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. I'm assuming they chose the kitten over her which breaks my heart but it does explain lots. 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).

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Tuesday Reviews Day - Books

I will put up a personal post tomorrow to update you on my recovery and my son's recent surgery.

For now, a review on some Kindle books I've recently read —

First up, Along the Broken Bay by Flora J. Solomon.

Gina Thorpe is an American expat living in Manila with her husband and young daughter. However in December of 1941 war breaks out in the Pacific and, when Japanese soldiers invade Manila, Gina and her daughter flee to the mountains with friends. Her husband is missing and Gina is encouraged to join the resistance so she is smuggled back to Manila to take on a new identity at a nightclub. 

Gina struggles to keep one step ahead of the Japanese as she comes under suspicion. Does she manage to avoid arrest and torture? Is her husband safe and alive? Will she reunite with her daughter? 

My thoughts - WOW! What a read! Flora Solomon knows how to tell a story. I lived in this book alongside Gina and found it hard to put down. It ran a gamut of emotions for me. I will definitely read more by this author and gave this one a 5 star rating.

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During my recovery from surgery, I've also finished The Imogen and Hugh Croft Mystery series by Katharine Pathak starting with Aoife's Chariot

Imogen is a wife and mother of three who also has a keen interest in solving mysteries. Along with the help of her psychologist husband, Hugh, and some family members here and there, Imogen uses her sleuthing skills to solve crimes/mysteries throughout the series. I enjoyed them very much and I do like Pathak's writing style. I had previously read Pathak's later series featuring DCI Dani Bevan which I enjoyed also.  

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Next up was my Amazon First Reads monthly choice titled Thin Air by Lisa Grey. This is book one is the new Jessica Shaw series. 

Private Investigator, Jessica Shaw, receives an anonymous tip via email. It's a missing child case but she instantly sees that the three year old child is none other than herself. Jessica immediately embarks on a mission to find her true roots and to solve the murder of her real mother which happened 25 years prior. The night her mother was murdered happened to be the same night Jessica was abducted. She can't question her father because he had recently passed away. Was he even her real father? Was her life as she knew it just an elaborate lie? Who sent the photo to her?  Were they involved? Why was her mother murdered? Will she uncover the truth before she herself becomes a target?

My thoughts - There are a few twists and turns with this one but I enjoyed it a lot and will definitely be reading more by this author. I gave this one 4 stars.

See you next Tuesday for more reviews.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

It's been a while

...but I'm still standing.  Well, on crutches, that is.

I had LARS gluteal medius tendon surgery on May 2nd and after four weeks being on two crutches — partial weight-bearing —I've now progressed to using one crutch — partial weight-bearing. Then I may need a walking stick for a while as there is still a long recovery ahead. My surgeon said my medius and minimus tendons were pretty beat up and the medius tendon had torn all the way through. He said to allow ten months for full recovery which takes me through to March 2020.

The first couple of weeks were real tough as it involved fairly intense pain whenever I moved.  I needed a lot of assistance, even with lifting my operated leg into bed. I'm told the first three months cover the most difficult part of recovery. I can drive again at 6 to 8 weeks pending the surgeon's approval...still in the non-driving stage. I will require physiotherapy at some point too. If you aren't squeamish and interested in seeing the type of surgery I actually had done, click LARS gluteal tendon repair surgery. I now have permanent internal stitches, a synthetic ligament, and a titanium screw in my hip. Suffice to say, my hip feels kinda weird but, I'm looking forward to a future of no pain or limping.

Bradley, my eldest son, has been a huge help during my recovery. Carrying my paraphernalia from room to room as well as carrying meals to the lounge-room TV tables. Basically being an extra pair of hands when I'm unable to do something. Hopefully, I will be able to return the favour when he has his wisdom teeth surgery later this month. I've been getting groceries delivered which has been great and I may even keep that going. My sister has been a blessing in so many ways — taking me to and from the hospital and my post-op appointment at two weeks, as well as helping out when needed. 

Over the past week I've had issues with severe back pain., particularly after bending over. I haven't been allowed to lie on my operated side since surgery and lying on my other side causes pulling, discomfort, and pain in my operated hip. So I've had to lie on my back which seems to have flared up my back. As you may remember, I had a back injury back in 2003 from a bad fall but I also have age-related wear and tear going on also — spinal stenosis, protruding L5 disc, and spondylosis. Lots of rest and heat packs required.

OH that reminds meI had my 60th birthday during my blog absence! My sister organised a family get-together in my honour and my nephew even organised a Vegan Key Lime pie for my birthday cake.  Beau, my son, also made a delicious vegan cheesecake especially for me. I got some wonderful gifts too and it was lovely to see everyone. I had a great time and felt totally spoiled! 

I'm still missing my sweet Cody every day, some days are worse than others. Jack has adjusted now although I'm not sure how much longer this sweet boy will be with us. He has health issues of his own too — age-related.

Here Jack is fast asleep in his bed. 

About a week prior to my surgery, this uninvited guest showed up one rainy night seeking shelter under our front entrance. I felt sorry for her and made the 'mistake' of putting out some warm milk and dog biscuits and she has barely left.  We have since bought cat biscuits. We thought she was a stray at first but later discovered that her owners live in the street opposite us. I've met the owners and they don't seem to mind that their cat roams about.  I'm concerned with local council law stating that cat owners must keep their cats indoors 24/7. There has been a problem with roaming cats killing wildlife and messing in people's gardens for years now. You may remember that we had a huge problem with roaming cats in our street going back a few years. Anyway, Kya is 8 years old and so sweet. She visits nearly all the time now. Maybe we've made her too comfortable? I just hope she doesn't end up in a council cat trap and taken to the council pound where a grim fate could await her. It's just really odd to me that her owners have been in the street for nearly a year and she has only just recently showed up. I think there is more to the story...

I haven't sketched since January which sounds terrible, doesn't it? I've just not been in the right head space after losing Cody and so much has been going on in my life the past few months.

I have been feeling the pull of my sketchbooks again though so stay tuned...
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