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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.


Recent doings

There are various versions of this type of post out there. Jane calls hers Mondaying (can you guess which day she posts them?), others take part in a linkup called Currently. Basically, the idea is you take action words ending in -ing and tell people the things you’ve been up to lately that the word describes. A way of updating people on your life and talking about things that aren’t worth a blog post of their own. Here’s my version.


Watching: The Blackadder box set that I bought Jan for his birthday. I had only ever seen bits and pieces of it, mainly from the later episodes (plus the millennium special “Blackadder: Back & Forth). We’re now on series 3 and we’re loving it! And I didn’t even recognise Hugh Laurie!

Reading: My way through the winter book challenge. I’ve completed three categories so far and have just started my second book for the two books with the same title one. At the same time, I’m reading Possession by A.S Byatt for the one-word title category. I will have to read Persuasion eventually, but it won’t be for this challenge!

Cooking: All the pumpkins! We used the muscat pumpkin and the Baby Boos that we bought at the festival, so now I’m back to my usual butternut squash. I love pumpkin season!

Designing: A cross stitch pattern for a Christmas card! I’ll show you it once it’s stitched – which won’t be until I’ve finished the one from the guessing game. *Sigh*

Drinking: Tea. So much tea. I’ve been failing to get to bed when I should lately, which has resulted in tiredness throughout the day. Multiple cups of tea are the only thing getting me through!

Planning: New Year! We’ve decided not to go away this time, since we now live somewhere where it might actually be worth being on New Year’s Eve. Instead, we want to invite some friends to come and visit us here in Basel. I’ve mentioned it to a couple, now all we need to do is invite people properly and discuss a few details (such as what food to provide – raclette is a possibility (when in Switzerland…), plus a non-dairy option).

Buying: Too many books from the Internet. Nothing new there then! Also card making supplies and a few Christmas presents. Can  you believe November is more than half over already?

Wondering: Why WordPress have changed the post publishing screen again? It’s all different and I can’t find half the features – like what happened to the option to insert a link to your own blog without having to type in the URL? And how do I change the size of images now? Grrr! Whatever happened to “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”?

What have you been doing lately?


Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris

When I saw the category “Read a food-themed book” on the list for the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge, my thoughts immediately turned to Joanne Harris. I am convinced that nobody can describe food the way Joanne Harris does! It must be her French ancestry. Not all of her books involve food (she also does Norse mythology, among other things), but luckily I still had a food-themed one on my list that I hadn’t read.This was the first book I read for this year’s winter challenge and the category is worth 20 points.

The plot: This is a book of two stories. The first is about a secretive widow, Framboise Dartigen (Françoise Simon) who returns to the village of her childhood from which her family was expelled during the Second World War. Framboise opens a small restaurant, cooking the recipes left to her by her mother, whilst concealing her identity, lest she be recognized as the daughter of the woman who once brought shame and tragedy upon the village. When her nephew finds out the recipes, he attempts to exploit her success, threatening to expose the past she’s so determined to keep hidden in the process. The second storyline is the tale of the tragic events of the past, when Framboise and her siblings were just children and befriended a young, German officer never guessing the ripple effect that this friendship would have…

My review: I was a latecomer to Joanne Harris’s books, only reading Chocolat years after everyone else. I enjoyed that one, liked the characters (especially Pantoufle the rabbit) and the descriptions of chocolate made my mouth water, but I didn’t think I would read it again. It was only after I read the sequel, The Lollipop Shoes, that I fell in love with her writing and promptly read Blackberry Wine and Coastliners in quick succession. With Three Quarters of the Orange, the best part again was the descriptions of food (I wouldn’t recommend reading this while hungry!). Some reviewers on GoodReads have criticised the fact that Framboise’s mother was apparently able to produce such good food during wartime, but I just put it down to good cooks being able to make delicious food out of basically anything. The story itself starts off slow, dropping hints here and there but not really getting to the heart of the matter for a while. In fact, the final piece of the puzzle isn’t revealed until the very end. With some books that would annoy me, but in this case I felt like it just added to the atmosphere. The book is well written and held my interest all the way through, despite the slow start to the story. However, it wasn’t one that had me so enthralled that I stayed up late reading it and I didn’t particularly like most of the characters, so I’m giving it 4 stars.


Semi-Charmed Winter 2015 Book Challenge – preliminary list

The categories for Megan’s Winter Book Challenge came out today and I am ridiculously excited… even more so than usual! Admittedly this is partially because I was among the first finishers last month and got to pick my very own category, but the others on the list are pretty amazing as well. Basically, seeing this post appear on Megan’s blog made my day (yes, I do know what they say about simple things thanks…)

I want to share my preliminary list with you, but first, as always, the rules.

General rules:

  • The challenge will run from November 1, 2015, to January 31, 2016. No books that are 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 200 pages long, unless otherwise noted. 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. 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 time frame 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 summer 2016 challenge.

And now for the exciting part: the challenge categories!
5 points: Read a book that has between 100 and 200 pages.Verflixt – ein Nix! by Kersten Boie. I sort of feel like I’m showing off by adding books in another language, but I’m totally lagging on my German reading lately and this one has 175 pages so… *shrug*
10 points: Read a debut book by any author. (The book does not have to be a 2015 debut.)The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy. I bought this a while ago and I knew there was a good reason I hadn’t started it yet ;-)
10 points: Read a book that does not take place in your current country of residence. – So basically what you’re saying is pick a book, any book ;-) Books don’t often take place in Switzerland – unless they’re Heidi of course. For now I’ve chosen Summer’s Child by Diane Chamberlain for this because I got it for my birthday and haven’t started it yet.
10 points: Read a book that someone else has already used for the challenge. — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Kristen @ See You in a Porridge. – Well obviously I have to wait and see what everyone else reads for the challenge before picking this one.
15 points: Read a book published under a pseudonym (e.g. Robert Galbraith, Sara Poole, J.D. Robb, Franklin W. Dixon, Mark Twain, etc.). — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Megan M. – I’m thinking Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (real name:  Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski) for this because I’m way, way behind on reading the BBC Big Read Top 200 for my 35 before 35. Also, Wikipedia says he was Polish-British but the place he was born is actually now in Ukraine which please me a lot (my grandad was Ukrainian)
15 points: Read a book with “boy,” “girl,” “man” or “woman” in the title (or the plural of these words). – Again trying to get somewhere with The Big Read I’ve picked Man and Boy by Tony Parsons. I just ordered it from Amazon without even checking to see what it’s about so that should be fun…
15 points: Read a book with a one-word title (e.g. Attachments, Americanah, Uglies, Wild, etc.). – I’m tentatively saying Persuasion by Jane Austen, again for The Big Read, but let’s be honest… I totally failed to even start this one for the last reading challenge I did so I’ll probably end up changing it.
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 have options here! Currently thinking either Lottie Biggs is NOT Desperate by Hayley Long (second book in a series I’ve already read book 1 of) or The Thousand Autumns of Jacob Zoet by David Mitchell.
20 points: Read a food-themed book. — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Jamie @ Whatever I Think Of! – I’m not actually 100% sure what a food-themed book is yet, but I’m guessing one where food plays a major role in the story? Four Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris is looking favourite so far (I adore her books, especially The Lollipop Shoes, which is the sequel to Chocolat)
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 Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh would appear to have a verb in it. Two in fact ;-)
30 points: Read two books with the same title (by different authors). — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher bevchen @ Confuzzledom. – See that? That’s ME that is! My very own category. Obviously I kind of new this was coming so I prepared early and actually have two options. I’ve decided to go for The Missing though, one book by Andrew O’Hagan and one by Chris Mooney. The former is a non-fiction book about children going missing so I can see that being a difficult read! (In case anyone was looking for inspiration, my second option was Without A Trace. I have books of that title by Lesley Pearce and by Liza Marklund but there are others out there).
30 points: Read a nonfiction book and a fiction book about the same subject (e.g. a biography and historical fiction novel about the same person; two books about a specific war or event; a nonfiction book about autism and a novel with a character who has autism, etc. The possibilities are endless!). – I’m drawing a complete blank for this one so far so I’ll have to get my thinking cap on. Any suggestions?

So, that’s it for now. I can’t believe I actually have to wait all the way til 1st November to start reading. Aaaah!
Here’s a picture of my piles of books waiting to be read (the ones I already have anyway):

Winter books 2015If you want to join in (which you really should!) you can link up your preliminary list here or just start reading in November and visit Megan’s blog to check in on 1 December. And don’t be put off thinking you’ll never complete the challenge – doesn’t matter! Whether you read all the books or just one it’s all good fun and an excellent way of discovering new (sometimes amazing!) books that you might never have even looked at otherwise.


Literary Ladies Summer Reading Challenge – final check in

I was supposed to write this check in post yesterday since it was the last day of the challenge, but we were out from 8.30 a.m. until really late so it wasn’t possible. I didn’t finish anyway, but for the sake of consistency I’ll check in. I’m read two books this month, and also have one to add which I actually read before this month but have only just realised it counts!

In September, I completed two categories:

  • Read a YA book: Darkness, Be My Friend by John Marsden (the fourth book in the Tomorrow series, having read book 3 for another category).
  • Read a book with a one word title: Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston.

The other category I completed previously without realising was:

  • Read a book that has been on your TBR list for a year or more. I read The Shadow of the Wind because it’s on the BBC Big Read Top 200, and since I set myself the challenge to read everything on that list well over a year ago, by default every book on that list has by default been on my TBR for over a year! I read it in July, so it definitely counts for this challenge. Yeah, apparently I’m an idiot…

So here’s my final list:

  1. A YA book – Darkness, Be My Friend by John Marsden
  2. Non US Author Quite a few, to be fair, but: The Sea Sisters by by Lucy Clarke (British author)
  3. A book that was recommended by a blogger – Didn’t complete :-(
  4. A book that has been on your TBR list for a year or more – The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  5. A book with a kickass female character – The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden
  6. A book that is or will be a movie (or TV show) – I’ve been reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin since July and still haven’t finished, so another fail for this category.
  7. A book written by a celebrity – Nope, another failure.
  8. A book with a one word title.  Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston
  9. A mystery or thriller – Without You by Saskia Sarginsson. It may have been a terrible thriller, but it still claimed to be a thriller ;-)
  10. A book about Summer/with Summer in the title – I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan

So, seven (and a half) categories out of ten completed. Hmm. The Semi-Charmed Winter Reading Challenge is coming up (in November) so hopefully I’ll do a better job with that. By that time Captain Corelli should finally be out of my hair…

To see what other people read for the challange, go here.


Top ten fictional places I would like to visit

Recently Metal and the Geek posted her top 5 fictional cities she would like to visit. Later I mentioned it to Jan and we had a fun conversation about the places we would like to visit (we changed it from cities because that was just too limiting!). And now I want to share my top ten list with my blog readers. I had to expand it from top 5 because I just couldn’t narrow it down!

10. The Inn of the Last Home from the Dragonlance Chronicles.

It’s an inn in a tree, how could anyone not want to visit! Also, I want to try the spiced potatoes. And hopefully meat some of the heroes of the lance, stopped by for a visit to chat about old times (obviously I would time my visit so there wasn’t a war going on!)

9. Many of the lands at the top of the Faraway Tree

Not the nasty ones though – I’d prefer to stay away from Dame Slap! The land of Birthdays would be nice. And of course I would like to meet all the characters on the way up – Moonface and the Saucepan Mana and Silky the Elf with her pop biscuits.

8. Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory

I seem to be all about the children’s books, don’t I? That’s because those were the first ones that influenced me and got me imagining all these things in the first place. But who wouldn’t want to visit Willy Wonka’s factory, try all the goodies on offer (only with permission, of course!) and see the square sweets that look round?

7. Lancre on the Discworld

Partly because, in my imagination, it’s all gorgeous and green and hilly, but mostly because I want to meet the witches.

6. Rivendell

I love waterfalls, and what could be more magical than the waterfalls in J.R.R Tolkien’s Elven city?

5. Staying with a theme… The Shire

The scenery! The hobbit holes! I bet it’s even more beautiful than Switzerland. And of course I would have to pay a visit to Hobbiton and check out Frodo’s home for myself.

4. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Not to be confused with the Bar at the End of the World; that’s in Paris ;-) The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, or Milliways to give it its proper name, is a five-star restaurant located at the end of time and matter… but then you knew that, didn’t you? I would love to meet all the patrons, view the extravagent decor and see (but not necessarily consume) talking food.

3. La Céleste Praline

That’s the chocolate shop from Chocolat by Joanne Harris. Because Vianne would know exactly what my favourite is and if I was lucky I might even get to sample her yummy hot chocolate. Plus, I want to see Pantoufle (and yes, of course I would be able to!)

2. The Unseen University library

Well, the rest of the university too, of course, but my first stop would definitely be the library. So. Many. Books! I would never get tired of browsing its shelves. And then there’s the librarian to make friends with. All you need is a bunch of bananas and to make sure you never call him a monkey!

1. Narnia

I may have told this story on my blog before, but as a child I honestly believed Narnia was a real place. I spent hours trying to devise ways of getting there! If I was offered the chance to go to just one fictional place I wouldn’t even have to think about it – Narnia wins every time!

So, there you go. I also want to add that Night Vale almost made the list, but then I decided I probably wouödn’t survive two seconds there without breaking a law and being taken away by a vague yet menacing government agency, or accidently getting too close to the dog park and looking at a hooded figure. Nope… I think I’ll stick to listening to Cecil’s voice from a safe distance ;-)

Which fictional places would you visit if you had the chance? Join in in the comments or write your own post – I know there are many more amazing places, but my post had to end some time!


Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge – Month 2

Hi all! Wow, I haven’t written a blog post since Monday! Poor bloggy. Today’s is going to be a short one, too, as we have our first overnight visitors since the move coming later and I have a tonne of things to get done before that. And my lunch break is already half over (thanks to that pesky actually having to eat thing!). But it’s check-in day for the Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge, so I wanted to at least get a quick post in.

Last month I managed to read a whole two books, and I’m afraid I can’t say I’ve done any better this month! In fact, it was another two-book month, at least as far as the challenge goes:

  • Read a novel with a kickass female character. The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden. This is the third book in the Tomorrow series, and if Ellie and her friends aren’t kickass then I don’t know who is! Also, forget about John Green, it’s John Marsden everyone needs to be raving about!
  • Read a suspenseful book – a mystery, a thriller, a book about revenge. Without You by Saskia Sarginson. The blurb says “In a captivating blend of mystery, thriller and emotional family drama, Without You will leave you unsettled, even as it touches your heart”. Well, I can’t say I found it particularly thrilling, but there is a mystery and the story should have been thrilling, in theory, so it counts. The category didn’t say whether it had to be a particularly good thriller…

I have actually read other books since the last check in, but either they were too short to count even if I had been able to shoehorn them into a category or I just couldn’t see a way to fit them in. Here are some of my other recent reads:

  • The Twins, also by Saskia Sarginson and much better than Without You!
  • Anything But Typical by Nora Baskin Raleigh – excellent story told from the perspective of an autistic boy (and too short to count for the challenge at only 195 pages)
  • The Improbable Cat by Allan Ahlberg  – weird, in future I’ll stick to his books for younger children
  • A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz – an interesting take on fairy tales (Hansel and Gretel star in other Grimm tales), but I was annoyed by all the comments to the reader. Just shut up and get on with the story already! Also, very gory/violent so I’d be careful which kids you give this one too!

I am currently reading Zorgamazoo, which will definitely be my one-word title book for the challenge, but didn’t finish in time for the check in. I’m only two chapters in so far but it’s already excellent!


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