Book challenge by Erin 6.0: bonus round check in 1

Today I am checking in for the bonus round of Erin‘s current reading challenge. Don’t worry, I haven’t finished already 😉 Although I am quite impressed that I got through my choice for “favourite author”…

Here’s what I read for the challenge in February:

books-feb-2017

10 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages.

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (399 pages). I had absolutely no idea what this book was about – had never seen the film and somehow had never heard anything about it. Turns out there is no real story. Not one with a beginning, middle and end anyway. Instead we just follow the titular psycho around while he socialises and shops and eats in New York City. Oh, and occasionally kills someone… brutally, graphically, violently. Obviously I was expecting it to be disturbing and graphic, but it was so much more disturbing than I was expecting. Especially towards the end. What I was not expecting was constant references to Donald Trump. Even in fiction I can’t escape him! I gave it 4 stars but I will never, ever read it again!

15 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “W”.

I had two choices for this one, but I decided to read Where She Went by Gayle Forman (264 pages) because it had been on my list longer. Also there are extra bonus points for choosing books that someone had already chosen for the challenge. I must have loved If I Stay because as soon as I finished it I knew I needed to read the sequel, but by the time I got round to reading this one I only had a vague recollection of the story. I still know the main outline, obviously, and I remember crying a lot, but the details are gone. Hmm. Anyway, I really loved this one. I was devastated for Adam and once Mia came back on the scene I really felt for her as well. It made me think about what I would have done in her situation. 5 stars.

20 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) green cover.

green-coverThe Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson (434 pages). This book was not at all what I was expecting! I thought it would be some kind of chick lit/romantic comedy, and in a way it is, but it’s also so much more than that. There is romance, but there’s also a mystery and parts of it are very dark. It deals with mental health and there is a twist that I truly was not expecting. I don’t really know how to review this any further without giving things away, so I’ll just say you should definitely give it a chance. It got 4 stars from me anyway. Photo to the left to prove the cover is green 😉

25 points: Read a book with a homonym in the title

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (324 pages; homonym = tale/tail). I had literally zero idea what this book was about. All I knew was that it’s some kind of classic and people seem to rate it highly. And it’s number 131 in the BBC Big Read list so I would have had to read it no matter what. It turns out that it’s really good, and also incredibly relevant right now given the current political situation in various countries. The story is a bit disjointed and vague, which would probably annoy some people, but I actually thought that was quite a clever tactic – it let you fill in the blanks yourself (potentially with even worse things than the author was imagining) and reinforced the fact that the narrator was very much kept in the dark. At the time it was written this book probably seemed extreme and nobody believed it could ever actually happen. I might have thought that myself if I had read it 10 years ago. But now, in 2017, I’m not so sure. 5 stars.

25 points: (Submitted by Linda) Read a book by your favourite author

I could never pick just one favourite author, so I chose from among the few I always list when asked. Stephen King has been a favourite ever since I read Insomnia when I was far too young to actually understand what I was reading. For this challenge, I read The Stand (1439 pages). Although I love King’s writing, my one problem with him is that he has a tendency to go on and on, long past when he should have stopped. This book is definitely one that could have done with being shorter. Admittedly it’s partly my own fault for reading the uncut edition, but even the original was 817 long, long pages. On the positive side, the writing was, as always, excellent, as was the characterisation – King always makes me feel like his characters are real, and it’s amazing how different he makes them all. How does he manage to get into the minds of such a variety of people? The story of the plague that destroyed the world and the struggles of the few survivors made a really compelling story. However, the supernatural element felt out of place in this one. The whole good versus evil, or God versus the devil (or someone like him) sub-plot made no sense, especially given the ending. Trying not to give too much away, but in my opinion “good” didn’t even defeat “evil” in this book – a few good guys turned up where the good guys were and then something accidental happened and the day was saved… but not by the people who had trekked all that way to save the day. What? It almost felt like King had got that far with the story and had no idea how he even wanted to end it. Minus one star for that. I still gave it 4 though because I really did enjoy reading it – and got through all those pages surprisingly quickly.

And that’s it. I’m halfway through the bonus round with two months to go.

Are you taking part in this challenge? Read anything good recently?

Friday letters

Finally it’s Friday! Music to my ears this week… work has been busy, particularly the last couple of days (somehow I have about 6 translations that are all due today?!). Actually, my working week still won’t be over after today – we’re having an open day thing tomorrow, so I’ll be on a train heading into the office at 7:15 a.m. But that’s a different kind of work at least… less brain power required. And then next week I’m off! Not that I’m doing anything, I just had to use up some holiday from last year.
Buuut anyway… letters time!

letter box

Dear IKEA. I am looking forward to you bringing my new furniture on Monday. Finally my tights will have a proper place to live!

Dear spare room. I am so sorry about the state you are in (world’s worst housewife strikes again…). Don’t worry, you will be sorted out on Sunday!

Dear EasyJet. Considering you are supposed to be a cheap airline the prices you’re giving me are ridiculous! I know we want to fly over Easter, but that’s still no excuse to charge over €100 for a one way flight!

Dear parcel delivery people. Is it really necessary to hold down the doorbell button for ages? No wonder I have a heart attack every time it rings!

Dear books. I don’t know what I would do without you! You are my escape from all the problems and horror in this world (although the book in the book I’m currently escaping into isn’t one I would particularly like to be in either…).

Right, that it for today. Happy weekend, dear readers. I hope the weather where you are is better than here!

Book Challenge by Erin 6.0: Bonus round

I know, I know… you were hoping for a break from book challenge posts now that I completed Erin’s challenge within a month. Unfortunately for you, there’s a bonus round, and I’m here to share my preliminary list. I do have some travel posts planned as well (need to tell you about New Year!) and I promise they will be coming soon, but for now it’s back to books.

bookchallengebyerin6-0

The categories are the same as for the initial round, but you get an extra 5 points per category this time. Here are my picks. I’m fairly sure I won’t get through them all again, but it’s worth a try.

10 points: Freebie – I’ve already started reading American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, so that’s my freebie. Apart from being generally disturbing (which I was expecting), it’s full of references to Donald Trump. What’s that all about? I’d never even heard of Donald Trump in 1991, which is when this book came out. Although to be fair I was only 7/8 in 1991 and hadn’t heard of most people 😉

15 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “W” – I have two choices for this. Either Where She Went by Gayle Forman (sequel to If I Stay) or We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa DIffenbaugh.

15 points: Read a book with six words in the title – I’m trying to read books that are already on my shelves this time round, so my choices seem to be Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which the lovely Kerri sent me) or All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry.

20 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) green coverThe Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson is the only green book on my shelves.

25 points: Read a book with a homonym in the titleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Homonym is obviously tale/tail. Imagine a book called “The Handmaid’s Tail”? I would definitely read that!

25 points: (Submitted by Linda) Read a book by your favourite author – As I said last time, I don’t have a favourite author! And a good job too, otherwise I would have to read another book by Tana French and I’ve read all hers now. This time round I’m choosing Stephen King, who is definitely up in my top 5, and tentatively saying I’ll read The Stand. No promises though – much as I love King’s writing, this book is long!

30 points: (Submitted by Christina) Read a book set in the city/town/state/territory/county/province where you live – Hahaha, this is just hilarious. I couldn’t even find a book set in Basel the first time round! I’m going with just Switzerland again as the closest I can get and plan to read Banner in the Sky by James Ramsy Ullman. It sounds ridiculously cheesy, but what can ya do? I hope it will at least be a quick read.

35 points: (Submitted by Peggy) Read a “Rory Gilmore” book – Again, I have two choices. Either The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco or Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. neither sounds like a particularly easy read though.

35 points: (Submitted by Stef) Read a book from a genre that you’ve never read (or rarely read)The Day of the Jackal is a spy thriller, apparently. Since I didn’t even know that was a genre, I think it’s safe to say I rarely read books from it 😉

40 points: (Submitted by Ferne) Read a book with time travel – Maybe I’ll finally get round to reading Outlander? A second option is The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.

And that’s it for this round. Have you read any of these? Any suggestions for what to read once I’m done with American Psycho?

 

Book Challenge By Erin 6.0: Complete

I woke up early this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to make the most of my time and read the last remaining book I needed to complete Erin‘s latest reading challenge. My preliminary list was here, for those who are interested. I did end up changing my picks for one or two categories…

challenge-books

5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages.

The Disappearance by Annabel Kantaria (382 pages). I guessed most of the twists in this one before the end, well kind of at least… one event didn’t go down exactly as I thought it had. Parts of the story felt vaguely familiar as well, which spoiled my enjoyment a bit. I ended up giving this one 3 stars.

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

Without a Trace by Lesley Pearse (406 pages) – which I forgot to include on the photograph with the others. I quite enjoyed this, although it wasn’t as good as other books I’ve read by the same author. Everything seemed to come out too well in the end. It was an intriguing mystery though. 4 stars.

10 points: Read a book with six words in the title.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (434 pages). I’m not sure I’d call what I was reading about here “love”… obsession maybe? And – trying not to give too much away – there was one extremely disturbing aspect of the storyline. The writing was good though. 4 stars.

green-book

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

I was stuck on this one, but then the lovely Alison who blogs at View from the Teapot sent me a green book – The Conjuror’s Bird by Martin Davies (305 pages). Part love story, part mystery, part historical fiction, this is not a book I would have picked up myself but it turned out to be really enjoyable. My only complaint is that there were three stories within the book and I felt like none of them got the attention they deserved in such a short book. 4 stars. Photo to the left to prove it’s green 😉

20 points: Read a book with a homonym in the title.

The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas (410 pages), with the homonym being by (buy/bye). I really wanted to enjoy this book. It was spooky and atmospheric with a family tragedy and a mystery from the past… but somehow it didn’t really suck me in. I got through it quickly enough but ended up feeling unsatisfied. And I guessed one of the big things that was going on way before the end. A rather meh 3 stars.

20 points: (Submitted by Linda) Read a book by your favourite author.

I don’t have a favourite author (although I might say Terry Pratchett if absolutely forced to choose), so I read a book by one of the authors I can’t get enough of: The Trespasser by Tana French (468 pages). I have enjoyed all of her books, although the first one disappointed me slightly, and each one seems to get that little bit better. I LOVED this one and gave it 5 stars.

25 points: (Submitted by Christina) Read a book set in the city/town/state/territory/county/province where you live.

Yeah, it doesn’t say country anywhere here, but I’m hoping Erin will let this count anyway. I did find one book that was set in Basel but it turned out not to be long enough, so I read And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle (238 pages). It is set in Switzerland, but in the French-speaking part, somewhere near Lake Geneva. It’s a boarding school book, and I do love a good boarding school book (I’m still trying to collect all the Chalet School books!). This one is quite a sweet one and has all the “traditional” ingredients – awkward or unlikeable girl realises things aren’t so bad and manages to make friends. It takes place just after World War 2 and I felt like the events of the war were glossed over a bit, despite being a major plot point, which is why I only gave it 4 stars.

30 points: (Submitted by Peggy) Read a “Rory Gilmore” book.

I read High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (245 pages) just this morning. It was a quick and fairly easy read, full of fun pop culture references (I’m sure you all know the story). However… and pay attention to this  next bit because I doubt I will ever say/type it again… the film was better! Something about the story just seemed to work better on the screen… Only 3 stars for this one.

30 points: (Submitted by Stef Read a book from a genre that you’ve never read (or rarely read.)

The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat (444 pages) is a war story and I really don’t like war stories… usually. This one surprised me by actually being quite readable! It’s basically a story of the British navy’s part in World War 2, focusing on a particular ship that had the job of escorting non-navy ships to their destinations. 4 stars.

35 points: (Submitted by Ferne) Read a book with time travel.

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terril (360 pages). I absolutely loved this book! The writing style, the characters. And even though it’s about time travel, it wasn’t too sci-fi-ish (if that makes any sense?). It was basically an action/adventure/romance that just happened to involve travelling back in time. Highly recommend! 5 stars.

And that’s all. I’m amazed that I actually managed to read all my books within the first month of the challenge! And 3 of them also count for the BBC Big Read, which is nice. Now I shall await the bonus round…

Friday letters

Hey everyone! Sorry I’ve been absent from the blogosphere this week – it’s been a stressful one. I’ve worked overtime every single day except for Tuesday, when I couldn’t because I was in the office and 2 hours of travelling time each way means I actually work less hours than I’m supposed to. Today I will work overtime again – I started early because there’s a job that absolutely must be finished by 5 p.m.! Luckily next week is already looking better and in three weeks time I have a week off. Now, though, it’s time for some Friday letters.

mailbox

Dear chocolate. You have been tempting me far too often lately. It’s about time I ignored your call and added more healthy snacks to my diet. It’s all well and good being naughty over Christmas, but it’s almost February now and spring will be here before I know it…

Dear winter clothes. I wish more of you were both warm and pretty. Having an excuse to choose cosy over stylish was nice for a while, but now I would actually like to ditch the layers and shapeless jumpers occasionally.

Dear dishwasher. You save me so much time, I really don’t know how we coped before moving here!

Dear birds. It’s nice that you’ve decided to come back, but I see you’ve been ignoring the pumpkin seeds and eating everything else. Fussy little creatures, aren’t you?

Dear Stephen King. You are an excellent author, but whyyy must your books be so long?

Okay, that’s all for now. I’m cutting my lunch break short today so I can get this job finished…

 

The Book Review of 2016

I totally stole this from Kezzie. I think it’s a fantastic way to look back on the books I read last year!

2016-books

Best book you read in 2016:

This is really hard, but I think I would have to go for either Saturday Requiem by Nicci French or Different Seasons by Stephen King.

Best children’s fiction:

I don’t read a lot of “children’s” fiction as stuff, more YA. I think Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell counts as children’s?

Best crime fiction:

Oooh, this is hard! I read a lot of crime fiction! I will choose Friday On My Mind by Nicci French since Saturday requiem already got a mention above.

Best classic:

I suppose it depends a bit on what you actually consider a “classic”. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey was good, but if 1962 is too modern then Kim by Rudyard Kipling was my highest rated “true” classic of 2016.

Best non-fiction:

I read very little non-fiction, and I think I only read 2 or 3 non-fiction books again in 2016! Papillon by Henri Charrière is an autobiography and therefore technically non-fiction, but reads like a novel so I loved it. (Basically I prefer my non-fiction disguised as a story 😉 ).

Best dystopian fiction:

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, without a doubt.

Best YA:

I want to say Noughts and Crosses again but that seems unfair, so Among Others by Jo Walton.

Most surprising (in a good way) book read in 2016:

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake was actually quite good, which I didn’t expect at all! Strange, but good. (I only read it because I need to read the sequel, Gormenghast, for the BBC Big Read). The Secret History by Donna Tartt is another one that I went into with no idea what to expect and ended up really enjoying it.

Book You Read In 2016 That You Recommended Most To Others:

I don’t really recommend books as such. I review some on my blog and say which I’ve liked, but I can’t remember a single real-life conversation where I’ve actually recommended a book!

Best series you discovered in 2016:

I didn’t really discover any series in 2016, just read books from series I already love. Noughts and Crosses is the first in a series though, so I’ll say that even though I have no idea whether anything beyond book 1 is any good…

Favourite new author you discovered in 2016:

I’m going with new to me rather than author who released their debut. To avoid repeating previous answers I’ll say Nicola Yoon.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love But Didn’t

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. I had heard the TV series was really good and the idea of a serial killer who only kills “bad” people was intriguing. Well, the TV series may or may not be amazing, but this book is most definitely not amazing. It wasn’t particularly thrilling and half the time it almost felt like it was written for children. Except with more violence and prostitutes than is generally allowed in children’s fiction.

Best Book That Was Out Of Your Comfort Zone Or Was A New Genre To You

I’m not even sure what genre Shogun by James Clavell is. Nautical fiction? Japanese historical fiction (told by a westerner)? A war story? Not a clue! But I am very sure I would never have picked it up if it hadn’t been on the BBC Big Read list. I would never read it again, but I did mostly enjoy it.

Book You Read In 2016 That You’re Most Likely To Read Again In 2017:

I highly doubt I will read anything again as soon as that, but I will probably read As Chimney Keepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley again at some point (along with the rest of the Flavia de Luce series, but I only read that one in 2016).

Favourite Book You Read in 2016 by an Author You’ve Read Previously:

Ohhh, that’s difficult! Again, I think I will go with avoiding repetition rather than necessarily choosing the absolute best and say Gavin Extence.

Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

I read Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen because another blogger suggested it as a book featuring a character with my name. Sadly it wasn’t that great, but I can’t think of any other book I read solely based on recommendation and weren’t already on my list.

Favourite Cover of a Book in 2016:

Again, assuming books I read in 2016 rather than ones published in 2016. I loved the cover of The Girl Who Couldn’t Read by John Harding (and I enjoyed this sequel much more than the first book!). Here it is:

book-cover

Book That Had The Greatest Impact On You In 2016:

I keep repeating myself, but probably Different Seasons by Stephen King. Specifically the novella Apt Pupil. It really brought it home that you can’t spot “evil” just by looking at people, and that literally anyone can be responsible for bad things.

Book You Can’t BELIEVE You Waited Until 2016 To Read

The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I put off starting it so many times, then once I picked it up I had no idea why I didn’t read it sooner!

Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

Is it weird that I can’t think of any? Possibly the final scene in The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. All I could think was “Uhh, what just happened?!”.

Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2016 (be it romantic, friendship, etc)

Carolina’s relationship with her grandfather in Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager. From not even knowing him at the start of the book to the events of the ending… it was just so perfect.

Most Memorable Character In A Book You Read In 2016:

In the interests of fairness, I will pick a new to me character (because obviously I find the characters in the series I already love memorable!). Will from If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie is my choice. For someone who had never been outside he took to it like a duck to water.

Genre You Read The Most From in 2016:

To be sure I would have to go through all my books, and I’m not going to do that, but I would guess crime/thrillers.

Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2016:

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde. Less fun than his Thursday Next series, but still very quirky and funny. Maybe I should have picked the Quarkbeast as my most memorable character? 😉

Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016:

Okay, confession: lots of books make me cry. So much so that I can’t remember any specific ones from 2016. I’m pretty sure Among Others made me cry a couple of times though. Oh, and I definitely cried at the end of Hour of the Bees.

Book You Read in 2016 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out:

The Mirror World of Melody Black came out in 2015, but I had never heard of it until it came up on Goodreads. It deserves more attention if only to raise awareness of mental illness.

Total number of books read in 2016:

Goodreads says 83, so unless I forgot to enter any there I’ll stick with that number. I know some people read 100 and more books, but considering one of mine was 1,210 pages long I think I can live with 83 😉 My goal was only 75 so I’m happy.

How was your 2016 reading year? If you decide to answer these prompts let me know so I can come and by nosy!

Recent doings #13

Hello everyone! I hope this first week of 2017 has been treating you well thus far? Today is only my third day back at work and already I have a long weekend since tomorrow is Epiphany, and a public holiday in the part of Germany where my work is based. Not a bad first week back 😉

Since today is the first Thursday of the month, it’s also time to link up with Kristin and Gretch again for What’s new With You? So here is what I got up to in December:

Reading. Apart from my challenge reading, which I updated you on in my last post, I also read The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry in December. I gave both three star ratings on Goodreads.

Watching. We finally finished the first season of Mr Robot and it was amazing. But now I’m annoyed because we have to wait for the second season to come out on DVD since it’s an Amazon Prime TV series and there is no Amazon in Switzerland. Grr! We also watched Paddington with my sister and her fiancé because it came on TV and none of us had seen it. I thought it was cute but not a patch on the original books.

Eating. Christmas dinner, of course. What else would I eat at Christmas time? 😉 My dad did turkey with all the trimmings and we had more turkey plus gammon and three different types of cake at my grandma’s for Christmas tea. We also ate fish and chips and a couple of pub meals while we were in England. And before we left for the holidays I may have eaten an entire box of chocolate Lebkuchen to myself. Basically, December was about eating all the things. All of them.

Making. Christmas cards. I literally posted the last three the day before we left for Christmas, so who knows when they actually arrived! Here are a couple that I don’t think I’ve previously shown you:

Hosting. My sister and her fiancé came to stay for a weekend in December, so we did the whole Basel tour again… complete with a trip to a bar that’s on the 31st floor of a hotel building.

Buying. Many more books than I should have plus a top that was on sale for 7 francs.

Visiting. The Christmas market in Laufenburg (post to come… soon I hope). And, for another kind of visiting, So many friends and relations in England! We met up with two different friends for lunch on consecutive days, spent Christmas morning with my mum and brother, went to see my godson’s family for a couple of hours on boxing day to exchange gifts, popped round to see my maternal grandmother (who is bedridden and has dementia, but seemed happy enough) and had a look at my sister’s new house. So many people, so much rushing around, but it was lovely to see everyone.

Travelling. To England for Christmas (and we managed to land in Newcastle before storm Barbara came calling, which was nice) and then to Scotland, specifically to Arran for one night and Glasgow for Hogmanay.

Seeing. The Jungle Book as performed by the always amazing Oddsocks.

What's New With You

That’s all I can think of right now. What did you do in December?