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Recent doings #4

I wanted to post this yesterday, on actual link-up day (the first Thursday of the month), but Jan had taken over the computer to upload his photos, so in place of Friday letters I bring you my “doings” from March… even though you all already know it was all about New Zealand!

What's New With You
Reading: I bought (or rather had Jan buy me) Friday On My Mind by Nicci French from Zurich airport and read that while waiting for our flight to New Zealand. It was good! (I also read a book on the way back, but it was April by that time so I won’t include it).
Watching: On the flight to Dubai I watched The Rescuers Downunder – a sequel to The Rescuers. It seemed appropriate😉 (although it’s set in Australia, not New Zealand). It was very cute, of course. Then I watched something called The Gift, which was weird. On the Dubai-Auckland flight I watched Toy Story 3, which I had somehow never seen! Before New Zealand, we started watching Mr Robot, which I bought Jan for his birthday. Two episodes in, it seems good – but intense. It’s difficult to cross stitch while watching because I miss stuff.
Drinking: Many New Zealand beers! Also wine – we did a wine tour.
Visiting: My uncle in Rotorua. I met my three year old cousin for the first time, and she’s just the cutest!
Travelling: To New Zealand, obviously, but before that we did a day trip to Lausanne.
I can’t even remember what I was doing pre-New Zealand so I’m going to stop here.
What have you been doing recently?
Check out the link up to see how everyone else spent March!
p.s. I don’t know what’s wrong with my formatting? I swear I entered spaces between each item…


Recent doings #3

It’s the first Thursday of the month (what? How?!), so it’s time for another of Kristen‘s What’s New With You linkup. Or, in my case, more recent doings. Here’s what I’ve been up to in February.

What's New With You
Reading: Various things, but most recently As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley. I loved it! Flavia is just as awesome as ever. I also finished Brideshead Revisited, so I can cross that off the BBC Big Read list.
Watching: Still Farscape. Not for much longer though – we’re on the final disc of Season 4.
Eating: Fondue! We had visitors who hadn’t been to Switzerland before, so we had to introduce them to this cheesy goodness.
Cooking: All the avocados still. Thanks everyone for the recipe tips, especially whoever suggested using avocado as pasta sauce. I made one with avocado and garlic and it was amazing! Also, chickpeas. I’ve been putting chickpeas in everything!
Planning: Still New Zealand. We’re getting there though. 15 days til we fly!
Finding: Bits of confetti everywhere. Still! It’s been two weeks since Fasnacht, and I still keep hoovering up tiny pieces of coloured paper.
That’s all I can think of for now. What have you been doing recently?
Come link up to see how everyone else’s February was!


Recent doings #2

This is my version of the post that other people call “Currently”. I did one in November, and I decided that it was the perfect post for Kristin‘s new linkup, “What’s New With You”. So what have I been doing recently?

What's New With You
Watching: Farscape. Jan get season 4 for Christmas then we realised we never actually finished season 3, so we’ve been going through that. One more episode to go then we can move on to season 4.
Reading: Well, I already told you I completed the winter reading challenge. I’ve read a few books since then, but right now I’m half way through One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis. It started off good, but now I’m not so sure.
Planning: New Zealand, baby! We have a huge list of potential places, now we just need to narrow it down. Which is harder than it sounds!
Cooking: Bulghur wheat and avocado salad for last night’s tea. I’m trying to figure out more creative ways of using avocados since they’re supposed to be sooo good for you, so if you have any suggestions I’m all ears! (Or I suppose all eyes, since I’ll be reading them.)
Eating: Far too much chocolate. Switzerland is very, very bad for my figure (and my teeth)!
Visiting: Museums. Basel had its museums night a few weeks ago and we saw a very interesting exhibition about death and some amazing old maps of Basel, among other things.
Going: To Germany, for work. Tonight.
Celebrating: My 12th anniversary as Jan’s girlfriend! It’s tomorrow, so fingers crossed I don’t get back from Germany too late!


What have you been doing lately?


Winter Reading Challenge – final check in

The 2015 winter reading challenge ended last night, so it’s time for my final check in. Aaand… I actually managed to complete it! I finished reading my final book on 24 January, So here are the books I read for the last few categories:

10 points: Read a book that someone else has already used for the challenge. Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery (read by Emma from Ever Emma). I read Anne of Green Gables years ago, but never got round to reading any of the other in the series, although I’ve wanted to for a while. So when I saw that Emma had mentioned this in her check in, I decided to take the opportunity. Nothing much really happens in this book, but I enjoyed it anyway. I love Anne and her imagination. I gave it 4 stars.

30 points: Read a nonfiction book and a fiction book about the same subject. Megan said she would be fairly lenient with this category, so I’m hoping my “subject” counts.

Non-fiction book: Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine by Anna Reid. Long-term readers may know that my grandad was Ukrainian. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to learn more about his country, but barely any books came up when I searched Amazon. Then the whole Russia taking back Crimea thing happened and suddenly there were loads of books! This one was actually originally written in the 90s (so why didn’t it show up before?!), but has been updated to include everything up to 2014. I thought it was a good introduction to the history of Ukraine for those who know zero about it (which, much to my shame, includes me!). I also liked that the author was actually there and included a lot of personal anecdotes – I just can’t get on with history books that are all about facts! I gave this one 4 stars.

Fiction book: Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov. This is a weird book about a Ukrainian writer/journalist who lives in Kiev with his pet penguin. When the book begins, he’s struggling to find work, but then a local paper recruits him to write obituaries… for people who are still alive (so the newspaper has then on hand instantly when they actually do croak). When the subjects of his obituaries start to die, thing begin to get really strange… I actually enjoyed this book, weird as it was. There’s just something about it that makes it fun. And I loved Misha the penguin. 4 stars.

The subject, in case it wasn’t obvious, is Ukraine.

So, that’s that. Now I shall read whatever I want until it’s time for the summer reading challenge.


Winter Reading Challenge 2015: Month 2

First of all, Happy New Year everyone!
I know it’s 2016 now, but the challenge is still from 2015. Sadly, December was so full of cross stitch and Christmas markets that I barely had time to breathe never mind read so I haven’t completed the challenge yet. I did get a little closer though, and moved one book to a different category so I could include another one I had read in December. Here are the categories I completed this time:

5 points. Read a book that has between 100 and 200 pages. The Seeing by Diana Hendry (176 pages). This is an intense and disturbing book. It reminded me of The Chocolate War in that something that seemed harmless at first ended up being taken too far, eventually ending in tragedy, 4 stars.

10 points. Read a debut book by any author. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. I originally had this under the “verb” category, but I’ve moved it to here. I gave it five stars last month.

15 points. Read a book published under a pseudonym. Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon (real name: James Leslie Mitchell). This was a strange book. I really enjoyed the description of how the town came to be at the beginning and it was fun to read a book that was written in Scots, but some parts seemed to drag on forever. I gave it four stars.

15 points. Read a book with a one word title. Siege by Sarah Mussi. This is the story of a school shooting, but written from the point of view of somebody who is inside the school when the attack starts. It’s intense and quite disturbing in parts. I devoured it in one sitting and gave it four stars.

20 points. Read a book with a verb in the title. Don’t Stand So Close by Luana Lewis. I read this book in November but thought I couldn’t fit it into a category, then I realised I Let You Go was a debut so I was able to rearrange things a bit. This is a thriller with various twists, along the lines of Gone Girl and other books that are popular at the moment. A girl turns up at Stella’s house in the middle of a freezing cold night demanding to see her husband, Max. Stella is terrified but eventually lets her in. Who is this girl and what is her connection to Max and Stella? And what happened to Stella that made her so terrified to answer her own door? The author of this one was a clinical psychologist before turning to fiction writing and you can tell she knows her stuff where that’s concerned. I guessed some of the “mysteries” easily, but for a debut it was excellent. Four stars.

That’s it for this month. I have 2 categories still to go, and I’ve started reading books for both of them. Current total: 160 points. 40 to go!


Winter Reading Challenge 2015: Month 1


It’s time for the first monthly check in for Megan’s winter reading challenge. I’ve made some decent progress, but ended up changing a few things compared to my preliminary list, mainly because books I had ordered arrived and I couldn’t resist reading them straight away. Where they fit the categories, I’ve used them as my challenge books. Here’s my progress after one month:

10 points: Read a book that does not take place in your current country of residence – Every single book I’ve read this month would work for this category, but I stuck with my original choice for this one, Summer’s Child by Diane Chamberlain. The premise was good, but the story was a bit blah and there were too many coincidences for my liking. Everything seemed to come together a bit too neatly in the end. I gave this one three stars.

15 points: Read a book with “boy,” “girl,” “man” or “woman” in the title (or the plural of these words) – Again, I stuck with my original choice and read Man and Boy by Tony Parsons. I only chose this because it was on the BBC Big Read list and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. It’s a fairly easy read, but it’s touching in places and has some funny bits. The writing isn’t always great, but overall I enjoyed it. Four stars.

20 points: Read a book with a person’s first and last name in the title (e.g. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle) – I used Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis for this category (also published under the title Zelah Green: Queen of Clean). This is the story of a teenager who is sent to a kind of hospital when her OCD gets out of control. It’s a little simplified and Zelah seems to make progress suspiciously quickly, but the reading age is 11+ which explains it a little. I thought the author did a good job of showing that OCD isn’t just wanting everything to be clean and needing to line things up in a precise order. You can read a full review of this one on my blog here. I gave it four stars.

20 points: Read a food-themed book. — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Jamie @ Whatever I Think Of! – This was the first category I completed for this challenge. I read Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris. I love Joanne Harris, and while this wasn’t one of her best books, her descriptions of food were amazing as always! Full review here. Four stars.

20 points: Read a book with a verb in the title. (For any grammar nerds out there, I mean “verb” in the most general sense, so gerunds count. For non-grammar-inclined people, just use any book that appears to have a verb in the title!) – I read I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh for this one. Spot the verb(s)😉 This was an intense thriller with a twist that I didn’t even come close to guessing, which rarely happens. It’s a very difficult book to review without giving away the plot, so all I will say is that there are two heartbreaking stories that are connected by one tragic event. Also, it involves domestic violence so don’t read it if that’s likely to upset you. Five stars for this one!

30 points: Read two books with the same title (by different authors). — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher bevchen @ Confuzzledom. – My category, so of course I wanted to finish it in the first month😉 I read two books called The Missing, by Chris Mooney and by Andrew O’Hagan. The former is a crime/thriller. It was fast-paced and I read it in one sitting. The story was pretty good and I wanted to know what was going on. I should have really enjoyed this book, but something about it annoyed me. It’s the first in a series so I might give the author another chance, but for this particular book: three stars.
The second book was theoretically about people who disappear without a trace, both those who are reported missing and those who nobody ever notices have gone (including people with no family who die at home and are only discovered by accident). Actually, the entire first half was about the author’s childhood and the second half mainly concentrated on the women who were killed by Fred and Rosemary West. There were some interesting facts, but overall it was disappointing. Two stars.

That’s all for this month, so that’s 115 points down.

I’m also part way through both my one word title book and the first of my two books on the same subject, so I’m hoping I might actually finish next month:-)

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Zelah Green by Vanessa Curtis

I changed things around a bit for the winter book challenge, and ended up reading Zelah Green for the category “Read a book with a person’s first and last name in the title”. Some editions are called Zelah Green: Queen of Clean). This category is worth 20 points.

The plot: Zelah Green is a cleanaholic. She spends most of her time running away from germs. And dirt. And people (who tend to be covered in both of those things). She thinks she’s doing just about okay at coping with her “little problem”, as she refers to it, but then her stepmother packs her off to some kind of hospital in the middle of nowhere with a load of strangers who all have issues of their own…

My review: In case you hadn’t guessed from the description, this book is about a girl with OCD. Except she doesn’t like to call it that, because giving things a name makes them real. The reading age is listed as 11+, which would explain why it’s a little simplistic in places and Zelah makes progress incredibly quickly once at the hospital, but I thought the author did an excellent job of showing how OCD can make normal life almost impossible for sufferers – it’s not just being obsessive about living in a clean house or getting annoyed if things aren’t arranged perfectly, as so many people seem to think (those who like to use the phrase “I’m sooo OCD about X”). I also really liked the character of Zelah Green. At 246 pages, it’s a quick read (I got through it in my lunch break!), but a nice one. I must have liked it – I’ve order the next Zelah Green book (One More Little Problem) to find out what happens next! I gave this one 4 stars.

I’ve actually already read a few other books for the challenge, which I haven’t reviewed all of here, so I’m at 65 points now.


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