Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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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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Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge: Month 1

Remember the Literary Ladies Summer Reading Challenge I was participating in? Well, it’s time for the first check in. Sadly, I haven’t actually been doing very well with it… I’ve managed a grand total of two books (I have read a few others this month, but they were either too short or didn’t fit the categories). Here’s what I’ve read so far:

  • A novel written by a non-US authorSea Sisters by Lucy Clarke (4 stars)
  • A book with “summer” in the titleI Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan (yes, the book the film was based on! 4 stars. See my GoodReads review here.) My copy of this book only just managed to qualify for the challenge – it has precisely 200 pages!

So I still have 8 categories to go. Hopefully I’ll do a better job over the next month! I’m flying to England for my cousin’s wedding on Friday so at least I’ll have plenty of reading time while hanging around airports and on planes/trains.


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Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge

Because apparently one summer reading challenge isn’t enough, I’ve decided to sign up for another one! After all, I’ve nearly completed Megan‘s (still need to finish reading Life of Pi, but once that’s done I’m finished!). This one is being run by, among other people, Kristen from See You in A Porridge, which is how I heard of it.

The rules are as follows:

  1. The Literary Ladies book challenge will run from June 21, 2015 until September 21, 2015. Only books read during that time will count.
  2. There are 10 categories to be completed. Once you complete all 10, reading all of the books necessary to satisfy each category, you have won.
  3. You are allowed 2 rereads for this challenge in order to be considered the prizes.
  4. Switching around books from your preliminary list is fine, but you can only use a book once to satisfy one category.
  5. All books must be 200 pages in length. If you are listening to your books, be sure that it complies accordingly.
  6. The first 3 categories are mandatory. But if you do not like one or two of the other 7 categories you can skip it and replace it with one of our book club picks! You can do this twice.

Also, with this one you can win actual prizes! Although I couldn’t care less about those. I just want to read!
Here are the categories, along with my preliminary choices. I’m using this as an opportunity to cross off some more books from the BBC Big Read for my 35 before 35. Book titles link to Goodreads.

  • Read a Young Adult novel.
    Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. I was given it literally years ago so I should probably read it. But it’s so looong, and my copy is German!
  • Read a novel written by a Non-US author.
    The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke (British author – I should probably have gone for a Swiss one really but I already have this waiting to be read and I don’t want to buy too many books for this challenge)
  • Read a book recommended by a blogger (or instagrammer / you-tuber / goodreads-er).
    Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healy, recommended by Amanda from Rhyme and Ribbons.
  • Read a book that has been on your TBR list for a year or more.
    Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley – I bought  this one at the beginning of June last year – so just over a year ago – and it’s still sitting on my bookshelf unread!
  • Read a novel with a kickass female character.
    Well, I wanted to read the third book in the Tomorrow series by John Marsden for this but I can’t find a single copy on Amazon Germany that can be delivered to Switzerland so I’ll have to have another think.
  • Read a book that is or will be a movie (or TV show)
    Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières.
  • Read a book written by a comedian or celebrity – or even a memoir if neither of those are your jam.
    Umm, maybe Bonkers: My Life in Laughs by Jennifer Saunders. Or I might read Stephen Fry’s novel The Liar – I’ve already read and enjoyed another novel by him. I’ll just have to see what I can get hold of here.
  • Read a novel with a one word title.
    Persuasion by Jane Austen seems to be the only book on my shelf with a one word title that I haven’t read yet.

  • Read a suspenseful book – a mystery, a thriller, a book about revenge!
    I hope I’ll be able to tread The Girl on the Train for this, but it depends whether I can get it cheaply.
  • Read a book about summer, with summer in the title, or in any way related to summer (because this is a Summer challenge after all!)
    I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan. Not sure it’s quite what they had in mind for a summer book, but it fits the category ;-)

There are no points for the different categories in this challenge. Basically you just read them all in the time given and you’re a winner. Awesome! You can link up here.


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Summer 2015 reading challenge: month 1

It’s the 1st of June, which means it’s time for the first check in for the summer reading challenge. And guys, I came *this* close to finishing (picture me with my thumb and finger positioned mere millimetres apart). I’m currently reading my final book for the challenge. One out of twelve not completed in time! And there goes my chance of being one of the first five finishers – I mean, there are bound to be people who actually finished this month. Oh, woe is me, etc. Anyway, here are the books I actually did manage to read this month. Some you’ll have seen already if you’re a regular reader. I will apologise in advance because this post is going to be long. I’ll understand if you skip it!

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules.
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (244 pages). I read this book on the train on a day that I actually had to go into work. Managed to finish it in a 2-hour train journey so it’s a fairly quick read. It also drew me on, leaving me wanting to find out what on Earth was going on. warning: it’s fairly graphic/disturbing and the main character is clearly a sociopath, which for some reason didn’t stop me from liking him?? My main reaction to the “twist” ending was “What the hell just happened?” It was shocking, but somehow felt like it was shocking purely for the sake of being shocking. I mean, what did the ending have to do with anything? Sorry, that’s probably confusing. You’ll have to read the book to find out what I’m on about though. No spoilers here! Anyway, 3 stars.

10 points: Read a book you have never heard of before.
The Bees by Laline Paull (343 pages). I went into the train station bookshop to see if there were any books that would fit into this category, spied a book called “The Bees”, realised it was about actual bees, as in the insect, and was instantly sold. This is the story of Flora 717, a bee born into the lowest class of the totalitarian hive society. However, Flora 717 is different to other bees of her kind. The book has been described as a sort of Watership Down but with bees, but I don’t entirely agree with that. Yes, it has animal (well, insect) protaganists, but Watership Down is a different kind of story to me. Anyway, I LOVED this book. Caps totally necessary there. I’m not even sure whether I actually liked the story or am just entirely biased because bees!! Either way, 5 stars.

10 points: Read a book that has been on your TBR list for at least two years.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (323 pages). Jan has been telling me I should read this book ever since he read it, which was a lot more than 2 years ago! For some reason, I never did get round to it despite hearing good things from other sources, so this category seemed like the perfect opportunity – especially since Jan owns the book and I didn’t have to spend more money. You can read my full review here, but basically I liked it well enough but didn’t love it the way everyone else seems to, was disturbed by a few scenes and hated the protagonist. 3 stars.

10 points: Read a book that won a Goodreads “Best Book” award in 2014.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (225 pages) – won the Young Adult Fiction category. I chose this book for the simple reason that it cost less than Landline by Rainbow Rowell. To start with, this book felt like a pointless atory about a spoiled, rich teenager moaning about her petty, first-world problems. But then it somehow drew me in, mostly because it didn’t seem to make any sense and I was determined to figure out what was going on! Even after finishing it, I’m not entirely sure whether half the events really happened (other than the “main” one – I’m pretty sure that was real!). This probably has something to do with the protaganist being incredibly other dramatic and (in my opinion) not entirely sane. It was an okay book, but I’m not sure why it won the award. I’m sure there were much better YA novels released in 2014! 3 stars.

15 points: Read a book by an author who is completely new to you.
The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan (438 pages). I had never heard of this book or it’s author until I spied it in the bookshop! Also,I found the title quite misleading – there is a point early on in the book where the sort-of main character (there are 2 stories each with their own protagonist) says to her mother “That’s the girl in the photograph”. However, the “girl” the story is about is not actually the one in that photograph! To be honest, I’m not sure which photograph is being referred to! Basically, this is the story of two people – Alice, who finds herself unmarried and pregnant in 1933 and is sent away to have the baby so there won’t be a scandal – and Elizabeth, the wife of a former owner of the house Alice is sent to, who nobody talks about. The blurb says of Elizabeth  that her “only trace remains in a few tantalizingly blurred photographs”, so maybe she is supposed to be the “girl”? The story was quite good and gave some interesting insights into attitudes towards mental illness and illigitimacy in past times. However, I felt like there wasn’t enough distinction between the two time periods – it was only the events and characters that made me realise I was currently reading Alice’s or Elizabeth’s story. Another three star read.

15 points: Read a book by an author you have read before. (No re-reads for this one.)
Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden (276 pages). I bought So Much to Tell You by the same author from a second hand bookshop when I was about 14 or 15 – I think it cose me around 30p! Since then, I’ve read it at least once a year and cried every single time. I had heard the Tomorrow series is also good and bought the first in the series, but hadn’t read it until now. This book could also have worked for the “series with at least four books” category – there are seven! Which means I have another six books to go. In this first book, seven Australian teenagers go camping during the school holidays. When they return a week later, they find their houses empty and their pets starving. As I’m sure you can guess from the title, they quickly realise that their country has been invaded. Ellie (the narrator) and her friends face an impossible decision: they can flee to the mountains and try to survive or surrender. Or they can fight. Obviously they don’t choose the surrender option, otherwise there wouldn’t be much of  a story ;-) I really enjoyed this book. John Marsden somehow does an excellent job of getting inside the mind of a teenage girl and the dialogue between the characters always felt real. I even enjoyed the little romances that started to blossom between the teenagers – even though that’s something that tends to annoy me in YA distopian future novels (this is not a distopian future novel though, it’s a survivalist story set in the present, which at this stage is actually the past). My only minor criticism is that the book hasn’t aged too well – it’s set in the early 90’s (when it was written) and I’m not sure how well today’s teenagers will be able to relate to it. Examples of things that clearly date it: one character has a walkman and someone receives a fax. As I said, that’s a minor criticism though – John Marsden wasn’t to know that the future would contain MP3 players and smartphones! I thought this was a great introduction to the seires and gave it 5 stars. Can’t wait to see how it continues!

15 points: Read a book with “light” or “dark” in the title. (Or “lightness” or “darkness.”)
Light Shining in the Forest by Paul Torday (344 pages). This book could have fit into a few categories – it’s entirely new to me and I’d never heard of the author (although once I started reading I saw that he also wrote Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which I at least knew was a film). However, the reaon I initially picked it up was because it had “light” in the title.  The story is that Norman Stokoe, who has spent his life climbing up through the ranks as a civil servant, is mad “Children’s Czar” and sent off to North-East England. Then two children go missing (there is also a third missing child who is important to the story, but he went missing before the book begins). Norman, who has spent his career being “strategic” rather than “operational” (i.e. doing as little as possible!), is forced to get involved when a campaigning journalist and distraught mother find out about his title and start pestering him. So, on the face of it it sounds like an interesting story. A bit of a mystery and a chance to address the issue of missing chlildren. I also found the North-East setting interesting – alot of it takes place in Kielder Forest, for example, it was nice to read about familiar places (also I am sick of all the British books I read being set in London!). The bit that lost me was the introduction of religious overtones and vague references to miracles/the second coming. Sorry if you consider that a spoiler but personally if I’d known about that before buying the book I wouldn’t have bothered! The author also breaks the cardinal rule of writing – so much telling instead of showing! And so many explanations! I know what “bait” and “bairn” mean, thank you very much – although I suppose that it was necessary for readers who aren’t familiar with the Northumbrian dialect. I did read the book to the end because I ended up caring about the children an wanted to know what happened to them, but I wouldn’t read it again. Two stars.

20 points: Read a book with the name of a city, state or country in the title.
The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez (375 pages). This is chicklit pure and simple, but it’s chicklit set in Afghanistan which at least makes it a little unusual. If you’re looking to get to know Taliban-conrolled Afghanistan and all the evils of war, this is not the book for you. But if you just want a quick beach read go ahead and pick it up. my full review is here. Three stars.

25 points: Read a book that is part of a series with at least four books.
The Testimony of the Hanged Man by Ann Granger (327 pages). I picked this book up because the title intrigued me, then I saw that it was the fifth book in a series. The shop didn’t have book one of said series, so I bought this one based on the blurb. The story is that Inspector Ben Ross is called to the police station late one night to hear the testimony of a man who is about to be hanged the next day. He reveals that he witnessed a murder 15 years ago. Inspector Ross is initially not allowed to investigate, but his wife, who has a talent for inofficial detection (so says the blurb) take a trip to Somerset House and then to Putney Heath, where they discover information that convinces them that a murder really did take place. by this time, the witness has been hanged, but Inspector Ross is finally allowed to investigate anyway. This book sounded so, so good. A perfect Victorian murder mystery – no modern-day technology to help, just good old-fashioned detection. And a Miss Marple type (only younger) to help things along. But (you knew there was a but, right?) somehow the story felt a bit… flat to me. There seemed to be something missing and it just didn’t draw me in. I probably won’t bother with the rest of the series. Disappointing. Three stars.

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 (606 pages). Thanks for that one, Kristen!! I was so confused by this book. Parts of it were good, parts of it were just weird and most of the time I had no idea what the protagonist was even doing! Obviously I’m not philosophically minded enough. Full review here, and three stars.
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.)
Ghost Girl by Lesley Thomson (466 pages). This is the second book in a series, but the first didn’t work for the category (The Detective’s Daughter – stupid the!). It took me a while to get into this one, possibly because I didn’t know the characters already from the first book and found them confusing. I ended up getting really into it though. I especially enjoyed the parts that took place in the past and were written from the perspective of a young girl – the author did a really good job of getting into the mind of a child. I didn’t guess whodunnit either or figure out the relationship between two of the characters. Full review here. Four stars.

So, that’s 180 out of 200 points (grrr!). And now I have a month to finish reading The Life of Pi. If you actually made it this far, you deserve a medal!


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Two book reviews for the 2015 summer reading challenge

I read these two books one after the other and both are set (or partly set) in Afghanistan, so I thought I’d review them both in one blog post. I read The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul for the category “Read a book with the name of a city, state or country in the title”, worth 20 points, and The Kite Runner for the category “Read a book that has been on your TBR list for 2+ years”, worth 10 points.

The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez

Little Coffee ShopThe plot: This is the story of a little coffee shop, run by an American expat, and all the people who work and gather there. It’s mostly the story of five women, Sunny – the owner of the café, Halajan – an Afghan woman who works for her and still remembers the days before the Taliban, Isabel – a British journalist on the trail of a risky story, Candace – a wealthy American whose desire to help (and desire for a man) threatens to cloud her good judgement and Yasmina – a young, pregnant woman stolen from her village and then abandoned on the streets, who Sunny takes in. As the group get to know each other, they discover there’s more to each of them than meets the eye and form an unlikely friendship that will change their lives forever. (According to the blurb, said friendship will also change Afghanistan forever but errm, I don’t think so!).

My review. First of all, I have to say this is basically chick lit! Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with chick lit, but if you were looking for a book that depicts the hardships of life in Afghanistan… this is not it! I mean, it does touch on those aspects (it’s pretty difficult to entirely ignore the fact that the plot takes place in the middle of a war zone!), but even when bad things happen, they never feel particularly shocking or devastating, and all the way through you just know things are going to work out in the end. Of course there’s a romance or two weaving through the plot, and in typical chick-lit fashion, everybody ends up with the right man for them. This is a quick read, perfect for a day at the beach or a rainy day stuck at home. Despite a few interesting elements that come about mainly thanks to the setting, it’s basically a mindless read for those days when you just don’t feel like taxing your brain. 3 stars.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite RunnerThe plot: This is the story of two boys growing up together in pre-Taliban Afghanistan. Amir is the spoiled son of a rich man, Hassan is the son of a loyal servant. Despite that, the two boys are best friends. The year the boys are 12, Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament, and Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can predict what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that will shatter their lives. later, after the Russians invade, Amir and his father flee to America, and Amir realises that one day he will have to return to Afghanistan to find the one thing his new life cannot grant him:redemption.

My review. This is a surprisingly easy read, in the sense that you can get through it fairly quickly, once you’ve got used to the author’s style of writing. But in terms of subject matter, it’s tough. There are a number graphic scenes of war and violence, including rape (so don’t read it if such things are likely to upset you!). I spent most of the book wanting to sake the narrator, Amir. He’s a spoiled, selfish daddy’s boy and a coward. Yes, he was a child during the main events of the book and can in no way be blamed for his cowardice, but even before that he was jealous, self-centred and spoiled. And even when he does the right thing in the end, I felt as if he was doing it more for the sake of purging his own feelings of guilt than for the right reasons, to save a child.He does redeem himself but I still don’t find him very likeable. Having said that, I did like the book. It’s very different to the kind of thing I normally read and, while disturbing at times,  I think we all need to have our eyes opened about the things that go on in the world. However, I didn’t love the book like 99% of reviewers seem to have. 3 stars.

So there you have it. One location, two very different stories. I would say both are worth a read, depending on your own personal preferences, but I probably won’t read either of them a second time.


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Ghost Girl by Lesley Thomson

I am on a roll now with my summer challenge reading – six books down already! I bought this one on a whim from Amazon – even though it’s a sequel and I haven’t read the first book – because it was actually quite difficult to find a book with an alliterative title, especially since Megan had specified that all words had to start with the same letter, so Pride and Prejudice, for example, wouldn’t count. I discovered a few books that would fit – Rob Roy, Everything’s Eventual, Ella Enchanted and Nicholas Nickleby being a few – but could find none of them in my local bookshop, and while Amazon obviously had all four, Ghost Girl won simply because it was available ridiculously cheaply from somebody who was willing to deliver to Switzerland. This category is worth 30 points.

Ghost GirlThe plot: Terry Darnell was a detective with the Hammersmith police. Now, one year after his death, his daughter Stella is clearing out his house when she finds a folder of photographs hidden in his cellar. Why did he take so many pictures of deserted London streets? Stella is determined to find out, and enlists her friend/employee Jack to help her.

One particular photo dates from 1966, to a day when a little girl, just ten years old, witnessed something that would haunt her forever. The two stories, of the present-day investigation and the events surrounding the little girl back in the 60s, are told in parallel.

My review: I had a hard time relating to the main characters in this book at first, possible because I hadn’t read the previous book. Because of that, at first I enjoyed the parts that took part in the past more at first. Thomson did a good job of getting inside the mind of a lonely child and at times my heart ached for her. Gradually, I was drawn into the present-day story as well and found myself eager to know just what was going on. And unlike some of the reviews I’ve read, I definitely didn’t guess whodunnit (well, maybe who did one thing, but not who Stella and Jack were looking for) and was very surprised to find out who one of the characters was. This is an enjoyable crime novel, but I’ve taken one star off because I didn’t really like the main character (Stella) very much until near the end and also some parts seemed a bit boring and unnecessary. I liked it overall though, so 4 stars. I would probably recommend reading The Detective’s Daughter first though to get a bit of background! (Note: I have not read it so I can’t tell you whether it’s any good.)

So with this and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, that’s 55 points so far from books I’ve reviewed. Add to that the 45 points from the books I haven’t written up here yet and you get a total of 100 points. Halfway there!


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The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

When the 2015 summer reading challenge started, I decided my first book should be the one for the category “Read a book with more than 500 pages” (thanks for that, Kristen) to make sure I actually had time to get through it! The Wind-up Bird Chronicle had been sitting on my shelf for months and has 606 full pages (plus one paragraph on page 607). This category is worth 25 points.

Wind-up BirdThe plot: Toru Okada’s cat has disappeared, which has unsettled his wife so much that she insists he go out looking for it every day. Meanwhile, his wife is herself becoming more and more distant. On the search for the cat (and his wife), Okada gets involved with a succession of increasingly bizarre characters, each with a tale to tell, and finds himself on a journey that he never really seems to understand.

My review: This book has so many high ratings on Goodreads that I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something! I didn’t hate the book (as evidenced by the fact that I managed to get all to the end), but I mostly found it bizarre and confusing. Most of the characters’ actions make no sense and while all the individual stories do eventually kind of come together, I still felt like things weren’t fully explained. I’m sure there’s some deep, philosophical meaning that I’m missing, but oh well – I don’t mind being an idiot! 3 stars.

I’ve read two more books for the challenge since I finished this one, so look out for more reviews soon. And if you want to join in with the challenge, you can find more information here on Megan’s blog. Any book you’ve read since 1st May that fits into a category can be counted and the first check in is on 1st June. Good luck!

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