Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

A book review or two

In my quest to Finish All The Books I’m In The Middle Of Reading, I have found a few gems that I thought I’d tell you about.

First up is Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie by Andrew Sykes. This is the story of a man who, after resolving to spend his summer doing next to nothing, gets a little bored and dreams of adventure. He decides to travel from his home in Reading to the southern tip of Italy, following a route known as the Via Francigena. He covers France, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy.

For five weeks, he heads determinedly toward southern Italy and the book details the hours spend on the bike each day and the distance covered. Once you have seen a few of these, you start to understand the massive task that he is carrying out. His writing is extremely readable. I’d often intend to read a few pages while on the bus or before work and find myself transported to a campsite where Andrew and Reggie searched for somewhere away from the noisy midnight fishers or party people. Suddenly I was late for work or had almost missed my stop.

Andrew makes sure we are privy to everything his trip threw at him. Rarely are we left with a quick summing up of an entire day in a few sentences. I really love the diary style of this book. It puts you right there in the scene with him and Reggie and connects you to his journey in a way that, upon finishing it with him, you experience a sense of achievement.

Various things stick out in my memory on finishing the book. The scene where Andrew and Reggie cross the lake near Buochs in Switzerland and we are given a detailed explanation of how one “lashes” a bike to boat had me laughing out loud. When Andrew stops for lunch near the end of his journey, in Valrano Scala, and finds something called a “chip pizza” I was utterly mystified. The entire Italy section was very exciting reading for me anyway, given that I have had a preoccupation with Italian cuisine for quite some time and I am also going to Rome in a few weeks. So I read with anticipation and soaked up every bit of it. Then the scene with the chip pizza occurred. And it made me doubt everything. It make me doubt my trip, the Italians, and the future of food in general. What was this madness?! I have since been assured that chip pizzas are very tasty…. I remain sceptical.

Another thing which struck me about this trip is people’s willingness to offer a helping hand. Andrew finds a welcoming face every so often on his trip and these people always show such kindness, it makes you feel good about people in general (the chip pizza inventor excepted).

It is a lovely lovely book. A little while ago I read a book about a man who cycles to India, called You’ve Gone To Far This Time, Sir and love love loved it. Therefore, when I saw this book, about another cycling journey, I came to it with high expectations, having had such a great read last time. I was thankfully not disappointed. It is well written and fascinating. In light of epic journeys being taken, I have start making more solid plans for a walking adventure. Given that I can be quite lazy though, I think Andrew and Reggie will put me to shame as I’ll probably just walk to the shops for some chocolate and back….

(I read this book on the Kindle app on my phone.)

I thought I’d do another quick book review as I recently finished listening to The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy on Audible.com and it was very good. It was read beautifully, the story was beautiful and it’s one of those books I keep telling people to listen to if I hear they have the Audible.com app.

An older couple decide to move to Alaska and buy some farming land, against the advice of their families. They are childless and it has always been an unspoken heartache between them. Their first few months are hard but one day, with wild abandon, they play outside in the snow and build a snowman. Well, more precisely a snow-girl. They put a scarf on it and carve a face. When they wake up, the scarf is gone and for a long time afterwards, they catch glimpses of a little girl running in the woods outside their home.

The development of this story is handled with such skill that your thoughts on first hearing about the ‘girl’ they see are a world away from your thoughts when the story concludes. It’s a story that creeps up on you. First you’re just listening every so often, thinking that the book is quite good. Then suddenly, you can’t wait to take your break at work, in order to listen to a few more minutes of it.

Finishing this book was something that took a few days of recovery. My initial thoughts about the final scene changed over time and I still feel uncertain about exactly what happened.

It is a book of uncertainties and therein lies the beauty of it. It is intriguing and enticing. It draws you in steadily until every twist and turn occupies your thoughts long after you have stopped listening/reading.

It is also read very well. When I downloaded and listened to a few other books, I realised how lucky I had been with the reader of The Snow Child. If you are already with Audible.com, listen to this book.

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Laura Maisey, Fully Qualified Piglet and Multi-Award Winner

Well, this is a good week. Passed my exams and been nominated for two awards. I’ll do the other one in a separate post. So for now, I would like to thank Wealthymatters for the nomination for the One Lovely Blog Award. This blog is a mixture of useful info and tips on creating wealth (always a useful thing when emerging from a period of self-imposed student-loan-related poverty!).

So the rules for this award are that I tell everyone 7 things about myself and nominate 15 other blogs for the award. So I’m going to have to think of 7 new things as I swear I’ve told the most interesting stuff already. Ok, here goes…

1. Sometimes I think I might like to spend my life becoming the new Alfred Wainwright, a famed English walker, who spent his time walking the Lake District and writing fantastic books about it, known as Wainwright’s Walks. In light of this possible life goal, I’m looking into walking the Pennines for my birthday next year. It takes about two weeks apparently. A friend did it and had a heart attack and had to be airlifted off to hospital. I don’t think the heart attack was related to the walk.

2. I once walked the Great Wall of China. It took about two weeks. It was exhausting. A lady in one village tried to sell me a Great Wall-themed t-shirt and when I said I had bought the exact same one at the previous village so didn’t need another, she said, in desperation, ‘But I have extra large!’

3. When I was travelling in Namibia with a friend and her family, we were staying in the middle of nowhere in a tented camp. As we walked in the pitch black from the dinner tent to our sleeping tent, we looked back up the path and shone the torch, and we had walked straight past a huge HUGE male lion with a massive mane. It had been lying down next to the path, clearly not hungry enough to have a go. If any of us had reached out an arm while walking past it, we would’ve touched it.

4. When I was younger, I named every single cuddly toy that I had, and I had a lot. When I was supposed to be going to sleep, I gave them all personalities and created a little life with them. My favourite doll, which I’d had since forever, was called Yvonne.

5. After I’ve been swimming, I eat far more than is really necessary, to get my energy back up. I’m probably burning enough to have two or three cereal bars. I tend to eat four or five, then a bit of everything else I find in the fridge. I know this is silly. And I know overall, the swimming can’t be having that much effect, due to my massively increased food intake, but I have decided to pretend that it’s not happening. If you would pretend too, then that would be great. Thanks.

6. I love a project. Love it! If someone says ‘I need to file all this stuff by tomorrow, I’ll never get it done’ I love it, I get straight in there. Or if we need to check the best before dates on everything in the shop, I’m on it, I’ve already started! Re-organising a drawer or re-arranging furniture, I love it. Let’s get the garden looking pretty, someone says. I’m your woman! I love it. I get excited thinking up projects for myself to work on.

7. I feel quite a bit of pressure to do something law-related now that I have my degree but in all honesty, I quite like what I’m doing now, even though it has nothing to do with law. People say, ‘O, so what will you do now?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, at the moment I am mostly baking and writing. Which I like. So I’ll do that.’ Lots of people with grown-up jobs don’t like them very much. Whereas I love my job, it’s great fun. I think I should count myself lucky in that and not be in a rush to go and do something grown-up, just for it’s own sake.

Ok, so now you all know me a bit better (I’m running out of cool facts to tell you all actually. Any more awards and I’ll be telling you things about myself that are of the ‘I had a cup of tea this morning’ variety), and it’s time to nominate 15 other blogs for the One Lovely Blog Award. This is fairly easy as they’re all pretty lovely, lovely enough for me to take the time out to read them every day. I’ll try not to repeat any I’ve done before.

1. Thought Catalog – This blog is just fantastic. There are no other words for it. It’s witty, painfully honest and always hilarious. 33 Things You Should Know Before Dating Me is my favourite of the recent posts, but the’yre all worth reading.

2. A Year Of Reading The World – This blog is great. 196 countries, and a year to read something from all of them. I was super excited the other day when I saw a book from Namibia on the list.

3. The Good Greatsby – I love love love this blog. Invite Me To Your Yachting Party and Thank You For Inviting Me To Your Party. I Apologize For My Behaviour At The Party are among the funniest things I have ever read.

4. Belle Grove Plantation – This blog feeds my history obsession. It follows the restoration of the plantation in Virginia, US, where James Madison was born. The little stories of discoveries on the land and tales of the families who lived there are absolutely fascinating. At some point, I’m definitely visiting, it looks amazing.

5. socomfortablynumb – This blog had me at “I’m not all that pretty. I dress wierd.”

6. CyclingEurope.org – This man cycled around Europe and wrote a book about it, which I’m in the middle of at the moment. It’s a great book, fantastically entertaining. Read it.

7. Bagni di Lucca and Beyond – Gorgeous gorgeous photos. I’ve never wanted to go to Italy more! In fact, I have booked myself a trip there soon and my sole holiday research has been this blog!

8. hairsprayandhemingway – I was initially attracted to this blog by the name. The blog is described as being about ‘literature, beauty and life.’ What’s not to love?

9. AsiaDreaming – This blog always has beautiful photos from exotic faraway lands, that make me want to drop everything and jump on a plane.

10. Blogging for a Good Book – It’s the Williamsburg Regional Library blog and every day I come and check out which book they have recommended. I’ve read a few that have been suggested and they were very good.

11. Tokyobling’s Blog – Again, amazing photos and a fascinating insight into another part of the world. The colours and liveliness in the photos are great.

12. Project 365 by Kenneth Todd – One photo a day for a year. Does what it says on the tin. There are some lovely lovely pictures on this blog, check them out if you’re into photography or if you just like looking at pretty things.

13. Fitness and Frozen Grapes – The great pictures of food are just one of the reasons I love reading this blog. No matter how active I am, I always feel lazy when I read this!

14. Lyrics and Chocolate – The most recent post, List of things that never change was great!

15. Steeshes – A Photo Collection of Mustaches – This blog is just great. There’s always a new picture of a moustache. I feel it is good for one to be up-to-date with the latest moustache fashions. That’s partly why I love this blog so much. Check it out. You’re bound to discover something amazing.

 

PS. As a London-dweller, I feel I should say something about the Olympics. So here it is = the Olympics are nice, aren’t they?