Sunday Sevens #69

It’s Sunday! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens, a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.

Week off work = lots of Riley walks!
This past week I have had a quiet week off work, though it wasn’t too restful as I took Riley on lots of walks to the local park. Lots of extra walking means my miles for the #walk1000miles challenge has been a good 38 bringing my annual total to 1,233 miles. How are you doing if you are walking 1000 miles?

A Trip to the Cinema:
For a treat, my mum and I took a trip to the cinema to see the new Lion King. Having seen the 1994 original and loved the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, I was eager to see what the new all CGI production was like. The film had received some pretty scathing reviews but I really enjoyed it! The reprises from Zimmer’s soundtrack really made the film for me. If you have seen the film, what did you think?

convenienceBook I am reading:
Thanks to Sharon’s reviews, I’ve picked up a copy of Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman. It’s very quirky, funny in places and a satirical take on modern culture.

Brocholes:
David took a few days off work at the end of the week and joined me in a leisurely four mile walk around Brockoles nature reserve. We went in search of dragonflies! We spotted azure damselflies, common hawkers and numerous butterflies on the wing.

Family meal:
It was David’s birthday on Friday, so we invited his brother and sister and their respective spouses to a dinner party at our home. We ordered in our favourite curry from Saffron and had a good catch up.

Moth:
During the dinner party I wandered around the yarden with David’s nephew Ewan, and spied this gorgeous swallow-tailed moth. I’ve never seen one before so you can imagine my excitement.

buff tailed bumblebee

Buff tailed bumblebee

A bonus picture:
While pottering about the yarden this Sunday afternoon, I spied this huge bumblebee. Isn’t she a beauty!?!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Sunday Sevens #64

RizeIt’s Sunday! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.)

Poorly Pets:
Our new female Lady Gouldinan finch, Rize has been in the hospital cage twice in the two weeks we have had her. The first time we think she took a knock falling from her perch and today she is back in the hospital cage after spending all night on the aviary floor. She is sleeping at the moment but hopefully she will recover. Fingers crossed!

Family Walks: 
Recently we took a three mile family walk with Riley to Port Sunlight River Park.

Riley Walks:
My highlight of the week has been that I was able to complete a solo walk with Riley. He is strong and pulls but with the help of a gentle leader I was able to take him to the local park. After this success Riley and I will be going on many more solo walks in future.

#walk1000miles:
My walking has picked up a little this week, my mileage being 41. Bringing my annual total to 636 miles. If you are participating in the challenge, how are you doing?

Cooking:
As you can tell from this post it’s been a quiet week. For my lunch on Friday I managed to incorporate some cooked puy lentils I had recently purchased. I made a puy lentil and quinoa curried stew. I sweated one chopped white onion, and two cloves of chopped garlic in oil before adding the packet of puy lentils and 50g of uncooked quinoa. I threw in a handful of peas and then tipped in a teaspoon of curry powder, a teaspoon of turmeric and half a teaspoon of chilli powder. Then I poured in 500ml of water with one vegetable stock cube and cooked for 15 minutes. It made for a healthy, tasty meal. Do you like cooking with lentils? If so what’s your favourite recipe?

puy and quinoa curried stew

Puy Lentil with Quinoa Curried Stew

Gardening:
At the weekend, David and I took a trip to Lady Green Garden Centre. I had an empty pot to fill and managed to purchase a polemonium and night scented phlox.

rize2

Rize and egg

A Happy Note to End With:
An update on Rize. After placing the hospital cage near a radiator (for warmth) and David had massaged her vent, this afternoon Rize laid an egg! The task was long and arduous and Rize at present is resting.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

A Year in Books 2019 – January to March

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A Year in Books

Welcome to 2019’s A Year in Books. This is my third year following the initiative run by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees, and I have decided 40 books in a year is achievable for me.

A new year means a new batch of books to read. For the first quarter of 2019 I managed to read a total of eight books.

Here’s my reviews below.

Almanac – Lia Leendertz (January/February/March) ✩✩
I don’t know what I expected from this almanac but some of the content in Lia’s compilation just doesn’t inform me enough. I particularly like the history behind the naming of months, stellar events and information from a bee hive but I feel I want more than what I am reading. Do you know of any better almanacs?

The History of Mary Prince – Mary Prince ✩✩
I don’t even know how this book got on my Kindle! It’s a recount of the life of a slave Mary Prince, in the 1800’s. Some of the accounts of torture are difficult to read. Mary finally escaped her brutal enslavement and took up residence in England. She is the first woman to present an anti slavery petition to parliament.

Into the Water – Paula Hawkins ✩✩✩
From the author who gave us Girl on a Train. Into the Water is billed as yet another thriller but it felt more of a detective novel. Just days before her sister drowned, Jules ignored her call. Now Nel is dead, and Jules must return to her sister’s house to care for her daughter, and to face the mystery of Nel’s death. But Jules is afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of this small town that is drowning in secrecy. From the reviews on Amazon not many people enjoyed this book, but I enjoyed it even though it was hard to get a grip of all the characters (there were a lot of them!)

The Turn of Midnight – Minette Walters ✩✩✩
I quite enjoyed this book. I didn’t rate the first installment of Minette Walter’s historical plague novel but I found that the pace got better in this second book. Character development seemed more progressive and the novel concluded satisfactorily.

Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon ✩✩✩✩
By far the best book I have read this quarter. I found some of the passages were written so profoundly! 84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, she considers the charming new resident who looks exactly like a man she once knew – a man who died sixty years ago. His arrival has stirred distant memories she and Elsie thought they’d laid to rest. Lying prone in the front room, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light … Even though I had second guessed the third thing about Elsie, the narrative and how the story slowly developed had me gripped. The final chapters left me aching with sadness. Have you read a book that left a lasting impression on you?

Still Me – JoJo Moyes ✩✩✩
The third and final installment of the Louisa Clark series. Louisa relocates to New York for a job as a Personal Assistant. During her time in the Big Apple she meets many colorful and zany people. However these people are what save her from disillusionment and a miscarriage of justice. At the end of Still Me, Louisa Clark finds her true self worth and ultimately, happiness. I think this was the second strongest novel of the trilogy after Me Before You. Have you read any of these books or anything by JoJo Moyes?

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris ✩✩✩
I had read good reviews about this book so when I saw it in Asda, I decided to buy it. Though the novel is in third person narrative it is told from the viewpoint of a survivor of the Holocaust. In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a jack-the-lad, it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too. I found the writing style was easy to read but being third person I felt a lot of the descriptions of death were a little matter of fact, but perhaps living so close to extermination on a daily basis made you see death like that? The Tattooist saw a lot of the Nazi’s Final Solution, of the gas chambers and crematorium to the final destruction of records before the Russian’s arrived. In a time of death it was a story of determination and survival.

The Gap of Time – Jeanette Winterson ✩✩
A baby girl is abandoned, banished from London to the storm-ravaged American city of New Bohemia. Her father has been driven mad by jealousy, her mother to exile by grief. Seventeen years later, Perdita doesn’t know a lot about who she is or where she’s come from – but she’s about to find out. Jeanette Winterson’s cover version of The Winter’s Tale vibrates with echoes of Shakespeare’s original and tells a story of hearts broken and hearts healed, a story of revenge and forgiveness, a story that shows that whatever is lost shall be found. I found this modern retelling of one of Shakespeare’s later plays rather hard to digest. I felt the text rather crude and I cared little for the madness of Leo(ontes). The other characters seemed all rather ineffectual to the angst of Leo whose actions shouldn’t have been so easily forgiven. I had waited a few years to read this book. I really wish I hadn’t now.

I’ve felt this first quarter’s reading has been rather mediocre. Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2018 – October to December

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A Year in Books

Sorry this post is a bit late. I’m still trawling through the backlog of planned blogs for the end of 2018!

I aimed to read 40 books by the end of the year, and I can happily say I reached my target, by reading 41. Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge. For 2019 I will keep the target at 40, which I think is a manageable figure. Do you fancy joining in?

Below, find reviews of the books I read in the final quarter of 2018. What books have you enjoyed this past year?

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

I enjoyed the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, so imagine my surprise when I found they had rekindled the series. It may be written by a different author but the same cast of characters feature. Although the plot is a slow burn the narrative soon picks up and races through to the end, leaving the reader breathless. I would have loved more Salander in the story but nonetheless it’s a good start to the continuation of the series.

Have you read the two new sequels? What were your impressions?

After You – Jojo Moyes

I enjoyed Me Before You and even laughed/cried at the film. So I purchased the sequel After You. However the story was not as good as the original. It followed Louisa Clark coming to terms with life after Will. There was still moments of joviality interlaced with poignancy but it didn’t pack as much punch as the first book. I will probably read the third installment once it comes out in paperback.

Have you seen the film? Do you think it kept true to the novel?

The Comfort of Strangers – Ian McEwan

Why, why, why do I keep doing this to myself? I keep subjecting myself to the dull, banal writing of Ian McEwan! Again I was disappointed in yet another of his novels. I can’t recall much of the plot which I found rather vague. The third person narrative really detracts from the reader caring a jot about the characters and the horrors that happen to them. The plot, a couple holidaying abroad befriend a man who invites them back to his home where they meet his crippled wife. I had heard a radio adaption of this book in the 90’s which I found deeply unsettling. However the book I just found boring.

Perhaps you felt differently?

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

The bad writing just continues I’m afraid with this depressing post apocalyptic novel. A film was also made starring Viggo Mortensen. If the film is anything like the book, then I’ll pass. The plot is of a father and his son travelling a road to the coast after the world has been decimated by some kind of cataclysm. Anguish and misery pour from this novel in floods. Reading scene after scene of human desperation in a ravaged world devoid of food and warmth is hard to stomach. The conclusion leaves the reader unsatisfied and I wonder if the ulterior motive of the author was to depress his audience? I was shocked to read that the book won a Pulitzer Prize!

Maybe you had a different experience of this novel?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

My choice of books were not going well this quarter. I decided to try another book that has been adapted for film and which again I’ve not seen. The issue I had with this novel was not the plot, which was rather twee but the language. I found that it seemed too modern for the 1950’s. The plot, a writer comes from London to Guernsey to research the German Occupation and in the process finds herself among a colourful cast of characters.

Have you read the book? Seen the film?

One Day in December – Josie Silver

I really wanted to like this book, I really did. The advertisement for the book kept popping up on my Instagram with rave reviews. So I downloaded a copy. The premise, a girl on a bus makes eye contact with a boy whom she looks haphazardly for over a year until she eventually meets him but there’s a catch. I won’t ruin the plot for you if you enjoy rom-coms but I felt rather bored with the characters and the sugary sweetness of it all.

Perhaps you felt differently if you’ve read this book?

9780857056436The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye – David Lagercrantz

I seemed to get into this second sequel to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy much quicker than the first. The characters were more detailed and the story I felt was much better than the first Lagercrantz uptake of the series. Salander featured much more and the plot was fast paced. Its not a patch on the Stieg Larsson originals but I enjoyed it none the less.

Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

I’m struggling to find books for 2019 that really grasp my interest. Have you any suggestions on books you think I would enjoy?

Thanks for visiting and happy reading!

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Thirty

Walk+1000+miles+logo+2019Day Thirty: Today’s photo prompt is goals for 2019 (if any). I tend not to set any new year resolutions, save disappointment when I don’t achieve them. However for 2019 I will continue my walking, and make a determined effort to get to 2000 miles in the #walk1000miles challenge. I was so close this year!

What goals have you planned for 2019 (if any)?

Thanks for reading, Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Four

Day Four: Today’s photo prompt is Christmas tunes. All year I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of December, so I can listen to my ever expanding playlist from over the years. During Christmas 2017 I enjoyed a wonderful adaption and recording of the popular Mariah Carey song, All I Want for Christmas Is You by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Crouch End Festival Chorus.

What Christmas music do you enjoy listening to at this time of year?

Thanks for tuning in,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2018 – April to June

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books.

I was surprised I managed to finish the same amount of books this quarter, as I did last year, all of 13 books. It will be the period between July to September that will be the real challenge. Where I prefer to be outside enjoying nature to being stuck within the pages of a book.

As April began I rushed to finish The Famished Road – Ben Okri.

This book began promising, but soon lost my interest. There is only so many times a spirit child can go wondering off and then witness psychedelic strangeness before one gets bored. There is a second novel which follows Azaro on his adventures but I won’t be picking this one up. Have you read The Famished Road? Did you read its sequel?

Wodwo by Ted Hughes

I was inspired to turn to this collection after reading Mark Haddon’s anthology The Pier Falls. One of Haddon’s more memorable short stories was entitled Wodwo about the beginnings of a wild man but with a twist! I enjoyed Hughes’ short stories in this collection more than his poetry. I particularly liked the play, The Wound, set in the trenches of WW1, the narrative I found was very visual.

Seven Wonders of the Industrial World – Deborah Cadbury

I reviewed this inspiring book in my Sunday Sevens #49.

Playing with Fire – Tess Gerritsen

This one was suggested by my mum. Playing with Fire is a psychological thriller. Julia is a musician who desires to find out why her daughter attacks her whilst a particular piece of music is playing. The trail leads her to Venice and the sad tale of Lorenzo, an Italian Jew living during the turbulent 1930’s. The novel is a quick read, with a twist and one I would recommend. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Origin – Dan Brown

It seems that Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon novels all seem to have the same plot. They are just set in a different country! If you cut out the tourism jargon, I think this book has to be the weakest of the series. Langdon, who is the main character, didn’t seem to have much influence moving the story forward. I liked the premise of Winston but think the whole plot was far fetched. If you’ve read this book, what were your impressions?

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I would love to see a re-imagining of this poem. I felt that the narrative was very modern, of zombie sailors, reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean. At a wedding party, a mariner tells his tale of a disastrous journey where he kills an albatross and of his subsequent guilt. The narrator describes the doldrums, seen as a punishment, where the crew of the ship die, but the narrator doesn’t. The crew then frighteningly become zombies. The narrator is eventually rescued but has to retell his tale to educate others of not to kill an albatross! I particularly enjoyed Orson Wells recital on YouTube.

Have you read this poem? What were your thoughts?

The Women of Heachley Hall – Rachel Walkley

This book is written in the vein of A Parliament of Rooks by Karen Perkins. It could have been so much better if there was less description of every nook and cranny. I like description but too much of it clogs the narrative. I felt this was the case with The Women of Heachley Hall. The narrative was trying too hard to be Gothic and the ghost story was fantastical! It was more a love story than a ghost story. The book did keep me interested, I just wasn’t too enamored on the style of writing.

Stressed, Unstressed – Edited by Bate, Byrne, Ratcliffe and Schuman

After taking the enjoyable Future Learn course, Literature and Mental Health a few years ago. I made a note to purchase this book, which is an accompaniment to the course. An anthology comprising of poems to aid in healing, grief and mindfulness. The book is very accessible and could be picked up if and when required. I don’t know whether it was because I read the book mostly at night, when I was tired, but I did find a lot of the poetry quite depressing. Possibly a book to keep going back to.

Open Water Woman Swims Windermere – Jacqui Hargrave

I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. I discovered whilst reading, that the chapters were really just blog posts stitched together for publication. Being from a blog, the chapters were succinct but lacked detail. There was so many grammatical errors, I wish the author had had the manuscript proof read before publication. I’d keep a wide berth from this book if I was you.

Crow – Ted Hughes

I don’t know if it’s me, or that my education is lacking but I find Ted Hughes’ poetry hard to fathom. I can pick out an undercurrent of threat and violence, a lot of hubris and humour but his poems on crow have been rather lost on me.

Do you like poetry? If so who is your favourite poet?

Birds – Edited by Mavis Pilbeam

It was Sharon from the delightful blog Sunshine and Celandines that suggested this book. I thought I would read it for The Wildlife Trusts30 Days Wild. I enjoyed many of the poems inspired by paintings in the British Museum. Poems by John Clare and Edward Thomas were among the highlights for me.

The Turn of the Screw – Henry James

I re-read this book due to being inspired by soprano Charlotte Hoather’s post on her participation in the opera of the same name, at the Royal College of Music. Charlotte sang the role of Governess who is employed by an enigmatic uncle of two young orphans. Everything goes well until Miles, the eldest is expelled from school and returns home with a question mark over his character. Henry James is not a favourite author of mine. I find his style of writing rather long winded. In The Turn of the Screw, James’ writing is even more ambiguous as the Governess narrates her tale of a haunting by two debauched ghosts, trying to steal away her two charges, or is she narrating a tale of her own spiral into madness? It is never certain as to which scenario it is. Have you read this book? Did you think it was a ghost story?

A Cold Death in Amsterdam – Anja de Jager

This is the first book in the Lotte Meerman series. Lotte is quite a complex detective with a lot of background story which comes out slowly within the novel. The stories themselves are also quite complex with many different threads running parallel. I did find it a bit hard going to start off with, knowing which plot-line was which but it all comes together quite well.

Have you read any of these novels?

I ended the quarter by starting Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman, which I am really enjoying at the moment.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

12 Hours of Day #8

Many thanks to Louise at Ramblings of a Roachling, for giving me the heads up on this weekends #photoanhour on Instagram. I love participating in the challenge, even though most of the time I don’t have anything interesting planned. This weekend however I did have something planned but events conspired against me and I was left trying to fill the time up. So here’s what I got up to during my 12 hours of day!

Photo an Hour – 16th June 2018

8am to 9am:

My Saturday began at 8.15am. I awoke to a drizzly morning. The plants in the yarden had a well earned drink while I made breakfast.

9am to 10am:

David and I took a visit to David’s Mum and Dad for Father’s Day. We were also meeting David’s brother, sister-in-law and nephew for a family trip to a nearby farm. We enjoyed hugs from the family’s Newfoundland, Bennie.

10am to 11am:

We were still waiting for David’s brother and sister-in-law, so David took to drawing on a chalk board while his nephew Ewan drew with felt tips.

11am to 12pm:

We were still waiting. I was running out of things to photograph. I liked this cactus display David’s Mum had created.

12pm to 1pm:

With no communication from family, David and I decided to go home for some lunch.

1pm to 2pm:

Finally after 1pm, we got the call that family were ready. So we headed towards the tunnel, to the Wirral.

2pm to 3pm:

Our destination was Claremont Farm, where we all went strawberry picking!

3pm to 4pm:

On our way home, I quickly snapped this shot of the striking Liver Building.

4pm to 5pm:

Time for a quick break before housework. I decided to make a start on the day’s 30 Days Wild blog.

5pm to 6pm:

While I tackled the hated vaccuming, David rustled up an egg fried rice in the kitchen for the evenings meal.

6pm to 7pm:

During mealtime, David snapped this sunlit viper’s-bugloss.

7pm to 8pm:

To end a particularly tiring day we sat down to hand picked strawberries with a mix of shop bought raspberries and ice cream. The strawberries were yummy!

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

12 Hours of Day #7

Thanks to Louise from Ramblings of a Roachling, for giving me the heads up on this weekends #photoanhour on Instagram. It’s been a while since I participated so without further ado, here’s what I got up to during my 12 hours of day!

Photo an Hour – 24th March 2018

8am to 9am:

My Saturday began like many other Saturdays, at 8am. I fed Artie before making breakfast and coffee to ease myself into the morning.

9am to 10am:

We took a weekly trip to the local Asda to do the big shop.

10am to 11am:

Once returned from the supermarket, David and I headed back out towards Speke Retail Park and Dobbies.

11am to 12pm:

It was mum’s birthday on Sunday and as a gift she requested an orchid. There were many to chose from in the shop!

12pm to 1pm:

Back home, we had lunch and I enjoyed a cup of Costa coffee before the hard work of spring cleaning the house beckoned.

1pm to 2pm:

There was no getting away from the spring clean this week. I like to clean the windows in March before the clocks go forwards, which happened to be the Sunday. So I tied my hair up and gritted my teeth. Three hours+ work was ahead!

2pm to 3pm:

As expected, David and I were still working hard at cleaning. I took to cleaning the windows, while David tackled the mold on the walls. The washing machine worked splendidly and cleaned the voiles, curtains and even the settee covers!

3pm to 4pm:

By 3.30pm the bedroom window had freshly washed voiles and the spring/summer curtains were up.

4pm to 5pm:

David, took a breather from cleaning and fed the pigeons. Hoppy, who has visited for the past two years and comes to David when called, enjoyed the food offered.

5pm to 6pm:

While David was cleaning the settees, I turned my hand at making a salad to go with the evenings meal.

6pm to 7pm:

It was nice to finally sit down and enjoy a warm meal. We had pizza. I am sure I had the same dinner last #photoanhour. However this time, dinner was in daylight. The longer days of summer are on their way! Yippie! 🙂

7pm to 8pm:

There wasn’t much time to digest dinner as I remembered that it was the day to clean the finches. *sigh* So I cleaned the Blue-faced Parrot-finches’ cage while David cleaned the aviary.

earth hourThe rest of the evening:

From 8.30 to 9.30 (local time) David and I observed #earthhour. I turned off all the lights, lit a candle and we snuggled together to watch All the Money in the World. We left the candle burning ’til 11pm

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks for reading, Christine x