Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn leaves a lasting impression

Wow, this is a book. A really good book with a unique story. One that makes you want to read the end to find out what’s happening when you’re only a few chapters in, because you can’t believe what’s unfolding. Fend off all thoughts of doing any internet searches, because spoilers are called that for a reason!

Gone Girl, published in 2012, is a beautifully written, engrossing, eye-popping account of a married couple who have lost touch with each other. Definitely aimed at the 25-40 year old market (I think), it’s the story of Amy, whose parents wrote a series of children’s books about her when she was small, called Amazing Amy. Amy still thinks she’s pretty darn amazing, even if the books are dated, and that sense of importance has carried her along in life … the constant need to be number one.

When she finds out she and Nick are just going though the motions, she turns … ahhh … ummm … well … mental. She’s a conniving, deceitful train-wreck of a human being, but as the author Gillian Flynn said, in regards to Nick she’s no longer trying to win any popularity contests. She wants revenge.

Every year on their anniversary, Amy puts together a cryptic treasure hunt for Nick highlighting the things that have happened to them during the year. Nick always feels like it’s a test, because he doesn’t remember (or dwell on) every detail the way Amy does. On their fifth anniversary, she goes missing, and it doesn’t look good for Nick. There has been animosity and tension between them, but most importantly, there have been many lies.

Neither party is innocent, but Amy’s way of making her husband notice her again is very off-kilter. Unnerving. She’s one of the most memorable and disliked heroines in a book (and now a film with Rosamund Pike and Ben Affleck) of all time!

I totally recommend this story – the way it’s written is genius. The book is almost divided into parts. The bombshell in the middle creates a whole new world of pain for Nick. Who will believe him? Not many? Who believes Amy’s diary? Everyone it seems, except Nick. And what about the ending? For me, it’s perfect.

Now I really want to watch the movie! And to read more of Gillian Flynn’s books.

August 10: Silly me on the Töffli

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The three motorised things in my life … the covered Vespa (which I don’t ride at the moment), the Töffli and the lawnmower

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Look at how shiny the bike is now that Rene cleaned it with the jet hose! Some paint came off as well, but hey … it’s clean …

Turned up a bit late for work today. Not because I had the first-day-back blues, but because I didn’t open my eyes. Silly me.

Jumped excitedly on Bruce the Töffli, keen to see how smooth the ride would be after his service and … spluttered to a stop after 200m. Luckily I was still close to home, so I pushed the bike back, tried unsuccessfully to start it again, accepted defeated and walked to the bus.

When I came home, I saw Rene and he said, “Oh yes, I turned the petrol switch to ‘off’ while you were on holidays so the petrol didn’t leak out.” Ahhhh yes … the petrol lever … located on the right side under the tank. If it’s pushed all the way forward, it turns off the flow, if it’s facing straight down, the flow is open, and if you push it backwards, it goes to the reserve tank, which I learnt about the hard way.

You’d think I would have thought to have a look, seeing as it’s caught me out once before? Ah, no. It seems my knowledge of bike mechanics needs a lot more work. But the short ride I did, to get the petrol flowing, felt great and the speedometer works now too! Woo hoo!

At least I can count the 40 minutes of walking to and from the bus as my exercise for the day! I walked past the corn fields, which have grown huge in the past two weeks. I always love seeing the ‘hair’ on the corn. A few years ago I saw it when it was purple and red, which reminded me of punk grandmas with bad frizzy perms. Today, the ‘hair’ was burnt brown. I wonder if it will be a good crop this year because it’s been so hot and dry, or if that makes the corn not as sweet?

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You my, brown haired corn. Singing tra la la la … (apologies, Van Morrison)

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The grass is turning green again too

After breathing a sigh of relief about the bike, I wrote a review of the first of two books I read on holidays, Bruno, Chief of Police which you can read here if you fancy.

And then I pottered around the garden for a little while. The gladioli are blooming and my geranium planter boxes on the upstairs balcony are going gangbusters.

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The glads in bloom … to the right is a small patch where the glads from last year died, and then a few more orange ones are blooming

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Healthy! The two geranium pots add some much needed colour to the brown exterior

Wishing you a wonderful day.

Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker

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Bruno, Chief of Police – everyone wants him around

Earlier this year, we watched a television program about the Dordogne region in France. A few days later I walked into a secondhand bookstore in Bern, and, for some reason, the spine of this book caught my attention. I was completely shocked to read the word Dordogne on the front cover, so I bought it, thinking it must be a sign.

Bruno, Chief of Police by former journalist Martin Walker, from 2008, is the first in the Bruno series, which currently stands at nine. Definitely in the same vein as Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano books, Benoît Courrèges, or Bruno, is the suave but unpretentious 40-something policeman in rural St Denis, where everyone knows everyone (and their business).

As a former soldier, he prefers his new quiet life, cooking with local produce (there are many references to the delights from the Perigord region), pottering in his renovated cottage with his dog and making wine from his small vineyard. The scene is set for something ‘not quite right’ happening in this sleepy town.

When the father of the local school teacher (and grandfather of the local rugby hero) is murdered in his own home, the big guns from Paris are sent to help investigate. Bruno’s first murder case isn’t all that it seems. The twist in the storyline took me by surprise – is everyone really who they say they are?

Bruno, Chief of Police had all the right ingredients for an enjoyable holiday read (I was lying under a beach umbrella in Taormina, Sicily) – a little bit of mystery, intrigue, romance, village politics, historical references and culinary teasers. It’s very well researched and tells a part of French history I had no idea about.

Overall, I really enjoyed the various characters who contributed to this being a memorable book with a very satisfactory ending. Sometimes secrets are best kept so.

Waiting for Doggo by Mark B. Mills

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A sweet story about an ugly dog creating beauty all around him

My friend Louise, who works for a big publishing house in Australia, gave me this book when I visited last year and it’s been sitting on my shelf growling at me to read it.

Yesterday, lying in the glorious sunshine, I finally sunk my teeth in, and after going to bed and not being able to sleep, I lapped up the whole offering with gusto.

Waiting for Doggo by Mark B. Mills, published in 2014, is filled with lovely ideas about love throughout its 213 pages. It doesn’t break new ground, floor you with its ingenuity or make you reach for a pen to write down memorable anecdotes, but it does leave you smiling.

Doggo is a dog brought into a faltering relationship to try to save the day. When his rescuer Claire ups and leaves her boyfriend of four years, Dan, he’s left with the unfriendly bundle as a reminder of what went wrong. But he’s not really sure what went wrong!

A new job for Dan gives Doggo new surroundings and an opportunity to show his true colours. He becomes the office postman, delivering the mail to those he likes. It’s sweet little things like this that can easily be missed in this tail, I mean tale, of love lost and discovered again.

Of course, Doggo becomes more than just the ugly mutt – he’s a sign of hope. As Doggo’s personality shines, he makes Dan a better man too. The dog’s interest in Jennifer Aniston, and Dan’s work colleague Edith, means he has an eye for detail that would possibly swish past Dan in the wag of a tail.

Waiting for Doggo was a lovely read – very simple and sweet – and a wonderful way to spend a few hours; lost in the workings of a London advertising agency and the characters it holds. Nothing stressing, nothing confrontational – all just as sweet as the little dog who surprises everyone.

The ending leaves an opening for a sequel perhaps?

June 10: Craving sugar, much?

After finishing actor Cary Elwes’ book, As You Wish (reviewed here), I thought it only fitting to watch the movie The Princess Bride today. That could quite possibly be the 20th time I’ve seen it, and I enjoy it every time. Twue wuv. Tweasure your wuv. Has it added to my mental fitness? Well, it definitely made me smile.

I also did a lot of internet reading, not enough job searching, and pottered in the garden for a bit, but the wind was too wicked for my liking, so I mooched. I mooched a lot. I don’t think mooching is very healthy sometimes!

Liliane and Rene invited me for dinner which was nice, as Leo is at a work function. I’m sure the meal they served fell within the boundaries of the I Quit Sugar program. I’ve been very good about not eating sugar, and maybe that’s part of the reason I’m feeling so ‘meh’ today. Detoxing perhaps? I could definitely handle some ice cream or a handful of peanut M&Ms about now!

The 30-Day Challenge continues with new plant names. But a quick recap from yesterday’s request for help – Gabby was quick off the mark to tell me the crop with the back and white flower is broad bean aquadulce (Vicia faba) and Freda kindly informed me the small purple plant from yesterday was another campanula – Dalmation bellflower (Campanula portenschlagia). Thank you, ladies!

Liliane has a lovely blue flowing plant called Gentian (Gentiana acaulis) in her garden, which I would love to take a cutting from for next year (her garden is a bit bigger than mine so I have no idea how all this is going to fit!).

I’d like to get some Speedwell (Veronica spicata) because I like the candle shape, and another on my wishlist is a common jasmine vine (Jasminum officinale) growing on the terrace somewhere, because it would be amazing to be surrounded by that smell in summer.

Tomorrow and Friday will be more active. (I’ll have to make it so, won’t I?! Can’t be mooching for extended periods.) Rene has indicated he’d like my help replacing the mower blades tomorrow, so that’s something to look forward to 😉 and I’ll spend some time with Liliane on Friday as she has the day off!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

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A very sweet book about a deliciously sweet movie

Well, this book is sweet. The movie is sweet, so the book has to be sweet, right?

English actor Cary Elwes, who has been in several of my favourite movies, has written As You Wish, his behind-the-scenes account while filming The Princess Bride.

What a delicious movie The Princess Bride is. A movie for all generations, and one you can watch again and again. Don’t let the name fool you – it has pirates, sword fighting, humour, many cameos, a giant and most importantly, true love.

There are also some classic lines from the movie that you may have heard – “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die” and “Inconceivable!” being two that pop to mind.

Elwes’ has recorded an audio version of the book, which is what I listened to. He has such a plummy English accent, which quite curiously deepens from about chapter four onwards. Maybe he had a cold?

His anecdotes are quite drawn out – and all in a terribly English, jovial, kind of way – which some may find grating (sometimes I did. Just get to the point, Cary, please!) but at other times it was all just so Westley, his character from the movie.

This was the first movie for Robin Wright, who is the perfect Buttercup – a young girl who falls in love with the poor farm boy, Westley. He goes missing for five years, seeking his fortune in order to marry her and returns when he learns she is about to marry another.

The book gives away many secrets from the film, but it doesn’t really dish too much dirt. Maybe there wasn’t that much dirt to dish? Other actors, including Billy Crystal and Carol Kane, have recorded their own sections, and it’s lovely to hear their contributions too. The anecdotes about Andre the Giant are great fun, Elwes’ stories about learning to sword fight are interesting, but maybe he goes on a bit too long about his broken toe?

If you can handle a short story told in a long way, with serious repetition, and you love the movie, well, there’s no doubting you’ll love the book. If you haven’t seen the movie or don’t like it, then there’s no real reason to read this. I love the movie, and I’m glad I’ve heard Elwes’ account of his time on set.

In 2012, the movie celebrated it’s 25th anniversary, with the cast gathered in New York. What fun that would have been – there really seems to be great affection and a wonderful camaraderie between them. And apparently Cary and Robin really liked each other, and will always be close. Yet again, so sweet!

Having only heard the book, I think reading it would have been much harder to deal with, as the writing style is very simplistic. But listening to Elwes’ wonderful voice made it much more bearable. And he does a hell of a range of voice impersonations too! Brilliant!

May 26: A nothing kind of day!

Well, rain and more rain. It seems the more rain that falls, the less motivation I have!

I finished The Goldfinch today (thank goodness! My review is here) and watched some French Open Tennis. I hardly stepped out of the house all day … and ate a lot … not good.

But tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya … it’s going to be sunny apparently. A rip roaring 18 degrees (I’m currently wearing my winter slippers), woo hoo! It better be a long, hot summer when it finally comes around … brrr … or should that be grrr.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

Here’s a photo of a Fire Salamander I saw near the garage in June last year. I wonder if he (or any of his family) will be back in a few weeks’ time.

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A friendly Fire Salamander

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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Donna Tartt’s third book divided critics but still won the Pulitzer Prize

“Maybe sometimes–the wrong way is the right way? You can take the wrong path and it still comes out where you want to be? Or, spin it another way, sometimes you can do everything wrong and it still turns out to be right?” Boris, p. 835.

Well, I really don’t know what to say about The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt … apart from thank goodness that’s over.

The subject matter is … depressing. The main character, Theo, is depressing. What happens to him is depressing. His outlook on life is depressing. His self-loathing is depressing. His best friend, Boris, is a maniac, drug-addicted alcoholic whose psychotic ideas of a good time are really destructive … and depressing.

Please don’t read this book if the weather’s bad and you need something to do. The rain exacerbates the depressing depression.

At 864 pages, it’s too long; there are slabs of ‘intellectual’ waffle and navel-gazing which could/should have been cut for the sake of brevity and the reader’s sanity. It felt like Tartt was trying too hard to be smart and clever and life-changing. My eyes started glazing over towards the end.

The story is about a stolen valuable painting. Just hand the bloody painting back and stop all this agonising and soul-destroying angst. It just didn’t wash with me and I felt it was never really explained well enough as to why he thought he had the right to keep it.

What also didn’t wash was the mix of Theo’s sensitive and destructive sides. In the first half, I struggled with the believability of this really being the mind of a teenage boy, because he was incredibly clever and deep one minute, and the next a complete buffoon.

Some others also found the whole experience less than enjoyable, despite it winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2014. I really don’t understand how that happened. Not that I’m a literary critic, but wow … I’m shocked!

The characters of Welty and Hobie were wonderful, the rest you wouldn’t waste ten minutes on at a backyard barbecue. I did enjoy the random way Boris talked, I could hear his Ukrainian accent in my head, and clearly see him when he was raving on about 10 unrelated stories that somehow had a connection, so I tip my hat to Tartt in that regard.

But it’s really disappointing when you love an author’s debut novel and expect a similar reaction again. Tartt’s first, The Secret History, sucked me in hook, line and sinker. For me, The Goldfinch sucked; this book, it’s storyline, was a stinker.

May 6: Catch-up photos and postponed nervousness

The big news which distracted me from writing yesterday’s post is … I have a job interview. It was supposed to be this morning, via telephone, but it has been rescheduled for next Wednesday. I’m not going to say anything more about it for fear of jinxing myself. Please cross all fingers and toes.

As a catch-up for yesterday’s simple post, here are a few drab-looking photos.

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A glorious full moon from May 4

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We’ve had so much rain in Bern and surrounds that the Aare river is flooded and the walking paths on both sides have disappeared

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Looking towards the city from the Lorrainebrücke (bridge). The water is normally crystal clear

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Grey skies in Bern at Waisenhausplatz

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Markets in Waisenhausplatz

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Across the tram lines from the wares in Waisenhausplatz is Bärenplatz, home of the food markets

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Lovely fresh, unpackaged products

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Bring your own container! Zero Waste!

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At the top of Bärenplatz is the Bundeshaus (Federal Palace of Switzerland) where Parliament sits. Most people think the Swiss capital is Zürich

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Looking towards the Gurten (the small hill) from the viewing platform at the Bundeshaus

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The building in the distance with the spires is the Einstein Museum. He was a lecturer at the University of Bern in 1908

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There are several street chess boards in the city

Monday night was the final of the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield. I was lucky enough to be at the Crucible Theatre in 1995 for a night and day session – amazing to be there after watching it for so many years on television. It’s always sooo quiet! Congratulations to perennial underdog Stuart Bingham on his first world title! It was a fantastic final (against Shaun Murphy) and I’m glad Bingham won because he beat my favourite player Ronnie O’Sullivan in the quarter-final.

Yesterday was a very social day – lunch with Leonie and then drinks and dinner with Claudia (not my old German teacher Claudia, who I meet once a week, but Leo’s friend Dani’s girlfriend Claudia, who lives in Basel). In between the two catch-ups, I went to the library and finished this beautifully written, memorable book.

I was amazed to see the unusual pink and green tulip from our local tulip field in a recent post from Freda at livesimplysimplylive. I’ve never seen them before and then twice in three days! Freda’s grow in her garden. How wonderful! Must try and plant some too.

I’ll post again with some fitness stuff. This is really more of a catch-up from yesterday, where my exercise was walking around the city looking at the flooded river.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

Firmin by Sam Savage

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One educated rat’s musings on the harsh realities of life

Oh, wow, I loved this! A last-minute selection at the library could now possibly be one of my favourite books.

There are so many clever literary references and beautifully written thought processes in this short but weighty novel from 2006. The author, Sam Savage, has done a brilliant job relaying the angst felt by a ‘lowlife’ rat in his quest to be accepted and understood. We’ve all been through something like that at some stage, right?

Firmin, the runt, is born to a mother of dubious social standing and battles his 12 brutish siblings before going it alone. Staying in the book store where he was born has considerable benefits, because Firmin can read. He devours the shop’s contents (initially literally, then figuratively) to be a well-read rat of note, and would dearly love to have an educated conversation with the shop’s owner, Norman, or a one-on-one encounter with an actress from the nearby movie theatre, where he goes on his nightly food run. But without the ability to speak, write, type or even do sign language, he relies on his imagination.

I don’t want to write too much, because this was such a lovely surprise for me, that I’d love for it to be a surprise for you too. It might make you look at a rat differently on your next encounter. I want to say “I guarantee it will make you …” but some people could never be swayed in their hatred for vermin!

Poor Firmin!