Tag Archives: books

Four years to go…

5 Sep

It is now only four years until my 40th birthday and hopefully in this time I will have completed all the items on my #40Before40 list.

One year into the challenge I have completed 4 out of the 40 challenges. This sounds disappointing but several of the challenges are well underway and should be completed sooner rather than later.

The challenges I have already completed are:

  • Enter a photography competition
  • Go to the Opera
  • Go vegan for 3 months
  • Watch a series of 24 in 24 hours

Here is an update of where I am with the rest of the as-yet incomplete challenges:

  1. Pass C2 Goethe German exam – planned for November 2018. My life is currently a sea of German verbs, Grammar and practice exam papers and I am motivated so that I don’t have to take any more German lessons after the start of November.
  2. Visit 40 countries in Europe – visited 26 out of 40 and at least two more visits planned before the end of 2018.
  3. Go paragliding
  4. Enter a photography competition – completed on 16.01.2018
  5. Write my will and plan my funeral
  6. (Re)Learn the flute
  7. Go alcohol-free for a year
  8. Watch every movie on iMDB Top 250 Films list – watched 120 out of 250
  9. Write a novel (at least 50,000 words) – I have a number of ideas that I am currently working on and then I just need to chain myself to a chair and write.
  10. Beat at least one of my running PBs for 10k, 10 miles, half marathon or marathon – I have been struggling with a knee injury for most of this year so unfortunately I will have to try to complete this next year and hopefully my knee will be fit enough to get me round quickly enough
  11. Read the Bible cover to cover
  12. Go to the Opera – completed on 04.07.2018
  13. See the Northern Lights
  14. Go vegan for 3 months – completed on 15.07.2018
  15. Have something that I have written published
  16. Save money for a rainy day
  17. Write a diary for a year – currently in progress
  18. Take a Hot Air Balloon ride
  19. Take part in an Ultra race – I was hoping to do this in 2019 but with the knee injury that I have had in 2018, I might have to wait until 2020
  20. Throw a birthday party for myself
  21. Watch a series of 24 in 24 hours – completed on 25.11.2017
  22. Learn how to wolf whistle
  23. Try snowboarding
  24. Take an overnight sleeper train
  25. Cook every recipe from one cookbook – currently in progress – completed 60 out of 100 recipes
  26. Learn how to fold 40 origami designs
  27. Read 40 novels in German – read 6 out of 40
  28. Take a wine degustation course
  29. Read The 40 Books Every Woman Should Read read 15 out of 40
  30. Solve a Rubik cube – currently in progress
  31. Take up a new sport
  32. Catch, cook and eat a fish
  33. Make an item of clothing to wear
  34. Stop biting my nails
  35. Read 40 non-fiction books –  read 6 out of 40
  36. Fly long-haul business class
  37. Have a haircut at least 4 times a year – this is in progress but I am not going to tell you every time I have a haircut! That would be far too boring to read about!
  38. Be able to touch my toes
  39. Downsize – get rid of anything I don’t need or want by selling, giving away or donating
  40. Start and maintain my own travel website – the planning for this is well underway and I am hoping to go live in early 2019

Slow and steady progress – I will get there in the end!

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Things I learnt in August

31 Aug

Another month is almost over and I have been having a think about what interesting things that I have learnt this month.

1. A flying fox and a fruit bat are the same thing. This made my brain hurt when I found this out this week. I ‘m not sure exactly what I thought a flying fox was. I didn’t think that it was a type of bat though. bat-2639114_960_720If you look at this picture though, you can see that it does look a bit like a fox so I can understand where the name now comes from. It’s always confusing when people use different words for the same thing. Like the whole debate about what a small bread roll in English is called. I’m not even going to open that can of worms.

2. According to my knee doctor, my knee is (and I quote) perfect. I don’t want to sound like I am showing off but he did use the word perfect several times when talking about the cartilage, tendons and ligaments in my right knee. He was able to “show” me this because I had an MRI scan for a knee problem that I’ve had a bit of trouble shaking off. So I had the MRI as a precaution to make sure that everything in my knee was still in one piece. It was reasserting to know that after playing so much sport over the years, running a marathon and trying to be a regular runner hasn’t had a negative effect on my joints so far. Which means that I have no fear about training for one of my next challenges – to run an Ultramarathon.

3. I am a turophile. I love eating cheese. I really could sit and eat cheese until I made myself sick and then I would probably carry on eating again. Not being able to eat cheese was the hardest part of my vegan challenge. I looked up the etymology of the word it comes from the Greek word for cheese which is “turos”. Interesting stuff!cheese-1972744__340

4. Patience is a virtue. Recently I have been waiting for news and I have realised that I’m just got good at it. As much as I try to not think about it and distract myself by doing other things, I still end up checking my emails every fifteen minutes. I am not even sure if it is possible to train yourself to be more patient. If someone does know if it is possible, please feel free to get in touch!

5. Classic novels are wasted on youths. In the last month I have read a few classic novels that I have been meaning to read for an age. I have also just started reading Northhanger Abbey by Jane Austen and I will probably read Wuthering Heights next. When I was at school, I hated reading all of these classics. It wasn’t because I had to read them for an exam but I just found them boring. Perhaps it is an age thing but I do enjoying reading these novels now. At school students shouldn’t be forced to read classics but be encouraged to read whatever they find interest.

And that is the 8th month of 2018 finished! I hope you have also learnt some interesting things this month.

Book Challenge By Erin – completed!

15 Aug

Recently I stumbled upon a reading challenge which is run via a Facebook group. The challenge is relatively easy. There are ten categories and you have to read one book from each category. The books have to be at least 200 pages long. You then have four months to read the books that you have chosen.

The challenge started on 1st July and I am pleased (and a little bit surprised) to say that on Monday I finished the challenge! I found the challenge a lot of fun and it also meant that I was able to read some books that have been on my to-read list for an extraordinary length of time and also to read some books that I would never normally even think about reading.

Here is a quick review of the books that I have been busy reading:

Freebie (any book of your choice that is at least 200 pages long)

I chose Murder Games by James Patterson. This is the easiest read on my list by a long way. I have read a lot of James Patterson books and they are an easy read. As this is my first challenge I thought that having an easier read to begin with would be a good idea. This story was about the race to stop a serial killer. A university professor and detective team up to find the killer before he strikes again. There are quite a lot of plot twists that keep you guessing right until the end!

Read a book that starts with the letter “N

I chose Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro. I really enjoyed this book. A lot of Ishiguro’s books are long and not very accessible but these short stories were easier to read. I liked that each of the stories was about music and that the first and the last stories were connected. It felt like I was reading a novel rather than several stories that had no connection with one another. I especially liked the description of the Swiss couple who are holidaying in England in the third story because I thought the mannerisms and attitude of the pair were very accurate.

Read a book that has a (mostly) orange cover

I chose Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie. I have never read any Agatha Christie novels so I thought this might be a good place to start. It was clear right from the start the a murder had been committed and it made a nice change to start in the middle of the action rather than waiting for a long build up before you knew who the victim was. The case was all solved within a matter of hours and I wasn’t expecting the twist at the end of the novel (because it never is the butler who’s done it).

Read a book that has an unlikeable character

I chose The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I think just about everyone read this during my teenage years at school – apart from me. Knowing Plath’s personal demons, I have been avoiding reading it. Although mental health is a main theme of the book, I was pleasantly surprised how well-written and engaging it was. The analogy with the fig tree would have perhaps had a greater impact on me had I have read it in my teenage years but being older I can appreciate the cleverness of the imagery.

Read a book from the list of 100 books that PBS calls “The Great American Read” 

I chose The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I have been meaning to read this for a while. There were a lot of books on the list that I thought would be interesting to read but I decided on this one. There are a lot of difficult themes that are tackled in the book, namely racism and abuse, and, although they made me think about these themes in more detail, it was necessarily an un-enjoyable read.

Read a book with something related to water in the title

I chose The Falls by Ian Rankin. I have read quite a few Rankin novels and I had this book anyway. It seemed like a good opportunity to stop this book from gathering dust on the book shelf. The book is one of many in the Inspector Rebus series and Rebus and his colleagues have to find out who killed a student. When the case is then linked to unsolved murders dating back over the last 30 years, the investigation takes an unexpected turn. There is also an interesting subplot because the student was involved in an online role playing game. It also looks like Inspector Rebus may have fallen in love finally, after his marriage fell apart because of his commitment to his job.

Read a book you’ve owned the longest but haven’t read

I chose Porno by Irvine Welsh. I am not 100% sure that this is the book I have had the longest as there are a lot of contenders for that but I have been meaning to read this for a long while. This is actually the sequel to Welsh’s Trainspotting novel that was the basis of the film of the same name. I read Trainspotting and enjoyed it immensely. Both of these books (and quite a few of Welsh’s other books) are written, at least partly, in Scottish dialect so it is a bit of challenging read, which is why it has been on the “To read” list for so long.

The start of the book was quite predictable. The characters from the Trainspotting book are now (largely) clean and drug-free but in an attempt to make a quick buck they decide to get involved in the making of a pornography film. It took a while to get going because it was obvious what was going to happen. The book is told from all of the characters perspectives which I thought was interesting. There is a plot twist at the end that I wasn’t expecting. But beware if you decide to read this – there are some characters who curse with every other word that they use.

Read a book with an emotion word in the title 

I chose The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. I recently bought this book and luckily it fits nicely into this category. Luckily (please excuse the pun), I really enjoyed this book. A interesting exploration about how much of our lives and personalities are influenced by our heritage and our family. The descriptions of the many, many Chinese superstitions and beliefs were also fascinating!

Read a book (must be at least 2 words in the title) where each word in the title of the book begins with the same letter 

I chose Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I have never read this, even though I can hear the theme tune of the TV series in my head the moment that I think of the title. I don’t know very much about the plot apart from there is a black horse in it. I was surprised that this book was written from the point of view of the horse. During the book, the horse experiences good and bad masters and how he sees other horses being treated.

Read a book featuring a character who shares your profession or a similar one

I chose Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. This is a bit of a tenuous link to my job. I work in Finance, most recently in a bank and the main character works in bonds and trades on Wall Street. This is another book that has been gathering dust and, without this challenge, I don’t think that I would be attempting to read it. This was a long book (720 pages). Although I had left this book to the end and it felt like I was never going to finish it, I think it might be one of my favourite books of all time. The plot is straight-forward but the political ramifications are quite complex. I liked the way that all the characters had strong mannerisms and how the action in the book was relentless.

There is now a bonus round to the challenge which I have decided to take part in. You have to choose another book from each of the categories but you get extra credit if you read something that someone has already selected. I am not sure if I will have time to complete another 10 books but I will let you know if I do!

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Book Challenge by Erin

30 Jun

I have recently stumbled upon an international book challenge that runs twice every year and is organised single-handedly by an amazing lady in Australia called Erin on Facebook. Ten categories are set and each participant has to read one book, which has to be at least 200 pages long, from each category to complete the challenge. There is then a bonus round (if you have time) where you can read one more book from each of the categories to gain extra points but a number of the books have to be books that have been read by other participants. This challenge will run from 1st July until 31st October.

I actually discovered this challenge at the end of last year and I thought I was too late to join. It turns out that a few of the books that I had read would have qualified for the categories completely by chance. Nevermind! This time I will be really taking part and I hope to be able to complete the challenge.

I thought it would be a good challenge to do because I have quite a few books that I want to read or that I have at home and never get round to reading and I thought that this would be a good way to make myself sit down and read them. Ok, it not “quite a few”, it’s more like hundreds and hundreds. Also, I have been trying to read 52 books in one year (an average of 1 per week) for the past four years and have always failed. I am currently on a total of 29 books so I am hoping that the challenge will spur me on and give me the motivation to read my total of 52.

Here are the categories that we have been given and the choices that I have made for each of the categories. I will post when the challenge is finished to let you know how I got on and what the books were like.

Book Challenge by Erin 9.0

  1. Freebie (any book of your choice that is at least 200 pages long) – I chose Murder Games by James Patterson. This is the easiest read on my list by a long way. I have read a lot of James Patterson books and they are an easy read. As this is my first challenge I thought that having an easier read to begin with would be a good idea.
  2. Read a book that starts with the letter “N” – I chose Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro. I have been a big fan of Ishiguro since we read Remains of the Day for my A-Level English Literature and I think I have read every one of his books, apart from this one. Another reason to choose this was because it is a collection of short stories and it will be a good book to take with me on the train.
  3. Read a book that has a (mostly) orange cover – I chose Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie. I was slightly annoyed with this category because when the book categories were published, I was already half way through a book with an orange cover (Happy Failure by Herman Melville). I have never read any Agatha Christie novels so I thought this might be a good place to start.
  4. Read a book that has an unlikeable character – I chose The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I think just about everyone read this during my teenage years at school – apart from me. I was somehow a bit put off reading anything by Plath because I know that she killed herself; I have always had it in my head that her writing would be really depressing. I will give it a go and see how it is.
  5. Read a book from the list of 100 books that PBS calls “The Great American Read” – I chose The Color Purple by Alice Walker. I have been meaning to read this for a while. There were a lot of books on the list that I thought would be interesting to read but I decided on this one.
  6. Read a book with something related to water in the title – I chose The Falls by Ian Rankin. I have read quite a few Rankin novels and I had this book anyway. It seemed like a good opportunity to stop this book from gathering dust on the book shelf.
  7. Read a book you’ve owned the longest but haven’t read – I chose Porno by Irvine Welsh. I am not 100% sure that this is the book I have had the longest as there are a lot of contenders for that but I have been meaning to read this for a long while. This is actually the sequel to Welsh’s Trainspotting novel that was the basis of the film of the same name. I read Trainspotting and enjoyed it immensely. Both of these books (and quite a few of Welsh’s other books) are written, at least partly, in Scottish dialect so it is a bit of challenging read, which is why it has been on the “To read” list for so long.
  8. Read a book with an emotion word in the title –  I chose The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. I recently bought this book and luckily it fits nicely into this category.
  9. Read a book (must be at least 2 words in the title) where each word in the title of the book begins with the same letter –  I chose Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I have never read this, even though I can hear the theme tune of the TV series in my head the moment that I think of the title. I don’t know very much about the plot apart from there is a black horse in it. However, it is a classic so it must be a good read.
  10. Read a book featuring a character who shares your profession or a similar one – I chose Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. This is a bit of a tenuous link to my job. I work in a non-commercial bank, where commodities and hedge fund trading happens, in the Finance department. So the link is banking/finance. This is another book that has been gathering dust and, without this challenge, I don’t think that I would be attempting to read it.

There you have it. The ten books that I will be attempting to read. Wish me luck and come back soon to see if I managed to complete the challenge!

40 Before 40: Challenge #29

21 Mar

My 29th Challenge is to read the complete list of the 40 Books Every Woman Should Read. 

Being on holiday for five weeks has given me the time to read another three books from the list. Here is what I have recently read.

Runaway by Alice Munro

Alice Munro is a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature but, like so many of the authors on the list, I had never heard of her. She specialises in writing short stories and many of the stories flip back and forth in time. I don’t read a lot of short stories but it is nice to be able sit down and read a whole story in one sitting.

One of the stories, in particular, I thought was incredible. It was about a woman, who met a man after she had lost her purse. They have a spend a night together talking and getting to know each other. He asks that she comes to see him in a year’s time. She does this but when she goes to see him, he is incredibly rude to her and she feels that he has made a fool out of her. It is only years and years later, when she is working as a nurse, that she thinks he has been admitted to the ward where she was working. The man is not the man she met, but his twin, who has learning disabilities. This was the man who was rude to her and sent her away the second time. The man she actually met had passed away a few years earlier. It was heartbreaking to hear that arriving at slightly the wrong time left her embarrassed and affected the rest of her life without her realising it. I guess this kind of things happens all the time in real life, which makes it even more sad.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I don’t know how I have managed to make it to my age and to have not read this book. It was never an option for our GCSE set and so it was just back luck that I’ve managed to miss it. Of course, I have seen some of the many screen adaptations that have been made, especially the version with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy.

Even though I know what happens in the book, I was still completely surprised when Darcy announces his love for Elizabeth Bennett. When you know the thoughts of the characters, it’s a far more shocking revelation than watching in on TV.

Although the book was first published in 1813, there are quite a lot of issues and problems that we still have today. For example, people judge others and form opinions about them far too quickly. It’s then very difficult to be persuaded otherwise. I was thinking about a person recently, who when I first met them, I was convinced that I would never be able to get along with them and didn’t want to have that much to do with them. It’s only as time has moved on that I have changed my opinion of them and actually don’t might spending time with them at all. The last time I met them, it was no effort to see them for a few hours and get along well with one another.

Also, there is a lot of talk about marriage and Lizzy is worried that her family will not approve of her engagement to Mr Darcy. This, I am sure, still happens all the time. It doesn’t really matter how old you get or what walk of life you come from, everyone still want to have approval from the actions that they take – despite what some people might claim.

I wonder how much forcing schoolchildren to read classics at the age of 13 to 16-years-old actually puts people off reading these books for the rest of their life. If this book hasn’t been on the list, there is no way I would have read it. But I am glad I did.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I have seen the film of the book and I was a bit nervous about reading it. In case you don’t know the book is about a young girl who has been murdered by a man in her local community. The story is told from her perspective as she looks down on earth from heaven and watches her family and friends come to terms with her death and what happened to her.

As is normally the case, the book is far better than the film and is beautiful written and thought-provoking.

I’m not sure if I liked this book so much because in a lot of respects it corresponds to what I think heaven would be like: that our loved ones never leave us but watch over us from afar.

If you haven’t read this book, I really think that you should. The subject matter seems morbid but the story itself is more about hope and the connections that we have with one another.

40 Before 40: Challenge #27

6 Mar

For this challenge, I need to read 40 novels in German.

I haven’t put that much effort into this challenge yet, which is partly due to the fact that I still have to look up quite a lot of words when I am reading in German. I have, however, managed to read two more novels in German this year.

Der kleine Prinz (The Little Prince) by Antione De Saint-Exupery

This is a very well-known children’s book across Europe but I don’t think that I have even seen in the UK. The story is about pilot who, while trying to fix his plane in the desert meets a small prince who is travelling to Earth from an asteroid. The prince describes different worlds that he has explored.

Although this is a children’s book, it is very philosophical in nature and criticises the social nature of the world. I managed to learn a lot of words while reading it. I could see myself re-reading this book again in the future. It is only short and it would also be a good way to make sure that I have remembered the vocabulary that I have learnt.

Die Frau mit dem Hund (The Woman with the Dog) by Birigt Vanderbeke

This was a longer, and definitely, more adult book. When the book began, I knew that normal life was not being described. The first character in the book, Jules, has to go to the supermarket to buy goods with points and, from the descriptions, the whole place is very clean and regulated. When she gets home, there is a young girl called Pola with a dog sat outside her apartment. She panicks because dogs are not allowed in District 7 and she quickly ushers her into her apartment so that the caretaker or someone else doesn’t see her with the stranger.

After giving her food, she discovers that she is pregnant and she says that she needs to get to another district when women have babies. She is so scared about the authorities finding the pregnant woman with her dog in her flat without ID that she tells her that she has to leave. Meanwhile, the neighbour, Timon, has smelt the smell from the dog and this reminds him of the time when he was growing up before the districts were formed. He finds the woman the next day and takes her in. Timon and Pola, with the help of some people she knew before she ended up in District 7, build her a place to live in the attic. Pola ends up giving birth to the baby in the attic one night, even though Timon has tried to get her ID and a safe passage into the birthing district.

At the end of the book, I really wanted to know more about the circumstances of these districts because nothing is 100% explained to the reader. A lot is left to the imagination of the reader, which is no bad thing, but so many things are left unsaid that it is a bit frustrating to know exactly what happened for the living and working condition of the population to end up like this. The book could also lend itself to further books, where the reader sees exactly what happens to Pola and her baby girl, who she, for some reason, calls Michael.

40 Before 40: Challenge #29

3 Mar

Challenge #29 on my list was to read all the books on the 40 Books Every Woman Should Read. This is a list of 40 books by female authors, the majority of whom, to my shame, I am not familiar with or even heard of.

At the start of the challenge, I had already read 4 of the books on the list, mainly because we were forced to read them at school and not necessarily because I was particularly interested in reading them.

As I have got older, I tend to read only contemporary books. There are quite a few older books on the list, like Little Women and Jane Eyre. To be blunt, I wasn’t looking forward to reading these at all. It was always hard work reading them as a young adult.

For this update, I have read two of these “older” books and I have to say that I have really enjoyed them. Below are some of my comments about the books that I have read from the list.

Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector

This is one of the authors from the list that I haven’t heard of. She is actually Brazilian and the book was originally written in Portuguese. Before I started to read the book, I found out that her writing style has been compared to that of James Joyce, who made famous the stream of consciousness narrative style. In fact, the title of the book is actually a quote from Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. I enjoyed reading Joyce for my English Literature A-Level exam so I was hopeful that I would also find this book enjoyable.

The main character is Joana and the story provides flashbacks between her childhood, her adolescence and present day. It tells the story of her relationship with her husband and their divorce (which must have been scandalous to read in the 1940s) and the woman, who her husband gets pregnant. In one part of the book, Joana meets with this woman, Lidia, who she knows is having an affair with her husband. Her reaction was a bit strange as she is not particularly bothered by this.

I really enjoyed this book. Sometimes the book was hard to follow because it flipped between different times but some of the descriptions and the writing was incredible.

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott

I had this book as a child but I only managed to ever read a couple of chapters of it. It is perhaps one of the most famous books on the whole list. The story is of a group of four sisters, who are growing up during the time of the American Civil War. Their father is away working as a pastor and the four girls and their mother are left at home waiting for news about his return.

The four young women have very different characters and personalities: one is a tomboy; another very quiet and interested in art; another the mother figure of the group, when their mother is absent; one is very shy and musical.

The story tells what becomes of the sisters as they grow up, which includes marriages, deaths, births, work and extensive trips to Europe.

The BBC showed an adaptation of the book between Christmas and New Year. As it was after I had read the book, I thought it might be a good idea to watch it. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into it. Perhaps the characters didn’t look as I thought they would have done. I also found the American accents a bit uncomfortable. As I was reading the book, I did have the tendency to forget that the story was set in America and not in England and so it sounded a bit funny to my ears. I only got about 20 minutes into the programme and I decided to stop. I guess, in this case, the book was better than the screenplay.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

I always find this book confusing. Is it Jane Eyre written by Charlotte Bronte or Charlotte Bronte written by Jane Eyre? Again I think that this was a book I had when I was younger that stayed on my book shelf unread. In the end I really enjoyed this book, so it was a shame that I had left it so long to read this book.

As many books from this era begin, Jane Eyre is an orphan, who is unwanted by her uncle’s family, who she is put into the care of. Eventually, she is sent away to a boarding school, where she is educated and thrives, but not before she watches her best friend in the world die of consumption. She goes on to be a teacher at the boarding school but, after getting a job as a governess of a child in a private house.

Jane falls in love with the Master of the house and is due to marry him until the wedding is stopped because Mr Rochester is already married. His wife is actually a lunatic who lives in the attic (all very bizarre). Jane leaves in the middle of the night because she does not want to become his mistress. Exhausted and hungry, she comes across a house where the people take pity on her and nurse her back to health. The new Master of the house gives her the job of a new governess of a school for poor children. He wants to marry her but she is still thinking about what happened to her Mr Rochester, who she still loves and always will. She goes off in search of him to see what has happened to him and… I won’t spoil the whole thing. You can read it yourself.

I liked the book because, although it was a romance, it wasn’t too over the top. I think a lot of books talk about love as it is some magical spell that transforms people suddenly, when in most cases love is a lot more dignified and isn’t necessarily know to the beholder immediately.

Also I learnt the word “lugubrious” which means looking or sounding sad or dismal. This is my new favourite word. If I was still at school, I would be desperate to get this into one of my exam scripts. I might try to get it into one of my short stories.

I have now read 7 out of the 40 books that I need to complete this challenge. I am so glad that I decided to have this one my list. I’m really enjoying it.

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