Tag Archives: reading

40 Before 40: Challenge #29 – update

15 Feb

I’ve been busy reading more books from The 40 Books Every Woman Should Read. Here are the latest books that I’ve read.

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

This was a strange book. I don’t know what sort of genre it was – it was a mixture of fantasy and historical. It also incorporates The Twelve Dancing Princesses which is a commentary about women’s role in society. I found the book very surreal. If the book had have been much longer, I am not sure that I would have stuck out reading it until the end.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

The story is set after the American Civil War and tells the story of a woman who murders her daughter. When a mysterious woman returns, she is convinced this is the ghost of the child that she murdered. The book is hard to understand at first because it flips between different time periods, so you do have to concentrate to know where the part of the story relates to.

When I realised that this was essentially a ghost story, I wasn’t convinced that I would like the story. But the story is very intriguing. How the ghost affects the family and the mother in particular is interesting.

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

By far the worst part of this book is seeing the dates that the diary entries were made knowing that the hope of them being free isn’t going to happen. The contrast between the musings of a teenage girl (complaining about classmates etc) and the description of the harsh conditions is mind blowing.

The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende

Four generations story. set in Chile. It’s an incredible read. It was super easy to read even though the book was almost 500 pages long but it was incredibly tragic as well as very funny at the same time. It is for books like this that I wanted to do this challenge; to discover new authors and great works of literature that I wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to read. I would easily say that this is in the Top 5 of my favourite books. There is pretty stiff competition with the amount of books that I have read so that is high praise indeed.

This was a joy to read. It’s the story of four generations of an eccentric family in Chile and charts the tragedy, hilarity and surreality of their lives in an ever-changing world. One minute I was laughing out loud, the next silent in shock at the events that were unfolding in the story. I would go as far to say that this was one of my favourite books that I have ever read. This was another long read but I doubt it will be long before I am re-reading it once again.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

This was an incredibly long book. Whenever I was thinking that there was no way that the books could continue for much longer, there was a plot twist and I was completely engrossed in the story again.

This was a long book (my edition was 884 pages long) but was a great read. Set during the American Civil War, it is essentially a story of love and loss, focused on the main character Scarlett O’Hara. Throughout the book, I was wondering how on earth the story could keep going and going, but there was always a clever plot twist to stir things up again and leave the reader wanting to read on. I haven’t seen the film but I wonder how the whole story can be possibly cut down to the length of a film without losing part of the great story. I’m so glad that I stuck with this book and read it until the end.

Willful Creatures by Amiee Bender

This was a book of story stories. They were honestly the most bizarre stories that I have ever read. They were very surreal and made me re-think how a short story can be written. To show you what I mean, these were some of the outlines of the stories: a family of potatoes, who try not to be eaten, a boy who is born with keys as fingers and he has to find out what each of the keys opens and a man who keeps a small man locked up in a cage like a bird.

After reading most of the stories, I did have to wonder if I had read the story right and that I some how hadn’t misinterpreted it completely. The stories are brilliantly imaginative and entertaining.

Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer

All of these stories had a strong religious tone to them, which I think probably says a lot about the background of the author. The first story in the collection is called “Brownies” which brought back a lot of memories for me because I also went to Brownies, when I was a child. Even though you would think that this story couldn’t have a religious tone to it, one of the leaders of the Brownie pack was overtly religious. I thought the stories were interesting: overall, I wasn’t completely bowled over by the collection as a whole.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

There are a lot of books of short stories on this list and this was another of them. The first part of the collection were stories exploring relationships between men and women and love. The story called “Unaccustomed Earth” is about a widower, who has found love with a new companion but decides not to tell his daughter because he wants to remain independent.

In the second part of the book, the three stories were related and told the story of two childhood friends, who, later in life, fall in love but decide not to pursue a relationship because she is already engaged to someone else. The ending is really sad. There weren’t many happy endings in any of the stories.

I have now read 25 out of the 40 and I am really enjoying this challenge.

knowledge-1052010__340

40 Before 40 – Challenge #35 update

27 Jan

Another one of my challenges is to read 40 non-fiction books. I don’t often read non-fiction as I prefer to get my teeth into a novel. However, I have noticed that I have accumulated a lot of (unread) non-fiction books on my shelf. This challenge will give me the opportunity to read some of the books that have been gathering dust and also to learn some new things.

So far I’ve read 10 books so 25% of the challenge is already completed. Here is a quick review of the books that I have read so far.

1. Marching Powder by Rusty Young

This is the story of the time a Brit spent in a Bolivian jail after getting caught while trying to smuggle a large amount of cocaine into the country. I heard about the book while I was in La Paz in Bolivia, while I was standing outside of the jail featured in the book. I always find it interesting to read about places that I have already busy and this had an added dimension because I had seen the jail from outside but thankfully not from the inside. The story itself was fascinating. It explained the prison system in Bolivia (you have to rent your cell from the authorities)

2. My Wimbledon Glory by Andy Murray

I chose to read this book after I realised that sports books and biographies are non-fiction – this could prove to be a life saver in this challenge. I thought this book gave an interest insight into the world of professional tennis. Of course, this was the story of the run-up to Murray’s historic Wimbledon win in 2013. It was a great read because it felt like I was re-reliving some of the previous tennis tournaments as I was reading.

book-1659717__340

3. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I was so disappointed with the book and I would never have finished this if I had’ve chosen it for the challenge. I was really hoping that it would have been enlightening – the story is about how the author spent a year trying to improve her life and happiness. It was less of an epiphany and more of a bit of common sense written over pages and pages of boring drivel.

4. Be A Travel Writer, Live Your Dreams, Sell Your Features by Solange Hando

As I am hoping to launch my own travel website, this was a great book to give me some ideas about articles and about how to write them. This book was more aimed at writing articles for online and offline publications and how to pitch your ideas rather than writing for a blog or website. I will definitely be re-reading certain chapters of this book over the coming months when I continue making more preparations.

5. What’s Next Gen X? Keeping Up, Moving Ahead and Getting the Career You Want by Tamara J. Erikson

I was lent this book by my former boss. I have always been scpetical about the labelling of generations into Baby-Boomers, Millennials etc but this book was fascinating and I really felt that the advise was relevant to me. It gave me lots to think about, especially in regards to office dynamics and politics.

 

 

6. Roald Amundsen and the Exploration of the Northwestern Passage

This was a short book that I picked up when I visited the Fram Polar Ship Museum in Oslo. The museum itself was great and the book gives a detailed account of the exploration and the events that happened.

7. Feel the Fear but Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

This was an interesting book. Basically, it tries to explain reasons why we are so fearful about change and suggest techniques to help us overcome these fears. Some of the examples in the book I could identify with and I think it will be useful to know the techniques and try and use them in the future. I did read some reviews to say that this book was solely aimed at women who had recently come out of relationships and were finding it hard to move on but I didn’t get this sense at all.

8. How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

I have had this book on my “to read” shelf for a long time. It was an interesting book about human psychology and the basic premise of the book is “be nice”. That’s so of it really. By being agreeable, people will want to spend more time with you or do business with you. It seems logical that people who are easy to get along with will have no problem finding friends. However, I wonder if you did follow all of the advice in this book if you would end up feeling very unsatisfied with life. You would just end up doing what other people want and forfeit a large part of your personality to get along with people. Having said that, I will follow some of the advice that the book gives, especially because some of the examples that were given did ring true to me and I think the advice could help me in some areas.

9. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

By far the worst part of this book is seeing the dates that the diary entries were made knowing that the hope of them being free isn’t going to happen. I was almost will them on to escape to freedom, despite me being aware of the outcome. The contrast between the musings of a teenage girl (complaining about classmates etc) and the description of the harsh conditions is mind blowing.

10. Every Second Counts by Lance Armstrong

It was interesting to read this book as it was written before it was revealed that Armstrong was not the clean athlete that he always claimed to be. The thing that annoyed me most was that throughout the whole book he was protesting his innocence with regards to doping – for me there is a clear distinction between someone saying they are innocence and writing a book which people used their hard earned cash to buy. I really think that it rubs salt into the wound. I also thought that the tone of the book was very arrogant and I became very irritated by the constant name dropping.

Book Challenge by Erin 10.0

23 Jan

As you may know at the end of last year, I discovered an online reading challenge on Facebook. The group is run by Erin (hence, the name). The challenge is very easy. There are 10 different categories and you have to read a book from each category to complete it.

As I have a lot of free time on my hands at the moment, I managed to finish the challenge in 21 days – yes, 10 books in 21 days. I surprised myself. I’ve been motivated by reading 68 books last year and I would like to better it this year if that is possible. Obviously, I have given myself a great start to the year.

Here are the categories and the books that I read for the challenge:

Freebie (any book that is more than 200 pages long) – How to Make Friends and Influence People by Dale Carniege

I decided to read a non-fiction book for this category. I have had this book on my “to read” shelf for a long time. It was an interesting book about human psychology and the basic premise of the book is “be nice”. That’s so of it really. By being agreeable, people will want to spend more time with you or do business with you. It seems logical that people who are easy to get along with will have no problem finding friends. However, I wonder if you did follow all of the advice in this book if you would end up feeling very unsatisfied with life. You would just end up doing what other people want and forfeit a large part of your personality to get along with people. Having said that, I will follow some of the advice that the book gives, especially because some of the examples that were given did ring true to me and I think the advice could help me in some areas.

Book that was turned into a Movie – Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

This was a long book (my edition was 884 pages long) but was a great read. Set during the American Civil War, it is essentially a story of love and loss, focused on the main character Scarlett O’Hara. Throughout the book, I was wondering how on earth the story could keep going and going, but there was always a clever plot twist to stir things up again and leave the reader wanting to read on. I haven’t seen the film but I wonder how the whole story can be possibly cut down to the length of a film without losing part of the great story. I’m so glad that I stuck with this book and read it until the end.

Set in Europe – The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

So many people have been talking about this book recently that I thought I just had to read it. At times it was an unpleasant reminder about the horrors of Nazi Germany but there was also a huge sense of hope and love. I don’t want to spoil the story for anyone who wants to read it by revealing what happened but it is well-written and poignant. I would recommend that you give it a read as well.

A Newberry Award Winner – Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

I read this children’s book in a few hours. It was a lovely story about Wilbur the pig and his friend, Charlotte, who is a very clever spider. This book was popular when I was growing up but I never read it. I was glad that I did. It is a story about relationships and how working together can help improve everyone’s lives. The ending was sad but in a nice way.

A Friend’s Favourite – Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

I was a bit sceptical about the book when I first started reading it. It took a while to get my head around the structure of the novel and the reasons for that structure. The book is six stories, spanning different eras woven into one. Each of the stories has a connection to the previous one. The stories were so different, not only in terms of narrative voice but also in the format; one was a diary, one was an interview etc. It showed a vast amount of skills to write with such complexity and authenticity. I enjoyed some of the stories more than others but overall it was a great read.

Written over 100 years ago – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I had no idea that this book was based, at least partly, in Switzerland and that it is nothing like the Frankenstein monster horror story that have come out of Hollywood. It is a poignant story about human interaction and the need to be accepted in society. The figure of “the monster” is a lonely, misunderstood figure, who has had no part in his design or creation, and tries to take revenge on his creator after he refuses to help him find happiness.

Title with 6 Words – The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Another book from the Nazi Germany era. The worst part of this book is seeing the dates that the diary entries were made knowing that the hope of them being free isn’t going to happen. The contrast between the musings of a teenage girl (complaining about classmates etc) and the description of the harsh conditions is mind blowing.

Cardinal direction in the title – East, West by Salman Rushdie

This was a collection of 9 short stories. I really liked how the narrative of each of the stories was so different and the subject matter was so varied. A lot of the stories made me quite reflective about life. I haven’t read any of Rushdie’s book before but I am going to make an effort to do so in the future. This was a good introduction into how well he writes.

Originally in another language – The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende (Spanish)

This was a joy to read. It’s the story of four generations of an eccentric family in Chile and charts the tragedy, hilarity and surreality of their lives in an ever-changing world. One minute I was laughing out loud, the next silent in shock at the events that were unfolding in the story. I would go as far to say that this was one of my favourite books that I have ever read. This was another long read but I doubt it will be long before I am re-reading it once again.

Begins with the letter N – Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Surprisingly, in this book the narrator is a unborn foetus, who is overhearing the destruction of his parents’ marriage and his mother’s subsequent relationship with his uncle. It was fascinating to read – the narrator can’t see everything that happens in the story but tries to infer all the details from his experience and from other senses. As with all McEwan novels, there is a sinister twist to the story and the foetus attempts to interfere with events that are happening around him.

There will now be a bonus round, where I have the opportunity to read another 10 books, but that part of the challenge doesn’t start until 1st February. In the meantime, I will have to find some other books to get stuck into!

knowledge-1052010__340

Reading matters

10 Dec

This year has been an excellent reading year for me. I have been trying for years to read more than 52 books (an average of one per week). It is the beginning of December and I have already read 61 books. Some of them have been shorter novels but I have also read some books that were longer. The longest one I have read was over 700 pages.

One of the reasons that I am reading like a woman possessed is because quite a few of my challenges for my #40before40 list involve reading. So by default I have been reading as many books as possible so that I can tick some more challenges off my list.

The twenty nineth challenge on my list is to read The 40 Books Every Woman Should Read. Some of the authors (all female) I haven’t even heard of before I started the challenge and I have been really surprised about how good some of these books have been.

book-1659717__340

Here are the books that I have recently read from the list:

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

This was a short story collection that is set in Nigeria or has character which have Nigerian heritage, where the author is from. I was quite surprised that a lot of the stories are set in really unusual situations which meant that the author was able to do a lot with the characters involved.

From my point of view, I thought that it was a bit too feminist for me. The stories mainly focus on women who are at the mercy of their male counterparts. Considering the background of the author this is understandable and I found it interesting to read stories that I normally wouldn’t choose to read.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

This was the Winner of Pulitzer Prize 2011 but if I am being brutally honest, I am not sure how it managed to get this prize. The plot was interesting because it followed a group of characters who were interconnected because of their associations with music. One chapter was written as a Powerpoint presentation which I initially thought was a bit of gimmick but the chapter was surprisingly easy to read and I knew exactly what the author wanted to convey in the chapter.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

I didn’t read this as a teenager, which I think virtually everyone else in my school did and raved about until the end of time. Knowing what happened to Plath and how depressed she was during her life, I wasn’t keen to read anything that she had written. However, I didn’t find the book too depressing even thought there were depressive thoughts in there. Also some of the description was beautiful in a tragic sort of way.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

I have tried reading this book before and given up because I wasn’t enjoying it but I was glad that I chose it for the challenge and persevered with it. The story deals with some difficult topics such as racism, abuse and sexism but it’s written well and is engaging. I know that it was turned into a film later starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey but I haven’t got round to watching it yet.

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

I really enjoyed this book. It was an interesting exploration about how much of our lives and personalities are influenced by our heritage, our family and what we experience during our lives. The descriptions of the many, many Chinese superstitions and beliefs were also fascinating!

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

I read this in a few hours. This is a graphic novel. I have never read a graphic novel before but it was so interesting and easy to read. The novel is autobiographical and is about the death of the author’s father and the consequences of his death that reveal secrets that both parents have been hiding. Well worth a read.

The Age of Grief by Jane Smiley

I have been surprised by how many of the books on the list are short story collections. I was expecting most of the books to be novels. This book is a collection of short stories with a novella (up to 40,000 words). The short stories were well written and I managed to read them quickly. The novella was about the marriage and relationship of two dentist but written from the man’s prospective. I’m glad that I bought this book because I will definitely be re-reading it in the future.

Out of the total 40 books that I need to read on the list, I have already read 17 and I am looking forward to reading the rest.

Book challenge – Bonus Round

28 Nov

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that I signed up to take part in a reading challenge. The basic premise is that there are ten categories and you have to read a book in each category to complete the challenge. The challenge lasts for four months and if you complete the first round you can then take part in the bonus round.

I managed to finish the first round of the challenge relatively quickly. These are the books that I read and what I thought of them. I decided the take on the bonus round as well. The bonus round is the same categories of books again but you collect extra points by choosing books that other people participating in the challenge have already selected.

img_3035

Unfortunately, I didn’t quite manage to read every choice off my bonus round list. I was getting dangerously close to the start of my German exam so I made the brave and dedicated step of stopping the challenge to reading some books in German to help me learn a bit more for the exam. So I was still reading but just not for the challenge.

Here are the eight books that I managed to read for the bonus round:

Exposed by Roberta Kray

I have read a few of Kray’s books before and the plot of this book was very similar to other books that she’s written. Having said that it was a real page turner. I wasn’t sure how the book was going to finish until right at the last moment. It was an easy read and I would recommend it.

Northhanger Abbey by Jane Austen

I have been getting into my classic novels recently so I thought that I would give this one a go. I didn’t think that this book was as good as her other novels and I can see why her other works are more famous. I felt that the end of the novel was rushed and I had a lot of questions that weren’t answer. Overall, I was a bit disappointed.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

I have read at least two of Moriarty’s books before. I didn’t think that this was as good as The Husband Secret but I still enjoyed it. The characters were realistic and the author was constantly teasing the reader throughout the story. I was desperately trying to work out the explanation for the story but failed, even though all of the clues were there. After reading this book, I got a good idea for a book, which I have started writing. Watch this space!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I read this in less than a day. I had heard a lot about it and I was disappointed after reading it. The subject matter isn’t the most pleasant (children being treated for cancer) but I thought that the plot was a bit predictable. I think the predictability had a bit to do with the genre and because that is what the readers expect (or don’t). I can see what the book has been so successful though.

Wuthering Heights by Emile Bronte

This book wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I can honestly say that I have never hated someone living or dead, fictional or real than Heathcliffe. I really despised him and I only read on because I wanted to make sure that he got his comeuppance. It was interesting that the story was narrated by Mr Lockwood who was guest and not one of the main characters. It gave the story an certain sense of objectivity.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I was so disappointed with the book and I would never have finished this if I had’ve chosen it for the challenge. I was really hoping that it would have been enlightening – the story is about how the author spent a year trying to improve her life and happiness. It was less of an epiphany and more of a bit of common sense written over pages and pages of boring drivel.

Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling

This is a perfect example of a book that I would never have read if it was for the challenge. I hadn’t even heard of this book before. It was the story of a boy being washed overboard and him being rescued by another ship where his status and wealth counts for nothing and he needs to work to earn his keep onboard and learn how to get along with the crew members.

The Last Juror by John Grisham

I was surprised that this was less about a court trial and more about the story of the last juror who is selected for a trial. The verdict of the trial was fairly cut and dry so this is why it wasn’t the subject of the novel. I thought it was an interesting spin for the story and racism and other important themes were touched upon.

I’m so glad that I decided to take part in the book challenge. I’ve managed to read books that I never would have without the challenge. It also means that I have smashed my reading goal for this year by reading 60 books so far this year. Not all of them have been more than 200 pages but I still think it and impressive total and there is one more month to go.

I can’t wait for January 2019 when the next edition of the book challenge will begin!

Happy Anniversary

13 Sep

Today http://www.ourgirlinzurich.com is 6 years old. How time flies!

I started my blog six years ago because this was the time when I found out that I had received a job offer in Switzerland, which I decided to accept. Six years later, I am still in the Land of Milk and Money.

My original idea for my blog was to be able to keep in touch with people back home – sort of a regular newsletter so that friends and family could see what I had been getting up to and I could share some of the highs and lows of living in another country. Although I did take a bit of a break in the middle, I have been regularly blogging since then.

My blog is still a way for loved ones to check up on me but it has also become more than that. I now have a growing amount of followers in many different countries. Some are interested in what I write about life in Switzerland and trying to learn the German language, others are interested in how I am getting on with my #40Before40 challenges. The answer is: very, very slowly!

It’s a wonderful feeling when someone tells you that they read your blog and they are really interested in what I am getting up to. It’s even more wonderful when people tell me that I have a talent for writing or that they have been inspired by the success and ideas in my #40Before40 list.

For me, the most important part of my blog is just writing. Nothing more, nothing less. As a child and and teenager, I loved writing and that passion has never left me. If things were different and my younger self would’ve been more confident, perhaps I would be writing full-time now. But it is never to late to try to become anything that you want to be. And writing a few posts a week for you to read is a good way to improve my writing skills and to keep my desire to write alive. I hope that one day I will be able to write a post about an acceptance letter from a publisher or the date when my new book will be in the shops.

Until then, thank you for visiting and reading my blog. You might not realise it but you are keeping me motivated with you kind, lovely and inspiring comments!

writing-828911__340

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.