Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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Ghost Girl by Lesley Thomson

I am on a roll now with my summer challenge reading – six books down already! I bought this one on a whim from Amazon – even though it’s a sequel and I haven’t read the first book – because it was actually quite difficult to find a book with an alliterative title, especially since Megan had specified that all words had to start with the same letter, so Pride and Prejudice, for example, wouldn’t count. I discovered a few books that would fit – Rob Roy, Everything’s Eventual, Ella Enchanted and Nicholas Nickleby being a few – but could find none of them in my local bookshop, and while Amazon obviously had all four, Ghost Girl won simply because it was available ridiculously cheaply from somebody who was willing to deliver to Switzerland. This category is worth 30 points.

Ghost GirlThe plot: Terry Darnell was a detective with the Hammersmith police. Now, one year after his death, his daughter Stella is clearing out his house when she finds a folder of photographs hidden in his cellar. Why did he take so many pictures of deserted London streets? Stella is determined to find out, and enlists her friend/employee Jack to help her.

One particular photo dates from 1966, to a day when a little girl, just ten years old, witnessed something that would haunt her forever. The two stories, of the present-day investigation and the events surrounding the little girl back in the 60s, are told in parallel.

My review: I had a hard time relating to the main characters in this book at first, possible because I hadn’t read the previous book. Because of that, at first I enjoyed the parts that took part in the past more at first. Thomson did a good job of getting inside the mind of a lonely child and at times my heart ached for her. Gradually, I was drawn into the present-day story as well and found myself eager to know just what was going on. And unlike some of the reviews I’ve read, I definitely didn’t guess whodunnit (well, maybe who did one thing, but not who Stella and Jack were looking for) and was very surprised to find out who one of the characters was. This is an enjoyable crime novel, but I’ve taken one star off because I didn’t really like the main character (Stella) very much until near the end and also some parts seemed a bit boring and unnecessary. I liked it overall though, so 4 stars. I would probably recommend reading The Detective’s Daughter first though to get a bit of background! (Note: I have not read it so I can’t tell you whether it’s any good.)

So with this and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, that’s 55 points so far from books I’ve reviewed. Add to that the 45 points from the books I haven’t written up here yet and you get a total of 100 points. Halfway there!


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The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

When the 2015 summer reading challenge started, I decided my first book should be the one for the category “Read a book with more than 500 pages” (thanks for that, Kristen) to make sure I actually had time to get through it! The Wind-up Bird Chronicle had been sitting on my shelf for months and has 606 full pages (plus one paragraph on page 607). This category is worth 25 points.

Wind-up BirdThe plot: Toru Okada’s cat has disappeared, which has unsettled his wife so much that she insists he go out looking for it every day. Meanwhile, his wife is herself becoming more and more distant. On the search for the cat (and his wife), Okada gets involved with a succession of increasingly bizarre characters, each with a tale to tell, and finds himself on a journey that he never really seems to understand.

My review: This book has so many high ratings on Goodreads that I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something! I didn’t hate the book (as evidenced by the fact that I managed to get all to the end), but I mostly found it bizarre and confusing. Most of the characters’ actions make no sense and while all the individual stories do eventually kind of come together, I still felt like things weren’t fully explained. I’m sure there’s some deep, philosophical meaning that I’m missing, but oh well – I don’t mind being an idiot! 3 stars.

I’ve read two more books for the challenge since I finished this one, so look out for more reviews soon. And if you want to join in with the challenge, you can find more information here on Megan’s blog. Any book you’ve read since 1st May that fits into a category can be counted and the first check in is on 1st June. Good luck!


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Friday letters (need more time!)

It’s Friday again! I can’t believe how time is flying. Only one more week of work after today, then I move that weekend, have a week off to sort myself out and as of may I’m officially a telecommuter (and resident of Switzerland). Phew. I feel like a week is far too little time to get myself sorted out, though – especially while working. I think I need Bernard’s watch (anyone remember that?)!

Eye'm watching you...Dear Rossmann employee. There’s really no use asking me for my postcard at 8 am… I can barely remember my own name then!

Dear bookshop. I spent way too long in you yesterday looking for a book with an alliterative title and didn’t find a single one. Not even Angela’s Ashes – which most people seem to be using for the challenge – or Rob Roy, which is supposedly a classic. I didn’t even spot Gone Girl (which would have been useless to me anyway since I’ve already read it, but given its popularity you’d think you’d at least stock it!). Now I’m going to have to order it, and as Switzerland has no Amazon of its own, it will come from another country and go through customs. If I fail to complete the challenge in time due to books arriving late I’m blaming you!

Dear Switzerland. Why you no has Amazon?

Dear to-do list. Why aren’t you getting any shorter? I have so much to do and so little time before the big move!

Dear Basel. See you again soon!

Happy Friday everyone! I hope the sun shines for you this weekend (and for us – we’re going to a wedding!).


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The 2015 Summer Reading Challenge – preliminary list

Megan has put up the categories for her next reading challenge. It doesn’t actually start until 1st may, but I’m impatient so I felt compelled to make a preliminary list. All my books are in Switzerland already, so I had to pick them from memory… meaning this list will probably end up changing when I discover that the books I’ve picked don’t actually have enough pages ;-) It will do for a start though.

First, as always, the rules:

  • The challenge will run from May 1, 2015, to August 31, 2015. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on May 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on August 31 will count.
  • Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audiobooks and large-print books are fine, as long as the regular print versions meets this length requirement.
  • A book can only be used for one category, and each category can only be completed once. If you want to switch the category of a book during a later check-in, that’s fine, just be sure to account for that in your point total.
  • Rereads can be used for a maximum of three books in the challenge. This rule is meant to encourage you to try new books while still allowing you to revisit books from your childhood or young adulthood that you might get more out of now. Please reread the entire book within the timeframe of the challenge in order to count it; no simply finishing old books or partial rereads.
  • The highest possible total is 200 points, and the first five people who finish the challenge will be invited to contribute a category for the next challenge.

And now for the fun part: challenge categories!

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules.
Captain Correlli’s Mandolin by  Louis de Bernières. It’s on the BBC Big Read and I need to get back on track with that.

10 points: Read a book you have never heard of before. (Just go to a shelf and pick a book based on the cover, the title, whatever you want!)
Well, this category will obviously have to wait because if I put something I’ve added to my TBR pile it obviously will be something I’ve heard of before ;-)

10 points: Read a book that has been on your TBR list for at least two years. (If you’ve had a Goodreads account for 2+ years, this will be easy to figure out. If you don’t, do your best to pick a book you’re pretty sure you’ve been wanting to read for years.)
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I’m sure it’s been at least two years since Jan recommended this book to me. It’s been sitting on the shelf mocking me ever since, so now seems like a good time to read it.

10 points: Read a book that won a Goodreads “Best Book” award in 2014.
Not sure yet. I’ll have to take a close look at the list and see which book sounds interesting and is available cheaply.

15 points: Read a book by an author who is completely new to you.
I’ll have to find one first, so passing on this one for now as well
*Update* I popped into the train station bookshop to see if I could find anything for this category. It’s surprisingly difficult as their tiny English book section mostly contains popular authors, but I managed to find one, so my book for this category is The Bees by Laline Paull.

15 points: Read a book by an author you have read before. (No re-reads for this one.)
Different Seasons by Stephen King. I was going to read this one for the last challenge, but then I replaced it because I wasn’t 100% sure it fit the category. I still haven’t read it and it definitely fits here!

15 points: Read a book with “light” or “dark” in the title. (Or “lightness” or “darkness.”)
I don’t think I have anything on my shelves that will fit, so I’ll have to have a look…

20 points: Read a book with the name of a city, state or country in the title.
Not sure about this one either. I can’t think of any book I’ve been wanting to read that names a place in the title, but I might get lucky..
*Update* The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez – I’d forgotten I had this one! I was hoping to read it for the last challenge, but coffee wasn’t allowed to count as a food. Kabul is 1005 a city, though, so now I can actually read this book ;-)

20 points: Read a book with an animal on the cover.
The Life of Pie by Yann Martel. At least I hope it does! I can’t see my copy right now, but it should have a picture of a tiger on the cover.

25 points: Read a book that is part of a series with at least four books.
Ooh, difficult! I think it will end up being something from a crime series – they always have loads! Maybe the new Flavia de Luce book, if I can get hold of it?

25 points: Read a book that is longer than 500 pages long. — Submitted by winter finisher Kristen from See You in a Porridge.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. I can’t currently check how many pages this had, but I know it’s long (which is why I haven’t read it yet – too big for my handbag) so I’m hoping it will work for this category!

30 points: Read a book with an alliterative title. (All words in the title must begin with the same letter; no exceptions for articles or prepositions. Examples: Gone Girl or Nicholas Nickleby. Yes, this is tough, which is why it’s worth the most points!)
She’s not wrong about this being tough! Most of the alliterative titles I can think of are aimed at 2-3 year olds so are obviously not 200 pages long. I’ll have a think… (Actually, I’m wondering whether Nicholas Nickleby is among the books my grandma bought Jan? I have a feeling David Copperfield is the only Dickens though).

Well, that’s five seven books so far. I don’t think I can force any of the other books I have waiting to be read into a category so I’ll have to go on a hunt. If you want to join in you can link up your provisional list or get inspiration from other people’s lists here.


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Friday letter(s): For Sir Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett booksDear Terry Pratchett,

I must have been about 14 when I first picked up one of your books. I’d read all my own books – most of them several times – and was bored. I don’t remember whether my dad suggested that I might like the Disc World novels or I just picked one up from the bookshelf downstairs myself, out of curiosity, but either way I was instantly hooked. Soon after, I got my own mini set with the first four books in the series. I still have those tiny books, somewhere (in England I suspect). I loved you so much that when my dad said he was getting tickets for a play of Guards! Guards! I jumped at the chance, even though going to the theatre as a teenager was “uncool”. I’ve even seen the cartoon version of Wyrd Sisters! (Anyone else?). Later, when I first got talking to my (now) boyfriend, Discworld was one of the things we discovered we had in common. My first gift to him was a copy of one of your novels (Carpe Juggulum, I believe), and to this day one of our favourite ways of spending time together is to read your novels allowed to each other. So it was fitting that he was the one to tell me the news. The text message consisted of just four words: “Terry Pratchett is dead,” followed by a sad face, and it was like a punch in the gut. Even knowing it had been coming (and let’s be honest, we all knew) didn’t make it any less of a shock. I immediately hit the Internet, hoping he had made a mistake. The first result I was confronted with was your Wikipedia page with the words “Sir Terence David John “Terry” Pratchett, OBE (28 April 1948 – 12 March 2015) was an English author of fantasy novels…” Was! Those Wikipedia editors are quick! Two results down was the BBC News article. Not long after that, the tributes started to flood my Facebook and Twitter. It was true; another legend had gone from us.

Sir Terry, ever since that first day, your books have been the ones I would turn to when nothing else would do. No matter what mood I was in, even if I was feeling too restless, down or just plain lonely to concentrate on any other book, the Discworld would always suck me in. I laughed, I cried and I learned so much about human nature and about our very own round world. Sam Vimes, The Librarian, the Nac Mac Feegle, Esme Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Death of Rats and, of course, DEATH himself remain among my favourite characters in literature. And as the granddaughter of somebody who has been diagnosed with dementia, I was awed by your response to your own “embuggerance”. Rather than feeling sorry for yourself, you chose to fight, to raise awareness and, above all, you handled everything with humour and humility. Any bitterness you may have felt certainly didn’t show. For that, if nothing else, you were a true inspiration.

“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…” – and I expect it will be a very long time before your ripples die away.

Farewell, Sir Terry Pratchett and thank you for everything!


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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I finished reading this book the other day and I loved it so, so, so much that I couldn’t be content with just writing a review on Good Reads… my blog needs one too!

The plot:
Essentially, this is a book about a circus – Le Cirque des Reves (which means “Circus of Dreams”). Except… it’s not really a circus. Not that kind of circus anyway. There are tents and some of them even have acrobats in them, but that’s as far as the similarities with a normal circus go. Plus, this circus is only open at night, closing its gates again at dawn. And anyway, the story isn’t really about the circus. Actually, it’s about two magicians competing against each other in a kind of game (that’s actually more of a… test? Battle of wits? Experiment?). Oh, I give up… summarising the plot is just too difficult!

My review:
In case you hadn’t gathered yet, I loved this book! It started off fairly slowly and I was torn between finding it interesting and being a bit put off by the pages and pages of description but not a lot of actual action. But gradually it sucked me in, until I got to the stage where I wished my commute to work was longer so I wouldn’t have to stop reading. I am aware that a lot of people won’t like The Night Circus – it’s like the Marmite of books, I think. Either you love it or you hate. Looking back, there isn’t really much of a plot and takes ages to figure out what’s actually going on (both for the reader and the magicians themselves!), but somehow, despite these failings, I fell in love with the characters and – more importantly – with the circus itslef. I desperately want there to be a real Cirque des Reves so I can go and visit it over and over again. I had to give it five stars on Good Reads because that’s all I’m allowed, but I want to give it a million stars.


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What I learned from “Swiss Watching” by Diccon Bewes

Swiss flag

With our move rapidly approaching, I thought it might be a good idea to learn a little more about Swiss culture (even if we end up on the other side of the border, I have a feeling we’ll be spending a lot of time in Basel…). I knew a traditional history book, filled with dates and facts, would just send me to sleep, so instead I picked up a copy of Swiss Watching: Inside Europe’s Landlocked Island by Diccon Bewes. What I mostly learned is that the Swiss (at least in the area we’ll be moving to) are basically German… except even more so. A few examples:

  • The trains are (almost) always on time… and in Switzerland it’s not just a stereotype!
  • If you ask people to go out for a meal, say for your birthday, be careful how you word things! If the Swiss get the impression that it’s an invitation, they will also expect you to pay for their meals! (I am aware that this is a thing in some circles in Germany, but luckily nobody I know enforces this “rule”)
  • The little red man must be obeyed at all costs! Mostly to set a good example to children (and even if you don’t see any children for miles around, one could be watching you from a nearby window). But are the Swiss as good at the death glare as little old German ladies, I wonder?
  • Swiss people like to spend their weekends hiking! (And just to prove my point about them basically being German, only yesterday Jan said to me “Once we move we can go hiking in the Swiss mountains!”. Uhh, okay dear…)
  • All the shops are closed on Sundays (except those that happen to be in train stations), and anything that might make the slightest bit of noise is verboten!

Other than that, I learned that people apparently think cuckoo clocks are Swiss (they’re actually from the Black Forest), velcro and toilet duck were both invented in Switzerland, the Swiss are (rightly!) extremely proud of their chocolate, nobody actually knows who the president of Switzerland is at any given time because it changes every year – and who can possibly keep track of that?! And finally, there’s a Röstigraben (literally rösti ditch) between the German-speaking and French/Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland. On the French/Italian side, they look down on their German-speaking countrypeople’s love of rösti (but why? How could anybody resist fried grated potatoes?) – so it’s a bit like the Weißwurstäquator (white sausage equator) in Germany.

Overall, I enjoyed the book – although the attempts at humour (sarcasm?) fell flat at times and felt a bit condescending. It certainly wasn’t a book of dry facts though, so I got what I was looking for and now feel as though I know a lot more about what to expect from Switzerland.

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