Thursday 22 November 2012

What's in a Name challenge

First of all I want to wish anyone in the USA who happens to be reading this, a very Happy Thanksgiving today. Hope you all enjoy your turkeys and trimmings and your day.

Well, I did say to myself that I would not do any challenges next year apart from the usual Once Upon a Time and R.I.P. hosted by Carl. Huh! Famous last words! I couldn't resist clicking on a link to next year's What's in a Name challenge, hosted by Beth Fish Reads, just to see what the categories were... and now I seem to have decided to do it. Hopeless.

Anyway, here are the details:

Between January 1 and December 31, 2013, read one book in each of the following categories:

1. A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title. Read: High Rising - Angela Thirkell

2. A book with something you'd find in your kitchen in the title: Loose Lips Sink Ships, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Breadcrumbs

3. A book with a party or celebration in the title: A Feast for Crows, A Wedding in Haiti, Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness

4. A book with fire (or eqivalent) in the title: Burning for Revenge, Fireworks over Toccoa, Catching Fire

5. A book with an emotion in the title: Baltimore Blues, Say You're Sorry, Dreams of Joy

6. A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title: The Book of Lost Fragrances, The World We Found, A Discovery of Witches

• Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book).

• Books may overlap other challenges.

• Books may not overlap categories; you need a different book for each category.

• Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed but encouraged.

• You do not have to make a list of books before hand.

• You do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.

I had a look through my tbr pile and came up with a list, which I am going to put here *but* I'm not holding myself to this list of books. This is just a few ideas for my own benefit as to what I *could* read.

1. Book read: High Rising by Angela Thirkell

2. Book read: The Cold Dish - Craig Johnson

3. Wedding Season - Katie Fforde
Highland Fling - Katie Fforde

4. Firestorm - Nevada Barr
Fire and Ice - Dana Stabenow

5. The Happy Foreigner - Enid Bagnold
Recipe for Love - Katie Fforde

6. Little Boy Lost - Marghanita Laski
A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness

Any other suggestions anyone? All welcome.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Llanelli pics

Several weeks ago my husband and myself had a short break in South Wales. Generally we head off to Cardiff, and indeed I still have photos to share from our few days there in August. But in October we went to Llanelli which is further on than Cardiff, the other side of Swansea in fact, and not quite as busy as Wales' capital city. We stayed as usual with Premier Inn who do these amazing offers of £19 a room. One heck of a bargain and no hardship to just pack up and take off for a few days for a change of scenery. We had stayed in Llanelli before, about 3 years ago, but realised very quickly that we'd missed a lot of what it has to offer in the way of coastal walks.

The first thing we discovered was the full extent of something called The Millenium Coastal path. We'd touched on it before but had no idea that it was about 5 miles long and runs from Llanelli to Bury Port. A few photos I took of it: (as always, click on pics for much bigger view)

These two joined together (righthand of first to lefthand of second) give you a good idea of the outlook from the path.

Six swans a-flying, if your eyesight's good enough to see them, and, it being a wild blustery day, a fabulous sky.

Looking back towards the town.

On our first trip we saw signs to a bird reserve but didn't realise it was a Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve. How thick can you be! This visit we realised and went to have a look.

The outlook from the viewing tower, taken through glass so not that great, but the view was stunning.

Beautiful artwork on the walls of the WWT visitor's centre.

The Gower peninsula is right there by Llanelli - Swansea to be precise, but Llanelli is a close neighbour. We took a trip around there on another day, not our first visit, I didn't take many photos but here are a few:

This is Port Eynon Bay, a really rather stunning spot.

St. Cattwgs, the little church in the village of Port Eynon. I liked the statue of the lifeboat man outside.

The view from another part of The Gower across Oxwich Bay.

As always I planned to post just a few photos and ended up posting a lot. I never can choose between one or another and end up going mad. Never mind, South Wales is such a beautiful region, it's well worth the effort.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Ill Wind

I was introduced to Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon series of books at the end of last year when I decided to read my way around the USA. Several people recommended the crime series that features park ranger, Anna Pigeon, because each book takes place in a different American national park. And so it was. I read the first two books and learnt a bit about the Guadalupe park in Texas and New Mexico and Isle Royale on Lake Superior. This time, in book three, it was the turn of the Mesa Verde national park in south western Colorado and the book was Ill Wind.

Anna has moved on from Isle Royale for personal reasons and is now settling into a new job with new colleagues. She finds herself in a bunk house situation, sharing with much younger women than herself. She's not happy. Not only are the women immature, party animals, Anna has had to board out her cat, Piedmont, as no pets are allowed.

She finds some solace in the park though. It's a fascinating place full of mystery. A native tribe known as the Anasazi had lived there and built wonderful cliff dwellings, despite the hostile environment and the difficulty of building such houses into a cliff.

Then, in the 13th. century, they suddenly disappeared without trace and no one has any idea what happened to them, although various theories abound.

Anna finds her new colleagues to be a mixed bunch. The one she feels closest to is Stacy, a male ranger who actually seems to be intelligent and thoughtful, something unusual in Anna's experience. He is married though, with a difficult homelife and he's not the only one, difficult marrital situations are two a penny in the park it seems.

When Stacy's dead body is discovered, neatly laid out in amongst the dwellings, Anna is devastated. Recovering from a drinking binge she decides to investigate herself. It seems there are mysterious goings on in the park. People have reported weird 'veil' sightings they can't explain. Anna discovers that there are an unusual number of medical rescues from a certain part of the park, all on the same day of the week. And then an asthmatic child dies as part of this anomaly and Anna realises she's on to something... but what? Nothing seems to add up or make sense and her own personal demons do not help the situation one little bit.

Well, this was another good book in this, in my view, quite unusual series. Unusual in that the mystery setting is not a huge city or a country house or whatever, but the national parks of America. I absolutely love this idea to bits and have really enjoyed the three areas I've been introduced to via these books. Saying that, I didn't find myself as fascinated by the Mesa Verde as I did the areas covered in the first two books. I don't know why, because the mystery of the disappearance of the Anasazi tribe is right up my street, and I've always been fascinated by the native American indians. Plus, Colorado is a state I've always fancied visiting but have never been fortunate enough to do so. Thus, I should have been in my element, but wasn't. But that's fine, I suspect this will be the case as I go through the books, some regions will grab me, others won't.

I think I'm rather addicted to these vintage American travel posters...

All that said, this was still a book I romped through with a great deal of pleasure. Anna is a great character, flawed, but a good ranger and always determined to get at the truth. I love her sister even though she's only ever been on the end of the phone. Hopefully we meet her in person one day. It can sometimes take a little while to get all the new characters straight - who they are, who they're married to, what their personal circumstances are, their hang-ups and so forth. But it's well worth the effort. These books are exciting, unusual, crime yarns and I'm so glad that several people recommended them and I gave them a go.

The next book in line is Firestorm, which I've heard is rather good, and it's on the shelf waiting for me for when I'm ready to read it. It's set here:

Yes... definitely addicted.

Monday 5 November 2012

Narrow Dog to Carcassonne

Now that R.I.P.VII is at end (it went too quickly!) my thoughts begin to stray towards a return to reading some non-fiction. It's been a while. I read quite a lot of non-fiction at the start of the year, a lot of it connected to the youngest Mitford sister, Deborah. I haven't finished with that family yet, not by a long chalk and intend to get something from the library about the other sisters, possibly at the beginning of next year. My first love where non-fiction is concerned though is travel writing. Why, I've no idea. Possibly I've always been fascinated by other lands and cultures and I've speculated before that that even explains my love of science fiction and fantasy, especially the kind that explores new planets or alternative cultures in fantasy: it's all a kind of travel odyssey for me.

Anyway. I don't read heaps of travel memoirs but once I get into the habit again there's often no stopping me. Eric Newby is a new discovery (for me anyway) but I have old favourites: Bill Bryson, I would read his version of the phone book quite frankly, Will Randall with his teaching exploits in different countries, Anne Mustoe, cycling around the world, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Gerald Durrell collecting animals in far flung places and so on.

A newish discovery for me has been Terry Darlington. I read my first book by him back at the end of last year. It was called Narrow Dog to Indian River and in fact I think it's the last of the three books he's written so far. Terry and his wife, Monica, are a retired couple who own a canal boat commonly known in this country as a 'narrow' boat. They have a whippet named Jim and the three of them go on various trips both around the UK and abroad. The Indian River book charted their ambitious trip down the eastern seaboard of the United States. I read it as part of my American challenge and never did blog about it, but it was an excellent read. So, when I saw Narrow Dog to Carcassonne in the library the other day I nabbed with it with some enthusiasm.

It starts with Terry and Monica being persuaded by some friends to take their narrow boat across the English Channel to France. The friends also have a narrow boat and the crazy idea is that the two boats could be strapped together and off they go. In the event the friends drop out at the last minute but Terry and Monica decide to go ahead with their plans, not really realising how very dangerous it is for canal boats on the open sea. First of all they have to get to London from Stone, near Stoke-on-Trent, and the first third of the book describes their various adventures doing that.

They then cross the Channel and realise exactly what they've bitten off and how terrifying an undertaking they've embarked upon. Luckily they eventually arrive in France. They go to Paris by way of Belgium, decide that Belgium is not for them and begin their epic voyage proper after a few weeks in gay Paris.

I know nothing about canal boats, the limit of my experience being a trip up The Grand Western Canal, which starts here in my town, with my grand-daughter. It was delightful but whether I would want to do what this couple did, I don't know: I have my doubts. However, reading about it was another matter entirely. Terry Darlington is a writer with a very amusing turn of phrase. I actually cried with laughter in several places. He describes the people they meet, the places they go, troubles that occur on narrow boats if you don't keep your wits about you, and even sometimes when you do. Jim the whippet is adorable and features very prominantly throughout the book. He hates travelling on the boat, runs at 40 miles an hour and is addicted to pork scratchings. I especially love other people's reactions to him as Terry takes him around French towns and canals.

It's not all beer and skittles... or should I say 'wine and boules' as this is France... They have some very hairy moments, not just out in the Channel but also in French locks or coming down the river Rhone. One night the wife on the boat moored next to them shoots herself, the couple had only been socialising with Terry and Monica the night before. There's some talk about the French experience in WW2 as well, Vichy France, the resistance, that kind of thing. All of it very interesting indeed.

It's quite possible I may have enjoyed Narrow Dog to Indian River slightly more than this book, the reason for that being that I'm far more interested in the USA than I am in France. On the other hand, Narrow Dog to Carcassonne is funnier. I don't remember being quite so creased up with laughter with Indian River but it was every bit as interesting, in fact I plan to read it again soon. The book I haven't read, Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier, presumably a UK based travelogue, is in the library so I plan to grab that at some stage. In the meantime I can heartily recommend any book by this author as being a thoroughly interesting and entertaining read.

Thursday 1 November 2012

R.I.P. VII wrap-up

I can't believe it's November already and another R.I.P. challenge has come and gone. But it has. R.I.P. VII, hosted by Carl, has been huge fun as always, and I'm always sad when it ends.

The Peril I was going for was:

The aim of this peril was to read four books. I did much better with it than I did with Once Upon a Time in the Spring, and managed to complete my four books and read three more, making seven in all of course.

The titles of the books were:

1. The White Road - John Connolly
2. Mistletoe and Murder - Carolla Dunn
3. Dark Matter - Michelle Paver
4. A Room Full of Bones Elly Griffiths
5. The Black Angel - John Connolly
6. The Unquiet - John Connolly
7. The Reapers - John Connolly

My favourite of those... it's a hard choice because they were all good but really the prize would have to go to The Black Angel. It was creepy, historical and very well written, as all of John Connolly's books are.

It seems the story here is John Connolly's 'Charlie Parker' books! I got hooked on them to the exclusion of almost everything else. I did start a couple of books on my shelf but couldn't get into them - I won't say what they were - the problem being that Connolly's writing is so good that when you've finished one it's hard to find other books which measure up. Never mind. I read seven books for this years R.I.P. and am quite pleased with that result. I haven't blogged about them all as it's been a bit of a busy month and I just haven't had time. Hopefully this month will see things quieten down and I can get back to writing about the books I'm reading.