Friday, February 5, 2016

A dog's life

After a slow start, we are having a lovely hot summer. 

The best time of day to go for a walk is early in the morning:

Manu. Low tide at the estuary.

Another morning, early in January, when we were getting 
a flick from the tail of a tropical cyclone. 

It was fine and warm at the beach, but the sky looked angry:

The wind was getting up a little (click to see the flying ears):

Mayor Island (Tuhua) in the background.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A new family member

This is Sammy. She's 3-4 months old, and very playful. 
She arrived yesterday from the SPCA, and has already taken control of the house.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Bone Clocks

This morning I finished, sadly, the best book I've read in a very long time: 
David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks. 

It was astonishing, brilliant... awesome, in the true meaning of that word.

If you are at all interested in speculative fiction, you should read it. As soon as possible!

I want to quote a paragraph which I find myself thinking about repeatedly.

The book's events begin in 1984, and end in 2043. One of the main characters (I won't tell you the character's name, as I don't want to risk any spoilers), says this in October 2043:

(I felt) "grief for the regions we deadlanded, the ice caps we melted, the Gulf Stream we redirected, the rivers we drained, the coasts we flooded, the lakes we choked with crap, the seas we killed, the species we drove to extinction, the pollinators we wiped out, the oil we squandered, the drugs we rendered impotent, the comforting liars we voted into office - all so that we didn't have to change our cosy lifestyles... 
My generation were diners stuffing ourselves senseless at the Restaurant of the Earth's Riches knowing - while denying - that we'd be doing a runner and leaving our grandchildren a tab that can never be paid."

In spite of what I have quoted here, this book is not a diatribe or polemical. It's a 
wonderful, gripping story, written by an extremely gifted author.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Last year's books

In 2015, I read 85 books (retirement from teaching in February boosted the total for the year!)

The full list is on the Books of 2015 page, and I discussed my top six in the previous post. 
This year I did an analysis of genres, as I did a few years ago.

Here's the Key:

SS - Short Stories (3)
NF - Non-Fiction(7)
LF - Literary Fiction ("Serious" Fiction) (23)
M/T/D - Mystery/Thriller/Detective (19)
YA - Young Adult (8)
SF/F - Science Fiction/Fantasy (18)
F - General Fiction (7)

Some of the Young Adult books fit into other genres as well, of course.
41 were written by females,  44 by males.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

BestReads2015: some of my most enjoyable reads this year

John Wiswell from The Bathroom Monologues is hosting a blog hop about our favourite reads of 2015. These are not necessarily books published in 2015, just books we read for the first time this year and which made a lasting impression on us.

It would probably be easier to decide on the worst reads, but here is my short list of those which stood out when I went through my year's list: there's a crime/thriller, a sci-fi, a fantasy, a non-fiction, and two 'other fiction'.

I have read no other books by this Irish writer (he's the author of The Boy in Striped Pyjamas), but I read a review of this which caught my interest. It is a brilliant telling of the time when some of the terrible facts about the priesthood in Ireland were becoming known. I found it unbearably sad and totally credible. The central character does not harm anyone, but he turns a blind eye to others who do. This quote from The Times Literary Supplement sums it up:
"A compelling study of an aging priest... an excoriating portrait of Irish Catholicism and its precipitous fall from grace."


I read quite a few fantasy books, but this one stood out in 2015. It is so different, so strange and interesting - the most original story I have read for a long time. The setting is London, a parallel, dystopian London. Memory, and writing, are forbidden, and people are rendered dependent and docile. They are controlled by an enormous musical instrument called the Carrillon, which produces a permanent kind of ringing in the ears which every evening wipes out the events of the day. Simon, the protagonist, may have inherited from his dead mother the ability to grasp tendrils of memory ...
The author is a published poet, and a trained violinist. This is her first novel.

A beautiful story. According to Wikipedia (spoilers!) Patchett was inspired by a Japanese embassy crisis in Lima, Peru, in 1996-7. The setting is at a vice-presidential birthday party in an unnamed South American country, where the guests and staff are taken hostage by a group of young terrorists. The resulting standoff drags on for several months,with the inevitable outcome. Meanwhile, realationships and friendships develop amongst the hostages and their captors, and the central action revolves around the star guest, an internationally renowned American soprano. I found this an interesting take on the reliable trope of taking a bunch of characters, isolating them somewhere, and watching what will happen - and  I really enjoyed the book.

In July I visited Canterbury Cathedral, and stood at the very spot where 
Thomas Becket was brutally murdered:

The book was on display in the Cathedral book shop, and I decided that I would find it and read it when I got back to this side of the world. I am very glad that I did - it was very readable, and always interesting. Definitely my top non-fiction book of the year.

The best thriller/crime novel I read this year was by an Australian author. Robotham sets most of his books in the UK, and is acknowledged as a master of the psychological thriller. In my opinion, he gets better with each book he writes. As well as the elements you would expect, he touches on family, mortality, relationships, grieving and human frailty.  At times, the book was impossible to put down. Fantastic reading.

This list wasn't really in any particular order, but Hyperion was the best book I read in 2015. This sci-fi masterpiece was published in 1989, but I hadn't come across it before. My son gave it to me with the instruction that I had to read it, and I'm very glad he did. Complex, entertaining, absolutely brilliant - oh, to have an imagination like Simmons'!

If you're a sci-fi fan, you've probably read it already. If not, you should do so immediately. I am just about to start reading the sequel...

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Sometimes, life is just annoying...

Manu has a habit of wrapping himself in his blanket, and occasionally has trouble unwrapping himself - not being equipped with opposable thumbs, you understand.

Yesterday he excelled all previous wraps.

He had made or enlarged a small hole, and put his head through it, as one does.  When I came in from the garden he was sitting more or less patiently on the step, waiting to be extricated.

Have a happy Monday!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thematic Photographic 355 - Old

I chose one of my favourite old places for this Thematic Photographic, 
the Temple of Apollo on Mt Parnassus at Delphi in Greece. 

As I said in my comment on Fredaman's post, I love wandering around ruins, 
imagining what it was like for the people who lived there. 

How many people came to visit the Oracle, trying to find some 
answers to their questions?

See other posts at Written.Inc