Wednesday, December 31, 2014

the sun is out the day is new

(Regina Spektor - You've Got Time)

Wishing you and your families a wonderful year ahead. New Year's Eve leaves me feeling reflective, and this beautiful post from Cathryn at Little Paper Swans reminded me not to pin too much on the changing of the years, and focus more on the day to day. Here's to hope, the hope of the new year, and each new day, and the hope that 2015 holds health and happiness for you all.

Monday, December 29, 2014

a year in books

Oh dear - I do realise the point of NaBloPoMo is not to post religiously for a month and then spend the next month not posting at all, but December seems somehow to have disappeared. There was lots of travelling up and down the country, and then all of a sudden it was Christmas Eve. We had a lovely Christmas Day at our house, the cooking went well, and it was great to relax with family. Unfortunately the post-Christmas long weekend was somewhat hampered by The Husband and I both coming down with the bug that has been doing the rounds, so after a few days dosed up on the sofa suddenly it was back to work this morning and Christmas was over. I must admit to feeling a bit cheated that the much-anticipated festive season passed us by in a blaze of cooking and colds, but the New Year beckons including our Australian adventure and the general sense of hope that January 1st brings with it.

This year I attempted to join in with quite a few online projects. NaBloPoMo was fairly successful, in as much as I managed to complete it. A photo a day, 100 happy days, and the great british bake off bake-along all fell by the wayside one way or another. The one that made the most noticeable difference to life though, was the year in books from Laura at Circle of Pine Trees.

Although I didn't keep up with the posts, I did keep up with the reading, and somewhat tellingly have received more than enough books for Christmas to read one a month for 2015 too. So here is a round up of some of the books I have read in recent months thanks to Laura's project, in case you need any inspiration for next year.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender - I really enjoyed the idea of this book to begin with and found it quite an enjoyable read. Towards the end I found it ventured a little too far into the realms of science fiction and I kept re-reading sections convinced I must have missed something but I hadn't. 

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer - A gripping book, I really enjoyed this. The narrator was believable and I liked the style of the writing. Some comparisons have been drawn with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and I could see some of the similarities.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler - I thought this was great. A really thought-provoking read, with a brilliant twist about a third of the way through that made for a compelling plot. The language was quite elaborate in parts, but it suited the context of the story.

Bridget Jones Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding - This was an easy enough read but I found some of it a little grating. I'm glad I read it, it was enjoyable to catch up with Bridget Jones and see where life had taken her, and lots of the satire was right on point.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson - It seems sacrilegious to say this after so many rave reviews but I really couldn't get on with this book. I persisted and finished it but I really struggled. I thought some of the writing was beautiful, particularly the scenes describing wartime London, but I found the format of the plot really difficult to engage with.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach - I had so many attempts at reading this book I very nearly consigned it to the never-to-be-finished pile but I'm so glad I stuck with it. After two or three false starts I got properly into it and thought it was great. It is worth ploughing through some of the earlier sports-heavy chapters for the characters and sub-plots that come later.

No Harm Can Come to a Good Man by James Smythe - I read this whole book thinking this was the type of book I wished I could write. Brilliant concept, completely believable vision of the future, felt like a literary version of Black Mirror. I just found the ending slightly too vague, and found myself flicking through the end pages convinced there must be an extra chapter somewhere.

Daughter by Jane Shemilt - Another gripping read with believable characters, and I loved the shifting chronology. There were certain aspects of the plot I found less believable but mostly I was hooked throughout. Although it again felt like it had quite a sudden ending I liked where it finished and thought it was a fitting point to close the book.

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh - A series of short case studies from the career of a neurosurgeon, which gives a fascinating insight into the humanity of both the doctor and the patient involved in brain surgery. I couldn't put this down, but it was also good to dip in and out of.

Room by Emma Donoghue - Alongside the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, this was my favourite book of the whole year. I cannot recommend this enough, a fascinating read and beautifully written. After so many of the other books above I expected a disappointing ending but it was perfect from start to finish.

Monday, December 01, 2014

first things first

The first of December. Not entirely sure where 2014 has gone, time definitely seems to be going increasingly quickly, whole years passing by in what feels like weeks.

The first Christmas for a long time (perhaps ever!) without an advent calendar. I'm not sure how I feel about this one. On one hand I am nearly 29 and also feel that both from a health point of view and general perspective that I don't need a chocolate treat to count down to Christmas or to celebrate advent. On the other hand I feel like there are some small traditions that it is meaningful to keep, and I miss not having our advent calendars lined up side by side as they have been every other Christmas we have shared in this house. It wasn't a deliberate decision not to get one the chance just hasn't arisen, so who knows we may acquire some albeit a little late!

The first week in a while where I haven't had to pack a suitcase and set off across the country. I will be doing so in a few days but it was good not to feel that the weekend was counting down to an imminent departure. December will still be fairly hectic with nights away every week until Christmas but for now I have some much appreciated days at home.

The first blog post in a month that isn't being written as part of NaBloPoMo and yet I find myself back here so soon. I am somewhat lacking in pictures these days, I do not have much in the way of inspiration and there are only so many pictures of Millie I can put up here. Instead here is one from exactly six months ago, taken in Italy, the view from our hotel room the day after my brother-in-law's wedding.

The first steps of our Australian travel plans are getting sorted. We have a few hotels and flights booked and a clear idea of the rest of our destinations. It is lovely to see it coming together and so exciting to be in contact with my family over there and knowing we will be meeting up soon. 

The first day of the last month of a very eventful year. Just like 2013, this year has had its fair share of ups and downs. The Husband and I are both reflecting on the fact that this Christmas will be the first without some family members and friends. It has been a less relentless year than last, and we have both achieved a lot both professionally and at home. I'm looking forward to Christmas and to spending December gradually bringing this year to a close, and then to 2015 and the months ahead.