First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

This week’s First Line Fridays comes from the pen of one of America’s most prolific writers.

It was an unmarked car, just some nondescript American sedan a few years old, but the blackwall tires and the three men inside gave it away for what it was.’  

the Outsider

The Outsider

Would you want to read on?

I’ve not read any Stephen King novels so not sure what to expect. Do you have a favourite Stephen King book?

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by and stay safe!

Christine x

A Year in Books 2020 – January to March

the-year-in-books

A Year in Books

During this unprecedented moment of restriction there’s never been a more lucrative time to enjoy reading. Hopefully in the coming weeks I can delve a little into my ever growing library of books to be read.

I’m not setting a target to read this year. I am just going to enjoy the simple pleasures of turning a page. How about you? Will you be joining in the initiative?

The Girl who Lived Twice – David Lagercrantz ✩✩✩

In the pocket of an unidentified homeless man, the police find a list of telephone numbers. Among them, the contact for Millennium magazine and the investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Following the scorched trail of her twin sister Camilla to Moscow, Salander nevertheless continues to watch over her old friend. Soon Blomkvist will need her help. But first, she has an old score to settle; and fresh outrage to avenge.

Unfortunately, though this book was easy to read, it had the weakest plot of all the new Salander novels. I have a feeling Lagercrantz doesn’t have a handle on the character of Salander which is why she hardly features in these new stories, it is a shame, as she’s a great character!

The Disappearance – Katherine Webb ✩✩✩

When Frances’ best friend Bronwyn disappeared over twenty years ago, her body was never found. The mystery over what happened has cast a shadow over Frances’ life ever since.

Now, it’s 1942 and bombs are raining down on Bath. In the chaos a little boy – Davy Noyle – goes missing. But bombs conceal, and they reveal – and as quiet falls and the dust settles, a body is disturbed from its hiding place. What happened all those years ago? And can Frances put the wrongs of the past right again…?

I feel this novel was Webb’s weakest to date. I couldn’t gel with the characters and there was an underlying sadness to almost every sentence. It was a good story, it just wasn’t for me.

The Girl you left Behind – JoJo Moyes ✩✩✩✩

France, 1916: Sophie must keep her family safe whilst her husband Edouard fights at the front. But when she is ordered to serve the German officers who descend on her hotel each evening, her home becomes a place of fierce tensions. And from the moment the new Kommandant sets eyes on Sophie’s portrait – painted by Edouard – a dangerous obsession is born, which will lead Sophie to make a dark and terrible decision . . .

Almost a century later: Sophie’s portrait hangs in the home of Liv, a wedding gift from her husband before he died. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and its troubled history. A history that is about to resurface and turn Liv’s life upside down . . .

This was a much better stand alone novel than JoJo’s earlier The Horse Dancer. I felt the character of Sophie was better written than the modern Liv but it was a unique and often emotional story.

The Stranger – Kate Riordan ✩✩✩

Cornwall, 1940: In the midst of war three women arrive seeking safety at Penhallow Hall. Each is looking to escape her past. But one of them is not there by choice.

As the threat of invasion mounts and the nightly blackouts feel longer and longer, tensions between the close-knit residents rise until dark secrets start to surface.

And no one can predict what their neighbour is capable of . . . In a house full of strangers, who do you trust?

Another book I was rather disappointed in. The narrative I felt was quite fractured and the ending was like a puzzle that the reader had to pick apart themselves. Good writing, just not the greatest story.

Bird Therapy – Joe Harkness ✩✩✩

When Joe Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended but nothing came close to nature, particularly birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is.

In this groundbreaking book filled with practical advice, Joe explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites the reader to discover these extraordinary effects for themselves.

This book named a lot of birds, some I knew, others I didn’t. It shows how nature and bird watching especially can have a healing effect on the mind and body.

The 24 hour Cafe – Libby Page ✩✩✩

Welcome to the café that never sleeps. Day and night, Stella’s Café opens its doors to the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It’s a place where everyone is always welcome, where life can wait at the door.

Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They love working at Stella’s – the different people they meet, the small kindnesses exchanged. But is it time to step outside and make their own way in life?

I think The Lido was a hard debut to follow, and the 24 Hour Cafe I’m sad to say was rather disappointing. The writing style never really got inside the minds’ of the characters, there was a whole lot of telling not showing and I finished the novel not really caring about any of the characters.

The Call of the Wild – Jack London ✩✩✩

Buck, is a dog born to luxury and raised in a sheltered Californian home. But then he is kidnapped and sold to be a sled dog in the harsh and frozen Yukon Territory. Passed from master to master, Buck embarks on an extraordinary journey, proving his unbreakable spirit…

This classic novel was gathering dust on my shelf for years until the release of the film made me decide to give the book a go. The novel is not an easy read, full of violence and dying dogs. I was glad to get to the end and when I did I was left feeling a lingering sadness for hours after.

Circe – Madeline Miller ✩✩✩✩

In the house of Helios, mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. Circe is a strange child – not powerful and terrible, like her father. Scorned and rejected, Circe grows up in the shadows. But Circe has a dark power of her own: witchcraft. When her gift threatens the gods, she is banished to the island of Aiaia where she hones her occult craft, casting spells, gathering strange herbs and taming wild beasts. Yet a woman who stands alone will never be left in peace for long – and among her island’s guests is an unexpected visitor: the mortal Odysseus, for whom Circe will risk everything.

So Circe sets forth her tale, a vivid, mesmerizing epic of family rivalry, love and loss – the defiant, inextinguishable song of woman burning hot and bright through the darkness of a man’s world.

I studied The Odyssey for my degree and love all things Greek! I thoroughly enjoyed this modern retelling of Circe. The language was beautiful and the story, though slow to start, once it picked up I couldn’t put it down. A really good book!

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by and stay safe!

Christine x

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

The below sentence I feel needs no introduction.

When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton.

fellowship of the ring

The Fellowship of the Ring

Of course the line comes from the beginning of J R R Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It seems such a gentle, unassuming beginning to a book that has a thread of threat and violence throughout its pages. If you have read this book, did you enjoy or dislike it?

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

This week’s First Line Fridays comes from an international best seller and shortlisted for the Woman’s Prize for Fiction.

When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.

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Would you want to read on?

Madeline Miller’s book is a modern adaption of Homer’s The Odyssey but from the point of view of sorceress Circe. I’m four chapters into the novel and enjoying the narration of Circe’s unhappy youth and growth into her powers. I’ll let you know how it goes.

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

 

First Line Fridays

First Line Fridays, a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author.

This week’s First Line Fridays comes from a novel published in 1903.

Buck did not read the newspapers, or he would have known that trouble was brewing, not alone for himself, but for every tidewater dog, strong of muscle and with warm, long hair, from Puget Sound to San Diego.

call of the wild

The Call of the Wild – Jack London

The line is from the beginning of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, recently made into a motion picture with Harrison Ford. I’m intrigued as to what trouble is afoot for Buck. I’ll add the title to my to be read pile.

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

First Line Fridays

Taking inspiration from Cathy’s post, introducing First Line Fridays. A weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words, on judging a book by its opening lines rather than its cover or author. I decided to join in myself.

The below is from the book I am currently reading.

The city never sleeps, and neither does Stella’s. A glowing red sign marks out the cafe that serves fish and chips, bangers and mash and American pancakes to Londoners and visitors at any time of day or night. While buses pull up and drift away outside the window, the coffee machine hisses and administers caffeine to the sleepless.

I enjoyed the debut novel of Libby Page so have high hopes for this novel too.

the 24 hour cafe

The 24 hour Cafe – Libby Page

What books are you reading at the moment?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

A Year in Film: February 2020

What a horrible stormy month February has been! Most evenings I’ve locked the front door, blocking out the cold, driving wind and howling gales outside and hibernated. Listed below are the films we’ve watched this month.

Harriet ✩✩✩

The extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman‘s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

The month began with two films adapted from historical moments and people. I never knew about former slave Harriet Tubman and her colourful life. From becoming a Union spy during the American Civil War to being the first woman to lead an armed military raid that saved 700 slaves. She was a brave lady. I just wish the film had been that little bit better!

Midway ✩✩✩

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese forces launch a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. naval base in Hawaii. Six months later, the Battle of Midway commences on June 4, 1942, as the Japanese navy once again plan a strike against American ships in the Pacific. For the next three days, the U.S. Navy and a squad of brave fighter pilots engage the enemy in one of the most important and decisive battles of World War II.

The Americans are very good at making patriotic films, full of heroics and Midway is no exception. If you liked Pearl Harbor, then you’ll like this.

The Hustle ✩✩

Josephine Chesterfield is a glamorous, British woman who has a penchant for defrauding gullible men out of their money. Into her well-ordered world comes Penny Rust, a cunning and fun-loving Australian woman who loves to swindle unsuspecting marks. Despite their different methods, the two soon join forces for the ultimate score — a young and naive tech billionaire.

The Hustle is a female remake of the Steve Martin and Michael Cane film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels ✩✩ which we watched a few days later, just to compare. I chose two stars for both films as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels looked dated and some of the jokes in The Hustle fell flat. If you like comedy, you’ll like these films. 

Dolittle ✩✩✩

Dr. John Dolittle lives in solitude after losing the love of his life. His only companionship comes from an array of exotic animals that he can speak too. But when young Queen Victoria becomes gravely ill, the eccentric doctor and his furry friends embark on an epic adventure to a mythical island to find the cure.

I read that this film had a lot of bad reviews but I actually enjoyed it. It was a good family film with cute animations of animals and I was entertained by the fantasy adventure.

Jumanji: The Next Level ✩✩✩✩

When Spencer goes back into the fantastical world of Jumanji, pals Martha, Fridge and Bethany re-enter the game to bring him home. But the game is now broken — and fighting back. Everything the friends know about Jumanji is about to change, as they soon discover there’s more obstacles and more danger to overcome.

This film was another good adventure romp into the video game world of Jumanji. I’d say the first film, Welcome to the Jungle was slightly stronger but with the same cast and peril at every turn it was an enjoyable watch.

Jumanji ✩✩✩✩

Two children come across a magical board game. While playing it, they meet Alan, a man who was trapped inside the game for decades, and face a host of dangers that can only be stopped by finishing the game.

We thought we would go back to the beginning and watch the original Robin Williams Jumanji. Though now 25 years old the film is just as good a watch in 2020 as it was back in 1995.

Countdown ✩✩✩

When a nurse downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die, it tells her she only has three days to live. With time ticking away and a figure haunting her, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out.

I thought this wasn’t a bad thriller/horror, definitely a social commentary of today’s world of apps. A few jumps but with a predictable ending setting up a sequel. Do you like scary movies?

JoJo Rabbit ✩✩✩

Jojo is a lonely German boy who discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his imaginary friend — Adolf Hitler — Jojo must confront his blind nationalism as World War II continues to rage on.

The Hitler Youth and Nazi Germany isn’t a subject that comes to mind for a comedy but JoJo Rabbit is a satirical film centered on a young boy, brain washed into thinking the ideologies of Hitler. When JoJo meets Elsa, a Jew his mother is protecting, he first see’s her as alien but as the film progresses they become friends and JoJo soon comes to question what he has been told. 

Spies in Disguise ✩✩✩

When the world’s best spy is turned into a pigeon, he must rely on his nerdy tech officer to save the world.

I’ve been wanting to see this film since I saw the trailer for it. The fact pigeons were a major part of the plot made me think of David and his pigeon friends. Sadly the film didn’t live up to my expectations and I found the film wasn’t as good or as funny as I had hoped. However there’s enough action to keep kids entertained.

Have you seen any films recently that you have enjoyed or disliked?

Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Wild Swimming in 2020!

Glaslyn

Glaslyn

After a tremendous swim in Glaslyn, I had hoped to extend my wild swimming season by a month or so. Unfortunately I never made it into the water before Christmas, however much I had wanted too. Then I’d planned on a New Year swim at Coniston but with no planned walk for the day my hopes fizzled away like a firework. Though 2020 has been really slow to start (even slower than 2019!) my mind is already dreaming of the year ahead and I am looking forward to many wild swim/walks this year.

I’ve already booked a four nights break for my birthday, at a loch-side cabin in Scotland’s Trossachs National Park. With 22 loch’s I am spoiled for choice! Just looking at the variety of lochs, such as Katrine, Venachar and Lubnaig, I’m already getting super excited!

For my first swim this season I am hoping to tick off the Eskdale Blea Tarn! I’ve already swam the other two! Langdale, and Watendlath. I’ve read blogs and seen pictures of the Eskdale Blea Tarn and I am eager to get back into the water. It’s just a matter of logistics with car parking.

blea tarn eskdale

Blea Tarn Eskdale (Google Image)

Though I’ve always wanted to swim in Grisedale Tarn, perhaps it’s height position may deter me?

grisedale

Grisedale Tarn (Google Image)

The resting place of the crown of Cumbria may have to wait. However this year I do intend to swim in Helvellyn’s Red Tarn and Blea Water of Haweswater fame. I think both these tarns are achievable.

Again Coniston is the only ‘large’ lake I’ve not swam in and the Old Man of Coniston has many swimmable waters, e.g. levers and goat’s. I’ll aim for these this year.

Hopefully we’ll be able to bring Riley with us again on our Lake District adventures and introduce him to swimming in Ullswater!

In Snowdonia, I hope to tick off Llyn Padarn and Gwynant.

They seem the two easiest of the llyns I have my eye on! Llyn Ffynnon-y-gwas and Llyn Du’r Arddu of Snowdon fame may be a bit of a hike.

However, Llyn Nantlle and Llyn Cwm Silyn Uchaf, again will have issues with logistics. If you know of places to park and walking routes, do let me know.

So there you have a brief glimpse into my mind for the wild swim year ahead. If you have any swim suggestions, do let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #71

Wow! It’s been such a long time since I updated you all with a Sunday Sevens, a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.

#walk1000miles

With the start of a new year, I was excited to begin counting the miles to 1000 again! This week however my miles have been hobbled by my clumsy self, breaking (yet again) my little toe. I have had to restrict the amount of walking I’ve been doing until it heals. So as feared my miles gained this week have been a pitiful. 25 miles, bringing my new total to 190 miles.

Book I am Reading: 

At present I am reading JoJo Moyes’s – The Girl You Left Behind.  It begins in an occupied town in France during the First World War and follows the fortune of Sophie whose husband has joined the French army. Edouard was a gifted painter and leaves Sophie behind with her portrait which herr Kommandant has fallen in love with. The second half of the novel sees Liv, who has Sophie’s portrait in her home and learns of the troubled history of the painting. I have just read Sophie’s chapters and now begin Liv’s. It’s an easy read but quite harrowing in parts. A much better novel than The Horse Dancer!

Have you read any good books lately?

Theatre:

an inspector calls

An Inspector Calls

Do you ever get excited about seeing something and then when you do, it is a total disappointment? Well that is what happened when we visited The Playhouse, Liverpool to see J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector CallsI enjoyed reviewing the play during my 2017 A Year in Books, so was excited to see the stage performance. However this ‘visionary, radical, challenging version of JB Priestley’s classic thriller‘, directed by Stephen Daldry for National Theatre really missed the mark for me. Daldry’s production began with World War Two bomb sirens. The stage design was of a house that would ultimately be destroyed by German V2’s. The whole stage design sat uneasy with me and did not help the drama between the cast. The play is set during a dinner party in the Edwardian period, before World War One, however in this production most of the action was on a street outside a house. It never really jelled for me. The only saving grace was the atmospherics and soundtrack.

Have you seen this play, if so what did you think?

New Tech:

2020 has begun rather disappointingly in more ways than one! In January I discovered, to my sadness that I had somehow broken the lens on my Samsung S6 which I use predominantly as a camera. However I am blessed that we had the means to be able to purchase a replacement. I am now the proud owner of a Samsung S10 with wide lens and ultra slow motion. I’ve found the phone is more intelligent than I am!

djiDavid has just purchased a DJI Mavic Mini. For over a year we have been humming and ahhing about getting a drone to add more depth to my wild swim videos. This year David plucked up the courage and spent his pennies on this light weight drone. We’ve not tried it yet, what with Storm Ciara causing havoc, but I will report when we do.

Do you own a drone? Any tips?

Hans Zimmer Live (again):

hans

Hans Zimmer Live 2021

In 2017 I went to see Hans Zimmer Live in Liverpool, a year before that in Birmingham. Notice my surprise when he recently announced a European tour for 2021. With David and my brother Daniel we decided to purchase tickets to see the new show in March 2021 at Manchester Arena. I hope it’s as good as the original!

New Appliance: 

washing machineTo round off a rather disappointing week, we had the delivery of our new washing machine today. Only to find that the electrical plug isn’t long enough to reach our power socket. So we are having to move the socket some place else. In a house as old as ours, nothing is straight forward. I may not be able to use my new washing machine but I can admire it!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

#walk1000miles 2019

Walk+1000+miles+logo+2019Welcome to my third #walk1000miles post!

2019 has been the third year I’ve participated in the initiative by Country Walking Magazine. For the past 12 months, I’ve been busy counting my miles daily and tallying my weekly totals. I’ve counted workouts on the cross-trainer, walks to work, exercising the family dog, Riley and of course holidays and days out with David!

My overall mileage for 2019 has been a wonderful 1,979 miles. Beating my 2018 total, by 108 miles and my 2017 mileage by a whopping 663 miles!

As in 2018‘s post, I’ve split the year into seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter, and give the miles for each of the three months. It will be good to see how different my mileage accumulates over the year and how it differs per season and against previous years totals.

So without further ado, let’s begin with my favourite season of all, spring!

Spring: (March, April and May)

The theme of this years #walk1000miles has been walks with friends and family. David and I also joined the RSPB which saw us taking trips to Leighton Moss and Burton Mere. All these new adventures meant I completed my 500 miles by March!

Summer: (June, July and August)

Although we didn’t have as fair a summer in 2019 as in the previous year, my miles did increase due to better walking conditions and I reached 1000 miles on June 25th. My friend Jennifer came to visit the UK for a second time and we went hiking in Snowdonia and swam in llyns Bochlwyd and Idwal.

Total miles for summer= 461.

Autumn: (September, October and November)

It seemed as the year progressed my mileage actually declined! Even though I had trips away to the Lake District and Snowdonia this quarter, my miles walked were pretty poor by my standards. I think I swapped the miles for wild swims as I took quite a few in September and October! 

Total miles for autumn= 457 miles.

Winter: (December, January and February)

I kick started my 2019 #walk1000miles on New Years Day, with a 10 mile walk around Derwentwater and Kewsick with Riley in tow. In December David and I took an expensive city break to New York City! Walking 73 miles in five days which greatly aided my annual mileage.

Total miles for winter = 566 miles.

Annual Total = 1,979 miles!

certificate and medalAchieving #walk1000miles in a year is greatly satisfying. My certificate and medal have pride of place on my gym’s wall. However, I had hoped to make the 2000 mile mark and gain wonder woman status, but alas I’ve not reached that milestone. Short by only 21 miles. 

#walk1000miles has a wonderful, supportive Facebook group. Through participation in this group my name was among the many others on the We Did 1000 Miles page of the January 2020 edition of Country walking Magazine and I also featured in the Do it for Happiness section of the pull out magazine from the February 2020 edition.

I was also proud to have my picture of the Llyn Idwal walk printed in the September 2019 edition.

80466301_2818314341565595_354988405748137984_oI’ve signed up again for the 2020 challenge, however I won’t be aiming for 2000 miles. I’ve decided to just see how far I can walk in a year and not push it. Walking is such an easy, free activity, much underrated if you ask me. I will continue walking the miles I do and see how I go. How about you? Do you feel inspired to give the challenge a go?

If you fancy signing up, click the link below and join me and thousands more, walking that little bit more than we did last year!

https://www.walk1000miles.co.uk/

Thanks for reading, Christine x