What I read in October 2019

Hello my lovelies. It’s book review day again, and can you believe it’s the tenth one of the year? Crazy! Also, last month’s link up was the fifth anniversary of Show Us Your Books and I totally forgot to congratulate Jana and Steph. I am a terrible person, but I hope they know I think they rock. Anyway… on to what I read in October. It wasn’t as much as in other months. I actually only have nine books for you this time round, which I know is still quite a lot, but for me it’s not many at all. Too much crafting and Buffy the Vampire Slayer taking up my time! But you’re hear to read about books, so I’ll get on with it shall I…

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

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson. Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have been inseparable ever since Mila moved to Cross Creek. There’s not much to do in their small town, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley’s favourite activity: amateur witchcraft. When Riley and two mean girls from their high school die in suspicious circumstances within a short time of each other, Mila refuses to believe her friend was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient spell book, Mila decides to bring Riley back from the dead and uncover the truth. Unfortunately, she also ends up bringing back the other two girls, and none of them can remember what happened before they died. With only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again. This was such a fun read and the perfect start to October. There’s lots of wit and sarcasm, and I loved the friendship the girls built up. The cast is also extremely diverse. The mystery kept me guessing and I was surprised by who the culprit was – lots of people found it predictable though, so maybe I’m just dumb 😉 It definitely requires a LOT of suspension of belief, lots of absurd things happening. But I kind if liked the silliness of it. It’s not quite a 4 star read, but I rounded it up to 4 on Goodreads.

Friend Request by Laura Marshall. When Louise receives a message saying Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook, she’s confused to say the least. Maria Weston has been dead for 27 years… hasn’t she? The message brings back long-buried memories of Louise’s school days, when she almost became friends with new girl Maria, until one decision made everything go horribly wrong. Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. But as she is forced to reconnect with everyone she’d severed ties with and piece together what happened, Louise discovers that there’s more to the story than she ever knew. I really liked this. It does take it’s time to finally tell you what Louise did but I felt like it mostly built up the tension well. I did not guess what was happening at all and the ending totally shocked me. My theory was way off base – although I suspected most people at one point or another! 3.5 stars.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Volume 1: The Crucible by Robert Aguirre. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, high school student and young sorceress Sabrina Spellman must choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family’s past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda. This is a graphic novel comprising the first five issues of the ongoing comic book series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which I believe are related to the Netflix series. It’s hard for me to rate this because I don’t really read graphic novels. I feel like it was over too fast and I didn’t have a chance to get to know the characters. Sabrina is supposed to be the main character but the story spent so much time in the past or with other random people that it didn’t really feel like it. I liked Madame Satan – she’s wonderfully creepy and just plain bad. I want to keep reading because this one ended on a cliffhanger and I won’t to know what happens, but in general I don’t think graphic novels are going to be something I start picking up regularly. 3 stars.

The Au Pair by Emma Rous. Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs. Now an adult, Seraphine is mourning the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph taken on the day the twins were born. It shows their mother, together with her husband and her young son – the twins’ brother – smiling serenely, and holding just one baby. Her brother has a vague memory that his au pair, Laura, took the photo – right before she fled back to London. Seraphine is determined to find her and learn exactly what happened that day and who the baby in the photograph is. This is a fast-paced read and I liked it fine, but I didn’t love it. I really didn’t like Seraphine. She jumped to conclusions constantly and was just generally really annoying. There’s one point where her brothers say they didn’t tell her something when she was younger because they knew how she’d react and I found myself agreeing with them – she definitely would have overreacted, lashed out and generally been a pain. I much preferred the chapters from Laura’s point of view, although the “twist” in her tale was fairly obvious to me, I just wasn’t sure precisely how it came out. The ending is so elaborate that it all seems incredibly far-fetched. This is billed as a “thriller” but it’s really not that thrilling. And the tag-line “Would you let a complete stranger into your home?” is incredibly misleading – there’s no “evil” au pair in this one! 3 stars.

Vox by Christina Dalcher. Like every other woman in the United States, Jean McClellan spends her time in almost complete silence, limited to just one hundred words a day. Any more, and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins. A new government is in power and almost overnight, bank accounts have been frozen, passports taken away and seventy million women have lost their jobs. Even more terrifyingly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write. Then suddenly Jean’s skills are needed, giving her a temporary reprieve. She is determined to regain her voice – for herself, for her daughter and for every woman silenced. I’m not sure how to review this book. I thought I was going to love it, and I did love certain aspects. The beginning was terrifying and felt like something that could really happen, but other parts were just confusing and most of the characters lacked depth. Even though the book is told from Jean’s perspective, I feel as though I don’t really know her, and I know even less about her husband. The storyline with Steven, her teenage son, are scary and show exactly how teenagers/children are indoctrinated in dictatorships – those parts were really well done. However, the ending felt rushed and incomplete. Possibly setting up for a sequel? I did like it and parts of it will stick with me but overall it just wasn’t what I was expecting. 3.25 stars.

The Drowning Pool by Syd Moore. After relocating to a coastal town, widowed teacher Sarah Grey is slowly rebuilding her life, along with her young son Alfie. After she and her friends accidentally hold a séance one drunken night, strange things start to happen and Sarah is convinced she is being haunted by her namesake, a 19th Century local witch. Delving into local folklore, she learns that the witch was thought to have been evil incarnate. When a series of old letters surface, Sarah discovers that nothing and no-one is as it seems, maybe not even the ghost of Sarah Grey… This is billed as a “modern ghost story” but it’s more of a whodunnit/mystery surrounding a crime that happened in the past with a bit of haunting thrown in. There are a few creepy scenes, but the way it’s written is more chicklit than horror (not that there’s anything wrong with chicklit, it just wasn’t what I was expecting!). There’s also an awful lot of the protagonist getting drunk – at one point she wasn’t sure whether she’d drank 2 or 3 bottles of wine while home alone, and she also talks about being on antidepressants… was she really being haunted or hallucinating from the effects of mixing alcohol with medication every single night? Overall it was an interesting story, but not all that gripping. I especially enjoyed the parts about the original Sarah Grey – modern-day Sarah Grey was slightly too annoying! 3.5 stars

The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor. One night, Joe’s sister Annie went missing. There were searches, appeals. Everyone thought the worst. But then after 48 hours she came back. But when she did, she wasn’t the same. In fact, sometimes Joe found himself scared to death of his little sister. Now a grown man, Joe receives a message: “It’s starting again”. Needing to get out of town anyway, he returns to the small town of Arnhill in Nottinghamshire where he grew up to start a job teaching English at the school. But not everybody is happy to see him back. I am torn on how to rate this book. The writing is good. It’s very dark, a bit creepy. The author captures the atmosphere of a former mining town very well (I spent my teen years in one, and in fact the house my dad lives in was originally miners’ flats). The main character is not likeable, but I don’t think he’s supposed to be. Actually, nobody in that town seemed to be likeable. Anyway, I was enjoying it and then it go to the twist/reveal/explanation and… it’s a blatant rip-off of a very popular book, which I will not name because even if you haven’t read it as soon as I mention the title you’ll know what the explanation is as well. I get that most things have been done before, new takes on old stories, new twists, etc. But this was a little *too* close to that other book. I quite liked The Chalk Man and I really think this author could write an amazing book in the future, she just needs to make it a little less obvious where she gets her inspiration from! 3 stars.

Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson. When Moomintroll learns that a comet is coming, het sets off with his friend Sniff to consult the professors at the top of the Lonely Mountains. They have many adventures and meet new friends along the way, but the greatest adventure of all awaits them when they learn that the comet is headed straight for their beloved Moominvalley. Surely Momminmama will know what to do, if only they can get back in time to warn her. This is charming and delightful. I had only read Finn Family Moomintroll before, so it was nice to learn how the Moomins met some of the other characters in this one. I think we can all learn a lot from the Moomins about how to treat each other and the important things in life. It gets confusing sometimes with the weird names of the creatures and lack of explanations (you’re just expected to know what Hemulens are for example – maybe it was explained in the first book?), but overall I liked it. It reminds me of simpler times. 4 stars.

They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire. Every year, the lives of ten junior girls at Vienna High are transformed. All because of “the list”. All Kenzie wants is to get through high school and earn a scholarship to her dream college so she can get away from her overprotective mother, who has been smothering her ever since Kenzie’s older brother died the year before.  But when she’s voted number five on a list of the prettiest girls in school, her average life becomes dazzling. She’s invited to parties, makes new friends, and the cutest jock in school is after her. This is the power of the list. If you’re on it, your life changes. But this year, the girls on the list are dying one by one. Kenzie is determined to find out what’s going on before it’s too late… This is entertaining and fast paced. I mostly enjoyed reading it (even while rolling my eyes at most of the characters). I didn’t guess the reveal mostly because it’s so absurd that nobody’s mind would go there. There’s suspension of belief and then there’s just entirely implausible. I wouldn’t necessarily say don’t read it, but be prepared to roll your eyes a lot – at the plot and at the sheer sexism of it all. Hottie list? Really? 3.25 stars.

And that was all I read in October. A couple of decent ones, nothing turly terrible, but nothing absolutely outstanding either, sadly.

TL;DR. This is usually where I give a brief overview of which books I recommend, but I’m not sure what to tell you this month. Everyone should read Vox for certain aspects – particularly for a chilling look at home indoctrination happens in schools – but don’t go in expecting an outstanding new addition to the dystopian genre. If you like witchy YA and  aren’t likely to roll your eyes out of your head when things get absurd then I recommend Undead Girl Gang as a fun, silly read. Graphic novels aren’t my favourite, but if you’re a big fan and like creepy things you should definitely read Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.Finally, the Moomins books are very cute and nostalgic, but I would recommend starting with book 1.

Don’t forget to check out the link up for more book reviews. (And admire Jana’s new puppy while you’re there!)

October 2019 recap

Hello friends. October is over and we are already just short of a week into November, leaving us with less than two months left of the year… and of the decade. Eeek! Is anyone else so not ready? I feel like I need to do something amazing before the end of the year to make up for wasting the entire rest of the 2010s, but obviously that’s not going to happen. Anyway, that’s not what today’s post is about. Today I’m here to link up with Kristen for What’s New With You. (Go check out her blog – she’s awesome!).

whats new with you

Remembering

That’s a weird heading for this section but it’s the best I can think of so we’ll go with it. If you saw my September recap, you will know that 3rd October was exactly one year since we lost our boys. I was off work that day because my employer is actually in Germany and it’s their national holiday. Most of the day was spent with my great aunt and great uncle, who were visiting their son just across the border in Germany. After showing them all around Basel (we walked a lot) and dropping them off back at the train station, I stopped by the cemetery on the way home. Then on the Saturday Jan and I went up there together. It was the first time Jan had been since their the boys’ had been added to the site… I wanted to say “plaque” but it’s not a plaque, it’s like a concrete strip with the names carved into it and a little star. I would show you but we don’t want their names to be broadcast publicly (Jan doesn’t even want them on Facebook, where only my friends list would be able to see them). After the cemetery we walked into town and went for a hot chocolate, which seemed appropriate considering that’s exactly what we did the day we buried their ashes (which was actually a year ago today). I would have liked to be pregnant again before the anniversary, but alas that was not to be. Maybe we’ll get there before next October. That would be nice. I’m not getting any younger here!

Travel/days out

Jan was busy on almost every weekend in October, but he had a free Saturday in the middle of the month so we decided to go out for the afternoon. After a quick search of the Internet, I came up with the Verenaschlucht (Verena Gorge) in canton Solothurn. Jan got a car and we drove there and parked near the start. We walked through the gorge to the Verena Hermitage and then followed the megalith path to get back to the car. It wasn’t a long walk – maybe an hour in total – but given we hadn’t left the house until 2 p.m. it couldn’t really have been much longer.

 

Reading

October wasn’t my best reading month. I took part in Spookathon but only ended up reading 3 and a half out of my five choices. The three I did read can be matched to all the prompts though so I technically completed it, and I finished reading book 4 the following week when I had to go into the office. But for most of the month I was reading It by Stephen King (which I’m nowhere near finished) or not reading at all because I was distracted by crafting.

Watching

Our Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch continues. We watch an episode most nights after Jan finishes work. I can actually cross stitch while watching, which is useful because I now need to get serious about my Christmas card making.

Craft stuff

I finished making Halloween cards for Post Pals – 14 were completed in September so in October I made 26. I then got started on Christmas – I’ve done the stitching for six so far and I’ve also sorted a few handmade, non-cross-stitched cards that will be sent out to Post Pals families come December. The cross stitched ones are mainly for my family and friends. Post Pals are also holding a craft auction in December to raise money to send the families of sick children (and some who have sadly lost their children) on a glamping adventure at Chessington – you can read all about it here. So I’ve been making Christmas ornaments for that and they will also be getting some cross-stitched cards – I’ve stitched two birthday themed designs for them already. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Quite possibly! At least having some time off work gave me the chance to get a few things done. Here’s an autumn card I stitched at the beginning of October that I really like.

autumn card

Concerts

Jan had performances with two of his choirs in October, and I obviously attended both. The first one was okay but not really my type of thing. The second one was at the Tinguely Museum – coolest venue ever – and I really enjoyed it. They were performing in front of one of the exhibits – here’s a photo I took before the concert started.

Tinguely

After both concerts I got to go out to eat with the members of the choir, which is always nice.

Purchases

I realised I didn’t have any waterproof shoes (other than winter boots and hiking shoes), so, with autumn being the season for rain, rain, and more rain I obviously had to buy some. Luckily I managed to think of it before the current downpour days and I am very pleased with them. Please excuse the teddy bear socks on the photos below 😉

 

I also collected tokens from Coop to buy a Kitchen Aid blender… or technically to make Jan buy it 😉 We got it for pretty much half price, which I think is a good deal. It’s not like I spent more than usual to get the tokens – it was all weekly food shopping that would have been done anyway. We have used it several times to make smoothies so I feel like it’s already justified itself.

Finally, I bought this liquid lipstick thingy (it’s in a lip gloss style tube but looks more like lipstick once it’s on). It’s very autumn and I absolutely love it! It’s actually a bit more coppery than it looks on the photo below but hopefully you get the idea.

me

Miscellaneous/general life stuff

Work was pretty busy again in October, for me at least. Both my colleagues had time off at the beginning of the month – part of which overlapped so I was the only English translator for about a week. I had the final week of the month off – or technically final 4 days since the Friday was 1st November – and I feel like it was well earned. The week before that I literally had 20 translations that had to be completed. Not an exaggeration. Four of them I had actually translated previously so I only had to check my proofreader’s revisions and get the final files ready, but that left 16 that I both translated and entered corrections for in that week. Needless to say, I was relieved when I finally set my out of office message and logged off on the Friday!

I had plans to do many things during my time off, but that entire week was a washout. I don’t mind rain, but this was the pouring down without a break and if you venture out for even a few minutes you will be soaked kind. On the 30th, I went for a walk along the stream so I could take my annual autumn photos. I was out for around 25 minutes or half an hour and had to change my clothes when I got home! The next day was at least slightly more friendly… as in there was enough of a break between rain showers for me to take a bag of books to one of the free bookcases in town without them all turning to pulp before I got them there, so I at least managed part of my decluttering goal. There are still some books in the giant carrier bag because there were way too many for my to carry in one go!

I also had a doctor’s appointment during that week to discuss where we go now that our fourth embryo transfer has failed. It was decided that I will have another hysteroscopy. That will be in December and I am not looking forward to it even a little bit (last time was not fun!). But if there’s any chance it will help then I have to do it. That means we won’t be able to try again until January, so with that my chances of being a mother before my next birthday are out the window.

Oh, the autumn fair also started in Basel last week. I didn’t get a chance to go properly (pouring down, remember?) but while I was out getting rid of books I managed to grab a few photos.

 

That’s all I’ve got for you. I took two weeks off work, but since the second of those weeks (i.e. now) is in November you’ll have to wait for my next monthly recap to read about them. In the meantime, go check out the link up and welcome Kristen back to more regular blogging. She has been very much missed in the blogosphere!

Autumn walk 2019

Every year since we moved to Basel I’ve gone for a walk at the end of October and taken photos of the autumn colours. The second year, it was pure coincidence that I took the photos on almost the same date, but since then I’ve done it on purpose…. what can I say, I like the direct comparison. This year I had to overcome a certain amount of reluctance to leave the house since it’s been raining for days*, but I gave myself a stern talking to (along the lines of “it’s only water” and “skin’s waterproof”), put on my raincoat and got out there.

(* I hope everyone who’s been wishing for this weather since mid-August is currently out stomping in puddles and singing in the rain… I would like to think that somebody is enjoying the fact that my time off work has been a complete washout so far!)

Anyway, enough rambling – here are this year’s (rather soggy) photos.

This year the trees are all either already bare or still green, with the occasional splash of yellow or brown here and there. None of the vivid reds and oranges I found in previous years. Also, apologies for any blurry spots on these photos – my lens got wet!

And now here’s the comparison of the same date on all five years (sadly not all the exact same stretch of path, but you get the idea).

The 2017 and 2019 photos are in basically the same place, so that’s nice. There’s definitely more green in the background this time! Hopefully next year I’ll be able to get out there again and continue the experiment.

Book suggestions for Believathon

Following on from my previous post in which I told you what I’m reading for Believathon, I thought I would give you some suggestions for books you could read just in case you’re thinking “Wow, I would love to join in but some of those prompts are hard!” (Well, it’s possible). Or maybe you’re just looking for children’s book recommendations in general, either for you or a child in your life.
Instead of listing the prompts again and providing a suggestion for each, I thought I would give you a list of fifteen books (because I couldn’t stick with just ten!) and then say which Believathon prompts they would fit. Some work for several, some only for one or two. I’ve tried to include a few that might not be on your radar, and I’ve underlined the prompts in case you just want to skip straight to that without reading my ramblings. Enjoy!

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. I loved this book as a child! It would definitely have been a contender for my childhood favourite pick if my copy wasn’t in England. It’s about three sisters who are adopted by an eccentric explorer, who then disappeared leaving them in the care of his niece, Sylvia. They end up taking ballet lessons and, as the money Great Uncle Matthew left begins to run out, take to the stage to help their family. This one would work for the real life issues prompt (being orphaned, poverty), a book that’s set in the past and a children’s classic.

The Final Journey by Gudrun Pauswang. Goodreads lists this as Young Adult, but I read it years ago (in the original German) for a course on National Socialism in children’s literature so I’m saying it’s a children’s book. Alice is eleven years old, and it is wartime. She is taken from her home and forced onto a train with no seats and no windows. Her parents and grandmother have disappeared and she doesn’t know where she’s going. Alice is Jewish and it transpires that the train is headed to Auschwitz. This book made me cry and cry! It works for real life issues (umm, Auschwitz, war, deportation… do I really need to go on?) and a book set in the past.

The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann. Another one I loved as a child. When bulldozers enter Farthing Wood, the animals must escape before their homes are destroyed. They promise to stick together and protect each other—but then they get caught in a fire and nearly drown crossing a river. Will their pact hold? This one would count for a book with an animal character, a book with a strong sense of friendship (okay, they’re animals but the author does give a sense of “friendship” between certain groups) and a book with real life issues (environment/destruction of animal habitats). I’m also pretty sure it counts as a classic.

Frogkisser by Garth Nix. When her evil step-step-father (a magician) decides to take over the kingdom, Princess Anya is forced to Anya go on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land. This one works for a book with magic, an animal character (talking dogs, among others), strong sense of friendship (Anya makes friends on her quest and is also has a loyal friend in the palace dog who accompanies her) and a book featuring a myth or legend (there are several, the Princess and the Frog being the most obvious, but there is also an allusion to Robin Hood plus there are seven dwarves and a “Snow White” who is not what you think).

Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer. I mentioned in my previous post that I would definitely have chosen this as my childhood favourite re-read if I could, but my copy is missing. I adored this book as a child. It features a girl named Charlotte who starts boarding school, where the kind girl who is showing her around suggests she take the nicest bed since she was the first to arrive. The next day, Charlotte wakes up next to a girl called Emily who claims she’s her sister and insists on calling Charlotte “Claire”. It’s also wartime. Obviously she thinks it’s a dream until she wakes up the next day, back with her original dorm mates, and discovers she’s missed an entire day. This carries on with her switching times each night until she ends up stuck in the past. Will she ever make it back to her own time? This would work for a book set in the past (both when Charlotte travels back and also Gavin said books set at the time they were written would count for this, so Charlotte’s “present” is 1969!). I think a bed that makes you time travel would also count for a hint of magic 😉 And Charlotte and Emily eventually build up a friendship while pretending to be sisters so I would count it for that too. There are also real life issues: war, rationing, starting boarding school for the first time and missing your family. The picture above is of the “Vintage Children’s Classics” edition, so based on that I think it’s okay to consider it a classic, too.

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn. Twelve-year-old Molly and her ten-year-old brother, Michael, have never liked their seven-year-old stepsister, Heather. Now their parents have moved them all to the country to live in a converted church, with a cemetery in the backyard. If that’s not bad enough, Heather starts talking to a ghost named Helen and warning Molly and Michael that Helen is coming for them. Molly is convinced Heather is in danger. Obvious this book would be perfect for the spooky or atmospheric prompt. It’s also set in the past (published 1986 and presumably set then too) and has real life issues – parents remarrying and blended families not getting along.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. This is based on the true story of Ivan. a gorilla who was kept in a shopping mall for 27 years, before eventually being transferred to a zoo. Told from the perspective of Ivan, it tells of how a new baby elephant, taken from the wild, comes to the mall, forcing Ivan to see his life through new eyes. This obviously works for a book with an animal character, but also real life issues (animal rights) and a strong friendship (Ivan is good friends with an elephant named Stella). The real Ivan was given to a zoo in 1994 so presumably that’s also when this book is set, meaning it works for the past prompt as well.

The Bubble Boy by Stewart Foster. Eleven-year-old Joe lives in a hospital – his condition makes it impossible for him to go out and even the few visitors he’s allowed risk bringing in life-threatening germs. If you liked Wonder, I would recommend giving this one a go. This obviously works for real life issues (in addition to being ill, Joe is an orphan with his older sister his only relative) and Joe is also friends with a boy who has a similar condition, so the strong sense of friendship is there, too.

The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo. Another book I considered for my childhood favourite. Gwyn’s birthdays have always been sad occasions since his older sister Bethan disappeared five years ago. But this year was different. Time to find out if you are a magician!, said his grandmother, as she gave him five strange birthday gifts. A piece of seaweed, a yellow scarf, a tin whistle, a twisted metal brooch and a small broken horse. Gwyn gave the brooch to the wind and, in return, there came a tiny silver spider, Arianwen. The snow spider. This is set in winter, so it’s a seasonal book. It also features magic and real-life issues (missing sister/grief and Gwyn has a strained relationship with his dad).

Scarlet and Ivy: The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly. When troublesome Scarlet mysteriously disappears from Rookwood School, terrifying Miss Fox invites her quiet twin sister Ivy to “take her place”. When she arrives, she discovers the school actually want her to pretend to be Scarlet. But where is her twin and what secret things are going on at Rockwood? I would count this one as a spooky or atmospheric book (the boarding school is creepy). It’s also set in the past (1911, I think) and there is a great friendship between Ivy and a girl named Ariadne. I also recommend the rest of the series.

A Girl Called Owl by Amy Wilson. When Owl starts seeing strange frost patterns on her skin she wonders whether her strange new powers are related to the mysterious father she has never known and who her mother refuses to talk about. This is a seasonal book (it’s set in winter), has magic, features a strong friendship and also deals with real life issues (absent father and Owl’s best friend, Mallory, is also going through some family problems). There’s also a legend in there (but I won’t tell you which one) so that’s 5 out of 10 prompts covered!

The Dragon With the Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis. This book is about a dragon named Aventurine who encounters a magician and is given chocolate, which transforms her into a human girl. It’s a fun tale and features a wonderful friendship – first prompt for you right there. The others it covers are magic and, since Gavin said legendary creatures count for the myth/legend prompt also that one –  dragons are legendary, no?

Carbonel: The King of Cats by Barbara Sleigh. This is an older book (published in 1974) but I think it’s worth reading. Despite being slightly old-fashioned, it’s surprisingly modern with a heroine who is actually allowed to do things, even after her boy sidekick comes along. Rosemary plans to spend her summer holidays cleaning houses to earn some money, but then an old lady at the market talks her into buying a second-rate broom and a cat she can’t even afford to keep. The old lady turns out to be a witch and the cat, Carbonel, a prince. Soon Rosemary and her new friend John end up in an adventure to free Carbonel from a hideous spell. This book features friendship, magic, an animal character, is set in the past and there’s also a bit of real life in there – Rosemary wanted to earn money to help her mother because the family is struggling financially.

Gobbolino, the Witch’s Cat by Ursula Moray Williams. Another cat book. This one was written in 1942, but I read it in the 80s and loved it. Gobbolino is born a witch’s cat, but he would much rather be a kitchen cat and sit by the fire, catch mice and watch the baby. So while his sister, Sootica, is learning how to ride a broomstick, Gobbolino sets off in search of a kind family who isn’t too superstitious to take him in. This one has an animal character and magic. It’s been too long since I’ve read it for me to say whether it fits any other prompts.

Stitch Head by Guy Bass. In spooky Castle Grotteskew, the frightfully insane Professor Erasmus conducts his bizarre experiments on living things. His very first invention was a small, almost human-like creature named Stitch Head. But the professor has forgotten all about him now, so Stitch Head spends his days trying to stop the other creations from going wild in the nearby town. Then a travelling freak show comes to town and it’s up to Stitch Head and his new friends to stop the bad guy from taking his professor. This would work perfectly for the atmospheric/spooky prompt if you have a child who doesn’t really like scary stories – all the monsters in this one are actually quite nice. It also has friendship, is set in the past (or “yesteryear, according to the book)  and if you consider the Frankenstein/mad professor trope a myth or legend it could be used for that, too.

And that’s it. Even if you’re not planning to participate in Believathon, I hope you found something interesting here – whether for yourself or a child in your life. Have you read any of these and if so did you like them? Let’s chat in the comments!

My reading list for Believathon 2019

Throughout the month of November, a very special readathon is taking place, hosted by Gavin. You can find him on YouTube here and on Twitter here. Believathon, short for Believe in the Impossible Readathon, is an entire month of reading children’s books… or “middle grade” as they seem to be called these days. There are a total of ten prompts, but you can definitely use one book for multiple prompts. All Gavin is asking is that people try to read four books – one for each week in November. I, of course, am going to try for all ten prompts plus the group book (a total of 11 books) because I am nothing if not an overachiever. Here are the prompts and my choices.

Believathon

Read a book featuring magic. A few of the books on my list could count for this, but my choice for the prompt is The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnham. It features a girl who is accidently fed moonlight be a good witch. That certainly sounds magical to me!

Read a book featuring a myth of legend. A Tail of Camelot (Mice of the Round Table book 1) by Julie Leung. I don’t think I need to tell you which legend is featured ;-). This one sounds so much fun.

Read a book with real life issues. It took me some time to narrow this one down, but I finally decided on Ella on the Outside by Cath Howe. Ella is the new girl at school and she doesn’t know anyone, plus she is keeping a terrible secret. Then a popular girlbefriends her, but Ella is unsure of her real motivations. There’s something about a quiet girl called Molly, so I’m thinking bullying may be involved, plus whatever Ella’s secret is and the whole coping with being the new girl thing. Lots of real life issues going on.

Read a book set in the past. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly is set in 1899. That seems past enough 😉

Read a book with a strong sense of friendship. It’s always hard to tell whether there will be a strong friendship before you read the book, but I have been assured that The Trouble With Perfect by Helena Duggan fits for this prompt. This is a sequel and based on the friendship in the first book I was pretty sure it would work. I loved A Place Called Perfect so I’m excited to continue the series. (I was going to link to my review of the first book, but apparently I forgot to review it? I read it last year!).

Read an atmospheric or creepy book. I had about four potential books for this prompt, but I finally after much deliberation narrowed it down to Juniper Berry by M. P. Kozlowsky, mainly because I marked it as to-read on Goodreads in 2017! The front says “a tale of terror and temptation” and the blurb says Juniper knows something is weird about her parents and “one rainy night, in the shadowy and sinister woods behind their mansion, she discovers she’s right“. Shadowy and sinister? That sounds perfect for this prompt!

Read a seasonal book. The readathon is taking place in November so I went for the extremely literal with this prompt and chose Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson. Based on the number on the side, this appears to be the 8th book in the Moomins series! I’ve only ever read one, but I plan to read another one before November starts.

Read a book with an animal character. Again, I had a few options for this category, but I went with Podkin One-Ear by Kieran Larwood, which was a gift from my good friend Naomi a while ago (link to her blog, but I actually know her in real life). Podkin is an anthropomorphic rabbit and the synopsis says “Middle-earth for middle graders“. The cover makes me think of the Redwall books, which I loved when I was young.

Read a classic children’s story. These final two prompts were the hardest for me to narrow down, but for this one I finally  chose Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll because it’s been years since I read it. I read my sister’s copy when we were kids but I never actually owned it until my grandma bought it for Jan a couple of years ago (in the Collin’s Classics edition).

Re-read your personal childhood favourite. Of course, I didn’t have one single childhood favourite. I had various favourites at various ages, and whatever age I was I could never have named just one favourite book. So first I piled up all the childhood favourite books I actually have here (Charlotte Sometimes is missing otherwise I would definitely have chosen that!), then I had to narrow those ones down. I finally chose The Owl Service by Alan Garner. I loved this book and must have read it about 15 times between the ages of 10 and 13. Also, I had no idea it was originally published in 1967 – my copy is the 1992 reprint.

Finally, on top of all those prompts, I will be reading the group book: Frostheart by Jamie Littler. Of course, this book could itself fit some of the prompts – certainly the magic one, and missing parents is a real-life issue even if the setting is more fantasy.

Are you taking part in Believathon? I really think you should! Even if you just read one middle grade book in November, it will still count. For more information, follow @Believathon on Twitter or Gav’s YouTube channel (link in the first paragraph of this post).

 

Infertility means…*

*Disclaimer: this is entirely about me and my situation. Other people may not think the same way. Other people may have entirely different experiences. Whatever your journey has been like so far, I wish you all the best and sincerely hope you get your miracle soon.

Misty trees

… asking yourself if you’re sure you really want a second cup of black tea today. (I won’t even discuss coffee. The last time I had one was the end of August. At the time we were on an enforced break from IVF because I had to have a hysteroscopy before continuing).

… trying very hard to drink enough water because now staying hydrated is even more important than it is anyway, but hating having to pee in case you see blood.

… being willing to try all kinds  of random things that may or may not help. Eat an avocado every day? Why not, I like avocados. Brazil nuts after transfer? My new favourite snack! Wear socks to bed? Okay! Give up chocolate? Hmm, maybe not that one ;-).

… sitting in the waiting room at your clinic and being greeted by name every time another member of staff walks past.

… always hesitating/checking the before booking a flight somewhere or buying tickets for an event in another location because what if you need to be near the clinic that day for another ultrasound/blood draw/transfer

… constantly scouring the Internet for reassurance that you’re doing the right thing by paying out for another transfer.

… giving up any food that sounds even vaguely yummy every few weeks because this time it might have actually worked and you don’t want to end up feeling guilty because you ate sushi/soft cheese/pâté or took some medicine after a transfer.

… spending the last two weeks of every cycle feeling utterly, completely exhausted because of the progesterone you’re on (all the fun symptoms of early pregnancy but most likely without the actual pregnancy!)

… constantly being afraid that you’ve started spotting, then when you discover you actually have momentarily feeling relief that at least it’s over now and you can move on, before the devastation of what it actually means kicks in. (I am aware that spotting in IVF cycles doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but when it starts the day you would usually get your period Every. Single. Time. and doesn’t stop until you get the negative pregnancy and can stop progesterone it’s really pretty obvious what’s going on).

… not giving up hope. Not now, not any time soon. Putting up with all the early appointments, blood tests, needles and hormones because I still believe that someday, somehow, I will get to be a mother.

Bulgur and vegetable bake

I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, so let me tell you about what I made for dinner last night. It’s vegetarian, very easy, and delicious! The amounts below were enough for dinner for two of us plus leftovers for my lunch today. I have a lot of leftovers, so it could possible be stretched to 4 people. As always, I apologise for my terrible photos!

Bulgur bake

You will need:
1-2 garlic cloves (believe it or not, the photo below is a single clove)
Oil or butter for frying
125g bulgur
Seasoning/herbs/spices of your choice
1 avocado
1 yellow pepper
1 tin of kidney beans
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
100g cheese (I used Cheddar)
Handful of salted tortilla chips

Method:

1. Chop or crush the garlic, heat some oil or butter in a small pan and then fry the garlic in the butter for a few minutes.

garlic

2. Add the bulgur to the pan with the garlic and cook according to the packet instructions. Also add seasoning/spices at this point – I used dried chilli flakes, black pepper, cayenne pepper and oregano.

bulgur

3. While the bulgur cooks, chop your avocado and pepper.

pepper and avocado

4. Place the bulgur and garlic mix, pepper, avocado, kidney beans and tinned tomatoes in an oven proof dish and stir it all together.

kidney beans

5. Top with cheese then break up a handful of tortilla chips and scatter them over the top of the cheese.

unbaked bulgur bake

6. Bake for around 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the vegetables have had a chance to heat through, then serve. You could also add a dollop of sour cream on the side of your portion – I didn’t because I didn’t have any.

bulgur bake portion
Not very photogenic, but tastes delicious!

That’s it. Easy peasy. You could easily adapt it as well… use couscous or quinoa in place of the bulgur. Use different vegetables (chickpeas or different kinds of beans like haricot, black beans, whatever you want… courgette (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), sweetcorn). You could also add chicken or another meat (cook it first). It’s a really versatile dish!