Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Book Challenge

The Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Book Challenge categories have been announced and I almost missed it! Here are the rules and my preliminary list:

General Guidelines:

  • The challenge will run from November 1, 2016, to January 31, 2017. No books started before 12 a.m. on November 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on January 31 will count.
  • Each book must be at least 150 pages long. Audiobooks and large-print books are fine, as long as the regular print version meets the length requirement.
  • A book can only be used for one category, and each category can only be completed once.
  • 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 summer 2017 challenge.
  • Have fun! Read some books you might not have read otherwise. Discover new authors and make new bookworm friends. (Yes, these are the most important rules!)

Challenge Categories:
5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 150 pages long. Whichever book I happen to read that doesn’t fit in any of the categories will go here.

10 points: Read a 2016 finalist (longlist or shortlist) for one of the following literary prizes: National Book Award, Man Booker or Man Booker International. Uh, yeah. Let me think about that one. After a click glance I see nothing that looks appealing.

10 points: Read a brand-new release (something published between November 1, 2016, and January 31, 2017). Ugh, that’s two categories that want me to get a new book. I hate buying books before they’re available second hand! Well, there’s a new Cecelia Ahern book coming out in November, so maybe that?

15 points: Read a book by an author of a different race or religion than you. As an atheist, isn’t every religion different to mine? I suppose the category wants something more drastic than Christian though, so I will either read The Color Purple by Alice Walker or Midnight’s Children by Salmen Rushdie.

15 points: Read a book featuring a main character who is of a different race or religion than you. River God by Wilbur Smith is an option. Maybe.

20 points: Read a modern retelling of a classic (e.g. an Austen Project novel, Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, etc.) — Submitted by SCSBC16 winner Kaity. Maybe Splintered by A.G. Howard since I want to read it anyway. (Man, these categories are not making it easy for me to progress with the BBC Big Read!)

25 points: Read a book with an alcoholic beverage (neat or cocktail) in the title. — Submitted by SCSBC16 winner Kerry. (And she was nice enough to come up with a long list of suggestions for you!) I am going to read Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee for the simple reason that I already own it but haven’t read it.

30 points: Read a book with a character that shares your first or last name. (Alternate spellings are okay, e.g. Megan and Meghan or Smith and Smyth.) — Submitted by SCSBC16 winner Ericka. Well, obviously I am going for first name since I don’t want to tell you all my full name, but the only book I can think of with a character named Beverly is It by Stephen King, so that’s tentatively my choice. But if anyone can think of a shorter book with a Beverly (or, better, the correct spelling of Beverley) in it please let me know!

30 points: Read two books: a nonfiction book and a fiction book with which it connects. For example: A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie and one of Christie‘s mystery novels that features poison, or The Monuments Men and All the Light We Cannot See. The possibilities are endless, so have fun with this one! — Submitted by SCSBC16 winner Bev. (And remember you must finish both books to get the 30 points! No partial points will be awarded.) If I read Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, then maybe my non-fiction book can be something on the history of philosophy? Or there’s The Once and Future King, which is about King Arthur, then a factual book looking into the reality of the myth? Hmm, I’ll have to think more about this category.

40 points: Read two books: one by an author whose first name is the same as the last name of the author of the other book. For example: You may read a book by Martin Cruz Smith and a book by George R.R. Martin, or a book by James Joyce and a book by Joyce Carol Oates. The shared name must be spelled exactly the same, no variations. — Submitted by SCSBC16 winner Jamie. (And remember you must finish both books to get the 40 points! No partial points will be awarded.)
Very, very tentatively: The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye and Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons.

Are you taking part in the challenge? What are you reading?
Any suggestions for the categories I’m not sure on?

Book challenge by Erin 5.0 – month 3


In the third month of Erin’s challenged I managed to read a grand total of two books. One of those books had over 1,000 pages though, so I feel no shame! Also, for one of the categories I ended up reading a book that was not included as a suggestion on my preliminary list. Sorry Erin! Here are the categories I completed in September:

25 points: read a book set in a country that you have always wanted to visit.

I literally just finished reading Shogun by James Clavell about half an hour ago! It’s a good job I had this week off otherwise there’s no way I would have got through it this month. My copy has 1,210 pages… that’s a lot of reading for just 25 points! It’s set in Japan, which is maybe not a place I’ve always wanted to visit (did I care about visiting anywhere when I was 5?), but I’ve definitely wanted to go there for a long time. I was reluctant to start reading this epically long book, but by the time I’d read the first chapter I was hooked. It did get tedious at times and I felt like it could have been a lot shorter, and the author’s obvious love for his main character also grated occasionally (yes, Blackthorne is sooo well endowed and so clever and can learn Japanese faster than anyone, ever. I get it!), but overall it’s a really good book. I gave it 4 stars (although I will never read it again… that is far too many hours of my life that I won’t get back!).

30 points: read a historical fiction book.

I originally suggested two tentative possibilities for this, but what I actually ended up reading was The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel. It’s the story of a clan of Neanderthals who adopt a little Cro-Magnon orphan girl – you can’t get much more “historical” than that! There were a few things that annoyed me about this book – most notably the weird things the author felt the need to explain, like what hypothermia is – but I got through it quickly despite it being pretty long (495 pages) and I was always interested to find out what would happen next so I gave it 4 stars.

That’s five out of ten books read, and this month’s 55 points brings my total up to 90 points. One month, five books and 110 points left to go!

Both books are also on the BBC Big Read, so that’s another two books closer to completing that category for my 35 before 35 list.

Friday letters

Once again Friday has come around incredibly quickly… it only seems like a few days since I was last writing these letters! And this time next week it will be the last Friday in September! Time is really flying… the dreaded “C” word will be here before we know it… I really need to start figuring out what gifts to buy for the people in my life! (Apart from Jan. I have his gift already. Shh… don’t tell him that!)

For now, though, let’s just have some Friday letters.


Dear autumn. You are officially here now… even in astronomical terms, so nobody can argue any more (even though it’s warmed up again here after a cold and rainy start to the week). Apparently here astronomical autumn started at 4:21pm yesterday…. I had no idea it came down to the minute!

Dear pumpkins. Why can’t you be available for me to eat all year round?! Now I have to gorge myself on you for the next few months while I still can!

Dear authors. Could you please stop releasing amazing sounding books on a regular basis? My to-read list  keeps getting longer and longer… and that’s just with the books that are already available!

Dear crows. You are very cool birds, but I’d prefer it if you didn’t make an awful racket outside my window early in the morning! (Hopefully this will stop now it’s no longer light at 5 am…)

That’s all for today. I hope you all have a fabulous weekend! I’m off work next week – not going anywhere, but trying to use up some holiday – so this weekend is the start of what will hopefully be a nice long stretch of relaxation.

The Bookish Olympics

So many of my posts recently have been tags of link-ups. Sorry about that! But I saw this tag on Kristen‘s blog and I just couldn’t resist! Kristen got the tag from another Kristen, which somehow amused me, but the whole thing started on It Starts At Midnight (where it was just called The Olympic Book Tag, but I had to steal Kristen’s title along with the tag because it was just perfection!)


I didn’t actually watch a single bit of the Olympics (except a tiny bit of a report on the BBC the day after Mo Farah fell because I wanted to see how bad the fall actually was). In fact, while I’m in confession mode, the only Olympics I’ve ever really watched was London 2012 mainly because it was my Olympics, sort of. Such a hypocrite! Books, on the other hand, I can do any day of the week!


In the Woods by Tana French. I actually didn’t even give this book a top rating because I was so mad that the mystery of what happened to the boys in the woods was never actually solved! Stupid blurb giving me the wrong impression of the book! But the writing sucked me in from the first sentence and I really, really enjoyed this book. Still want to know what happened in the woods though!


The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. I was originally going to use this book for the friendship category (you’ll see later), but it turned out I haven’t really read any road trip books, other than An Abundance of Katherines and that was boring! This one isn’t exactly a road trip book, but it does feature a road trip of sorts. Well, a drive anyway. To Switzerland. It’s the closest I’ve got to a road trip, okay? And it’s a weird but amazing book.


I couldn’t think of any good love triangles (can a love triangle be “good”?) so I looked up love triangle on Goodreads and for most of the ones I had read I kept thinking “Wait, where was the love triangle in that?”. Either my memory is really bad or other people have different definitions of love triangles! Anyway, I think I’m going to go with Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Whether the love triangle is good or not, it’s a classic!


Possession by A.S. Byatt. I mean, I got the basic story, but I felt like I was missing something and/or not intelligent enough to get the deeper meaning behind this book. Meh.


Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. Actually, it’s set in several summers. I’ve read this book twice and loved it both times, even though Caitlin is horrible and the book is heartbreaking!


I wanted to say all the Harry Potter books for this (loads of bloodshed there!) but that felt like a cop put sooo… The Dragonlance Chronicles by Magaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Actually this is three books but since they’ve been repackaged with the three volumes in one book it counts😉 These books may not be the best written, but I devoured them (along with many of the spin offs) when I was around 13-14 and I still love them. They’re based on Dungeons and Dragons, which I’ve never played, and aren’t always realistic, but who cares? And since these three books are pretty much entirely about a war between the forces of good and evil you can bet there’s plenty of fighting (including on dragonback!) and bloodshed.


I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. This is the same one Kristen picked but I totally agree! I read books with twists fairly regularly but this is one of the few where I had no idea what was going to happen. The main big twist was so unexpected!


I have to confess that a lot of books make me cry (included the previously mentioned Summer Sisters), but one that had me sobbing most of the way through was P.S., I Love You by Cecelia Ahern. Yes, it’s chick lit, but it’s good chick lit (in my opinion). The film ruined it so don’t bother watching that!


The Catcher in the Rye? Haha, joke, that one wasn’t slow to start… I’m still waiting for the story to actually start. Hmm, the only one I can think of right now is The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I had to stop for a while because it didn’t seem to be going anywhere, then towards the middle it picked up and the ending was weird (and depressing). It wasn’t a bad book but 100 pages less would have been fine… preferably taken off the beginning!


I’m going waaay back now to nursery school age! Each, Peach, Pear, Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. I adored that book and can’t wait to share it with my children. (Later I spent my pocket money on Babysitters Club and Point Horror books. I still have them all at my dad’s. Good times!).


I’ve read many books that feature animals, but I thought I’d take the equestrian part literally and go with The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. The ending was kind of weird and ridiculous, which is why my rating was only 4 stars, but for me it was all about the horse anyway. If you can’t stand the idea of animals being hurt this book is not for you! I cried so hard at that part (told you I’m pathetic!).


Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. To this day I’m not sure why I even bothered to finish it, except that I was stubborn and it was a gift from my grandma so I felt like I had to! I was given it at around 15 and it took me 5 years and three attempts to get more than half way through. I was so, so, so bored by the whole thing! Yes, I know it’s a classic. I don’t care – I hated this book!


Beaches by Iris Rainer Dart. It’s both similar to the film and really different. The Hilary character is called Bertie (Roberta) in the book and at times I just wanted to shake her! CeeCee is even more self-centred, if that’s possible, but somehow I liked this book (and their friendship) anyway. Also, in the book Bertie/Hilary has cancer, not whatever it was in the film. Not perfect writing by any means but I like it.


Apparently I don’t read any books that feature sport?! Umm… somebody starts taking swimming lessons in Butterfly Summer by Anne-Marie Conway. Maybe that counts? This is a cute book with some truly stunning descriptions of a butterfly garden. The mystery is easy to guess, but I’m much older than the intended audience (which I’d guess to be around age 11) so that’s a little unfair. It’s a quick, cute read anyway.

I’m not going to tag anybody, but if you decide to do this please let me know so I can read your answers (and add to my already insanely long to-read list!)

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0 – month 2

I briefly mentioned it yesterday, but I thought this deserved it’s own check-in post, even though I only managed to read one measly little book for Erin’s book challenge! It as at least on the BBC Big Read though, so another book down for that.

NobodyFor the category “Read a book with five words in the title” I read The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith (did you count the words? There really were 5!).

This book isn’t about anything in particular, but it’s strangely compelling. It’s the diary of Charles Pooter, a senior bank clerk who works in The City of London (for non-Brits, that doesn’t just mean London… the City of London is a separate entity within London where all the financial institutions are, including the London Stock Exchange). The book is supposed to be hilarious, although I disagree. It has a few funny moments, but hilarious is a bit strong! It does give an interesting (if satirised) insight into everyday life in a middle-calls Victorian family. I gave it four stars.

This category is worth 10 points, so combined with last month’s 25 that gives me a total of 35! It’s a good job Erin is generous with her challenges and has given us until the end of October to finish reading!

Lesson learned: if you’re going to do two challenges at once, try to find books that overlap!

Summer reading challenge completed!

I finally finished Megan‘s 2016 summer reading challenge… just now! I read the final page of The Potato two minutes ago. Phew! At the end of month 2 I was on 135 points. Here’s what I read in month 3:

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 150 pages long.

I read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley for this category. It was… not what I was expecting. I thought it was a dystopian novel, but it turns out it’s utopian. Also I was surpised by all the free sex – mainly because one of my classes in Austria read it. One of my classes of 13 year olds that is! I can only imagine how the immature boys in my school would have reacted to that… Anyway, the book started off okay but mostly I found it kind of weird. I gave it 2 stars.

10 points: Read a collection of short stories or essays. (Sincerely hoping novellas count as short stories here!).

I read Different Seasons by Stephen King. This book almost would have counted for the film category – three of the four novellas have been turned into films and I’ve seen two of them! The novellas are Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (filmed as The Shawshank Redemption), Apt Pupil, The Body (filmed as Stand By Me) and The Breathing Method (not a film as far as I know). None of these books are actually horror, although the events of Apt Pupil can certainly be viewed as horrific! But all of them confirmed for me why I believe Stephen King is a master storyteller. 5 stars (although The Green Mile remains my favourite Stephen King book).

20 points: Read a book that you have previously only seen the film (movie) of. (Subitted by me so not completing this category would have been embarrassing!)

I read Papillon by Henri Charrière. Despite the fact that I had read the film, I only vaguely remembered the story as “something about Steve McQueen escaping from prison by jumping off a cliff??”. You can tell the film made a great impression on me! SO I went into the book with some trepidation – honestly I was only reading it because of the BBC Big Read! So I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really, really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t always the best written (or maybe that was the translator?) but it didn’t matter because it felt like I was sitting down to chat with the author. Actually, I bet this would be brilliant as an audio book! I gave this one 5 stars as well.

30 points: Read a microhistory.

And finally we come full circle… as mentioned, I read The Potato by Larry Zuckerman for this. As the title suggests, it’s all about the humble spud. But actually it’s more than that… it’s a social history of Europe (and briefly of America) with chapters explaining why the potato was so slow to gain popularity (first superstition about root vegetable, later it was known as a food for the poor and as a “lazy” food… and English peasants wouldn’t even eat it for decades because the Irish did, and although they were poor they weren’t that desperate). I enjoyed reading this but I would have preferred more information on the actual potato itself alongside all the (fascinating) history stuff. Also, it kept making me crave potatoes! 4 stars.

So, overall this was my best reading month of this challenge, with only Brave New World being not that enjoyable (although short enough that I should have got through it quicker than I did… if only I hadn’t got bored part way through!).

My next task is to complete Erin‘s challenge – for which I read precisely one book in August!

Recent doings #8

I swear I only just linked up for “What’s New With You” with Kristen and Gretchen so how is it that time again already? Inconceivable! (If you don’t get that reference I’m not sure we can be friends…)

August is going to be busyyy, what with my friend’s wedding in Luxembourg on Saturday, my birthday the following Saturday, a free jazz festival in Basel on the 19th and then the Basel Biermarkt at the end of the month! But that’s all in the future. The point of this link up is to talk about the past, specifically what I did in July. Here come my recent doings…

What's New With You

Reading. I already did two reading challenge posts (here and here) so you know most of what I’ve been reading. Apart from that, I read Scribbleboy by Philip Ridley, which was mostly good but also kind of annoying. Each character had their own manner of speaking (e.g., speaking only in raps, one ending every sentence with “baby”) and some of them just really irritated me!

Watching. The BFG! The original animated film, not the new one. A childhood favourite and just as good as an adult❤ Also, on a different note, fireworks. 1st August is the Swiss national holiday and Basel has fireworks over the Rhine on the 31st so we went to see them. We decided not to go to the official celebration on the actual national holiday and then discovered you can actually see the fireworks for that one from our window. Good to know!

Listening to. Travis (remember them?). We had tickets to watch them perform in Arlesheim, so I refreshed my memory of their songs before we went. It was a great setting for a concert and I really enjoyed myself. Fran just seemed like a nice, chatty older man rather than a member of a band that was once pretty famous!

Climbing. The tower of Basel cathedral with Jan’s mum. The things it never occurs to you to do until you have visitors… Here’s a photo of the view from up there:


Going. (The category for places that are too close to really call it “travelling”!) To Delémont, which is in the French-speaking canton of Jura. We hiked a bit in the woods then looked at the pretty old town.

Eating. Ice cream! It’s been so hot here recently and what else does one eat when it’s hot? We finally tried out the little ice cream place just down the road from us that opened in April then also discovered a new Italian ice cream place in town when Jan’s mum and her partner were visiting.

Cross stitching. I can’t tell you… you have to guess😉

That’s it for today. What have you been doing lately?

If you’re curious about what other bloggers got up to in July, check out the link up.