November 2019 recap

Well, that’s another month over. We’re only 20 days away from Christmas day now, which is quite honestly terrifying. I still have so much to get done! But today I’m here to link up with the lovely Kristen and talk about what I did in November.

whats new with you

Visitors and trips

I’m putting those two things in together for ease of… something.

On 1st November, I headed to Zurich to meet Jan after work. His sister had sent us a messaging saying someone she studied with had an art installation in a café in Zurich that was opening that day. So we went along, had a chat with the artist and admired the art (which was really interesting).

The next day, Jan’s former choir in Karlsruhe had a small performance in a jewellery shop. We discovered that, coincidentally, the youth choir of Baden-Württemberg was also performing an anniversary concert on the same day and a friend from back in student residence days was taking part, so we decided to go to Karlsruhe for the weekend and see both. That was a Saturday, so we arrived in time to see the former choir and have a quick chat with them, went for lunch with two other friends, then attended the anniversary concert in the evening before spending the night in a hotel. On the Sunday, we were invited to another friends’ place for breakfast then went for a walk with him, his wife and their baby before catching a train home.

I had planned to take some other trips during that week since I was off work, but it poured down most of the time so the furthest I made it was into town to do some shopping and grab a Cornish pasty from the autumn fair. Then on the 9th my cousin and her boyfriend came, and luckily the weather cleared up! The three of us spent their first afternoon here looking at an archaeological site and exploring the autumn fair, where we ate sausages and had a ride on the Ferris wheel (Jan was performing in a concert in Lucerne). The next day it was just the three of us again as Jan had a rehearsal with a different choir. We walked into town and then around Basel for hours before meeting Jan for a drink and, later, food. Then on the Monday we took a day trip – train up to Rigi Kulm, another train down the other side and then a boat to Lucerne. We’ve taken other guests on the same day trip but this was the first time I’d been up there and discovered snow. Unfortunately that was my last day off work, so they went to Colmar on their own on the Tuesday then when I finished work we met for a drink before coming home and ordering sushi from the delicious place nearby. They left on the Wednesday morning to head to Athens for a week and on the Thursday I went into the office so it was a very busy week!

The following Sunday (the 17th) we had another visitor. A friend and former colleague had been visiting someone in Zurich so she stopped by our place on the way back. Unfortunately the weather had returned to being icky (sleet when she first arrived, which quickly turned into extremely heavy rain), so after I gave her a tour of the new bathrooms and kitchen, we stayed home, chatted and drank tea. Jan had a choir rehearsal (of course…), so we headed into town at the time he said he would be done and met him for food at one of the few restaurants that’s actually open on Sundays. I had arranged to start work late on the Monday so my friend and I had a lovely breakfast together before she had to go and catch her train.

Reading

I was taking part in Believathon in November and I read a lot. After completing all the prompts and reading a few extra books, I decided to challenge myself to read an extra book for all 10 prompts. They were all children’s books so some of them were pretty short and most were fairly easy to read, but even so I read a lot. If you’ve seen part1 of my reading recap you’ll already have some idea of what I read… the rest will be coming soon. And if you want to know which book was my favourite of the month: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

Watching

Still Buffy the Vampire Slayer. We’ve finished Season 4 now. I don’t think there’s been anything else? Jan watched Back to the Future recently (I swear those films are never off the TV!) but I was busy doing housework and cooking so I didn’t pay attention.

Craft stuff/cross stitch

I’ve been very busy making Christmas cards for Post Pals, but the good news is more than half of them are done. I also stitched some designs for cards, including a birthday card for my cousin. I actually posted a Christmas card in November as well… as usual, my first Christmas card went to my uncle, father of the aforementioned cousin. Since I send their Christmas card in the same box as my cousin’s presents, her birthday is on 12th December and they live in New Zealand, I always have to get at least Christmas card sorted and sent very early. Here are some photos – both of these cards have already been posted, one to the US and one to New Zealand:

Miscellaneous/ general life stuff

– I booked flights for us to go to England for Christmas and for some reason they cost three times as much as usual this year! People keep telling me that’s why they always book early for Christmas, but 1) we’ve booked this late before, 2) we wanted to wait and see what happened on 31st October before booking anything and 3) I initially checked prices in August and they were just as bad then… I was actually hoping they might get cheaper, but alas no. Oh well, they’re booked now and my credit card is gently weeping. After booking them I put myself on a spending ban (apart from Christmas presents and things I *had* to spend money on like food, sending parcels to New Zealand and going to Germany for work).

– I don’t tend to talk too much about my family (or other people) on here because it seems unfair for me to be putting other people’s business out there on the Internet, but last year my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer (which he has now been successfully treated for). He ended up having to go to hospital in October then again in November (for a separate issue), resulting in an MRI, bone scan and him being on painkillers – including liquid morphine – for basically all of November. Thankfully the bone scan showed no trace of cancer, but as you can imagine, it has not been the best time. Seriously universe, you can stop kicking everyone associated with me while we’re down now!

– Yet another friend told me she was 20 weeks pregnant a couple of weeks ago. She got married last year and they bought a house this year – and apparently also conceived a baby. I’m happy for her but sometimes I honestly feel like I’m jogging in place in front of a glass door while everyone else zooms past me (the door opens for them, of course). She’s the third person I know to have met, married and conceived a child with someone in the time since we moved to Basel (the other two children have already been born). Meanwhile the metaphorical door opened just enough for me to start thinking I could maybe squeeze through only to slam shut in my face again. (That’s a terrible metaphor but I’m going with it.)

– I haven’t been doing great at drinking enough water or eating enough vegetables recently. All the trying to be healthy stuff seemed to go out the window after our last IVF transfer failed. I really need to get better about that again. Especially the drinking water part – way too often I forget about it for the entire day then realise I’m thirsty before bed and end up downing a whole pint of water!

– I need someone to recommend a brand of anti-wrinkle cream and also under-eye cream that actually works! The lighting in our bathroom is almost too good and lately every time I go in there I’m shocked by how old I look. I’ve been trying to keep up a routine of day cream, night cream, eye cream, but I just have shops on cheap ones and I’m not sure they’re doing anything. I’m reluctant to shell out for other ones without know they’re going to do anything – those tiny pots are expensive! But I have a weird (irrational) fear that if we ever do actually conceive a child the other parents at school will mistake me for his or her grandmother instead of the mother. Before you all laugh at me please bear in mind that I’m 37 next year and could very easily be 40 before any of this actually works out. That will make me nearly 50 by the time my child is in full-time school – definitely old enough to be a grandma! Especially bearing in mind one of my grandma’s was 44 when I was born. Also, I know somebody this actually happened to, so maybe not that irrational! (Child born when she was 41, parents of other children at the nursery assumed she was the child’s grandmother.)

– Work has been busy again, but it’s mostly lots of jobs from one customer. I find that slightly concerning because what if they don’t renew their contract? Oh, and speaking of work, the new person who started in April passed his probation period so we are now permanently two full-time English translators (plus my other colleague who is part time). That makes it slightly easier for me to take time off at times that suit me without always having to defer to the person with children (new guy doesn’t have any).

Wow, I’ve done nothing but complain in this section. If you’ve read this far then I apologise – I’m aware that I have so much to be grateful for. Also sorry for the long post with not many pictures to break it up.

Anyway, I can’t remember anything else of significance that happened in November so I guess that’s it. I’m off work today because I have an appointment later and I’m not sure how long it’s going to take, so not having to rush back and continue working afterwards makes things much less stressful – but that’s irrelevant to this post. Don’t forget to check out the link up and I shall hopefully chat to you all soon in the comments or wherever. Ciao!

Friday letters

Hello lovelies. I haven’t done one of these in a while… I’ve just checked: the last one was June 2018. I don’t have anything else to post about right now – or at least nothing I feel like making the effort for – so we’ll go with this.

Friday letters

Dear Christmas. I see you lurking just over the horizon. Calm down and bide your time… I have way too much to do before you get here!

Dear people who constantly posting X sleeps until Christmas. You are not helping with the above situation!

Dear universe. On behalf of my family, I would like to say please just stop! The last couple of months have been relentless.

Dear flight companies. Are you actually serious about your prices to fly from the European continent to England this year? I paid triple what I normally do for flights to England… and that includes the time I went over for my grandpa’s funeral and literally booked the flight the night before. In fact, I’ve just checked and I could get a return flight from London to New York on the same dates for less. Care to explain?

Dear work. I still love you but I have to confess I would much rather be off right now. As I already told Christmas, there’s just so much to do!

Dear weekend. You’re so close I feel like I can almost reach out and touch you. I just wish we could hang out more often and for longer!

Dear bookshelves.  Please don’t be sad that I’ve put myself on a book buying ban for the rest of the year. After the extortionate flight prices I really can’t justify buying anything other than necessities and Christmas presents now. And the unread books seem to be on a mission to take over anyway, so I shall be attempted to make a dent in those before adding any new ones. Okay?

Dear everyone. I hope you have a wonderful weekend, however you plan to spend it. I will be reading, cleaning and trying to get as many Christmas cards as possible made.

A photo an hour: 16 November 2019

I almost missed photo an hour day again this month, but luckily I saw a tweet about it half way through the morning rather than at 7 o’clock at night! It was 10:30 so I decided to take my hourly photos on the half hour rather than waiting until 11 for the first one. Unfortunately, I wasn’t actually doing anything that day, other than sorting out the flat ready for my friend coming the next day (my cousin and her boyfriend had left on the Wednesday so the spare room needed to be sorted again). Last month we actually went out for the day so I would have had interesting things to take photos of if I hadn’t missed it. Oh well, such is life. Here’s how my day went:

10:30 a.m. The calm before the cleaning! Drinking tea and trying to find something to stitch for my little cousin’s birthday card. (I did not go with the newt.)

11:30 a.m. After a shower, it’s time to answer the eternal question of what to wear… Dress chosen, looking for tights.

12:30 p.m. Changing the spare room bedding ready for my friend to sleep in it.

1:30 p.m. So hungry! Time to make a bacon sandwich.

2:30 p.m. About to hoover the spare room. The exciting life I lead!

3:30 p.m. Making teas. Three because Jan came home from a choir meeting with a friend.

4:30 p.m. Finally managed to sit down and start reading. Not making much progress with Jan and his friend rehearsing songs in the background. Also, immediately after I took the photo my washing machine started beeping at me. No rest for the wicked!

5:30 p.m. Pairing socks. *Yawn*

6:30 p.m. Heading out for food. I was excited because I was starving!

7:30 p.m. Finally got to feed my face. This empty plate once contained delicious Afghan food.

8:30 p.m. I took the photo 10 minutes late but the activity hadn’t changed… drinking beer.

9:30 p.m. Home! Sorting out bedding for the sofa bed since the aforementioned friend was staying the night and I was mean and wouldn’t let her sleep in the freshly made spare bed 😉

And that was it. I was in bed by 10:30 so I didn’t take another photo.

What did you get up to on Saturday?

 

October 2019 recap

Hello friends. October is over and we are already just short of a week into November, leaving us with less than two months left of the year… and of the decade. Eeek! Is anyone else so not ready? I feel like I need to do something amazing before the end of the year to make up for wasting the entire rest of the 2010s, but obviously that’s not going to happen. Anyway, that’s not what today’s post is about. Today I’m here to link up with Kristen for What’s New With You. (Go check out her blog – she’s awesome!).

whats new with you

Remembering

That’s a weird heading for this section but it’s the best I can think of so we’ll go with it. If you saw my September recap, you will know that 3rd October was exactly one year since we lost our boys. I was off work that day because my employer is actually in Germany and it’s their national holiday. Most of the day was spent with my great aunt and great uncle, who were visiting their son just across the border in Germany. After showing them all around Basel (we walked a lot) and dropping them off back at the train station, I stopped by the cemetery on the way home. Then on the Saturday Jan and I went up there together. It was the first time Jan had been since their the boys’ had been added to the site… I wanted to say “plaque” but it’s not a plaque, it’s like a concrete strip with the names carved into it and a little star. I would show you but we don’t want their names to be broadcast publicly (Jan doesn’t even want them on Facebook, where only my friends list would be able to see them). After the cemetery we walked into town and went for a hot chocolate, which seemed appropriate considering that’s exactly what we did the day we buried their ashes (which was actually a year ago today). I would have liked to be pregnant again before the anniversary, but alas that was not to be. Maybe we’ll get there before next October. That would be nice. I’m not getting any younger here!

Travel/days out

Jan was busy on almost every weekend in October, but he had a free Saturday in the middle of the month so we decided to go out for the afternoon. After a quick search of the Internet, I came up with the Verenaschlucht (Verena Gorge) in canton Solothurn. Jan got a car and we drove there and parked near the start. We walked through the gorge to the Verena Hermitage and then followed the megalith path to get back to the car. It wasn’t a long walk – maybe an hour in total – but given we hadn’t left the house until 2 p.m. it couldn’t really have been much longer.

 

Reading

October wasn’t my best reading month. I took part in Spookathon but only ended up reading 3 and a half out of my five choices. The three I did read can be matched to all the prompts though so I technically completed it, and I finished reading book 4 the following week when I had to go into the office. But for most of the month I was reading It by Stephen King (which I’m nowhere near finished) or not reading at all because I was distracted by crafting.

Watching

Our Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatch continues. We watch an episode most nights after Jan finishes work. I can actually cross stitch while watching, which is useful because I now need to get serious about my Christmas card making.

Craft stuff

I finished making Halloween cards for Post Pals – 14 were completed in September so in October I made 26. I then got started on Christmas – I’ve done the stitching for six so far and I’ve also sorted a few handmade, non-cross-stitched cards that will be sent out to Post Pals families come December. The cross stitched ones are mainly for my family and friends. Post Pals are also holding a craft auction in December to raise money to send the families of sick children (and some who have sadly lost their children) on a glamping adventure at Chessington – you can read all about it here. So I’ve been making Christmas ornaments for that and they will also be getting some cross-stitched cards – I’ve stitched two birthday themed designs for them already. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Quite possibly! At least having some time off work gave me the chance to get a few things done. Here’s an autumn card I stitched at the beginning of October that I really like.

autumn card

Concerts

Jan had performances with two of his choirs in October, and I obviously attended both. The first one was okay but not really my type of thing. The second one was at the Tinguely Museum – coolest venue ever – and I really enjoyed it. They were performing in front of one of the exhibits – here’s a photo I took before the concert started.

Tinguely

After both concerts I got to go out to eat with the members of the choir, which is always nice.

Purchases

I realised I didn’t have any waterproof shoes (other than winter boots and hiking shoes), so, with autumn being the season for rain, rain, and more rain I obviously had to buy some. Luckily I managed to think of it before the current downpour days and I am very pleased with them. Please excuse the teddy bear socks on the photos below 😉

 

I also collected tokens from Coop to buy a Kitchen Aid blender… or technically to make Jan buy it 😉 We got it for pretty much half price, which I think is a good deal. It’s not like I spent more than usual to get the tokens – it was all weekly food shopping that would have been done anyway. We have used it several times to make smoothies so I feel like it’s already justified itself.

Finally, I bought this liquid lipstick thingy (it’s in a lip gloss style tube but looks more like lipstick once it’s on). It’s very autumn and I absolutely love it! It’s actually a bit more coppery than it looks on the photo below but hopefully you get the idea.

me

Miscellaneous/general life stuff

Work was pretty busy again in October, for me at least. Both my colleagues had time off at the beginning of the month – part of which overlapped so I was the only English translator for about a week. I had the final week of the month off – or technically final 4 days since the Friday was 1st November – and I feel like it was well earned. The week before that I literally had 20 translations that had to be completed. Not an exaggeration. Four of them I had actually translated previously so I only had to check my proofreader’s revisions and get the final files ready, but that left 16 that I both translated and entered corrections for in that week. Needless to say, I was relieved when I finally set my out of office message and logged off on the Friday!

I had plans to do many things during my time off, but that entire week was a washout. I don’t mind rain, but this was the pouring down without a break and if you venture out for even a few minutes you will be soaked kind. On the 30th, I went for a walk along the stream so I could take my annual autumn photos. I was out for around 25 minutes or half an hour and had to change my clothes when I got home! The next day was at least slightly more friendly… as in there was enough of a break between rain showers for me to take a bag of books to one of the free bookcases in town without them all turning to pulp before I got them there, so I at least managed part of my decluttering goal. There are still some books in the giant carrier bag because there were way too many for my to carry in one go!

I also had a doctor’s appointment during that week to discuss where we go now that our fourth embryo transfer has failed. It was decided that I will have another hysteroscopy. That will be in December and I am not looking forward to it even a little bit (last time was not fun!). But if there’s any chance it will help then I have to do it. That means we won’t be able to try again until January, so with that my chances of being a mother before my next birthday are out the window.

Oh, the autumn fair also started in Basel last week. I didn’t get a chance to go properly (pouring down, remember?) but while I was out getting rid of books I managed to grab a few photos.

 

That’s all I’ve got for you. I took two weeks off work, but since the second of those weeks (i.e. now) is in November you’ll have to wait for my next monthly recap to read about them. In the meantime, go check out the link up and welcome Kristen back to more regular blogging. She has been very much missed in the blogosphere!

Infertility means…*

*Disclaimer: this is entirely about me and my situation. Other people may not think the same way. Other people may have entirely different experiences. Whatever your journey has been like so far, I wish you all the best and sincerely hope you get your miracle soon.

Misty trees

… asking yourself if you’re sure you really want a second cup of black tea today. (I won’t even discuss coffee. The last time I had one was the end of August. At the time we were on an enforced break from IVF because I had to have a hysteroscopy before continuing).

… trying very hard to drink enough water because now staying hydrated is even more important than it is anyway, but hating having to pee in case you see blood.

… being willing to try all kinds  of random things that may or may not help. Eat an avocado every day? Why not, I like avocados. Brazil nuts after transfer? My new favourite snack! Wear socks to bed? Okay! Give up chocolate? Hmm, maybe not that one ;-).

… sitting in the waiting room at your clinic and being greeted by name every time another member of staff walks past.

… always hesitating/checking the before booking a flight somewhere or buying tickets for an event in another location because what if you need to be near the clinic that day for another ultrasound/blood draw/transfer

… constantly scouring the Internet for reassurance that you’re doing the right thing by paying out for another transfer.

… giving up any food that sounds even vaguely yummy every few weeks because this time it might have actually worked and you don’t want to end up feeling guilty because you ate sushi/soft cheese/pâté or took some medicine after a transfer.

… spending the last two weeks of every cycle feeling utterly, completely exhausted because of the progesterone you’re on (all the fun symptoms of early pregnancy but most likely without the actual pregnancy!)

… constantly being afraid that you’ve started spotting, then when you discover you actually have momentarily feeling relief that at least it’s over now and you can move on, before the devastation of what it actually means kicks in. (I am aware that spotting in IVF cycles doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but when it starts the day you would usually get your period Every. Single. Time. and doesn’t stop until you get the negative pregnancy and can stop progesterone it’s really pretty obvious what’s going on).

… not giving up hope. Not now, not any time soon. Putting up with all the early appointments, blood tests, needles and hormones because I still believe that someday, somehow, I will get to be a mother.

What I read in September 2019

For the second month in a row, I finished 13 books. This fact makes me bizarrely happy. I definitely won’t be managing thirteen in October though given I’ve decided to read IT. Eeek, wish me luck with that. But we’re here to talk about last month’s reading, so let me get on with that. I’m linking up with Jana and Steph, as always.

TL;DR at the bottom for those who need it.

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If You Knew My Sister by Michelle Adams. All her life, Dr. Irini Harringford has wondered why her parents gave her away just before her 4th birthday but kept her older sister, Elle. Although she has spent her whole life trying to convince herself she doesn’t need them, deep down she still longs to understand why they didn’t want her. So when Elle manages to track her down (again) with the news that their mother has died, Irini reluctantly agrees to attend the funeral, despite having cut  Elle out of her life years ago after one too many “incidents”. But as Irini is sucked back into her family’s toxic web of secrets she soon realizes that the past is much more complicated than she ever imagined. This is an interesting psychological thriller, very suspenseful. The mystery of way Irini was given away was pretty obvious, although there is an added twist that I wasn’t expecting. However, all the dialogue in this book annoyed me. The parts in between are well written, but whenever characters were conversing it just seemed really stiff and unnatural to me. I did like it apart from that but I wouldn’t read it again. 3 stars.

Forget Me by K. A. Harrington. Three months ago, Morgan’s boyfriend Flynn was killed in a hit-and-run accident. They weren’t together long, but still she can’t seem to move on. Thinking it will provide some closure, Morgan’s best friend persuades her to upload her only picture of Flynn to the social media site FriendShare along with a note to say good-bye. The girls are shocked when the site suggests she tag the photo as Evan Murphy – someone they’ve never heard of but who is very much alive. A quick search reveals that he lives in a nearby town and looks exactly like Flynn. As she digs through layers of secrets, Morgan questions everything she thought she knew about her town, her boyfriend, and even her own parents. This somehow reminded me of old-school Point Horror books (even though it’s really modern with social media and such) and it made me feel all nostalgic. I really liked the friendship between the two girls. The ending was a little predictable but that’s okay. This is exactly the kind of book I would have devoured aged 13/14. 3.5 stars.

The Wife’s Shadow by Cath Weeks. Suzy seemingly has the perfect life – a gorgeous family, a beautiful home and a successful business. But things haven’t always been that easy for her. In her past lies a life of fear and insecurity – a life she ran away from and has been hiding from ever since. When Suzy starts being followed, she fears that her past secrets may finally be catching up on her. And when she finds herself unable to do what to her is the most important thing – keep her loved ones safe – she has to decide how far she’d be willing to go to win everything back. This book is well written and I thought the creepy aspects were done well. All along I thought a certain person must be responsible but I couldn’t work out why. Then when the reveal came it was disappointingly cliché. I literally thought “ugh, that again!”. 3.5 stars.

Emmy&Oliver Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway. Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life – to stay out late, surf her favourite beach, just go anywhere or do anything without her parents’ relentless worrying. But ever since Emmy’s best friend Oliver disappeared when they were children, her parents can’t seem to let her grow up. Emmy and Oliver were destined to be friends forever – maybe even more – and his absence left a huge hole in Emmy’s (and all their friends’) lives. When Oliver returns, she hopes they can pick up their friendship where it left off – but things aren’t that simple. Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart… all these years, he thought his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who had kidnapped him and kept him on the run. This is such a cute book, but as you can tell from the description it also covers some surprisingly deep topics. The cover implies a fluffy teen romance (and the synopsis on my copy does too), but it’s actually much more than that. It’s a story about growing up and the complexities of relationships – not just the romantic kind. I loved the friendship group in this story and would actually have liked to have more of Caro and Drew’s stories. There were little flashes to Drew’s problems, e.g. with not all of his family accepting his sexuality, but then it quickly flashed back to Emmy and Oliver’s story, which I suppose made sense given the title but I needed more. I would love a sequel from Drew’s point of view. This is the second book I’ve read by this author this year and I will definitely be reading more. 4 stars.

Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell. Dunvegan School for Girls has been closed for many years. Converted into a family home, the teachers and students are long gone. But they left something behind… After her best friend dies under mysterious circumstances, Sophie sets off to spend the summer with her cousins at the old schoolhouse on the Isle of Skye. It’s been years since she last saw them – brooding Cameron with his scarred hands, Piper whose perfection seems too good to be true, and then there’s little Lilias, who’s afraid of bones and insists the antique dolls in her sister’s room talk to her. The sister nobody is supposed to mention. The sister that died. This is very creepy and it actually gets pretty dark for a teen book! I was a little annoyed that the original “mystery” was never actually resolved (I can’t say more than that without spoilers). Frozen Charlotte dolls are a real thing and… well, let’s just say I would NOT be giving them to my child! Between 3.5 and 4 stars.

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett. Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, Zorie and her former best friend Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern-day Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets – with Zorie’s father blaming the sex toy shop run by Lennon’s two moms for his company’s losing customers. When a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness after an argument with the rest of the group. Alone. With no way to safety other than hiking. As the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world without the magic of nature and the stars? This book is so cute! I absolutely flew through it. I love the characters (well, except the dad and Reagan, but presumably that’s the point). The premise slightly annoyed me because if they were supposed to have been best friends for so long why wouldn’t she at least *try* to talk to him and find out whether he had a good reason for his actions (which he did) instead of just assuming things. Zorie’s stepmother Joy is amazing and just shows people don’t have to be related to you by blood to be the best family. There are some not exactly subtle sex scenes (points for safe sex though!) so I would definitely recommend this one more for older teens. 4.5 stars.

Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge. A girl emerges from the woods, barely alive. Her story is beyond belief, but every word of it is true. Days later, another desperate escapee is found. Pairs of victims are being abducted, imprisoned, and left with a gun. As hunger and thirst set in, only one walks away alive. It’s a game more twisted than any Detective Inspector Helen Grace has ever seen. And as she leads the investigation to hunt down this unseen monster, she learns that it may be the survivors – living calling cards – who hold the key to the case. I saw this book on a previous round of Show Us Your Books and thought it sounded fascinating. This is a decent thriller in the police procedural vein. There are excerpts from the perpetrator’s perspective and as soon as they said a certain thing I guessed who was doing it but couldn’t work out why. It’s a surprisingly fast read despite its length (421 pages) and it held my attention but I’m not sure yet whether I’ll go on with the rest of the series. 3.5 stars.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, things get very complicated and his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised. And for Simon, falling for Blue is a very big deal indeed… I finally got round to reading this one, a million years after everyone else! It’s cute and there were some moments I liked but… I don’t know. It just wasn’t as good as The Upside of Unrequited. I think I just didn’t like Simon very much. He’s basically horrible to his friends a lot of the time and I kept wanting to shake him. I mean, teenagers being selfish and oblivious is nothing new but uggggh. I liked the emails between Simon and Blue and I loved Abby. A high 3 stars.

Close to Home by Cara Hunter. Last night, 8-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from a barbecue at her home. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or so they claim. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows that nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying. And that Daisy’s time is running out. I really enjoyed this book. It’s very twisty and turny and I changed my mind about who I thought was responsible a dozen times. I had an inkling that something was off with a certain character, but then as the storyline continued I thought that couldn’t possibly be right. Then came the ending and well… apparently it could be, at least kind of. I was not expecting who the other person involved was. The person I felt most sorry for in all this was Daisy’s brother Leo – I was so glad he got to live with a loving family at the end. The final solution/twist does require some suspension of belief but it’s a really well written book. I definitely plan to continue this series (because I clearly need to commit to more series given my huge list of books I want to read?!). 4 stars.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. Until one evening her husband, Gabriel, returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, then never speaks another word. Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations – and his search for the truth that threatens to consume him. Reading this book was a surreal experience because I swear I’ve read it before, but I can’t have because it was only released this year and I definitely didn’t read it in 2019. I’m so confused! Not every little detail was familiar, but I definitely remembered some of Alicia’s diary entries as well as Theo’s character and the parts with his wife. I suppose the twist would have been clever if I didn’t recognise it the minute things started to happen because, again, I swear I’ve read this book before?! I gave it 3 stars but it might have been more if I didn’t already know what was happening. Again, so confused!

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton. When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbours. Instead, fear and guilt led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So she cursed them, as you do. Fast forward one-hundred-and-odd years, and all Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. And she has reason to hope that she may have escaped the thorny side-effects of the family matriach’s curse. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. The author – Nor’s own mother – seems capable of performing magic that should be far beyond her capabilities. And such magic always requires a sacrifice. Nor senses a storm coming, and she’s certain she’s going to end up right in the middle of it. I mostly enjoyed reading this book. It’s well-written and atmospheric, very spoky in parts (would have been perfect for October) but the pacing is all over the place. It’s pretty slow for most of the book then the action suddenly ramps up towards the end and everything seems to happen at once. The epilogue is either setting things up for a sequel or is just unnecessary and confusing. 3.5 stars.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. After a childhood moving from one academic outpost to another with her professor father, Blue van Meer finally gets the chance to stay in one place as she embarks on her final year of high school at the elite (and unusual) St. Gallway School in Stockton, North Carolina. There, she falls in with a charismatic group of friends and their captivating teacher, Hannah Schneider. A sudden drowning, a series of inexplicable events, and finally the shocking death of Hannah herself lead to a confluence of mysteries. One year after finding Hannah dead, Blue tells her tale in the form of a syllabus for a Great Works of Literature class (with hand-drawn Visual Aids), and attempts to make sense of it all. This is the kind of book that I like to label “too smart for its own good”. It’s very much an intellectual book. The writing and whole style of it reminded me of “The Basic Eight”, but this one is even more drawn out. I liked it most of the time while I was actually reading it but once I put it down I didn’t feel compelled to pick it back up – hence why it took me 17 days to finish. I definitely feel like it was about 200 pages too long – a lot of the intellectual waffling could have been skipped. Nonetheless, I would read this author again. 3 stars.

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Since then, it’s been her, her father and her sister against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. Between juggling multiple jobs, dealing with her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad, Ramona feels like she has to be the adult of the family. ANd, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever. The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, causing her to question her sexuality. Could it be that she likes girls and guys or is this new attraction just a fluke? This is partly a  romance, but mostly a story about family, and especially the relationship between sisters. I loved Ramona as a character, but some of her decisions had me wanting to shake her. For instance, I adored how much she loved her sister but hated the way she thought Hattie’s situation had to dictate the rest of her life. Let Hattie make her own mistakes! There were a lot of side characters and it took me some time to get them all straight, but once I did I ended up liking them all. Ruth was my favourite. The plot is a little predictable and it’s also verrrry slow – this is very much a character driven book. But I did enjoy it a lot. 4 stars.

TL; DR. YA fans should definitely read Starry Eyes, Emmy & Oliver and Ramona Blue. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was very popular a few years ago, but honestly if you haven’t picked it up yet I’m not sure you need to bother. Frozen Charlotte is a creepy YA read that would be good for October, but don’t expect some kind of masterpiece. Adult thriller fans should read Close to Home, unless you don’t like police procedurals then avoid. None of the rest were bad, but none were amazing either so you’ll have to read the descriptions above and decide for yourself.

Don’t forget to check out the link up for more book recommendations. And if you’ve read any of these let me know what you thought.

My reading list for Spookathon 2019

I only recently found out about Spookathon, so clearly I’ve never done it before. It’s a booktube thing so I’m not even sure if it’s open to non-YouTubers, but I mean it’s not like anyone can actually stop me from reading books that fit the prompts soo…

Spookathon is taking place from 14-20 October. It’s hosted by Kayla, or Lala, from Books and Lala on YouTube. The official Twitter account is @thespookathon. I think that covers everything. Here are the categories and the books I plan to read for them:

Spookathon2019

Read a thriller: The Au Pair by Emma Rous

Read a book with red on the cover: VOX by Christina Dalcher

Read a book with a spooky word in the title: The Drowning Pool by Syd Moore (I think drowning is pretty spooky sounding!)

Read a book with a spooky setting: The Shining by Stephen King (I’m sure there’s nobody out there who doesn’t know this one is set in a creepy, haunted hotel)

Read a book you wouldn’t normally read: Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: The Crucible by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack (I never read graphic novels/comics!)

Five books in one week is a lot, but you can use one book for multiple categories, so if necessary I’ll do that. The Drowning Pool has red on the cover, for instance, and The Shining is horror but I think can also be counted as a thriller. Hopefully I’ll manage to get to them all though.

Is anyone else doing spookathon? Or just generally planning to read spooky books in October? Let me know what’s on your list!