Book Review: The Phantom’s Apprentice *** (and a half!)

This e-book was sent to me free of charge by Netgalley in return for an honest review. Here it is:

THE PHANTOM’S APPRENTICE

by Heather Webb

I loved the Andrew Lloyd Webber show, “The Phantom of the Opera, and when we lived in the UK I think I saw it three or four times. The music still excites me when I hear it. I must admit, however, to never having read the source material – it always seemed too dauntingly thick and, well, “French”!

This is a retelling of the original story from the point of view of the heroine, Christine Daée, so we read of her background, before she joined the Paris Opéra, and how she became involved with the Phantom. It does perhaps give some less-than-interesting details, but actually I found the book engaging and it romped along at a good pace. The twists and turns, the doubts about who is actually on Christine’s side and who isn’t, the mysteries of the Opera House are all told well enough to pull the reader in. The  premise of why Erik (the Phantom) becomes obsessed with Christine is a little far fetched (although I don’t know if that is in the original story) but, to be honest, the whole tale is far fetched, so the reader needs to suspend disbelief, in order to read this successfully.

The main problem for me was that some of the language that the author used jarred as being inappropriate, either in the context in which it was used, or in the fact that it was very 21st century language. I would be reading a sentence, and instead of being gripped by what was being unfolded in front of me, I was thinking “That word isn’t right…” For example, in one section of the book (and nowhere else) the author had Christine “plopping” down onto sofas – a distinctly inelegant word! She “scooted” to various places, she “slung” something at someone, and, in one section, Christine “barrelled” across a room. These are really ugly, and, in my opinion, lazy ways of describing actions, and they all really annoyed me!

However, despite this, I give the book three and a half stars stars for the fast pace, and the engaging story. It lost half a star for the language used!(However, with Netgalley there’s no half stars, in which case I give it 4)  I enjoyed it more than The Mayflower Bride, but certainly not as much as Patrick Gale’s “A Place Called Winter”

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Surprise Christmas present!

Well, not quite a surprise, as Mr FD kept telling me it was on its way, but a surprise because I had no idea what it was.

It arrived today (not a Pusheen cat!) and I am delighted!

As the blurb says “365 Days of Art is an inspiring daily journal designed to help you nurture your creativity and develop a love of art” It gives 365 prompts to various art projects to complete:

Day 282: What is in the jars? Pickles?Fruit? Insects? What would you store in these jars?

Day 330: Add flowers to the stalks

It is something else to add to the things to do during my days at home: I do my 15 minute mile, using a Leslie Sansome YouTube video, and then I enter competitions…Really, by the law of averages, I have to win something! My poor friend Cathy is the “Scape Tagger” when it’s a FB competition, when I have to tag someone. She’s been tagged several times today! (Mind you, this pays her back for all of those “Like-and-share” pictures I get from her!!) I try to blog too – you might have noticed an upsurge in blog posts recently! Then I might do some zentangling too, although competition entry took over an hour today: there were lots to enter! It’s practically lunch time (scrambled egg today)

In the afternoon I will maybe continue zentangling, but I will add my 365 Days… to this now. I listen to Pray As You Go, and read another poem from “The Splash of Words”

Mark Oakley spoke to us at the  Vocation Discernment weekend in Budapest during November. He is an inspirational speaker and the book is really interesting. The blurb on Amazon reads: For those who know they enjoy poetry, and those for whom it is just a memory from schooldays, here is a rich feast that enables us to rediscover poetrys power to startle, challenge and reframe our vision. Like throwing a pebble into water, a poem causes a splash of words whose ripples can transform the way we see the world, ourselves and God. The Splash of Words argues that belief in poetry is vital for understanding that God is in the world as poetry is in a poem. It includes 40 poems from contemporary poets, as well as poems from earlier generations. Each is accompanied by a reflection, based on a deep understanding of poets and their art, which explores why poetry is vital to faith and how scripture, liturgy and theology are all poetry in motion.

I would argue that if you think you don’t like poetry this is an excellent book to help you, not understand poetry, but to experience it, to feel it, to grasp the very edges of what the poet is saying.

And usually too, I will read some of my French novel, although I have rather neglected this recently.

As the weather gets better I will try to get outside too for some sunshine (should the sun ever return!!)

So…lunch time now!

PS – We finished watching Line of Duty Series 1 last night! We decided we couldn’t wait. We now have to try not to watch Series 2 till next week. Otherwise, we’ll binge watch and it will all be finished!

Sunday doings

Yesterday it was the Cycle Club AGM, so Mr FD, as treasurer, toddled off at 9.30 to help prepare the room. As I’m only a hanger-on I didn’t need to attend, so I had a lazy morning with a hot water bottle, a blanket, a cat and my Kindle – I’m reading another enjoyable book from NetGalley, which I’ll be reviewing soon – I also listened to the day’s meditation from Pray As You Go

which has been a great help through these past months.

Mr FD phoned me at about midday to say that the meeting had finished, and there was a Kir to be had, so off I went. Actually, although Mr FD had saved me a cup of kir, by the time I got there people were starting to drift away, so I had a few minutes to gulp it down and make a bit of small talk, before we all (including the hangers on) trooped over to the Hotel de la Poste for a meal.

The choice for starter was sausage salad, with beetroot, and potato salad, or gateau de foie de volaille. Although I’m not a great liver fan I chose this, almost immediately (but slightly too late!) regretting my choice! I can take chicken livers, whereas calves’ or lambs’ liver is beyond me, but I didn’t really fancy either choice.

It wasn’t too horrible: in fact the sauce was delicious!I managed to finish it all except what I thought was a mushroom perched on top, but is, in fact, a chicken liver. That got slid onto Mr FD’s plate!

Next, the choice was trout, or slow cooked pork. I chose the pork:

This came with some gratin dauphinoise, a few courgettes a couple of green beans and a smear of butternut squash purée. Delicious, but I could have done with a few more veggies!

Cheese was next:

From top to bottom: soft cows’ cheese with shallots, Brillat Saverin, and Cantal Vieux.

Finally the dessert trolley…we were sat in the middle of the “U” shaped table formation and were a little nervous, as here at La Poste one is encouraged to try 3, or even 4, desserts. We were concerned that they would run out, but it was OK, as at various times a waitresss would come out of the kitchen with another plate of something yummy in her hands.

I chose fresh fruit salad and Gateau Ste-Honoré, but from memory there was also: tarte aux abricots, tarte au chocolat, tarte tatin, tarte au praline, iles flottantes (soft meringues in custard with a caramel sauce),  pistachio-and-chocolate gateau, Black Forest gateau, a choice of ice cream/sorbet, raspberry bavarois, and tiramisu. We finished with coffee and petits fours.

There had been wine included in the price, which was 25,75€ per person (32$ / £22.50) Not cheap, but certainly not extortionate!

We walked home (all of two minutes!) and I prepared the Poor Cats’ food. Mr FD went for a walk while I went to feed the cats, and then as he watched the football results I fell asleep! I snoozed for about 2 hours – which put pay to my ideas of getting to sleep earlier (at the moment I’m lying awake until gone midnight, then waking up at about 8.15. It’s not ideal, really)

After a bit of bread-and-cheese, Mr FD asked what I wanted to watch on TV. Well, way before Christmas we had watched series 4 of “Line of Duty” – we’d not seen the previous series – and were seriously gripped by it! So Mr FD had ordered series 1,2 and 3 on DVD, but we never quite got round to watching them. They were just what I fancied, so we thought we’d watch the first episode of Series 1…and then we thought we’d just watch the second episode…and then, well, let’s watch the 3rd episode…!! If it hadn’t been 11.15 we might have watched the next one too! Series 1 is just as gripping as Series 4 was!

For those of you who enjoy police procedural series and haven’t seen this, I thoroughly recommend it. It’s on Netflix, aznd possibly also on the i-player.

We are now tantalisingly putting off watching the last two episodes until Wednesday evening (as tonight is catching up with Call the Midwife and Modern Life is Goodish, and Tuesday is Silent Witness night.)

Seven Things…

I thought I’d change the look a little – though not much, I’ll admit! I feel I ought to use the same header photo as always, simply because it is a view of the “small French village” about which I write (occasionally!) Mr FD took the photo, looking towards the old chateau quarter – you can’t see our house in it, but the chapel and the ancient walls date from the Middle Ages.

Otherwise, I don’t have much to say really…but perhaps it would be a good thing to “borrow” MrsM’s idea

7 THINGS THAT HAVE MADE ME HAPPY IN 7 DAYS

(actually, it’s just evolved into “7 things that I’m grateful for & that have kept me going over the past 7 days”. But never mind!)

So, in this week that hasn’t exactly brought me the best of news, what made me happy?

1. THE CATS – as always, our cats have been a source of pain and pleasure. Bib seems to find it impossible to pee in the litter tray (though she will happily poo in it!) – she’s been checked over by the vet & there’s nothing physically wrong. But when she’s curled up in a small furry ball in your arms, it’s very hard to get cross with her! Jasper is our hefty bedtime companion, and spends a lot of the night mounting a take-over bid for the entire bed. He’s still a biter though, so we need to be careful. He’s not a lap cat, not at all, but last week, he crept onto my lap and lay there for a couple of minutes. It may happen yet!

Jasper, planning his next move.

2. BUYING A NEW TOP – Okay, we don’t have a lot of spare cash to be throwing around, but I’m afraid that the day after I’d been told I was going to need chemo, I went online and ordered this.I know it was naughty of me…but I did so like it!

tiny picture!

3. MR FD – but of course! He’s been a rock through all of this. He can’t quite grasp all my mood swings (and, sorry, dear, I fear they’re only going to get worse!) and sometimes he tries to tell me stuff when all I want is for him to hold me – but I know he is doing his very best, and that this is hard for him too.

An unflattering photo of Mr FD taken, when he was unawares, having just found the fève in the Galette des Rois. “Do I have to wear the crown?”

4. FAMILY & FRIENDS – messages of support, offers to knit me a hat (thanks, Michelle!), gifts of unscented handmade soap (“because chemo can affect your sense of smell”), promises to make me look glamorous (that will be an impossible task, I fear!), constant checking up, and offers to do things for me, Mum sending me a cheque “in case you need to buy expensive bras”…So many lovely people who care about me. It is very humbling.

5. PIZZA & WINE – Yes, I know I have to eat healthily – Dr Meunier emphasised this (and the need for regular, outdoor activity) – but the evening after the diagnosis, I wanted pizza. And wine. We’d bought “FD’s Juice Box” from Noz that day – a litre carton of Argentinian red wine, which isn’t half bad, for 79 cents! – and that, with the pizza made a good comfort food meal, followed by Thornton’s chocolates and “Taskmaster” on TV.

6. COMING ACROSS THIS ON THE BOOK OF FACE:

 I know I’ve already posted it, but I wanted to say a bit more. Clare Kenty is someone I met during my first year at Lines. Such fun, and even then she seemed grounded and sensitive. I say “even then” because she was young, smoked, smoked weed, and was a bit “out there”. Now, she’s moved to Canada, married and is into veganism, “womb wellness” (?!) and other stuff. None of which floats my boat, but each to their own; she has obviously found contentment. But this, this was just what I needed to hear at the moment I needed to hear it.

7 – GOD – I know that if you’re not a believer, you might think I bang on about Him a bit too much. Sorry about that, but more and more I find that I need to remind myself of His goodness, and His love for me. And you. Some people might ask “why has God allowed you to get cancer, if he’s so good?” I don’t think he has “allowed” it – cancer is a natural thing – stuff mutates, and that’s what these cells are doing. It’s just my tough shit that it’s happening to me! If you look at so many things in creation, they are of a consequence of other things. It’s likely that my cancer is a consequence of being on the Pill for 25 years or so…I don’t know why it was created so, but there you go. I trust God to see me through. You’re probably sick of it by now but here it is again:

Sorry…this has ended up being about cancer again. I must stop banging on about it. There are other things than that, Fat Dormouse!

Efferty-jeff.

“Efferty-jeff” is the term used by Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo in their excellent film review programme, to describe “bad language”, as in “There’s a lot of efferty jeffing in the film…”

Efferty-jeff is possibly the term I used when the Consultant Oncologist gave me the news yesterday that I have to have 6 sessions of chemo. It is more preventative, as the “suspicious” cells that were found in my lymph node were cancerous. Although the scans showed nothing, there is the possibility that cancerous cells have escaped, and are, at this very moment, swimming their way around my lymph system, looking for a place to settle & raise a family. The sessions of chemo will zapp them, and put pay to their scuzzy little plans.

It’s not the news I wanted to hear, but after some tears and some efferty-jeffing, I’m back on track and ready to face what has to be faced. It won’t be fun, but it has to be done.

After that, there will be 30 sessions of radiotherapy…by the end of August it should (bar the hormone therapy) all be over and I’ll be ready for a holiday somewhere nice.

I’ve also found a site that gives all the competitions that are free to enter in France – the number that I’ve entered in the past few weeks, by the law of averages, I’m going to win one soon!! Let’s hope it’s one of the holidays – and preferably not the camping one! The Thallassotherapy in the south of France sounds more like my style!

Zentangles – and a piece of advice.

Advice first:

If you have had a tumour removed, and are possibly facing chemotherapy (but it’s not sure) DON’T, for the love of God, and for your own sanity’s sake, read this book:

The descriptions of the chemotherapy that the heroine of the story has to go through will make you shit-scared and very nasty to your husband (who’s only trying to help) however much you tell yourself that the young woman in the story had MUCH worse cancer than you.

And if you’re going to visit someone who has had cancer and faces the (fairly small) possibility of having chemotherapy, don’t lend them this book. It’s not great for the morale. Honestly.

And now, zentangling. (Click on the images to enlarge them)

Comeuse With A Chou said in the comments to my last post: I’ve no idea what zentangling is though (and am now intrigued). Do you have a link to a previous post describing it at all please? 

Well, if I’m honest, I would say zentangling has been around as long as doodling has, but it’s just that some rather canny Americans thought about how it could be used to their advantage, and have rather taken over what one would, in the past, have called doodling. A whole industry has grown out of it.

Rules have been formed, to say what is zentangling, and what isn’t… If I quote from the “official” page tanglepatterns.com

These are the characteristics that define a tangle:
The elemental strokes of a tangle in Zentangle

  1. a tangle is abstract, non-objective (non-representational)
  2. a tangle is non-directional, it has no up or down orientation — there’s no “right side up”
  3. a tangle is usually an overall pattern that grows organically, rather than a single motif. Zentangle is about “the repetition of a stroke, not the repetition of a drawing.“
  4. a tangle is at most 2 or 3 simple strokes — “Usually the number of elemental strokes needed are 3 or less. Often, you only need one or two. By ‘elemental strokes’ we mean a dot, a straight(-ish) line, a curve (like a parenthesis), a reverse curve (like an ‘S’), and an orb or circle.“
  5. a tangle is simple enough to draw without using a pre-printed grid, pencil guidelines or an eraser. “It also has to be done without any underlying pencil structure or preplanned grid.” Inked grids or dots, however, are often part of a tangle.
  6. a tangle never uses rulers, stencils, or any other mechanical construction aids
  7. a tangle is elegant, unique

In my view, this is all a bit of cobblers – it’s making rules where there is no necessity. They say: The Zentangle® Method was designed to remove the thinking, planning, decision-making and other obstacles that often hinder creativity or even prevent people from creating art at all.

But then, by making all these rules about what is/isn’t a zentangle pattern, I feel they are stifling creativity in people all over again!!

So I take no notice of the rules – I should, apparently, be calling my work “Zentangle Inspired Art”, for example, and instead I enjoy creating art, whatever it’s called, and in whatever form. AND (shock!horror!) I use a pencil, a ruler and an eraser to create grids, especially if I’m working on something that’s going to be a gift.

All the examples shown here are mine: the sheep was done for Michelle, from Boulderneigh Farm, I think (she keeps sheep). The cat was one of my very first forays into ZIA, and was designed for a charity Spanish Stray Cats.The chicken was drawn for a blog swap of some sort, for Busy Little Chicken (she’s no longer blogging) and the sunflower was a birthday card for my sister. Finally, the Harry Potter was completed soon after my return from Lines Summer School last year, as several of the teachers were confirmed HP fans. I didn’t send it to anyone, so it’s lying around my study somewhere.

If anyone reading this would like their own personal Zentangle, do let me know in the Comments – I’m always looking for an excuse to start a new one. I’ve done many subjects, including knitting, Celtic crosses, dolphins, fairies… If you want yo see other examples, click on the “tag” title Zentangles and you should find others that I’ve done.

I hope that answers your question, Chomeuse…