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!

What i read in September 2021

Hello friends. Today is the 7th anniversary of Show Us Your Books. Congratulations to Steph and Jana!

I read twice as many books in September as in August for a total of 8. And here they are.

Rose Madder by Stephen King. After years of being beaten by her husband, a single drop of blood is what finally awakens Rosie Daniels to the fact that, eventually, he I’d going to kill her. And so she flees – taking his credit card.

Alone in a strange city, Rosie begins to build a new life: she meets Bill Steiner and she finds an odd junk shop painting, ‘Rose Madder’, which strangely seems to want her as much as she wants it. But it’s hard for Rosie not to keep looking over her shoulder. Rose-maddened and on the rampage, Norman is a corrupt cop with a dog’s instinct for tracking people. And he’s getting close. Rosie can feel just how close he’s getting. This book is extremely violent and gory, even for Stephen King’s standards. There is also a fairly graphic description of a miscarriage a few pages in so be warned about that. It is well written as always though and the characters are well fleshed out. I loved Rosie and was rooting for her all the way through. Norman Daniels is absolutely vile and honestly terrifying. This would have worked fine as a straight thriller – I’m not sure the supernatural element was entirely necessary, although it was kind of interesting. 3.5 stars.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. When Nora decides she doesn’t want to live any more she ends up at the Midnight Library – a place filled with an infinite number of books, each containing a different version of her life – one that might have been if she had made a different decision somewhere along the way. But are any of them truly better than the one she had? This is my favourite of the Matt Haig books I’ve read so far. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t LOVE it like everyone else seems to. It did make me think – although at times it seemed like it was trying almost too hard to drive the message home – and the ending made me cry, so there’s that. 3.5 stars.

The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth. Seventeen-year-old Saoirse has sworn off relationships. She doesn’t believe in love or happy endings. Then she meets beautiful, fun-loving Ruby, who doesn’t care about any of that. Because Ruby has a loophole in mind: a summer of all the best cliché movie montage dates, with a definite ending come autumn – no broken hearts, no messy breakup. It would be the perfect plan, if they weren’t forgetting one thing about the Falling in Love Montage: when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love… for real. This is very cute. I love Saoirse – she’s sarcastic and prickly and so relatable. She’s been through – and is still going through – so much and my heart ached for her. Apart from Saoirse my favourite character was actually Oliver, the love interest’s cousin. I felt kind of sorry for him from the beginning when he was all alone at his own party and I enjoyed the banter between him and Saoirse. Ruby is almost too nice and good and forgiving, but the relationship is cute and things didn’t end as predictably as I expected so that was nice. 4 stars.

The Lake of Dreams by Kim Edwards. Lucy Jarrett is at a crossroads in her life, still haunted by her father’s unresolved death a decade earlier. After her mother has a minor accident, Lucy returns to her hometown in Upstate New York, The Lake of Dreams, and, late one night, she cracks the lock of a window seat and discovers a collection of objects. They appear to be idle curiosities, but soon Lucy realizes that she has stumbled across a dark secret from her family’s past, one that will radically change her – and the future of her family – forever. I enjoyed parts of this book but I felt like the author tried to include too many issues/aspects. I was intrigued by Rose’s story (the mystery from the past) and wanted to know what happened to her, but Lucy’s family dynamics (everyone failing to get over her father’s death for so many years, mysterious rivalry/tension with her uncle) plus a side story of environmental/land-use issues also somehow tying back to Lucy’s family all seemed a bit much. Also Lucy is kind of annoying. I practically cheered when her mum accused her of acting like a teenager and not wanting her mother to be happy because she really was! She also seemed to think rules and morals didn’t apply to her – just because you can pick locks doesn’t mean you should constantly break into places in a whim! I didn’t hate the book though, although it may sound like it. It’s perfectly fine, but nothing particularly special. 2.5 stars.

Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan. After their nan accidentally burns the family home down, twin brothers Patrick and Dominick move with their parents and baby sister to a small cottage by the sea. The family has spent many a happy summer there but never a winter – and against a backdrop of howling storms and wild seas, the twins find themselves haunted by a mysterious boy. This is is a creepy little book involving a haunting/possession set against the backdrop of 70s Ireland with a few forays back to 1914. A ghost story that also deals with themes of grief and loss, mental illness (Alzheimer’s) and family. The pacing was a bit slow in the middle but I liked the writing (and the Irish slang) and enjoyed it overall. 4 stars.

Watching You by Michael Robotham (Joe O’Loughlin #7). Marnie Logan often feels like she’s being watched. Nothing she can quite put her finger on – a whisper of breath on the back of her neck, or a shadow in the corner of her eye – and now her life is frozen. Her husband Daniel has been missing for over a year. Depressed and increasingly desperate, she seeks the help of clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin. Joe is concerned by Marnie’s reluctance to talk about the past, but then she discovers a book packed with pictures, interviews with friends, former teachers, old flames and workmates Daniel had been preparing for Marnie’s birthday. It was supposed to be a celebration of her life. But it’s not the story anyone was expecting. This was a re-read but I didn’t remember too much. I thought I remembered what had happened to Marnie’s husband but I must have been confusing it with a different book because what I thought isn’t what happened. There are a lot of twists and turns and a few aspects felt a bit too far-fetched – yes, it’s fiction and suspension of belief is necessary, but there are limits. I hadn’t realised this was part of a series but honestly it didn’t matter. Joe was such a peripheral character that I didn’t even care that I didn’t know his whole story. He wasn’t even mentioned until well into the book. Marnie was the focus anyway. 3.5 stars.

Act Your Age Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (Brown sisters #3). Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong – so she’s given up trying. When yet another of Eve’s ventures goes wrong her parents finally issue an ultimatum. It’s time for Eve to grow up! Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she accidentally hits him with her car. With a broken arm and understaffed B&B Jacob has no choice but to hire Eve. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen – and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore – and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior. Another adorable book to end this trilogy. It did feel like it was repeating the first book slightly with the two characters who didn’t like each other to start with, except this time the love interest was the prickly one while in the first book it’s was Chloe who was uptight. At least in Dani’s book the two knew each other/were friends first. I did still really enjoy this book though – I loved both Eve and Jacob – Eve definitely seems like the nicest of the three sisters. A satisfying end to the trilogy. 4 stars.

Who Let the Gods Out by Maz Evans (Who Let the Gods Out #1). Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threa. Then a shooting star crashes to earth, right through the roof of his barn, and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world – and solving Elliot’s problems too? This book is lots of fun and I can see how it would appeal to certain children but personally I found that all the jokes and references to pop culture and modern technology got to be a bit much eventually. The parts with Elliott’s mum and scenes in school were excellently written but once the gods came on the scene it all got a bit too silly for my liking. 3 stars.

So, that’s it for this month. Out of 8 books sadly only one was by a BAME/BIPOC author.

I typed this on my phone while in bed recovering from an operation so please forgive the lack of links to the books and any autocorrect fails.

Check out the link up for more book reviews!

What I read in August 2021

Hello! It’s Show Us Your Books day again. Yay!
This may come as a shock to some of you, but I actually only read four books in August. Partly because one of those books was long, but also I had a lot going on (I suspect most of you are only interested in the books, so if you care about the other stuff see my previous post).Anyway, as always I am linking up with Steph and Jana. Now onto the books.

River God by Wilbur Smith (Ancient Egypt #1).  Ancient Egypt. A kingdom built on gold. A legend shattered by greed…. Now the Valley of Kings lies ravaged by war, drained of its lifeblood, as weak men inherit the cherished crown. Amongst all this is Taita, a multi-talented eunuch slave, owned by Lord Intef. Taita primarily looks after Lord Intef’s daughter, Lostris, but also plays a large role in the day-to-day running of Lord Intef’s estate. Also beside Taita is Tanus, Tanus, a proud, young army officer, who has vowed to avenge the death – at Intef’s hand – of his father, and seize Lostris as his prize. Together, the three share a dream – to restore the majesty of the Pharaoh of Pharaohs on the glittering banks of the Nile. This book is like a historical soap opera, but with more blood and brutality. The good guys are all the bravest, kindest, loyalist, most honourable people ever to have walked this earth. And stunningly gorgeous too of course – can’t forget that. And the bad guys are greedy, sadistic and just pure evil. I did enjoy reading it though, despite having to roll my eyes every time Taita turned out to be good at yet another thing. Without Taita the super slave Egypt would have been lost. Lost I tell you! 3 stars. I read this for the BBC Big Read and will likely not read any more in the series.

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard. Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable, despite all their differences. But as Caddy approaches her 16th birthday she begins to wish she could be more like Rosie. Confident, funny, interesting. Then a new girl joins Rosie’s school. Suzanne is beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious… and things suddenly get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own. It was quite refreshing to read a teen book that’s actually about friendship and doesn’t end up focusing more on boys (although Caddy is completely obsessed with wanting a boyfriend). I found myself rolling my eyes a lot at some of Caddy’s decisions but it felt realistic – I was a relatively “good” teen but I definitely did some things that were not the most sensible looking back. The teenage jealousy definitely felt real. I felt really sorry for Suzanne and cried at the end. 3.5 stars and trigger warnings for domestic violence.

The Shark Caller by Zilla Bethall. Growing up on New Island, one of the islands of Papua New Guinea, Blue Wing is desperate to become a shark caller to avenge the death of her parents. Instead, she is charged with befriending infuriating newcomer Maple, an American girl who has come to the island unexpectedly with her father. At first the two girls are too angry and out of sync to share their secrets and become friends, but when the tide breathes the promise of treasure they must journey to the bottom of the ocean to brave the deadliest shark of them all. This  is a beautiful book about grief, loss, friendship and forgiveness. I know nothing about Papua New Guinea and I found the insights into its culture fascinating. I did guess the twist (although I also had a second theory about what might be going on) but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment in any way. I highly recommend this book. 4.5 stars.

The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke. When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister, Faith. Faith’s childhood was dominated by Laurel’s disappearance – from her parents’ broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever wanted to talk about her sister. Thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the garden of the Logans’ old house, disorientated and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Laurel is home at last, safe and sound. Faith always dreamed of getting her sister back, without ever truly believing it would happen. But a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated and paranoid, and before long she begins to wonder if everything that’s lost can be found again. This  was an interesting book. I thought Faith’s actions and emotions seemed realistic. Some parts felt a bit flat and almost dragged but I did mostly enjoy it. Unfortunately I guessed the twist at the end but that’s fine. 3 stars.

That’s it for today. Check out the link up for more book reviews. And definitely check it out next month for the seventh anniversary – the date to remember is 12 October.

Not how I imagined making this announcement…

I don’t even really know how to start with this, so I guess I’ll just say it…

I’m pregnant. Currently almost 24 weeks, which is honestly amazing. I never thought I would make it this far. On Thursday, I’ll have officially reached viability. Babies born at this stage at least have a chance to survive… doctors will try to save them. Such a milestone!

Of course, nothing is ever simple for us. At 18 weeks and 5 days, three days before my birthday, I went for an anatomy scan where we found out that our baby has spina bifida. The one thing that was not even vaguely on my radar. I had been taking high dose folic acid since around 6 weeks and a normal dose for 5 years before that. So you can imagine it was a shock. I had to come back the next day for an amniocentesis, then we spent the next two weeks going to appointments and meeting with specialists. After an MRI followed by a very long discussion with a specialist in Zurich we finally decided on our next step – fetal, or in-utero surgery. So on 24th September I’ll be going into hospital and on the 27th I’ll undergo an operation so that they can repair the defect in our baby’s back before I even give birth, thus preventing even more damage to the nerves during the course of the rest of my pregnancy.

All that to say things will be pretty quiet around here for a while. Even more so than they have been anyway, that is. I will be able to respond to comments while in hospital and will probably visit other people’s blogs but it’s unlikely that I’ll attempt a post from my phone. But hey, at least I’ll have plenty of extra time to read for a couple of weeks!

Photo an hour: 20 March 2021

I missed July’s photo an hour day – which is probably a good thing considering how many I still have to catch up on! I did, however, manage to take part in August’s date on Instagram. So now I’m finally getting round to the blog post for March. I’m actually supposed to be doing my taxes, which explains a lot…

Anyway, the chosen date for March was the 20th and this is what I got up to.

10 a.m. Heating milk for porridge (don’t worry – the kettle was also on!)

11 a.m. I was taking part in a weekend readathon so this was just the first of many reading photos.

12 noon. Still reading.

1 p.m. Finally off for a shower! By the way, all of those bottles had been refilled at a zero-waste supermarket. Hooray for reusing empties!

2 p.m. On to my second book of the day. How creepy is that cover?

3 p.m. Put the kettle back on! This time make tea for two.

4 p.m. Two books down for the readathon!

5 p.m. Off to the post box – there’s no collection on Saturdays but I wanted some fresh air.

6 p.m. Another book… and a snack.

7 p.m. Jan offered to cook so I got to carry on reading.

8 p.m. Food, not made by me. These leek and feta pastry things from LIDL are delicious but they only have them when it’s Greek special week.

9 p.m. Decided to go for a bath.

10 p.m. Baths are thirsty work!

11 p.m. More reading before going to sleep.

And that was my day. Not the most exciting to take photos of but a day spent reading is always an enjoyable day in my book. (Ha, pun totally not intended but I’m leaving it in…)

What I read in July 2021

Hi everyone! I’m a day late for Show Us Your Books but oh well. I couldn’t post yesterday.

In July I read nine books, all of which were for Book Challenge by Erin (now on its 15th round!).

I’m linking up with Steph and Jana, as always.

(Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn. In Gardnerville, nobody ever gets sick. Outsiders who come to the town recover from their illnesses (anything from cystic fibrosis to cancer) and can go on to live long and happy lives. Sounds amazing, right? But of course, there’s a catch. Every four years whatever magic fuels Gardnerville infects the town’s teens. In a normal year, a teen might stop speaking to their best friend. In a fourth year they could end up killing them. Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar – whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all. book is bizarre and confusing, but also kind of fascinating. I guessed one twist (the main one I suppose) but not the details. There are some things I still don’t think I really understand but I did mostly enjoy reading it. It’s definitely unique! 3.5 stars.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (Brown Sisters #2). Danika Brown doesn’t do romance. he’s been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. Professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension are all she wants. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits – someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom. When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. Butthen a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Suddenly half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse? Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own. Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint? This is such a happy book. Both main characters are dealing with their issues and there are some serious parts, but their interactions are just so heartwarming, as are Zaf’s with his family and best friend. His mum is awesome! Zaf is the sweetest. He always said the right thing and just seemed like such a genuinely kind, caring person. Dani is hilarious and actually really lovely even though she doesn’t realise it herself. I kind of missed her sisters a bit in this book – I was glad to finally get a proper scene with them towards the end. I can’t wait to read Eve’s book! 4 stars.

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Everyone knows iconic 70s rock group Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the real reason why they split at the absolute height of their popularity…until now. Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go-Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things. Another band getting noticed is The Six, led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road. Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realises the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend. I enjoyed this. It reads very realistically and I could easily believe it was a real rock band. The format made it a quick read but meant it was slightly difficult to really get to know the characters or be emotionally invested in anyone since it never really stayed with individual people for long enough. Most of them seemed like terrible people anyway, but I did really like Karen. 4 stars.

Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey. Violet Willoughby doesn’t believe in ghosts, especially since her mother has worked as a fraudulent medium for a decade. Violet has taken part in enough of her mother’s tricks to feel more than a little jaded about anything supernatural. The ghosts, however, believe in Violet. Now she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death. Violet must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate, and quickly because the killer is still on the loose. This is an entertaining enough read. At times I had trouble believing Violet was from the 1800s – something about her just felt weirdly modern – but I did like her. The other characters were harder to get to know. There were too many of them and I honestly couldn’t tell you who exactly was even there. The solution was maybe a little predictable, although I was briefly misled in the middle so it wasn’t too bad. Violet’s mother is a horrible, horrible person and I wished she’d got her comeuppance (she kind of did but not nearly enough). Overall it’s a quick and fun read that passed a few hours just fine. 3 stars.

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis. For sixteen-year-old Tiffany Sly, life hasn’t been safe or normal for a while. Losing her mum to cancer has her a little bit traumatised and now she has to leave her hometown of Chicago to live with the biological dad she’s never known. Anthony Stone is a rich man with four other daughters – and rules for every second of the day. Tiffany tries to make the best of things, but feels like she doesn’t fit into her new luxurious, but super-strict, home. The only thing that makes her new life even remotely bearable is the strange boy across the street,. Marcus McKinney who has had his own experiences with death. But Tiffany has a secret. Another man claims he’s actually Tiffany’s real dad – and she only has seven days before he shows up to demand a paternity test and the truth comes out. With her life about to fall apart all over again, Tiffany finds herself discovering unexpected truths about her father, her mother and herself, and realising that maybe family is in the bonds you make. There was a lot I liked about this book. Tiffany is a fantastic character – she’s so strong despite everything she’s been through. Despite her anxiety she’s not about to take her dad’s meanness described as strictness/being a good parent lying down. And her dad is mean – his holier-than-though attitude made me so, so mad. I especially hated the way he treated his autistic daughter – it was basically abuse (I’m not sure the toddler needed to be autistic though and I prefer not to comment on how her autism was portrayed/represented because I don’t know enough). I kind of wanted to slap Tiffany’s step-mum – she had obviously stood up to her husband/set an ultimatum at least once in her life so I would have liked to see her step up again and tell him straight that she was not going to let him “discipline” the autism out of her daughter! Marcus – Tiffany’s neighbour/friend is also awesome. Weird, but awesome. 3.5 stars.

The Case of the Missing Moonstone byJordan Stratford (The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency #1). Lady Ada Byron, age eleven, is a genius. Isolated, awkward and a bit rude -but a genius. Mary Godwin, age fourteen, is a romantic. Adventurous, astute, and kind, when Mary is sent to share Ada’s tutor, she also becomes her first true friend. And together, the girls conspire to form the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency—a secret constabulary for the apprehension of clever criminals. Their first case involves a stolen heirloom, a false confession, and an array of fishy suspects. But it’s no match for the deductive powers and bold hearts of Ada and Mary. This book is cute. As you probably guessed, it’s (very) loosely based on The Moonstone. It does require quite a bit of suspension of belief (especially the very convenient ending) but I feel like most young children wouldn’t notice, and this feels like it’s meant for relatively young children – maybe 7-9ish. It’s a fun introduction to the Victorian era and while to does take liberties with timelines I found the characters interesting. One thing that irritated me was the constant references to “math” – Ada is British so I’m fairly sure she’s into maths! 3 stars.

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai. Tom and Penny belong to a world so perfect there’s no war, no poverty, no under-ripe avocados. But when something awful happens to Penny, and Tom tries to make it right, he accidentally destroys everything, and finds himself in our broken, dysfunctional world. Only here, Penny and Tom have a second chance. Should Tom go back to his brilliant but loveless existence, or risk everything by staying in our messy, complicated world for his one and only chance at true love? I have no idea how to review this book. It was weird and slightly confusing, the main character is annoying and not very likeable – and that’s despite the fact that he’s telling the story and obviously he at least thinks he’s the good guy. But the concept was really interesting and something about it made me want to keep reading so clearly it can’t have been all bad. I definitely didn’t hate it. Honestly, I don’t really have any particularly strong feelings towards it either way. I think I liked it slightly more than I disliked it. I guess that’s what people mean by damning with faint praise… 2.5 stars.

How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss. Hattie’s summer isn’t exactly going the way she would have liked. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to “find himself” and Kat’s in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and working at a local cafe. Oh, and she’s also just discovered that she’s pregnant with Reuben’s baby… Then Gloria, Hattie’s great-aunt who no one previously knew even existed comes crashing into her life. Gloria’s fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery – Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are wiped from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future. I really njoyed this. Hattie and Gloria are both fantastic characters. Gloria’s story was absolutely heartbreaking and I was not expecting parts of it at all. Reuben is a waste of space and an idiot! The side characters are also well fleshed out for the most part – Hattie’s step-dad is a sweetheart and her sister Alice is hilarious. 4 stars.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet. The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect? I feel bad that I didn’t love this book like everyone else seemed to. I liked it and there were certain parts I really enjoyed, but honestly every time I put it down I felt no desire to pick it back up. I found Desiree’s story way more interesting than Stella’s. I thought it would be the other way round, I was really intrigued to find out how Stella passed for white, what advantages it gave her, etc. but when she ended up being a rich housewife I lost interest. I would have been more interested to see how she gained privileges as a normal person, but by marrying a rich man I felt like she just leap-frogged everyone and ended up being super privileged in a way that even most white people aren’t. Also, her refusal to talk about her past meant I never really got a sense of how it was for her to have given up everything in her old life. With Desiree, it was clear that without Stella she felt like part of her was missing but the other way round? No idea.I just felt like none of it went deep enough. I actually would have liked to see more of Desiree’s life back in Mallard and less of Stella falling out with her daughter. Not that I didn’t like the book… I did. But I was expecting to love it and ultimately ended up disappointed. 4 stars.

My favourite book of the month was probably Take a Hint, Dani Brown.

Total books read: 9. By BIPOC/BAME authors: 3.

For more book reviews, check out the link up.

July 2021 recap

Hello friends! Can you believe it’s August already? My birthday month! Mind you, the amount of rain we had in July you would think it was October already. At one point we had thunder and lightning every day for about 5 days in a row! I love a good storm but that felt a little excessive. I think we had maybe 7 or 8 days without any rain and probably 5 of them were sunny. Luckily we weren’t affected by the flooding that hit other areas – the images from Germany were awful! The Rhine here was much higher than normal and ships were stopped because they couldn’t fit under the bridges but overall we got off lightly. There was some flooding in other parts of Switzerland but not wide-scale destruction and I’m not aware of any deaths from floods.

The Rhine in Basel, July 2021

Given the amount of rain you can probably guess that we didn’t really do much. On one of the drier days we drove up to somewhere near Grenchen (I think) and took a walk to a view point. On the 21st I went to Germany to have a meal with my colleagues – our delayed Christmas meal. I said I would go as long as it was possible to sit outside and it ended up being the one sunny week of the month (of course on the Friday evening the rain returned just in time for the weekend and then remained for the entire rest of the month…). Since Germany has now decided everyone needs a “COVID certificate” to get in and I am not vaccinated (yet – but I now have an appointment for my first dose) I won’t be going to the office anytime soon so I’m pleased I went and saw everybody. I don’t feel like getting tested to go into work so it will be the last time I see them for a while! The trains I took were at non-peak times and nobody tried to sit next to me so I felt pretty safe.

View of the River Aare from above

I read 9 books in July, all for the 15th round of Book Challenge by Erin. More on that next Tuesday when it’s time for Show Us Your Books.

We watched football – Jan more than me. He actually went out a couple of times to watch with a friend (outdoors at non-crowded bars – they ended up leaving one place because they felt it was too crowded). I did watch the final. Ah England – so close. Penalties are the woooorst! We’ve watched a bit of the Olympics, mainly recaps since it’s mostly happening either in the early hours of the morning. I enjoyed the women’s triple jump, the BMX events and the men’s high jump. How lovely was it when they decided to share the gold medal? We have also been continuing to watch Richard Osman’s House of Games although it’s still repeats. And the other day we watched Dirty Dancing – the first time I had seen it in probably 20-odd years!

My friend had her third son on 1st July and I finally finished the birth sampler I’ve been cross stitching for months (no exaggeration). His name and date of birth are below the picture but I’ve cut them off for privacy.

I can’t think of anything else I want to say. I managed to continue going for walks most weeks during brief breaks in the rain – although there was one week that I missed entirely because the weather was just awful and I didn’t want to go out for any length of time at all.

That’s all I’ve got for you. More next month. I hope you are all well, safe, happy and staying dry or cool, depending on which weather extreme you’re currently going through (those seem to be the main ones currently…).