Tag Archives: reading

Aloha October!

31 Oct

The months just get busier and busier. The long nights are back and once again I am kicking myself that I haven’t enjoyed the summer as much as I should have! I didn’t even go in the lake once this year which makes me so incredibly sad that I can’t really put it into words.

But I can’t complain because I have done a lot of cool stuff this month. Here is what I have been up to:

  • I’ve made some progress on my 40 Before 40 list of challenges. I visited another European country (Ukraine) this month and toured the Chernobyl exclusion zone and I have been busy reading some more non-fiction books
  • Shooting season is slowly drawing to a close but not before prize givings and end of season dinners
  • I now only have 2 exercises to finish of my online writing course which I have enjoyed – click here for a sample of an assignment I wrote if you missed it!
  • My drama workshop is also coming to a close. Next week we will have our “sharing of work” (because the word performance is far too scary) with family and friends. I’m nervous about performing a drama production in front of an audience since the first time since 1994 when I played a parent in our junior school play The Evacuees
  • I was sad to watch the last episode of Great British Back Off but it does mean that I get to have my Tuesday nights back for the rest of 2019.

November should be a little more relaxed as I will be sunning myself in the Canaries for 10 days to make sure that I get enough Vitamin D to last me for the rest of the year because, it may be Halloween today, but I really shouldn’t look like a vampire for more than half a calendar year.

Here is picture I took last weekend that really sums up October for me.

 

40 Before 40: Challenge #35 update

26 Oct

I am now half-way through my challenge to read 40 non-fiction books. Here are the latest 10 books that I’ve read for the challenge.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

This was such an interesting book about how the actress Leah Remini was raised by her parents in Scientology, how the religion controlled her life and how she was finally able to leave the religion behind. (I am, of course, using religion in a very loose sense of the word). I found it fascinating that she managed to leave the organisation. I have seen documentaries in which people discuss that they are completely trapped and, despite terrible circumstances, they aren’t able to escape. It was a very honest account but I can imagine that for legal reasons a lot of detail was left out.

My Liverpool Story  by Steven Gerrard

I actually bought this as a gift for my brother but then he told me I’d already given it to him for Christmas so I decided to read it myself. I thought that this book was also very honest – relationships with managers and fellow players were discussed, revealing not always happy memories. There were hundreds of good quality photos in the book as well which made the book about double the size that it could have been if it just contained text.

The Things I Talk About When I am Running by Haruki Murakami

This is a relatively short book about how the author decided to leave his successful business to become an author. He is also a very good amateur runner anf triathlete. The book is about how his success in both writing and running haven’t come naturally to him and he has had to find way for him to get better at both disciplines. He makes lots of comparision between running and writing that I really appreciated, as I don’t consider myself to be a natural runner (even though I enjoy it) and I am working hard at becoming a better writer.

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

There is a lot of hype about this book, especially with the increased awareness of mental health issues. It looks at modern life and how social media and technology can make us feel more disconnected than connected. The book made me realise that I am probably not as affected by modern technology than other people. I am more than happy to not have internet for a week when I am on holiday and you will never find me more happy than when I have my head in a book and I’m blocking the rest of the world out.

The Krays: The Prison Years by David Meikle and Kate Beal Blyth

This book made me realise that I constantly mix up the Kray twins and Ronnie Briggs, one of the great train robbers. This book was meant to be able the time that the twins spent in prison but there was quite a lot about how they ending up getting caught and their background. It was interest and also quite depressing to hear how much “freedom” they had in prison because of who they were and their relationships with celebrities.

A Woman’s Guide to Triathlon: The Things Men Will Never Tell You About the Sport by Eva Mauer

I have been thinking about taking part in a triathlon. I’ve even signed up to a swimming course to help improve my front crawl technique. So I was excited to read this book. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it told me that much that I didn’t already know. I mainly wanted to know about how to practice the transistion phases but there wasn’t a great deal of information on that. I also didn’t understand why it was a woman’s guide to triatholon. There wasn’t anything in the book that would have been specific to a woman and not a man. A bit of a disappointment.

Mars and Venus in the Bedroom by John Gray

I’ve never been completely convinced that men and women do behave so differently from one another but after reading this I’ve changed my mind. It was a really interesting read and a lot of the examples were so recognisable that it was scary. The book was written in the mid-90s so it was a slightly outdated. I also have another couple of books by John Gray that I want to read for this challenge.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

This is a famous book and I don’t know what to think about it. It says that thinking positively can attract what you want to your life. I completely agree that the more positive you are, the more good things will happen to you. But then wouldn’t everyone have everything that they wanted if this was true. I do think some of the exercises are worth giving a go and seeing what happens. But I think to get the full benefit you need to 100% commit to that way of thinking.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This was the funniest book I have read in a long, long time. I was roaring with laughter. It is also the most tragically heartbreak book that I have read in a long, long time as well. It is the diary of a junior doctor working on the maternity ward. You know from the start that the author ended up leaving the profession and in the penultimate chapter you find out why. I felt queasy when I read it. It was a sobering end to an account of how overworked and underpaid NHS staff are. I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.

Mindfulness Pocketbook by Gill Hasson

It was a book about how to become more mindful in daily life with exercises to help improve health, mood and attitudes among other things. I would say that 80% of the book wasn’t useful to me but there are definitely some tips and exercises that I will use.

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Adieu September!

30 Sep

Another month has gone screaming past us and into realm of the distance memory. I have mainly noticed how dark the mornings and the nights are getting and I’m slowly resigning myself to the fact that autumn will soon be here.

Of course September has been another busy month as well. Here is what has been keeping me out of mischief:

  • I’ve now been in my current job for 3 months and last week I passed my probation period with flying colours. Calling it a probation period makes it sound like I work in a prison but I don’t. I am very happy and pleased to have found a job that I genuinely like and where I feel my work is appreciated even though I have only been there for a short time.
  • I am also celebrating living in Switzerland for 7 years this month. If you’d have asked me if I would still be living here six and a half years ago, I don’t think I would have said yes. It’s possibly the best decision I ever made and I am very grateful that the choices that I made in life helped me to end up here. That’s not to say that everything is positive about being an expat. I also missed my nephew’s birthday this week because I live in another country. You have to learn to take the rough with the smooth.
  • I visited my 32nd country in Europe and my 55th country in the world by visiting Belgrade, Serbia this month.
  • I started going to a theatre course at the start of the month and that will last until the end of October. I like the class and all of the students and the teacher is great but I think that the course itself is a tiny bit too serious for me. I think that I would prefer to do something more light-hearted and comedy based so I might start  looking to see if there are any courses that I can do in that direction next year. Having said that I am learning tons of stuff about myself and about acting that I never knew.
  • I have finished the bonus round of Erin’s Book Challenge and I’ve smashed my reading target for the year. I had originally aimed to read 52 (one a week) and then revised it to 70 when it was clear that I would easily manage that. I have now read 75 books this year and number 76 is also well underway. I was thinking about trying to revise the target again to 100 but I don’t want to rush though books just to get to a target and not enjoy reading them. I might set my target as 100 next year.
  • I also became a published author this month. It was a non-fiction ebook about travel tips in St Gallen, Switzerland. I would rather be writing fiction but at least it’s a foot in the right direction.
  • Talking of fiction writing, I am now half way through an online writing course that I have been meaning to do for forever. I’m definitely learning and I can already see myself that my writing is improving. I hope that I will be able to finish the other half of the course in October and then in November I can sit down and get stuck into sitting down and writing with all the new things that I have learnt in my head.

And that was September: another busy but fun month. I hope your September was as good and, if not, make sure that you make up for it in October.

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Bonus Round – Book Challenge by Erin 11.0 – completed

29 Sep

I have officially finished the bonus round of the Book Challenge by Erin 11.0 after I completed the initial round last month.

Again I have managed to read some great books that I wouldn’t have read if I wasn’t taking part in the challenge. Here is a short breakdown of the 10 books I picked for the bonus round:

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Freebie (any book that is at least 200 pages long):

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

This was a great book. I had no idea what this was about until I started reading it (I bought it last year when it was on offer in a bookshop). The theme of the book was very topical. It explores what it means to be a British Muslim and how conflict and betrayal can happen to anyone at any time. The characters were very believable and the ending was tragically beautiful

A book beginning with “F”:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

This is one of the most bizarre books I have ever read. I’m still not sure exactly to make of the book. It is a completely barking mad story based in truth that tells the drug-addled of a journalist in the desert. Completely entertaining and very disconcerting at the same time!

A book with “rain”, “thunder” or “lightning” in the title:

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

I liked this book. I was quite an easy read, in that it was a book written for yound adults and was even a Newberry Award Winner. But in another sense, it was a hard read because of its themes of racism and how hard life was living in the southern US in the 1930s. The characters were realistic – some I hated, some I really liked because of how the author had described them.

A book with a building on the cover:

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The book started with a house on fire and the disappearance of the youngest daughter of the family, who is suspected of starting the fire. The rest of the book is an explanation about what happened before to get to this point of the story. The way the book was written was very clever. The author also explores a lot of ethical issues dealing with parenting, surrogacy and adoption. It was very thought provoking and I loved the characters and how relatable they were.

A book written by an author who has an initial in their name:

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

This is the type of book that I would love to be able to write. I only put it down to sleep and go to work. It was a page-turner! It is clear from the beginning that the narrator isn’t 100% reliable in what she is telling the read which made it intriguing from the very start. There were so many plot twists and turns that the book kept me guessing right until the very end. A great read.

A book with an item of clothing in the title:

One, Two Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie

This is only the second Christie book that I have ever read – I read my first in the last reading challenge. I really enjoyed it. The book starts with a murder in a dentist practice and it soon transpires that the verdict of suicide that is given by the coronor isn’t correct. I had no idea who was responsible for the murders, which is always good in a murder mystery book.

A book set in India:

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

I love the Disney movie version of this book but the book is nothing like the film. I normally don’t like a film version to alter from the book version too much but in this case the film is far better than the book. If all of the details from the book were used, there is no way that Disney would have been able to release the film as child-friendly. Ïf you haven’t read the book I won’t spoil it for you by pointing out the differences!

A book shortlisted for the Booker Prize:

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

This was another book that I bought a while ago in a book sale and haven’t got round to reading. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book but it had my interest from the very beginning. The story begins with the author explaining that this is a true stroy about a relative of his and how he was tried and executed for murder. I still don’t know if this is actually true or was just included to make the story more believable. It was very originally written. The first part of the book is told via a diary and the read really gets to understand the character and his motives. The rest of the book is told via official sources, such as lawyers and psychiatrists. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.  

A book with a character who has supernatural powers: 

Firestarter by Stephen King

In a lot of this ways, this book reminded me of Carrie that I read in the first round of this reading challenge. The girl in the book has superpowers that allows her to make fires. She got these superpowers because her father and mother took part in a drugs trial when they were college students. The drug that they were injected with produce hallocinogenic powers. After her mother is killed, her and her father are on the run because the US government are trying to capture them so that they can make experiments on them. I can’t say it was the best Stephen King novel I have ever read but I did like the tension and the action when they were on the run from the government.

A book with the same title as a book in another genre:

Emma by Jane Austen

It’s not my favourite Jane Austen book by a long way and I have read at least three of her books over the past 12 months. I liked the character of Emma but I just thought the book went on for too long considering how much happened in it. I felt it lacked the drama of Pride and Prejudice and it was predictable what was going to happen.

 

Update on #40Before40

1 Sep

It is now two years since I decided to start my 40 Before 40 challenge. Basically I set myself 40 challenges to do before I become 40-years-old.

Here is the second annual update about how things are progressing.

To date I have completed 11 out of the 40 challenges. It doesn’t sound like a lot but I have at least 10 of the longer challenges started and well under way. I do still have three years left to go but I know that this time will fly by.

Here are the six challenges that I have completed over the past year:

Challenge #3 – Go paragliding

Challenge #17 – Write a diary for a year

Challenge #25 – Cook every recipe from one cookbook

Challenge #29 – Read The 40 Books that Every Woman Should Read

Challenge #31 – Take up a new sport

Challange #39 – Downsize

Here are some of the challenges that are currently in progress:

Challenge #2 – Visit 40 countries in Europe

So far I have visited 31 countries so far but by the end of 2019 that total should be up to 33. I have already chalked off all of the main countries off the list. Now I am left with some of the harder to get to places to get to. I hope that I will be able to visit at least 3 more countries next year but I will have to see when is the best time to visit some of the places.

Challenge #8 – Watch every movie on iMDB Top 250 Films list

I have seen 168 films from the list, so there is still some work to be done. I haven’t watched anything since around June time. I think movie are the sort of thing you enjoy more in the winter time. As the nights are drawing in, it means that it won’t be long until I sitting watching films again.

Challenge #26 – Learn how to fold 40 origami designs

The designs actually take longer to make that I thought they would but I have enjoyed learnign the designs that I have made so far. This is one challenge that I hope to have completed before the end of 2019.

Challenge #27 – Read 40 novels in German and Challenge #35 – Read 40 non-fiction books

For most of this year I have been reading English non-fiction books and these two challenges have been forgotten about. I am planning on focusing on these challenges in the last three months of the year.

Challenge #37 – Have a haircut at least 4 times a year

I prefer going to the dentist that going to the hairdresser. I have been doing well on this challenge until my haridresser ghosted me and moved back to the UK. I am now not convinced that the replacement I have found is right for me but I will stick with her or find someone else to do this so that I keep on track.

I have also decided to make one change to my list. I am going to change my Challenge #40 from starting and maintaining my own travel website to create a piece of artwork. I never intended on changing any of the challenges that I had chosen but after trying to start writing for this website, I realise that writing about travel wasn’t giving me as much enjoyment as I thought it would. The whole point of the list was to make sure that there were things on the list that I would enjoy doing. So, sorry, but that challenge needs to be replaced.

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Book Challenge by Erin 11.0 – completed

28 Aug

I have officially finished the first round of the Book Challenge by Erin 11.0 that started on 1st July. The idea is to read a book from 10 different categories. This is the third time I have participated in the challenge and, once again, I have read some interesting books that I wouldn’t have read off my own back.

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Here is a short breakdown of the 10 books I read:

Freebie (any book that is at least 200 pages long):

Stories We Could Tell by Tony Parsons

I bought this from a second hand book shop about six months ago and I had no idea what it was about but I liked the look of the front cover.  I found this book very funny and relatable. I love some of the descriptions in this book. The story takes place on the day that Elvis died and tells the stories of three friends writing for a music magazine.

A book beginning with “F”:

Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

This is one of the best books I have ever read. It was a long read, about 650 pages and the style of the writing took some getting used to. The book is about the Knight’s Templar and their alledged involvement in many historical events. The books centres on three bored editors at a publishing house who become obsessed by a theory that is put forward by a potential author. The plot is a complicated mix of history, religion and politics, which is right up my street. I absolutely loved this book, even though it was a challenging read at times.

A book with “rain”, “thunder” or “lightning” in the title:

The Rainmaker by John Grisham

I think this is the second Grisham novel that I have read. I like the style of writing – it is easy to read and the action flows at a good pace. This book was about insurance companies refusing to pay out on a policy. It was interesting to learn more about how these companies make their money and how the underdog can take on corporations. I wasn’t so keen on the ending. It seemed a little unrealistic to me but I won’t spoil the ending for people who want to read it themselves.

A book with a building on the cover:

The Last Tenant by Sarah Kisielowski

This is a book that was written by a friend of mine who goes to the same writing club as me. She has told me a lot about the plot and about the writing process and I am really interested to read the story for myself. The story centres around a man who has to go to Berlin to clear out the apartment of his maternal grandfather, who has passed away. He finds out about his family history through a series of recorded tapes that his grandfather has made. He is surprised to learn the truth about his family.

A book written by an author who has an initial in their name:

Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

I was slightly sceptical about how good this book was going to be. I mean I loved Harry Potter (when I finally got round to reading it) but not every one can right for children and adults with the same degree of success. However, it turns out that J. K. Rowling is the exception that proves the rule. The best thing about this book was that it was set in the countryside and it reminded me a lot about the village where I grew up. When a vacancy suddenly becomes available on the parish council when one of the councillors dies (that is what a causal vacancy is), there is competition to fill the role. The consequences are tragic and thought-provoking but there were part of the story that made me laugh out loud.

A book with an item of clothing in the title:

The Black Glove by Geoffrey Miller

I struggled to find a book for this category and I only found this one by searching the library catalogue. I read this book in one sitting. It was another easy read about the kidnapping of a man’s son who is then found murdered. The plot is complicated but the writing makes the action zip along at a good pace.

A book set in India:

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

I’ve never read anything by Rudyard Kipling, apart from a few poems, so I thought this might be a good book to read. Even though many people claim that this is Kipling’s best work, I wasn’t a big fan of it. It is a semi-autobiographical novel about a young boy growing up in India. I did like the descriptions of Indian culture and reading about how difference life is compared with living in Europe during modern times but the plot didn’t pull me in so that I wanted to read non-stop.

A book shortlisted for the Booker Prize:

Milkman by Anna Burns

This is a recent winner of the Booker Prize. I have heard quite a few bad reviews about it but I actually thought it was well-written. It took me a while (about 50 pages) to realise where the book was set – Ireland – because not much background detail or details to help the reader orientate himself to what is happening in the book. The narrator isn’t even mentioned by name (I don’t think). The narrative refers to “them” and “us” which, if you don’t realise where the book is set, it wouldn’t make any sense. I have heard people say that there is no plot to the book but I definitely thought there was enough things happening in the book to make it entertaining.

A book with a character who has supernatural powers: 

Carrie by Stephen King

I thought this book would keep me up all night. Even though it is a horror story, it wasn’t a blood-and-gore-type story. It’s about a girl with a very abnormal upbringing, who develops the ability to move things with her mind. I felt sorry for the title character because she is very misunderstood by her class mates and the people around her. The book ends with catastophic consequences for the whole town where she lives. I actually read this book very quickly and would recommend it to someone who wanted to read something that was a thriller without being too terrifying.

A book with the same title as a book in another genre:

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

This book made me cry. I can’t remember the last time I cried while I read a book. The story is about a kid who has facial deformities and what happens when he joins a mainstream school. The book is a children’s novel but it is also interesting to read as an adult. Keep the tissues ready for the ending though!

As usual I have decided to tackle the bonus round as well. It has take me so long to get round to writing up the first round of the challenge that I have already finished five out of the ten books that I have picked for the bonus round. So it might not be too long before I’m writing about next ten books I have read for the challenge.

40 Before 40: Challenge #29 completed!

8 Jul

After more page-turning than I can remember, I am finally finished with my Challenge 29! I have now read all of the books on the list of 40 books every woman should read. Some of the books I didn’t enjoy very much but others of them I loved. I am so glad that I decided on this as one of my challenges. I will definitely be hunting down more books by the same authors in the near future.

Here are the last seven books that I read to complete the list:

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

This book was incredible. I was grasping for breath by the end because I was reading the pages so quickly so that I could get to the end that I forgot to breathe. The characters in the book are all connected to a book called The History of Love somehow and the origins of the book is exploded by switching between the past and the present. The story isn’t long but it is so well written that I had trouble putting the book down. The ending took me by complete surprise. An incredible read!

Broken Harbour by Tana French

When I realised that this was a crime novel I was so excited about reading the book and having found another crime writer to read. I wish I hadn’t wasted my enthusiasm. I thought that the crime and what had happened was leaning towards the very obvious side and for me the pace of the story was relatively slow. It’s a long book; I read pages and pages wondering what was going to be the thrilling out come but I was left constantly disappointed. It was different to the crime novels that I normally read in that there was more description but I prefer crime stories where the description is kept to a minimum so the story has a punchier pace.

My Antonia by Willa Cather

This book was strange. It’s set in the America Midwest and the story revolves around the Shimerda family, who move to America from Bohemia, and their hardships in establishing a new life. Jim, who is the narrator of the story, falls in love with the daughter of the family, Antonia, and learns to read and takes an interest in cooking and housekeeping while becoming very popular with the locals, while he leaves to finish his education. He arrives back to find that she is married with children. It’s a sad story full of regret and missed chances. Jim realises that he never should have left Antonia behind and so does the reader.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

I had looked at some reviews of this book online and I wasn’t looking forward to reading it. Firstly, it is very long (more than 700 pages) and, secondly, there were a lot of unfavourable opinions about the book. I did take me a while to get into the book. It is so descriptive that I was beginning to wonder if the online reviews were going to turn out to be right. Once I got used to the style of writing though, the story was enjoyable. The books centres around two young architects and how different their lives end up as they make different creative and lifestyle choices during their life. The book is essentially about greed and selfishness but I also think there is a message of hope that individuals can triumph over the establishment.

Cherry by Mary Kerr

This was an autobiographical work about the author’s adolescent period. The story itself was very interesting as was the style of the writing. The author used the second person singular throughout the book which is not typical for an autobiography or most other fiction books. It gave the story a very personal edge to it – it felt like I was experiencing what happened to the author at the same moment that I was reading it. Parts of the story were hysterically funny, others I could completely identify with. The book is actually a sequel to an earlier book but I don’t feel I missed out by not having read the first installment.

Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

This book was non-fiction and retold the story of a family growing up in the Bronx in the late eighties. Most of the people ended up in jail, regularly took drugs and had problems with their family relationships. It was a long but interesting read that made me realise how privileged my upbringing was.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

I wanted to like this book so much but I can’t say that I did that much. The book is divided into different notebook that author Anna Wulf documents her life. She then tries to tie all of the stories together in a final ‘golden’ notebook. I found the structure confusing to being with and then one of the notebooks was all about communisim in the 1930s. I’m not a fan of politicial discussion in non-fiction books. Considering the book was written in the 60s, there were liberal discussions about sex and the role of women. I’m now not in a rush to read any more of Lessing’s books which I am disappointed about considering she is a Nobel Prize winner.

And that is all 40 books from the list finished and another one of my challenges is completed. I am so glad that I decided to include this on my list: I’ve read so many books from authors that I haven’t heard of before. Not all of the books have been easy to read or 100% enjoyable but the ones that I did enjoy made the whole challenge worth it.

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