The books I read in November 2017

I am a day late for the Show Us Your Books link up! I should have been back on Monday night, leaving plenty of time yesterday to do laundry and write a blog post, but instead we only arrived home at 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon… 24 hours after leaving my dad’s house in Northumberland! It’s a good job I had taken yesterday off work as well…

Anyway, today I am talking about the books I read in November plus three that I read in October that weren’t included last time because Goodreads wasn’t showing me them! Interestingly, all of them are either children’s or YA…

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October first:

Dear Whiskers by Ann Whitehead Nagda. This is a charming little book about a school class who has to write letters to children in a younger class pretending to be a mouse who lives in the younger child’s desk. Everyone but Jenny receives a response, then when Jenny does get one it turns out her pen-friend has just arrived from another country and doesn’t speak English. It would be great for helping children understand how lonely it is to move to a new country where you don’t speak the language – a valuable lesson in today’s world! 4 stars.

Mein Leben, mal eben by Nikola Huppertz. My vague translation of the title would be “It’s just my life”, although that doesn’t rhyme nicely like the German. This is a YA book written in the form of a journal. While trying to install a game on her computer (unnamed, but clearly meant to be The Sims), Anouk starts typing. She starts by writing a list of all the things she’s going to do differently in the new school year so that she will finally be “normal” and fit in – including listening to pop music, wearing the right clothes and playing computer games. Unfortunately it’s difficult to be normal when you have two mothers and a father (friend of the mothers who donated his sperm but is also still in Anouk’s life) in a rock band! In the end, Anouk makes a new friend and realises that she’s fine as she is. An amusing book that made me feel glad I don’t have to relive my teens! 4 stars.

The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross. I watched the TV series of this for a while in the 90s so I decided to finally actually read the book. It’s well-written and the premise is extremely creepy, but I’m not sure what children today would think of it. Somehow it seemed a bit dated although I can’t point to anything specific that seemed to place in the 80s, when it was written (other than a lack of mobile phones). Also, something that never struck me when I was watching it on TV is that the boys seem surprisingly normal despite everything. They keep saying they’re scared, but nobody seems as terrified as they SHOULD have been in that situation. I obviously didn’t notice as a child though (or the TV series was different) so I’m sure it’s fine for the target audience. Anyway, it was an enjoyable enough little book and nice for some nostalgia. 3 stars.

And now for what I actually read in November:

Purple Class and the Skellington by Sean Taylor. A collection of short stories about a primary school class. A lot of the things in it were familiar to me from my own childhood – wet break time, sitting on the carpet for playtime and there were even rumours that my primary school was haunted (in our case, it was a staircase that people didn’t like to go down alone). This would be a great book for children in primary school who want to read a realistic book about children like them. I think 6 to 9 year olds would find purple class’s antics funny. 3 stars.

Roar, Bull, Roar by Andrew Fusek Peters. The story of a Czech family who have come to live in England for a while. The book is told from the perspective of the children, a brother and sister. Some of the local children bully them and the girl can’t understand why they have such a problem with people who are different. It all comes right in the end when the children solve a “mystery” and a nasty person gets him comeuppance. This book would be a nice way to show children that “foreigners” aren’t so different even if they do speak another language and eat different foods. I liked that there were smatterings of Czech throughout and a glossary at the end to explain them (complete with pronunciation). 4 stars.

Just Call Me Spaghetti-Hoop Boy by Lara Williamson. I absolutely loved this! Adam Butters is adopted – a fact that he’s always known. When his class is assigned a project to make a family tree, he decides he wants to find out about his birth mother – after all, he already knows his adopted family! At the same time, he notices that his mum seems down, so he decides to become a superhero to cheer her up – “everyone loves superheroes, they solve problems and make people happy“. I really felt for Adam. He’s such a lovely, genuine character who tries desperately to do the right thing – even if he isn’t sure what that thing is. The ending is really heart-warming and I love the letter Adam writes to his friend. An adorable book that I definitely recommend. 5 stars.

And that was it for November. I spent most of my time reading Magician but I still haven’t finished it so the review will have to wait until January! With time off for Christmas I will hopefully finish this month… I also started reading The Naming of the Shrew, but didn’t finish until December so that will be in next month’s round up.

Have you read anything good recently? Check out the link up if you want even more recommendations! This was the last regular Show Us Your Books for 2017, but there will be a special edition on Boxing Day (that’s 26th December to non-Brits!) for people to discuss their favourite reads of the year.

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Worst possible timing

Kezzie posted the other day about how colds always show up at the wrong time – in her case it was losing her voice just when she needs it to sing. For me, it’s a horrible sneezy cold just when I a) have to fly (and I don’t want to be that person on the plane!) and b) am being a bridesmaid for my sister on Saturday. I also have to go into the office in Germany tomorrow (for the final time this year), which means waking up way too early to catch a train. Bleurgh. Currently I am wrapping up warm, dosing myself up with Lemsip, consuming as many hot drinks as I can and tonight’s dinner will be soup. If anyone has any other tips for a fast cure please send them my way (unless your tip is echichnea – or however you spell it – since I have no idea where I would even look for that here!). This cold has precisely two days to do one!

This post is brought to you by Rudolph’s less famous red-nosed relation!

Book challenge by Erin 8.0 – preliminary list

As you can tell, I ever did get round to writing a photo an hour post. I’ve just been sooo busy lately. So busy that even though Erin announced the categories for book challenge 8.0 on Friday I’m only just getting round to posting my preliminary list now. Shocking!

As I’ve mentioned, this is preliminary and thus subject to change. I have a few options from some categories and will decide which one to actually read based on what I feel like at the time. I’ve tried to pick books I already own, but for two categories I actually didn’t have anything so I will need to buy books for those ones…

5 points: Freebie (any book with 200+ pages). We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh has been on my shelf for too long! Although I may need to actually try and read something from the BBC Big Read, so this one might change.

10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “L”. Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas. I’ve been wanting to read this one for months! (I also have two other unread books that start with L, but I’ll stick with this one for now).

10 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) red cover. Scarlet and Ivy: The Lost Twin by Sophie Cleverly seems to be the only red book on my shelves that interests me right now.

15 points: Read a book with a character’s name in the title. A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson. I don’t remember why I bought this, but it’s there and it fits the category.

20 points: Read a book from this list: https://bookriot.com/2017/04/11/100-books-with-plot-twists/ I have read some of these books, and somehow do not own any of the rest! So I’ve chosen Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

20 points: Read a book with the words “house” or “home” in the title. The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester was a birthday gift from Jan’s sister last year! It’s about time I read it!

25 points: Read a book by an author whose first and last name begins with the same letter. I checked my shelves, and I have two options here. After the Fear by Roseanne Rivers or All the Things We Didn’t Say by Sara Shepard. We’ll see which I feel like reading when the time comes.

30 points: Read a book that was originally published in a different language than your own. It feels a bit like showing off, but I plan to actually read a book in German for this. Either Die Holunderschwestern by Teresa Simon or Das Mohnblütenjahr by Corina Bomann.

30 points: Read a book where most of the action takes place on a form of transportation i.e. bus, boat, car, plane, etc. Heh, I chose this category! I plan to read Mosquitoland by David Arnold, which takes place on a Greyhound bus.

35 points: Read a book with a character that suffers from a debilitating physical illness. This was the second category that I didn’t already own a book for (actually, I own two but they would be re-reads. For anyone else taking part, I highly recommend The State of Me by Nasim Marie Jafry, which features a main character with M.E). I want to read The Thing About Georgie by Lisa Graff, but I’m not sure whether dwarfism is “debilitating”. Just in case, I have Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern as a backup – cerebral palsy definitely counts!

That’s all the categories this time. Have you read anything here? Have I made good choices? Let me know if you’re joining in and I’ll come and check out your list!

Friday letters

I took part in Friday letters last Saturday and I’ve been meaning to write up my blog post on it all week, but I’ve just been far too busy. So for now you’ll have to make do with Friday letters. Maybe I’ll get round to photo and hour over the weekend… although we have a visitor coming next weekend and I’m in Germany from Thursday afternoon to Friday evening, so this weekend will be my only opportunity to get the flat into a shape that I’m not ashamed of letting people see. Hmm. Anyway, here are some letters for you.

Friday letters

Dear customers. While I am glad not to be sitting around doing nothing, I would appreciate it if you could distribute your languages a little more evenly so everything doesn’t end up on my desk…

Dear books. Despite last week’s message to myself, you appear to have multiplied again. I wonder how that happened…?

Dear flat. How do you actually even get into such a state anyway? I mean, I get that I’m lazy but the speed at which you get messed up seems excessive!

Dear Christmas markets. Soo, you’re here again. Yay! Unfortunately I don’t going to get a chance to visit any of you this weekend with all the cleaning I have to do… Oh well, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow anyway.

Dear weekend. Even though I am probably going to be spend half of you cleaning, I am so glad you’re here! Now if only you were longer than a measly two days…

Right, that’s all from me. I’m waiting for a phone call then I have to go to the post box, buy some bread and start making tea. All in an evening’s work…

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

Friday letters

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you are all well? It has got cold here recently, which gives me the perfect excuse to drink lots of hot chocolate. Except maybe not because my sister’s wedding is three weeks tomorrow and I have a bridesmaid dress to fit into? Dilemmas! Also, I have agreed to work for part of the weekend because apparently I am insane?! (It’s the only way we could actually accept this particular job and we really need to not be turning down jobs right now!). Anyway, let’s get on with some letters shall we?

Friday letters

Dear Christmas. You are creeping up too fast and I can’t think of gifts for half the people I have to buy for. Aargh!

Dear boyfriend. Thank you for not complaining about me being even worse than usual at keeping up with housework because I’m too busy making Christmas cards!

Dear birds. I’m pleased to see you seem to be enjoying your new food. We’ll keep putting it out as long as you keep coming to visit!

birds
Three little dickie birds sitting on a wall…

Dear self. You really need to stop buying new books before you’ve read the ones that are already sitting on the bookcase. For the sake of your bank balance if nothing else!

Dear magpies. Could you please stop flying around singly? I’m ready for some joy please!

Dear sun. It was nice to see you when I went out to buy lunch. Think you can come back tomorrow when it’s the weeeeekend?

Okay, that’s it. Lunch break over – gotta get back to work. Have a fabulous weekend everyone!

More Christmas cards

I recently showed you some Christmas cards I had been making using patterned Duck tape. But those aren’t the only ones I’ve made. I’m waaay behind with my cross-stitched cards for family, but the pile of cards made using washi tape, stencils, stamps, buttons and a lot of stickers is growing in a very pleasing manner. Here is a selection of them for your perusal:

I haven’t magically got any better at taking photos of cards, but at least the sun decided to show its face and make my job a little easier! (“Take them in front of a window in daylight,” they said. But what is this daylight of which they speak?!)

 


My favourites are the button tree and the one with the gingerbread house (even though my attempt at writing is awful!).

What do you think? Would you like to receive any of these cards?

The books I read in October 2017

It’s that time of month again where I link up with Jana and Steph to tell you all about what I read in the previous month, in this case October 2017. I completed Erin’s book challenge 7.0 and also read three other books. As in previous months, challenge books are listed first.

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman (592 pages, read for the category “A book with a non-human main character”). I found this book hard to get into at first, and lots of times I actually managed to put it down after finishing a chapter, just like I had promised myself, but by the end I was invested. The storytelling is amazing! I was rooting for Shadow all the way and it was really interesting finding out where he came from along with him. Wednesday was a difficult character to like, but I think maybe that was the point? Honestly, I preferred Neverwhere, but I couldn’t bring myself to give this one less than 5 Goodreads stars. Probably I would give it 5 and a half, but they won’t let me!

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire (495 pages, read for the category “A book with a cardinal/compass direction in the title”). Lots of Goodreads reviewers seem to have hated this book. Maybe I’m too easily pleased, but I really enjoyed it. I liked Elphaba and thought it was interesting to read about her childhood and get an explanation for why she was green. It was nice to see her treated as a human being and not just some caricature of evil. I also liked that, in this book at least, she wasn’t really wicked. Towards the end she started to go crazy, but most of the time she was trying to do the right thing, in her own way. It’s not a perfect book and there are things that I would have liked more explanation of, but for the most part I enjoyed reading it and in my world that counts for a lot. 4 stars.

And, with that, I completed the bonus round of Erin’s challenge. Woo!
I probably would never have actually read the Wicked book if it hadn’t been for needing a new previously chosen book for my final category (I changed it from East of Eden because there was just no way I was going to be reading that in the final weeks of the challenge!),  so that was nice. Of all the books I read for the challenge this time, I think my favourite was Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief. And now I’m looking forward to the next challenge… categories to be announced in December. I’m so excited!

Now for the other books I read in October.

Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo. This book had been sitting on my bookcase for over a year and I have no idea why I hadn’t read it before! I absolutely loved the Snow Spider trilogy by this author when I was a child (I must have read it at least 20 times), which is part of the reason I bought this one, but somehow I never got round to reading it? I finally picked it up when I needed something nice and quick that wouldn’t task my brain too much. And I LOVED it! The one thing that slightly annoyed me is that, despite being the main character, Charlie didn’t seem to do anything much. His name is in the title, yet it seemed like other people were constantly making all the decisions, doing all the dangerous things and generally saving his backside. And two of those people didn’t even have any special powers/gifts! His friends are awesome though, so I can’t really complain too much about them having a large role. I just hope Charlie gets more proactive in book 2! Oh, and lots of the reviews called these books a rip-off of Harry Potter… just because it’s set in England, involves children with special powers and involves a school doesn’t automatically make it a Harry Potter rip-off! The school isn’t even for magic as such – it’s a school for the gifted (musicians, artists, etc.) that also takes people with “magical” gifts. Anyway, I gave it 4 stars.

The Wrong Train by Jeremy de Quidt. I really liked this, probably because the stories reminded me of the type of ghost stories we used to tell each other as children (the babysitter and the heavy-breathing phone calls anyone?). I liked that it’s short stories, but with an overarching storyline tying them all together (basically a boy gets on the wrong train and while he’s waiting for the right one, on a dark, creepy platform, an old man starts telling him scary stories). Most of the stories were the perfect blend of “is this all in the protagonist’s head or could it, just maybe, be real?”, but the final one was a bit weird and silly and, in my opinion, let the whole collection down. This would be a great book for teens who like to creep themselves out… way better than the Point Horror books I adored at that age! 4 stars (without the final story it would have been 5).

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. This is a weird little book. It’s well written and very clever, but I didn’t find it particularly spooky – more confusing. Was any of it really happening or was the narrator just mad? Maybe that was the whole point? Maybe I’m just too stupid to understand? 3 stars.

And those were all the books I finished in October. I then started reading Magician, which has eleventy billion pages (okay, 841). Maybe I’ll finish it it time to include it in my reviews for November… or maybe it will have to appear in the January’s “Show Us Your Books”. We’ll see. I’m enjoying it so far anyway, but I can only read it at bedtime because it’s too big to take on the train!

That’s it from me. Read anything good recently? Check out the link up if you want to fill your to-read list with even more lovely, lovely books.