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

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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

12 Hours of Day #6

Bev from Confuzzledom informed me that the latest #photoanhour challenge was this Saturday 20th January 2018. I decided to join in on Instagram. Though my day was hectic I wouldn’t class it as exciting! Here’s my 12 hours of Day.

Photo an Hour – 20th January 2018

8am to 9am:

My Saturday began at 8am with the alarm clock blaring. I was the first up and with Artie fed, I waited for the kettle to boil for my morning coffee.

9am to 10am:

I dawdled over breakfast. The morning was cold, grey and raining. It was difficult to motivate myself, but I knew I had to get up as a busy day awaited. I spent fifteen minutes putting on my make-up and getting dressed.

10am to 11am:

First on the agenda was the weekly shop. We spent a good hour in Asda spending lots of money on gym clothes and groceries.

11am to 12pm:

Was spent unpacking groceries, travelling to garages so David could pump up his car tyres and travelling to a spice market that was sadly closed when we got there.

12pm to 1pm:

Arriving later than planned, we took a visit to David’s mum and dad.

1pm to 2pm:

Home, I managed to arrange the cut flowers I’d bought that morning.

2pm to 3pm:

While having a late lunch, David noticed we had an egg in the aviary. It was a tiny owl finch egg.

3pm to 4pm:

Thankfully the rain stopped long enough for me to spend some time in the yarden. I cleaned the bird feeders of mold.

4pm to 5pm:

After doing some house work, I tried on my new gym clothes!

5pm to 6pm:

After cleaning the aviary, we watched as the finches enjoyed their new French Red Anjou Millet!

6pm to 7pm:

Dinner time. I was starving! We both had pizza for Saturday’s evening meal. David’s was topped with chicken, while I had half a goat’s cheese with spinach pizza. I served it with a heap of salad to make it look healthier. Of course I enjoyed a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon too :p

7pm to 8pm:

For the rest of the evening I relaxed with Classic FM and Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type. David and I also snuggled and watched a film together. It was a nice end to a hectic day.

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

#walk1000miles

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Welcome to my #walk1000miles post!

This has been the first year I have participated in the initiative by Country Walking Magazine.

For the past 12 months, I have been busy counting my miles daily and tallying my weekly totals. I’ve counted workouts on the treadmill/cross-trainer, walks to work, exercising the family dog Riley and of course holidays and days out with David! My overall mileage for 2017 has been a wonderful 1,316 miles.

In this post I will split the year up 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.

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

Spring: (March, April and May)

With the dawn of longer days ahead, thoughts turn to days outdoors enjoying nature and the sunshine. Highlights from walks this quarter come from much fun with smiley Riley, taking a bimble through the famous bluebells at Rannerdale, Cumbria and many woodland walks.

Total miles for the month = 332.

Summer: (June, July and August)

It’s not surprising that the long summer months were best for my mileage. However what did amaze me was that in June I tallied my highest miles of the year! I think this was due in some way to the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! This wonderful incentive does certainly make you focus on getting out more and noticing the world around you. Then add the #walk1000miles challenge and you have a partnership that goes hand in hand. During the month of June and into summer David and I ventured to previously undiscovered nature reserves, enjoyed a two night break to the Lake District and went in search of art in the streets of Liverpool and Birmingham!

Total miles for the month = 382.

Autumn: (September, October and November)

I completed the #walk1000miles challenge on the 8th October 2017. I felt kind of numb after I calculated passing the 1000 mile mark! I had not planned on completing two months early but it soon dawned on me how much of an achievement it actually was! Among the many autumn delights, were days out to Snowdonia, North Wales and attending our first ever apple festival in search of British heritage varieties.

One pattern that has come from analysing the annual mileage has been how similar both spring and autumn’s totals were.

Total miles for the month = 321.

Winter: (December, January and February)

The shorter days and darker nights mean that winter miles are the shortest of the year. However there have been a few days out. New Years Day saw David and I head towards Coniston and a visit to Banishead Quarry. A Valentine’s treat of afternoon tea at Jam beckoned in February and December is about all things Christmas!

Total miles for the month =  281

Annual Total = 1,316 miles

#walk1000miles has a wonderful, supportive Facebook page. Through participation on this page I have had a photo published in their magazine and my story also featured as part of their website to advertise 2018’s challenge. It also took me a while to find my name featured on the ‘We Did It’ page of the January edition.

Achieving #walk1000miles in a year is greatly satisfying. My certificate and medal has pride of place on my gym’s wall.

I’ve signed up to do it all again in 2018, and hoping to better 2017’s mileage. I would love to get to wonder-woman status of 2,000 miles, but I aim to achieve a more feasible 1,500 miles. If I manage anything more then I will be satisfied.

How about you? Do you feel inspired to give the challenge a go?

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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

A Year in Books – October to December

I can’t quite believe that this year is almost at an end. Where has the time gone? At the beginning of the year I quoted I wanted to read 40 books before the end of 2017, unfortunately I have only managed to read 35! Not a bad attempt! Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge. Hopefully the challenge will continue into 2018! I will keep my target at 40 books to be read in 2018! Do you fancy joining in?

oct to dec

The Diary of Anne Frank – Anne Frank

I’ve seen films and TV productions of the diary, but I have never read the book until this year. The diary is painfully poignant due to the foreknowledge of what happened to Anne and her family and friends who resided in the annex. Only her father survived the holocaust and made it his life’s work to educate people on the horrors of ethnic cleansing. Anne from the pages seems a voracious girl; her humour, angst and love leaps from the pages, overshadowed by the real fear of being discovered. The diary has made me want to visit Amsterdam and the Anne Frank House in future. What were your thoughts on the book? Have you been to Amsterdam?

An Inspector Calls – JB Priestley

I took a leaf from Liesel, The Book Thief in obtaining this book. I didn’t exactly steal it, but I did find it on the pavement as I stood waiting for a bus to work. I did a double take, wondering whether to rescue the book or leave it where it lay, its pages crumpled and sprawled in the mud. I decided to rescue the book and took it home with me. I had already watched the recent BBC adaptation of this play in 2015 with David Thewlis in the leading role, so I knew the synopsis of the play. An inspector interrupts a dinner party to investigate a girl’s suicide, and implicates each of the party-makers in her death. It’s a very supernatural play, full of foreboding of war. I enjoyed reading the play very much.

A Kestrel for a Knave – Barry Hines

I reviewed this painfully sad novel in my Sunday Sevens #37.

The Hiding Places – Katherine Webb

I do enjoy Katherine Webb’s books, though they are not of the caliber of other writers of similar vein. I almost forgot the plot to this story when reviewing it and I only read it a month ago! The story centres around a rural town in Wiltshire, recovering from the effects of The Great War. The plot focuses on three women. Irene has escaped a scandal in London by marrying the local paper mill owner, she meets Pudding, who is a girl groom for Irene’s new family and then there’s Clemmie who is a mute from a farming family. When Irene’s husband Alistair is murdered, she and Pudding endeavour to find out the truth behind his ghastly killing. Though I enjoyed the story of a murder most foul. The ending did confuse me, I wasn’t sure who I was reading about!

Jane Austen at Home – Lucy Worsley

In the bicentenary year of Jane Austen’s death I felt it quite apt that I managed to read Lucy Worsley’s biography. I don’t know what I was expecting from the book, but I had hoped Lucy’s humour from her TV programmes would shine through the narrative. It didn’t. Jane Austen to me still seemed a veiled character and Lucy’s narrative tried too hard to be academic, which it wasn’t. It was easy enough to read but it would make me think twice to read any more of Lucy Worsley’s works.

Persuasion – Jane Austen

Something from Lucy Worsley’s biography must had stayed with me as I decided to dig out my old copy of Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Her last published novel. However I wish I hadn’t. Though I managed to read it within a week, I found it hard going. It made me aware of how much literature and novel writing has developed and changed since the 1800’s! For the better I say! Persuasion is all about second chances, something Jane Austen in her own life never had. It wasn’t what I would call a romantic novel and the actually falling in love of the two protagonists seemed to happen off page. It affirmed my suspicion. Jane Austen is not my favourite novelist.

At the Water’s Edge – Sara Gruen

I loved Sara Gruen’s previous books, Water for Elephants and Ape House and I equally enjoyed At the Water’s Edge. Three Americans, used to the high life try to out run the second world war by travelling to Drumnadrochit, Scotland in search of the Loch Ness Monster, but ultimately the tale is about awakenings and second chances. I couldn’t put the book down!

Parliament of Rooks – Karen Perkins

I don’t really know what I was expecting when I bought this eBook. I knew it was set in Brontë country but other than that I didn’t know the story. I’m seventeen chapters in and it seems to be shaping up to be a ghost story/romance. It’s written well and is keeping my interest though a bit slow going. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

I’m always open to recommendations, so if you have read a book you have enjoyed and think I would like it too, then do let me know.

Will you be joining in next year’s challenge?

Thanks for following my year in books 2017. Here’s to many more good reads in 2018!

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #37

It’s been such a long time since I have written a Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins. So, I think a catch up is much needed.

New Friends: 

Last Saturday David and I visited our favourite pet shop, Clipsley Pets and Aquatics in Haydock. I had decided that if there were any owl finches then I would buy one. On the day there were two. I couldn’t leave one on its own, so both came home with me and I was £80 the poorer. They settled into their new home so quickly! They look so cute snuggled up with our other owls. Here they all are, Hector, Paris, Tux and Cox.

owls together

Owl Finches

Storm Ophelia and a Saharan sun:

Monday brought ex-hurricane Ophelia to the UK. The morning was swathed in ochre coloured clouds. The air had an unearthliness to it. While standing for a bus I noticed the shrouded sun burned a blood red. In times past it would have been seen as an omen. I later read that it was to due to sand particles blown from the Sahara.

#walk1000miles:

I am happy to report that I completed the #walk1000miles challenge on Sunday the 8th of October. It felt a bit of an anticlimax at first, as I had hoped to complete on my next break to the Lake District. In reality it was while I wandered around a Liverpool shopping park. However the achievement soon dawned on me. I was chuffed with myself, I’d walked 1000 miles in 10 months! I can’t wait to receive my completer’s medal! I am continuing to count my miles to see what tally I reach come 31st December 2017!

Have you participated in the challenge? If so, what has been your memorable moments of the year?

Book I am reading:

I’ve just completed Barry Hines’s painfully poignant A Kestrel for a KnaveI am of the age when this book/film was on the GCSE curriculum. I recall the film being grey and bleak. The book of a similar vein, has some wonderful descriptions of nature. There was one scene in the book that I felt I had read before, in Chris Packham’s Fingers in the Sparkle Jar.  The scene where Billy uses the lure with Kes while his teacher watches on awestruck, I felt echoed Packham’s own experience. Hine’s depicts a hand to mouth existence for Billy in a brutal northern industrial town and the narrative depicting Kes tucking into her meals is a reflection of that wildness. Even though I appreciated the reality of the novel, at the end I was left feeling despondent that life for Billy, like many who lived then, as of today, will always be cruel.

Have you read this book? Seen the film? What were your impressions?

Rehabilitation: 

For the past 3-4 weeks we have had a guest staying, in the form of a pigeon. We affectionately named her Shaky due to a constant tremor. At first we thought Shaky had canker but after medication she grew confused. With some vitamins and garlic water Shaky grew in strength and this weekend we decided to try and release her. However, we could have chosen a better weekend, what with Storm Brian on the horizon, but the winds helped raise Shaky on the wing and she flew from our garden. Hopefully we have given her a helping hand and she can join her friends and live her remaining years as a pigeon.

Wild About Gardens Week: 

This Monday is the beginning of an initiative by The Wildlife Trusts and RHS (Royal Horticultural Society), Wild About Gardens. The week long initiative is focusing on bees and what we can do to attract them to our gardens. There is a downloadable pack that gives useful information. You can help by building homes to growing nectar rich flowers.

The wildflower seeds I sowed for 30 Days Wild in June have been flowering all summer and well into autumn! I’ll end this post with a collage of some wildflowers. If you can recognise any of them, then I would be most appreciative if you could let me know which ones in the comments below, some I could not identify.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

 

A Year in Books – July to September

I can’t quite believe this quarter has gone so fast! I’ve hardly any books to share with you. It has been a very sparse few months of reading!

This is what I have managed to get through, plus one on Kindle! All of five books and I am still struggling my way through one. Can you guess which one?

july to september

Face Paint – Lisa Eldridge

Lisa Eldridge is a renowned makeup artist whose YouTube videos have helped plain women, like myself make their daily embellishment that little bit better! This book had been sitting on my shelf for well over a year. I’ve been meaning to read it, but somehow hadn’t found the time, nor the energy. One evening, I decided to read it before bed every night for a week. I enjoyed delving into the history behind makeup and how it’s intrinsically linked with womens’ suffrage. I particularly liked the the mini biographies of influential women throughout history.

The Child in Time – Ian McEwan

I was expecting greatness when I picked up this book by Ian McEwan, (1987 Whitbread winner, now Costa Award). I thoroughly enjoyed his writing in Atonement, so expected more of the same. However, as I made my daily commute through Liverpool to work, this book was not a welcome companion. Perhaps it was the theme of the book, of a couple who have their child taken from them? Whatever it was, I was not blown away by the narrative. I felt rather bored with the plot that didn’t seem to go anywhere. I guessed that the actual child in time was the narrator, Stephen. We are perhaps all children in time one way or another. I hope that the new BBC production starring Benedict Cumberbatch captures the imagination a bit more. Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

I’ve consciously been trying to read books this year with birds featured in the title. However I’ve hit a snag with The Goldfinch. Being 700+ pages long, the narrative is about a boy who loses both his parents (in different incidents) and what befalls him thereafter. It’s been rather hard to read. Perhaps I have been lazy? Even though Tartt’s writing is elegant and creative, I have struggled with the content. It leaves me feeling sad. I can’t wait to finish this book. Have you felt the same over another book?

And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini

I really enjoyed Hosseini’s previous books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. However Hosseini seems to have fallen down with his third novel. I can see what he meant by the type of narrative he went for. Of an interweaving of differing stories, all coming from the same source, but it somehow fell flat. I got through the book eventually, but would not recommend. Would you?

9781780748436_13A Siege of Bitterns – Steve Burrows

Can you see a pattern develop? Yet another book with a bird in the title, but again I have been struggling to get through the narrative. It’s a detective novel set in Norfolk, but I just can’t warm to the cast of characters. The style of writing is more tell than show which doesn’t lead well to character development.

So, there you have it, my abysmal tally for this quarter. Are there any books you have read recently that you have enjoyed? Do let me know.

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

12 Hours of Day #5

Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines messaged me on Friday informing me that this Saturday was another Photo an Hour. Though I had nothing planned, I thought it would be good for you to see into an ordinary day of mine. So here goes! 🙂

Photo and Hour – 22nd April 2017

8am to 10am:

Most of my Saturday’s start at 8am. Today was no different. I crawled out of bed sleepy eyed and had breakfast with Artie sitting at the bottom of the bed, with wonderful spring sunshine streaming through the bedroom window.

After breakfast I got dressed and put my ‘face’ on for the day ahead.

10am to 11am:

Saturday is shopping day, so David, mum and I headed towards Asda, or in Liverpool it’s ‘the’ Asda! :p The alarm for the hour sounded when we were heading into the frozen section of the supermarket, so we turned and smiled for the camera! Cheese!!

10 to 11

11am to 1pm:

Since the sun was shining, (though it was cold), David and I decided to take Riley to another local park, Sefton Park. We walked around the boating lake and played fetch on a field full of daisies and dandelions. 🙂

1pm to 2pm:

We arrived home for lunch at 1pm. I sat down with a Tassimo Costa coffee, the last of the hot cross buns and the final chapters of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.

2pm to 3pm:

While I took to doing some housework, David started preparing the ingredients for his curry base. He’s cooking Sunday’s dinner, so I left him to it! 😀

3pm to 5pm:

While dinner cooked I pottered about the yarden. I enjoyed listening to the buzz of two bees visiting the lithodora and red campion. Both were hairy-footed flower bee’sthe cream one is a male and the black is a female.

5pm to 7pm:

Saturday’s dinner was a Quorn Sausage and Lentil Cassoulet. I adapted the recipe from Donal Skehan. I used red lentils instead of puy lentils, perhaps I should have used green? Halfway through the meal I gasped, ‘I’ve forgotten to take a photo.’ So I apologise for the half eaten picture of the meal.

6pm’s photo comes courtesy of David. I was upstairs doing something or other. When I came down, David said, ‘there’s a new picture taken for the hour.’ I scrolled through the gallery and there was a picture of Artie, David had taken. Though Artie doesn’t look that enamoured :p

7pm to 8pm:

My last photo of the day. With the sun setting, I pour myself a glass of pinot, David switches his PS4 on. An evening of Classic FM and reading is ahead.

7 to 8

Evening’s entertainment

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend today’s photo an hour?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

My Father’s Daughter.

I didn’t enter the water gracefully. It was a precarious balance on slippery rocks, before I lost my footing, gasped as my whole body plunged under the waves. Though it was September and there was still warmth to the sun, the body of water that lay before me was chilling beneath the wind that whipped the surface into tiny white peaks. ‘Keep swimming,’ was the motto, and swim I did, even if the cold of the water numbed my fingers, made my skin tingle. 2 km didn’t sound like much, but previously I hadn’t had much practice. I was rusty and my muscles let me know it!

As a child, my family would have weekly swimming evenings at the local pool, followed by a chippie tea and Doctor Who on the TV. I was lucky to be born when the old Victorian school buildings still stood, before modernisation bulldozed them for clinical, soulless buildings. My school, red bricked and full of ghost stories had a wonderful heated swimming pool alongside it. Even before entering the building, with towel rolled under an arm, the smell of chlorine always tickled the nose, cleared the senses.

The noise at poolside was often deafening! Children shrieked with nervous excitement, trying to stay afloat with giant orange inflatables around their arms. I would emerge from a blue curtained cubicle like a butterfly from its chrysalis, proudly wearing my red swimsuit. Always, my father would be in the pool first, beckoning me into the cradling waters, challenging me. In his youth he had been a finalist in the inter-city championships, had numerous certificates and badges. He still enthused about the sport and would encourage me to swim further than I could ever think possible. 100 metres was a long way for a young girl.

Where I swam now was very different to a pool and I was no longer ‘Daddy’s little champion.’ I was a woman of 40. An infinite expanse of sky, pregnant with clouds arched overhead. Shingle beaches lined the shores and jagged mountains crowded around, like they were bringing me into their confidence. Crows shrieked their good morning. Day would soon arrive and with it the chance of rain. As I pushed my body through the water, soft like silk, Nathan sat alongside me, paddling silently.

I met Nathan at a turning point in both our lives. I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen of a hostel, where I was holidaying in Scotland. Onions sizzled in a pan while tears tore down my face. ‘Something smells good!’ I started and the knife I held clattered to the floor.

‘It’ll be a chilli once it’s cooked.’ I turned to face a larger than life man. He was still wearing his hiking gear and had trodden mud through into the kitchen. ‘Hungry?’

‘Famished!’ He grinned.

The evening sun dipped beyond the horizon, turning the clouds into a kind of pink blancmange. The air was still, sweetly scented. Spring in Scotland has its own beauty. Trees slowly unfurled their tender leaves and rivers raged with melt-water from the mountains. Nathan, freshly showered, and I sat on a bench eating our bowls of chilli in the hostel’s garden. A bottle of wine shared between us. ‘What brings you to Scotland?’ I asked.

‘Adventure,’ he shrugged, then looking up at me he said shyly. ‘A broken heart. You?’

‘I recently lost my father.’ I took a mouthful of bitter wine. ‘We had been estranged the last couple of years, so the news was pretty hard to take.’ I paused. Nathan sat silently, listening. ‘I just had to get away, escape. You know how it is?’ He nodded. ‘I just packed the car and headed up here.’

‘Planning on staying long?’

‘A day or two. Depends if there’s anything to stay for.’ It was then that we shared one of those looks and the world suddenly shifts. Two people, lonely and broken, found comfort in each other’s arms.

Two years later, I found myself immersed in nature, practicing for a charity swim. The northern shore of the lake loomed ahead, trees, tall and prickly stood sentinel. From the water’s surface I suddenly noticed a familiar figure standing motionless by the lakeside, his arm raised in a wave. I stopped kicking, felt my body suspended by the water, while minnows gently swam between my fingers. ‘Sarah!’ Nathan called. ‘Don’t stop!’

‘Do you see..?’ I shouted, treading water.

‘What?’ I looked back towards the shore, to where only trees huddled around a burnt shell of a building. ‘It was probably a dog walker.’ Nathan encouraged. ‘You’re almost there! Don’t give up!’ I stretched my tired arms forward and pressed on for the last 50 metres or so. Soon my legs hit rocks as I crawled out of the water. My muscles ached, my skin purple with bruises. ‘You made it!’ Nathan cried jumping out of the kayak, ‘and in under an hour!’ His feet splashed in the shallows before he draped a towel around my shivering body.

‘Maybe I am my father’s daughter after all,’ I panted.

‘And more,’ Nathan cupped my face in his hands. ‘He would have been amazed at what you can achieve.’ Wells of tears unexpectedly flooded my eyes.

‘Really?’

‘Yes. Sure, he would have been jealous. Swimming in a lake! That has to beat swimming in a pool any day!’

‘I suppose,’ I smiled through chattering teeth.

‘You’ve swam further than you’ve ever done before. He would have been so proud of you!’ I felt Nathan’s lips, hot on mine as he wrapped his arms around me. I leant into his warm body.

‘I know it sounds silly but I could have sworn I saw him standing by the boathouse.’ Nathan looked to where the wooden structure stood derelict. There was no other living soul, save them at the lake.

‘Perhaps he was, cheering you on as he used to.’

‘It’s a nice thought.’

‘Come, let’s get you warm. A strong, celebratory coffee is in order. Perhaps I’ll buy us cake!’ We turned our backs to the lake laughing as we went, and the rain that was promised began to fall.

© 2016 Christine Lucas


I haven’t written anything of note in a while. The above story was written in response to an advert for submissions for an anthology on wild swimming. Needless to say I was not successfully chosen, so I’ve posted the piece for you, my lovely readers. It was written with a word count restriction, so forgive the fractured feel to the narrative.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Christine x