Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Tuesday Reviews Day - Books

Thank you all so much for all the beautiful and caring comments on my last post, and for messsages sent privately, regarding the passing of our last little doggy, Jack. They were so appreciated. Cody and Jack will be forever in our hearts and it comforts me to think that they are together now.

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I'm trying to get back into a routine so here I am with more Tuesday book reviews. I am currently at 62 books of my 80 book goal for the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I do love to read and I am a fairly fast reader, especially since getting my Kindle last year, so there's still hope I will meet the goal by the end of December.

On with the reviews - 

First up is - Have You Seen Luis Velez by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Raymond feels like he doesn't belong. He lives with his mother's new husband and step-siblings and sees his father and his new wife on weekends. His father's wife doesn't seem to like Raymond at all. His best friend has moved away and Raymond feels even more alone. He meets a 92 year old blind woman living in his building who seems persistent on asking anyone who passes if they have seen Luis Velez? Raymond also finds a stray cat that touches his heart and, worried about its safety, takes it to Mildred's apartment. Mildred, though reluctant at first, takes in the cat and a friendship starts to grow between her and Raymond.

It turns out that Luis Velez was Mildred's caretaker until he didn't show up one day leaving her to fend for herself. Raymond steps in to help her as he is concerned for Mildred and worries that she is giving up. So he sets himself a mission to track down Luis Velez.

My thoughts - I'm a big fan of Catherine Ryan Hyde's heartwarming stories. I shed quite a few tears throughout this book as Raymond crosses paths with lots of people in his quest to find Luis Velez. He and Millie become very close and their friendship helps him cope with his own feelings of not belonging. I gave this one a 5 star rating.

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Next up - The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

At the start, this book takes us to France in 1939. Vianne bids farewell to her husband when he leaves for the front never believing that the Nazis would invade France. She is devastated to find out she was wrong, especially when an enemy officer takes up residence in her home. She has a young daughter and she also has friends who are Jews so, when the Nazis start rounding up Jews for the camps, the situation reaches crisis point.  Vianne makes some high risk decisions which could put them all in imminent danger.

Vianne's sister, Isabelle, is only 18 years old and lives with Vianne until she can no longer cope with an enemy living in the house. Her outspoken attitude could prove dangerous for them all. The sisters have a bit of a rocky relationship and criticise each other. Isabelle ends up moving away and working undercover for the Resistance. 

My thoughts - I LOVED this book! I LIVED in this book! Both sisters had to deal with some horrific circumstances. The relationship with Isabelle and her father was non-existent but further things come to light on that score as the book progresses. The author portrays the heroic natures of 'ordinary' people in times of crisis. I cried, no, I sobbed, on quite a few occasions so be forewarned to have those tissues handy. It scored a 5 star rating from me!

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Lastly - Becky: The Heartbreaking Story of Becky Watts by Her Father Darren Galsworthy

In 2015, 16 year old Bristol schoolgirl, Becky Watts, was murdered and dismembered by her own stepbrother, Nathan Matthews. The crime shocked the nation and totally devastated her family. Darren, her father, writes this heartfelt and heart-wrenching account of Becky's life and the ultimate betrayal by a boy he had raised as his own. 

I had previously watched a crime video about Becky's murder on YouTube so, when this book showed up in my recommended reading list via Amazon Kindle, I bought it.  Understandably, Darren Galsworthy's world fell apart after learning of the unspeakable crime that stole his daughter from him. He was clearly a devoted and loving father.  Darren's book takes us back to the beginning, to before Becky was born.  He shares many fun and happy times that the family experienced together before it all came to a shocking end years later.

I felt heartbroken for Darren, his wife, Anjie (step mum to Becky), and for Becky's brother, Daniel. I gave this book 5 stars!  

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On that sad note, I will wrap up the reviews for this week.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Goodbye to our precious boy, Jack

This year has been a tough one in more ways than one. I lost my fur-kid and best-friend, Cody, in February after a battle with Cushing's Disease. Then my LARS hip tendon surgery was in early May of which I'm now halfway through the recovery period of ten months. This was followed by Bradley's wisdom teeth removal surgery in June. I then came down with a severe chest infection that was very painful and debilitating which took two months to recover from. We then learned that my sister-in-law (ex-husband's sister) passed away on August 27th which came as quite a shock. Colleen was only a year younger than me. I still can't get my head around it. Cancer sucks!

Then on October 2nd, we said a very sad and tearful goodbye to our last little doggy, Jack. He was around 14 years old, 90% blind, had bad teeth and arthritis among other things, and he was suffering. We knew it was time but it was still a hard decision to make nonetheless.

Jack found his way to our door on my Dad's birthday back in September of 2010. I had been preparing for my daughter's upcoming wedding on October 2nd which turned out to be the date on which Jack passed away 9 years later. Jack was severely malnourished and riddled with fleas and ticks. I also felt Jack had suffered abuse to some degree because he became very fearful whenever voices were raised. He was also favouring his rump area which was very stiff. I remember wondering if he'd been kicked hard and/or injured. The vet felt the same. Jack had no microchip which made it near impossible to find his owner. We asked around, notified local vets and visited pet shops, leaving our details just in case but it was all to no avail. In the end, we figured we would keep him as the vet had advised. We didn't want him ending up at the high kill shelter because they give them only three days to be collected before they put them to sleep.

So Jack was then micro-chipped and officially became a much loved member of our family. The vet estimated his age to be between 4 and 6 years old which meant he was around 14 years old when he passed. He bonded quite well with Cody too.


Jack had clearly been an outdoor dog in his previous home as he was not house-trained. He learned quickly thanks mostly to watching Cody. I remember that Jack loved to play tug 'o war in his younger years. He would pick up a toy and continually nudge it into someone's leg until they played with him. He was also known as the 'squeak destroyer' because he would destroy every squeaker toy within seconds of getting it. Poor Cody loved his squeaker toys too and we did try to keep Jack away from Cody's favourite ones but we usually lost the battle.

Jack was clearly a Jack Russell terrier/Shih-Tzu mix, hence his name, and like the breed in general, he was very territorial. In his eyes, no other dogs, or people for that matter, were allowed to walk past our house even if they were on the opposite side of the road. He would bark and carry on like they were a threat to his home and family. Cody soon followed suit and we then had two barking maniacs whenever they spotted other dogs or people, and even cars parking, in view of our house.

Jack tended to be an all round family dog until the last five years of his life when he started to follow my eldest son, Bradley, around. He would even sleep in Bradley's room every night. He became Bradley's shadow as Cody had been mine. Jack definitely classified himself as Bradley's best friend and vice versa. He would even stand outside Brad's door waiting patiently to go in. He will be greatly missed, that's for sure.




Dearest Jack,
Thank you for all the many special moments you gave us. We were blessed to have you in our lives. No doubt, you are now running free of pain with your 'brother', Cody. We love you both so much and know that neither of you will ever be forgotten. Our hearts are forever stamped with your names. I hope to see you again some day. xo


Jack Lewis 
19/9/2005 approx. to 2/10/2019
Forever in our hearts

“A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes, or designer clothes. A water logged stick will do just fine. A dog doesn't care if you're rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he'll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?” — John Grogan

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Tuesday Reviews Day - Books & a quick update

Not long after my last post — yep, almost a month ago — I came down with a terrible chest infection followed straight after with the flu. I was bed-ridden and in a lot of chest and back pain from all the deep coughing which totally exhausted me.  About all I could manage during my sickness was to read my Kindle and watch Netflix. Anything else was too draining. It took three doctor's visits and 2 courses of different antibiotics to get on top of the cough. I'm still recovering but, on a positive note, yesterday was the first day I've felt half-human again despite still coughing, blowing my nose constantly, and some lingering muscle pain. I hadn't been sick like that in quite a few years.

On with the reviews —

First up is Down Under by Bill Bryson
This book is titled - In a Sunburned Country - in the USA

Bill Bryson is a travel writer and this book caught my attention because he was writing about his travels in Australia. Bryson first visited Australia in 1992 and, from what information I can find, this book was first published in 2000. Naturally, a lot has changed in Australia in almost two decades but, for the most part, it was at a time I remember and can identify with. I liked how he portrayed the Aussie sense of humour and how laid back we can be, especially when it comes to all the dangerous creatures we share this country with. He also expresses clearly how vast Australia actually is and how much of it is uninhabitable.

I thought this book would mostly focus on his personal experiences and travels in this country which it did, however, Mr Bryson also goes into A LOT of Australia's history even pre-Captain Cook times. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the history lessons too — I loved history at school — but the history aspect could get a tad boring at times. Of course, bear in mind, I was quite sick when I read it so may not have always been in the mood for some history lessons. Taking all that into account, I gave it a 5 star rating.

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Next up - The Thing About Clare by Imogen Clark

This book spans back and forth over 4/5 decades and focuses around the lives of Dorothy Bliss and their four children - Miriam, Clare, Anna, and Sebastian.  Dorothy's husband, Frank, is on the scene but not a focal point in the book. In her later years, Dorothy dies, supposedly without a will. However, not long before she passes, Dorothy entrusts Anna to find her Will, plus a letter to Clare, with instructions to burn them both. Why? Does Anna follow her mother's instructions? What is it about Clare?

I loved Dorothy's Irish way of speaking in the book. I enjoyed the book but not really sure the story-line was very effective overall. It hints early on in the book that Clare's parentage may be in question and the possible reason she was always different to her siblings — the tear-away of the family and very rebellious. Each sibling wrestled with their own issues at different stages of their lives so I'm not sure Clare really had a valid excuse for her behaviour. Guess you'd have to read it to understand what I mean.  I was tossing between 3 and 4 stars and the 3 stars won out.

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Lastly, my Amazon First Reads choice for August - The Secrets of Lost Stones by Melissa Payne

Jess, a grieving mother, finds herself in Pine Lake after her car runs out of fuel, among other issues. As luck would have it, she lands a job as a caregiver to elderly Lucy who is rumoured to be the witch of the mountain town. Lucy seems eccentric, has a keen interest in crossword puzzles, and seems to know things before they happen. Star, a teenage runaway, is invited to Lucy's home. Like Jess, Star suffered a tragedy, and unbeknown to them, their paths have crossed for a reason. Jess lost her 8 year old son while Star watched her best friend die. Lucy seems to be guiding them in a certain direction. Has a call from beyond the grave brought them together?

I read this book, on and off, over a period of 36 hours. I found it so hard to put down. LOVED it!  There are mysterious happenings afoot right from the start and it keeps you wanting to turn the pages to seek answers. It does not disappoint while it builds to a climatic ending. I gave it 5 stars!

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And that wraps up the reviews for this week. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Tuesday Reviews Day - Books

I always find it interesting how two people can read the same book and have vastly differing opinions on it. Same with movies, I guess.

So up first up today is —

My Grandmother sends her Regards and Apologies by Fredrik Bachman

A story about 7 year old Elsa — going on 30, in my view — and how she adores her Grandmother and sees her as a superhero. Elsa is very close to her Grandmother but not so much her mother.  Elsa is bullied at school on top of dealing with her parents divorce. To get Elsa's mind off her troubles, Granny tells many fairy-tale-like stories about the Land of Almost Awake and the roles that she and Elsa play in the kingdom. In a roundabout way, this helps Elsa deal with the hard times she is facing. When Elsa's Grandmother is no longer around, she tasks Elsa to deliver letters of apology to the people who live in the same apartment house. As she delivers the 'sorry' notes, Elsa begins to see the connections between the fairy-tale and the people who cross her path.

My thoughts - This book got a lot of five star ratings but I was so bored to tears. I found the back-and-forth between the fairy-tale world and reality to be somewhat confusing and a real annoyance to me.  I wanted to like this book because I enjoyed A Man Called Ove so much...written by the same author. Yes, there were some touching parts but, for the most part....I found it boring! I gave this book only 1 star.

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Next up, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga 
Balram Halwai, also known as The White Tiger, is the smartest kid in his village. He is born into a very poor Indian family where the caste system is designed to keep you in the poorer classes. He is sent to work in a tea shop and is later hired to be a rich man's chauffeur. He ends up moving to Delhi with the rich man and sees a whole new world which is out of his reach due to his own poverty. Balram hatches a plan to change all that and, shockingly, part of that plan involves murdering his master. 

My thoughts - This book is written in the form of a confession by Balram to a visiting Head of China. It delves into the seedy parts of life in India and the genuine struggle to survive if born into the poorer castes. It also shows how the actions of one can bring about consequences that effect their whole family.  It was interesting enough but I found it hard to connect with the characters and it was also on the boring side.  Maybe I'm used to reading the more romanticised versions on life in India. However, I did read 'A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley' and loved it.  Anyway, I gave this one 2 stars.

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I'll be back next Tuesday with more reviews....

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Recovery update after surgery

I know, I know....I did say I'd be back with a post on Wednesday but time clean got away from me and it's now Sunday already...

Since I last posted, Bradley, my eldest son had surgery to remove all his wisdom teeth plus a molar that was damaged by one of the wisdom teeth. He is now on Day 12 of recovery and doing really well. I think he will be glad to get off the soft food diet come Tuesday though. Soups, mashed veg, porridge, vegan yoghurt, vegan ice-creams, apple sauce, mashed banana etc. are all yummy but he will be happy when he can munch down a vegan burger or his regular granola cereal.
Pre-surgery
I can tell you that he didn't look this happy after the surgery.

About five days prior to Brad's surgery, I made the mistake of doing too much walking at a shopping centre, using only one crutch, and I ended up with strained oblique muscles on the left side of my back. I was laid up in bed for three days and every step was agonising, even with two crutches. Lesson learned not to overdo things. The muscle strain did recover enough where I was able to be at the hospital for Brad's surgery day. Angela, my sister, drove us there and stayed for the duration. She helped Bradley at the hospital where I was unable to. We would have been lost without her over the past couple of months and we are so very grateful for all her help.

I'm now managing to get around at home using a walking stick but I still use one elbow crutch when I go out because it gives me more support and stability.  My surgeon said to keep using the crutch if I felt I needed it. All in all, I'm happy with how I'm progressing with recovery. Still a long way to go with only 2 months done of a 10 month recovery but I'm glad the worst pain is over with.

I can also drive again which feels great! It's a little difficult getting in and out of the car because my operated hip gets crushed and pulled a bit, plus the steering wheel gets in the way, BUT I'm managing okay. I'm loving the freedom of being back behind the wheel again.

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The cat, Kya, is still hanging out here. It feels weird having a neighbour's cat practically living here but her not belonging to us. She is a sweetie though and seems to be getting quite attached to me.
She sleeps a lot! 

And likes high places

Eyes OFF, Missie!

Since my previous post about Kya, I had a visit from the owner for a second time —  nearly three weeks back — and the mystery of why Kya started showing up here just over two months ago is solved now. While here the second time, the owner told me that they bought a new kitten which Kya apparently hates and won't accept. Oh, and the owner remembered that Kya is actually 10 years old, not 7 or 8, as she bought Kya when her daughter was born. She also said that she feels we may end up with Kya as she seems to have chosen us anyway. Hmmmmm... I guess we will see what happens...

So, that's it for now....

I hope you have a great weekend! We've had rain on and off this past week but it's a fine day today (Sunday).
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