Monday, 31 August 2009

Summer Reading Challenge: Do the Goodreads Trivia Quiz and read the first book you come to but haven't yet read.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There was lots about this book that I didn't like in the characters and their actions but the book itself is a wonderfully written epic of unrequited love spanning more than 50 years. I didn't relate particularly to either of the main protagonists, Fermina Daza or Florentino Ariza. Fermina was spoilt and stubborn, often at her own expense, Florentino was insipid and pathetic, a mummy's boy.

That being said I was transported to turn of the century Columbia by the atmospheric writing and the emotions were portrayed in a believable way.

View all my reviews >>

This brings my final total to 405 points, I just scraped past my personal target of 400 points. The new challenge starts tomorrow and I am raring to go!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Hunting Dragon...


An afternoon stroll in Pamber Forest Nature reserve proved rewarding with glimpses of three dragonflies.

The first two were probably Emperor Dragonflies based on their size - approx 3" or so long and colouring. The first one was bright blue with a clearly green thorax, and a few feet away was another large dragon fly which seemed greener but was just as large (these were a male and female)

These are not my pics, i wouldn't even get a blur using my phone camera, but they do show a male Emperor dragonfly (top) and female (below)

The third dragonfly of the day was seen at a dried up pond deep into the forest, was smaller than the first two and green and black. It was identified as a Southern Hawker, mostly by it's curious character, it came right up to us, flew around us even touching us at some point and this is apparently common for this species!

The Living Rainforest

A trip not so far away to a place called The Living Rainforest at Hampstead Norreys, just north of Newbury.

An Emerald Tree Boa

A pitcher plant (this is a carnivorous plant)

One of two toucans at the Living Rainforest, both rescued from the pet trade and having suffered malnutrition before their arrival have badly cracked beaks that will never improve :(

This curious critter was an Agouti

Spot the red-crested touraco...

Some gorgeous plants that I just loved the colouring of, it really was this vivid.

And these flowers as they were a heady mix of magenta, red and orange.

And a chinese water dragon.

There were lots more beautiful plants and animals there but my phone camera is just not up to the job of taking pictures, especially if something is moving.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Summer Reading Challenge: Read a book that hasn't been made into a movie and make a cast list

The Luminous Life of Lilly Aphrodite by Beatrice Colin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book was a quick read, the atmosphere created allowed you to sink into it and the characters drew you in. The little "future" snippets on some of the characters was interesting, it made them more real. Almost an epilogue that has been broken up and interspersed into the writing at a later date.

It was an intriguing look at life in Weimar Germany, the instability that created National Socialism, the intense poverty and social breakdown.

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Lilly - Sandra Bullock
Hanne - Gwyneth Paltrow
Sister August - Meryl Streep
Eva - Jessica Alba
Stefan the Uhlan - Brad Pitt
Kurt - Rupert Everett
Ilya - Eric Bana

(the cast list was mostly based on physical attributes)

Total points to date: 390

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Summer Reading Challenge: Read a book outside (more than 100 pages)

Fruits Basket, Volume 2 by Natsuki Takaya

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I got confused as to which character was which as I found this a bit jumpy nonetheless it is a great story with some fabulous funny and heartfelt parts in it. I also love that the central character is a strong female. I may have to buy #3 to find out what happens next...

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Points to date: 375

Monday, 24 August 2009

Summer Reading Challenge: Read a book that takes place in or about your dream vacation spot and post an itinerary

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Brutality, heartbreak, mystery, poverty, despair and a city suffering at the hands of a dictator, this book has the makings of a film noir. As I was reading the foggy scenes on Avenue Tibidabo I was picturing an atmospheric black and white scene from a '50s movie. A fabulous book about a love of books, family, your country and just about love.

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In order to complete this task I had to make an itinery. The book is set in Barcelona, a town with a fabulous history and my trip would have to include some of the things mentioned in this book.

  • Plaça d'Espanya, at the foot of Montjuic where there were public hangings.
  • A trip to Montjuic Castle for a view over Barcelona followed by a ride on the cable car to Barceloneta. Fermin was held in Montjuic castle in the book.
  • A ride on the Tramvia Blue - used by Daniel Sempere to reach Avenue Tibidabo followed by a trip on the Funicular railway to Tibidabo
  • Tibidabo - for the awesome views, the observatory and the funfair.
  • The Gaudi buildings (the main reason Barcelona is on my list of places to visit) - La Pedrera, Güell Park & Sagrada Família
  • A walk up and down Las Ramblas, mostly populated by tourists, artists, performers and flower sellers
  • Two days at least wandering around the Cuitat Vella (Old City) - visiting the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, Cathedral Plaça de la Seu, Plaça Sant Felip Neri, Santa Maria del Pi followed by Carrer Petritxol for a hot chocolate.
  • More Gaudi architecture at Casa Batllo and finally a quieter day spent either at L'Aquarium or on the beach at Barceloneta.

Current points total: 360

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Summer Reading Challenge: Roseann's Task - Read a book about books and a book mentioned in the book about books and compare/review.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
this book shows Nabokov's genius for words and wordplay, even more effective given his first language was Russian, English not even being his second language. Despite the subject matter there are definite comedic moments and perhaps that's why this novel is seen as subversive.

Do I feel sorry for Humbert Humbert, no, not at all.... but then I don't feel sorry for Dolores either.

Perhaps in the end both got what they deserved, Humbert ending up in custody and Lolita a dull and mundane life with a boring husband.

View all my reviews >>

And for the comparison to "Reading Lolita in Tehran" - I thought that Azar Nafisi and her students concentrated too much on the morality of the book, immersed in a culture where moral judgements are far more important than they are in the West, whereas I loved watching the characterization, the wordplay and delighting in the quirkiness of Nabokov when he made mundane things seem different. I thought the disintegration of Humbert into a paranoid and anxious man was beautifully written. I didn't think I would have sympathy or like the main protagonists so set out to read this book for the story.

Points to date: 345

Charlie's big splash...

what started out as a gentle summer walk along the Kennet & Avon canal (between two pubs, the Butt Inn and the Rowbarge and back again) turned into a bit of an adventure when Charlie the Westie decided that canal water tasted good and it didn't look that deep!

Fortunately he remembered doggie paddle and was hauled out looking rather sorry for himself and a little warier from that point on.

I didn't take any pics of the walk today (I should have it was quite beautiful) but here's the route walked (almost 4½ miles)

Also spotted were some black-winged dragon flies - I have only seen those with clear wings so far and lots of butterflies.

With a little research I discovered they were male Banded Demoiselles - and stunning they were though none of those I saw would sit still enough for a photo like this one!!!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Something I've been thinking about for a few years

and finally got around to getting done today

37 and still rebelling, wonder what work will think about it (I have next week off on annual leave so gives me time to be able to talk properly, the first bar is longer to allow for swelling and has given me a bit of a lisp)

And the first close up pic of my new shorter hair cut though it's looking a little wind blown in this pic

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Summer Reading Challenge: Tina's Task - read a book that takes place in WW2

Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There are few books that provoke such an emotional response in me as this one did. The story of Oskar Schindler, of the huge risks and financial costs of his actions in World War II, the gratitude of his Jewish "prisoners" and the anti-climax of his life after World War II are beautifully crafted in this novel-style biography by Thomas Keneally.

View all my reviews >>

points total to date: 295

Friday, 14 August 2009

Summer Reading Challenge: Roseann's Task - Read a book about books and a book mentioned in the book about books and compare/review.

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was not an easy read though it may have been worth it for the little bits of information about life in Iran which I knew very little of. It was a dry book and much more in the style of literary criticism than memoir.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, 10 August 2009

Lulworth Cove & Durdle Door 08-08-2009

On the way home it was decided to visit Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, two places of interest on the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Panoramic view of Lulworth, showing the narrow gap in the Limestone and Purbeck Stone that has opened up much wider as the water hit the softer rocks behind.

View looking down into the Stair Hole next to Lulworth Cove. This is a new cove forming in the same way as Lulworth but much younger. At the far side you can see the vertical rock strata as the tectonic plates have pushed together.

More views of the Stair Hole, the eagle eyed amongst you may spot a daredevil or two climbing the rock face ready to jump into the waters below.

Splash of danger-seeking teenager jumping off cliff face! Luckily both surfaced without coming to major harm.

The Stair Hole showing another of the breakthrough points.

Man O'War Bay looking down from the clifftop. This bay is on the East side of Durdle Door. The name is a local one, the official one is St. Oswald's Bay, I wonder what the history is behind this place? Either way it looked an idyllic spot to anchor a yacht and have a beach barbecue.

Man O'War Rocks marking the entrance to Man O'War Bay

Durdle Door from the clifftop.

After a steep climb down a chalky path (with lots of loose chalk making it quite treacherous for those who were wearing flip-flops... my trainers felt much safer) we came to some steps down to either beach and a view of the old path that lead to the top of Durdle Door but is now closed to the public due to erosion and the risk of falling/rock slides.

Halfway down the stairs looking to Man O'War Bay

Looking West into the sunset at Durdle Door

Salty the Old Sea Dog not finding his sea legs when the waves got a little brisk. Look closely and you'll see he's actually scowling in disgust at getting dunking.

Looking East at the cliff face of Durdle Door, the specks on the top are people who can't read signs that say "Danger -No Access Due to Erosion"

Durdle Door.

Durdle Door with an itinerant tourist scrambling his way to the end.

He poses in triumph when he got to the end and shouted "Hey" I didn't wait to see if he made it back from there, there was a steep lot of stairs and cliff path to be climbed and home was beckoning.

The Knoll on the way to Lulworth Cove 08-08-2009

On the way to Lulworth Cove after a wonderful afternoon in Lyme we saw this strange, obviously deserted building on the top of a hill and had to take a small detour to find out more. Turns out it's call the Knoll and there was a footpath to the top where there was a stunning view of the coastline. For the curious it's near the village of Puncknowle in Dorset.

View to the West

View to the East

Lyme - 08-08-2009

What a fantastic day trip and a way to celebrate a birthday even if it was a 250 mile round trip (the google map below is slightly out but it's close enough to the trip we made). Why Lyme? It is the setting for some of Jane Austen's Persuasion, including a fateful accident on the Cobb. On the beachfront there were two cottages Benwick and Harville named after Captain Benwick and Captain Harville from the book.

The view from the car park at Lyme

View of the Cobb from the start of the promenade

On top of the Cobb, so you can appreciate how uneven the surface is on the top. I wouldn't fancy trying to walk along it in bad weather.

Panoramic view from the end of the Cobb across Lyme bay.

Walking on to the dog friendly part of the beach so Charlie could have some fun too

I'm not sure Charlie has ever been to the seaside, I know I've never taken him, but he did soon find his sea legs.

Tentatively dipping his toes in...

Getting the hang of this...

Old Salty the Sea Dog!

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