Friday letters

Once again Friday has come around incredibly quickly… it only seems like a few days since I was last writing these letters! And this time next week it will be the last Friday in September! Time is really flying… the dreaded “C” word will be here before we know it… I really need to start figuring out what gifts to buy for the people in my life! (Apart from Jan. I have his gift already. Shh… don’t tell him that!)

For now, though, let’s just have some Friday letters.

Mailbox

Dear autumn. You are officially here now… even in astronomical terms, so nobody can argue any more (even though it’s warmed up again here after a cold and rainy start to the week). Apparently here astronomical autumn started at 4:21pm yesterday…. I had no idea it came down to the minute!

Dear pumpkins. Why can’t you be available for me to eat all year round?! Now I have to gorge myself on you for the next few months while I still can!

Dear authors. Could you please stop releasing amazing sounding books on a regular basis? My to-read list  keeps getting longer and longer… and that’s just with the books that are already available!

Dear crows. You are very cool birds, but I’d prefer it if you didn’t make an awful racket outside my window early in the morning! (Hopefully this will stop now it’s no longer light at 5 am…)

That’s all for today. I hope you all have a fabulous weekend! I’m off work next week – not going anywhere, but trying to use up some holiday – so this weekend is the start of what will hopefully be a nice long stretch of relaxation.

The Bookish Olympics

So many of my posts recently have been tags of link-ups. Sorry about that! But I saw this tag on Kristen‘s blog and I just couldn’t resist! Kristen got the tag from another Kristen, which somehow amused me, but the whole thing started on It Starts At Midnight (where it was just called The Olympic Book Tag, but I had to steal Kristen’s title along with the tag because it was just perfection!)

Olympics-e1470114539397

I didn’t actually watch a single bit of the Olympics (except a tiny bit of a report on the BBC the day after Mo Farah fell because I wanted to see how bad the fall actually was). In fact, while I’m in confession mode, the only Olympics I’ve ever really watched was London 2012 mainly because it was my Olympics, sort of. Such a hypocrite! Books, on the other hand, I can do any day of the week!

1

In the Woods by Tana French. I actually didn’t even give this book a top rating because I was so mad that the mystery of what happened to the boys in the woods was never actually solved! Stupid blurb giving me the wrong impression of the book! But the writing sucked me in from the first sentence and I really, really enjoyed this book. Still want to know what happened in the woods though!

2

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence. I was originally going to use this book for the friendship category (you’ll see later), but it turned out I haven’t really read any road trip books, other than An Abundance of Katherines and that was boring! This one isn’t exactly a road trip book, but it does feature a road trip of sorts. Well, a drive anyway. To Switzerland. It’s the closest I’ve got to a road trip, okay? And it’s a weird but amazing book.

3

I couldn’t think of any good love triangles (can a love triangle be “good”?) so I looked up love triangle on Goodreads and for most of the ones I had read I kept thinking “Wait, where was the love triangle in that?”. Either my memory is really bad or other people have different definitions of love triangles! Anyway, I think I’m going to go with Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Whether the love triangle is good or not, it’s a classic!

5

Possession by A.S. Byatt. I mean, I got the basic story, but I felt like I was missing something and/or not intelligent enough to get the deeper meaning behind this book. Meh.

6

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. Actually, it’s set in several summers. I’ve read this book twice and loved it both times, even though Caitlin is horrible and the book is heartbreaking!

7

I wanted to say all the Harry Potter books for this (loads of bloodshed there!) but that felt like a cop put sooo… The Dragonlance Chronicles by Magaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. Actually this is three books but since they’ve been repackaged with the three volumes in one book it counts😉 These books may not be the best written, but I devoured them (along with many of the spin offs) when I was around 13-14 and I still love them. They’re based on Dungeons and Dragons, which I’ve never played, and aren’t always realistic, but who cares? And since these three books are pretty much entirely about a war between the forces of good and evil you can bet there’s plenty of fighting (including on dragonback!) and bloodshed.

8

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. This is the same one Kristen picked but I totally agree! I read books with twists fairly regularly but this is one of the few where I had no idea what was going to happen. The main big twist was so unexpected!

9

I have to confess that a lot of books make me cry (included the previously mentioned Summer Sisters), but one that had me sobbing most of the way through was P.S., I Love You by Cecelia Ahern. Yes, it’s chick lit, but it’s good chick lit (in my opinion). The film ruined it so don’t bother watching that!

10

The Catcher in the Rye? Haha, joke, that one wasn’t slow to start… I’m still waiting for the story to actually start. Hmm, the only one I can think of right now is The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I had to stop for a while because it didn’t seem to be going anywhere, then towards the middle it picked up and the ending was weird (and depressing). It wasn’t a bad book but 100 pages less would have been fine… preferably taken off the beginning!

11

I’m going waaay back now to nursery school age! Each, Peach, Pear, Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg. I adored that book and can’t wait to share it with my children. (Later I spent my pocket money on Babysitters Club and Point Horror books. I still have them all at my dad’s. Good times!).

12

I’ve read many books that feature animals, but I thought I’d take the equestrian part literally and go with The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans. The ending was kind of weird and ridiculous, which is why my rating was only 4 stars, but for me it was all about the horse anyway. If you can’t stand the idea of animals being hurt this book is not for you! I cried so hard at that part (told you I’m pathetic!).

13

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. To this day I’m not sure why I even bothered to finish it, except that I was stubborn and it was a gift from my grandma so I felt like I had to! I was given it at around 15 and it took me 5 years and three attempts to get more than half way through. I was so, so, so bored by the whole thing! Yes, I know it’s a classic. I don’t care – I hated this book!

14

Beaches by Iris Rainer Dart. It’s both similar to the film and really different. The Hilary character is called Bertie (Roberta) in the book and at times I just wanted to shake her! CeeCee is even more self-centred, if that’s possible, but somehow I liked this book (and their friendship) anyway. Also, in the book Bertie/Hilary has cancer, not whatever it was in the film. Not perfect writing by any means but I like it.

15

Apparently I don’t read any books that feature sport?! Umm… somebody starts taking swimming lessons in Butterfly Summer by Anne-Marie Conway. Maybe that counts? This is a cute book with some truly stunning descriptions of a butterfly garden. The mystery is easy to guess, but I’m much older than the intended audience (which I’d guess to be around age 11) so that’s a little unfair. It’s a quick, cute read anyway.

I’m not going to tag anybody, but if you decide to do this please let me know so I can read your answers (and add to my already insanely long to-read list!)

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0 – month 2

I briefly mentioned it yesterday, but I thought this deserved it’s own check-in post, even though I only managed to read one measly little book for Erin’s book challenge! It as at least on the BBC Big Read though, so another book down for that.

NobodyFor the category “Read a book with five words in the title” I read The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith (did you count the words? There really were 5!).

This book isn’t about anything in particular, but it’s strangely compelling. It’s the diary of Charles Pooter, a senior bank clerk who works in The City of London (for non-Brits, that doesn’t just mean London… the City of London is a separate entity within London where all the financial institutions are, including the London Stock Exchange). The book is supposed to be hilarious, although I disagree. It has a few funny moments, but hilarious is a bit strong! It does give an interesting (if satirised) insight into everyday life in a middle-calls Victorian family. I gave it four stars.

This category is worth 10 points, so combined with last month’s 25 that gives me a total of 35! It’s a good job Erin is generous with her challenges and has given us until the end of October to finish reading!

Lesson learned: if you’re going to do two challenges at once, try to find books that overlap!

Summer reading challenge completed!

I finally finished Megan‘s 2016 summer reading challenge… just now! I read the final page of The Potato two minutes ago. Phew! At the end of month 2 I was on 135 points. Here’s what I read in month 3:

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

I read Brave New World by Aldous Huxley for this category. It was… not what I was expecting. I thought it was a dystopian novel, but it turns out it’s utopian. Also I was surpised by all the free sex – mainly because one of my classes in Austria read it. One of my classes of 13 year olds that is! I can only imagine how the immature boys in my school would have reacted to that… Anyway, the book started off okay but mostly I found it kind of weird. I gave it 2 stars.

10 points: Read a collection of short stories or essays. (Sincerely hoping novellas count as short stories here!).

I read Different Seasons by Stephen King. This book almost would have counted for the film category – three of the four novellas have been turned into films and I’ve seen two of them! The novellas are Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption (filmed as The Shawshank Redemption), Apt Pupil, The Body (filmed as Stand By Me) and The Breathing Method (not a film as far as I know). None of these books are actually horror, although the events of Apt Pupil can certainly be viewed as horrific! But all of them confirmed for me why I believe Stephen King is a master storyteller. 5 stars (although The Green Mile remains my favourite Stephen King book).

20 points: Read a book that you have previously only seen the film (movie) of. (Subitted by me so not completing this category would have been embarrassing!)

I read Papillon by Henri Charrière. Despite the fact that I had read the film, I only vaguely remembered the story as “something about Steve McQueen escaping from prison by jumping off a cliff??”. You can tell the film made a great impression on me! SO I went into the book with some trepidation – honestly I was only reading it because of the BBC Big Read! So I was pleasantly surprised to find that I really, really enjoyed this book. It wasn’t always the best written (or maybe that was the translator?) but it didn’t matter because it felt like I was sitting down to chat with the author. Actually, I bet this would be brilliant as an audio book! I gave this one 5 stars as well.

30 points: Read a microhistory.

And finally we come full circle… as mentioned, I read The Potato by Larry Zuckerman for this. As the title suggests, it’s all about the humble spud. But actually it’s more than that… it’s a social history of Europe (and briefly of America) with chapters explaining why the potato was so slow to gain popularity (first superstition about root vegetable, later it was known as a food for the poor and as a “lazy” food… and English peasants wouldn’t even eat it for decades because the Irish did, and although they were poor they weren’t that desperate). I enjoyed reading this but I would have preferred more information on the actual potato itself alongside all the (fascinating) history stuff. Also, it kept making me crave potatoes! 4 stars.

So, overall this was my best reading month of this challenge, with only Brave New World being not that enjoyable (although short enough that I should have got through it quicker than I did… if only I hadn’t got bored part way through!).

My next task is to complete Erin‘s challenge – for which I read precisely one book in August!

Recent doings #8

I swear I only just linked up for “What’s New With You” with Kristen and Gretchen so how is it that time again already? Inconceivable! (If you don’t get that reference I’m not sure we can be friends…)

August is going to be busyyy, what with my friend’s wedding in Luxembourg on Saturday, my birthday the following Saturday, a free jazz festival in Basel on the 19th and then the Basel Biermarkt at the end of the month! But that’s all in the future. The point of this link up is to talk about the past, specifically what I did in July. Here come my recent doings…

What's New With You

Reading. I already did two reading challenge posts (here and here) so you know most of what I’ve been reading. Apart from that, I read Scribbleboy by Philip Ridley, which was mostly good but also kind of annoying. Each character had their own manner of speaking (e.g., speaking only in raps, one ending every sentence with “baby”) and some of them just really irritated me!

Watching. The BFG! The original animated film, not the new one. A childhood favourite and just as good as an adult❤ Also, on a different note, fireworks. 1st August is the Swiss national holiday and Basel has fireworks over the Rhine on the 31st so we went to see them. We decided not to go to the official celebration on the actual national holiday and then discovered you can actually see the fireworks for that one from our window. Good to know!

Listening to. Travis (remember them?). We had tickets to watch them perform in Arlesheim, so I refreshed my memory of their songs before we went. It was a great setting for a concert and I really enjoyed myself. Fran just seemed like a nice, chatty older man rather than a member of a band that was once pretty famous!

Climbing. The tower of Basel cathedral with Jan’s mum. The things it never occurs to you to do until you have visitors… Here’s a photo of the view from up there:

DSCN8929

Going. (The category for places that are too close to really call it “travelling”!) To Delémont, which is in the French-speaking canton of Jura. We hiked a bit in the woods then looked at the pretty old town.

Eating. Ice cream! It’s been so hot here recently and what else does one eat when it’s hot? We finally tried out the little ice cream place just down the road from us that opened in April then also discovered a new Italian ice cream place in town when Jan’s mum and her partner were visiting.

Cross stitching. I can’t tell you… you have to guess😉

That’s it for today. What have you been doing lately?

If you’re curious about what other bloggers got up to in July, check out the link up.

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0 Month 1

Yes, two posts in one day… and both are about books. Sorry! If book reviews aren’t your thing go and guess what I’m stitching instead.

So, you may remember that I was taking part in two book challenges in July. I’ve already checked in for month 2 of Megan’s summer reading challenge, now I want to tell you about month 1 of Erin‘s challenge. My preliminary list was here in case you want a reminder of the categories.

I only managed to read two books for this challenge during July, one of which was on my original list. Here’s what I read:

10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “R”.

I accidentally changed the book I planned to read for this category (ahem. Sorry Erin!). What do you mean, “accidentally”? I hear you ask. Welll… after all the heavy/long books I’d read for the summer reading challenge, I felt the need to read something slightly easier. Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell had been waiting patiently on my shelf for over a month so I picked it up, read it, and only realised when I got to the end that the title starts with an R! Since I haven’t got round to tracking down my original choice yet I decided to use this one for the challenge.

This book is beautiful somehow magical – but without actually involving any magic. My only problem with it was the ending, which seemed a bit abrupt. Things were moving along nicely, pace picking up then suddenly I’d reached the last line and it was just… over. I gave it 4 stars for that reason (although it’s really more like 4.5).

15 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) blue cover.

ArtemisYou may remember (or have just read) that I was hoping to read Artemis Fowl by Eion Colfer for this category, providing the copy I had ordered actually turned out to have a mostly blue cover. Well, as you can see from the picture, it did.

This book was okay. It was fairly entertaining and a quick read. I think this particular one would appeal mostly to young boys (how many jokes can you make about flatulence?!) but it’s well written and the characters are mostly believable (as much as fantasy creatures can be believable anyway ;-)). I gave it three stars on Goodreads. I probably won’t go out of my way to read the rest of the series, but if book two happened to fall into my hands I would give it a chance.

That makes 25 points, which isn’t much but not bad considering all the reading I was doing for the other challenge. Bring on month 2!

Summer Reading Challenge Month 2

Well, I will definitely not be getting to pick a category for Megan’s next reading challenge since 5 people have already finished and I’m lagging behind. One month to go! Can I do it?

For now, here’s the progress I made in July:

challenge-books

10 points: Read an adult fiction book written by an author who normally writes books for children.

I read Telling Liddy by Anne Fine, who has written many children’s books, the best known of which is probably Madame Doubtfire (filmed as Mrs Doubtfire). Telling Liddy is the story of four sisters. The titular Liddy has a new boyfriend and when one of the other sisters hears a rumour about him, they have to decide whether to tell Liddy. One sister thinks they should, the other 2 agree but then when Liddy gets mad act like they never wanted to tell her, leading to the sister who thought they should tell being blamed for everything and ostracised. Anne Fine is an excellent writer, but this book just didn’t do it for me. It was kind of odd and I didn’t care about any of the sisters. The whole family dynamic was just weird to me. I only gave this one 2 stars – I think I’ll stick to her children’s books in future!

15 points: Read a book set in Appalachia.

I read The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison-Allen. This list says it’s set in Appalachia and it had already been on my to-read list for a while. I liked this book. It was cute and comforting – a bit like the literary equivalent of comfort food. Not a masterpiece, but a nice little read. Garden Spells is better though, so if you haven’t read this author before I would go for that one. I gave The Peach Keeper four stars based on my enjoyment of it rather than any particular literary merit.

15 points: Don’t judge a book by its cover! Read a book with a cover you personally find unappealing.The_Magus

Ah, this was the book I was struggling with last month! I read The Magus by by John Fowles for this. The first part of the book draaagged. It was so full of “clever” observations and unnecessary convoluted descriptions. About half way through it started to pick up a bit and I actually enjoyed the middle part. Then the ending was really confusing. Overall, the book left me feeling like I wasn’t not clever/intellectual enough to be reading it. Three stars because I liked it more than I thought I would. I won’t read it again though! (Picture included so you can see the cover I didn’t like).

25 points: Read a book with a punny title.

I read Faust Among Equals by Tom Holt for this one, the original phrase of course being “first among equals”. Apparently this is a sort of sequel to Faust, but you can read it without having read Faust (I haven’t!). This book was quite funny/clever in some places, but the humour often seemed forced or too much, like the author was trying really, really hard to be “punny”. The writing style reminded me of Douglas Adams, but not as good. It was a quick read though and I quite enjoyed it. Four stars.

40 points: Read two books that contain the same word in the title, but once in the singular and once in the plural.

I read Secrets by Jacqueline Wilson for my plural word and The Secret History by Donna Tartt for my singular word. Both are on the BBC Big Read list.

Secrets was okay, but it is very much a children’s book. There are obviously children’s books that adults can enjoy (even by this author!), but this one doesn’t fall into the category for me. I can see why a ten year old girl would like it though. I gave it three stars.

The Secret History was not what I was expecting! I’m not sure what I was expecting though. I bought it without reading the description purely to cross another book off the BBC Big Read. Turns it it’s a sort of murder mystery in reverse – we know who committed murder; the book explains the why. I really enjoyed this one, even though it was just as full of Greek references as The Magus. The difference is this one didn’t seem to be looking down on my non-Greek-speaking self. Five stars!

So that’s 105 points gained this month. Added to my 30 from last month gives me a total of 135. Four categories worth a total of 65 points to go. I’m actually part way through books for two categories, so hopefully I’ll complete the challenge in August.

I also read some books for Book Challenge by Erin 5.0, but that will get its own post.