Holiday!

It feels like forever since I last had any proper time off, but now it’s finally my turn for a holiday! Tonight we fly to Gatwick, from whence we shall be travelling around Britain (well, mainly England really). I haven’t scheduled any posts and I won’t be posting while I’m away either, so this place will be devoid of activity for a while. Try to be good while I’m away 😉 See you in September!

Lake Lucerne
Photo of Lake Lucerne from above for no particular reason…

Shooting stars for 34 years of me!

As you may or may not have noticed, it was my birthday on Sunday. I’m now 34 – less than a year until I have to tick the next category in age ranges (why is it always 35 to something) and less than a year left for my 35 before 35. Eeep. Obviously, 34 doesn’t feel too different so far. Obviously I am another year older, but at this point I’m also only 4 days older than I was before my birthday…

Part of my gift from Jan was a trip to look for shooting stars. As you may know, the Perseids is a meteor shower that takes place every year from around mid-July, peaking between the 12th and 14th of August… i.e. right around my birthday. Since it was cloudy in Basel on the 12th, we had to go hunting for them elsewhere. So Jan hired a car, which he eventually managed to pick up in the afternoon after some mix up about where it was. Since it was still light, we went to Solothurn first, where we were just in time to climb the tower of the Baseltor before it closed.

Back down on the ground, we took a walk through Solothurn and then went for dinner (I had tuna steak. It was delicious). Then I decided since it was my last meal as a 33 year old I deserved dessert. Vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. Yum! I didn’t take any photos of the food, but here’s one of the restaurant we ate at:

Brasserie Federal_Solothurn
Brasserie Federal, Solothurn

After dinner, we got back in the car and drove in a generally south-ish direction, hoping to find somewhere less cloudy. We eventually got to Bern, where we checked the cloud radar and decided to move further south. We eventually ended up in Spiez, which is where we got out of the car. First we went down to the lakeside (Lake Thun for those who are interested) and then we headed up to a castle on a hill so that we could see more of the sky at once. I still only managed to spot a grand total of three shooting stars the entire time we were there, but we did see a bat, which is always cool. Midnight struck while we were by the castle, but unfortunately no meteorite showed itself to wish me a happy birthday 😉 From what I could see, Spiez looked like a nice place. We’ll have to go when it’s light some time. Here’s the castle and a church that was opposite it – I thought the moon beside it (half hidden behind a cloud) looked cool.

It was 2 a.m. by the time we got home, so all I did was go to bed, leaving my cards for the morning.

Such a beautiful place to see in my 34th birthday. Once again, I’m so glad we took the chance and moved to Switzerland.

The books I read in July 2017

Once again it’s time to link up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books… and I warn you this is going to be a long one! I well and truly got my reading mojo back in July, and not only completed Erin’s reading challenge but even managed to read another four books for a total of 14! This time I’m listing the challenge books all together (in the order I read them) and then the others.

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Catch 22 by Joseph Heller (570 pages, read for the “banned book” category). Uhh, what even was this book? It was more enjoyable than the typical war story I was expecting, but it was really confusing and nowhere near as hilarious as people make out! Some bits were funny, but a lot of the humour just felt forced and ridiculous. It did a good job of showing how ridiculous and insane war is, but I wouldn’t read it again. 3 stars.

Lost DogHow to Look for a Lost Dog by Ann M. Martin (240 pages, read for “A book with an animal on the cover” – see photo for evidence of animal). I loved this book! I loved Rose, I loved Uncle Weldon and I wished I had a dog like Rain. I wanted to strangle the dad though, especially when he said things like “why do you have to be like this ” and told Rose to behave herself at school. Grrr. Read if you’re an animal love and like having your heart strings pulled on. 5 stars. (Note: this is the same book as Rain, Reign under a different title).

 

Alfie Bloom 2Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief by Gabrielle Kent (272 pages, read for “A book with a mostly yellow cover” – see photo for evidence of yellowness). Book two in the Alfie Bloom series is even better than book 1… and I already gave the first one five stars, so now what do I do! I’m glad Amy had a bigger role in this book – she’s an amazing character. And it was interesting to find out more about Ashton and Emily. One of my favourite things is that the girls in the book weren’t treated differently because they were girls – at one point Alfie wants Amy to carry out a plan because she’s “the best swimmer out of all of them”. Not like the books I read a child where the girls were always being told they couldn’t do something because “it’s too dangerous” (Famous Five, I’m looking at you!). Everyone should read this series! 5 stars.

A Seven Letter Word by Kim Slater (297 pages, read for the freebie category). I enjoyed this, but not as much as this author’s previous book (Smart – reviewed here). Finlay is an likeable enough character and I did feel sorry for him, but somehow his story didn’t grip me in the same way as Kieran’s did. I did enjoy the little titbits of information about Scrabble at the beginning of each chapter. 4 stars.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (336 pages, read for “A book published in 2017”).  I loved this one and read the entire thing in two hours (when I should have been sleeping, but oh well). The characters are all so lovely and I could definitely identify with Molly and all her insecurities. It was also nice to read a book about older teens – most seem to have characters aged around 13-15. I wish this had been around when I was 16! And I also wish my sister and I had the kind of relationship Molly and Cassie do.  5 stars.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (359 pages, read for “Read a book with a non-human main character). This book had been sitting on my bookcase for over a year and I have no idea why I put of reading it for so long. I mean, there are DRAGONS! Dragons who can change their form and walk around looking human no less. There is also intrigue, secrets and a kick-ass main character. I finished reading it and then immediately ordered book two. 5 stars.

Broken Silence by Danielle Ramsay (408 pages, read for “A book that starts with the letter B). I had been looking forward to reading this book for ages because it’s set close to where my family live, so I was incredibly disappointed to discover that the author apparently hates Whitley Bay. Seriously, is there any need to mention every two pages that it’s “a once bustling seaside town” that’s now run-down and seedy with kids doing drugs on every corner? If you hate the place that much then sod off back to Scotland! Also, the main character is a total cliché and the entire book read like the author had done a creative writing course and learned to vary her writing style, with the result that she sprinkled adjectives around like confetti. Nobody could just “say” anything, ever. They always had to demand, instruct, state and order. Or even question sceptically, answer coolly or whisper hoarsely. Every. Single. Time. However, I did like the basic crime story that was hidden in there somewhere and persevered because I wanted to know who the murderer was (I guessed correctly slightly before the detective). right towards the end the writing suddenly got better and there was a fantastic interview scene, which is why I gave this book 3 stars instead of the 2 I had originally intended.

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida (256 pages, read for “A book with a cardinal/compass direction in the title). This book was strange. I actually really enjoyed it but I can’t quite explain why. The writing is amazing, almost poetic, but the story is strange, not particularly realistic (so many coincidences!) and, based on the ending, I don’t think Clarissa learned anything from her experiences. And yet I gave it 4 stars.

Thirteen Hours by Narinder Dhami (272 pages, read for “A fictional book featuring mental illness”). The mother of the main character has agoraphobia, so there#s the mental illness connection. I really liked this book. It’s gripping from start to finish (the beginning in a different way to the end). I felt for Anni and her mum and even liked the intruders. The “secret” was entirely different to what I had expected. I also liked that the author included an explanation of young carers and agoraphobia after the story. It could have been a lot more detailed, but for the young age group it’s aimed it I thought it was really good. 4 stars.

Bambi: A Life in the Woods by Felix Stalten (272 pages, read for “A book that’s related to a Disney film”). Obviously this book is nothing like the Disney version, but I was expecting that. It’s quite graphic at times and not really a book for young children – I wouldn’t give it to anyone under ten. It’s a nice enough story and wonderfully written, but I felt like the author went a bit overboard on the portrayal of man as totally evil. 3 stars.

Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher. I meant to read this for my “mental illness” book, but it turned out the main character’s refusal to speak was on purpose and not true selective/ elective muteness after all (rather than being unable to speak, at one point she has to force herself not to!). I enjoyed this book and read the entire thing in a morning while waiting for some people who were visiting us to wake up. I felt sorry for Tess, and although the way she handled her situation wasn’t the best, it felt realistic for a teenager. The heart to heart between Tess and her parents at the end really made me smile. Not perfect, but really good. 4 stars.

Toten Stille by Daniela Arnold. Read in German, the title literally translates as Deadly or Deathly Silence. A serial killer is keeping women prisoner for months and torturing them before killing them and leaving the bodies for the police to find. At the same time, a woman is involved in an accident and her husband, child and friends then claim she’s not who she says she is. When the evidence points to her being the murderer of the other women she needs to figure out what’s going on. This book was fast-paced and thrilling, the action never let up for a minute. The ending annoyed me though – somehow the detective working on the case managed to work out who the culprit was based entirely on her intuition despite the fact that they had never come across this person in the course of the investigation and his name had not once been mentioned in the book. Umm, okay then. It passed the time well enough and was a quick read but I’m not sure I would read anything else by this author. 3 stars.

Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson. In the interests of disclosure, I should say I wouldn’t have read this book if it wasn’t on the BBC Big Read list. I don’t think this is one of Jacqueline Wilson’s better efforts. While it is interesting to see a book for pre-teens and younger teens that deals with death/grief, it seemed a bit simplistic even for the target age. Also, I just could not like Vicky, even though I was probably supposed to feel sorry for her being dead? Actually I thought Jade had a lucky escape – at least now she can get on with her life without her bullying so-called “best friend” putting her down all the time! 2 stars.

Bang, Bang, You’re Dead by Narinder Dhami. After Thirteen Hours, this book was a bit of a disappointment. I really felt for Mia and was worrying about Jamie right along with her, but then the ending went in a direction that I wasn’t expecting and I wasn’t sure what to think.  It was all a bit odd. The “twist” was a bit too abrupt and it felt like there wasn’t enough time left to handle it properly. The mum’s bipolar disease is handled well though. 3 stars.

And that’s it… 14 reviews. If you’ve got this far you deserve a medal (I did warn you though!). One day I will learn to review books more succinctly. Head to the link up to see what everyone else has been reading and – if you’re anything like me – add even more books to your never ending want-to-read list! And if you’ve read any of these books let me know in the comments whether you agree with my opinion 🙂

Recent doings #20

I’m sure you’re sick of me saying it every month, but how is it August already? Ten days until my birthday… I’m so not ready to be 34! I am, however, ready for a holiday. 15 days until we fly. Not that I’m counting or anything…

Right now, though, it’s time to link up with Kristen and Gretch to talk about all the things I’ve been doing in July.

whats-new

Eating. I started the month continuing June’s theme of salads and ice cream, but then the weather got bad plus Jan was performing with the Basel Tattoo choir every evening so for the last half of July I just ate whatever could be made quickly and easily. Fish fingers featured a few times. And sandwiches.

Watching. The Coroner on BBC Entertainment. It seems to be over now though – when I tried to put it on last night Hustle was on instead. Also fireworks over the Rhine for Switzerland’s national day (which is actually on 1st August, but Basel is greedy and does fireworks twice, so the ones on the day before just about manage to sneak in to my July round-up ;-)).

Reading. I actually had a good reading month for a change and managed to read 14 books! Ten were for Erin’s challenge. I will tell you about the in detail next week.

Seeing/hearing. The Basel Tattoo! Since Jan was part of it, I got tickets for one of the performances. It was very cool and I would definitely go again.

Cross stitching. Birthday cards galore! I wanted to get all the Post Pals birthday cards for August finished and sent out before I go away (and of course I also stitched the July ones), plus my friend turned 30 so I made her a card as well.

mermaid birthday card

Booking. Our flight back from the UK and accommodation in Cornwall. And Jan has now booked the remaining accommodation so we’re all sorted. Woo!

Buying. It would probably be easier to say what I haven’t been buying to be honest! I spent way too much money in July. I definitely bought books, stickers and a load of badges/pins to send to Post Pals kids (they have all been given lanyards to collect them). I can’t even remember what else. Oh, birthday gifts for my mum and my friend, of course.

Wishing. Work would slow down a bit. I mean, having lots of work is better than sitting around doing nothing and I do appreciate being kept busy, but I am exhausted right now.

That’s all for today. All that aforementioned work awaits (and today I have to work longer again to make up for the fact that I’m in the office tomorrow and won’t actually arrive there until 10 a.m.).

What have you been doing recently? Don’t forget to check out the link up to find out what’s new with everyone else!

Book challenge by Erin 7.0: Bonus round

Somehow I managed to be the first to finish round 1 of Erin’s reading challenge, so I’ve been waiting more or less patiently for half of July to be able to start the bonus round. Finally August has arrived and I can reveal what I will be reading for the rest of the summer.

BCBE7

For each of these categories, I get an extra 5 points if the book I read was previously chosen (and 5 of the books must have been previously chosen anyway), so I spent most of today going through all the books that had been used for the first round and trying to find ones that I either already own or can buy from Amazon at a reasonable price. Now I think I’ve managed to put together a list that consists only of previously chosen books  🙂 (Fellow participants… please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).

So without further ado, here is my bonus round list:

10 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The person who chose this in the first round had it as a book with a mostly yellow cover, but my copy is the same as the one in the link and it’s orange, not yellow, so freebie it is. I need to read this book anyway for my BBC Big Read challenge.

15 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “B”

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. Before I discovered Goodreads, I had a physical handwritten list of books I wanted to read. This one was on that list, so it’s probably about time I actually read it!

15 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) yellow cover

I have ordered a copy of Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky, so hopefully when it turns up the cover will actually be yellow.

20 points: Read a book that has a picture of an animal on the cover

The Dog Who Came in from the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith looked really interesting. There seem to be a few editions, so hopefully the copy I’ve ordered will turn out to actually have a dog on the cover!

25 points: Read a book that was published in 2017

Every time I log on to Goodreads someone else seems to have reviewed One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus and every time I see it my brain starts playing the ABBA song! Please tell me I’m not the only one? Anyway, the concept sounds really interesting and I’m excited to read this one.

25 points: Read a book with a compass or cardinal direction in the title

I’m sure I saw East of Eden by John Steinbeck in the Goodreads group for the challenge? This is another one that I have to read for the BBC Big Read, and if I failt to complete the bonus round I have a feeling it will be because of this book.

30 points: Read a book from this list of the most commonly banned books in America: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_commonly_challenged_books_in_the_United_States

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes. Somehow I’ve never come across this book before, but it sounds like something I will like.

35 points: Read a fictional book about mental illness

I recently bought Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk without even realising it would qualify for this category. Now I don’t have to wait until the challenge is over to read it. Yay!

35 points: Read a book with a non-human main character; i.e. animals, elves, gods, robots, merpeople, etc.

We’ve had American Gods by Neil Gaiman sitting on our bookcase for far too long! Usually it would be something I would read with Jan, but we have loads of books to read and no time to read them together, so I’ll just have to go it along with this one.

40 points: Read a book a Disney movie was based on OR a book based on a Disney movie

(Ha, my British English spell-checker doesn’t recognise movie as a word!)
I really wanted to read The Fox and the Hound for this category, but both Amazon Germany and Amazon UK are only selling it as either a Kindle edition (“not available in your country”) or a really, really expensive hardcover… and I am not paying over 100 euros for a book! So I’ve chosen A Whole New World by Liz Braswell purely because it was cheaper than As Old As Time 😉

And those are my choices for the bonus round. Who else is playing? Show me your list!

And while I’m here, have a photo of last night’s fireworks over the Rhine as a reward for getting this far 😉 Today is Switzerland’s national holiday so happy birthday Switzerland!

Swiss national holiday

Friday letters

Hooray for Friday! I have been so, so tired all week so now I’m looking forward to just chilling for a while But first I have a whole day of work ahead of me. Aaah.

Here are some letters.

Letters

Dear BBC Entertainment. It is very annoying that you neither show up in the TV Guide nor have any information available when I press the “Info” button. I never know when anything is on you, so I just have to keep flicking over to make sure I’m not missing something good. (Currently loving “The Coroner” but I keep forgetting what time it starts and missing the beginning. Grrr.)

Dear sunflower. We did not plant you, but somehow you have grown in one of our pots. Luckily I like sunflowers, so you were an unexpected treat.

Dear ice cream. Whyyy must you be so tasty? Luckily it’s also been too hot to cook recently so I’ve been balancing you out with salad. It seems to be working – the number on the scales is only fluctuating slightly (but refusing to go down any further, ever. Which is totally your fault, ice cream). Speaking of which…

Dear scales. I was entirely unimpressed with the number you showed me this morning. I ate fruit for breakfast yesterday. Fruit! Surely that should result in instant weight loss? 😉

Dear bookshelves. You appear to be overflowing again. I’m really not sure how that could have happened… 😉

Well, that’s all from me for today. Have a great weekend everyone!

 

 

35 Before 35: Progress report 7

A blog post two days in a row? What is this madness? I hear you cry! Well, it’s exactly a month until my 34th birthday (HELP!) so I thought I’d better check what progress I’ve made on my 35 before 35 list since my last check in – which was in January, apparently.

Number 13:  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

I was up to 18 last time, and now I’m on a grand total of…. *drum roll* … 19. Yeah. I read A Sense of Style by Steve Pinker. I reviewed it yesterday.

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

Last time I was up to 22, and now I’m on 24. So a whole 2 for this category.  Die Stille Braut by Barbara Wenken (okay) and Märchenwald by Martin Krist (really good!).

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

I’d read 46 last time and now I’m on 56! Finally some real progress. I’m not going to list them all, so you can see all the Big Read books I’ve read here. I have 67 left to read… theoretically it’s possible, as long as I stop reading everything else!

Number 30: Learn to crochet or knit (or both)

I haven’t written a post on it yet, but I did loom knit a bunch of tiny hats (too small for even a newborn, but recognisable as hats) and one and a half socks for myself. Loom knitting isn’t exactly knitting, but the items are made of wool and look knitted so I’ve decided it can count.

Number 31. Watch 35 films I’ve never seen before

I had made it to 29 last time… and now I’m finished! I’ve actually managed to watch all six of the films I still needed this year. I completed this item by watching Kajaki. You can see what else I’ve watched here.

Number 34: Drink champagne in Champagne.

Woohoo! I actually did this. Thank you Germany and your ridiculous amount of public holidays in the spring! I wrote about it here.

So, I have made some progress on the reading front, discovered a new hobby in loom knitting (because I totally need even more sedentary hobbies with the way the scales are looking!), crossed off one more travel item and actually managed to watch films for a change. With one year and one month to go, I obviously won’t manage everything (especially not all the travel-related items) but hopefully I will at least get all the reading crossed off. Wish me luck!