35 Before 35: Progress report 7

A blog post two days in a row? What is this madness? I hear you cry! Well, it’s exactly a month until my 34th birthday (HELP!) so I thought I’d better check what progress I’ve made on my 35 before 35 list since my last check in – which was in January, apparently.

Number 13:  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

I was up to 18 last time, and now I’m on a grand total of…. *drum roll* … 19. Yeah. I read A Sense of Style by Steve Pinker. I reviewed it yesterday.

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

Last time I was up to 22, and now I’m on 24. So a whole 2 for this category.  Die Stille Braut by Barbara Wenken (okay) and Märchenwald by Martin Krist (really good!).

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

I’d read 46 last time and now I’m on 56! Finally some real progress. I’m not going to list them all, so you can see all the Big Read books I’ve read here. I have 67 left to read… theoretically it’s possible, as long as I stop reading everything else!

Number 30: Learn to crochet or knit (or both)

I haven’t written a post on it yet, but I did loom knit a bunch of tiny hats (too small for even a newborn, but recognisable as hats) and one and a half socks for myself. Loom knitting isn’t exactly knitting, but the items are made of wool and look knitted so I’ve decided it can count.

Number 31. Watch 35 films I’ve never seen before

I had made it to 29 last time… and now I’m finished! I’ve actually managed to watch all six of the films I still needed this year. I completed this item by watching Kajaki. You can see what else I’ve watched here.

Number 34: Drink champagne in Champagne.

Woohoo! I actually did this. Thank you Germany and your ridiculous amount of public holidays in the spring! I wrote about it here.

So, I have made some progress on the reading front, discovered a new hobby in loom knitting (because I totally need even more sedentary hobbies with the way the scales are looking!), crossed off one more travel item and actually managed to watch films for a change. With one year and one month to go, I obviously won’t manage everything (especially not all the travel-related items) but hopefully I will at least get all the reading crossed off. Wish me luck!

The books I read in June 2017

Exciting news everyone… I am just over halfway through Erin‘s latest book challenge! (Thank you train journeys!) But I’m getting ahead of myself… clearly books read for the challenge come under my July reading and I’m here to talk about June.

The Show Us Your Books link-up was technically yesterday, but it was one of my days to be in the office in Germany, which meant I was out of the house all day (from 6:20 a.m.) and had no time for blogging. I’m still allowed to add my link today though, and so I shall.

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My June reading looks a little better than May’s, mainly because I finished two books that I had started previously… As always my books are simply listed in the order I read them.

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. This one took me forever to read! I started it in April and battled with it for the whole of May. At first I really liked the story but had to force myself not to skim the philosophy bits – they just read too much like a textbook for me! Later, when Sophie actually met the philosopher and it was more of a conversation, I got more into the philosophy bits – at least until Sophie started explaining the philosophical concepts back to him in a way that I can’t imagine any 15 year old speaking (and totally differently to her “voice” throughout the rest of the book). Then right after showing she had understood a difficult philosophical concept she would ask the meaning of a relatively simple word. What? (That probably sounds confusing – I wish I had written down an example). Overall I liked the book and it does provide a good introduction to philosophy and give you something to think about (are we really living our lives? How can we be sure?). I wavered between 3 and 4 stars and eventually gave it 4, but I don’t think I would read it again.

The Sense of Style by Steve Pinker. Another one that took forever, but with non-fiction I expect that. I actually read this one for work because I was hoping it would help me with style in my translations – although this is more a guide for writers some of the concepts can be applied. It’s an interesting and engaging read. I didn’t enjoy every single part, but any non-fiction book that can actually more or less hold my interest right to the end (other than a biography) is great in my book! I want to go back and copy out some of his example sentences for future reference. Four stars.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. I adored this. It’s so cute and heart-warming – I want Jonah to be my best friend and Biscuit to be my dog! Some people may find it a little too sweet and get annoyed by all the quirky characters, but personally I like quirky characters. Recommended to anybody who likes words and magic (and ice cream!). 5 stars.

The Last Academy by Anne Applegate. Trying not to give any spoilers… I have read a few reviews by people who said it was obvious what was happening/what the school is as soon as the man on the plane said his name. I don’t agree – it wasn’t obvious to me and I don’t think it would be to teenagers either (unless they are experts in Greek mythology). I did get an inkling of what was going on with Camden and her classmates, especially after a scene between her crush/boyfriend and his mother, but I never figured out Barnaby/Mr Cooper’s role. It was a quick read and passed the time well enough. Three stars.

The Center of Everything by Linda Urban. A lot of reviewers loved this book, but I honestly found it quite boring. I think I would have liked it at 7 or 8, but then all the maths and science would have gone over my head. The best friend is selfish and annoying, wanting Ruby to constantly be there for her, never listening to a word she says then getting mad that she didn’t tell her a secret (uhh, when should she have done that when you wouldn’t SHUT UP!) and being annoyed that she dared find a new friend. There is a kind of apology near the end but it was too little for me. There is a scene where Ruby is crying in the art room that was fantastic and the conversation with her dad towards the end was genuinely touching. If the rest of the book had been like that I would have loved it. As it is, those two things are what pull it up from two stars to three. Wouldn’t really recommend.

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce. My grandparents bought me a million classics when I was a child but somehow I missed out on this one! How? Why? I looooved it! In some ways it reminded me of Charlotte Sometimes (an all-time favourite). It’s old-fashioned and sweet and… I don’t know. Just read it! Five stars.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. Technically, I haven’t finished this book yet since the copy I am reading (see link) is two books in one. I did finish the Two Men in a Boat part though, which is the one that’s on the BBC Big Read list, so I shall review that one here. I found this a lot more readable than I expected, although definitely not as hilarious as other reviews seem to suggest. Strangely, it read a bit like a blog from before there were blogs. Maybe I should say it’s like a diary from a holiday, but written by somebody who expects others to read it and keeps throwing in touristic references and recommendations for places to eat. Oh, and that somebody also has ADHD and keeps getting distracted and going off on random tangents. Slightly bizarre but surprisingly good. Four stars.

So, seven reviews (although only four full books read). Slightly better than May’s three!

Linking up with Jana and Steph, of course.

Show Us Your books will be back in July, when I will have lots of books to review thanks to Erin’s challenge and my new resolve to prioritise reading (I didn’t realise how much I had missed books until I forced myself to make time for them again).

Recent doings #19

Once again I start with an apology to the blogosphere. Sorry I disappeared again! Work last week was just horrible. I kept having more and more things planned for me until I ended up working 10 hours on Thursday because there was no other way to get everything finished in time. And once I was done I still had to pack because I was spending Friday night at a hotel in Germany. Friday/Saturday I was at a course on legal translation for work, which was actually more interesting than it sounds. Anyway, despite my recent crapness I have not forgotten that today is link-up day with Kristin and Gretch. So here’s what I got up to in June when I wasn’t drowning in work…

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Eating. It’s been too hot for proper food, so we’ve basically been living on salad. That makes me sound way healthier than I actually am, so I should clarify that one of those salads consisted of new potatoes, spring onions, chicken, Greek yoghurt and seasoning. What? It’s a potato salad! I also have to confess that my diet has involved rather a lot of ice cream in June…

Watching. I started watching that new Channel 4 drama Ackley Bridge. I couldn’t watch yesterday’s though because Jan was home and he doesn’t watch stuff like that (I once watched an episode of Casualty while he was there and he asked me why I was watching a soap).

Reading. I actually managed to finish Sophie’s World. Woo! I also finished The Sense of Style, read four other books and started Three Men in a Boat/Three Men on the Bummel (and finished the Three Men in a Boat part, which is the only part that’s on the Big Read list so yay!). Much better than May’s tally! With Erin‘s challenge now on, I am hoping July will be an excellent reading month.

Listening to. Welcome to Night Vale. Yay! It’s been forever since I said that. We hired a car for our trip to Champagne and car journeys mean time for Night Vale.

Seeing/hearing. The Swiss Youth Choir performing at a church in Basel. Jan is in a choir with some people who are also in that choir so he wanted to go along.

Travelling. To the Champagne region, where I drank champagne (of course) and crossed another item off my 35 before 35 list.

Growing. Chilli plants. Our friend gave them to us when they were just little and they’ve grown and grown,  flowered and are now starting to produce  little chillies. Yum! Also parsley and thyme outside, although the thyme isn’t doing so well.

chillies
Hi little chillies!

Buying. Books, stickers, writing paper. Oh, and since I was in Germany on Friday, I popped to Primark for some tights to replace all the ones I’ve ruined and came out with a cardigan. It had bees on it so I couldn’t possibly not buy it! (Plus it was reduced to €5).

Swimming. In the Rhine, the week before last when it had been really hot for ages. It then rained and cooled down a few days later plus work went crazy so I haven’t been back in yet.

Cross stitching. A new baby card for a friend and lots more cards for Post Pals.

dragon card

Wishing. Time would slow down. It’s my birthday next month and the month after is the official start of autumn. Where is this year going?!

I can’t think of anything else I’ve been up to… as previously mentioned, the main thing I’ve been doing recently is working (are you sick of hearing about that yet?). So I shall leave this here.

Check out what’s new with everyone else here and let me know what you did in June in the comments.

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.

Recent doings #18

Oh, hi! It’s been forever, hasn’t it? One post at the beginning of last week and then… nothing. Sorry about that. 95% of my non-working time during the week has been spent cross stitching. (And the other 5% was taken up by shopping for food, cooking said food, emptying the dishwasher, laundry and other general chores. So now you know, whether you cared or not ;-)). Anyway, I can’t believe another whole month is over! June already. Soon we’ll be half way through 2017. *Sigh*

Well, today is the first Thursday of the month, which means it’s time to link up with Kristin and Gretch and tell you what’s new with me. Shall we get started? Here’s what I have been doing in May.

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Eating. Since discovering that you can only count one portion of any vegetable no matter how much you eat, I’ve been trying to vary our meals even more. So a lot of avocado, cherry tomatoes, peas and sweet potatoes have been consumed. Sometimes the same vegetables three days in a row – well, nobody said I couldn’t eat the same ones every day! Also, it’s been hot so we’ve barbecued a few times. Many sausages have been consumed in May!

Drinking. Smoothies because see above. I found a dragon fruit and ginger one that’s amazing – you can actually taste the ginger! Sadly my local supermarket doesn’t actually have it so I can only get it if I go to the one in town. And yes I know home-made smoothies would be way better for me, but I only have a stick blender and those are annoying for smoothies!

Watching. A film called Kajaki: The True Story (renamed Kilo Two Bravo in the US) about a group of soldiers in Afghanistan. Recommended by my dad, who is ex-army and said “In my top three of military films and by far the most accurately played by actors.” It’s a pretty intense film but recommended if you want to see a realistic portrayal of a real-life event. Oh, and the regiment concerned just happens to be the one my dad was in!

Reading. Nowhere near as much as usual! I managed to finish the Lying Game series and also read Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle – book one in another series (I adored it. Reviews to follow – hopefully soon). Apart from that I continued reading Sophie’s World but still haven’t finished. Not long to go now though.

Seeing. An exhibition about robots in everyday life at the Vitra Design Museum. It was interesting and very well done. Lots of information! Jan enjoyed it too, so it wasn’t too boring for experts 🙂

Cross stitching. Lots more cards for post pals, and also a door hanging for an auction they’re running to raise money for their upcoming party. Here, have a picture of a card to liven this post up:

fairytale castle card

Buying. FAR too much stuff… I need to cut way down on my spending in June! Surprisingly few books though. Mostly I’ve been buying crafting materials and stickers. Most of the stickers are to send out with the cards for post pals, but some are for me to make cards with or to prettify envelopes.

Receiving. A dress that I bought last month. It’s got bees on it and it’s amazing! I’ve already worn it twice.

Laughing. At Ross Noble. We went to see his show Brain Dump last night so it just manages to sneak into May’s doings 😉

Making. Toblerone cheesecake – twice! Once for a friend who invited us to come round for a drink in his new flat and then for another friend for her birthday.

Going. To a sculpture path in Reinach. It’s fairytale themed and pretty cool!

Booking. A flight to the UK and accommodation for the first two nights of our stay there. Loads more to sort, but at least we’ll be able to get there 😉

I can’t think of anything else, so I’ll end here. If you want to know what’s new with everyone else or join the link up, click here.

How was your 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?

Recent doings #17

At the beginning of April I said that it looked like it was going to be the fastest month so far this year, and I was not wrong! How on Earth is it May already?! I suppose all the busyness at work has not helped! Last week I ended up doing overtime because it was the only way to get a job finished that had been re-planned to me because my colleague had too much to do, and tomorrow is my first time to go into the office this month (I now have to go twice a month), which means I’ll be out of the house from 6:30 a.m. until just after 8 p.m. Since I am only actually in the office for 6 hours on those days, in those weeks I have to make up the remaining 2 hours on other days. In other words, every two weeks I work an extra half an hour on four days of the week… and that’s before any additional overtime that crops up just because nobody can ever predict when things will get busy. So, that’s one reason my blogging has been rather sporadic lately. Others included going away for Easter, another friend coming to stay for a weekend, and cross stitching lots of cards. But anyway, it’s time to link up with Kristen and Gretch again, so let me tell you about April’s doings…

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Reading. I started the month reading a lot and then didn’t finish a single book in the final week and a bit of April! I had read a total of ten books by the 20th of the month though (but still haven’t finished the one I started after that). I will tell you about them soon, so I won’t list them all here. My favourite was a German crime thriller called Märchenwald.

Watching. I bought season 1 of The League of Gentlemen on DVD so Jan and I have been watching that. It doesn’t take up much brain power so I can stitch while I watch. Ah, the video cassettes and landlines. So 90s!

Eating. I had big plans to up my veg intake in April, but then I went to Berlin for Easter and ate all the bad (but tasty!) foods – and yes I’m aware I haven’t written about that yet. Then towards the end of the month Jan was out nearly every evening for choir stuff, so I consumed a lot of toast. May will be better (I hope)!

Visiting. My friend K in Berlin. Also…

Travelling. To Berlin to see K 😉 And to Chur at the beginning of April where Jan had a choir performance (which I didn’t see because I had already watched it in Basel – it was the concert I was at in March, but the people he was staying with invited me to come down for a night).

Berlin
Berlin being all atmospheric with clouds

Hosting. A friend from Karlsruhe who we had invited to come down and see an art exhibition as his birthday present from us.

Looking at. Art in said exhibition. Specifically, it was an exhibition of works by Monet.

Going to. Bern and Fribourg with the aforementioned friend on the same weekend that we looked at the art.

Seeing/hearing. Jan performing with another choir last weekend. Also some choirs/a capella groups in Fribourg. See my April photo an hour post.

Cross stitching. Lots of cards for charity. I promise to explain more sooooon (hopefully I will be better at blogging this month…).

Growing. (Well, hopefully). Lavender, Forget-Me-Nots and some herbs. I could have said planting, but Jan did the actual planting. I just give them water and beg them to grow.

plants
Something is happening!

Buying. Uh, what haven’t I been buying more like! Books, craft stuff, an awesome hat in Berlin (technically Jan bought it for me, but with his German card and the only money going into that account right now is from me… so in a round about way I bought it for myself. Weird!). I also ordered a dress but it hasn’t arrived yet.

Planning. Our summer holiday! We are definitely going to be in Britain and we even know where the first stop will be. Holidays from work are approved so the next step is to book a flight…

Okay, I think that’s all. What have you been doing recently?