A Photo an Hour: 12 December 2020

Hello lovely readers! I’m juuuust sneaking this post in before the end of the month. The chosen date for the final photo an hour of 2020 was 12th December. I didn’t actually realise until I belatedly chanced across a tweet though, so my photos start halfway through the day. Let’s have a look at what I did, shall we?

12 noon. Cross stitching one final Christmas card.

1 p.m. Shower time. Yes I was in my pyjamas until then. Sssh – this is a judgement free zone!

2 p.m. Dressed and heading out.

3 p.m. Walked into town, now to drop off some books (goodbye and good riddance Truly Devious series!). I get quite a few of the books I read from this and the other free public bookcases dotted around town – particularly older books and German ones. I found The Bell Jar in this very bookcase!

4 p.m. Picked up some shopping, now heading home. Cue awkward bus photo – although it was surprisingly empty.

5 p.m. Home, shopping put away… time to hoover.

6 p.m. Finally writing a long overdue blog post (this one, if you’re curious).

7 p.m. Peeling potatoes for tea.

8 p.m. Food is ready. I may have made too many peas!

9 p.m. Back to cross stitching.

10 p.m. Determined to finish a book before going to sleep! I had 120 pages left.

11 p.m. Final photo of the day… joining Eeyore in bed. I took my book with me and did indeed finish it, but didn’t take any more photos.

And that’s it. Not a particularly exciting day. But then again, they never are. Until next year, photo an hour fans!

The book review of 2020

This is my fifth year doing this – how time flies! I got it from Kezzie. The original, with slightly different/more categories was from The Perpetual Page Turner – the link is to this year’s version. I am also linking up with Steph and Jana for Show Us Your Books yearly favourites.

Best book you read in 2020:

As always, this is a really difficult question to answer. I read a lot of good books this year. But I think it has to be The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. The first half is wonderful and magical and I so wanted to visit Papa Jack’s Emporium myself and play with the toys and meet Sirius, the patchwork dog. Then the second half came along and absolutely devastated me. I read this in February and I am still mad at one particular character!

Best children’s fiction:

I have read a lot of really good children’s fiction this year and it’s impossible to choose just one, so have two: A Sprinkle of Sorcery by Michelle Harrison (this is the sequel to A Pinch of Magic, which I also read in 2020, but I liked the second book better) and Hurricane Season by Nicole Melleby.

Best crime fiction:

The Whisper Man by Alex North. There was a bit in the middle that was a little slow, but it was very creepy and overall a good crime/police procedural novel.

I also want to mention Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone here, although it’s not really crime as such but more thriller/suspense. It is an excellent book though and deserves to be mentioned somewhere.

Best classic:

I wasn’t sure whether I had even read a classic this year, but I went through all my books and found two that I think count – at least as modern classics maybe? Of those, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath was my favourite.

Best non-fiction:

It will surprise absolutely nobody to learn that I read a grand total of two non-fiction books this year. I absolutely loved both, but I’m going to go with Born a Crime by Noah Trevor.

Best dystopian fiction:

I didn’t read much dystopian fiction this year… I think real life was dystopian enough! I think Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle counts though – although it’s more apocalyptic. I can only think of one other dystopian book I read and I didn’t love it, so yeah.

Best YA:

This is hard, but I’m going to say With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Most surprising (in a good way) book read in 2020:

Orion Lost by Alastair Chisholm. I don’t usually read a lot of space books and I wasn’t sure what to expect from a children’s book set in space, but this ended up being one of my favourite books of the year.

Book You Read In 2020 That You Recommended Most To Others:

Umm… the only book I can remember recommending constantly in 2020 is Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend and I didn’t read that this year. I did read the third book in the series, Hollowpox, in November though so maybe I can count that instead?

Best series you discovered in 2020:

There are two series I could choose for this, so I’m going to use one here and the other for the next question. So, the Pages and Co series by Anna James. I read books 1 and 2 this year and gave both 5 stars.

Favourite new to you author you discovered in 2020:

I have enjoyed books by a few new to me authors in 2020, but for this question I like to use an author I’ve read at least two books by. So Holly Jackson. I have read both of her books and loved them both.

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

This isn’t a book but a series, although I was also disappointed with the first book in its own right. The Truly Devious trilogy. The first book made me mad with the way it ended on a cliff hanger, the second book was actually pretty good, and most of the third book could easily have been condensed into the second book plus the reveal of who was responsible for the present-day deaths and why was underwhelming. There is actually a fourth book now, but it follows a different mystery and I won’t be reading it – unless someone gives it to me or I find it somewhere for free. But I won’t go out of my way to read it.

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

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. A political thriller – not my usual genre at all – it ended up being a three-star read, which is better than I expected. I would never have picked it up if it wasn’t part of the BBC Big Read!

Book You Read In 2020 That You’re Most Likely To Read Again In 2021:

As I say every year, it is highly unlikely that I will re-read a book again so soon. I will hopefully read Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilanwith my kid(s) someday.

Favourite Book You Read in 2020 by an Author You’ve Read Previously:

I feel like I’m choosing too many children’s books, but I think I have to go for Jemima Small Versus the Universe by Tamsin Winter.

Best Book You Read In 2020 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Umm, I picked up Potkin & Stubbs by Sophie Green because it was the Middle Grade Monthly book club pick for September. I had been meaning to read it anyway, but only because of Jade who is a) one of the hosts of said book club and b) the only reason I had even heard of the book in the first place!

Favourite Cover of a Book You Read in 2020:

I love the cover of All the Things We Didn’t Say by Sara Shepard! Sadly the book itself was disappointing.

Book That Had The Greatest Impact On You In 2020:

This Lovely City by Louise Hare. The way the Windrush immigrants were treated – after being invited to come and work in Britain – was awful and this book will stick with me for a long time.

Book You Can’t BELIEVE You Waited Until 2020 To Read:

The Shining by Stephen King. It actually came on holiday with me twice – the first time we left the suitcase on the train and the second time I found no time at all to read. But I finally read it this year and it was excellent.

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. The ending was most definitely a “wait… what?!” moment that had my dying to read the sequel and get some answers. Although I have since bought the sequel and not yet read it.

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2020 (be it romantic, friendship, etc):

Ash and Lunah’s relationship in Escape from Aurora (Frostheart book 2). Actually, I love Ash’s relationship with the entire Frostheart crew and with Tobu as well, but he and Lunah are just the best team.

Most Memorable Character In A Book You Read In 2020:

Would it be weird to say the house in The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson? It really did feel like a character in its own right!

Genre You Read The Most From in 2020:

I actually kept a tally this year and my most-read genre was fantasy – primarily because of all the children’s fantasy books I read.

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2020:

The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski. It kind of reminded me of the Faraway Tree books, except the various worlds were inside suitcases instead of at the top of a tree. I really enjoyed reading about the different places and wondering what odd feature the next one would have.

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2020:

In the Skin of a Monster by Kathyrn Barker. It’s a slightly bizarre and confusing book that not everyone would enjoy but I loved it and, yes, it made me cry.

Book You Read in 2020 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out:

I’ve never seen anyone else talk about Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan. It’s a story about friendship and being different, and partly also about prejudice (against immigrants, in particular) and I really think more people should read it.

Total books finished in 2020 (so far): 184 (but I am hoping to finish my current read – Heartbreaker by Tania Carver – and make it 185).

Now some statistics: The longest book I read in 2020 was Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb at 757 pages and the shortest book I read was Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke with 82 pages.
The first book I read in 2020 was Into the Forest by Jean Hegland, and as of right now, the last book I finished was Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt.
Finally, inspired by a post Alexandra made on Instagram earlier this year: I read a shameful 29 books by BIPOC/BAME (pick your acronym) authors in 2020. Next year I plan to keep track throughout the year and do my best to read a lot more.

Now go check out the link up and discover everyone’s favourite books of 2020.

A Photo an Hour: 21 November 2020

Hello friends! Today I am bringing you a round-up of my photo an hour from November, in the hope that I might actually get December’s posted before the end of the year… hahahaha. We’ll see. Anyway, here’s what I got up to on November’s chosen date:

10 a.m. Washing some dishes while I wait for the kettle to boil (that spoon is one that failed to get clean in the dishwasher!)

11 a.m. Quickly getting some hoovering in before quiet time starts at 12.

12 noon. Getting on with some cross stitch… not long left to finish those Christmas cards.

1 p.m. Went to get the mail and this book had arrived. Yay!

2 p.m. Jan got up (about 15 minutes before I took those photo), so I could finally put on some washing.

3 p.m. Tea break! Green tea for me since it’s ever so slightly healthier (maybe) and we’re hoping to be able to carry on with fertility treatment soon.

4 p.m. Waiting for Jan to have a shower so we can go for a walk. I was literally just standing waiting so I had no idea what to take a photo of!

5 p.m. Walking through a park. This is the entrance to a Kindergarten!

6 p.m. Home… time to cook tea.

7 p.m. Corned beef hash doesn’t look very attractive but it tastes good!

8 p.m. More stitching – it’s getting there!

9 p.m. Making hot chocolate. Yum.

10 p.m. On to the back stitch!

11 p.m. Final photo of the day. Off to bed with a book.

As always, photo an hour was hosted by Jane and Louisa.

November 2020 recap

Hello! Happy December. I’m not even going to bother expressing any surprise about how we got here already. Honestly, I’ve given up trying to understand time. There are days that I have to work and days that I don’t have to work, and my phone knows the difference. (Note to self: remember to turn off week day alarm once work finishes for Christmas). Anyway, today I am here to talk about November.

Coronavirus cases in Switzerland were high at the beginning of the month and slightly less high by the end (still around 4,000-5,000 per day, i.e. way too high, but better than the previous 9,000-10,000 per day!) – mostly thanks to some of the French-speaking cantons introducing stricter measures, basically amounting to a mini lockdown. Although numbers overall decreased, in Basel they actually rose so towards the end of the month Basel-Stadt (the city canton) also introduced stricter measures. All shops stayed open but bars, restaurants, swimming pools and gyms were made to close. I think I only went into town twice anyway – once to the refill/zero-waste supermarket and once to the post office by the train station to send some Christmas presents (we do have a post office in our town but it closes at 1 p.m. on Saturdays and I’m never ready by then). When I did venture out of the house it was either to go to our local supermarket, take away recycling, post Christmas cards or to go for my weekly walk.

Speaking of Christmas cards… I finished making, wrote and posted Christmas cards for every Post Pals family before November was over! When I say I “made” cards that basically means sticking on either cut out shapes (baubles, Christmas trees, stars) or some stickers and adding a greeting. Very simple cards. I also continued cross stitching Christmas cards for family and friends. I actually took two days off at the beginning of the month to work on them. On the first day I made all the designs I had stitched up to that point into cards while listening to an audiobook (Rise of the Jumbies, if you’re wondering) and the next day I stitched my little fingers off. I was hoping to have them all finished by December but I haven’t quite managed it – there’s only about 2 more to do though. I also bought, wrapped and posted most of my Christmas gifts – or ordered them to be sent directly to the recipients. I still have a couple more to sort but I’m mostly finished.

I managed to do a little bit of decluttering in November, although honestly it doesn’t appear to have made any difference whatsoever. I actually made a tiny space on my bookshelves, which I expect to be quickly filled again once Christmas rolls around!

On the subject of books, it was Believathon so I mainly read children’s books. We consistently watched Richard Osman’s House of Games every week day (sometimes Jan had a meeting at 7 p.m. so I recorded it and we watched it when he was finished). I also watched Children in Need and caught an occasional episode of Father Brown. At the end of the month I ended up watching a documentary about Diego Maradona, which I honestly had no interest in but Jan put it on while I was trying to finish cross stitching a card so I didn’t have much of a choice.

I treated myself to a dress from Popsy Clothing (it’s got penguins on it! I wanted the one with multi-coloured reindeer but it had sold out) and also dyed my hair. The box said it’s “mauve”, although as always it didn’t work the way it’s meant to on my hair. Here’s a photo:

Unlike what feels like the entire rest of the world, I did not put my tree up in November – party because I didn’t even see any for sale until the 27th but mostly because Jan will never in a million years let me have one until at least 23rd December – and even that’s a compromise! Apparently “it’s a Christmas tree, not an advent tree!” If he had his way, it would go up at noon on Christmas Eve, just like when he was growing up but I’ve managed to talk him round to the 23rd. I did, however, bake Vanillekipferl (vanilla crescents – an Austrian speciality) on the first Sunday of advent and I put up a grand total of three decorations on the final day of the month.

Jan’s friend continued to come here to study occasionally – sometimes once a week, sometimes twice, some weeks not at all. (All very coronavirus safe – she arrives with a mask on, we greet each other from a distance with no physical contact and we all sit in separate rooms to work.)

That’s all I can think of.
Oh wait, I almost forgot. Jan’s choir was supposed to have a concert in November but since all events ended up being cancelled they decided to do it as a live stream. It was actually quite nice to sit and watch from my living room with a cup of tea and my cross stitch. Ha! They fell into a grey area since amateur choirs weren’t allowed to practice but professional ones were and around half of that choir are professional/were actually getting paid for doing the concert.

Right, that really is it now. I hope you’re all well and not too stressed in the run up to Christmas. Stay safe and stay cosy (unless it’s summer now where you are, in which case stay cool!)

A Photo an Hour: Saturday, 31 October 2020

Hello friends! On Saturday (which was *somehow* almost a week ago!) I took part in November’s photo an hour, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t even written a blog post for October’s one yet! So that’s what I’m doing now. The chosen date was Halloween, but that isn’t actually a thing in Switzerland so for me it was just a normal Saturday. Jan was out at choir practice for most of it, leaving me to clean the flat…

9 a.m. An earlier start than usual since Jan had to be at his rehearsal by 9:30. Starting the day with tea, of course – in the best mug!

10 a.m. Getting started on another cross-stitched Christmas card.

11 a.m. Enough sitting around… time to change the bedding.

12 noon. Emptying the dishwasher (so that I can refill it…)

1 p.m. A quick break for lunch. Lentil hotpot thingy.

2 p.m. I missed the morning window for hoovering (should have done that before emptying the dishwasher!) but now quiet time is over so I’m allowed.

3 p.m. Another task that had to wait until after quiet time – taking away some recycling.

4 p.m. Home – after a stop at the supermarket. Now to clean the bathrooms.

5 p.m. “Make apple and blackberry crumble” wasn’t on my last of things I *needed* to do that day, but I made one anyway (and it was delicious).

6 p.m. Back to cross stitch while dinner cooks. (I have no memory of what we actually ate).

7 p.m. Persuaded Jan to watch Heathers with me while we ate. I don’t think he was impressed, but I still like it.

8 p.m. Still watching Heathers while cross stitching.

9 p.m. Still stitching away. Nearly finished!

10 p.m. In my pyjamas, about to go to sleep. At 10. On a Saturday. Because apparently I’m 90.

And that was my Halloween 2020. Maybe I’ll actually get round to posting November’s photo an hour soon… not that it’s any more exciting than this one but I like having them.

October 2020 recap

Hello friends! Kristen isn’t hosting her link up this month because she has too much going on, but I wanted to write a recap anyway because I like having them to look back on.

So, October…

Switzerland decided to allow large events with up to 1000 people – including allowing crowds at football matches – from 1st October even though coronavirus cases had been steadily creeping up throughout September. So we started October with an average of around 300 new cases per day and ended it with around 7000 cases per day… a fact which surprised absolutely nobody except, apparently, the Swiss Government. It took until 28th October for them to finally hold a press conference and introduce stricter measures (although individual cantons had introduced their own stricter measures before that). Those “stricter measures” ended up being masks to be worn in all public buildings (shops, museums, etc.), night clubs to close, bars and restaurants only allowed 4 people per table and have to close at 11 p.m., a maximum of 10 people allowed to get together, events back down to a maximum of 50 people, stricter rules for contact sport and choirs, and universities had to switch to virtual classes. That’s it. While the rest of Europe went into some kind of lockdown or “lockdown light”, Switzerland’s shops remain open, many employers still insist on everyone coming into the office (even if they could theoretically work from home) and plenty of people are continuing to go to bars and restaurants as normal. Yay Switzerland!

Four days before the new measures were announced, one of Jan’s choirs had a concert. In the days leading up to it a few cantons introduced measures banning choirs from singing, but Basel wasn’t one of them. So the concert went ahead – with a live stream as an option for those who didn’t want to risk actually going to the event. Obviously I had to physically be there and show my support though. I had a ticket for row 9, which was the first row – all the seats from rows 1-8 had been removed, so there was a huge distance between the audience and the choir. Before entering the building everyone was asked to keep their distance from other people and wear a mask, and the entire audience had to wear masks throughout the performance as well – although I was disappointed that they hadn’t separated the seats so different groups were still sitting right next to each other. Luckily there was an empty seat on one side of me, so I made sure to face in that direction throughout the entire concert (I faced the front/towards the choir, of course, but at the same time looked towards my right if you get what I mean?). A friend of ours had a ticket but chose to stay home and watch the live stream.

Apart from the supermarket, the fertility clinic and my weekly walks, the day of the concert was the only time I properly left the house and went among people in October. Knowing the new measures were coming in 4 days, I went into town on the day of the concert to try and pick up a few Christmas presents while it was still possible. I also stocked up on craft supplies for all the Christmas cards I have to make.

Speaking of crafting, I finished making all my Halloween cards to send to post Pals families and got them posted out, then I started on Christmas crafts. Post Pals is having an auction soon to raise money so I made some things for that (cards and felt Christmas tree ornaments), made a start on my own Christmas cards and also stitched a birthday card for my little cousin in New Zealand.

A friend of Jan’s who he knows from choirs has been staying with her boyfriend throughout the pandemic and she was struggling because she couldn’t concentrate on her studies. He lives in a shared flat and someone was always around making noise, etc., so Jan offered for her to come to our place to work (don’t worry – he did ask me first whether it would be okay!). Since we moved our dining table into the spare room back in March to make an office for Jan, we had to fetch the other table in from the balcony – it’s technically also a dining table, but since we don’t have balcony furniture it usually lives out there. It looks exactly the way you would expect from something that’s been out in the weather, so I decided to buy a tablecloth for it. When I asked Jan what he thought his response was “It’s a tablecloth” but whatever, I like it! (And it was reduced to about a third of the usual price, so bonus.) It’s kind of big but I’m hoping to one day get a nicer and possibly slightly larger table that it will fit better.

So now that table/room is in use a few days a week. It’s all very coronavirus restriction-compliant – she has a mask on when she comes in and we stand apart from each other (no hugging!), she gets the dining room area all to herself (Jan and I each have separate “offices” to work in), she brings her own water bottle and if she has a cup of tea or coffee she places the cup in the dishwasher herself. And of course we have plenty of soap and disinfectant for hand cleaning. It’s probably safer than some actual workplaces!

At the end of the month I went on my usual autumn walk along a nearby stream, as I have every year since we moved here. Despite the lovely sunshine I saw precisely one person, sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette. The photos for that will be up soon once I get around to sorting and resizing them.

Apart from that I read – although not as much as usual – and we watched Richard Osman’s House of Games regularly. I also persuaded Jan to watch Heathers with me on Halloween. He didn’t seem impressed, but oh well. I still like it. It’s better than some of the crap he’s made me watch (*cough* Indiana Jones *cough*).

And that’s all I want to tell you today. The days are getting shorter and shorter and cases of coronavirus are higher than ever (over 10,000 on two days last week!) so I will most likely be leaving the house even less in November, but we’ll see what I manage to report next month. Until then stay safe and keep smiling!

September 2020 recap

And just like that September is over! I feel like it’s flown by, even though I didn’t actually do anything. Seriously, I have no idea what I’m even going to write in this post! Obviously I did not manage to find the time or energy to blog… sorry about that. I didn’t mean to promise holiday photos and then disappear for a month. I will try to get something up soon. But today it’s the first Thursday of the month so I’m going to give you a recap, even though the What’s New With You link up doesn’t seem to be up yet. I hope everything is okay with Kristen!

So what is new with me? Honestly, nothing much. In September I read a lot – a total of 18 books, or I read 17 and listened to 1 if you want to be precise. I cross stitched a lot. My godson turned 8, which is scary. Surely he’s still a toddler? I made Halloween cards to send to Post Pals children (I still have another 10 left to do!).

I watched Richard Osman’s House of Games almost every week night – except when they moved it because of stupid athletics. On Tuesday I went to the office in Germany for the first time since March because a colleague was leaving and I wanted to see her one more time and say goodbye. It was fine. The trains weren’t too full – the one on the way back was more full than on the way there, but not to the extent of people standing in the corridors, crammed in like sardines (I specifically took an earlier train home because my usual train one is of the sardine variety).

I had to have more blood tests to rule out certain things after every attempt at IVF so far has either failed entirely or ended in miscarriage. When I first had it done back in July one value came back high so the tests had to be repeated. This time all was normal though, which means I don’t have to inject myself with blood thinners every day if I ever do get pregnant again (yay!) but also means we’re back to having no real explanation for why things aren’t working (boo!). I guess most people would give up at this point and say the universe doesn’t want them to be a mother, but we have two embryos left and I have every intention of using them!

I am continuing to going for walks once a week, even if it’s raining. Most of September’s weren’t too exciting though – I just went into town and stopped by the free public bookcase to drop off some books. One Sunday Jan came with me and we went for a walk in the woods, stopping to say hi to the horses.

Switzerland added the UK to its quarantine list, but it doesn’t matter because Switzerland was already on the UK’s quarantine list so I couldn’t have gone there anyway. It’s lucky we spent last Christmas in England since who knows when I will be able to see my family again? Germany added some parts of Switzerland to its list of risk countries, but Basel is currently okay. Cantons Geneva, Vaud and Fribourg are currently on the list.

And on a non-September related note, my brother turns 30 tomorrow (HAPPY BIRTHDAY!), which makes me feel ancient! So annoying that stupid covid means I don’t get to celebrate with him.

That’s it from me. What’s new with you?

August 2020 recap

Hello everybody! Here we are on the first Thursday of another month… is it just me or has September come around fast? As usual, I am linking up with the lovely Kristen to talk about what I did last month.

August was automatically a good month because we spent the first two weeks of it on holiday! We decided not to risk leaving the country, and instead did the Grand Tour of Switzerland (but in reverse – apparently you’re supposed to do it a specific way, which is why all the road signs only point in one direction. How does that make sense?!). We had an amazing time – drove over many mountain passes, saw lots of lakes, avoided people wherever possible. I know some of you are waiting to read all about our trip… by which I mean one person (who just happens to be Jan’s sister – hi!). I promise to get round to it soon. Sorting/resizing photos is just such a pain – but here are a few for now.

It was my birthday while we were away, so that was nice. We spent the night before in a mountain lodge so we got up ridiculously early to see the sunrise then went back to bed for an hour before breakfast. The next (and final) hotel wasn’t that far away, so even with a few stops it ended up being a day without too much driving, so we made it a fairly relaxed day and spent the afternoon in the spa at the hotel. In the evening we had dinner at the hotel, and Jan convinced me that I had to have dessert since it was my birthday. So overall it was a nice day – and in all honestly it kind of feels like the entire two weeks was one long birthday celebration so I can’t really complain!

August also marked the start of birthday cross-stitch season… which leads directly into Christmas cross stitch season (I am already late starting my Christmas cards!). Basically 90% of my free time for the rest of the year will be dedicated to cross stitch!

Other than that I didn’t really do much in August. Work, obviously, once we got home. I mostly had enough to do, but some days were a bit quiet. I finished ten books, which is less than usual but not bad considering I didn’t read a single page for the first 10 days of the month (despite taking two books on holiday with me!). Richard Osman’s House of Games came back on TV (repeats, but I only discovered it relatively recently so they’re still new to me) and we watched that. I love it – it’s the most fun thing currently on TV! I started making Halloween cards to send to Post Pals children. Jan had a socially distanced choir rehearsal/meeting/thing for the whole of last weekend (Friday evening, all day Saturday, most of Sunday – he came home for dinner on Sunday) so I used the time to stock up on craft stuff and then make cards.

That’s about it. Apart from the holiday my life remains as boring as ever. At least I was healthy in August! (Mostly – during my holiday I was still on the meds the doctor gave me so the allergies or whatever it was making me stuffy/dizzy in July and it took a while for them to fully work.)

I hope you’re all doing well. What’s new in your lives? Remember to check out the link up/say hi to Kristen.

What I read in July 2020

Hello friends! It’s book day again. Hooray! I’m linking up with Steph and Jana to tell you what I read in July.

The Childfinder by Rene Denfield (Naomi Cottle #1). Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now – if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to a private investigator. Naomi Cottle finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, she’s the one families call. She possesses a rare, intuitive sense, born out of her own experience of being a missing child, that allows her to succeed when others have failed. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope. As Naomi relentlessly pursues the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce defences that have protected her for so long. If she finds this child, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life? Haunting is the best word I can come up with for this book. It’s dark in a way that creeps up on you, hidden behind beautiful writing and the power of imagination. The other case Naomi ended up working on alongside Madison’s was so sad. This is not your typical thriller or crime story, but it’s one I highly recommend. 5 stars.

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle (Time Quintet #2). Just before Meg Murry’s little brother, Charles Wallace, falls deathly ill, he sees dragons in the vegetable garden. The dragons turn out to be Proginoskes, a cherubim composed out wings and eyes, wind and flame. It is up to Meg and Proginoskes, along with Meg’s friend Calvin, to save Charles Wallace’s life. To do so, they must travel deep within Charles Wallace to attempt to defeat the Echthroi – those who hate – and restore balance and harmony to the rhythm of creation. The very universe itself depends on their success. I really enjoyed the first part of this book. Charles Wallace thinks he sees dragons, later Meg goes looking for said dragons and finds a Cherubim instead. After that it becomes too overtly religious for my tastes – fallen angels, hell, love concurs all and we have to learn to love everyone (including mean teachers). It’s also somewhat repetitive. There was a lot I enjoyed though – I loved the Cherubim and the snake. And Calvin is a great character. Will I continue the series? I’m not sure. 3 stars.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverley Naidoo. Sade and Femi’s father is a political journalist who refuses to stop criticising the military rulers in Nigeria. When their mother is killed, twelve-year-old Sade and her little brother have to flee the country, immediately, with their father promising to follow. Abandoned in London by the woman paid to bring them to England as her children, Sade and Femi find themselves alone in a new, often hostile, environment. What will happen to them and will the family ever be reunited? This book is heartbreaking. I really just wanted to make everything better for Sade and Femi. It shows all the hardships of fleeing to a new country without being too graphic. I feel like this would be a good book to teach in schools. 4 stars.

The Strangeworld’s Travel Agency by L. D. Lapinski (Stranegworld’s #1). Imagine being able to travel to different worlds just be stepping inside a suitcase? When 12-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she discovers that it’s possible to do exactly that. There are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from ours! Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds. But, unknown to Flick, the world at the very centre of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness – and takes our world with it. This book is wonderful! It sort of felt like a modern version of the Faraway Tree, except the different worlds are inside suitcases instead of at the top of a tree. Flick is a fantastic character, very much a child but with a good head on her shoulders. She is often forced to look after her little brother while her parents work, and everyone just assumes she’s so responsible and mature. At one point she says she isn’t a naturally grown up person – she was made to be that way – and it reminded me so much of me as a child. As the eldest, I looked after my younger brother a lot and everyone always praised how mature and sensible I was, but inside I felt just as vulnerable and lost as any child would. I can’t wait to read the second book – there are still mysteries to be solved! 5 stars.

This Lovely City by Louise Hare. London, 1950. With the war over and London still rebuilding, jazz musician Lawrie Matthews has answered England’s call for labour. Arriving from Jamaica aboard the Empire Windrush, he’s rented a tiny room in south London and fallen in love with the girl next door. Playing in Soho’s jazz clubs by night and pacing the streets as a postman by day, Lawrie has poured his heart into his new home – and it’s alive with possibility. Until one morning, while crossing a misty common, he makes a terrible discovery – a baby, dead in the pond. As the local community rallies, fingers of blame point at those who were recently welcomed with open arms. And before long, London’s newest arrivals become the prime suspects in a tragedy that threatens to tear the city apart. This is a very difficult read at times. The way the Windrush immigrants (and black people in general) are treated is awful. The author makes you really care about the characters so reading about what happens to them is horrible. I felt truly ashamed of how my country treated the people they had asked to come (and I wasn’t even alive at the time)! It’s basically a love story set against the background of the post-war years with a bit of a mystery thrown in. The story with the baby really shows just how easy it is to ruin somebody’s life even if they haven’t actually done anything wrong. Some people have said the plot is predictable, and maybe it is but I still think it’s an important book to read and I really liked it. 4 stars.

The Lucky Ones by Liz Lawson. May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through – no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her. Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band. Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving may actually be an option after all. I don’t know why I do this to myself. I expected this book to make me cry, and it did. I really felt for May, even though she wasn’t actually very nice at times. I agreed with her best friend Lucy when she said May was self-centred and refused to even consider how other people might feel – just because May was actually in the room doesn’t mean she has a monopoly on grief. The way she treats Ann is particularly awful. While grieving her brother she never even thinks that maybe Ann could feel just as bad about losing her sister? Lucy was the absolute highlight of this book actually. Such an amazing friend! And despite May’s faults her obvious PTSD and survivor’s guilt broke my heart. 4 stars.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (Themis Files #1). A young girl named Rose is out riding her new bike when she falls through the ground into an underground chamber filled with gleaming symbols , shaped like a giant metal hand. 17 years later, Rose is a physicist in charge of a research team struggling to determine the hand’s origins. When another giant limb is discovered, she quickly devises a method for unearthing the hidden pieces, convinced there is an entire body out there waiting to be found. Where did the pieces come from and what are they for? This book is written in the form of interviews and case files, which made it a fast read but meant I didn’t fully connect with the characters, so when something happened to one of them I was kind of detached and not really upset about it. I was fascinated by the story though. Who is the interviewer? And what on Earth was that bit at the end? So unexpected! I have so many questions and I desperately need the second book to hopefully get some answers! 4 stars.

The Emperor’s Babe by Bernadine Evaristo. Meet Zuleika: the daughter of Sudanese immigrants made good sassy girl about town, hellraiser, bored ex-child-bride. Married to a fat, rich absent Roman, she is stranded in luxurious neglect, until, one day, Septimus Severus, the Emperor himself, comes to town, bringing with him not just love – but danger… This is written in verse and some pages only have a few words on so I got through it in a couple of hours. I kind of liked it but at the same time I feel like I was missing something. The modern slang and references to Armani togas or whatever were amusing at first but eventually started to grate. And the whole part with the emperor was over very quickly considering it’s in the title. I loved Venus and the whole little friendship group around Zuleika and I appreciated seeing how truly multicultural Roman London really was but I somehow just couldn’t love it. A solid three stars but definitely no more than that.

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson (Truly Devious #2). I won’t day too much about this one since it’s a sequel, but Stevie continues investigating the case of the kidnapping and murder that took place at her elite boarding school years before. I liked this one more than the first one. Even though it’s another cliffhanger it didn’t feel as abrupt as the first one. At least we actually got some answers first! I need to know what a certain person’s deal is – I have a theory but I could be very wrong! 4 stars.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling (These Witches Don’t Burn #1). Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans. But when evidence of terrifying blood magic starts cropping up all over town and Hannah’s coven won’t believe her, she’s forced to team up with Veronica to save their coven. I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was the perfect mix of supernatural powers and real life issues. I was expecting something quirky and fun, and it was, but it also got quite dramatic at times (in a good way, although there is also plenty of teen drama in there as well!). I will definitely be reading the next book. 4 stars.

The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm. A collection of stories about Professor Branestawm – the most absent-minded inventor you’ll ever meet. No matter how hard he tries his brilliant ideas never seem to keep him out of crazy scrapes. I got this book as part of a Puffin 50th Anniversary set as a child. Back then I remember thinking it was vaguely entertaining, amusing in places, but kind of silly. And reading it again now I have to say I agree with child me. It was a quick read with some good stories and some less good ones. Not a bad read but I’m not sure who I would recommend it to. Some kids might enjoy it. 3 stars.

Eric by Terry Pratchett (Discworld #9). Eric is the Discworld’s only demonology hacker. The trouble is, he’s not very good at it. All he wants is the usual three wishes: to be immortal, rule the world and have the most beautiful woman fall madly in love with him. The usual stuff. But what he gets is Rincewind, and Rincewind’s Luggage into the bargain. This is Terry Pratchett’s take on the Faust legend although I’ve never read the original so I can’t comment on that. It’s not the best of Pratchett’s books – although admittedly the Rincewind stories have always been my least favourite, much as I love The Luggage. There are some funny and clever moments but overall it feels incomplete and not up to the usual standard. It’s a quick read though and not really bad as such. Just not really memorable either. 3 stars.

If the Dress Fits by Carla de Guzman. Martha Aguas kind of has it all–she’s an accountant who loves numbers, an accident-prone puppy that loves her, and the perfect wardrobe. Yes, she wears a dress size 24, her bras don’t fit and she’s never had a boyfriend, but so what? It becomes a big deal when her perfect cousin Regina announces her engagement to Enzo, the only boy she’s ever loved (he doesn’t know, so don’t tell him!) Suddenly Aguases from all corners of the globe are coming for the event, and the last thing Martha wants is to be asked why she still prefers her lattes with a waffle on the side. Thank god for her best friend Max. Goofy, funny, dependable Max, who finds himself playing the fake boyfriend at the family festivities. But why does it feel like only one of them is pretending? The first half of this read a bit like a teenage girl’s diary but it got better as it went along. I was so happy when Martha and Max *finally* got together! Not really a spoiler – it’s fairly obvious that’s where it’s going. 3 stars.

All the Things We Didn’t Say by Sara Shepard.

Tragedy came as if so often does: a teenage party, emotions running high, followed by a horrific car crash. A girl is left dead and a boy is forced to leave his home town, with a secret that he will carry with him forever… Years later, when Summer’s mother disappears one day, she is left with her father. Obsessed with an accident from years ago, he slowly descends into mental illness. And as he becomes more disorientated, he reveals small fragments of a secret that has been hidden since his youth, a secret that changes everything. Summer supports her father as much as she can but eventually realises that she has to escape. She finds refuge with her great-aunt, Stella. Feisty, fun-loving, and dying of cancer, Stella holds parts of the family secret. Slowly, things fall into place for Summer – or at least so she thinks… was fine. There were parts I liked more than others. Summer is actually kind of annoying though. She goes through life just assuming things about everyone, making all these sacrifices that honestly to me felt like an excuse not to decide anything for herself. Also despite the synopsis claiming this was Sara Sherpard’s first foray into adult fiction it still read like YA to me. 2.5 stars.

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell. Fred, Con, Lila, and Max are on their way back to England from Manaus when the plane they’re on crashes and the pilot dies upon landing. For days the children survive alone, until Fred finds a map that leads them to a ruined city, and to a secret. This is a fun middle grade adventure story. There are a few perilous moments that might scare a sensitive young reader buteach time the children work it out. I loved how the all did things that were out of their comfort zones – eating bugs, climbing trees. Max is hilarious, although I think if I’d been stick in the jungle with him I might have been tempted to drown him at some point! The writing is amazing – such vivid descriptions of scenery that made me feel like I was actually there. Even though it’s over 400 pages (admittedly with illustrations) I read it in one sitting. 4.5 stars.

That’s all for today. Check out the link up for more book reviews and please forgive any weird formatting – I had to finish writing this post on my phone since I only managed half of it before leaving for my holiday!

July 2020 recap

Hello friends. It’s link up day with the lovely Kristen, so let me tell you about last month.

My July started with a trip to the eye clinic. I had noticed my left eye itching more than usual the week before, but didn’t really think anything of it. Then on the Monday I had a headache after work. When I logged on to the system on Tuesday, everything was slightly blurry (although interestingly reading books and looking at my phone was fine). Luckily I was able to get an appointment at the eye clinic the next day. After a thorough vision test, the doctor decided she wanted to test for latent far-sightedness and told me I would be given strong eye drops first. People, she was not kidding about them being strong! It took until Friday evening for my pupils to be mostly back to normal (bearing in my mind I got the drops on Friday afternoon). It was Cyclogyl, if you’re wondering. Anyway… after looking at my eyes through the machine thingy, I was told to make an appointment with the optics department upstairs to see about getting glasses for reading and/or computer work. They actually had one appointment left that afternoon, so since I already wasn’t going back to work (considering after the drops everything was blurry and it was impossible to read), I took the appointment. First I had a looong appointment with some kind of assistant, who took a thorough history and then had me do various things while she held different lenses in front of my eyes, then I went to see a second doctor. Her verdict was that I do have latent far-sightedness, which my eyes generally accommodate for, and the blurriness was caused by eye strain/dry eyes. I got a couple of sample packs of artificial tears (which I later bought more of) and was told to come back in 2 weeks. If things didn’t get better with the drops I would need glasses now, otherwise she would expect me to need them in a few years, once I reach 40. After using the artificial tears for two weeks I didn’t notice much difference so I now have glasses for working on the computer. Yay!

The day after I dropped off my glasses prescription I woke up with pressure behind my nose and a vague “coldy” feeling. It gradually got worse through the week until I had pressure my ears as well. When I woke up feeling dizzy on the Sunday night then felt dizzy again when I went online the next morning I contacted my doctor. I ended up going there twice that week because I felt dizzy/had headaches every time I tried to sleep, then I got a referral to an ear, nose and throat specialist and was luckily able to get in on the Friday. He was pretty sure it was all the result of allergies (no sign of infection, my nose looks a little dry but otherwise healthy and not inflamed) so he proposed treating the symptoms first to give me some relief then doing allergy testing at a later date. The decongestant he gave me worked well enough that I was actually able to sleep for a stretch of more than an hour for the first time in 3 days which was nice, although it makes everything constantly taste of eucalyptus. So that’s where we are now. I’m taking the decongestant and a nose spray and while I still don’t feel 100% fit I’m much better and definitely well enough for a holiday. (For the record I’m not coughing, no fever, my symptoms are sinus related plus itchy eyes and when we’re not in the car we will be keeping our distance and using masks.)

People, I am almost *never* ill (didn’t have a single day off work for illness last year) so I am not loving the irony of having to visit multiple doctors (and not forgetting needing a filling back in May) during a flipping pandemic of all times! I’m not sure who I offended but I’m very sorry and I would appreciate it if you could lift whatever curse you’ve put on me now…

On the weekend after my first eye doctor appointment I decided to try and rest my eyes (so no reading and little phone time) and we drove out to Creux-de-Van, a giant circular rock formation in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. I saw a description of it as “the grand canyon of Switzerland” and while I wouldn’t go that far it’s pretty impressive.

The 26th July was my mum’s birthday and since they are moving soon I had flowers delivered to her rather than sending something she would need to pack.

And that was basically my July. I did manage to read quite a few books but other than that and our one day trip it was pretty much terrible – thanks unconfirmed allergies (or whatever you are). Oh, I hung some bunting on our balcony that I bought from Etsy ages ago. We still don’t have balcony furniture, but at least it’s a bit more colourful out there now.

Currently I am on holiday – this post was scheduled so hopefully will have actually posted – which means August cannot help but be a better month! (Right? Please let August be a better month!)

I hope you are all doing well and staying happy and healthy. Don’t forget to check out the link up!