One month of Zyma

Yesterday our baby girl was one month old – on the same day my dad turned 60 – and today she had her one month appointment at the paediatrician followed by a visit from the midwife during which she had her first real bath. Up to now we had only been washing her with a cloth until the plaster came off her back and all the stitches were gone. The paediatrician was very pleased with her. She’s still at the bottom of the weight chart but she’s gaining steadily so that’s fine and she’s definitely getting enough to eat. Currently her favourite thing is mummy – or rather mummy’s boobies 😅. When she’s not guzzling mummy milk she’s still mostly sleeping. During the day at least! For a while after she came home night time was her alert time and she wanted to be fed every two hours (but would go 3-4 hours between feeds during the day). Things are turning around now and most nights she’ll only wake me for food 2-3 times. During the day she’s starting to be more alert and has even been awake and not demanding food long enough for us to read her a story. She’s already met a great uncle and cousin once removed from my side of the family and her aunt and grandma from Jan’s side. Soon my mam and brother are also coming to visit. It’s been so nice seeing people again and getting to introduce her to family! This last month has absolutely flown by but at the same time it’s hard to believe we’ve only had her for a month (on the outside). I won’t say I don’t remember what life was like without her – I most definitely remember sleep! But I’d be absolutely lost if she had to go back to hospital again so let’s hope her hip dysplasia harness works. Happy one month (and one day) birthday baby girl. We love you you very much!

What I read in December 2021

Yes I am posting twice on the same day. No I do not expect anybody to read both of them… or even one of them. Today is the first Show Us Your Books link up of the new year and I didn’t want to miss it even though I only actually read four books in December.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up weekly to discuss unsolved crimes. They call themselves the Thursday Murder Club. When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves with their first live case to solve. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late? This s a fun read with some quirky characters who I liked a lot. However, overall there are too many characters so it got to little confusing. Also the motive for one of the murders didn’t entirely make sense to me. 3.5 stars.

Convenience Store Woman by Murata Sayaka. Keiko Furukura had always been considered a strange child, and her parents always worried how she would get on in the real world, so when she takes on a job in a convenience store while at university, they are delighted for her. For her part, in the convenience store she finds a predictable world mandated by the store manual, which dictates how the workers should act and what they should say, and she copies her coworkers’ style of dress and speech patterns so that she can play the part of a normal person. However, eighteen years later, at age 36, she is still in the same job, has never had a boyfriend, and has only few friends. She feels comfortable in her life, but is aware that she is not living up to society’s expectations and causing her family to worry about her. When a similarly alienated but cynical and bitter young man comes to work in the store, he will upset Keiko’s contented stasis – but will it be for the better? I really liked Keiko as a character and I got what the author was trying to do bit something about this story was kind of unsatisfying. I’m happy that Keiko stayed true to herself but I was hoping those around her would also learn to accept her for what she was and stop talking about wanting her to be “cured”. 3 stars.

I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman. Suburban wife and mother Eliza Benedict’s peaceful world falls off its axis when a letter arrives from Walter Bowman. In the summer of 1985, when Eliza – then known as Elizabeth – was fifteen, she was kidnapped by this man and held hostage for almost six weeks. Now he’s on death row in Virginia for the rape and murder of his final victim, and Eliza wants nothing to do with him. Walter, however, is unpredictable when ignored – as Eliza knows only too well – and to shelter her children from the nightmare of her past, she agrees to see him one last time. But Walter is after something more than forgiveness: He wants Eliza to save his life… and he wants her to remember the truth about that long-ago summer and release the terrible secret she’s keeping buried inside. The best way I can describe this book is anticlimatic. I was really intrigued by the premise and wanted to know what the big secret was going to be revealed at the end but it turned out to be meh. No wonder I didn’t guess something so trivial. The writing is good but for a thriller it’s incredibly slow and the main character is so passive she’s actually boring. 2.5 stars.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked.. until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint and meets Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant -along with several other unlikely candidates – to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City – and maybe herself most of all. I wanted to love this book. So many people raved about it. But to me it was underwhelming. It’s an enjoyable enough read with a few interesting characters but I thought it was just good rather than great. The love triangle also kind of annoyed me – I just wanted the author to get to the pageant already. I would rather have read more about the other girls instead of once again being reminded of how hot Bo was. 3 stars.

So a rather disappointing month. I’m hoping January will be better – although so far I’ve only managed to read one book and that wasn’t great! Oh well, onwards and upwards.

Out of the four books I read in December, one was by a BAME/BIPOC author. This year I really hope to do better!

Thanks to Steph and Jana for hosting! Click on one of those links to see what everyone else has been reading lately.

August 2021 recap

Hello! Baby girl has gone to the hospital* with her daddy today so I’m taking advantage of the free time to sort out some things – including blog posts. (*Nothing to worry about. She has hip dysplasia – probably unrelated to her spina bifida – and today the doctors are doing an ultrasound and checking whether the harness they gave her is doing its job. If the harness works she won’t have to go into hospital for a few weeks for a different treatment so keep your fingers crossed!).

You’re probably wondering why I’m even bothering to recap August now considering how much time has passed. I like to have these posts to look back on so I wanted to write one before I forget everything entirely!

Last year, everything we did in the month of August ended up being slightly overshadowed by baby’s diagnosis. We found out she had spina bifida at my anatomy scan on 10 August – three days before my birthday. Happy birthday to me, right? We did still celebrate with a meal at a restaurant round the corner from us that we’ve been meaning to try since we moved to Basel. It was very nice. The staff were wonderful, replacing several things on the set menu so they were safe for pregnancy. I also got my first COVID vaccination the day after my birthday. At that time you needed a doctor’s certificate to get it during pregnancy and every single doctor I spoke to had highly recommended getting it done so I did. My only side effect that time was a sore arm that lasted for 3 days!

During the weeks following the diagnosis we had a lot of appointments. First I went back to the hospital in Basel for an amniocentesis (for those who don’t know they use a long needle to remove amniotic fluid from your uterus) to make sure there wasn’t any genetic reason for the spina bifida. As it turned out there was not. I then had another ultrasound to try and narrow down where exactly the defect was and we met with a neurologist from the children’s hospital in Basel. At the initial ultrasound where the spina bifida was discovered we had been informed about the option of open fetal surgery – in other words and operation to repair the defect before birth. It turns out Zurich is the European leader for this operation so we went there to find out more information. First I had to have another, extremely detailed, ultrasound then I had an MRI. The next day we went back to Zurich and met with the head surgeon from the spina bifida team, who by that time had seen the results of the ultrasound and MRI. He took a lot of time to explain everything to us and, as you obviously know by now, we decided to take the option of the fetal operation.

When we weren’t running round to appointments we managed to fit in a few day trips in August. Jan drove me to the vaccination centre for my COVID vaccination so since we had a car anyway we decided to go somewhere. We chose Altdorf, capital of the canton of Uri and best known as the place where, according to legend, William Tell shot an apple off his son’s head. I forgot to take my camera so I don’t have any photos.

Earlier in the month we went to Bremgarten, which is in Aargau. It’s a beautiful medieval town and for once the sun actually came out (a rarity in summer 2021!) so we had a really nice walk around the town and along the river. On the way home we stopped in Küssnacht where we played a round of mini golf – which I amazingly won – and then had dinner at a restaurant by the lake.

I also cross stitched some cards in August for September birthdays. My brother’s and my godson’s.

I read a grand total of four books in August – not really my best month. One of them was long though. You can see which ones they were here.

Apart from that I can’t actually remember what I did so I’ll leave this here since I still have some other things to sort out.

The book review of 2021

Hello everyone! Today is Steph and Jana’s special favourites edition of Show Us Your Books. Once again I am linking up in the form of this survey, which I got from Kezzie. The original is by The Perpetual Page Turner and has more/different questions.

Best book you read in 2021:

It’s a children’s book, but The Edge of the Ocean by L.D. Lapinski, book 2 of the Strangeworlds Travel Agency series was one of the few books I gave 5 stars this year.

Best children’s fiction:

Technically the answer to this should be the same as the above but to avoid repetition I’ll name another one that I loved. The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethel.

Best crime fiction:

No Way Out by Cara Hunter. I am really enjoying this series and book 3 was no exception.

Best classic:

I wasn’t sure I’d read any classics this year but looking back I found 3 that I think count. Of the three, I liked Of Mice and Men best although I didn’t exactly love that one.

Best non-fiction:

I read zero non-fiction books this year. I didn’t even finish the ones I started in 2020. Oh the shame!

Best dystopian fiction:

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel is the only dystopian book I read this year so that doesn’t leave me with much of a choice 😂. I gave it three stars.

Best YA:

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta. It was just a wonderful read with a fantastic main character and it really made me think about identity and how it is to be different.

Most surprising (in a good way) book read in 2021:

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. When I started reading it I wasn’t sure I was going to like it but I ended up giving it 4 stars.

Book You Read In 2021 That You Recommended Most To Others:

 The only book I remember specifically recommending to someone that wasn’t one I read in a previous year is A Wolf for a Spell by Karah Sutton so that one I guess.

Best series you discovered in 2021:

I could give the same answer for this question as the next one but I prefer not to so for this one I’ll say the Three Pines series by Louise Penny although I’ve only read the first two so far.

Favourite new to you author you discovered in 2021:

Talia Hibbert. I read the entire Brown Sisters trilogy this year and really enjoyed them all.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love But Didn’t:

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. I didn’t hate it, I was just expecting something different and found myself bored in places.

Best Book That Was Out Of Your Comfort Zone Or Was A New Genre To You

Storm Front by Jim Butcher. Urban fantasy isn’t usually my thing but I really enjoyed this one.

Book You Read In 2021 That You’re Most Likely To Read Again In The Future:

I’ve changed this question slightly because I’m never going to re-read a book the following year (obviously excluding picture books that I fully expect to read to my child over and over!). I definitely intend to read The Pages and Co. series by Anna James again, either just for myself or with the baby in (quite) a few years. This year I read book 3 – Tilly and the Map of Stories.

Favourite Book You Read in 2021 by an Author You’ve Read Previously:

Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll. Her first book was good but this one was even better.

Best Book You Read In 2021 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I wasn’t really interested in reading it but when somebody on Show Us Your Books said it read like a fictional version of the story of Fleetwood Mac I decided I was intrigued after all.

Favourite Cover of a Book You Read in 2021:

Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deidre Sullivan The book itself was good but not great but I adore the cover. I would genuinely hang a print of it in my home.

Book That Had The Greatest Impact On You In 2021:

After the Fire by Will Hill. It’s such an uncomfortable read but absolutely riveting and gives great insight into life in a cult.

Book You Can’t BELIEVE You Waited Until 2021 To Read:

There aren’t really any. Unusually I actually read a fair few newer books this year and the older ones I read weren’t so great that I asked myself what took me so long.

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks. I was not expecting the culprit at all!

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2021 (be it romantic, friendship, etc):

The relationship between Liz and her brother in You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson is so heartwarming.

Most Memorable Character In A Book You Read In 2021:

Kya from Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. She’s so resilient and very different to any other character I read about this year.

Genre You Read The Most From in 2021:

Fantasy – specifically 12 middle grade fantasy, 4 adult fantasy and 7 young adult fantasy for a total of 23 books, or 27 if you include magical realism as fantasy. Romance comes in second with 22 books (14 adult and 8 young adult).

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2021:

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren was a fun read that really put me in a Christmassy mood (even though we didn’t exactly celebrate Christmas this year).

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2021:

The ending of Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard made me cry.

Book You Read in 2021 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out:

Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan. I’m not sure how I came across it and I certainly haven’t seen anyone else mention it but it’s well worth a read.

Total books finished in 2021: 113 (compared to 185 last year!). I surpassed my goal, which was 104.

The longest book I read in 2021 was River God by Wilbur Smith at 672 pages and the shortest was Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck with 118.

The first book I read this year was Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert and the last book I read was Dumplin‘ by Julie Murphy.

And finally, this year I read 32 books by BAME/BIPOC authors, which is more than last year’s 29 but still way too few!

Okay, that’s it. I need to go now and figure out why my baby is crying! (Don’t worry – she’s with daddy, I haven’t just abandoned her). Check out the link up to see what everyone else has read an loved this year.

Hello baby!

I have a few minutes while waiting for the midwife so I thought I would quickly post.

Jan and I have a daughter! Born 16 December 2021 via planned c-section. Despite being hospitalised on 9th November with too little amniotic fluid I actually made it to 37 weeks. She was on oxygen after birth but that was removed fairly quickly and now she’s doing really well other than some problems maintaining her temperature. Yesterday she was transferred to the children’s hospital and today is the start of a stressful time for her with lots of tests to find out how the spina bifida will affect her. We are completely in love with her and couldn’t be happier.

For blogging purposes her name shall be Zyma (Ukrainian for winter).

What i read in November 2021

Hello! Once again I am typing this on my phone from a hospital bed soon apologies in advance for the lack of links and any autocorrect fails.

I was readmitted to hospital on 9th November so theoretically I should have had plenty of time to read. We shall see how many books I actually got through…

Of course I’m linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books.

Here’s what I read:

The Astonishing Future of Alex Nobody by Kate Gilby Smith. On the day Alex was born, crowds surrounded the hospital. On her first day of school, people spied from the gates. And recently, strangers came to watch her perform in her school play … as the llama. But why? Alex has always been a nobody. Then a mysterious boy named Jasper starts at school and he alone seems to know the answer. But before he can tell Alex, he disappears … into the year 2100. Can Alex brave traveling into the future to discover what’s happened to him and to unravel the secret of her own astonishing destiny … before time runs out? This is a fun read. I enjoyed the friendship story. Jasper is lovely and I definitely related to his preferring books to action. I found the answer to who Alex is predictable and parts of the story felt a little simple but in fairness I’m not a child. 3.5 stars.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. When Mary Yellan’s mother dies, her last wish is for her daughter to go and live with her sister, Patience in Bodmin. On arrival, Mary finds her aunt a frightened shell of her former self, married to the sinister and drunken Joe Merlin, proprietor of the now disreputable Jamaica Inn. From her first glimpse on that raw November eve, she senses the inn’s dark power. But never did Mary dream that she would become hopelessly ensnared in the vile, villainous schemes being hatched within its crumbling walls – or that a handsome, mysterious stranger would so incite her passions … tempting her to love a man whom she dares not trust. To me this book was just fine. I didn’t hate it but I couldn’t get into it the way I wanted to. The beginning especially was very atmospheric but at times it was almost too dramatic. I loved Rebecca but I guess this one just wasn’t for me. 2.5 stars.

The Key to Flambards by Linda Newbery. Still reeling from her parents’ divorce and a life-changing accident, fourteen year old Grace comes Flambards house, out in the Essex countryside, where her mother has a job for the summer, and which just happens to be where her great-grandmother grew up. A reluctant tag-along at first, Grace gradually finds herself becoming involved with two boys: Jamie, who leads her down a path of thrilling freedom, and the deeply troubled Marcus, who is dealing with his difficult, potentially violent father, as well as uncovering more about her own family’s past. This is enjoyable enough, although a little predictable. All the conflicts/issues are resolved fairly easily without much actual input from Grace but I found the meandering storyline kind of relaxing. I especially enjoyed the parts where Grace was discovering the local wildlife – I would love to see otters in the wild! This is apparently a continuation of an older series that I’ve never heard of (by K. M. Peyton) but it works perfectly well as a standalone. 3.5 stars

The Bewitching of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes (Aveline Jones #2). Aveline is thrilled when she discovers that the holiday cottage her mum has rented for the summer is beside a stone circle. Thousands of years old, the local villagers refer to the ancient structure as the Witch Stones, and Aveline cannot wait to learn more about them. Then Aveline meets Hazel. Impossibly cool, mysterious yet friendly, Aveline soon falls under Hazel’s spell. In fact, Hazel is quite unlike anyone Aveline has ever met before, but she can’t work out why. Will Aveline discover the truth about Hazel, before it’s too late? I didn’t find this quite as spooky as the first one but there were still a few tense moments. I loved that Harold was part of it again – he and Aveline make a great team, and of course it was books that saved the day. Hurrah! As an adult I caught on to what was going on with Hazel fairly quickly but I think it would be less obvious to a child and it also didn’t ruin my enjoyment in way. 4 stars.

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce. The year is 1988. Frank owns a music shop. It is jam-packed with records of every speed, size and genre. Classical, jazz, punk – as long as it’s vinyl he sells it. Day after day Frank finds his customers the music they need. Then into his life walks Ilse Brauchmann. Ilse asks Frank to teach her about music. His instinct is to turn and run. And yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with her pea-green coat and her eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems. And Frank has old wounds that threaten to re-open and a past he will never leave behind. This book was fine but I think will ultimately be forgettable. I’ve already forgotten half the characters. The concept is definitely interesting and I enjoyed the parts with Peg (Frank’s mother). Frank’s “past hurts” are glossed over so quickly that I wondered why they were even relevant. They certainly didn’t seem to warrant his complete avoidance of love/commitment. 3 stars.

Bunny by Mona Awad. “We called them bunnies because that’s what they called themselves”. Samantha Heather Mackey couldn’t be more of an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at New England’s Warren University. A scholarship student who prefers the company of her dark imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort–a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other “Bunny,” and seem to move and speak as one. But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation to the Bunnies’ fabled “Smut Salon,” and finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door–ditching her only friend, Ava, in the process. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into the Bunnies’ sinister yet saccharine world, beginning to take part in the ritualistic off-campus “Workshop” where they conjure their monstrous creations, the edges of reality begin to blur. Soon, her friendships with Ava and the Bunnies will be brought into deadly collision. This book is bizarre but also compelling. I didn’t want to put it down even though I was confused for most of it. I’m not even sure I can recommend it because I have no idea who it would appeal to! 4 stars.

The Polar Bear Explorer’s Club by Alex Bell. All Stella Starflake Pearl ever wanted is to be an explorer like her adopted father, Felix. But girls are forbidden from joining the various explorers clubs. So when Felix decides to take her along on his next adventure Stella feels like she has a lot to prove. Then she and three fellow junior explorers get separated from the main party. Join Stella and the others as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages. Can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale? This is a cute read and a lot of fun. I loved the characters – and especially the way Stella always stuck up for Beanie. The plot is a little predictable and some parts seemed to be glossed over very quickly without much explanation. The writing is a little simplistic at times and I feel like I don’t fully understand the world but I did really enjoy reading it. 4 stars.

Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. When orphan Maia is sent to live with distant relatives who own a rubber plantation along the Amazon River, her British classmates warn her of man-eating alligators and wild, murderous Indians. But Maya looks forward to brightly coloured macaws, giant butterflies and plenty of adventure . Sure enough, she soon finds herself smack in the middle of more excitement than she ever imagined, from a mysterious “Indian” with an inheritance, to an itinerant actor dreading his impending adolescence, to a remarkable journey down the Amazon in search of the legendary giant sloth. This is delightful book, if a little clichéd. Our heroine is an orphan who is good and kind and cannot help but make friends with everyone she meets. Only the villains of the story don’t like her – and they seem to hate absolutely everything, including each other. But the writing is excellent and I really enjoyed Maia’s adventures. This is definitely a book I would have absolutely loved as a child. 4 stars.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman, leaving him with a choice to make. This is a weird and depressing book. It reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye in that the main character seems to just wander round aimlessly, having lunch here, sleeping with a woman there, without much really happening. He also seems strangely unemotional given that he’s telling a story involving the suicide of no less than three major characters. Even when he talks about how badly one particular death apparently affected him it was described in a way that I didn’t really feel anything. I also didn’t really get the ending. I didn’t hate reading this though. At the beginning I quite enjoyed it and found the writing style interesting. 2.5 stars.

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren. It’s the most wonderful time of the year… but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions. But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world – the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy. The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake… she’s on a plane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop – and finally get her true love under the mistletoe. Absolutely everybody was reading this book last year so I’m not sure my review will really add much! But anyway… This is a cute and easy read that really put me in the mood for Christmas. I loved the main character and was really rooting for her to find happiness. The love interest felt a little too perfect though, to the extent that I had trouble believing in his character. The whole time loop thing also seemed to be abandoned really quickly without any real closure. I did really enjoy reading this book though. It left me feeling all warm and fuzzy. 4 stars.

City of the Sun by Aisha Bushby (Moonchild #2). Farah is a Moonchild with a very special kind of magic and a jinni of her own. But although she loves her magical animal companion – a lizard called Layla – Farah isn’t entirely convinced that she’s cut out for the life of adventure, which seems to bring endless danger!
When it becomes clear that Farah and her fellow Moonchildren – Leo and Amira – have unlocked moon magic that could destroy the Sahar Peninsula, Farah and her friends are thrust into another accidental adventure. And it takes them to a burning desert and another mysterious city which holds deadly secrets of its own… I liked this but not quite as much as the first book. It seemed slower and almost felt like it was trying to hard to “teach” the reader some mind of moral – about finding who you are or the importance of working together/letting people help you. Both fine lessons to learn but I found it a little obvious/forced. I did still enjoy the stories within the story and I really like all the jinn. 3 stars.

So that makes 11 books read in November, 2 by BAME/BIPOC authors.

Don’t forget to check out the link up for more book reviews.

34 weeks

I’ve purposely waited until almost bedtime to write this in case I jinxed myself so it will probably be a few days old by the time anyone reads it.

Today, 25th November 2021, I am 34 weeks pregnant. This feels like an amazing milestone! I am now officially on maternity leave and actually should have been coming back to hospital today for the final countdown to my c-section. Instead I’ve already been here for just over 2 weeks but so far everything is pretty stable. Amniotic fluid is still low but there was very slightly more yesterday than a week ago and baby’s heart rate always looks good. I had to go back on IV meds about a week ago as a precaution after having contractions (non-painful, “practice” contractions that would be perfectly fine if it weren’t for the two-month old incision in my uterus!) but apart from that it’s been a relatively boring stay so far. I will continue to be closely monitored and if baby’s growth slows down or they see any signs of distress the c-section will have to be performed earlier but for now we continue to wait and hope things remain stable. Three weeks to go until my planned c-section date!

Spoke too soon…

I guess I shouldn’t have mentioned on Tuesday that I was out of hospital. At my routine ultrasound that afternoon I discovered I had low amniotic fluid and ended up being admitted again. And here I will stay until it’s time to give birth – which I’m hoping won’t be happening anytime soon! I am currently being closely monitored and if baby shows any signs of distress or I have proper contractions it will be c-section time. Today I’m at 32 weeks and 3 days. Ideally I would like to make it past 34 weeks but we shall see…

What i read in October 2021

Hello everyone! Quick updated: I spent a week in hospital then was able to come home last Wednesday after successfully switching from IV meds back to tablets for preventing contractions. I have an appointment this afternoon so we’ll see what that brings – hopefully I can stay home until my planned readmission to hospital on 25th November.

Anyway, today I am here to talk books. I actually read surprisingly little in October considering I spent most of it in hospital, where you would think I wouldn’t be able to do much else. But for the first week I couldn’t manage to concentrate enough to read and then I struggled to get through The Name of the Rose until Jan brought me something else. I then finished The Name of the Rose once back home but progress was slooow. But enough rambling – I should get on with the reviews. I’m linking up with Steph and Jana as always.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. Reclusive novelist Vida Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself – all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter’s story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission, and is gradually sucked in as Vida Winter reveals dark family secrets that she has long kept hidden from her days at Angelfield, the now burnt-out estate that was her childhood home Remaining suspicious of Miss Winters’ sincerity, Margaret carries out her own investigations as well, and gradually two parallel tales unfold. This was a re-read but I remembered basically nothing from the first time. It’s enjoyable and the writing is truly beautiful at times but parts of it are quite long-winded and it occasionally feels repetitive. I enjoyed the gothic atmosphere though. I had completely forgotten the final twist and didn’t manage to piece the clues together this time either so that speaks for it. I liked Margaret but I did find myself occasionally rolling my eyes at her “obsession” – it sometimes felt like she wanted to be the main character in her own personal gothic tragedy. 3.5 stars.

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. The year is 1327. Benedictines in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville has come to investigate. On arrival, he learns of the bizarre death of one of the abbey’s residents and turns detective, only for more monks to turn up dead. What is going on at the abbey and can Brother William solve the mystery while also completing his original mission? I thought I was never going to finish this book and you’re probably wondering why I bothered. The short answer is it’s part of the BBC big read. Anyway, somewhere in this book there’s a murder mystery, caught between the pages of… I don’t know what. A history of the church? A philosophical work? Parts of it are fascinating but others go on forever. Overall it’s very slow and at times I had to force myself to go on reading. I loved the idea of the library and its secrets – the parts where Adso and William were discovering how things worked were fantastic. But all the random breaking into Latin with no translation just made me feel like I was too stupid for the book. 3 stars.

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #2). It’s winter in Three Pines and the residents of the picturesque Quebec village are preparing for Christmas… but somebody is preparing for murder! No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter – and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. She managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder – or brilliant enough to succeed? With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. This is an entertaining mystery. I enjoyed being back in Three Pines and I love the villagers – especially Ruth. She amuses me. However I was put off by the way the author talked about CC de Poitiers daughter, aka “the fat girl”. At one point she describes her as “grotesque” – a literal child! And it’s a general description of a scene, not one of the characters speaking. I enjoyed the story though and will likely continue the series. 4 stars.

Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deidre Sullivan (Perfectly Preventable Deaths #1). After their mother remarried, fifteen-year-old twins Madeline and Catlin move to a new life in Ballyfran, a strange isolated town, a place where, for the last sixty years, teenage girls have gone missing in the surrounding mountains. Normally close, a distance begins to grow between the twins – as Catlin falls in love, and Madeline discovers… powers? When Catlin falls into the gravest danger of all, Madeline must ask herself who she really is, and who she wants to be – or rather, who she might have to become to save her sister. First of all I have to confess that this was a total cover buy. Look at it though – can you blame me? The story itself starts off pretty slow. There’s a lot of build up and subtle hints about what’s going on. I didn’t mind but I can imagine a lot of people would find it frustrating. Towards the end it gets dark very quickly. Things seem to escalate all at once.
There’s also a scene with animal abuse/mutilation that’s described in some detail. While I understand why the character did what she did it would definitely be disturbing for a lot of people. 3.5 stars.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. In this book, we follow the lives – and problems – of an elderly Midwestern couple and their three adult children. After almost fifty years as a wife and mother, Enid is ready to have some fun. Unfortunately, her husband, Alfred, is slowly losing his sanity to Parkinson’s disease, and their children have long since flown the family nest to the catastrophes of thier own lives. Desperate for something to look forward to, Enid has set her heart on bringing the family together for one last Christmas at home. This book is quite honestly tedious and I wouldn’t have finished it if I wasn’t stuck in hospital without anything else. All of the characters are unlikable and most of them aren’t even particularly interesting. I did feel some sympathy for Enid but still didn’t like her. The only member of the family who seemed vaguely tolerable was the daughter, Denise. At least her section didn’t bore me to tears! 2 stars.

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell. When Saffyre Maddox was ten something terrible happened and she’s carried the pain of it around with her ever since. The man who she thought was going to heal her didn’t, and now she hides from him, invisible in the shadows, learning his secrets; secrets she could use to blow his safe, cosy world apart. Meanwhile, Owen Pick’s life is falling apart. In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn. When Saffyre disappears from opposite Owen’s house on Valentine’s night, suddenly the whole world is looking at him. Accusing him. Holding him responsible. After all, he’s just the type, isn’t he?… I found this book little slow in the beginning and I wasn’t too sure where it was going to go but from around the mud-point I was hooked. I think I partially guessed who the bad guy was (or at least what’s implied at the end) but it definitely also took a direction I wasn’t expecting. Not Lisa Jewell’s best but a solid read. 3.5 stars.

So, that’s it for October. Not the best reading month – none of the books I read really stand out as being excellent. I do recommend Invisible Girl and A Fatal Grace though (but you should read book 1 in the series first!).

Unfortunately none of the six books I read in October were by BAME/BIPOC authors.

Check out the Show Us Your Books link up for more book reviews and recommendations.

Back in hospital…

A huge thank you to all those who have been checking in since my operation. I appreciate all your comment. Apologies if I’ve failed to respond to any! This will be a short post since once again I am typing on my phone. The operation went really well – couldn’t have been better. Both an MRI and several ultrasounds have shown leg movement right down to the feet so it looks like we’ve been able to preserve that function and baby should later be able to walk unaided or with minimal aid. My recovery also went well and I was taking brief walks around the ward on day 3. I got to go home after exactly 2 weeks with strict instructions on what I was not allowed to do (basically any housework whatsover!). I then managed a whole two weeks at home before I started noticing contractions. Luckily as it turned out they are “practice” ones (known as Braxton Hicks) so labour down seem to be imminent but because of the fresh incision the doctors wanted to be extra careful so I was admitted back to hospital for observation and IV anti-contraction meds. And that’s is where I am now. Later today I will hopefully find out how they want to proceed. For now I am celebrating the fact that baby and I have made it to exactly 5 weeks since the operation!