Recent doings #12

Can you believe it’s December today? December!! How did that happen?! It’s also a Thursday, which means it’s time for another round of “What’s New With You?” with Kristen and Gretch.

So what did I get up to in November?

Reading. Well, obviously I already told you about everything I read for the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge, but I feel that I should mention here that Darkly Dreaming Dexter was my 75th book of the year, meaning I achieved my Goodreads goal for 2016 on 20th November! I also read The Suitcase Kid by Jacqueline Wilson since it’s on the BBC Big Read list.

Looking at. Art… So. Much. Art. Our friend came for a weekend because he wanted to see an exhibition at the Fondation Bayerle and then the next day we went to Basel’s art museum. All very cultural, but so much walking! (The art museum is huge!).

Hosting. The aforementioned friend, of course, then this past weekend my mum, brother and two friends of my mum. It was fun showing more people around Basel.

Visiting. The autumn fair at the beginning of the month and then the Christmas market with my mum, etc.

Drinking. Glühwein… or mulled wine for the English speakers among you. ‘Tis the season, after all!

Cross stitching. Do I even need to say it? Christmas card pictures, obviously. Plus a teapot card.

Making. Christmas cards! Although I’m still stitching, I’ve also  started to put some of the actual cards together now. Here… have a picture of the first card I completed, weeks before the rest, because it had to go all the way to New Zealand together with a gift for my cousin who is 4 on 12th December:

robin-card

Buying: Mooore Christmas presents. I think I’m done now though. Also a few books (but much fewer than usual).

Planning. New Year! We are in England for Christmas, so we decided to pick a New Year’s destination in the UK and settled on Glasgow. Our fabulous friend K (who has been mentioned on the blog before) will be joining us so we’ve been planning accommodation and where to spend Hogmanay. K was brought up in Glasgow so she’ll be taking us to all the best places to eat!

Arranging. My trip home for Christmas. I guess this is kind of also planning, but whatever… I booked a flight and made tentative arrangements to meet up with a friend.

Seeing. The musical West Side Story. The tickets were my birthday present, but the show wasn’t until November! It wasn’t as good as some musicals I’ve been to (the acting wasn’t brilliant) but it was still enjoyable.

I can’t think of anything else that I did in November, so I’ll leave this here. Linking up Kristen and Gretch, as always.

What have you been doing recently?

Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Book Challenge: month 1

I’m hardly likely to read four whole books by the end of today, so I might as well get my check-in post out there today and use tomorrow for Kristen‘s link up🙂

I changed some of my books from my original ideas (and of course some categories were still blank when I made my preliminary list), so here’s what I ended up reading in November:

winter-reading

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

Saturday Requiem by Nicci French. I could not resist reading this book the minute it arrived, which is how it ended up being my freebie for this challenge. I adore these books, and this one was an excellent installment. I definitely did not guess who the killer was! The ending made me desperately wish the next book would come out right now (although I’m also sad because Sunday will presumably be the last in the series). 5 stars.

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.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon was a 2016 National Book Award finalist in the Young People’s Literature category. I loved everything about this book! The characters… the style of writing. Admittedly the love story was little far-fetched, but it kind of had to be to work, and it didn’t spoil my enjoyment in any way. 5 stars.

10 points: Read a brand-new release (something published between November 1, 2016, and January 31, 2017).

Before You Leap by Keith Houghton was published on 1 November 2016! The synopsis sounded good, all the ingredients were there for it to be good, but it just… wasn’t. The plot managed to hold my attention well enough, but I didn’t really like the narrator and the style of writing didn’t do it for me. 2 stars.

15 points: Read a book by an author of a different race or religion than you.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker, who is African-American. I’ve been putting off reading this book and I have no idea why because it’s excellent! I was genuinely hooked from the very first page. 5 stars.

15 points: Read a book featuring a main character who is of a different race or religion than you.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. The main character/narrator is half native American (and half Caucasian, but obviously looks different enough to be referred to as “Chief”).  Another one that I had been putting off but ended up loving. The casual racism and misogyny is disturbing, but I just saw it as a product of the book’s time so it didn’t put me off in the same way it would in a modern book. And the writing is superb! 5 stars.

25 points: Read a book with an alcoholic beverage (neat or cocktail) in the title.

I read Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee for the simple reason that I already owned it. Somehow, this book even managed to make me feel nostalgic for the years of Laurie Lee’s childhood, despite the fact that even my parents weren’t born yet! The ending was just really annoying though – I know it’s only part 1 of an autobiographical series, but come on! It just… ends with no explanation. I gave this one 3 stars.

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.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay and Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager.

I wanted to read Hour of the Bees so I went looking for an author with the last name “Lindsay” and Darkly Dreaming Dexter was the first one to appear. I had heard the TV series Dexter (which is based on this series of books was good), so I decided to give this a try. Unfortunately, I thought the book was just okay. It wasn’t as thrilling as I was expecting and in parts it felt more like it was written from the perspective of a child than a murderer/sociopath (maybe sociopaths do think like children? I don’t know, but either way it grated!). 3 stars for this one, and I won’t be reading the rest of the series.

Hour of the Bees, on the other hand, is adorable. Beautifully written, magical, touching, sad in places and I loved the main character! My only (minor) gripe is that it’s supposed to be for children but I suspect it will appeal more to adults (like me!) who read children’s books. I can imagine it being a bit boring for pre-teens based on the subjects my friends liked to read about when I was aged 10/11. 4 stars.

So that’s 8 books in 7 categories and a total of 120 points.
4 books, 3 categories and 80 points to go! I think should be able to complete the challenge by Christmas!

Have you read anything good this month?

 

Friday letters

Good morning! How is everyone today? I hope you have some nice plans for the weekend (even if it just having a lazy couple of days and relaxing – those kind of weekend plans are also nice). As for me, I’m finishing work early today to travel up to Jan’s dad’s place. This week his mum turned 60 and she’s having a bit of a celebration tomorrow. Since neither of us took holiday, it will be a whirlwind trip… 5 and a bit hours there tonight, Saturday with his family then another 5 and a bit hour train journey on Sunday! At least it will give me plenty of time to read🙂

Now for some letters:

Mail box

Dear work. Could you please stop switching between really busy and almost nothing to doand find a happy medium?

Dear birds. I’m glad you found your food, but I wish you wouldn’t get spooked and fly away the second I enter my living room. It’s hard to remember to creep around my own flat just in case any of you are out there enjoying a snack!

Dear BBC Big Read voters. I feel like some of you misunderstood the question you were being asked. You were supposed to vote for your favourite books, not the longest ones you’ve ever read! Far too many of the books on the list have over 1,000 pages.

Dear Basel Christmas market. This time next week you will be on your second day! The festive season is coming around far too quickly.

Dear cross stitching. You are coming along fairly well. Not too many more little stitches to go! Next comes the hard part… making you all into pretty Christmas cards. Can I manage you all before it’s too late?

That’s all for today. Happy weekend everyone.

A corner of my world

Ages and ages ago Kezzie wrote a post in which she showcased a corner of her house (if you don’t read her blog you really should!). I loved the idea of showing a tiny piece of your life and resolved to do it as well, as soon as I found a corner worth photographing. I finally settled on the corner of the living room by the bookcases, since what could sum up my life more accurately than the place the books live (plus the only other non-boring corner contains a photo of me and Jan, and he doesn’t want his photo on the blog!). I have called my post “a corner of my world” since we don’t live in a whole house and “a corner of my flat” didn’t sound good.

corner

So, what do we see here? The bookcase, of course. It’s one of four, actually – you can just see the second one beside it. Disorganised books, some in double rows, because despite having four bookcases I have more books than space!

The top of the bookcase is cut off a little, so here’s a closer look:

top-shelf

The sheep is really a doorstop, but he’s currently holding up books. His name is Sidney (nothing to do with me – that was the name on is label). I received the card on the left for my birthday a few years ago and it’s too cute to put away in a box! It’s from my godson and his parents.

You may have spotted something in front of the books on the second shelf down, so here’s another close-up:

bookshelf

The hedgehog in the middle is called Quilly (again, nothing to do with me!). The other two don’t have names – unless the Me to You Bear has one that I’m unaware of? Pigs are lucky in Germany – you give them out at New Year. Often they’re made of marzipan.

The bags on the floor belong to Jan… they contain sheet music for the various choirs he’s in.

The keyboard is also Jan’s (of course – I am clearly not the musical one in this relationship). The stand where you’re supposed to put your music holds various posts and flyers for concerts he has sung in since we moved to Basel.

The rug under the keyboard belongs to Jan as well. It’s old and worn, and one day it shall be replaced with something nicer.

Above the keyboard hangs Paddington – my favourite bear! I always loved him more than Winnie the Pooh (although I obviously enjoyed Winnie’s adventures, too). It’s one of those posters that is made up of the text from the book. Behold:

The close-up photo of the text is a bit blurry – it’s difficult to photograph with the light shining off the glass!

And that’s it. Tell me about one of your corners!

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0 – complete

I actually did it! I finished Erin’s book challenge.

At the end of last month, I had read five out of ten books. This month I didn’t have any Shoguns to read so I got through the final five relatively quickly. Here’s what I read in October:

challenge-books

5 Points: Freebie

I was originally going to read Outlander by Diana Gabbaldon, but I ended up changing it (sorry Erin!). I just couldn’t face historical fiction right now after the epic that was Shogun! Instead I read Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, which was mysterious and magical and somehow very English (with its bluebells and woods and a cup of tea for any and all problems). The continuous switching of viewpoints without warning was annoying though, so I gave it 3.5 stars.

20 points: (Submitted by Barbara A. Wild; she’s a twin and is a mother to twins.) Read a book with twins as characters.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is beautifully written and very readable, but very, very dark and also very confusing. I felt like I didn’t really “get” it the way I was supposed to, so while I liked it well enough I only gave it 3 stars.

20 points: (Submitted by Christina Mapes) Read a book from the following list of books made into movies: http://www.popsugar.com.au/…/Books-Being-Adapted-Movies-327…

I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It was much easier to read than a lot of classics and I powered my way through it in two days (thank you two-hour train journey!). Jan had already warned me that Victor Frankenstein spent most of the time whining , so I was at least prepared for that, but Captain Walton was just as bad. Ohhh, poor little me, I have no friend to love me and sympathise with me. And then I finally found a friend but he’s been through so much and I can’t persuade him not to want to die. Ohhh.. woe is meeee! Even the damn creature was whiny on the few occasions we actually got to hear from him – admittedly he had a good reason for it, but still, So. Much. Whining. Plus, whatever else this book may be, it isn’t horror! I enjoyed it though, despite all that, and gave it 4 stars. Also, I’m impressed that Mary Shelley was only 19 when she wrote it. I wanted to be an author at 19, but the drivel I produced doesn’t bare thinking about!

30 points: (Submitted by Ericka Blankenship) Read a music related book.

I read I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne and really, really enjoyed it. Some of it I knew already from watching documentaries about Black Sabbath/Ozzy, but a lot was new. Somehow Ozzy seems very down to earth despite his fame. And credit has to go to Chris Ayres for turning Ozzy’s drug-addled memories into something coherent, readable and compelling. 4 stars – not perfect but really good!

35 points: (Submitted by Ferne Merrylees) Read a book originally published over 100 years ago.

Kim by Rudyard Kipling is surprisingly readable despite the fact that I felt like I was missing something. The language was really hard to understand at first, but it gradually got easier. 4 stars.

I certainly read a range of books for this challenge, and with The Diary of a Nobody, Artemis Fowl, The God of Small Things, Frankenstein, Shogun, The Clan of the Cave Bear and Kim I managed to make quite a dent in the BBC Big Read as well! And now I have a few days to read whatever I want before Megan‘s next challenge starts.

Previous check in posts for this challenge are here, here and here.

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

books

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.