The books I read in May 2017

Oh my goodness you guys… I had so much on my mind yesterday that I completely forgot about the Show Us Your Books link up! Me. Forget about books. How mad is that? Luckily it’s still open today. (Not that I actually read much in May, but it’s the principle!)

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I read a grand total of three books in May. Wow. I’m not sure I’ve read so few books in a month since I learned to read! I was busy with cross stitch, but also I was attempting to read Sophie’s World, which took forever. So I eventually decided to take a break from it and read some quick books. And here they are:

Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle by Gabrielle Kent. I absolutely adored this book. There just aren’t words to express my adoration! It has all my favourite ingredients: a mysterious benefactor, a surprise inheritance, good friendships, magic, intrigue and a sprinkling of myths and legends. The parents are not absent/oblivious to what their kids are up to (there is a lot of sneaking around and comments like “if our parents knew we were going to do X, they wouldn’t let us go where we’re going!). And, the cherry on the top for me, partway through the book I found out that the fictional village of Hexbridge is located in the north-east of England (they mention Newcastle being half an hour away). A little piece of home – yay! I am dying to read book 2, but I’m reserving it for Erin’s next challenge. 5 stars for this one. Highly, highly recommended for anyone aged 10 years and up.

Cross My Heart and Hope to Die by Sara Shepard – Book 5 in the Lying Game series. By this stage the series was starting to drag. It was nice to find out more about Becky in this book, but other than that it wasn’t as good as book 4. In this book, it became entirely obvious who the murderer was (no spoilers here though!). 3 stars.

Seven Minutes in Heaven by Sara Shepard – Book 6 in the Lying Game series. I read this book immediately after the last one because I wanted to finally get to the end! I actually really enjoyed this one, despite being annoyed by the solution (again, no spoilers here!). I felt really sad for Sutton in this one, having to watch her family find out she was dead and then attend her own funeral. I am not ashamed to admit I cried at the funeral and the Christmas scene at the end. Poor Sutton, poor Mercer family. *Sniff* 5 stars for this book. As for the series, all in all it was okay but it really didn’t need to be a whole six books long! I’ll give it 3.5 stars because, while a few of the books were excellent, others were not.

And that was it. I also continued reading Sophie’s World and The Sense of Style in May, and finally finished them earlier this month, so I will be able to review them in the next link up 🙂

Linking up with Jana and Steph. Check out their blogs to see what everyone else read in May.

The books I read in April 2017

One of these days I will get round to writing a post that isn’t part of a link up. Today is not that day… I am linking up with Jana and Steph to tell you what I read in April.

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I read ten books in April, which is actually one more than I read in March. That surprises me considering I didn’t finish a single book after 20th April! So somehow I managed to read ten books in twenty days. Some were pretty short though.
The books are listed here in the order I read them, not according to any kind of scheme.

Carbonel: The King of Cats by Barbara Sleigh –  This is a cute little book from the 1950s about a girl called Rosemary who wants to help out with the family finances by cleaning houses, so she buys a broom… and with it comes a cat. To her surprise, she finds out that she can understand the cat when holding the broom. The cat turns out to be a prince and Rosemary spends the rest of the book trying to help him get his throne back. It’s a very cute, quirky little book. There isn’t a huge amount of action, and it’s kind of old-fashioned, but it’s the kind of book I would have loved at age 9 or 10. Four stars.

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan. This book sounded really good and I expected great things from it, but it turned out to be just okay. A lot of it was totally unrealistic – particularly the friendship at the centre of the plot. Having an instant friendship connection with someone? Okay! Immediately abandoning everything else and only being there for you new friend from then on? Yeah, right! At least it was a quick read. Two stars.

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery – The further I get into this series, the more preachy the books seem to become. This one seemed to be full of “God is watching you! ALL THE TIME!! He already knows you’ve been naughty, probably before you even knew you were going to be naughty, so you’d just better say your prayers and ask for forgiveness RIGHT NOW young man!!” As an atheist, the idea of a God who is just sitting there waiting for you to make a mistake doesn’t sit well with me – and I’m sure that isn’t the God most Christians believe in! I preferred Anne when she was still a schoolgirl and did silly things occasionally. Now she’s far too good. All the proposals got a bit much as well… I lost count in the end. Obviously Anne is perfect and every man who sets eyes on her wants to marry her! I did enjoy it though – I wish I had had friends like Anne’s when I was studying! And I loved the part where she went back to the house where she was born – it was nice to see a bit of a connection with her pre-orphan past. Four stars.

A Year Without Autumn by Liz Kessler – This had been on my shelf for so long that I had almost forgotten I had it! It’s an interesting take on a “time travel” book – what would you do if you were taken forward in time by a year only to find that tragedy had struck and you relationship with your best friend was ruined? From an adult perspective, it’s all maybe a little simplistic, but it’s perfect for the 10-13 age range. I also felt that Jenni was portrayed realistically. She matured over the course of the book (as you would with so much going on!) but throughout I could believe that she actually was a 12-year-old girl and not a much older teen. I often find that 12 year olds in books read more like 15 or 16 year olds! 4 stars.

Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories by R. J. Palacio – After loving Wonder, I couldn’t wait to revisit that universe with this short story collection. However, while Wonder was amazing, this book was just okay. The first story, from Julian’s perspective, was good. It was nice to see events from his point of view and see him portrayed as something more than just “the nasty kid”. The Charlotte and Christopher chapters seemed unnecessary though and didn’t really add anything to the story. Three stars. (The Julian chapter alone would have been a four, the others probably a 2 or 3).

Die Stille Braut by Barbara Wendelken – Need to up my German reading game 😉 This is a typical crime novel. A body turns up at a lake, which turns out to be that of a deaf girl who disappeared from near her boarding school four years earlier. She turns out to have died of untreated appendicitis (so no “murder” as such), but the police need to find out who took her and kept her hidden for so long. Overall, it was a decent enough detective story and I didn’t guess the whole story of whodunnit. The main character annoyed me though – I wanted her to stop thinking about men/when she had last had sex and get on with her job! Three stars.

Two Truths and a Lie by Sara Shepard – Book three of the Lying Game series. They are getting better as they go along. There is less suspense in this one, but a few interesting things come to light. At the end of this one I still had no idea who the murderer is! Four stars.

Hide and Seek by Sara Shepard – Book four of the Lying Game series. I actually enjoyed this one, but how long can the author keep dragging this out… picking a “suspect” for Emma in each book only for her to end up being wrong, again! Immediately after reading this, my GoodReads review said “I’m starting to wonder whether Sutton was even murdered at all. If the solution to this whole thing turns out to be a tragic accident I will be so mad!” I’ve now changed my mind… it’s clearly not one of her close friends or family, and I feel like Ethan would be too obvious a choice. So I’m saying right now: Ethan’s mother is the murderer! Same motive as him, with the added bonus of revenge for her little boy. (But maybe I just don’t want it to have been the one person who Emma can interact with as herself and not Sutton?). Five stars.

Märchenwald by Martin Krist – More German, the title means “Fairytake forest”. It’s hard to say what this book is about, since there are various stories that eventually become interlinked. It’s a crime thriller with plenty of action – no time to get bored! Even though it was book 5 in a series, it could easily be read as a standalone and I didn’t feel like I had any trouble understanding what was going on with the detective and his family. I did guess who the culprit was, but that was okay because I was enjoying just reading everyone’s stories. Five stars – best book of the month!

Take My Word for It by John Marsden – I have been waiting to read this book for years, but could never manage to find a copy. Finally it appeared on Amazon for cheap. Yay! It’s a companion novel to So Much to Tell You, which is one of my all-time favourites. This one tells Lisa’s side of the story, and gives another perspective of some of the events in “So Much…”.  This is nowhere near as good as So Much to Tell You, but I didn’t expect it to be. Lisa’s problems seemed petty and silly in comparison, and honestly I just didn’t like her as much as a person – she was kind of boring. I did like the different perspective though, and it was nice to have some blanks filled in. I also liked that this one went on for slightly longer, so we got to see a little of what happened next. Not as fantastic as SO Much to Tell You, but I’m glad I read it. Four stars.

And that was it for April. I started reading Sophie’s World but still haven’t finished it, and I’m still trying to make my through A Sense of Style. It’s interesting, but slow going.

April pretty good reading month overall, lots of high ratings and only a couple of duds.
We’re already 8 days into May and I haven’t started a new book yet, but I have a couple waiting that I’m really excited to read so hopefully I’ll get through Sophie quickly so I can make a start on those.

So, if anyone is actually still here after all that…

Read anything good lately?

The books I read in March 2017

It’s hard to believe I’ve never actually participated in this link up before! Usually I would have some other opportunity to list recent reads and I wouldn’t want to have too many book posts. But I’m currently between reading challenges and the next one isn’t starting for a while, so I might as well tell you about the non-challenge reading I’ve been doing recently. I know some people break things down into categories, but I’m just listing my books in the order I read them.

I am linking up with Jana and Steph.

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First of all, in case anyone hasn’t already seen my final check-in post, I read all these books in March for the bonus round of Erin‘s challenge.

And now on to the other books I read in March…

The Lying Game by Sara Shepherd – For some reason I didn’t realise this was part of a series, then I was really confused when the end came (especially because my copy contained a preview of book 2, so I thought there was more left than there actually was…) then just as it started getting interesting it ended. Aargh! Most of the plot wasn’t really believable to me (how could anyone not realise that their daughter wasn’t, in fact, their daughter – especially after she literally told them at the start!) and 90% of the characters just weren’t likeable. But once I suspended ALL my belief it was actually kind of interesting. 4 stars.

The Hidden Gallery by Maryrose Wood (book 2 of the Incorrigible Children series) – This one was even better than book one, and I really liked book one! The first book spent a lot of time setting the scene though, whereas more seemed to happen in this one. I was slightly annoyed by all the entirely unsubtle references to book 1 – it was like the author assumed I hadn’t actually read the first one! But apart from that it was great. 4 stars.

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix – This book has been on my wish list since about 2008! The idea sounded so intriguing – the life of a family’s third son in a world where the law forbids people to have more than two children. Unfortunately the book was a lot shorter than I was expecting and took ages to really get going. In such a short book I would have expected the action to start sooner! There are about a million books in the series though (well, 7) so I suppose it gets going properly later. Also, I think it’s aimed at younger children than I thought – I was expecting YA but it seems to be more for 11-12 year olds. 3 stars for this, but I will probably still give book 2 a chance.

Smart by Kim Slater – I loved this book, enough that I read it in one sitting even though it was pretty long and I ended up reading way past my bedtime. It reminded me a bit of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, but I loved that book as well. I loved Keiran, the (presumably autistic) narrator and was really glad things worked out for him in the end. An added bonus was the setting – it takes place in Nottingham, which is where I studied. 4 stars.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – I initially intended this to be my “genre you rarely read” book for Erin’s challenge (science fiction), but I had to rearrange things after I’d already read it. I enjoyed this one more than I expected. It’s one of the more interesting disaster/end of the world books. For some reason I was under the impression that the “Triffids” were alien plants that came to Earth on a comet and started attacking/blinding people, but actually they are very much man-made… 4 stars.

Never Have I Ever by Sara Shepherd (book 2 of The Lying Game) –  I decided to give this series another chance, and I’m glad I did. This book was much better than the first one. Finally the “mean girls” are starting to show that they do have some personality under all that nastiness. I will have to keep reading because I really want to know whodunnit! 3.5 stars (4 on Goodreads because I tend to round up).

The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood (book 3 of the Incorrigible Children) – Still enjoying the series. I think they are getting better as they go along. This one still referred back to the previous two, but in a much less annoying way. More secrets are coming out, and I think I am starting to guess some connections but I need to keep reading to be sure. 4 stars.

The Interrupted Tale by Maryrose Wood (book 4 of the Incorrigible Children) – I had an evening to myself so I read this immediately after the previous one. This has been the best installment yet! Finally we got one or two answers, although I wish Miss Mortimer would reveal what she knows already. Only two more books to go (and book 6 isn’t even out yet!). How will I cope? 5 stars.

Super Awkward by Beth Garrod – Just snuck this one into March, as I read it on the 31st! I thought this was going to be like the Georgia Nicholson books, and in a way it was, but Georgia is much funnier – or maybe it’s just that I was younger when I read Angus, Thongs, etc. and could relate to it more? Anyway, at first I found this book really annoying. I kept thinking do teenagers really talk like that these days? In text speech? Do they really say things like “obvs” OUT LOUD? Am I old? Honestly, I thought about not finishing it, but I was reading in the bath so I didn’t really have another option to hand. Then things started to pick up more and I decided I did kind of like it after all. I would probably have loved this book to death at 15, but at almost 34 I’m afraid I’m too old for it. *Sigh*. 3 stars.

And that’s it. March was a most excellent reading month!

In case anyone is actually still here and interested, I  am currently reading The Sense of Style by Steve Pinker. It’s really good so far, but I’m useless at reading non-fiction so I’m getting through it at snail’s pace!

Have you read anything good lately?

GBBO bake along: chocolate chip hedgehogs

After missing biscuit week thanks to work and a visitor, I decided to jump back into the linkup for bread week. I wanted to go Swiss for this bake and make hedgehog rolls like the one here, except add chocolate chips to mine to comply with the rules (and also because chocolate!). I couldn’t actually find a recipe for Igeli though, so I settled for this one for Schokobrötchen. I felt like I was cheating a bit since this recipe doesn’t involve any yeast… is it still bread without yeast? It literally has bread roll in the name though (the German means “chocolate bread roll).

My original plan for this post was to translate the recipe for you then show you how I made hedgehogs instead of bread rolls. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out quiiite as planned and I’m at least partly blaming the recipe for not telling me what consistency the dough was supposed to have… mine ended up really sticky so I had to add extra flour just to be able to form it into anything. Even the balls that the original recipe called for wouldn’t have been possible. And also what kind of oven has a 175°C setting? Mine certainly doesn’t and neither have any of the other ones I’ve used in my life!

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I decided to use two different methods for the spines so that I would hopefully end up with at least some rolls that looked something like hedgehogs.,For some of the rolls, I cut the dough using scissors to try and make spines like the ones in the picture linked above. My dough was obviously far too soft though because my spines had already melted back into the rest before the rolls even made it into the oven. For the rest I used almonds… sliced almonds would have worked best, but I only had whole peeled almonds so I tried to cut them to size. It only kind of worked.

Apparently I had made me rolls too flat, so my hedgehogs ended up looking like they’d been squished in a nasty traffic accident… possibly involving a truck? And, as expected, the non-almond spines didn’t work at all, leaving me with demented mouse rolls instead of hedgehogs.

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I swear the one at the top right is giving me the evils…

At least the almond ones looked vaguely like they were supposed to…

I am so far far from being a star baker! But despite looking a bit dodgy, my hedgehogs tasted delicious! Next time, I I think I will try and find a better Schokobrötchen recipe, though.

I am adding this to the link up even though every single other entry looks totally professional and absolutely delicious! After all, somebody has to be the failure of the week! (If this was the real show, I’d be the one being voted off…)

This would be a fun bake to do with kids (provided you find a better recipe than the one I used). If you go with the almond spines method, the kids could place them and turn the plain buns into cute little hedgehogs.

And now I have seven more chocolate chip hedgehogs to eat and nobody to help me! (Jan is away at yet another choir weekend)

Stamp of Approval Sat… errr, Sunday

I know, I know… two posts in one day. How sad am I? 😉 But having no time at all to blog yesterday meant I completely missed the Stamp of Approval Saturday link up at Ifs, Ands & Butts. And I really, really need to share this with you.

Actually, all the credit for me having come across it goes to Hails at Coffee Helps, who shared it on Facebook. I promptly shared it on my own timeline because it was just too hilarious not to. I give you The Alot is Better Than You at Everything.

What is an Alot, you ask? Well, in the words of the author, “The Alot is an imaginary creature that I made up to help me deal with my compulsive need to correct other people’s grammar.  It kind of looks like a cross between a bear, a yak and a pug, and it has provided hours of entertainment for me in a situation where I’d normally be left feeling angry and disillusioned with the world.  ”

If you have ever been annoyed at somebody’s inability to use an apostrophe or actually hit the space bar between words, you NEED to read this post. If you’re anything like me, the Alot will soon become your new favourite animal…

Alot of fire, (C) Hyperbole and a Half
Alot of fire, (C) Hyperbole and a Half

Stamp of approval Saturday: Sardonic Salad

Today I’m linking up with Alex over at Ifs, Ands and Butts for Stamp of Approval Saturday.

Sardonic Salad is a webcomic that I came across after seeing one of their cartoons on Facebook. Once I started looking at the site, I just couldn’t stop! Here are some of my favourites from their cartoons:

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cheese graterbad_milk

onion crying

potato juniorThere are more, but I think I should stop now and let you go see the rest for yourselves. Here’s the link: http://sardonicsalad.blogspot.de/ (plus clicking on any of the pictures should also take you directly to the specific cartoon).

Seen anything on the Internet that you approve of this week? Then you should link up with Alex, too!

And on an entirely unrelated note, I read today that one of my favourite authors died on Wednesday, aged 69. RIP James Herbert! Haunted was one of the first “adult” books I read (when I was about 13) and it scared the pants off me! Sad to think there will never be another book by him.

Travel theme: Bridges

Toy train bridge

This post was inspired by Elaine at I used to be indecisive, or rather by her take on this week’s travel theme at Where’s my backpack?
The theme is bridges, which are one of my favourite things to photograph, so when I saw Elaine’s post I knew I had to join in!

I’m not sure why I like photographing bridges so much. Perhaps it’s because of what they represent. Without bridges it would be so much more difficult to get anywhere – and I do so hate being stuck in one place for any length of time! (I blame my army upbringing.) Of course, without bridges there would still be boats and planes – and in some instances even the possibility to swim – but those methods aren’t always practical – or would you enjoy swimming across a stream when there’s snow on the ground? 😉

Or maybe I just made all that up so I would sound intellectual and the real reason I have so many photos of bridges is simply because I like the way they look? Many of them are just so beautiful! Others are majestic. With some, I wonder how on Earth anybody ever managed to put them together (there’s a reason I’m a translator and not an engineer!). Anyway – enough rambling from me! Time to get on to the bridges…

With so many photos in my collection, it was really difficult to decide which bridges to include in this post, but to start with I thought I would give you my most recent photograph of a bridge, taken in Luxembourg City on 2 January this year:

Luxembourg bridge

This is the Adolphe Bridge, one of the bridges across the gorge that splits Luxembourg City in two. It was built between 1900 and 1903 and is one of those bridges that makes me wonder just how the builders managed.

The next photo is not specifically of a bridge, but it does show some of Stockholm’s many bridges. The city of Stockholm is made up entirely of different islands (14 if I remember correctly), so there are basically bridges everywhere you look.

Stockholm

This photo was taken from the tower of Stockholm City Hall, and as you can see the view is well worth the climb!

Moving on… my next photo shows the St. Nikolaus Bridge in Calw, Germany. Being my adopted home country, Germany may be featuring a few times in this post…

St. Nikolaus BridgeThe tiny little building you can see on the bridge is the St. Nikolaus Chapel and the metal statue just in front of it is Hermann Hesse, who was born in Calw. Here’s a better picture of the statue:

Hermann Hesse

Looking at the sky, you wouldn’t believe these photos were taken a few moments apart. I promise you, they were!

Staying in Germany, but moving a little closer to home, this pretty wooden bridge is in Ettlingen – the next town over from Karlsruhe.

Ettlingen

The river it crosses is the Alb.

Switching countries again, here are two Dutch bridges. One in Leiden, complete with windmill:

Leiden

It opens to let ships through.
And one in Delft:

Delft

OK, that last one isn’t exactly a bridge in the same way as the others I’ve posted (it’s part of Delft’s Eastern Gate), but it does bridge a canal and it’s rather cool, don’t you think?

Austria next, I think. And a night shot.

Salzburg bridge

The above photo of a bridge over the River Salzach, in Salzburg, was taken in December 2011 – which is why the bridge has Christmas lights on it. In the background you can see the fortress, all lit up.

OK, this post is getting rather long now so I won’t add too many more. Here’s a bridge in Venice, Italy:

Venice bridge

Returning to Germany with one from Tübingen:

Tübingen bridge

Not the best photo, but I’m including it so I can also say Tübingen is among the prettiest places in Germany and if you ever find yourself in the area you shoud go!

Another one from Austria – this time from Feldkirch, which I want in purely because I used to live there:

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The yellow building is the Landeskonservatorium für Vorarlberg – in other words the music college. The building was originally a Jesiuit school, the Stella Matutina, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame was once a pupil there!

And now I shall finish off with some photos of the North East of England, because it’s the closest thing to a “where I’m from” I have.
This one is the Lion Bridge in Alnwick, Northumberland – so-named because of the stone lion that stands on it:

Lion Bridge, Alnwick

Here’s a bridge in Morpeth, the town where I spent most of my childhood holidays (my parents are both from there) and later, after moving up North myself, a few drunken teenage nights:

Morpeth bridge

And finally, here are some of the bridges that cross the River Tyne in Newcastle, including the most famous one – the Tyne Bridge itself.

Bridges of Newcastle

Wow! Sorry this post has ended up being so long – I was having too much fun to stop! If you would like to see even more bridges – or join in yourself – you need to go here.

All of these photos were taken by me or – in the case of the one from Leiden – my boyfriend. Please do not steal them.