Friday, 30 January 2009

The Best Complaint Letter Ever

If you haven't seen this yet, it is well worth a look!

A Slightly Rude Joke

A man and a woman who had never met before, but who were both married to other people, found themselves assigned to the same sleeping room on a trans-continental train.

Though initially embarrassed and uneasy over sharing a room, they were both very tired and fell asleep quickly, he in the upper berth and she in the lower.

At 1:00 AM, the man leaned down and gently woke the woman saying, "I'm sorry to bother you, but would you be willing to reach into the closet to get me a second blanket? I'm awfully cold."

"I have a better idea," she replied. "Just for tonight, let's pretend that we're married."

"Wow, that's a great idea!'" he exclaimed.

"Good," she replied. "Get your own *&!**! blanket."

After a moment of silence, he farted.

The Spanish Civil War

I didn't start a new book last night - I was still dipping into yesterday's book about Scots volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. Britain took a non-intervention stance in this war but as Germany, Italy and Portugal were taking an active part that amounted to Britain failing to support the side of democracy. Members of the International Brigades who had to be repatriated to Britain were later sent bills for the cost by the government and, worse, many were not accepted for the armed forces in the Second World War because they were seen as Reds. Some did enlist and found themselves discriminated against. There is a memorial stone in Kirkcaldy to those who fought which I must go and see (there is also one in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh).

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell

The writer George Orwell spent the first part of 1937 in Spain fighting against the Fascists who were attempting to overthrow the government. His memoir, Homage to Catalonia, describes the fighting he took part in as well as the boredom of waiting for action to start, and he also describes the confusion of the times. Despite contemporary newspaper reports it was not simply a case of democracy versus fascism: many of the working class aimed at revolution and complete social change. This was exemplified in Orwell's P.O.U.M. militia, where officers and men were on the same pay and nobody was addressed by a title. Events moved fast however, and by the middle of 1937 other political parties were in the ascendent. Orwell and his wife barely managed to escape prison before they fled the country. It is poignant to read this book with the benefit of hindsight, and to know that Orwell's fears of fascist victory actually came about. As well as reading this, I have been dipping into Voices from the Spanish Civil War: personal recollections of Scottish volunteers in Republican Spain, 1936-1939 (edited by Ian McDougall). It is amazing to read of the commitment and bravery of ordinary men and women who made their way to Spain to fight with the International Brigades. These were men from the mining villages of Fife, for example, some of whom must still be alive today - a direct connection to history.

On a completely different note I had an easy and enjoyable read next, with the children's book A Very Proper Fox by Jan Fearnley. It features a naughty rabbit and a knicker-ironing fox! This is a favourite of a little girl I know, but adults will enjoy the sly humour and witty illustrations nearly as much. It would be ideal for a 3 to 5 year old.

Then, inspired by the film Withnail and I, I decided to read the play Journey's End by R C Sherriff. I had read this at school, but was reminded of it when Marwood in the film was reading a copy (presumably for his audition). This is a cleverly-constructed play with many touches of humour and excellent characterisation. It conveys the idea that the trench fighting in many cases may have been completely pointless, but that the individual heroism was not. It is a tragedy nevertheless.

Day 113; Book 113

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

In which the reader must imagine rolling tumbleweed, whistling winds and Clint Eastwood as the High Plains Drifter arriving at a deserted town ...

Because today I have nothing to put in this lonely post, having failed to complete yesterday's book, George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. I'm about half way through, so will be back tomorrow with my thoughts on this Spanish Civil War memoir.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Withnail and I: the Screenplay by Bruce Robinson

I watched Withnail and I on Sunday on dvd and loved it so much I decided to read the screenplay in case I had missed any of the lines. In fact it was well worth reading because the directions in the screenplay reveal a lot about the characters' motivations.

Withnail and I is a cult British film made in the 1980s but set in London and the Lake District in 1969. It is a semi-autobiographical tale by the writer and director Bruce Robinson. It's beautifully constructed with many hilarious but also a few touching moments, as the drugged-up protagonists approach the end of their own particular era. A definite must-see and must-read. Here is what seems to be the definitive review of the film, explaining its appeal.

The screenplay was fairly short so I was also able to read "T N Foulis: the history and bibliography of an Edinburgh publishing house". Again this was fairly quick to read as much of the work consists of lists of books and of illustrators associated with the publishing house. They were in business from about 1903 to 1926 and produced many beautifully illustrated books, many intended to be given as presents. Jessie M King was one of the Scottish artists who illustrated their works. The books are still available from second-hand shops and websites, but some are extremely rare. The "Friendship Booklets" form a particularly attractive series. Here is an example for sale on Ebay - scroll down for the best image.

Day 111; Book 110

Monday, 26 January 2009

Odd Hours by Dean Koontz

This took me ages to finish, probably because I wasn't really enjoying it. I loved the first Odd Thomas novel by Koontz, as it was so original and the character so sympathetic. It had an exciting story with a bit of a twist too. This is the fourth Odd Thomas novel though and I felt it was a bit predictable - not so much the writing as the concept. Odd is still a great character though, and some of the one-liners are really funny. Unfortunately the style of writing gets a bit wearing sometimes as Koontz ALWAYS seems to choose a long word over a short ...

Next I had an Agatha Raisin, and I was enjoying it so much I finished it in a few hours. This one was Agatha Raisin and Kissing Christmas Goodbye. The author has introduced a promising new character, but she still kept us up-to-date with all our old favourites (except the Boggles, sadly! Apparently they have moved away).

The next "book" was only 26 pages: Short Stories by Irvine Welsh, as supplied with Scotland on Sunday. Irvine Welsh, for those who don't know, is the author of Trainspotting. First was an extract from his novella 'I am Miami', which was perceptive but miserable! I won't be reading the whole thing. However, Vat '96 and Where the Debris Meets the Sea were hilarious in their different ways. Vat '96 is skillfully written in the classic short story format, and Where the Debris ... turns celebrity worship on its head. Both will leave you amused and horrified at the same time, although for different reasons. Lisa's Mum Meets the Queen Mum was again well-written but rather fizzled out for me.

Finally I decided to be celebrate Burns' Day with Rhymer Rab: an anthology of poems and prose edited by Alan Bold. The introduction provides a good recap of the poet's life, and then the middle section gives a choice of his most famous poems, followed by a selection of his prose writing including many letters. Any study of Burns seems to raise as many questions as it answers eg how did he reconcile his politics with his employment as an exciseman (necessity probably) and how did such a romantic explain his treatment of the many women in his life? It's not surprising that he is still read and studied more than 2 centuries later. This book does illustrate how well-read the poet actually was, even if he did play up the heaven-taught ploughman angle to his readers. I didn't manage to finish this one though, so I'm not counting it towards my Book-a-Day totals.

Day 110; Book 108

Friday, 23 January 2009

Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie

Sadly I've come to the end of my borrowed stash of Alison Lurie books. It looks like I saved one of the best till last - Foreign Affairs won the Pulitzer Prize and was a great read, with the usual skillfull characterisation and witty observations. (Apparently it was serialised on TV as well). Once again, you couldn't exactly say the book had a happy ending but it did have a satisfactory ending. Again, several of the same characters cropped up from other books. It's funny for the hero in this one to have appeared as a 4-year old in Love and Friendship but very satisfying to imagine that Lurie's characters are living out their lives in real time. Thanks to Jo for introducing me to this author.

Day 107; Book 105

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Favourite children's books

I was thinking about the books I used to love as a child. First up have to be the Famous Five books by Enid Blyton. There was a big element of wish fulfillment in these, as the Famous Five (Julian, Dick, George, Anne and Timmy the dog of course) went off on holidays by themselves, rowed to private islands, discovered secret passageways and had perilous adventures outwitting criminals. Of course later came the controversy over Blyton with charges of xenophobia and even poor writing (see this Guardian page for a comment). I never noticed anything wrong with the actual writing itself: perhaps librarians cited this as a cause for not stocking the books when really they were concerned about other perceived iniquities in the books ... I liked the books myself because they were exciting and well-written in that I wanted to read on and on. I think children should be given a bit more credit for intelligence as well. It's quite easy to see that the Famous Five lived in another time and place where the middle-classes all had domestic staff. That didn't make me feel I couldn't connect with the characters at all, and I certainly didn't want the books updated.

Updating of children's books is another concern. I don't think it's necessary as children are quite aware of changes in manners and customs. The worst is when editors partially update books. The Jill books by Ruby Ferguson were also favourites of mine. As well as being about a girl who gets her own pony they have very amusing passages. As they were written in the 50s though, later editors have felt obliged to update the money from, eg 10 shillings to 50 p. As they haven't allowed for inflation though, this makes for ridiculous sums of money being paid for a pony! A child could happily have accepted that money has changed without silly changes being made.

Finally, I used to love the Narnia books by C S Lewis. My friend and I discovered these one summer holiday and we fetched new ones from the library each day. It was great! I'm afraid I read the stories for their own sake (children having adventures in magical lands) and didn't even notice the Christian allegory.

That brings me to my final point - sadly, I think that you can never go back. When the Rock Chick became a keen reader from the age of about 6, I used to hunt out all my old favourites for her from charity shops. Of course I re-read them myself but it was no longer as magical or exciting, as you might imagine. In fact the Christian allegory in the Narnia books I found heavy-handed and obtrusive! However I still envy children coming to these books for the first time.

Day 106; Book 104

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

I feel a new craze coming on ...

For Finn Crisp original rye crispbreads! They are very thin with a delicious nutty taste. In fact they are so thin they surely can't have many calories ... Yum!

*note to self - make sure to get the really thin ones next time, not the ordinary ones WHICH ARE NOT AS GOOD!

The Code of the Woosters by P G Wodehouse

I'm still reading this one so haven't entered it on my Books Completed list. This is the second Wodehouse I've read recently and I'm really enjoying this one. Apparently it is one of his best (see this Guardian review of his life and works). The first one I read felt more like a short story extended, but this one is well paced and consistently amusing. It looks like I'm a convert and I wasn't even troubled by revolutionary thoughts when Jeeves brought Bertie his early morning tea in bed (I was slightly troubled by Bertie putting his underwear on in front of Jeeves, but that's a different matter altogether ...)

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

I don't like mountaineering books as a rule, but this autobiographical book is exceptional. It's a book about survival and you don't need to be interested in climbing to enjoy it. We know the outcome from the start, but you will still be on the edge of your seat as each new crisis occurs. The writing is spare and honest and conveys each participant's emotions. There's a documentary film too, which is unusual in that it follows the source book very closely and so is just as good as the book, and is possibly even more nerve-wracking. The only difference I would say is that the book is very clear on Joe Simpson's attitude to his climbing partner Simon Yates.

Joe's survival is amazing and can be attributed in part to his competitive nature as a climber and athlete. To crawl for miles with a horrendously-broken leg could surely only be achieved by someone with great mental abilities. He sets himself tasks, and breaks them down into patterns and gives himself time limits to achieve them. (Some of his worst moments come when he gives up on this strict control of his mind). It is a great illustration of how great challenges are achieved through mental as much as physical effort. I think it is probably much harder to train yourself mentally though.

There is a link to a description of the book here, and this is a link to Joe Simpson's website, "No Ordinary Joe".

Day 104; Book 103

Monday, 19 January 2009

Random Link

I couldn't resist the title of this blog, Cute Things Falling Asleep! It does exactly what it says on the tin ...

Marcus Didius Falco

My favourite ancient Roman detective was in action again in Last Act at Palmyra, in which Marcus and Helena join up with a troupe of travelling performers to investigate a murder. I wish these novels had been available when I was at school - they are much more fun than Ecci Romani! Of course I am totally shallow and read these only for the story, but it's surprising how educational they are as well (and education without effort is always the best kind ...)

Sadly, I've almost finished reading the Alison Lurie novels. Real People is about an artists' retreat, and one particular author who goes there to write away from the ordinary stresses of running her home. On this visit she learns a lot about herself and other people, not all of it pleasant, and she also learns a lot about her work.

Love and Friendship is the first of Lurie's novels, and sets the benchmark for her scenes of academics and their families behaving badly at home and at work. She is very good in her portrayal of children. In this case the Venn children are charmingly eccentric, and Freddy Hunter is alternately shown as angelic and fiendish (but he has good cause).

Day 103; Book 102

Friday, 16 January 2009

More on Windows of the Soul by Jo Alexander

***STOP PRESS*** Now available on Lulu with the opportunity to preview the text (just click on the preview button at the bottom)

Fellow bloggers!

Have you signed up to Google Analytics? I found it a bit complicated to do - you sign up and then they send you a block of Html which you enter in your blog ... once that's done though you can look it up and see how many people have visited your blog each day. It's very addictive! You have to remember to exclude your IP address, otherwise it counts your own visits to your blog which makes you think you are more popular than you really are! I had a good day yesterday - I had 25 visitors! What you are aiming for of course is repeat visitors, not visitors who look once and then flee in disgust, or worse, boredom ...

More Academics Behaving Badly

Last night's book was Imaginary Friends by Alison Lurie. Actually it was also this morning's and this lunchtime's book, because I fell asleep last night while reading it. Don't be misled, though - this book is hilarious, featuring Lurie's usual cast of academics but this time focussing mainly on their professional lives as two sociologists set out to investigate a nutty religious group. The author's usual style is wry and witty, but in this book there are several laugh-out-loud moments. The action is bizarre but also believable; you could imagine real people getting in to these situations. A cautionary tale!

Day 100; Book 99

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Trumpet by Jackie Kay

This book features a famous jazz musician with a secret. Fortunately for me I had followed my usual practice of not reading the blurb on the back, because I have found that very often these reveal quite plainly something which happens near the start of the book. Blurb authors should tantalise, not give away the plot! In this case I hadn't looked so I was able to appreciate the author's skill in unfolding the story. The book is very evocative of 1950s Glasgow (although I thought I spotted a mistake - I will check with my mother who was there at the time to see if I am right!) The author is a poet as well and this comes across in her often lyrical writing. This is a good story and the author copes well with telling it from many different viewpoints, gradually revealing what happened.

Then I read a Terence Rattigan play, French without Tears. I'd already read The Winslow Boy but this other play, while amusing, seems very dated now. It's cleverly done but the story is slight. The Winslow Boy will last, I think, because it raises questions about bigger themes such as truth and loyalty, but French without Tears is really just a piece of fluff, fun but insubstantial.

Day 99; Book 98

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

David Crystal

David Crystal is an authority on the English language. He writes clearly and with common sense on every aspect of English. You can find his blog here - scroll down to "On Insults, or Not" for his comments on a topical news story. Here is another link to his great reference work, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language. This is a surprisingly readable guide to English right from its origins through to the different varieties of English in the world today. It's an ideal resource for any student of the English language.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

More Aeronautical Silliness

Rules of piloting:

1. Every take-off is optional, every landing is mandatory.

2. If you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger. If you pull the
stick back, they get smaller. That is, unless you keep pulling the stick
all the way back, then they get bigger again.

3. Flying is not dangerous. Crashing is what's dangerous!

4. High speeds are not dangerous. Coming to a sudden stop is dangerous!

5. It is always better to be down here, wishing you were up there, than
up there wishing to be down here!

6. The only time you have too much fuel on board, is when you are on fire.

7. The propeller is just a big fan in front of the airplane, used to
keep the pilot cool. When it stops, you can actually watch the pilot
start sweating.

8. When in doubt, hold on to your altitude. No one has ever collided
with the sky.

9. A 'good' landing is one from which you can walk away. A 'great'
landing is one after which they can use the airplane again.

10. Learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to
make all of them yourself. (NB This applies also to novice car drivers!)

11. You know you have landed with the wheels up if it takes full power
to taxi to the ramp.

12. The probability of survival is inversely proportional to the angle
of arrival. Large angle of arrival, small probability of survival and
vice versa.

13. Never let an aircraft get you somewhere your brain didn't get five
minutes earlier.

14. Stay out of the clouds. The silver lining everybody keeps talking
about, might be another airplane going in the opposite direction.
Reliable sources also report that mountains have been known to hide out
in clouds.

15. Always try to keep the number of landings you make equal to the
number of take-offs you have made.

16. There are three simple rules for making a smooth landing.
Unfortunately no one knows what they are.

17. You start with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience.
The trick is to fill the bag of experience, before you empty your bag of
luck. (NB Another one for the novice car drivers!)

18. Helicopters can't fly. They are just so ugly the earth repels them.

19. If all you can see out of the window is ground that's going round
and round, and all you can hear is commotion coming from the passenger
compartment, things are not as they should be.

20. In the ongoing battle between airplanes going hundreds of miles per
hour and the ground going zero miles per hour, the ground has yet to lose.

21. Good judgement comes from experience. Unfortunately, the experience
usually comes from bad judgement.

22. It is always a good idea to keep the pointed end going forward as
much as possible.

23. Keep looking around. There is always something you've missed.

24. Remember, gravity is not just a good idea. It is the law. And it's
not subject to repeal.

25. The four most useless things to a pilot are altitude above you,
runway behind you, air in the fuel tank and a tenth of a second ago.

26. Lastly, always check the runway number; then double check!

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

These are supposedly actual logged maintenance complaints by QUANTAS pilots and the corrective action recorded by mechanics. (Supplied by Mechatronics Technician Mr F, who will naturally be on the side of the mechanics and their subversive use of language!)

P stands for the problem the pilots entered in the log.
S stands for the corrective action taken by the mechanics.

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except autoland very rough.
S: Autoland not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back order!!

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200-fpm descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what they're there for!

P: IFF inoperative.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windscreen.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing. (note: this was for a piston-engineered airplane; the pilot meant the engine was not running smoothly).
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed radar with words.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

It is amazing that someone almost completely paralysed after a stroke, and able to communicate only by moving one eyelid, should nevertheless conceive, compose and dictate this memoir. Jean-Dominique Bauby found himself in a completely alien situation but still managed to convey to us his love of life and family as well as his sense of humour. He dictated the book letter by letter by blinking whenever his assistant reached the appropriate letter in the alphabet, so the whole book was planned and edited in his head. By the end of this book, which is just over 100 pages long, you will feel you really know the author, so well has he conveyed his personality. It is a tragic yet also uplifing work.

Here is the website of the film which has been made of the book.

Day 97; Book 96

Monday, 12 January 2009

Nation by Terry Pratchett

I had put off reading this because I don't tend to like reading children's books but this one had plenty of depth and would be equally enjoyed by adults. The idea is unusual and the action exciting, plus there are the usual Pratchett throwaway humorous lines. It's a satire as well and he makes a good case for his point of view. Very enjoyable.

Next, still basking in reflected glory, I decided to read Alison Baverstock's Marketing your Book: an Author's Guide. This is in an easy-to-read style and the author has lots of experience of her subject. It's interesting that your book can still fail even after you find a publisher - apparently appropriate marketing is essential.

A Radio Commemoration of Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1950) is a short work published 59 years ago, but still full of insights into the life and writing of R L Stevenson. Reading this has made me want to read Kidnapped again (I read Treasure Island again fairly recently). Terry Pratchett's Nation, incidentally, has some echoes of Treasure Island (as well as of Coral Island).

I had also been reluctant to read The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. Regular readers will know how much I like John Connolly, but because this book is about a boy and has a "childish" cover, I wrongly assumed it was a children's book. I started to read it anyway and was soon hooked. It wasn't until I was at the end that I read that the author explicitly states that it is not a children's book, which was a relief because it is a very scary book indeed and I am sure it would give any sensitive child nightmares! The theme of loss is very strong too. Here is a link to a website all about the book.

Perfect Match by Jodie Picoult is another work of fiction which the author bases on a controversial current issue. How far would you go to protect your child and how far would it be acceptable for you to go? You may not agree with the main character's decision (and I didn't) but I still felt for her.

Finally I had an enjoyable time reading The World According to Bertie by Alexander McCall Smith. This is part of the Scotland Street series, originally published in daily serial form in the Scotsman newspaper, and set in contemporary Edinburgh. McCall Smith's humanity always shines through in his books, as you will know if you have read the Ladies' Detective Agency series. Here there are just as many sympathetic characters, but also the monstrous (in their different ways) Irene and Bruce. You want Bruce in particular to come a cropper, but unfortunately he is more likely to continue on his self-satisfied way ...

Day 96; Book 95

Friday, 9 January 2009

In which your intrepid reader basks in reflected glory

If you look at the post below you'll see an image of a new novel, Windows of the Soul, written by my friend Jo Alexander! She's a local author and I'll quote from the back cover of her book to give you a flavour of what it's about:

"Vienna and Jazz - two women who belong to different generations and who have never met - struggle to come to terms with events and tragedies in their lives. Vienna is a fifty-something housewife whose marriage is beginning to show signs of being past its sell-by-date; Jazz is a much younger career-girl who hates the thought of being trapped in a permanent relationship, while her boyfriend longs for a baby. Will Vienna's marriage disintegrate? Will Jazz grow up? Is there a connection between these two women? As events unfold both women have to cope with grief and pain and both have to try to rebuild their lives. Will either find happiness and peace again?"

I can tell you it's an involving story, written in a flowing, easy-to-read style, and I wanted to read on and on to find out what happens. You'll need a hanky for some of the scenes too! The main characters are both very sympathetic in their different ways. All in all a very enjoyable read.

Anyone who knows me is more than welcome to borrow my copy and if you then decide to buy a copy for a friend I will be happy to give you the details. ***STOP PRESS*** Now available on Lulu with the opportunity to preview the text (just click on the preview button at the bottom)

I'm so excited that I know a real live author!

Windows of the Soul by Jo Alexander


Thursday, 8 January 2009

Mr F's Curried Lentil Soup!

I'm featuring this because it was so good, and despite Mr F's complaints about the Recipe Scrapbook slideshow I posted below ... to be honest, it IS annoying that you can't stop on the individual pictures and enlarge them, but after managing to master making the slideshow AT ALL, I expected nothing but praise! Here is his recipe anyway, and you will recognise that it is in his own words.

Curried Lentil Soup

1. The Soup:

2 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. mustard seed
Onion - 1 large, 2 medium, peeled, chopped
Potato - 1 large, 2 medium, peeled, diced
Carrots - 2 large, 3 medium, peeled, quartered, chopped
250 g. red lentils
Water (boiled)
Salt (lots!)

Heat mustard seed in oil until it crackles. Add onion, fry until browned. Add potato,
carrots and lentils. Stir and fry for 1 minute or so, and then add boiling water and salt.

2. In a saucer, combine:

1 tsp. Schwartz curry powder and 1/2 tsp. each of turmeric, garam masala, coriander,
cumin, fenugreek, cayenne pepper, ginger, ground allspice, paprika and 1/4 tsp. crushed

Toss into soup and stir. Boil up for 30 mins. Sorted.

Only Children by Alison Lurie

Here is Alison Lurie's website, for anyone who is interested in reading more about this intelligent author.

Alison Lurie is very often described as witty, but I think that is more in the sense of her observations being clever, wry and apposite rather than in the sense of lightheartedly amusing. (Although I did laugh out loud at The Last Resort in a few unexpectedly hilarious scenes). Only Children I found rather sad, although as good a read as usual. The character of Mary Anne, a feisty 9-year-old, is very well drawn and appealing (even when she has a terrible temper tantrum).

Another interesting aspect of Alison Lurie is the way her characters pop up in different books at different ages, and you get to see them from a different angle.

Day 92; Book 89

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Recipe Scrapbook (made by me for the Rock Chick for Christmas and featuring her favourite recipes)

Guilty as Sin by Tami Hoag

I finished this last night; it is the sequel to Night Sins. Whereas Night Sins was about the police investigation into a little boy's disappearance, this focussed more on the following court case (although the mystery was continued as well). By the end of the sequel I was just about converted to Tami Hoag: the romance elements were subordinate to the main plot in this book and it was really exciting towards the end. Apparently Tami Hoag's later books are her best so I will try some more.

Day 91; Book 88

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

A Couple of Links for You

I still haven't finished yesterday's book so I've nothing to report today.

Here are a couple of interesting links instead. The first is the website of Ben Goldman, the author of Bad Science:

Bad Science

Even if you are not particularly interested in science and statistics (and I'm not, possibly because I find them too difficult ...), if you are at all interested in logical thinking you will find this site fascinating. Or if you've ever been tempted by such things as detox patches, then hop over there straight away!

My other link is to the 365 Project. That seems to be its original name anyway, but I've heard that lots of people are doing this - taking a photo a day. I didn't think that would be very hard, but having experimented with my camera phone last night I realised that the main difficulty for me would be in taking a GOOD photo each day! I think it's a good project though, especially if you used it to document your life for a year (for example! I'm not obsessed with doing things for a year at a time, honest). Here's the link:

365 Project

People are uploading their photos to photo-sharing websites like Flickr, but for me and my fellow scrapbookers it would be harder because we would want to scrap all the photos. Hmmm, could be fun if it didn't become overwhelming!

Monday, 5 January 2009

New Year, New Books!

I read lots of books over the holidays* so I'll group them by author.

Agatha Raisin and Love, Lies and Liquor was another good one in the series, where Agatha goes on holiday to a town with the unlikely name of Snoth-on-Sea and of course murder ensues ...

The non-fiction Bad Science by Ben Goldacre was excellent. If you have ever listened to TV nutritionists telling you things like "take milk thistle to support your liver function" and have wondered how exactly it would do that, Ben Goldacre gives you the scientific facts to be able to resist this sort of mumbo-jumbo. "Sciencey" skin cream advertising comes in for his scorn as well. It's a very funny as well as factual book and well worth reading.

I finally finished the Charlie Parker series by John Connolly, with The Reapers which Mr F was kind enough to buy for me in hardback for Christmas. Thanks Mr F! This one takes a slightly different angle from the other books but ties up many loose ends.

I continued the adventures of the Roman private detective Marcus Didius Falco in the series by Lindsey Davis. In The Iron Hand of Mars Marcus goes to Germania with a mystery to solve. The dark forests of the north are very scary ... He returns succesfully for Poseidon's Gold and looks set to make a fortune.

Alison Lurie is a new author for me. She is an American whose work has been compared to Jane Austen and that is true I think in that she writes about a small social circle and her works could be considered comedies of manners. Her books are mainly set around the fictional Corinth university and will be particulary interesting to anyone with academic connections. The War between the Tates and Truth and Consequences both feature academics behaving badly, with the latter "starring" the monster of selfishness Delia. The Last Resort is potentially a tragedy but you will suddenly find yourself laughing at the most outrageous moments.

Second Glance is a book by Jodi Picoult and is as involving as usual. This is a love story and a mystery first of all, as well as a social commentary on the misguided enthusiasm by some Americans in the 1930s for eugenics. Funny how eugenics are only ever to be applied to other people ...

Ann Rule is the author of many true crime books. I had read Small Sacrifices before but had forgotten some of the details of the mother accused of shooting her own children in 1980s Oregon. Ann Rule is well worth reading: she does not focus on the sensational aspects of a crime, but rather on the psychological aspects.

Death du Jour is by Kathy Reichs. The author is a real-life forensic anthropologist. This mystery was involving and I wasn't put off by the descriptions body recovery from crime scenes. Ironically I was put off by so much detail that it became rather tedious!

Finally I read Night Sins by Tami Hoag. This author has been recommended to me before and she does write a good crime novel. However I got rather fed up with the romance which kept intruding when I wanted to read more about the solving of the crime!

*although not as many as I thought! I've only caught up by one book.

Day 89; Book 87