Fenwick’s Christmas Window 2017 – Paddington Bear

While we were over in England for my sister’s wedding, my dad wanted to take us shopping in Newcastle for Christmas presents. Having missed out on Fenwick’s window in 2016 (to my eternal sorrow – it was Peter Rabbit. I love Peter Rabbit/Beatrix Potter, to the extent that I had the bedding when I was little), I was determined to get a look at last year’s effort… Paddington. My favourite bear (sorry Winnie-the-Pooh – you’re a close second if it’s any consolation). It was Thursday afternoon and the schools hadn’t broken up for Christmas yet so we were able to get right up to the window for a proper look. Here are my photos… with apologies for all the reflections of passers-by and the buildings opposite. Pretty difficult to avoid!

I presume Paddington was chosen as the theme because of the second film coming out, but to me it seemed like a fitting tribute to Michael Bond, the author of the original books, who passed away in June 2017. Although I personally prefer the books, it’s nice that the films are ensuring the story of the little bear from Darkest Peru is continuing for a new generation of children.

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Die-cut butterflies card

This probably won’t be exciting to anyone but me, but I shall tell you about it anyway.

I got a die cutter for Christmas – specifically the Big Shot foldaway – and after having a bit of a play with the shapes that came with it, I have been very much looking forward to making some actual cards with it. My opportunity came this week. I am determined to keep being involved with Post Pals* this year, and one girl who likes butterflies has a birthday coming up.

butterfly card

I cut out the red butterflies using a die that a penpal sent me. The yellow butterflies are felt ones I bought ages ago, the flowers are stickers, and the “Happy Birthday” was cut using a die I purchased.

I can’t wait until I’ve built up my die collection some more and can (hopefully) make better, more complicated cards.

* In case you’ve missed all my previous references to it, here is my explanation of what Post Pals is all about and here is a link to their website where you can read all about them in their own words and maybe even pick a pal to write to. Apparently January and February are the slowest months for mail, so if you do want to brighten a sick child’s day now would be the perfect time!

What I read in December 2017

Yes, it’s another link-up post. Sorry! I will write something real soon. But it’s Show Us Your Books day and I feel compelled to show you my books.

This will be a relatively short one since I didn’t finish that many books in December.

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The Naming of the Shrew: A Curious History of Latin Names by John Wright. I gave my dad this book for Christmas 2016 and he lent it to me when I saw him in the summer, so I wanted to finish it so I could return it when I went over for my sister’s wedding. I started it in November and finished it in December, but technically read it in two train rides – I took it with me when I had to go into the office. Some sections are a bit long winded but overall it’s interesting. You can certainly tell the author is enthusiastic about the subject – his love for his field shines through. A solid four stars.

Missing Rose by Linda Newbery. This one started off strong but ultimately I was disappointed. When I finally found out what happened to Rose it all seemed a bit rushed and anticlimactic. There seemed to be too many subplots all coming together at the end with none really being satisfactorily explained or resolved. It is well written and intriguing for the most part though, just the final chapters let it down. Three stars.

Magician by Raymond E. Feist. At 841 pages this wasn’t even the longest book I read last year but it seemed so long. It was good though… I just couldn’t read loads of it in one sitting. It is fantasy and some of the races seem a little clichéd… elves who hate associating with other races unless they have to because, say, there’s a war on. Sound in any way familiar? I didn’t mind that too much though. I liked most of the characters and mostly enjoyed reading about them. One thing that really annoyed me was the use of “ages ago” to describe basically anything that happened in the past – whether in someone’s use or at the actual start of the world! I assume he was trying to show that although the characters refer to themselves as “humans”, this book is not really set on Earth, but every time I read about something happening “ages ago” I was jolted out of the story by the sheer strangeness of it. Why would anybody use “ages ago” there?! It’s a minor point but it drove me craaaazy! Luckily there wasn’t so much talk of the past towards the end and I finished the last 2 or 3 chapters in one night. It’s the first in a series but if the others are this long I don’t think I’ll bother. I gave it 4 stars though.

Game Changer by Tim Bowler. In essence this is the story of a teen with agoraphobia and anxiety issues who is persuaded to face his fears and actually go out one night by his sister. Unfortunately something happens while they are out and now a gang is out to get him. The book is so action packed that you can’t help but read it in one sitting (it helps that it’s a short book) and Mikey’s agoraphobia and panic attacks seem authentic from what I can tell as a non-sufferer. I found the story really confusing though and once I finally found out what Mikey had actually witnessed the rest of the book felt rushed. Also the brother/ sister relationship was somehow… off. I get that’s she was worried about him but no teenager is that close to their sibling! They seemed almost creepily close. The danger/violence is not the tamest so I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under the age of about 13/14. If you’re looking for something quick it’s enjoyable enough. Three stars.

And that was it… a mere four books finished. Just after Christmas, I started reading The Pillars of the Earth, which I obviously won’t be finishing any time soon considering it’s over 1,000 pages and I’m occupied with Erin’s challenge! And then I started another book on the train to Geneva because Pillars of the Earth was too big to fit in my handbag… so I’m also currently reading On The Road. I may finish that one in January, depending on how I get on with Erin’s challenge.

Did you read anything good in December? Linking up with Jana and Steph, as always. Hit one of the links to see what other people have been reading recently.

Recent doings #24 – December 2017

Hi everyone! I’m not really sure what I can write in this December recap post that wasn’t already covered in my yearly review or another post, but I hate to miss out on the What’s New With You link up again (I missed Novembers because I was packing and then on a plane to England), so here we go…

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Reading. I will post all my December reads next week when Show Us Your Books rolls around, but I feel the need to mention (again) that I finished Magician in December. Not only was it over 800 pages long, but it also ended up being the 100th book I finished in 2017. Woo!

Watching. I finally watched Being John Malkovich and it was just so weird! Other than that a bunch of Christmas films… Miracle on 34th Street (the 90s version), A Muppet Christmas Carol, the end of Home Alone 2 and The Snowman and the Snowdog. Also Christmas specials of Pointless and A Question of Sport. I think I watched more TV in December than the entire rest of the year…

Making. Christmas cards… for Post Pals and for my family. I think I made over 100 cards this year! Here are some that I’m fairly sure you haven’t seen:

Eating. All the things I really shouldn’t have… what else does one do in December? Ferrero Rocher, Gingerbread men, biscuits, crisps… it was bad. But oh so good. Then we had lamb for Christmas dinner.

Drinking. Prosecco. And that was before Christmas even arrived 😉 The day of my sister’s wedding we literally drank fizz for breakfast.

Celebrating. My sister’s wedding. And obviously Christmas 😉

Visiting. My dad’s cousin on Boxing Day (26 December for those that aren’t familiar with it). He lives in Germany, but a relatively short train journey away from us. He has three kids and his parents (my great aunt and uncle) were also visiting so it was a full house! We had a fun afternoon.

Hosting. A friend from uni days! She came to stay for the first week in December because she wanted to see some Christmas markets. We obliged by taking her to the ones in Freiburg (Germany) and Basel.

Travelling. To England for the wedding, obviously. Then to Geneva for New Year.

wedding balloon

Buying. Christmas presents, of course. Although to be fair I had bought almost all of mine before December rolled around since I needed to take them to England when I flew over for the wedding. But I did end up buying one last-minute gift the day we flew and then still had to buy the very last one in Newcastle! For myself, I think I only bought 4 books in December, which is actually pretty good going. I won’t tell you how many I normally buy…

I can’t think of anything else. It was a busy month, but somehow all the busy seems to have been covered in just a few categories. I was also working until the 22nd though, so between that and all the Christmas cards there wasn’t really time for much else before Christmas. I’m hoping January will be slightly less insane.

I am linking up with Kristen and Gretch as always. Please go and say hi!

A Photo an Hour: 16 December 2017

Happy New Year friends! I hope you all had a good start to the year, whatever you were doing (I was in Geneva getting soaked – the heavens opened just before midnight!), and 2018 is an amazing one for every single one of you. Today I wanted to post my final photo an hour of 2017 before we get too far into January! I actually almost missed it, but luckily I was browsing through Twitter in the morning and saw other people doing it, so I waited until the next full hour and then started mine. As always, I am linking up with Louisa and Jane.

11 a.m. I had been awake for more than half an hour and hadn’t even had a cuppa yet, so clearly that had to be remedied…

12 noon. Cross stitching the last few Christmas cards for Jan’s family – none of which are actually pictured on this page of the magazine 😉

1 p.m. Showered and now getting dressed.

2 p.m. In town in the rain – I had gone to track down a last-minute Christmas gift.

3 p.m. Just managed to leap on a tram before it left. Phew!

4 p.m. Home, drying out with tea and candles.

5 p.m. Cross stitching away.

6 p.m. Still stitching… thus far it looks like nothing!

7 p.m. Emptying the dishwasher while “cooking” dinner. (Okay, the oven was doing the cooking…)

8 p.m. Jan put on “Being John Malkovich” while we ate.

9 p.m. Still watching. How messed up is this film?!

10 p.m. Film over, time for a hot chocolate. And when we switched the DVD off Home Alone 2 was on German TV.

I then went to bed before 11 p.m. to make sure I wouldn’t have to take another photo and mess up my symmetry 😉

The next Photo an Hour is on 20 January 2018. If you want to join in, all you have to do is take a photo every hour and then either upload them to Twitter or Instagram on the day using the #Photoanhour hashtag or save them and write a blog post like this one afterwards. Or you can do both (I usually take part on Twitter and then write a blog post later).

The Book Review of 2017

I did this last year (having stolen it from Kezzie) and it was great fun so I’ve decided to do it again this year. Also, I thought it was perfect for Jana and Steph‘s “Show Us Your Favourite Books of the Year” link up (although not all the categories involve favourite books). Two birds, one stone and all that. So, let’s talk books…

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Best book you read in 2017:

I hate this question. It’s so hard! How can I pick one best book?! I’m going to say The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry or The Trespasser by Tana French. Yes, that’s two. Sorry! (No I’m not…)

Best children’s fiction:

Just Call Me Spaghetti-Hoop Boy by Lara Williamson is a lovely book. I just wanted to hug Adam.

Best crime fiction:

Ooh, that’s not fair… I already picked Tana French for best book. Maybe this is why I should actually only pick one per category? Märchenwald by Martin Krist then.

Best classic:

I didn’t actually read many classics this year. Umm… The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham I didn’t expect to like it, but I did.

Best non-fiction:

I am awful at reading non-fiction – I think I read about 3 non-fiction books all year (which is why I’m going to fail that item on my 35 before 35 list). However, I enjoyed The Naming of the Shrew by John Wright.

Best dystopian fiction:

I think All Our Yesterdays was the only thing I read in 2017 that could be considered dystopian, so that one wins by default. I did actually like it though. Ooh, no wait… I also read The Handmaids Tale. How can I choose?

Best YA:

I can’t choose between The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli and One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus. Two again. I’m not very good at this making decisions thing 😉

Most surprising (in a good way) book read in 2016:

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. I had no idea what it was even about and didn’t find the title or cover particularly appealing, but it ended up being surprisingly good. Not what I’d call a page-turner, and some parts bored me, but overall it was fascinating.

Book You Read In 2016 That You Recommended Most To Others:

For the first time in a while I can actually think of a book I specifically recommended, personally to people (not just by writing a review on my blog): Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle by Gabrielle Kent. I even bought it for my brother for his birthday – along with book two in the series.. I’m not sure whether anyone I spoke to about it has actually read it yet, but I did recommend it. Yay! (And I still do. Reeeeeeeead it! And the rest of the series.)

Best series you discovered in 2016:

The aforementioned Alfie Bloom! And also The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood. I cannot believe we’re being deprived of the sixth (and final) book until next summer though! I’m sure they originally said October 2017! *Glares*

Favourite new author you discovered in 2016:

Trying to avoid repetition… Menna von Praag (author of The House at the End of Hope Street), as far as I can judge based on one book.

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

Broken Silence by Danielle Ramsay. Ugh, I am still mad about this one! I was so excited to read a book that was set somewhat locally to my home then the author ruined it by constant references to how horrible Whitley Bay is, how it used to be a nice fishing village and is now run-down and full of druggy teenagers, etc. If you hate the North-East that much go back to Scotland! Also, I wasn’t keen on the overall style of writing. It read like she’d taken a creative writing class where someone said “vary your vocabulary” and taken that very literally. I actually ended up giving it three stars because it suddenly got good right towards the end and I did like the story in general. I have read worse books this year. But after I had been looking forward to it so much I was majorly disappointed.

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

New genre: The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monserrat. War books are not my thing. Setting them at sea doesn’t magically make them more my thing. I actually enjoyed this one though. As for out of my comfort zone… America Psycho vy Pret Easton Ellis. Is that actually in anyone’s comfort zone though? There is nothing comforting about it. Brrr.

Book You Read In 2017 That You’re Most Likely To Read Again In 2018:

It is highly unlikely that I will re-read a book so soon – at least give me time to forget the details! So how about a book I read in 2017 that I will most likely read again at some point? I read a few children’s books that I hope to be able to read to/with my children one day. If I have to pick a specific one… Carbonel: The King of the Cats by Barbara Sleigh.

Favourite Book You Read in 2017 by an Author You’ve Read Previously:

Interestingly, I actually seem to have read quite a lot of books this year by authors that are either new to me released their debut in 2017, so I think I only have a choice of about three for this answer! I’m going to say Bogwoppit by Ursula Moray Williams because it is such a cute book, and relatively unknown. Plus I haven’t mentioned it yet.

Best Book You Read In 2017 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

I read Wicked by Gregory Maguire solely because someone else had chosen it for Erin’s reading challenge. Does that count as a recommendation? I read a few books for that reason, but I think Wicked was my favourite.

Favourite Cover of a Book in 2017:

I’m assuming this means of a book I read in 2017 rather than a cover of a book published in 2017? I think it was this one:

Mein Leben book

Book That Had The Greatest Impact On You In 2016:

In a bad way: American Psycho.
In a good way: Wonder by R.J. Palacio.
Also The Handmaid’s Tale. Scarily relevant for the way the world seems to be heading today.

Book You Can’t BELIEVE You Waited Until 2016 To Read

Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo. I think I bought this book before we even moved to Switzerland, so how it was still sitting unread on my bookcase until this year is beyond me?!

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!

I keep repeating myself, but so many scenes in American Psycho. Like did that even really happen? How did nobody notice anything? And how do I get these images out of my head? Ick!

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2016 (be it romantic, friendship, etc)

The relationship between Benjamin Brown and his dog in Midnight for Charlie Bone. That might sound weird but I don’t care… doggies!

Most Memorable Character In A Book You Read In 2016:
Kieran in Smart by Kim Slater. He’s so lovely and I was happy that things worked out for him in the end. There are others, but I would be repeating the same books again so I’ll leave it at that.

Genre You Read The Most From in 2016:

I’m going to take a guess and say either fantasy or thrillers. If anyone knows a way to find this out without literally clicking through all my books on Goodreads (other than making shelves for every single genre) I’m all ears – or eyes really since you’ll be writing it in the comments…

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2016:

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. Some might find it too sweet or “corny” but I found it quirky and fun. Especially Biscuit the dog.

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016:

I’m awful for crying at books, so yeah… none in particular stands out. Pretty sure I cried at least once during Wonder though. Actually there is one point in particular that I know made me cry, but I won’t say because spoilers 😉

Book You Read in 2016 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out:

One by Sarah Crossan came out in 2016 and I had never even heard of it until I stumbled across it by accident. It has over 1,000  reviews on Goodreads, which sounds like a lot, but The Fault in Our Stars (which I think is overrated) has over 14,000 so yeah. Anyway, a book featuring conjoined twins isn’t something you come across every day so I think it should be more popular just for that.

Total books read in 2017 (so far): 102

It’s theoretically possible that I could finish another one before the year is out, but I’ve just started another 1,000-pager so I doubt it. My GoodReads goal was only 80 though, so I can’t complain. And I feel like I should mention that Magician by Raymond E. Feist was the 100th book I finished… and it was looong. Actually not the longest book I read this year, but long enough (841 pages in case you’re wondering).

And, just because Goodreads tells me and I like statistics, the longest book I read in 2017 was The Stand by Stephen King at 1,439 pages and the shortest was First Day At Bug School by Sam Lloyd with 32 pages (bought for my godson as a starting school gift, so of course I read it before giving it to him).

I know this was a long post, so if you actually read all of it you are amazing! If you decided to answer the questions, let me know so I can come and be nosy.

This is a scheduled post, so I will add the official Show Us Your Books link later once the link up post is published. Edit: As promised, go here to see which books everyone else loved this year.