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.

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.

July 10-12: Weekend wrap

Sun, sun and more sun this past weekend. Combine that with not much inspiration to write, and you get another weekend wrap!

Friday I went to work and then for a quick drink with Iva and Pastora afterwards. Claudio, our regular waiter at Cafe de Pyrennes, was amazed we only stayed for one drink, but we all had things to achieve in the afternoon.

Mine was to mow the lawn for Rene, but the lawnmower is having petrol flow issues, so we canned the idea. That night, we went to dinner with The Usual Suspects (minus Eve, who is in Finland for a gymnaestrada event) which was very lovely. Leo and I ordered a tower of food, literally, which was a nice summer change to what we would normally choose.

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I almost caught Rene smiling!

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Lotti, Leo and Paul

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With Fritz and Liliane

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Leo and I shared a tower of cold food. The gazpacho was delicious

Saturday, Rene spluttered the lawnmower into life long enough to do the job and I cleaned the pool. We then spent the afternoon and evening by the pool with The Usual Suspects again, playing cards and enjoying a delicious barbecue. We watched a little bit of the women’s Wimbledon singles final but mainly we were outdoors. Congratulations Serena!

Sleep and repeat. Sunday we spent time by the pool again, but without the combined dinner. We watched pretty much all of the men’s Wimbledon singles final too. Poor Roger. I feel so disappointed for him on his quest to become the first man to win eight Wimbledon singles titles. Maybe next year? Djokovic was just too good.

I started and finished a sweet book on Sunday too – Waiting for Doggo. I’ve written a review here.

All up it was a very relaxing weekend. Very quiet. Not a lot of exercise, just some light swimming. But plenty of socialising!

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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 25: No Monday Runday

It rained pretty much all day today, so not much to report. We didn’t put the tent up near the pool and there was no chance for Monday Runday. Doesn’t look like it’s going to be much better tomorrow either! I’m taking it as an opportunity to recharge my batteries.

I had a terrible night’s (lack of) sleep with hayfever, and didn’t wake up til about 10am. I did finish potting the geraniums (photos to come when it’s not raining), we watched silly programs on television, I read my book and Leo cooked dinner.

We ended the night watching Samuel L. Jackson and Emilio Estevez in National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, which I’d pretty much forgotten existed (odd, because I love that sort of humour). Hot Shots, with Emilio’s brother Charlie Sheen, is one of my favourite films.

Lines from Loaded Weapon which stand out for me for their cheesiness include a heated conversation between Estevez, who wants to find out who the bad guys are, and Jon Lovitz. “Give me a name!” “Weren’t your parents supposed to do that?” 🙂

And I also chuckle when Jackson is showing a t-shirt, which has a photo of a woman (Whoopi Goldberg) on the front, to a guy. Jackson explains they’re looking for information about her. When he sees the t-shirt, the guy asks, “Is that her?” “No, that’s a picture.”

And on those bombshells, I wish you a wonderful day!

May 21: Running around without raising a sweat

Today was an on-the-go kind of day – I should have worn my running shoes!

My phone died this morning (Leo says from overuse – can’t argue) so I borrowed the neighbours’ car to go to a nearby shopping centre with a phone store, hoping they could fix it. No luck – it’s been sent away for a week, like a naughty kid suspended from school – but at least I have my old phone to use in the meantime.

This is one time I’m glad I haven’t been a minimalist and gotten rid of the old phone as soon as the new one arrived. The old one feels like a brick in comparison, and the photo quality will be pretty average, but I’m contactable, which feels more important than it should be. I’ll carry my compact camera around in case I see Betsy and friends again.

Amazing things, cars. I even managed to do a grocery shop AND go to the nursery for more plants and soil. I wasn’t going to put planter boxes on the upstairs balcony but hey, I needed geraniums. It wouldn’t be a Swiss house without geraniums. I was trying to avoid conforming, because it seems like it’s compulsory to have planter boxes overflowing with red geraniums in Switzerland … so I chose pink ones instead. Still a rebel.

Couldn’t plant them this afternoon because it was raining so much, but hopefully I’ll do it on Saturday … if the weather gets any better. It was five degrees Celsius this morning, and 10 degrees at 3pm. Come back spring, we miss you already.

I really, really, really have lost my exercising mojo. I feel worn out, and I look it too, but really, I’m not worn out, I’m just being lazy. Which is a shame because the fitfor15in15 six-month mark isn’t too far away and I want to look and feel my best. (I blame the mammoth book, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, that I’m still reading. What a sorry sack that whole story is at the moment – it’s leaching into every pore).

So, banishing the book and with the halfway mark as my motivation, I’m off to do 15 minutes of squats with hand weights, push ups, sit ups, lunges and all that kind of malarkey.

Wishing you a wonderful day.

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Here’s Betsy’s hairy Scottish cousin, Beryl, who lives in the north of Switzerland