What I read in November 2018

Hello friends! It’s Show Us Your Books day again with Jana and Steph, and in November I managed to read ten whole books! Slightly better than October’s four…. even if one of them was a picture book. Anyway, let’s just get started…

show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley. I’ve had this book for a while but for some reason didn’t want to pick it up. This is book 8 in the Flavia de Luce series. I can’t say too much without spoiling the previous books, but Flavia is back from her brief stay in Canada and, as usual, wherever Flavia goes death has usually gone before… This one took me a little longer to get into than some of the others, but once I got past the first couple of chapters it was nice to be back in Flavia’s world. I only gave this one 3.5 stars though… something about the mystery was lacking and Flavia seemed to miss the obvious in her sleuthing. There are two more books to go, so hopefully the next one will be back to the usual standard! And I do highly recommend reading the other books in the series.

The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop by Kate Saunders. I can’t remember how I found this book, but as soon as I did I knew I had to read it based purely on the title. I mean, how fun does it sound? And fun it was! Lily and Oz Spoffard’s family has just inherited a house with a mysterious boarded-up chocolate shop on the ground floor. The twins’ ancestors were famous chocolate-makers and their chocolate was anything but ordinary. In fact, it was magical! Now an evil gang is after the secret recipe, and it’s up to Lily and Oz to stop them. The fate of their family and the world depends on it! This is a fantastic book It has everything my ten-year-old heart would have wanted. Mystery, adventure, talking animals (Demerara the cat is wonderful), magic hiding right there in plain sight. There’s a LOT going on and it almost felt like it needed to be longer to give more time to get to know the characters, or maybe it should have been part of a series and some of the many adventures could have been in a second book. Overall it was a really fun read and I definitely recommend it. 4 stars.

Izzy Gizmo by Pip Jones. Ah, now we come to the picture book. I bought this for my little cousin’s birthday present so of course I had to read it first 😉 Izzy Gizmo loves to invent things, but somehow it never works out quite the way she wants. When she finds a crow with a broken wing, she really wants to help. She tries and tries to build him a new pair of wings, but something always goes wrong. Can Izzy overcome her failures and help her new friend? This is a lovely story about never giving up. I loved the names of Izzy’s inventions, and most of all I loved the crow. 4 stars.

Bigger Than a Bread Box by Laurel Snyder. Rebecca is not happy when her mother suddenly leaves her father and drags Rebecca and her little brother to their grandmother’s house in another state. While avoiding the rest of the family, Rebecca discovers a magical breadbox that will give her anything she wishes for… as long as it fits inside. As always with wishes, there’s a catch and suddenly the bread box starts making life more difficult. And anyway, the thing she really wants (her family back together) won’t fit in a bread box… I really liked this book. Rebecca is a believable and relatable character. At times I felt really sorry for her. I enjoyed the combination of magic and everyday – the breadbox story felt like part of the story rather than being a separate adventure. Even with access to magic, Rebecca still had to deal with her real-life problems. 4 stars.

Why the Whales Came by Michael Murpugo. Gracie and her friend Daniel have always been warned to stay away from the Birdman and his side of the island, but when they go there anyway they discover he’s not what they thought and develop a lovely friendship with him. When the children get stranded on Samson Island they don’t know whether to believe the Birdman’s story that the island is cursed. This is the kind of book I would have loved as a child – a story of everyday children doing normal things, but with a hint of suspense thrown in (is there *really* such thing as curses? And who is the Birdman anyway?). Michael Morpurgo is an excellent writer – there are some great descriptions in the book. 4 stars.

The Girl in 6E by A. R. Torre. Deanna Madden hasn’t left her apartment for three years. To earn money, she works for a sex site under the name Jessica Reilly, stripping and performing sexual acts on camera for her clients, who pay $6.99 a minute for her time. The money is piling up in the bank, she’s one of the site’s most popular cam girls and she hasn’t killed anyone in years. But when Deanna sees on the news that a little girl called Annie has gone missing, she realises the scenario is uncomfortably similar to the dark fantasies of one of her clients. She’s convinced he’s responsible for the girl’s abduction – but no one will listen to her. So, she finally decides to leave the apartment… This book is how I was hoping Darkly Dreaming Dexter would be (except obviously without the cam girl part). I didn’t love every single thing but I was gripped for most of it. I will definitely pick up the sequel. 4 stars.

When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman. Ella wakes up one morning to find that she’s not herself. She looks different, her friends are not her friends (and the people she thought were her friends don’t seem to know her), and she’s taking different subjects at college. And yet, nobody else thinks that anything weird has happened. The concept of this book was really interesting, but I found the main character really annoying! Obviously her situation is difficult to deal with, but she was horrible to basically everyone. She clearly thought her original life was far superior to the one she had found herself in and spent the entire book looking down on “other Ella’s” friends. I kept reading because I really did want to know what was going on and the final chapters were interesting, but I found the solution to Ella’s “problem” (for want of a better word) somewhat disturbing. 3.5 stars.

The Murders of Molly Southbourne by Tade Thomson. Every time Molly Southbourne bleeds, a new Molly is created, identical to her in every way and intent on destroying her. Oh yeah, and that includes when she has her period. Molly has to kill or be killed, and her parents taught her well. But no matter how well she follows the rules, eventually the mollys will find her. Can Molly find a way to stop the tide of blood, or will she meet her end at the hand of a girl who looks exactly like her? This is a short and very strange book but surprisingly good. It’s creepy and the brief glimpses into the world Molly lives in are intriguing – there seems to be something dystopian about it? But there wasn’t enough detail to be sure. I enjoyed it anyway. 4 stars.

Decked by Carol Higgins Clark. If you’re wondering whether this author is related to Mary Higgins Clark, the answer is yes… Mary is Carol’s mother. Anyway, the book. P.I. Regan Reilly is attending a class reunion in England (from what I gather, she and some other Americans spent a year in some kind of college there? I didn’t really get that part). When the body of her former room mate, who disappeared ten years ago, is found, Regan wants to investigate, but instead is committed to a transatlantic cruise. As it turns out, the clues to the mystery follow her on board. This was an okay book, but just okay. There are way too many characters so parts of it just ended up being confusing. It read like a strange mash-up of a thriller and a traditional cosy mystery. The supposed investigator was a bit useless really – the synopsis made it sound like she was at least aware of the danger she was in but actually she was totally oblivious. A quick read that passed the time alright but I won’t bother continuing the series. 3 stars.

You Can’t Make Me Go to Witch School by Em Lynas. When Daisy Wart’s grandmother drops her off at a boarding school for witches, she is furious. No matter what anyone says, she is convinced she is not a witch but is “ac-chew-ally” an actress who really, really needs to return to her old primary school to perform her Bottom. This is a really quirky, fun book perfect for fans of The Worst Witch. Although the constant “ac-chew-allys” drove me slightly mad (what? You didn’t think I was the one that came up with that, did you?). 4 stars. There are two more books in this series, although I’m not sure yet whether I’ll read those.

I also started three other books but didn’t finish them, so hopefully I’ll get round to those in December. I’m in the office tomorrow, so four hours of train time should hopefully allow me to get at least one book finished!

What have you been reading lately? Anything good?
There will be Favourites of 2018 Special SUYB on 26 December, so I’ll be looking forward to that. In the mean time, go here to check out the last regular link up of the year!

Advertisements

November 2018…

Wow, I seem to have stopped posting for a couple of weeks there. But don’t worry, I aten’t ded (If you don’t get that reference I’m not sure we can be friends.) (Just kidding.) (Or am I?). I am aware that I’m starting to sound like a stuck record, but how is it December already? I’m so not prepared for this! Although I do kind of want this year to be over, so there is that. Still have to actually get through December though and I have no idea how I’m going to get everything done. We’re not even going away for Christmas so I don’t know how things are so stressful. Work is crazy busy again, I have at least three more packages to take to the post office (and really need to do it soon before I miss the last chance for them to reach their destinations before Christmas), I still have almost all my Christmas cards to make/send – which admittedly is self-inflicted but it still needs doing. Then I always try to give the whole flat a thorough clean before Christmas so that a) I don’t have to do anything on Christmas apart from cook and b) we can start the year with the place looking decent for once (which admittedly lasts all of two weeks, but oh well). Other people spring clean, I Christmas clean. But I am supposed to be talking about November right now, so let’s do that. Usually I do a “currently” type post for these monthly recaps, but that doesn’t really seem appropriate this time so I’m just kind of going to ramble on. Feel free to stop reading at any point 😉

Of course, I am linking up with Kristen.

whats new with you

Jan finished his old job on 31st October and wasn’t starting his new one until 12th November (which involved flying to the US on the 11th for three weeks of “orientation”), so before I lost the babies I had applied for a few days off so we could spend some time together and go and look at some baby furniture. Needless to say, the latter didn’t happen, but I decided to still take the time off anyway. On 1st November (which was a holiday for me anyway – All Saints’ Day), we had an appointment with the fertility specialist. We were basically told the same as at the hospital: they advise waiting two cycles  to physically recover then we can try again as soon as we feel emotionally prepared. He also wanted me to come in for an ultrasound on day 12 of my next cycle to check that the curettage hadn’t damaged my uterus in any way (pregnancy makes everything more sensitive anyway, and then the infection on top of that increased the risk of damage, apparently), so I did that and luckily everything was fine. At least one bit of good news! He also said it would be 6+ weeks before my period came back, but luckily it was closer to 5. The doctor’s advice was basically to go ahead and use our remaining two IUI cycles… while the pregnancy may have reset my hormones he still thought that if I managed to fall pregnant naturally it wouldn’t happen for at least six months… and I haven’t exactly got any younger in the five months since I conceived! Also, based on when I actually ended up ovulating in the cycle after my period came back it doesn’t look like anything’s changed. We’re officially “unexplained” but the one theory any doctor did manage to come up with is that my body doesn’t respond properly to the hormones, meaning my follicles grow too slow and by the time I ovulate my eggs are old and low quality and thus fail to fertilise. I ovulated on day 17, which admittedly is quite early for me (almost normal, in fact) but seems to suggest that nothing has changed. So it looks like I still need the help. Not looking forward to giving myself daily injections again, but that’s just how it has to be.

Candles

Jan managed to speak to a funeral director and then get an appointment with the person at the local council who deals with bereavement for the first Monday in November, so we decided to go away for the weekend before that, just for a change of scenery and to not have to think about everything that had happened. We went to Yverdon les Bains, where I was very disappointed to discover that the Museum of science fiction, utopia and extraordinary voyages was closed that weekend! I will definitely be going back just for that. We also managed to leave the suitcase behind when we changed trains (we got it back a few days later though), so the first thing we did in Yverdon les Bains was buy toothbrushes, toothpaste and underwear. There wasn’t loads to do there, but we managed to fill our time with food, walking and a visit to the town museum, which is located in the castle. If anyone is keeping track of my 40 before 40, one item is to visit a place in Switzerland starting with each letter of my first name. Yverdon obviously starts with Y… I’m beginning at the end, apparently.

Yverdon
Yverdon Castle

We met with the bereavement person on the Monday at 9 a.m.. He had already spoken to the funeral directors/crematorium so it was basically just filling in forms. The cremation was taking place on the Tuesday, then we had the choice for them to be laid to rest at the memorial for babies born too soon on either the Wednesday or Thursday. Since I had to be back at work on the Thursday, we chose Wednesday. So on Wednesday 7th November 2018, we laid our beautiful first born babies to rest. I’m not going to get into that here, so if you’re interested read this post.

It was still early, so we went and picked up a car, drove part-way up a mountain and then took the Geissflue circular route. When we started off, it was very cloudy and we were right in amongst them, but then it started to clear so at times it was cloudy on one side of us and blue skies on the other. So random, but very cool looking (photo below does not do it justice). As it gradually brightened up  I even ended up having to take my coat off because it was too warm… in November! The view was gorgeous… autumn colours galore. It was nice to get out in the fresh air. The whole walk/hike took us about 2 hours (including photo breaks!), which I was pretty pleased with considering a month earlier we went for a walk up the hill near where we live and I had to sit down twice because I felt weak. Nice to see the iron supplements worked! Once we arrived back at the car we drove to Aargau and had delicious Flammkuchen for lunch.

As previously mentioned, Jan flew to the US on 11th November for three weeks, but I didn’t spend those entire three weeks alone. Someone from one of his choirs came to stay for a weekend so that she wouldn’t have to travel back to Geneva after practice every day, I finally worked in the office in Germany again for the first time on 21st November because that evening was our Christmas meal – I had goose with bread dumplings and red cabbage – and then my mum and sister came over for a few days last week (was it really only last week? It feels like ages ago!). I was working most of the time, but I did manage to get the Wednesday off and we went to Freiburg in Brisgau for a few hours. We looked at the Christmas markets and my sister managed to purchase a decoration for her Christmas tree then we found a café where we ate burgers and drank beer before taking the train home so they could relax and pack ready for their flight home the next day. It was nice to see them, even though the reason for them coming was a sad one (so that I wouldn’t have to be alone for ages after everything that had happened in October and November… there was also more bad news for a family member that I won’t talk about on the blog because it’s not my place).

Freiburg im Breisgau

In between all that I worked a lot – broken record again, but it really has been so busy. The 12 days I was off sick when I lost the boys and the few days off at the beginning of November seem like a long time ago. I am looking forward to Christmas purely because I have 13 entire days without work. I’ve also made and posted cards to most of the Post Pals (yeah, I managed those ones… it’s just my friends and family ones that I’ve barely started on!) and I’ve been trying to eat extra healthily in preparation for starting the process of trying to conceive again. That kind of went out the window when my family were visiting with all the beer and wine I consumed, but I managed to eat fish at least twice most weeks, upped my water intake (I definitely don’t drink enough usually) and did my best to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. I’m trying to continue with that this month, but I’m not going to promise that the odd Christmas treat (or 10) won’t creep in…

So, that was November. What’s new with you? Are you as unprepared for Christmas as I am? Come link up and see what everyone else has been up to.

A Photo an Hour: 17 November 2018

Believe it or not, I was actually up before 8 a.m. on Saturday! One of Jan’s choirs was having rehearsals over the weekend so a girl from the choir who lives in Geneva was staying out our place… although Jan isn’t even here right now (he’s in the US doing a three-week orientation for his new job). Obviously I couldn’t leave her to breakfast alone, so I was up. I don’t have photographic evidence of that fact though because I had forgotten it was photo an hour day until I went on Twitter at quarter to ten. So my daily photos start with 10 a.m….

10 a.m. Shower time.

11 a.m. Opening my post. Surprise, surprise… I received a book. I also received something much better than a book (yes, such things exist) but that will be addressed in a separate post.

12 noon. Boots on, off out.

1 p.m. In town buying some stuff. It was colder than I expected.

2 p.m. On the bus home. Weird photo, but I couldn’t think what else to do. People kept looking at me!

3 p.m. Jan asked me to scan something for him and this seemed like a good time to do it.

4 p.m. Time for a nice, hot cup of tea.

5 p.m. We recently (finally!) got some desperately needed furniture for my “office” and I’ve been gradually filling it up. At this point I was sorting out some craft stuff.

6 p.m. The desk slowly getting there. No, I don’t want to discuss how bad it looked before I started sorting it. *Shame* The stack of papers on the left is Jan’s though… I refuse to take responsibility for that!

7 p.m. Back in town. The choir had finished its practice and I was meeting my guest for pizza.

I didn’t take any more photos after that… it would have seemed a little rude. Luckily I had an even number 😉 We ate, came home, had a long conversation about books triggered by me trying and failing to fit the ones I had picked up from the public bookcase in the afternoon on my to-read shelves. I lent her a book she’d been wanting to read. Then we went to bed.

A fairly typical Saturday really. Except for once I didn’t have loads of housework to do because I had spent my evenings cleaning in anticipation of having someone to stay.

How was your Saturday?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

On an entirely unrelated note, a couple of days after I came out of hospital, I noticed that some of the leaves on the previously green tree outside our building had started changing colour. I know autumn had technically started over a week earlier, but to me it felt somehow significant… I lost my babies right when the season started to change. Yesterday, it started snowing. I’m not sure I’m ready for another change of season yet. It’s all going so fast!
Tomorrow is our work Christmas meal (the only day between now and Christmas that nobody is off), so I’ll be travelling to Germany in the morning and working there for the day. The last time I was in the office was the day I told my colleagues I was pregnant. The next time I was supposed to be there was the day before I lost the babies. Going there tomorrow, no longer pregnant, is going to be surreal. It has to be done sometime though.

What I read in September and October 2018

I didn’t read much in October… which isn’t really surprising given how the month started. It took me until the 14th to stop feeling weak and dizzy from a combination of low iron and (I’m told) hormones still going haywire, then I was back at work on the 16th, which was okay but working eight hours left me feeling exhausted for the first few weeks. That said, I didn’t actually take part in Show Us Your Books last time (which is a shame since it was the 4-year anniversary, but I just wasn’t in the frame of mind for it plus the aforementioned dizziness wasn’t really compatible with screen time) so I still have all of September’s books to review. So I’ll just get on with it shall I?

show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

September books

Looking for Alaska by John Green. Miles “Pudge” Halter is fed up with his sad life at home and being a total outcast at his school, so he persuades his parents to send him to boarding school, where he meets Alaska who is apparently the girl of his dreams… gorgeous, intelligent, daring… and completely self-destructive. I found this book okay… but just okay. I didn’t particularly like the main character – for someone who had no friends at his old school Miles is awfully judgemental. I was probably supposed to feel sorry for Alaska, and yes her situation was sad, but she was just too clichéd and quite frankly a really horrible person. A quick read and I didn’t hate it, but I won’t read it again. 2.5 stars.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. I suppose most people know this story so I won’t describe it here. Personally, I thought the scariest thing about this book wasn’t the weird goings in but the supposedly caring husband who is willing to do literally anything  for the sake of his acting career. Ugh. It’s well written but I preferred The Stepford Wives. 3 stars for this one.

Of Bees and Mist by Erick SetiawanMeridia grows up in a lonely home, neglected by her mother and hated by her father, who avoids her as much as he can. At 16, she meets and falls in love with Daniel. Soon, they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her charming husband’s family… who turn out to be not so charming after all. This was a weird book. Some parts I loved, others felt odd or pointless. Meridia’s mother in law was like a literal caricature of a villain. She seemed to have literally no redeeming features whatsoever. Very one-dimensional. Overall, this passed the time well and I liked it but I won’t be adding it to my favourites. 3 stars.

What Lexie Did by Emma Shevah. Lexie lives in London with her Greek-Cypriot family, and her best friend is her cousin Eleni, who has a heart condition. After their grandmother dies, Lexie tells a terrible lie that splits the family apart. It’s up to her to bring the family back together, but after everything how can she find a way to tell the truth? is a really enjoyable book. I loved the multi-cultural aspect with a Greek-Cypriot girl growing up in London. Lexie is a fantastic character – flawed but well-meaning – and the friendship between her and Eleni is wonderful. A lovely middle grade book that I thoroughly recommend. 4.5 stars.

Greetings from Somewhere Else by Monica McInerney. Lainey Byrne is an expert at juggling the chaos of a demanding job, her chef boyfriend (who she hardly sees) and her crazy family. But then her Aunt May dies and in order to collect their inheritance one member of the Byrne family has to spend a year running Aunt May’s B&B back in Ireland. They really need the money since her dad isn’t working after being in an accident some time before, and apparently Lainey is the only one who can possibly drop everything for a year. I’d had this book on my shelf for years and couldn’t remember whether I’d actually read it so I decided to give it a go. It turns out I had read it before – at least a few parts seemed vaguely familiar – but obviously it wasn’t very memorable. I didn’t really like Lainey – she really was bossy and self-centred, and hated the idea that anyone other than her could sort out anything. Her best friend in Ireland, Eva, was my favourite character. Overall it’s a pleasant enough read but very forgettable. 3 stars.

The Night Garden by Lisa van Allen. In upstate New York, Olivia Pennywort cares for the family farm and the incredible garden maze at its centre. According to local legend, visitors to the gardens can gain answers to their problems just by walking through them. But the gardens have never helped Olivia, She has spent her entire life on her family’s land, harbouring a secret that forces her to keep everyone at arm’s length. But then her childhood best friend returns to the valley and Olivia starts to wonder whether she could, at last, let somebody in. This reads like a fairytale for grown-ups – Olivia, who is apparently incredibly beautiful, literally lives in a tower and there is even a scene with an axe-wielding man having to rescue somebody. There were some beautiful descriptions that made me really want to visit the garden, but some parts seemed wordy and long-winded. Olivia’s dad was selfish and annoying. Overall it’s a pleasant way to pass the time but it’s quite “fluffy” and I feel like more could have been made of the story. 3 stars.

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass. Mia Winchell seems like a typical teen, but she’s keeping a secret. Sounds, words and numbers have a colour for her. No one knows, and Mia wants to keep it that way, but when it starts causing her problems at school Mia is forced to finally reveal her secret and learn to accept her condition. I started off liking this book, then after a certain point I didn’t but at the end I did again, which makes it really hard to review. I enjoyed the story of Mia trying to figure out who she is and embrace her differences, but was annoyed with her parents, who immediately started blaming each other for what they perceived to be “wrong” with Mia. Halfway through, Mia suddenly became boy crazy, which seemed unnecessary to me – the growing up and dealing with being different was enough of a storyline. Some people have said this story isn’t a good depiction of synaesthesia… I wouldn’t know about that and am disappointed if it’s true because I find synaesthesia fascinating and that was one of the aspects of the book I really liked. However, those reviewers who doubted it would be something kids would be teased for make me wonder whether they have ever actually been children? Kids/teens are cruel and will definitely make fun of anything that’s even a little bit different – or maybe that was just at my school? Anyway, I gave this one 3 stars.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. As the youngest daughter, Tita has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to spend her life looking after her mother. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, who in desperation marries her sister so that he can be close to her. Tita, in turn, pours all her feelings into the food she cooks, which has strange effects on all who eat it. This is a really odd book! Not bad by any means, but strange. At times I felt like I didn’t fully understand it. I did enjoy reading it though – it’s well-written and absorbing, very sensual. And I loved the descriptions of food. 4 stars.

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen. This is the sequel to Garden Spells, which I really enjoyed. It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and as temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women become restless. Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies. Although they are selling well, the business is costing the everyday joys of her family and causing her to doubt her belief in her gifts. Meanwhile, Sydney Waverley is desperate for a baby, a namesake for husband Henry. But the more she tries – and fails – the more desperate she gets. Finally, Sydney’s daughter, Bay, has lost her heart to the boy she knows it belongs to. If only she could find a way to make him see it too… In amongst all this, a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family. Somehow, the Waverley sisters need to find a way to hold the family together until first frost, when everything will be okay again. didn’t enjoy this as much as Garden Spells. It was just as well written, but it had a different kind of feel for me. Garden Spells is comforting, like a cosy blanket. This one felt less whimsical and more tense. It was nice to catch up with the Waverley family though and Sarah Addison Allen is, as always, an excellent writer. 3.5 stars.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. Nora hasn’t seen Clare for ten years. Not since the day Nora walked out of her old life and never looked back. So she’s understandably confused when an invitation to Clare’s hen do arrives. A weekend in a remote cottage seems like the perfect opportunity for Nora to reconnect with her former best friend. But something goes horribly wrong, secrets are uncovered and the past finally catches up with Nora. I read this in one sitting – I was so intrigued to find out what was going on and who had done what. I was annoyed by almost all the characters though. Especially Nora whose entire life was apparently ruined by a relationship when she was a teenager. Clare I think was actually supposed to be unlikeable, but I’m not even sure what the point of Melanie was. It was very tense though and all the twists and turns definitely kept me interested. 4 stars, but a low 4 stars (too good to be only 3!).

So, ten books read in September, but not the best reading month since the majority were 3-star reads. None of them were really terrible, but the majority were just okay.

October books

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. This book had been on my shelf for ages until I decided to take it with me when I went to the hospital for the second time with spotting. I ended up being admitted, and read this on the Thursday while hooked up to an iron drip. When Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere, so she chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing her younger brother Jamie has money, which will be needed, she invites him along. While hiding out at the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue purchased at auction for a bargain price of $225. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions… or is it? Claudia is determined to find out, a quest that leads her to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the old woman who sold the statue to the museum. This is such a cute, fun book. I loved Claudia and Jamie. Their personalities and concerns seemed very realistic and I enjoyed their adventure. I can see why this is considered a classic. 5 stars.

The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard. Elvia Carr has a “Condition” (most likely some form of autism) and according to her mother is useless – incapable of interacting with the rest of society or looking after herself. But when her mother has a stroke, Elvira is forced to do just that. In an effort to cope with the world, she comes up with seven social rules to help her fit in. Unfortunately, she soon discovers that most people don’t live their lives according to the rules, leading to awkward encounters and a few unpleasant situations. But through it all Elvira keeps learning about herself and the people around her, knowledge that will help her navigate her way through a confusing world. I loved this book! I adored Elvira from the very first page. She has such a distinctive voice and her descriptions of the way her mother treated her made me want to give her a hug and tell her she’s most definitely NOT useless – as she proved again and again throughout the book. There are some dark moments and Elvira encounters some not very nice people, but there are also some truly wonderful characters – I loved Charlie and Karen. Highly recommend. 5 stars.

The State of Grace by Rachel Lucas. It only occurs to me now that I read two books in a row with autistic characters. Interesting. (I actually started another one in between but still haven’t finished it.). Anyway… Grace has Asperger’s and her own way of looking at the world. She has a horse and a best friend who understands her, so what more does she need in life? But when Gabe kisses her and things start to change at home, suddenly life doesn’t make sense any more. Everything seems to be falling apart and it’s up to Grace to fix it. race is a wonderful character – her lovely personality shines through. She always tries to do the right thing even though it’s difficult for her and she often doesn’t understand what the right thing would be. I’m not autistic so I don’t know whether this was an accurate representation of autism, but given that both the author and her daughter are on the spectrum I would imagine it is. Even without being autistic some of Grace’s thoughts resonated with me as a socially awkward introvert, like when she was all peopled out and just wanted to be at home with her familiar things. Grace’s friend Anna is also a lovely character and wonderful friend to Grace. My one minor criticism of this book is that there’s a side story about Grace’s sister that wasn’t fully explored. The book would have been just as complete without it. Apart from that I really enjoyed the book and gave it 4 stars.

The Polka Dot Shop by Laurel Remington. When 13-year-old Andy’s school announces a new no-uniform policy, she is the only pupil who isn’t over the moon. All she wants is to dress like everyone else, but instead she’s forced to wear pre-loved items from her mum’s run-down vintage boutique. The distance between Andy and her mum is growing all the time, and to top it off the shop seems to be doing increasingly badly. When Andy finds a bag of high-quality designer clothes at the back of the shop she suddenly begins to see the potential of vintage clothing. But can she turn things around before it’s too late? I loved everything about this book. The characters are diverse. Andy and her friends are so supportive of each other, and I loved the fact that, despite their differences, Andy really does love her mum and want her to be happy. I also liked the way people took Andy and her ideas seriously and didn’t just dismiss her as a stupid kid. There is a mental health aspect to the book, which maybe have been addressed in more detail, but other than that it’s just a lovely, feel-good book, which was precisely what I needed at the time. 4.5 stars

Despite the fact that I only read four books, October turned out to be a much better reading month as I enjoyed all four of them. One was a children’s book and two were YA, but I think some relatively “easy” reading was exactly right for my frame of mind in October. As November progresses and the dark nights draw in, I’m hoping to get back into my usual varied range of reading materials… if I can find the time in between stitching and making a million Christmas cards!

Have you read anything interesting recently?
If you want even more book reviews, definitely check out the link up.

 

The unknown is scary…

Queenstown

Recently we had a meeting with the doctor at the fertility clinic and were able to put a plan in place. Basically we’ve agreed that, since it worked so well last time, I will try the same procedure again. Same hormonal injections followed by insemination. I’m not going to tell you exactly when we’ll be trying again – partly because I want to keep some things private. I don’t really need dozens of people waiting to hear the results of my pregnancy test! But also because I don’t know myself exactly when we’ll be able to try again. It all depends on how quickly my body gets back to normal after the loss. Since I was nearly 17 weeks along and there were two babies, its slightly different to a “normal”, early miscarriage. I do know I have to wait two cycles, so it definitely won’t be happening this year. Much as I would like to finally be able to hold a baby in my arms, I’m okay with that. After everything that’s happened this year, I’d be happy with an uneventful rest of 2018. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past three years, it’s patience. When baby-making doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to there is a lot of waiting involved. Waiting for the right time in your cycle to have certain tests, waiting to see whether it’s actually worked this time round, and waiting for the right time to start treatment. I’m used to waiting.

One of the worst things about having to start this process all over again – apart from the obvious fact that my boys deserve to still be here – is not knowing whether we will ever end up with a living, breathing baby that we can actually bring home with us. I was very lucky that I responded so well to the hormones and the IUI worked first time. That’s now what usually happens, and the doctor has already prepared me to not expect that again. We have two tries left and after that…. who knows. I am hopeful that things will work out for us, but it would be a lot easier if it was possible to look into the future and see that, if we just keep going, one day it will all have been worth it.

Goodnight, sleep tight

Misty trees

Yesterday we laid our boys to rest at the memorial for babies who were born too soon to be registered. They were cremated the day before – we asked for them to be laid in a single basket for the cremation, that way they’ll always be together. Then their ashes were placed in a heart-shaped wooden urn. We weren’t there for the cremation, but we saw the urn at the cemetery yesterday and it was beautiful.

The sun was shining brightly yesterday, a beautiful day to say goodbye. We read them Guess How Much I Love You – their first and last bedtime story – and told them we love them and we’ll come and visit them again. Hopefully at some point with their younger sibling. It was sad but nice. I’m glad we got to say goodbye and that we have a place where we know they are.

Afterwards, we walked into town and had a delicious hot chocolate at the chocolate café – much more fitting than raising a glass of something alcoholic, I think. We also lit the tea lights again in the evening.

“I miss you more than words can say
A part of me has torn away
A china heart will always break
A fracture to a twisted face
But things are gonna heal again
Eyes once blind will see again
I miss you more than words can say
I miss you more than words
Quickfade”
~ Feeder, Quickfade

🌟 Shine bright, tiny stars. We promise to never forget you. 🌟

Style Imitating Art: Bottles of autumn

So, funny story about my entry for this round of Style Imitating Art… I had my outfit all picked out, put it in the suitcase when we went away for a night, then we promptly left the suitcase on the train. Doh! On the plus side, when we went to buy a few necessary bits we found out that the supermarket in Yverdon les Bains sells bamboo tooth brushes. I had been planning for a while to look into ordering one (our branch of the same supermarket does not have them) but never got around to it. Silver linings. And the suitcase has been found – we can pick it up tomorrow. But anyway, I digress… with my original outfit gone, I had to think of something else to wear. Here is the inspiration art, chosen by Danael.

Pocket-flask-metropolitan-museum-of-art-public-access

It’s called Pocket Flask. I love the colours… so appropriate for autumn! And the patterns on the bottles are so interesting. Since we went out for the day today, I got Jan to take a photo of me with all the autumn colours of nature in the background, also so fitting for the inspiration. Here’s what I chose to wear:

SIA-5Nov18

This owl dress is by “Miss Style London”. I believe I bought it from DaWanda, which was the German version of Etsy (but stopped hosting shops recently and is now just a craft site). I’ve had it for about 8 years though so I’m not 100% sure! I thought the colours were really fitting and the patterns at the bottom and on the owls were a good imitation of the patterns on the the flasks. I’m also wearing green tights (not visible, but never mind) and a brown cardigan from Primark (purchased before our move to Basel, so three years ago at least). Some close ups of the owls:

I added some earrings to the outfit, both because the colours fit and they’re kind of glassy looking (although I think they’re actually plastic), which seemed appropriate. Below a photo of me that actually shows one of them plus one of just the earrings. They came from a clothes shop… no idea which one.

It’s already pretty late, but if you fancy joining in and can cobble together an outfit at short notice please do, and then send it to Danael at livingoutsidethestacks@gmail.com by tomorrow (Tuesday 6 November). A round up will go up on her blog on Wednesday and it’s well worth checking out what outfits other people came up with inspired by the art. There are always some amazing contributions!