Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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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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Mid-week confessions 2

I did this once, and then never again. But in the absence of anything else to talk about, it feels like a good time for the second post in this series. Today, I confess…

  • Most days I don’t eat breakfast at home because I would rather spend extra time in bed. Instead, I take a yoghurt to eat at work.
  • By yoghurt I mean the kind that comes with caramel and little pieces of chocolate to stir in… the ones that come in Lion, Mars and Twix varieties. Or I just take a chocolate pudding. A perfectly healthy, balance breakfast… or not.
  • Some days all I feel like eating for dinner is McCain’s Smiley Faces and chicken nuggets. Yes, I’m in my 30s…

    You're never too old for a smiley dinner!

    You’re never too old for a smiley dinner!

  • If I open a bar of chocolate, I can’t stop eating until it’s gone. All 100g of it…
  • Moving on from food… I already have a wish list of books I plan to buy for my future children. As in the children that aren’t even conceived yet! There’s nothing wrong with thinking ahead, right?
  • On a related note, ordering books via Amazon is far too easy. Must. Stop. Clicking… (GoodReads is not helping my book obsession either.)
  • Recently I went to buy a new pair of trainers (which I need) and came out with a handbag (which I did not). The bag was on sale, though so it could have been worse…

Phew. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, is there anything you would like to confess?


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2014 Winter Reading Challenge – month 2

I’m a day late with my check-in post because I’ve only just got back from Zurich. Another month of the winter reading challenge is over and I still haven’t completed it… mainly because I was waiting for my final book to arrive. I found it in my mailbox when I arrived home today though, so I’ll be done soon. On the meantime, here are the categories I managed to complete this month.

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules.
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley – This is the sixth book in the Flavia de Luce series and so far I’ve loved them all. In some ways, this book felt like a filler, or a kind of bridge between past events and what’s to come. There seemed to be less happening than in previous books in the series. But I love Flavia so I gave it five stars anyway. My full review is here.

15 points: Read a book that was originally written in a language that is not your native language.
Die Nacht des Zorns by Fred Vargas (original French title: L’armée furieuse) – My boss gave me this book for my birthday in August so it was about time I read it! It’s a crime novel, but the quirky characters make it different to your usual crime/thriller. I guessed the twist before I got to the end, but I still enjoyed the story and will probably pick up another book in the series at some point. I gave this one four stars out of five. You can read my full review here.

15 points: Read a book written by a local author (either an author from your state if you live in the United States, or from your country if you live somewhere else).
Liebesfluch by Beatrix Gurian – I tried to read a book by a Karlsruhe author for this one, but when it turned out the one I had chosen only had 190 pages and I failed to find another one that interested me, I had to widen my search to all of Germany. Beatrix Gurian is the pen name of Beatrix Mannel, who was born in Darmstadt and now lives in Munich. Liebesfluch is a young-adult thriller novel. Sixteen-year-old Blue is overjoyed when she gets job as an Au pair in Germany. Okay, the Odenwald isn’t as exciting as her home city Las Vegas, but the twins are adorable and she’s excited to explore the village her grandmother came from. When she makes friends with Ju and Felix life seems perfect. But appearances can be deceiving and soon not only Blue but the twins lives are at risk…
This was another book that I really enjoyed. Each chapter started with an extract from a letter… but it wasn’t clear until the very end who the letter was from – or indeed to. Every time I thought I knew what was going on, the author managed to lead me in the wrong direction, but in the end everything did make sense. I also liked that the book was written mostly from the Au pair’s perspective – as a foreigner in Germany it was interesting to see things through similar eyes (although Blue is obviously much younger than me and I’ve never been an Au pair). Some parts were slightly less believable than others but overall the author did a good job. 4 stars.

That makes 35 points for this month. Added to last month’s 140, that gives me a total of 175 so far with one more category to go: “read a book from a genre you don’t usually read”, which is worth 25 points.

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