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

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Goodbye 2018…and Hello 2019!

Happy New Year from Christine, David, Artie and Riley! Here’s hoping 2019 is a year full of love, laughter and friendship!

It’s taken a while but below find the annual video sharing the most memorable moments of 2018. Here’s hoping 2019 will just be as wonderful!

I want to thank you all for coming on the journey with us!

Thanks for all your support,

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Thirty-one

toast.jpgDay Thirty-one: Today’s photo prompt and the last of the month is a toast!

Where has December gone? This month has simply flown by! In the spirit of the season I make a toast to all my lovely readers.

I wish you a joyous and love filled 2019.

All the best and thanks for your support!

Christine x

 

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Twenty-eight

Day Twenty-eight: Today’s photo prompt is grateful for? I am grateful for so many things, family, pets, being healthy and able to explore the world around me, but mostly I am grateful for the love of David. Without David I would not be able to achieve any of the highlights from this year (nor any other year). Thank you David for being amazing!!

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At the Philharmonic Hall

What or who are you thankful for?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Thirteen

Day Thirteen: Today’s photo prompt is Christmas movie. There are so many Christmas movies that I found it hard to pin it to just one. So I decided to pick two.

Love Actually

All forms of love are in this feel good movie from 2003. There’s young love to unrequited love and even love betrayed. With a stellar cast and excellent soundtrack, what’s not to love about this film?

Krampus

Now to the extreme with this 2015 fantasy horror/comedy starring Toni Collette. Krampus is the demonic opposite to the giving St Nicholas. Whilst St Nick doles out gifts to those who have been good, Krampus visits those who have been bad! I enjoyed this film for its mock horror.

What are your favourite Christmas movies

Thanks for tuning in,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #45

Phew! These weeks come around quick! It’s time for another Sunday Sevens. Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series. 🙂

Upcoming Event:

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Dippy on Tour – Birmingham 2018

On Tuesday I booked tickets to see Dippy the Diplodocus on tour at Birmingham’s Museum and Art Gallery. The ticketed event is free but booking is essential. Dippy was the centrepiece to the entrance hall of London’s Natural History Museum since the 1970’s. Recently the skeleton has been replaced by the inspirational skeleton of Blue Whale, Hope. David and I are booked to visit Dippy this August. I particularly liked the comment on Birmingham Museum’s page regarding this event: Not all dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago. One group survived and evolved into the birds we know today. It made me happy that David and I have 10 healthy dinosaurs in our aviary! 🙂

Snow:

On Thursday we awoke to a pleasant surprise here in Liverpool. It had snowed during the night and continued throughout the morning, though the snow was gone by lunch-time. 😦 While it snowed I took a video of the visiting birds to our yarden. Recently, we have not seen as many small birds as usual. I hope the predation of cats is not deterring them. 😦

#walk1000miles:

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Christine and Riley at the park

This week I’ve managed to walk 36 miles. Bringing my annual total to 362 miles. On Friday David and I took Riley on a good 45 minute walk around the local park. Even the rain didn’t deter the fun we had!

Beauty: 

rose

This weekend, while David and I were shopping for Mother’s Day gifts, I spied rainbow roses on sale at a market stall. I had seen bouquets of these rainbow roses online but never in the shops. David kindly purchased one for me. I just can’t stop looking at it. It’s so pretty!

Terracotta Warriors – at World Museum Liverpool:

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Terracotta Warriors – Liverpool

This Saturday, we had tickets to see the terracotta warriors event at Liverpool’s World Museum. I was very excited to see this much anticipated event. However on the day we managed to sleep in! (Ooh!), though not too much! We were lucky to have plenty of time to get to the museum! Our visit was for the 10am showing and thankfully all went smoothly and we got to the event in time.

We watched a short video introducing the history and culture of China before the doors opened and we were allowed to see the exhibition. I have to praise the organisation as though we did not dawdle, we were not rushed through the displays of artifacts dating back some 2000 years. There was a lot of information to take in. I can see myself visiting again. Have you visited the event? Even visited the actual site in the Shaanxi province? Do share your experiences.

Mother’s Day:

In celebration of Mothering Sunday, David and I both visited our mums. However we also took in a visit to the family dogs as well. We walked Riley 1.5 miles on Crosby Beach and then visited Bennie, David’s doggie nephew. I had recently purchased two Kong Squeezz Zoo toys for Riley and Bennie, as the last toy we gave Bennie, he chewed to pieces! I hope this toy fares a bit better!

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #43

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Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series, Sunday Sevens. Here’s a quick update on my week.

Fashion:

This week the long awaited reflective dog jacket I ordered for Riley arrived. You have to admit it looks fantastic on him!

Romance:

This Wednesday was Valentine’s Day. David and I took a trip to the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall to hear the RLPO perform passionate pieces of music. The auditorium was full! My favourite pieces in the programme were Prokofiev’s retelling of Romeo and Juliet and Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no. 2 performed by Chinese pianist Zhang Zuo. It was a lovely night!

Designer Art:

For the past five years David has wanted to purchase a table lamp created by Hebden Bridge based artist, Hannah Nunn. We just couldn’t justify the cost, however this week I noticed there was a seconds sale being held for only a few days. The lamp David had had his eye on for so long was half price! We decided to order it. A few days later we took delivery of the lamp. It doesn’t look much unlit, but once the bulb is switched on the etched design comes to life. It is a fine addition to our bird inspired living room. What do you think?

Book I am reading:

I am currently reading Mark Haddon’s collection of short stories, The Pier Falls. So far I have read two of the short stories and feel rather unmoved. I loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and his play Polar Bears. However this collection of stories is falling flat. His writing makes me think Tom Hanks‘ collection is far superior. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

maris peerGardening: 

This weekend I purchased some potato chits to plant come spring. I bought maris peer potatoes. They are new potatoes to me, but I have read that they are good in salads, much like the maris bard. Even though we had blight on our potato harvest last year I will continue to try and grow ‘our own’. I will document how we go with these second earlies.

 

#walk1000miles:

This week I have managed a good 39 miles, bringing my overall total so far to 235 miles. It hasn’t been a bad week of walking. I’ve enjoyed a few good walks to work with the sun shining and the scent of spring on the air. Monday I thought, would have been a perfect day to go wild swimming. So I walked to work, smelling the air, hearing the birds singing and dreaming of slipping my cool body into an even colder body of water. It made my spirit soar! Spring/Summer can’t come quick enough!

David and I have also embarked on many evening walks with Riley as well as taking him on a good three mile walk today around Otterspool. We have all enjoyed the exercise, Riley and myself most of all. 🙂

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

Goodbye 2017…Hello 2018!

Happy New Year from Christine, David and Artie!

Here’s the annual video of our memorable moments of 2017!

I must say 2017 has been a wonderful year! From joining in #walk1000miles, to seeing Hans Zimmer at the Liverpool Echo Arena. We may have had our sad moments but the happy times more than compensated for them. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Day Wild was indeed wild, with barefoot beach walks and making our first elder-flower champagne. We visited new nature reserves and of course no year would be complete without a wild swim or two.

I want to thank you all for coming on the journey with me!

I wish you good health, wealth and happiness in 2018.

Thanks for all your support,

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

Remeniscing

Last night while relaxing, snugly before bed, with Classic FM playing on the air and the lights turned down low, an image from my childhood played before my minds eye. I lay thinking of when I was a child, no older than ten years old. I used to love dancing, to throw my arms and legs wildly around to the music, in no planned coordination. I used to whirl around my bedroom for hours, in my favourite red leotard stitched with gold tinsel. As gloaming approached, I whizzed my preadolescent body around the floor. I danced to (if you can believe it) my mum’s old 33 1/3 RPM’s, called The World of your 100 Best Tunes, which originated from a BBC radio programme. The LP’s featured Beethoven’s 6th Symphony and Ronald Binge’s Elizabethan Serenade, (a piece of music that always sends me reminiscing when I hear it on the radio). Among others was Holst’s The Planets. My favourite of all the pieces is Uranus, The Magician, (it’s not played half as much as it should be!) The music is so theatrical! To my child’s mind the music imagined a fantastical parade of skeletons and wild beasts, overseen by a master who wore top hat and tails!

While thinking of this happy memory, lines from a poem by Ted Hughes, part of his award winning Birthday Letters, popped into my thoughts. The poems all address his marriage to his first wife and fellow poet Sylvia Plath. The poem in question is called: God Help the Wolf After Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark. I think it was the image of my younger self dancing and tinsel adorning my clothes that brought the lines of the poem to my mind.

‘You danced on in the dark house, Eight years old, in your tinsel. Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced… Then dancing wilder in the darkness…’

‘Nobody wanted your dance, Nobody wanted your strange glitter –

With Hypnos caressing my eyes and Morpheus awaiting to lace my sleep with dreams, I decided to dig out the poem the next day, re-listen to Holst’s The Magician and write a post bringing them both together. Which I hope I have succeeded.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x


God Help the Wolf After Whom the Dogs Do Not Bark

By Ted Hughes.

There you met it – the mystery of hatred.
After your billions of years in anonymous matter
That was where you were found – and promptly hated.
You tried your utmost to reach and touch those people
With gifts of yourself –
Just like your first words as a toddler
When you rushed at every visitor to the house
Clasping their legs and crying: ‘I love you! I love you!’
Just as you had danced for your father
In his home of anger – gifts of your life
To sweeten his slow death and mix yourself in it
Where he lay propped on the couch,
To sugar the bitterness of his raging death.

You searched for yourself to go on giving it
As if after the nightfall of his going
You danced on in the dark house,
Eight years old, in your tinsel.

Searching for yourself, in the dark, as you danced,
Floundering a little, crying softly,
Like somebody searching for somebody drowning
In dark water
Listening for them – in panic at losing
Those listening seconds from your searching –
Then dancing wilder in the darkness.

The colleges lifted their heads. It did seem
You disturbed something just perfected
That they were holding carefully, all of a piece,
Till the glue dried. And as if
Reporting some felony to the police
They let you know that you were not John Donne.
You no longer care. Did you save their names?
But then they let you know, day by day,
Their contempt for everything you attempted,
Took pains to inject their bile, as for your health,
Into your morning coffee. Even signed
Their homeopathic letters,
Envelopes full of carefully broken glass
To lodge behind your eyes so you would see

Nobody wanted your dance,
Nobody wanted your strange glitter – your floundering
Drowning life and your effort to save yourself,
Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil,
Looking for something to give –
Whatever you found
They bombarded with splinters,
Derision, mud – the mystery of that hatred.

© 1998