for me. 2 stars.

15 points: Read a book by an author of a different race or religion than you.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker, who is African-American. I’ve been putting off reading this book and I have no idea why because it’s excellent! I was genuinely hooked from the very first page. 5 stars.

15 points: Read a book featuring a main character who is of a different race or religion than you.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. The main character/narrator is half native American (and half Caucasian, but obviously looks different enough to be referred to as “Chief”).  Another one that I had been putting off but ended up loving. The casual racism and misogyny is disturbing, but I just saw it as a product of the book’s time so it didn’t put me off in the same way it would in a modern book. And the writing is superb! 5 stars.

25 points: Read a book with an alcoholic beverage (neat or cocktail) in the title.

I read Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee for the simple reason that I already owned it. Somehow, this book even managed to make me feel nostalgic for the years of Laurie Lee’s childhood, despite the fact that even my parents weren’t born yet! The ending was just really annoying though – I know it’s only part 1 of an autobiographical series, but come on! It just… ends with no explanation. I gave this one 3 stars.

40 points: Read two books: one by an author whose first name is the same as the last name of the author of the other book.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay and Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager.

I wanted to read Hour of the Bees so I went looking for an author with the last name “Lindsay” and Darkly Dreaming Dexter was the first one to appear. I had heard the TV series Dexter (which is based on this series of books was good), so I decided to give this a try. Unfortunately, I thought the book was just okay. It wasn’t as thrilling as I was expecting and in parts it felt more like it was written from the perspective of a child than a murderer/sociopath (maybe sociopaths do think like children? I don’t know, but either way it grated!). 3 stars for this one, and I won’t be reading the rest of the series.

Hour of the Bees, on the other hand, is adorable. Beautifully written, magical, touching, sad in places and I loved the main character! My only (minor) gripe is that it’s supposed to be for children but I suspect it will appeal more to adults (like me!) who read children’s books. I can imagine it being a bit boring for pre-teens based on the subjects my friends liked to read about when I was aged 10/11. 4 stars.

So that’s 8 books in 7 categories and a total of 120 points.
4 books, 3 categories and 80 points to go! I think should be able to complete the challenge by Christmas!

Have you read anything good this month?

 

A good idea…

Over the past few months, I have taken part in two separate tea exchanges through the International Geek Girl Pen Pal Club (If you’re not sure what the IGGPPC is, read this post). Although, when I say “exchange” what I actually mean is I sent out tea twice and only actually received any from my second partner… but anyway, I digress.

Obviously I couldn’t just stick some tea in an envelope with a brief note and call it a day, so the cross stitch threads came out. Here’s what I came up with:

The first one I designed myself (if you can even use the word “design” for something that’s mostly text), the second was adapted from a book.

Tea and cross stitch… two of my favourite things!

And in case you were wondering, for the exchange where I actually got something back I received a green energy tea and a Greek senna tea, both of which I’m yet to try.

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival 2016

Ludwigsburg Kürbisfest 2016

Wow, I have actually reached October in my travel posts, which means I’m almost caught up with #Take12Trips, Take 2.

This year, we went to the pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg again. A Finnish friend we have made in Basel (who from now on shall be referred to as The Finn) plus two friends from Karlsruhe also joined us.

As you may have guessed from the picture above, the theme this year was “circus”, or rather “The Pumpkin Circus is Coming to Town”. Apparently, that was mostly interpreted as clowns (if you don’t like clowns you may want to look away now…)

Even those who don’t mind clowns have to admit the last one is creepy. A clown throwing knives? Who came up with that?

There were a few other things as well:

This little group is called the Hubbard Family (because they’re carved using hubbard pumpkins). Personally I like to think of them as the Dumpty family because they remind me of Humpty Dumpty ! (I know he’s usually pictured as an egg and was actually probably a cannon). They’re the work of American artist Ray Villafane and the Hubbard family was featured in Ludwigsburg for the 4th time in a row in 2016 (although I don’t remember seeing them last year).

Here are some more photos from around the festival:

This year I ate pumpkin Maultaschen in pumpkin soup, orange and hokkaido ice cream and pumpkin strudel. All were delicious!

While wandering around, we spotted a bird. A survey of my Facebook friends came to the conclusion that it’s a common buzzard:

Once we’d seen everything at the actual festival, we had a wander round the fairytale garden then went looking for the aviary. There weren’t many birds around – I’m sure there were more when I went there before? It was raining on and off all day though, so maybe they were all hiding somewhere dry?

Of course, before heading home we hit the shop and bought a few pumpkin varieties that aren’t available in supermarkets plus some pumpkin seed pesto.

Despite the rain, it was a fun day out (although I thought last year’s “flight” theme had some more interesting interpretations for the sculptures!).

The festival has finished for this year since I’ve taken so long to write my post, but if you’re in the Stuttgart area definitely look out for it next September/October. This year’s festival took place from 2 September-6 November and next year’s will probably be roughly the same.

This was my October trip for Take 12 Trips 2016.