Reasons to be grateful

These are trying times (especially given that, today, I called my fertility clinic to find that – as expected – they’re closed and all treatments are cancelled until the government lifts its restrictions, so who knows when I will be able to even try another embryo transfer), but I still have a lot to be thankful, so I thought I would make a list. This post is about things I am grateful to have in my personal life, so it won’t mention the “key workers” who are keeping society running – and I hope it goes without saying that I am grateful to the medical professionals/care workers who risk their lives every single day to help people in need (a shout out to my mum who is a nurse here – hi mam!). This post was inspired by Kezzie, who always manages to find reasons to be grateful even in the darkest times <3.

Bee

1. I am not in isolation alone. As much as I am fine with being alone – most of my hobbies are solitary – not seeing anybody at all for weeks on end would be too much even for me! I still don’t see a great deal of Jan – it seems like without a commute he works even longer hours – but at least I know he is here, albeit locked in the spare room on his computer most of the time 😉

2. I love my flat. There are definitely people out there who don’t like where they’re living and I can’t imagine being stuck there for the foreseeable future would be much fun!

3. We have a balcony! Obviously I would prefer a nice big garden, but our old flat in Germany didn’t even have a balcony! Even if I can’t properly go out I can at least get some fresh air.

4. My employer is being very transparent about what measures our company will be taking and there’s a plan in place to make sure nobody has to stop work entirely and we can hold out on full pay for as long as possible. We will be applying for “short-time work” from April but the hope is that our customers will rally sooner rather than later and things won’t end up being as bad as they seem. Also grateful that – as of right now – I have enough work to last me until the end of next week before I even need to start using my overtime. (And this is all I’m going to say about work because I don’t really like to talk about it here).

5. Spring is here! The days are lighter and warmer and even though I can’t see any flowers from my flat I know they’re out there. (And I can see the trees that are budding and growing new leaves – hard times are so much easier when it’s light outside and everything looks alive.)

6. Books. I am always grateful for books, but I’m even more grateful now that I enjoy reading and have plenty of unread books that have been waiting on the shelves for far too long.

7. Solitary hobbies. Cross stitch and card-making are things I can do without even leaving the house, so really I haven’t even lost anything. (Other than the ability to go for hikes before it gets too hot. And, of course, we had to cancel our holiday but this is supposed to be a positive post so enough about that.)

8. That we went to the UK for Christmas. If we hadn’t, I have no idea when I would have got to see any of my family again. Before Christmas, the last time I had seen my dad and grandma was very briefly in February 2019!

9. That we have so much technology for keeping in touch these days. My dad called me via WhatsApp the other day, the boss addressed us all via Skype today, my mum is in constant touch via WhatsApp, and people have even messaged me on Facebook… and of course I’m constantly in contact with blogging friends via Instagram, Twitter and – naturally – their actual blogs. I may not be able to physically see anybody, but honestly I’m probably in touch more now than I would be if I actually lived in the same country as my friends and family!

10. We have plenty of food and our local supermarkets (mostly) do too. When I’ve noticed something missing it has usually been available again the next time I went in – so last Friday I couldn’t get tinned tomatoes but yesterday I managed. (The only loo roll available yesterday was the scented kind but luckily we currently have plenty ;-)).

Okay, that’s it. ten seems like a good number. I hope you all have a good weekend despite everything!

Tell me something you’re grateful for in the comments.

A Photo An Hour: 21 March 2020

Hello friends! Saturday was the day of the Photo an Hour linkup and, thanks to social distancing, for once I wasn’t the only one spending the entire day inside 😉

Here’s what I got up to:

10 a.m. Kettle is boiling for the first cuppa of the day.

11 a.m. Tooooast! (Just noticed the state of my toaster. Yikes!)

12 noon. Finally starting this book that everyone has been raving about.

1 p.m. About time I got in the shower.

2 p.m. More tea! Jan is up now so I’m making two.

3 p.m. Can’t concentrate on my book while Jan has crap TV on so I’ve escaped to my craft room (otherwise known as the office). Making Easter cards for Post Pals.

4 p.m. Putting on some laundry.

5 p.m. Getting some reading in while Jan’s in the shower.

6 p.m. Cooking. Soup seemed like a good idea.

7 p.m. Drinking beer, watching the news.

8 p.m. Getting some exercise with a virtual reality game. (Please ignore the mess!)

9 p.m. Back in my PJs.

10 p.m. Watching some YouTube.

11 p.m. Time for bed.

How did you spend your weekend at home? (I hope you were at home – unless you work for a health service, supermarket or similar, in which case THANK YOU!).

Photo an Hour is hosted by Louisa and Jane. The next link-up is on 18th April. Will we be allowed out by then? Only time will tell.

Make cards not waste!

It seems like an odd time to be writing a “normal” post, but on the other hand I feel like a bit of normalcy and lightheartedness is something we all need right now. And with everyone stuck in doors it seems like the perfect time for a post about crafts. No need to leave the house to make cards!

When Jan’s choir has concerts, he often brings home advertising postcards that he’s supposed to leave in various places. Last year, after the concert, he had a big stack that he planned to throw away. I noticed that the image was an indistinguishable pink circle, so I asked if I could have them for crafting rather than wasting so much paper. Later in the year, he had another concert and I claimed the leftover postcards from that as well.

Here are the adverts in question (I removed the names of the choirs because some privacy has to be allowed!):

choir adverts

And some of the cards I made from them:

 

Of course, not everyone has a regular supply of advertising material with pretty backgrounds coming in, but there are plenty of other things you can recycle for cards. Take a look at these two Easter cards:

The blue egg with the flowers was made using the backing cardboard from a packet of stickers and the pretty patterned orange one is from a teabag box. (Random aside: Pukka teas have the prettiest boxes!).

So while we’re all stuck indoors, go forth, see what pretty packaging you can find in your house and make some cards! You can even post them if you’re out anyway, fetching groceries or medicine – I’m sure your family and friends will be very glad to receive some happy mail while we all try to stay safe, at home, away from our loved ones.

Happy crafting!

What I read in February 2020: part 2

Hello hello! I promised you the second half of my February reading re-cap today so here it is. I’m linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books of course.

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Malice by Keigo Higashino. Best-selling author is found brutally murdered in his home the night before he’s planning on leaving Japan for Canada. His body is found in a locked room in a locked house by his wife and his best friend, both of whom have seemingly rock solid alibis. Police Detective Kyochiro Haga immediately recognises the dead man’s best friend Osamu Nonoguchi as a colleague from years ago when they were both teachers. As Kaga investigates, he discovers that Nonoguchi’s relationship with the deceased was far from being as amiable as he claims. But in this tale of cat and mouse, the question Kaga has to answer isn’t necessarily who or how, but why? This is interesting. I don’t think I’ve read a mystery quite like it before. We find out relatively early on who the culprit was, with the rest of the book being dedicated to why. It ends up being almost a puzzle within a puzzle. The writing style is fairly simple and straightforward, almost irritatingly so at first although once I got into the story it didn’t bother me do much and I can’t say how much of that was down to the translator. 3.5 stars.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. This book is exactly what it says it is – a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the Princess Bride by the actor who played Westley. I found it fascinating and loved every page of it. 5 stars.

If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially now her senior year is about to start. She’s looking forward to spending lots of time with her friends and finishing off her college applications. And maybe she’ll even finally tell her best friend Sebastian that she’s been in love with him for years. But then one night she makes a simple mistake that has devastating consequences. Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow any more. Not when nothing is ever going to be the same again. Not when nobody, including Sebastian will ever be able to forgive her for what happened. For what she let happen. I found this kind of boring and cliché. As soon as I heard the prologue, I knew what the “decision” was going to be (and by the way, I hate it when prologues are literally just an extract from later in the book). The message is important and I loved the character of Sebastian, but Lena really annoyed me. The whole first half of the book is about how she’s “different” because she reads books and the fact that she reads must have been mentioned about 80 times… including descriptions of the book she’s reading (that makes her oh so quirky and different because even if other people do read, they’re reading other things). There were some parts I really enjoyed but ultimately this felt like something that’s been done before and done better. I don’t expect it to stick in my memory for long. I should add that I listened to this on Scribd and the person reading really annoyed me. She made Lena sound like this breathy, annoying teen which surely is the opposite of what was supposed to be implied? Regardless, 2.5 stars.

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson. Born in a Soweto shack in 1961, Nombeko Mayeki was destined for a short, hard life,. until she was run over by a drunken engineer and her luck changed. Alive, but blamed for the accident, she was made to work for the engineer – who happened to be in charge of a project vital to South Africa’s security. Nombeko was good at cleaning, but brilliant at understanding numbers. The drunken engineer wasn’t good at anything, except drinking, and so he made a mistake. A big one. And Nombeko is the only one who knows. Now she finds herself on the run from the world’s most ruthless secret service – with three Chinese sisters, twins who are officially one person and an elderly potato farmer. Oh, and the fate of the King of Sweden – and the world – rests on her shoulders. I don’t even know what to say about this book. It’s utterly bizarre. I enjoyed roughly the first half, but then it just got more and more ridiculous until I found myself wishing the author would get to the point already. The writing style is strangely reminiscent of a children’s book, which I actually didn’t mind. Three stars because I did like quite a bit of it, but I felt like it went on for far too long. Even when it seemed to be coming to a conclusion the author just had to keep adding more and more random details!

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald. When Abi receives a phone call in the middle of the night, she knows it can’t be good news. But she isn’t expecting to hear that her teenage daughter has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s also pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. Then Abi sees the bruises around Olivia’s wrist. When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, it’s up to Abi to try and find out what happened to her daughter. Was it really an accident? Or something more sinister? enjoyed this book. It’s very suspenseful and full of twists. More mystery/family drama than thriller but that’s okay. It’s marketed as an adult book but honestly it read like YA to me. But again, I’m okay with that. I did not guess what happened although in retrospect I probably should have. If you often guess the outcome of thrillers you may find this one too predictable. 3.5 stars.

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed. Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she doesn’t mind. She’s happy to go to school and work towards her dream of becoming a teacher one day. A spanner is thrown in the works when Amal’s mother falls ill after giving birth and Amal has to stay home to look after her siblings. But she still finds a way to learn anyway. Until she accidentally annoys the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, and is forced to work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt. Life at the opulent Khan estate ishard  for Amal – especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams. This is a powerful and thought-provoking book. Some of the characters felt a little flat but Amal and her sister are awesome (I loved the part where her sister brought lessons home and wanted to teach Amal so she didn’t have to miss out). Amal is so brave. I think this is an important topic for children to read about but parents or teachers should be ready to discuss it and answer any questions. I wouldn’t just leave them on their own with it. 4 stars.

The Land of Roar by Jenny McLachlan. When twins Arthur and Rose were little, they were heroes in the Land of Roar – an imaginary world that they found by climbing through the folding bed in their granddad’s attic, filled with dragons and mermaids, ninja wizards and adventure. As well as things that scared them… especially a very creepy scarecrow names Crowky. Now the twins are eleven, Roar is just a memory – especially for Rose who considers herself too old for games. But when they help Grandad clean out the attic, Arthur is horrified as Granddad is pulled into the folding bed and vanishes. Is he playing a joke? Or could Roar actually be real? It’s up to the twins to return to Roar one last time to save their granddad. I flew through this book in two hours so I must have liked it! The world is fantastic – so magical. It reminded me of Narnia crossed with Peter Pan. The pictures are also amazing. Crowky, the evil scarecrow/bird mixture looks genuinely creepy! I would *not* want to bump into him! However, I really did not like Rose. She was supposed to have turned into this horrid girl who just wanted to grow up and worried about what people thought of her, but it didn’t sound like she was a nice person when she still played with Arthur either. It is definitely enjoyable and I do want to read the sequel when it comes put but it’s just a little weaker than some of the excellent children’s books I’ve read over the past few months. 4 stars,

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks it will be an easy way to make some money – show up, answer a few questions and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking… and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly. For some reason I was under the impression that Jess and Dr. Shields knew who each other was from the start and were manipulating each other, but that’s actually not the case at all, so I’m not sure where I got that from. Anyway, the beginning of this was quite slow but from about the halfway mark I was hooked. Parts of it are genuinely creepy and I found myself actually afraid for Jess’s safety. Some parts are unrealistic and I wasn’t sure about the ending, but overall I enjoyed the ride. 3.5 stars.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell. Fifteen-year-old Ellie was her mother’s golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her. And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone. Now it’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter. And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet, making her think that maybe she can actually move on – at least until she spends the night at Floyd’s house and meets his nine-year-old-daughter. Poppy is precocious and pretty – and the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age. And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back. What happened to Ellie? Where did she go? This is very suspenseful and full of twists and turns. I guessed some of the twists but there were a few things I wasn’t expecting, and it didn’t matter anyway because the writing alone made me want to keep reading. The ending made me really emotional – poor Ellie (and Poppy too). 4 stars.

Poppy Mayberry, The Monday by Jennie K. Brown. Imagine if your teacher could read your mind just because she was born on a Thursday? Or the kid next to you in class could turn back the clock just because he was a ‘Wednesday’? In the town of Nova, all of this is normal. Poppy Mayberry is a Monday, which means she should be able to move things with her mind… but her Monday telekinesis still has some kinks, and that plate of spaghetti she’s passing may just end up on someone’s head. And if that wasn’t bad enough, practically perfect Ellie Preston is out to get her, and Principal Wible wants to send both of them to summer school – Poppy to work on her powers and Ellie to learn when not to use hers. It’s enough to make a girl want to disappear…if only she were a Friday! This book is so cute and fun! I love the idea of having powers based on the day of the week you were born on (although I was born on a Saturday so I wouldn’t get any powers in Nova. Boo!) I did guess where some of the story was going – there were enough hints throughout! – and it was obvious that Poppy and Ellie would end up being friends, but it was a really enjoyable read. I definitely want to read book 2 and see how things continue to develop. 4 stars.

And that’s it. Ten books here plus ten from part 1 makes 20 books read in February. Not bad for a short month. I also decided to give up on a book I started two years ago (!). Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clark is a book I started reading with the intention of seeing whether it was something my brother might like, but said brother is 13 now, I put this book down in April 2018 after 120 pages and I have no desire to pick it back up. I felt like it was trying too hard to be quirky and funny and nerdy and I just couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the characters. So off to the free bookcase it goes.

TL;DR. If you’re a fan of The Princess Bride definitely read As You Wish! Then She Was Gone is really well written but don’t go in expecting a traditional thriller. And I recommend all three middle grades: Amal Unbound, The Land of Roar and Poppy Mayberry, although none was a five star read for me. The rest are mostly fine – read them if you like the sound of them – except If There’s No Tomorrow. I don’t recommend that one.

Tell me what books you’ve been enjoying recently, and don’t forget to check out the link up if you haven’t already.

February 2020 recap

Hello friends. Post from me two days in a row? You lucky, lucky people! (Ha, I kid… obviously). I had to post today because it’s the first Thursday of the month and I need to link up with one of my favourite bloggers… the wonderful Kristen. She is awesome and you should really go over there and say hi.

Anyway, let’s talk about what I did last month, shall we?

whats new with you

Travel

Yes, we actually went places in February. Are you impressed? First, we went to Baden for an afternoon, which was the weekend after our anniversary so I called it our anniversary celebration (oh yeah… Jan and I have been together 16 years as of 5th February. We did not celebrate on the day though. Actually, Jan forgot that it was the 5th until I gave him a card/gift in the evening soo…). Baden is a spa town – the name means Bath – and we took towels, etc. thinking we might visit one of the thermal baths but that whole area of town was being renovated! We did get to out our feet in a hot pool near the river though. It’s a cute little town sandwiched between hills, with a great view of snow-capped mountains.

Then those of you that saw my photo an hour post will know we went to St Gallen for a weekend. We had been there before, when I was living in Austria, but I remembered absolutely nothing of what we saw that time and walking around the town nothing looked at all familiar so who knows what we even did that first time? We briefly saw the old town on the Saturday before it got dark, then on the Sunday we went for a walk up a hill (and saw more mountains in the distance) before visiting Rorschach, which is on Lake Constance. Sadly, after a beautiful day on the Saturday while we were mostly on the train, Sunday ended up being warm but clody. Oh well, you can’t have everything and it was nice to get away.

St GallenSt Gallen mountain view

Reading

I posted the first half of my reading round-up yesterday, so if you’re really interested you can have a look at that. Part 2 will be coming soon, but I can tell you know that there was quite a mixture – thrillers, non-fiction, children’s books. Wait and see 😉

Watching

We finished watching Good Omens and it was awesome. So well done! Which honestly was to be expected after the amount of effort Neil Gaiman put into it. Now I’m sad that it’s over. We also watched Edward Scissorhands because Jan randomly found it and I ended up waiting until it finished before going shopping. I don’t know if I watched anything else… Jan is always finding random things that I mostly ignore. If it’s a film I will sometimes watch, but now I can’t remember if they were in February or it was already March!

Craft stuff

I’ve been doing quite a bit of stitching again. Two birthday cards for friends’ children and a new baby card for a baby boy who is due in April – although so far it’s just the stitching, I haven’t made it into a card yet. I also made Valentine’s cards for a few Post Pals children because I had heart shaped cutting dies I wanted to try out. I only remembered to take a photo of one though!

Other/miscellaneous

– There’s not much else to say to be honest. At the beginning of the month I went to the doctor with acid reflux/heartburn and stomach pain. I was diagnosed with gastritis, most likely caused by stress and given proton pump inhibitors to take for 2 weeks. When I told Jan he said I didn’t have much stress… I’m very glad to hear that IVF and infertility are entirely unstressful for him! Needless to say he was soon put right 😉 I also pointed out that on top of the fact that failing to conceive is generally a source of stress (for people who aren’t him, at least!), I had two procedures involving my uterus in January, neither of which was pleasant (although I was admittedly anaesthetised for one of them). He conceded that okay, maybe trying to juggle constant doctor’s appointments around work without anyone getting suspicious, being on hormones for months at a time, etc. is possibly at least a little stressful! Phew, way too many brackets there. Anyway… I took the tablets and things seem to be better now, at least for the time being.

– Work was pretty slow for most of the month. I actually got a few large jobs in the last week of February that were just about enough to fill my time, but the other full-time English translator had very little to do. I honestly prefer being overworked to underworked… an empty plan makes me nervous! Hopefully things will pick up again.

– I’ve been pretty consistently using a eye cream that I got for Christmas and so far I haven’t noticed any difference… the lines are there, just as deep as ever. At least they’re not getting worse, I guess? If you’re reading this and you’re in your late twenties to early thirties, please start using cream under your eyes now. Trust me, you will thank me when you don’t wake up one day in your mid-30s and realise you look old!

– The decluttering continues. I put out another box of things with “free” written on it, including two candle holders that I never particularly liked. They were in there for ages after everything else had gone (although someone took the scented candles I had left inside them!) but eventually both the box and the candle holders disappeared… so now I’m not sure whether anyone actually took them to keep or just binned them, and I’ve also lost the box that I use to put things I want to give away outside. I checked afterwards and it wasn’t with all the paper that was waiting for collection (last Friday was paper day) so I don’t know where it is! Oh well, it’s not like I don’t have plenty of empty boxes.

Okay, this is beginning to get boring. You don’t want to know about my crow’s feet and attempts to rid myself of stuff! I thought I would have a lot to say this month but apparently I did less than I thought. Saw a little of Switzerland. Read a lot of books. A fairly standard month really.

What did you all get up to in February? Leave me a comment below and don’t forget to check out the link up!

What I read in February 2020: Part 1

Hello friends! Even though February was a short month, I managed to read a lot, so I am splitting my book round-up into two again. As you can tell, this is part 1. I will publish part 2 next week, on Show Us Your Books day and link both up with Steph and Jana. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

The Toymakers

Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver. Liesl lives all alone in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother, with only the shadows and mice for company. But then a ghost named Po and his pet, Bundle, appear from the darkness. That same evening, an alchemist’s apprentice named Will, accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable. That innocent mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey. I found this book randomly on Scribd and thought it sounded cute. I ended up really liking it. It’s a story about grief but it’s magical and adorable. I loved the characters – Bundle is my favourite ♡. There are some cliché elements and the good and bad characters are very much black and white, but nonetheless it’s an enjoyable and fast read. 3.5 stars.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn’t help it – Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn’t fit anywhere else. Then one day, after a silly argument, Jack stops talking to Hazel. Then he disappeared into the forest with a mysterious woman in white. Now it’s up to Hazel to go into the woods too and rescue him, because that’s what friends do – even if Jack doesn’t want to be friends any more. This is a retelling of The Snow Queen, but because of the title I kept thinking it should be Hansel and Gretel! Anyway, this is such a sad book. I felt really bad for Hazel, not fitting in and not being able to understand why (it’s because the rest of them are sheep and you are awesome!). Once Hazel entered the woods/other world, I loved all the references to other fairytales and stories, and how the author turned them on their heads and nothing was as it seemed. 4 stars.

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter… It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment. The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike: patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into the midst of this family business comes young Cathy Wray, a girl with a secret, running away from a shameful past. But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own… My friend gave me this book for Christmas 2018 and it took me way too long to get around to reading it. When I finally did, I was expecting something magical and wonderful and escapist. And the first half truly is . I felt so nostalgic for my own childhood. Then it gets darker… war comes and some people end up changed forever. The second half of the book absolutely devastated me. There is also a theme of sibling jealously running throughout, and I honestly may never forgive one character for what he did. Nonetheless, I 100% recommend. 5 stars.

Snowglobe by Amy Wilson. When daydreamer Clementine discovers a mysterious house standing in the middle of town that was never there before, she is pulled towards it by a powerful sense that it has something to do with the mother who left when she was very young. Inside, she finds the house full snowglobes, each containing a trapped magician, watched over by Gan, the bitter keeper of the house. Inside one of the globes is Dylan, a boy who teases her at school but now needs her help. So Clem ventures into the snowglobes, rescuing Dylan and discovering her own powerful connection to the magic of these thousand worlds. This is very magical and I loved the parts where Clem and Dylan were journeying through all the different snowglobes. Clementine’s relationship with her father is lovely. But Dylan’s story felt somewhat lacking, like it had been tacked on to provide a reason for Clem to enter the snowglobes in the first place. It’s still an enjoyable read, I just feel like more could have been made of it. 3.5 stars

Greenglass House by Kate Milford. It’s wintertime at Greenglass House. The creaky smuggler’s inn is always quiet during this season, and twelve-year-old Milo, the innkeepers’ adopted son, plans to spend his Christmas holidays relaxing. But on that first icy night, the guest bell rings. Then rings again, and again. Soon Milo’s home is full of mysterious guests each one bearing a strange story that is somehow connected to the rambling old house. As objects go missing and tempers flare, Milo and his new friend Meddy must untangle the clues and investigate the mystery to discover the truth about Greenglass House. I absolutely adored this book. It’s so fun! Milo is a fantastic character and it was great to see his confidence develop throughout the book. I also loved that his (adopted) parents are there throughout the story, albeit busy trying to run an inn. There’s no conveniently getting the parents out of the way so the kids can investigate like in so many children’s books – Milo has to sneak around a lot and he does end up getting in trouble a couple of times! This would have been a perfect Christmas read. If I wasn’t on a book buying ban I would definitely have devoured the sequel by now. 5 stars.

Nevertell by Katherine Orton. Twelve-year-old Lina was born in a Soviet labour camp, a place of hunger, cruelty, and deprivation, and has never known the world outside. Then one night she escapes with her best friend Bogden, into the frigid Siberian winter, vowing to find her way to Moscow and her long-lost grandmother who she hopes will help her rescue her mother. But out in the snowy wilderness, the pair are soon pursued by a vengeful sorceress and her pack of shadow wolves. The children will need every ounce of courage – and a whisper of magic – if they are to survive. This is a fast-paced and magical adventure. I felt like some of the characters could have been developed a bit more but I loved Lina. The atmospheric writing is excellent – I could really picture the snowy conditions. I wasn’t sure about the ending though. 3.5 stars.

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher. Fiftenn-year-old Zoe has a secret. A dark, terrible secret that she can’t tell to anyone she knows. Then one day she hears about a criminal, Stuart Harris, who is on death row in Texas. Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder. So Zoe starts writing him letters, telling her story and confessing the secrets that keep her awake at night. I enjoyed reading this book. There is an issue with consent at the beginning that is never actually resolved and Zoe makes a lot of stupid decisions. So many things could have been resolved if she had just communicated with people. Lots of typical teenage drama that could have been avoided. But despite that something about it kept me reading. And honestly the drama is very realistic – I know my friends and I had a lot of drama as teens that could easily have been resolved if we weren’t all so ridiculous. I absolutely LOVED the glimpses into Zoe’s family and her sibling relationships. I don’t think this book would be for everybody, but despite the few issues I had with it, I’m giving this 4 stars.

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens. It’s the school holidays and Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are taking a trip on the famous Orient Express. From the moment the girls step aboard, it’s clear that everyone in the first-class carriages has something to hide. Then there is a scream from one of the cabins, and a wealthy heiress is found dead, But the killer has vanished – as if into thin air. Daisy and Hazel are faced with their first ever locked room mystery – and with several other sleuths on the case, they are determined to be the ones that solve it! I’m really enjoying this series. This is book 3, and I think it’s my favourite in the series so far. It’s great fun and a wonderful tribute to Agatha Christie. I enjoyed seeing Hazel’s father in this one and I liked how it incorporated some of the background issues of the political situation in Europe at the time without getting bogged down in too much detail. I also like how this book addressed xenophobia and the way people who are different are treated – it was a bit of a theme in the first two books, but it really comes into play here. I’m looking forward to continuing the series. 4.5 stars.

Nooks and Crannies by Jessica lawson. She, sweet Tabitha Crum is a girl with a big imagination and a love for mystery novels, although her horrible parents think the only thing she’s good at is being a nuisance. Her only friend is her pet mouse, Pemberley, with whom she shares her dingy attic bedroom. Then one day Tabitha and five other children receive a mysterious invitation to the country estate of the wealthy but reclusive Countess of Windermere. None of them sure why they’ve been summoned. But soon, a very big secret will be revealed. When the children start disappearing, all Tabitha’s investigative skills are put to the test as she attempts to solve the case and rescue what just might be her first ever real friends. This is such a fun mystery! I loved the descriptions of the house – especially the library. I want it! Tabitha is a fantastic character (with truly horrible parents – think Roald Dahl style). Her pet mouse is awesome and I really enjoyed all her detecting. There was at least one Americanism that threw me out of the story briefly (I don’t think “trash” was British English even hundreds of years ago) but that’s a minor detail. I also guessed part of the reveal and I thought the ending was a bit too happily-ever-after but I had so much fun reading it. A fully deserved 4 stars.

The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick. It doesn’t matter that Megan would rather be at the mall, Cassidy is late for hockey practice, Emma’s already read every book in existence, and Jess is missing her mother too much to care – the new book club is scheduled to meet every month and the girls will attend. But what begins as a mom-imposed ritual of reading Little Women soon helps four unlikely friends navigate all the drama of middle school – from stolen diaries to fashion-fiascos. This is a cute read. I enjoyed the facts about Little Women and Louisa May Alcott interspersed throughout the books. There were a couple of things I wasn’t happy about – remarks are made about one character based on her weight, including by adults. This particular person isn’t very nice but I feel like making fun of her size instead of calling out her meanness is a bad message. There’s also a totally cliché environmentalist character. Even as a non-vegan I know it is actually possible to make food that is both healthy/vegan and tasty! However, it is a fun and fast read. If you want to give it a go, I recommend reading Little Women first otherwise you will be spoiled. 3 stars.

So, that is 10 books and somehow 8 of them are children’s/middle grade books (Ketchup Clouds is young adult). Not intentional, I promise! For those who couldn’t be bothered to read all of the above:

TL;DR. I highly, highly recommend The Toymakers. It is magical and wonderful and devastating all at once and I loved it. I also highly recommend Greenglass House for fan’s of children’s books (and actual children, of course). And if you haven’t discovered the Murder Most Unladylike series yet and you’re into mysteries check that out. None of the books I read this month were really bad though, so if any of them sound like your thing then do check them out.

I shall return next week with reviews of the other ten books I read in February.

Three things for February 2020

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Good morning!  I’ve kind of been neglecting this space recently so I thought I’d do this as something fun that’s also quick and easy. Shamelessly stolen from Audrey.
Three things I liked about February
1. Our trip to St Gallen
2. Pancake day!
3. Watching Good Omens
 
Three things I’m looking forward to in March
1. Poland. We’re meeting my family in Krakow for a few days then Jan and I are going to Wroclaw.
2. Lighter evenings so I can leave the house after work without having to worry about people lurking around corners.
3. …I cant actually think of a third thing. Clearly I need to male some plans for March.
 
Three vegetables I eat the most
1. Carrots
2. Courgettes
3. Chick peas
 
Three grocery items I buy every week
1. Milk
2. Bread (for toast)
3. Chicken
 
Three things we go through like crazy in my house
1. Teabags
2. Dishwasher tabs. I seriously don’t understand how we got through so many with just the two of us living here.
3. Margarine
 
Three things I always have time for
1. Reading
2. Sending birthday cards
3. Catching up with other people’s blog posts
 
Three things I never have time for
1. Writing posts for my own blog
2. Housework (you may think I exaggerate but you haven’t seen the absolute state of my flat!)
3. Cooking anything that takes longer than 45 minutes total  (including prep). I want to but I just can’t!
That’s it. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend. (P.S. The photo at the top has nothing to do with anything  – I just needed something to put there.)