November 2020 recap

Hello! Happy December. I’m not even going to bother expressing any surprise about how we got here already. Honestly, I’ve given up trying to understand time. There are days that I have to work and days that I don’t have to work, and my phone knows the difference. (Note to self: remember to turn off week day alarm once work finishes for Christmas). Anyway, today I am here to talk about November.

Coronavirus cases in Switzerland were high at the beginning of the month and slightly less high by the end (still around 4,000-5,000 per day, i.e. way too high, but better than the previous 9,000-10,000 per day!) – mostly thanks to some of the French-speaking cantons introducing stricter measures, basically amounting to a mini lockdown. Although numbers overall decreased, in Basel they actually rose so towards the end of the month Basel-Stadt (the city canton) also introduced stricter measures. All shops stayed open but bars, restaurants, swimming pools and gyms were made to close. I think I only went into town twice anyway – once to the refill/zero-waste supermarket and once to the post office by the train station to send some Christmas presents (we do have a post office in our town but it closes at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and I’m never ready by then). When I did venture out of the house it was either to go to our local supermarket, take away recycling, post Christmas cards or to go for my weekly walk.

Speaking of Christmas cards… I finished making, wrote and posted Christmas cards for every Post Pals family before November was over! When I say I “made” cards that basically means sticking on either cut out shapes (baubles, Christmas trees, stars) or some stickers and adding a greeting. Very simple cards. I also continued cross stitching Christmas cards for family and friends. I actually took two days off at the beginning of the month to work on them. On the first day I made all the designs I had stitched up to that point into cards while listening to an audiobook (Rise of the Jumbies, if you’re wondering) and the next day I stitched my little fingers off. I was hoping to have them all finished by December but I haven’t quite managed it – there’s only about 2 more to do though. I also bought, wrapped and posted most of my Christmas gifts – or ordered them to be sent directly to the recipients. I still have a couple more to sort but I’m mostly finished.

I managed to do a little bit of decluttering in November, although honestly it doesn’t appear to have made any difference whatsoever. I actually made a tiny space on my bookshelves, which I expect to be quickly filled again once Christmas rolls around!

On the subject of books, it was Believathon so I mainly read children’s books. We consistently watched Richard Osman’s House of Games every week day (sometimes Jan had a meeting at 7 p.m. so I recorded it and we watched it when he was finished). I also watched Children in Need and caught an occasional episode of Father Brown. At the end of the month I ended up watching a documentary about Diego Maradona, which I honestly had no interest in but Jan put it on while I was trying to finish cross stitching a card so I didn’t have much of a choice.

I treated myself to a dress from Popsy Clothing (it’s got penguins on it! I wanted the one with multi-coloured reindeer but it had sold out) and also dyed my hair. The box said it’s “mauve”, although as always it didn’t work the way it’s meant to on my hair. Here’s a photo:

Unlike what feels like the entire rest of the world, I did not put my tree up in November – party because I didn’t even see any for sale until the 27th but mostly because Jan will never in a million years let me have one until at least 23rd December – and even that’s a compromise! Apparently “it’s a Christmas tree, not an advent tree!” If he had his way, it would go up at noon on Christmas Eve, just like when he was growing up but I’ve managed to talk him round to the 23rd. I did, however, bake Vanillekipferl (vanilla crescents – an Austrian speciality) on the first Sunday of advent and I put up a grand total of three decorations on the final day of the month.

Jan’s friend continued to come here to study occasionally – sometimes once a week, sometimes twice, some weeks not at all. (All very coronavirus safe – she arrives with a mask on, we greet each other from a distance with no physical contact and we all sit in separate rooms to work.)

That’s all I can think of.
Oh wait, I almost forgot. Jan’s choir was supposed to have a concert in November but since all events ended up being cancelled they decided to do it as a live stream. It was actually quite nice to sit and watch from my living room with a cup of tea and my cross stitch. Ha! They fell into a grey area since amateur choirs weren’t allowed to practice but professional ones were and around half of that choir are professional/were actually getting paid for doing the concert.

Right, that really is it now. I hope you’re all well and not too stressed in the run up to Christmas. Stay safe and stay cosy (unless it’s summer now where you are, in which case stay cool!)

A Photo an Hour: Saturday, 31 October 2020

Hello friends! On Saturday (which was *somehow* almost a week ago!) I took part in November’s photo an hour, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t even written a blog post for October’s one yet! So that’s what I’m doing now. The chosen date was Halloween, but that isn’t actually a thing in Switzerland so for me it was just a normal Saturday. Jan was out at choir practice for most of it, leaving me to clean the flat…

9 a.m. An earlier start than usual since Jan had to be at his rehearsal by 9:30. Starting the day with tea, of course – in the best mug!

10 a.m. Getting started on another cross-stitched Christmas card.

11 a.m. Enough sitting around… time to change the bedding.

12 noon. Emptying the dishwasher (so that I can refill it…)

1 p.m. A quick break for lunch. Lentil hotpot thingy.

2 p.m. I missed the morning window for hoovering (should have done that before emptying the dishwasher!) but now quiet time is over so I’m allowed.

3 p.m. Another task that had to wait until after quiet time – taking away some recycling.

4 p.m. Home – after a stop at the supermarket. Now to clean the bathrooms.

5 p.m. “Make apple and blackberry crumble” wasn’t on my last of things I *needed* to do that day, but I made one anyway (and it was delicious).

6 p.m. Back to cross stitch while dinner cooks. (I have no memory of what we actually ate).

7 p.m. Persuaded Jan to watch Heathers with me while we ate. I don’t think he was impressed, but I still like it.

8 p.m. Still watching Heathers while cross stitching.

9 p.m. Still stitching away. Nearly finished!

10 p.m. In my pyjamas, about to go to sleep. At 10. On a Saturday. Because apparently I’m 90.

And that was my Halloween 2020. Maybe I’ll actually get round to posting November’s photo an hour soon… not that it’s any more exciting than this one but I like having them.

What I read in October 2020

Hello my lovelies! It’s my favourite day of the month – when I add even more books to my never-ending to-read list and try to fool myself into believing I will actually get to them soon 😉 But first let me tell you what I read last month. It’s slightly less than usual (although still a lot by most standards) because I was very busy making items for a Christmas auction (see my previous post if you’re interested).

Obviously I am linking up with Jana and Steph.

Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb. This is the third book in the Farseer Trilogy so I don’t want to say too much about it because it will definitely spoil the other two. But Fitz (of Fitzchivalry Farseer) is the illegitimate child of king-in-waiting Chivalry. His maternal grandfather brings him to the palace as a young child, where King Shrewd has him raised as the king’s assassin. In this book, as the title suggests, Fitz goes on a quest to save the kingdom. I started this book in September, but it is long and I read the last 200-ish pages in October. It’s really well written, the beginning is excellent and I love, love, love Nighteyes (Fitz’s wolf) but I just couldn’t seem to get into this book in the same way as the other two. I enjoyed it until about a third of the way through but then it started getting repetitive. Fitz stumbles onto some kind of danger/is captured or betrayed, manages to escape (with the help of Nighteyes or occasionally another character), continues his journey only to stumble into more danger. Lather, rinse, repeat. Also I was annoyed that after everything he’s been through he still wasn’t allowed any happiness. I sometimes get the feeling Robin Hobb hates Fitz – all she seems to do is pile more misery on him. I loved the development of Fitz and the Fool’s relationship and finding out more about the Fool’s background. So a mixture of good and not so good things that ultimately add up to 3 stars. I do plan to read the next book that’s set in this world though.

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay. Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are staying at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbours are more than two miles in either direction. As Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young and friendly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologises and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Then three more strangers arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out, “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.” Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwine. feel like I must have been missing something with this book. I didn’t find it “terrifying” or “glorious” (according to the blurbs by, among others, Stephen King). I enjoyed the beginning and I really liked Wen, but then there was what felt like pages and pages of the intruders saying “let us in” and the family saying “no, go away, you can’t come in” until they finally, inevitably, get in. After that the pacing was weird, alternately fast and slow. I couldn’t bring myself to care about any character other than Wen, the random bits of back story made me want the author to just get on with it and the ending felt cliché and clunky. Obviously this one was not for me. 2 stars.

Good Girl, Bad Blood by Holly Jackson. (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #2). Having solved the murder case in book one, Pip Fitz-Amobi released a true-crime podcast about the murder with the help of Ravi Singh, and now it’s gone viral. Yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her – she promised her parents. But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared but the police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time EVERYONE is listening. But will she find him before it’s too late? I didn’t love this book *quite* as much as the first one, I think I found the mystery more interesting in the first one, but this is still an excellent read. I adore Ravi, and I still think Pip and Cara have the best friendship. At one point Pip stays awake to watch Netflix with Cara via the phone since it’s the only way Cara can manage to fall asleep after the events of the first book. Could you actually ask for a better friend? I still think Pip’s dad is amazing and I love that her parents worry about her and try to keep her safe while at the same time treating her like the adult she (almost) is. I was actually suspicious about someone but couldn’t figure out who her would have been involved. It turned out I was right but didn’t have all the information. And I was also suspicious of someone who turned out not to be involved so I guess my detective skills aren’t all that after all 😉 4 stars, maybe even 4.5.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. “The shocking thing about the girls was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their live.” In a quiet suburb of Detroit, the five Lisbon sisters- beautiful, eccentric, and obsessively watched by the neighbourhood boys – commit suicide one by one over the course of a single year. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence. I don’t know what I thought this book was going to be, but definitely not what it actually is. I thought it would be darker, but the way it’s told I felt totally detached from the actual suicides. I really liked the writing, but I didn’t love the story itself. I liked this book okay, but it wasn’t amazing. I do want to give the author another chance though because the synopses of his other books sound really intriguing. 3 stars.

Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke. At first glance, Phil Pendleton and his son Adam seem to be a perfectly ordinary father and son. They take walks in the park together, visit county fairs, museums, and zoos, and eat together overlooking the lake. Some might say the father is a little too accommodating given the lack of discipline when the child loses his temper in public. Some might say he spoils his son by allowing him to set his own bedtimes and eat candy whenever he wants. Some might say that such leniency is starting to take its toll on the father, given how his health has declined. What no one knows is that Phil is a prisoner, and that up until a few weeks ago and a chance encounter at a grocery store, he had never seen the child before in his life. This is such a weird little novella. Very creepy and the writing is excellent but I found the reveal somewhat lacklustre. I don’t really know what I was expecting instead though. Anyway, I liked it well enough and it was a quick read at only 82 pages. 3 stars.

The Legacy by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. The only person who might have the answers to a baffling murder case is the victim’s seven-year-old daughter, found hiding in the room where her mother died – but she’s not talking. Newly promoted, out of his depth, detective Huldar turns to Freyja and the Children’s House for their expertise with traumatised young people. Freyja, who distrusts the police in general and Huldar in particular, isn’t best pleased. But she’s determined to keep little Margret safe. It may prove tricky. The killer is leaving them strange clues: warnings in text messages, sums scribbled on bits of paper, numbers broadcast on the radio. He’s telling a dark and secret story – but how can they crack the code? And if they do, will they be next? Fair warning: the murders in this book are BRUTAL! Not in a particularly graphic way – the actual deaths take place “off screen”, so to speak, but you find out how they were killed and it’s not nice to imagine. From the prologue I thought I knew what the motive was going to be and maybe which of two characters was doing it but I turned out to be wrong. This dark, compelling story is my first by this author and I definitely intend to continue the series. 4 stars.

Beartown by Frederick Backmann. Beartwon is a tiny community deep in the woods that doesn’t have much going for it – besides hockey team. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys. Then something happens, something bad that leaves a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected. I had been minorly spoiled for this book before I read it so I knew what the bad thing was before I got to it (although for some reason I thought several people were involved – maybe I’m thinking of a different book?). I expected this book to devastate me but instead it made me ANGRY! So many characters I wanted to shake. But also a few who surprised me. This is an excellent book that deals with some every heavy topics. Highly, highly recommend. 5 stars.

The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Hermann. After the death of her sister, seventeen-year-old Violet Saunders finds herself dragged to Four Paths, New York – the town where her mother grew up. She soon finds out that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much – a fact that causes most of the other residences to regard her with respect and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid. The town is home to the Gray – a lifeless dimension that imprisons a brutal monster. And the founder’s descendants are the only ones who can keep the monster at bay. Now the Gray is growing stronger every day, and its victims are piling up. When Violet accidentally unleashes the monster, she Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper must band together to unearth the dark truths behind their families’ abilities and save the town.I absolutely devoured this book (ha, I know, that was terrible). I loved the main character Violet, and also Harper. Justin was annoying but kind of grew on me. The atmosphere is great, very creepy. I’m still a bit confused about what the thing in the Gray actually is and where it came from but maybe book 2 will help with that. 4 stars.

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega. Many people would like to think that ghosts exist, but Lucely Luna knows they do. The spirits of her deceased family members live in her house, appearing as fireflies to everyone else. When something odd starts happening to her ghost family shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout their town. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on, reverse the curse and save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late. This book is great fun. At times it gets quite intense for a middle grade – I would have loved it as a child but others might find it too scary so maybe bear that in mind. I loved the cats named after Goonies characters and also that adults got involved and helped. I am always a fan of adults who aren’t totally oblivious to what’s going on with no good explanation to get them out of the way! The ending felt a little rushed and everything was wrapped up pretty quickly but overall it was a cute, fun read that was perfect for October. 3.5 stars.

The Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup. A psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen. His calling card is a “chestnut man”, a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts, which he leaves at each bloody crime scene. Examining the dolls, forensics makes a shocking discovery – a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, a government minister’s daughter who was kidnapped and murdered a year ago. A tragic coincidence—or something more twisted? To save innocent lives, a pair of detectives must put aside their differences to piece together the Chestnut Man’s gruesome clues. Because it’s clear that the madman is on a mission that is far from over. This book is pretty gory and quite dark. There are a few clichés of the genre in there – two cops reluctantly working together, at least one of them “troubled” with a tragic past. I figured out the culprit but but only fairly late in the book so it wasn’t a big deal. Overall it’s a pretty solid police procedural, but something about it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. 4 stars.

Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle. Unlike her recently devout parents, seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed “Rapture,” all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn’t know who or what to believe. When a clue leads her to California, Vivian, her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, embark on a desperate cross-country road trip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivian Apple isn’t looking for a saviour. She’s looking for the truth. This is a fast read and I really liked some aspects of it. I love the characters, especially Harp. But there were some aspects that I had trouble believing or would have liked some explanation for – like where on Earth are all the other countries? Did nobody even notice that the US had been taken over by a doomsday cult? Also the ending was kind of anticlimactic. Trying not to give spoilers but after everything she went through and found out the way Vivian just eats breakfast then leaves without saying anything was just weird. I would definitely have a lot more to say! Will I read book 2? I’m not sure yet. 3.5 stars.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon. England, 1976. Mrs Creasy is missing and The Avenue is alive with whispers. The neighbours blame her sudden disappearance on the heat wave, but ten-year-olds Grace and Tilly aren’t convinced. Inspired by the local vicar, they go looking for God – they believe that if they find Him they might also find Mrs. Creasy and keep the rest of the avenue’s residence safe. As spunky, spirited Grace and quiet, thoughtful Tilly go door to door in search of clues, the cul-de-sac starts to give up its secrets, and the amateur detectives uncover much more than ever imagined. As they try to make sense of what they’ve seen and heard, a complicated history of deception begins to emerge. It seems everyone on the Avenue has something to hide, a reason for not fitting in. was a fun read. The writing is good and I loved the two girls most of the time – although Grace got a bit annoying with her constant hair flicking and insinuating that Tilly is too immature to understand anything because she’s something like a whole two months younger. Some of their misunderstandings were hilarious – I loved their conversation in church. I felt like there was a bit too much going on at times though – one mystery turned into everyone having half a dozen secrets. The only decent person in the whole street was the poor man everyone hated for absolutely no reason! Not quite as good as her later book, Three Things About Elsie, but still a decent read. 3.5 stars.

So, 12 books. A reasonable amount if not quite as many as other months. In case anyone couldn’t be bothered to read everything…

TL;DR: If you like YA I recommend both The Devouring Gray and Good Girl, Bad Blood (it can theoretically be read as a stand-alone but I would say read book 1 first). Beartown is not an enjoyable book but it’s a good one. The Chestnut Man and The Legacy are both decent – but dark – police procedural type thrillers. Most of the others are fine. The only one I personally do not recommend is The Cabin at the End of the World.

What have you been reading lately? And if you’ve read any of these what did you think – do you agree with me?

Don’t forget to visit the link up for even more book reviews!

October 2020 recap

Hello friends! Kristen isn’t hosting her link up this month because she has too much going on, but I wanted to write a recap anyway because I like having them to look back on.

So, October…

Switzerland decided to allow large events with up to 1000 people – including allowing crowds at football matches – from 1st October even though coronavirus cases had been steadily creeping up throughout September. So we started October with an average of around 300 new cases per day and ended it with around 7000 cases per day… a fact which surprised absolutely nobody except, apparently, the Swiss Government. It took until 28th October for them to finally hold a press conference and introduce stricter measures (although individual cantons had introduced their own stricter measures before that). Those “stricter measures” ended up being masks to be worn in all public buildings (shops, museums, etc.), night clubs to close, bars and restaurants only allowed 4 people per table and have to close at 11 p.m., a maximum of 10 people allowed to get together, events back down to a maximum of 50 people, stricter rules for contact sport and choirs, and universities had to switch to virtual classes. That’s it. While the rest of Europe went into some kind of lockdown or “lockdown light”, Switzerland’s shops remain open, many employers still insist on everyone coming into the office (even if they could theoretically work from home) and plenty of people are continuing to go to bars and restaurants as normal. Yay Switzerland!

Four days before the new measures were announced, one of Jan’s choirs had a concert. In the days leading up to it a few cantons introduced measures banning choirs from singing, but Basel wasn’t one of them. So the concert went ahead – with a live stream as an option for those who didn’t want to risk actually going to the event. Obviously I had to physically be there and show my support though. I had a ticket for row 9, which was the first row – all the seats from rows 1-8 had been removed, so there was a huge distance between the audience and the choir. Before entering the building everyone was asked to keep their distance from other people and wear a mask, and the entire audience had to wear masks throughout the performance as well – although I was disappointed that they hadn’t separated the seats so different groups were still sitting right next to each other. Luckily there was an empty seat on one side of me, so I made sure to face in that direction throughout the entire concert (I faced the front/towards the choir, of course, but at the same time looked towards my right if you get what I mean?). A friend of ours had a ticket but chose to stay home and watch the live stream.

Apart from the supermarket, the fertility clinic and my weekly walks, the day of the concert was the only time I properly left the house and went among people in October. Knowing the new measures were coming in 4 days, I went into town on the day of the concert to try and pick up a few Christmas presents while it was still possible. I also stocked up on craft supplies for all the Christmas cards I have to make.

Speaking of crafting, I finished making all my Halloween cards to send to post Pals families and got them posted out, then I started on Christmas crafts. Post Pals is having an auction soon to raise money so I made some things for that (cards and felt Christmas tree ornaments), made a start on my own Christmas cards and also stitched a birthday card for my little cousin in New Zealand.

A friend of Jan’s who he knows from choirs has been staying with her boyfriend throughout the pandemic and she was struggling because she couldn’t concentrate on her studies. He lives in a shared flat and someone was always around making noise, etc., so Jan offered for her to come to our place to work (don’t worry – he did ask me first whether it would be okay!). Since we moved our dining table into the spare room back in March to make an office for Jan, we had to fetch the other table in from the balcony – it’s technically also a dining table, but since we don’t have balcony furniture it usually lives out there. It looks exactly the way you would expect from something that’s been out in the weather, so I decided to buy a tablecloth for it. When I asked Jan what he thought his response was “It’s a tablecloth” but whatever, I like it! (And it was reduced to about a third of the usual price, so bonus.) It’s kind of big but I’m hoping to one day get a nicer and possibly slightly larger table that it will fit better.

So now that table/room is in use a few days a week. It’s all very coronavirus restriction-compliant – she has a mask on when she comes in and we stand apart from each other (no hugging!), she gets the dining room area all to herself (Jan and I each have separate “offices” to work in), she brings her own water bottle and if she has a cup of tea or coffee she places the cup in the dishwasher herself. And of course we have plenty of soap and disinfectant for hand cleaning. It’s probably safer than some actual workplaces!

At the end of the month I went on my usual autumn walk along a nearby stream, as I have every year since we moved here. Despite the lovely sunshine I saw precisely one person, sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette. The photos for that will be up soon once I get around to sorting and resizing them.

Apart from that I read – although not as much as usual – and we watched Richard Osman’s House of Games regularly. I also persuaded Jan to watch Heathers with me on Halloween. He didn’t seem impressed, but oh well. I still like it. It’s better than some of the crap he’s made me watch (*cough* Indiana Jones *cough*).

And that’s all I want to tell you today. The days are getting shorter and shorter and cases of coronavirus are higher than ever (over 10,000 on two days last week!) so I will most likely be leaving the house even less in November, but we’ll see what I manage to report next month. Until then stay safe and keep smiling!

Believathon III: The Mystery of the Missing Maleficarum

Hello friends! It’s nearly November, which means it’s nearly time for the third edition of Believathon – or Believe in the Impossible Readathon to give it its full name. This time, we are off to the Manor of Make-Believathon.

Deep in the Deepwoods in the Land of Make-Believathon lies a Manor. Inside this Manor, a mystery has begun. A precious spellbook, the Maleficarum, has been stolen from a safe chamber, and if it isn’t returned to its podium by the end of November, the most dangerous magic in the world will be unleashed. Can you solve the mystery?

As with the previous round of Believathon, there is a map – this time of the manor – and prompts that we need to choose books for.

For Believathon III, each prompt is associated with an item or clue that we can collect by reading books. You can double up on prompts, so you don’t have to read a separate book for each (although I obviously will if I can). The only real rule is that you have to read children’s books – anything from picture books up to about age 12. This round of the readathon runs for the whole of November, from 1-30 But that’s enough rambling from me… what about the prompts?

1. THE KEY

In order to receive the key, you must read a mystery. It looks like I’ll be starting the Christmas season early since I’ll be reading the next book in the Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens, which happens to be Mistletoe and Murder.

2. THE FINGERPRINTS

In order to receive the fingerprints, you must read a book written by an author from a different culture than you. I have chosen Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, who was born in Vietnnam.

3. THE SCREAM

In order to receive the scream, you must listen to an audiobook or read a book out loud. I wanted to read a Vashti Hardy book, but Scribd didn’t have any when I looked. I’m thinking of listening to Rise of the Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste but I might also decide spontaneously.

4. THE TORN PAGE

In order to receive the torn page, you must read a book with a supernatural element. For this one I plan to read the second book in the Potkin and Stubbs series, The Haunting of Peligan City by Sophie Green

5. THE CROWN

In order to receive the crown, you must read a book set in an alternate world. For this one I’m continuing another series and reading book Pages & Co. book 2, Tilly and the Lost Fairytales by Anna James. Tilly can enter books and in this one she goes into the land of fairytales.

6. THE SPILLED INK

In order to receive the spilled ink, you must read a book that features ghosts. For this one I will read The Haunting of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes – and there better be ghosts otherwise it isn’t much of a haunting!

7. THE DAGGER

In order to receive the dagger, you must read a book set in a dangerous setting. Again, I plan to read book 2 in a series, this time Escape from Aurora by Jamie Littler which is the second in the Frostheart series. The entire world that these books are set in is extremely dangerous!

8. THE BACKPACK

In order to receive the backpack, you must read a book by a new-to-you author. I can’t believe I’ve actually never read a book by this author yet, but I haven’t so it’s about time I did something about that! I have chosen The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson.

9. THE FOOTPRINTS

In order to receive the footprints, you must read a book that features a prominent villain. Aaah, I am so excited for this one. It’s only my most anticipated book of the year! I plan to read Hollowpox: The Hunt for Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend. This is the third book in the Nevermoor series.

10. THE HAND MIRROR

In order to receive the hand mirror, you must read a book with a beautiful cover. I mean, any of the books I’ve mentioned here would work for this prompt, but my choice is Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby. I think it’s beautiful anyway.

(p.s. the new WordPress editor is so annoying and I can’t work out how to put an image to the left of the text and have it lined up the way I want, so it has to be below!)

11. THE CHAIN

In order to receive the chain, you must read a book that features a colourful cast of characters. I have chosen The Missing Diamonds by Annabelle Sami, which is the first in the Agent Zaiba Investigates series. Obviously I haven’t read the book yet so I don’t know for sure, but Zaiba, her best friend Poppy, and her younger half-brother Ali certainly sound like an interesting cast of characters!

12. THE FLASH OF LIGHTNING

In order to receive the flash of lightning, you must read a book that incorporates folk tales. I am reading Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found by Aisha Busby. It’s inspired by Arabian Nights, which I’m pretty sure counts as a folk tale.

13. THE SHADOW

Finally, in order to receive the shadow, you must read a book that was published in 2020. Quite a few of the books I’ve already listed were published in 2020, which is interesting because I usually don’t read books the year they’re published (too expensive!) but this year I’ve been trying to help authors by actually buying new books. Anyway, for this prompt I will be reading A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll.

And that’s it. Now I just have to wait two whole days for Believathon to start. I’m so excited! If you want to join in you can find the Believathon Twitter here and there is now also a whole entire website where you can find out everything you need to know.

If you have read any of these books let me know what you thought, and if you are also taking part in Believathon then happy reading! Or just happy reading in general – I hope your current/next book is something good!

Style Imitating Art: Ciclotrama 36

Hello, hello! Today I am taking part in Style Imitating Art again, for the first time in a while. I keep forgetting about it but for once I remembered.

This time Salazar chose a sculpture/installation from a series called “Ciclotrama“. This particular installation is “Ciclotrama 36“.

She said she chose it because she “liked the contrast between the strong gold frames and the delicate black strands of ropes”.

As soon as I saw the photograph I knew at least part of what I wanted to wear. I own a skirt that is perfect. Here is my final outfit:

As you can see, I combined the skirt with a black jumper. Mustard coloured tights and a gold necklace were an attempt to bring in the gold tones from the frames.

The skirt is from a Dutch brand called Superstition. I bought it in around 2014, I think. The black jumper (sweater) was purchased during my year abroad – so end of 2003/beginning of 2004 – when I realised I hadn’t brought enough winter clothes with me. The tights are H&M, purchased last year. And the necklace was a gift. It’s featured in other SIA outfits so you can see a close up of it here.

If you’re feeling spontaneous, you can still submit an outfit by emailing a photo to Salazar (14shadesofgreyblog@gmail.com) by the end of today. The round up of all submissions will be on her blog, https://14shadesofgrey.wordpress.com/, tomorrow.

How do you like my submission? Isn’t the skirt just amazing?

What I Read in September 2020: Part 2

Happy sixth anniversary to the Show Us Your Books link up, and many thanks to Jana and Steph for hosting it! As promised, here is the second part of the books I read in September.

Potkin and Stubbs (Potkin and Stubbs #1) by Sophie Green. Lil Potkin is desperate to be a reporter – not for The Herald, the newspaper run by the mayor of the Peligan City, but for the underground paper The Klaxon. She just needs to find the scoop that will get them to notice her. Little does she know it’s sitting right in front of her at the bus station! Nedly Stubbs needs Lil’s help to solve a missing persons case. Who is this missing person? Well, actually, he is… turns out Nedley is a ghost. When they discover that his death is connected to a series of mysterious murders, Lil and Nedly set out to expose those responsible, with the help of Abe, a down-on-his luck private investigator, who might hold a clue to Lil’s hidden past. It took me a little while to warm up to this book – I think after hearing so many good things about it my expectations were too high. But I did end up enjoying it. I like that there’s an actual adult involved – at one point Lil and Nedley decide something looks too dangerous and they should come back with Abe. Lil is kind of annoying at times but I loved Nedly. 4 stars.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Esther Greenwood is a young girl spending a summer on a dream assignment on a big-time New York fashion magazine. She’s on the brink of her future. Yet she is also on the edge of a darkness that makes her world increasingly unreal. This autobiographical novel chronicles Esther’s descent into a breakdown in a world that refuses to take woman’s aspirations seriously. I had no idea what this book was actually about, other than relating to Plath’s own attempted suicide. I just picked it up from a free bookcase on the basis that it was supposed to be a classic. Honestly, I had been putting off reading it for ages because I expected it to be really heavy and depressing, but while parts of it were obviously sad there were some surprisingly funny moments. I really enjoyed the writing – especially there’s a part about a fig tree that was so well done. 4 stars.

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius. Sally Jones is an extraordinary ape and a loyal friend. In overalls or in a maharaja’s turban, this unique gorilla moves among humans without speaking but understanding everything. She and the Chief are devoted comrades who operate a cargo boat. After being out of work for a while, one day they are offered a job that will pay big bucks, but the deal ends badly, and the Chief is falsely convicted of murder. For Sally Jones, this is the start of a harrowing quest for survival and to clear the Chief’s name. Powerful forces are working against her, and they will do anything to protect their secrets. This book is very long for middle grade (my copy has 588 pages), but it’s worth it. It’s an awesome adventure! Sally Jones is a very well travelled gorilla. I would love to read more of her adventures in the future. 4 stars.

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim. How far will you go to protect your family? Will you keep their secrets? Ignore their lies? In a small town in Virginia, a group of people know each other because they’re part of a special treatment centre, a hyperbaric chamber that may cure a range of conditions from infertility to autism. But then the chamber explodes, two people die, and it’s clear the explosion wasn’t an accident. A powerful showdown unfolds as the story moves across characters who are all maybe keeping secrets, hiding betrayals. Chapter by chapter, we shift alliances and gather evidence: Was it the careless mother of a patient? Was it the owners – immigrants from South Korea – hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college so she can have a better life than they did? Could it have been a protester, trying to prove the treatment isn’t safe? Or was some other unknown person there that day? Wow, this book. So many secrets, so many lies! Was there any character that wasn’t hiding something? I eventually figured out who was responsible but it took me a long time. This is so well written and I absolutely recommend it. One minor niggle: I listened to the audiobook and if I heard the words “it made her/him want to scream” one more time I would have been tempted to scream myself! (I also now know how Americans pronounce “buoyed” – I was so confused the first time it came up.) 4 stars. An excellent debut.

The Train to Impossible Places by P. G. Bell. When a noise wakes Suzy one night, she is surprised to find a grumpy troll building a railway through her house – especially when a gigantic steam train then crashes into her hallway! But the Impossible Postal Express is no ordinary train. It’s a troll-operated delivery service that runs everywhere from ocean-bottom shipwrecks, to Trollville, to space. After sneaking on board, Suzy suddenly finds herself Deputy Post Master aboard the train, and faced with her first delivery – to the evil Lady Crepuscula. Then, the package itself begs Suzy not to deliver him. A talking snow globe, Frederick has information Crepuscula could use to take over the entire Union of Impossible Places. But when protecting Frederick means putting her friends in danger, Suzy has a difficult choice to make – with the fate of the entire Union at stake. A fun adventure with some great characters. It could have done with some more world building though – I’m still completely confused about how the Impossible Places actually work. At times it felt like there was almost too much action and not enough explanation. It’s an enjoyable enough read though. It’s the first in a series so I suppose there will be more explanation in the later books. 3 stars.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. One night, in the midst of a family crisis, blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her babysitter, Emira Tucker, to come and take her toddler, Briar, out of the house. Alix is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living from showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when Emira is confronted while walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket that night,. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping the two-year-old. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix realises she knows next to nothing about her long-time babysitter and resolves to make things right. But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other. This book wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought it would be more about the actual event in the synopsis but that’s really only a small part of it. I didn’t like Alix, even from the very beginning – she came across as incredibly entitled just from the way her way of life is described. Who even comes up with the idea of writing to companies to get products instead of, you know, getting a job and buying them? I loved Briar and liked Emira, although I felt like she seemed younger than 25/26. This is supposed to be an adult book, but to me it almost read like YA? Overall it’s a good read that covers some important issues but there was something missing that would have made me love this book rather than just like it. I feel kind of bad, but I gave it 3.5 stars.

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds. When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and movies, Jack knows he’s falling – hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. When Kate dies six months later, their story should be over, but her death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind, but if he has any chance to prevent Kate’s death he obviously has to take it. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves. I enjoyed this book. I felt like Jack could have focused more on his other relationships at some point rather than trying to save Kate at all costs (he definitely neglects his friends in some of the go-throughs) but I did like their relationship. I also loved Jack’s friendship group and his parents were awesome. 4 stars.

The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden. Kizzy is a Diddakoi – half Irish, half “gypsy”. Orphaned when she was very young, she lives in a wagon with her gran and her horse, Joe, and she doesn’t need anything else. Then Gran dies, her wagon burns, and Kizzy is left all alone – in a community that hates her. This is a lovely book. I adored Kizzy, and Miss Brooke and I was glad she got a happy ending. Minus one star because I was annoyed that the horrid, vicious bullying Kizzy experienced was never properly resolved or punished. But I did genuinely enjoy reading this book and wish I had read it as a child, so I can’t go any lower than 4 stars.

The Shining by Stephen King. Do I ned to tell you the synopsis? Really? Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is his five-year-old son, Danny, who has a history of knowing things he couldn’t possibly know… thought this would take me longer to read, but the closer I got to the end the faster it seemed to go. Even though I’ve seen the film (years ago) and knew the vague story – although there are differences – I was hooked. This is definitely Stephen King at his best. 5 stars.

And that’s all I’ve got for you today. I also read 510 pages of Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb in September, but I didn’t actually finish the book until October so you’ll have to come back next month for that review. For more book reviews, get thee to the link up (and congratulate Steph and Jana on six years of running it!). There is also a give away over there, in case seeing what everyone has been reading isn’t enough of an incentive.

TL;DR: Honestly, I recommend all the books here. I didn’t love Such a Fun Age like I wanted to, but I do think it’s an important book that everyone should read. And although I only gave The Train to Impossible Places 3 stars it’s a fun book and kids will love it.

What I read in September 2020: Part 1

Hello! The Show Us Your Books (sixth anniversary!) link up is tomorrow, but I read quite a few books again in September so I’m splitting my recap into two posts, one today and one tomorrow. Here is the first part, with nine books. Most of these books are YA and middle grade (apart from Black Eyed Susans). If that’s not what you’re looking for check back tomorrow – I have a couple more adult books then. In the meantime, I shall get on with today’s reviews.

Solitaire by Alice Osman. Victoria, or Tori, Spring has just started Sixth Form. She likes to blog and she likes to sleep and that’s about it. Apparently “last year” she had friends, although I’m not sure how given she seems to hate everyone. But that was before A-Levels and university applications. And before everything that happened with her brother Charlie. (Trigger warning for self-harm and eating disorders here). Now there’s Solitaire. And there’s Michael Holden. Tori doesn’t know or care what Solitaire are trying to do and she definitely doesn’t care about Michael Holden… honest. is a quick and easy read, which is good because it meant I didn’t waste too much time on it. Maybe I’m just too far away from my teen years but I could not relate to Tori at all. I understand that she’s supposed to be suffering from undiagnosed depression but she’s also just a horrible person. Not that there’s anything wrong with unlikeable characters, but she’s not even unlikeable in an interesting way. She’s just plain mean and looks down on everyone (except her brother and *maybe* his boyfriend). Even when she’s being self-depreciating and calling herself mean it’s clear that she still thinks she’s better than everyone else. Like “Oh, I’m so mean having these bad thoughts but also X really *is* terrible and unworthy of my attention”. I also found the plot pretty predictable. It was kind of obvious who was behind Solitaire and also obvious what was going to happen with Michael. Meh. 2 stars (because I actually liked Nick and Charlie).

The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle by Deva Fagan. All Prunella wants is to be a proper bog-witch. Unfortunately, her curses tend to do more good than harm. When her mixed-up magic allows a sneaky thief to escape her grandmother’s garden, Prunella is cast out until she can prove herself. It’s hard enough being exiled to the unmagical Uplands, but travelling with the smug young thief Barnaby makes it even worse. He’s determined to gain fame and fortune by recovering the missing Mirable Chalice. And to get what she wants, Prunella has help him, whether she likes it or not. This is fun read with a fairly obvious message about not judging people based on what you’ve been told. The story is a little simple but it was a quick and cute read. 3 stars.

Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan. Asha lives on the family farm with her mother in rural India. Her father is away working in the city, and when the money he sends stops suddenly, a ruthless moneylender ransacks their home and her mother talks of leaving. Guided by a majestic bird which Asha believes to be the spirit of her grandmother, she and her best friend Jeevan a pact with her best friend, Jeevan, to find her father and save her home. But the journey is dangerous: they must cross the world’s highest mountains and face hunger, tiredness – even snow leopards. Will they make it? is a gorgeous book full of adventure with a slightly magical aspect. I felt like some parts were rushed through a bit so they didn’t evoke my emotions quite the way I felt they should have. But overall it’s a great little read. I loved all the descriptions of India and especially the food references. 3.5 stars. And the cover is gorgeous!

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk. Autumn always knew exactly who she was: a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan has always turned to writing love songs when his real love life was a little less than perfect. But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered. Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind. This book is sad, but ultimately hopeful. I feel like it was spread a bit thin by focusing on 3 main characters, and I never really connected with the whole Autumn/Dante thing or cared as much about Autumn a the other 2 characters. I liked Shay’s part best, mostly because I absolutely adored her friendship group. 3.5 stars.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. Kyle Keeley is the class clown and a huge fan of all games – board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the construction of the new town library. And Kyle is lucky enough to win a coveted spot as one of twelve kids invited for an overnight sleepover in the library, where they get to spend the entire night playing lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors stay locked. Kyle and the other kids must solve every clue and figure out every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route and win an extra special prize. This is a cute, fun read. A little predictable and of course the “nice” kids who work together win, while the nasty ones get their comeuppance. If I’d read it as a kid I would definitely have been writing down every book referenced that I hadn’t already read to try and track it down at my library. As an adult I was pleased when I understood a reference. 3 stars.

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin. Left with three other girls in a grave shrouded by black-eyed Susans, Tessa alone survived, her testimony helping to put a killer behind bars. Sixteen years later, with he execution date rapidly approaching, Tessa is starting to wonder whether she really did the right thing. Because someone is planting black-eyed Susans outside her window. Someone is sending her daughter sinister messages. And there’s a lawyer telling her the man about to be put to death is innocent. I really liked this. It’s more suspense/mystery than true thriller – there are no real scary moments (for Tessa maybe after everything she’s been through but nothing that had me worried as the reader). I enjoyed all the DNA and forensics stuff, and I was not expecting what happened at the end. I was entirely fooled by the path I think the author was trying to take me down, although the clues were there and I feel like I could have known what happened if I was paying attention. 4 stars.

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan. Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England in search of her father, who abruptly stopped contacting them a year earlier. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At home her mother’s heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat. This book is told in verse and it’s very quick read – I read it in about 30-45 minutes. I enjoyed it but I almost felt like it was over a little too quickly. I would have liked more of Kasienka’s memories of her life before England. I was really glad when she stood up to her bullies and realised it’s okay to be different. 3.5 stars.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times, being friendly with all the groups but not friends with any of them. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. But then Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel, who has just been diagnosed with leukaemia. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives. I really don’t know what to say about this book. There are a few funny parts but mostly it’s just annoying. Especially Greg. I was hoping he would get better as the book went along, maybe redeem himself by actually being a real friend to Rachel? But nope… right the way to the end I just wanted to punch him. And Rachel was so bland and almost pointless that I literally felt nothing when she died. The only decent character was Earl. I felt like cheering when he finally told Greg exactly what everyone else should have been telling him throughout the entire book Points for being a semi-realistic teen cancer book, I guess. People don’t change their entire personalities overnight and become inspirational philosophers just because they’re dying. It’s just a shame Greg was a colossal idiot whose only personality trait, apparently, was trying not to *have* a personality so nobody would notice him. 2.5 stars.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again. Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who who is struggling to cope with his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all… even without arms. I adored this. Aven is a fantastic character, I loved how positive and proactive she was (most of the time) even while feeling vulnerable and I liked how she was there for Connor. Even if she was a little pushy at times her heart was in the right place. The little mystery was fun. The ending is maybe a little too sweet but this is a children’s book after all. I will definitely be reading the sequel! 4.5 stars. I recommend this one for fans of Wonder.

That’s it for today. Tune in tomorrow for more book reviews! And in case anyone couldn’t be bothered to read the entire post even though there are only 9 books here (and honestly why I you looking for book recommendations if you can’t even read a whole blog post?)…

…TL;DR: I highly recommend Black Eyed Susans if you like thrillers and Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus if you’re into children’s books, and I recommend Asha and the Spirit Bird, The Beauty That Remains and The Weight of Water if they sound interesting to you. I most definitely do not recommend Solitaire or Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.

September 2020 recap

And just like that September is over! I feel like it’s flown by, even though I didn’t actually do anything. Seriously, I have no idea what I’m even going to write in this post! Obviously I did not manage to find the time or energy to blog… sorry about that. I didn’t mean to promise holiday photos and then disappear for a month. I will try to get something up soon. But today it’s the first Thursday of the month so I’m going to give you a recap, even though the What’s New With You link up doesn’t seem to be up yet. I hope everything is okay with Kristen!

So what is new with me? Honestly, nothing much. In September I read a lot – a total of 18 books, or I read 17 and listened to 1 if you want to be precise. I cross stitched a lot. My godson turned 8, which is scary. Surely he’s still a toddler? I made Halloween cards to send to Post Pals children (I still have another 10 left to do!).

I watched Richard Osman’s House of Games almost every week night – except when they moved it because of stupid athletics. On Tuesday I went to the office in Germany for the first time since March because a colleague was leaving and I wanted to see her one more time and say goodbye. It was fine. The trains weren’t too full – the one on the way back was more full than on the way there, but not to the extent of people standing in the corridors, crammed in like sardines (I specifically took an earlier train home because my usual train one is of the sardine variety).

I had to have more blood tests to rule out certain things after every attempt at IVF so far has either failed entirely or ended in miscarriage. When I first had it done back in July one value came back high so the tests had to be repeated. This time all was normal though, which means I don’t have to inject myself with blood thinners every day if I ever do get pregnant again (yay!) but also means we’re back to having no real explanation for why things aren’t working (boo!). I guess most people would give up at this point and say the universe doesn’t want them to be a mother, but we have two embryos left and I have every intention of using them!

I am continuing to going for walks once a week, even if it’s raining. Most of September’s weren’t too exciting though – I just went into town and stopped by the free public bookcase to drop off some books. One Sunday Jan came with me and we went for a walk in the woods, stopping to say hi to the horses.

Switzerland added the UK to its quarantine list, but it doesn’t matter because Switzerland was already on the UK’s quarantine list so I couldn’t have gone there anyway. It’s lucky we spent last Christmas in England since who knows when I will be able to see my family again? Germany added some parts of Switzerland to its list of risk countries, but Basel is currently okay. Cantons Geneva, Vaud and Fribourg are currently on the list.

And on a non-September related note, my brother turns 30 tomorrow (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!), which makes me feel ancient! So annoying that stupid covid means I don’t get to celebrate with him.

That’s it from me. What’s new with you?

What I read in August 2020

Hello, hello! It’s Show Us Your Books day again… time to link up with Jana and Steph to tell you about the book I finished last month. Considering I didn’t read a single page for the first 11 days of August, it actually ended up being quite a few. Not as many as usual, but a decent amount by normal people’s standards.

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. On returning from WWI, Tom Sherbourne is a broken man. He needs a place away from other people, where he can be alone and think.And so he becomes a lighthouse keeper, eventually ending up on the small island of Janus Rock, an extremely remote location off the coast of Western Australia. Before heading out the island, he spends some time in the small town of Partageuse, where he meets Isabel Graysmark. They start a relationship via letter before getting married in 1926, then Izzy joins him on the island. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind… a boat has washed up on the island. It holds a dead man – and a crying baby. Now they have a devastating decision to make. They break the rules and follow their hearts. This is the story of what happens next. This book is just so sad. It’s obvious all along that there’s no way all the characters can be happy. I did not like Isabel at all. I understood her grief – I have had miscarriages and it is an awful thing to go through – but she was just so selfish. The way she treated Tom was nothing short of emotional manipulation. If he even dared mention that there might be another solution she instantly accused her of not loving him. Just no. That isn’t to say it’s not a good book though. Read it if you want, but be prepared for sadness and frustration. 3 stars.

A Keeper by Graham Norton. Elizabeth Keane returns to Ireland after her mother’s death, determined to clear out the house and then close with that chapter of her life forever. Having spent many years in America, she feels the small town she grew up in holds nothing for her any more. Her childhood home is packed solid with useless junk, her mother’s presence already fading. But within this mess, she discovers a small stash of letters, and ultimately the truth about her mother… and about herself. was very quick to read and I actually quite liked the writing. Elizabeth’s mam’s story was really intriguing although beyond a certain point I guessed what had happened. I didn’t really like Elizabeth though. All she seemed to do was complain about everybody and everything – her aunt and uncle, her ex, how terrible it was growing up in a small town in Ireland. Then there’s a whole side story about her teenage son that seemed kind of unnecessary. It was good enough that I would read another book by Graham Norton though (and for the Brits, yes as in the chat show host/Eurovision commentator!). 3 stars.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. Ever since Anthony Peardew lost a keepsake from his fiancée, Theresa, on the very day she died suddenly, he has collected lost things. In a way, his assistant Laura is one of those lost things. As Anthony nears the end of his life, he tells Laura his life story, eventually bequeathing her his house and – along with it – his life’s secret mission. To reconcile all the lost things with their owners. Together with her new friend, the neighbour’s quirky daughter, Sunshine (this is what the synopsis says – Sunshine has Down’s Syndrome) and the gardener Freddie, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish. Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made. As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest? This is a cute book, but almost a bit too sweet at times. I actually enjoyed the parallel story about Bomber and Eunice more than the main one. Laura kind of annoyed me She’s constantly having tantrums and moaning about being “middle-aged” (she clearly fancies Freddie and is convinced he could never like someone “old” like her). Sunshine is the best character, and I loved Douglas the dog. 3 stars.

Nicola and the Viscount by Meg Cabot. A YA, historical romance. Nicola Sparks, sixteen and an orphan, has just finished school and is ready to dive headlong into her first London Season. A whirlwind of fashionable activities awaits her, although nabbing a husband, ordinarily the prime object of every girl’s Season, is not among them. For Nicola has already decided who she wants: a handsome viscount by the name of Lord Sebastian – who she and her best friend Eleanor refer to as “God”. Lord Sebastian Bartholomew is wealthy, attractive, and debonair, even if the few tantalizingly short moments Nicola has spent with him have produced little save discussions about poetry. Nicola is sure that a proposal from Lord Sebastian would be a match made in heaven. Everything is going well, until the infuriating Nathaniel Sheridan – Eleanor’s older brother – begins to cast doubt on the viscount’s character. Nicola is convinced Nathaniel’s efforts to besmirch Lord Sebastian’s sterling reputation will yield nothing. But when she begins to piece things together for herself, the truth that is revealed has as much to do with the viscount as it does with Nicola’s own heart. is very predictable, a little silly and I’m not 100% sure of it’s historical accuracy but it’s great fun to read. Apparently even in the 1800s teens were unnecessarily dramatic! I did like Nicola though. 3.5 stars.

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ is the third boyfriend that her younger sister – the favourite child, the beautiful one – has dispatched in, she claims, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she knows what’s to come. But how can she save one of the people she loves without sacrificing the other? is an odd book. It’s a very quick read and strangely compelling but I didn’t actually like either of the sisters. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to? I initially assumed we were supposed to be on Korede’s side and want her to win Tade for herself before her sister killed him, but she’s so horrible about literally everyone else who works at the hospital that I ended up thinking neither sister deserved a decent man! It’s a surprisingly fun read though given the subject matter. It’s billed as a thriller, but really it’s more of a drama about an extremely dysfunctional family. 3.5 stars

Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan. When Sarah Zoltanne moves from sunny California to a small town in Missouri, she feels like she’ll never fit in. Her mother is dating a jerk, the kids at her school despise her, and she misses her old home. Nevertheless, when a popular boy asks her to tell fortunes at a school fair she reluctantly agrees. But her role-playing takes a sinister turn when she begins to see actual visions that come true and the other students turn on her, branding her a witch and setting off a chain of events that mirror the centuries-old Salem witch trials in more ways than one. This is a very creepy read – it actually got darker than I was expecting towards the end. The adults in this town are the actual WORST. The ending is slightly cheesy and not everything was believable, but this was exactly the kind of book I absolutely devoured as a teen in the 90s. 3 stars.

The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney (Detective Lottie Parker #1). When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how? The trail leads Lottie to St. Angela’s, a former home for wayward children, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal. As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger? This is a decent enough police procedural/detective story that takes on the Catholic Church in Ireland and its not exactly savoury past. Not at all bad for a debut, although parts of it did drag. I guessed most of the reveal apart from one twist at the very end. 3 stars.

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson. Andie had her whole life planned out. When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future. Important internship? Check. Amazing friends? Check. Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks. But that was all before. When a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all. Working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she ever thought any guy would. Her friends – Palmer, Bri, and Toby – tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control and find the joy in the unexpected? This book is cute, but very predictable (and I’m not even talking about the main protagonist’s relationship!). Also I honestly found it too long. There was a point that felt close to an ending but then there we’re still about 200 pages to go?! I enjoyed the friendship group though. Although – and this is going to sound petty – the fact that Toby was female kept confusing me. Short for Tobyhanna, apparently. What kind of name is Tobyhanna? Or Palmer for that matter? And then people in the book actually have the nerve to mock Clark‘s name? 3 stars.

The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta. Danny has no idea why she picks out Tempest, California when she and her mother try to find a new place to live – a place away from all the trouble Danny has been in recently. When she arrives, she finds the Grays: a group of friends who throw around terms like queer and witch like they’re ordinary and everyday, though they feel like an earthquake to Danny. But Danny didn’t just find the Grays. They cast a spell that calls her halfway across the country, because she has something they need: Imogen, the most powerful of their group – is lost. And they believe Danny has the power to find her. But before Danny can find Imogen, she finds a dead boy with a redwood branch through his heart. Something is very wrong amid the trees and fog of the Lost Coast, and whatever it is, it can kill. The best description I can come up with for this book is “whimsical”, but not in the fluffy sense – there are some serious things going on as well. I loved the friendship group although I felt like I only got to know a few of them properly. For instance all I remember about Lelia is she’s non-binary (but fine with “she” for now), asexual or aromatic (or possibly both?) and is friends with ravens who bring her gifts (which, honestly, is AWESOME). The characters are almost a little too quirky at times – for instance there’s a scene where one of them goes into the woods wearing shorts and, as afar as I could tell, nothing else? Which apart from just being plain weird also seems kind of dangerous. Woods and nakedness don’t really go together as far as I’m concerned -or maybe I’m just too much of an adult? I also would have liked to know more about the Grays’ powers and how they found out which kind of magic they had. I really enjoyed reading it though – I just felt like it needed to be longer to explain things a bit more and a few aspects seemed to be quirky/weird/”out there” purely for the sake of emphasising how different and “special” the characters are. 3.5 stars

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste (Jumbies #1). Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her – and certainly not jumbies. There’s no such thing anyway. They’re just myths, a monster tale parents made up to frighten their children. But when Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest she notices a pair of yellow eyes following her. It couldn’t be a jumbie, could it? The next day, Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market. When this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for Corinne’s father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home. I wasn’t sure what to think of this book at first, but by the time Severine turned up at the market I was hooked! I don’t think I’ve read any Caribbean folktales before, so I found that aspect extremely intriguing. I loved the jumbies – they’re supposed to be the “bad guys” but they’re so well described and I was fascinated by all their different characteristics. The child characters are very well written, but Corinne’s father was a little one-dimensional, which was a shame given what a major part he played in the story. I liked the fact that Corinne is clearly flawed and is forced to learn that she can’t do everything alone and friendships are something to be valued. I will definitely read the next book in the series. 4 stars.

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