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  1. Yesterday
  2. I know not if there is a reason Why I am so sad at heart. A legend of bygone ages Haunts me and will not depart. The air is cool under nightfall. The calm Rhine courses its way. The peak of the mountain is sparkling With evening's final ray. The fairest of maidens is sitting So marvellous up there, Her golden jewels are shining, She's combing her golden hair. She combs with a comb also golden, And sings a song as well Whose melody binds a wondrous And overpowering spell. In his little boat, the boatman Is seized with a savage woe, He'd rather look up at the mountain Than down at the rocks below. I think that the waves will devour The boatman and boat as one; And this by her song's sheer power Fair Lorelei has done. The Lorelei, Heinrich Heine
  3. Last week
  4. The Flames of Snow: it’s an attempt to shed light on the forgotten matters in daily life To write for change is no nobler than to change for writing; change for the sake of writing has the power to give and prevent; to prevent sadness and to give joy; and It is an equation that will be achieved only after insurgency against fixed things becomes the philosophy of life; --- From My New Book " The Flames of Snow" , you can get it from Amazon Amazon UK - BGO hyperlink AmazonUS - BGO hyperlink thank u
  5. Why does she turn in that shy soft way Whenever she stirs the fire, And kiss to the chimney-corner wall, As if entranced to admire Its whitewashed bareness more than the sight Of a rose in richest green? I have known her long, but this raptured rite I never before have seen. —Well, once when her son cast his shadow there, A friend took a pencil and drew him Upon that flame-lit wall. And the lines Had a lifelike semblance to him. And there long stayed his familiar look; But one day, ere she knew, The whitener came to cleanse the nook, And covered the face from view. ‘Yes,’ he said: ‘My brush goes on with a rush, And the draught is buried under; When you have to whiten old cots and brighten, What else can you do, I wonder?’ But she knows he's there. And when she yearns For him, deep in the labouring night, She sees him as close at hand, and turns To him under his sheet of white. Thomas Hardy - 'The Whitewashed Wall'
  6. Book at bedtime this week on Radio 4. Enjoying it but will wait until the furore/price as reduced before buying https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0008hk0
  7. The much anticipated and longed for sequel to The Handmaid's Tale. Set more than 15 years after The Handmaid's Tale there are signs that the Gilead Regime is rotting from the inside. There are three main characters, all women (of course) with Aunt Lydia still in charge. Naturally, Aunt Lydia is dictating, to a certain extent, the events but she is portrayed as a lot smarter than the average dictator. Insofaras she knows that Gilead is about to fall and, although she is taken by surprise occasionally seems to know exactly what to do to rectify the situation. This is as good as the press says it is. Highly recommended.
  8. My Kindle tells me that Ducks, Newburyport would take 38 hours to read. I gave it two hours of my life that I will never get back. In broad terms, this is stream of consciousness narration. The narrator, an American housewife, shares her every innermost thought just as they happen. This produces long lists, word association streams and the occasional sentence. Oh, and the constant and infernal tic “the fact that”. It was not convincing, it felt contrived, repetitive, boring. I am sure there is a technical skill required to sustain such a voice over so many pages but I couldn’t see the point. I suspect that underneath all the ticcing, digression and trite social observations that there will be a short story. Readers who have persevered with this and reached the end will probably perceive that story to be more profound than it really is because of the effort required to uncover it. But maybe it really is good - I’ll never know. Writers who produce long books have, in my mind, a greater obligation than other writers to justify the claim on readers’ time that their works impose. I would love to hear Lucy Ellmann’s explanation of how she ever thought this work might be worth the time it would take me to read eight shorter, less repetitive, tighter novels. *0000
  9. I came at Frankissstein with some trepidation and approached it only because of its Booker longlisting. I have always imagined Jeanette Winterson to be an agenda led writer who would not be writing for readers like me. So I was quite surprised to find two (three?) lively and playful narrative streams interweaving with one another. One was the writing of Frankenstein - a story I already knew but it seemed to be written in an approachable way. The second narrative set in the present day/near future had the manufacturer of artificially intelligent sex dolls sharing his plans for creating true AI with Ry, a transgender journalist. The possible third narrative was a metafictional strand where Mary Shelley encounters Frankenstein in the real world. On the surface level, this is all jolly japes, perhaps indicating that Frankenstein became bigger than Mary Shelley herself and developed a life of its own. The novel seemed to have a number of great and fizzy ideas that unfortunately never quite came together. But there is also a major reservation I have. I know that a number of feminist writers have an issue with transgender - they only admit fellowship to those born biologically female. In Frankissstein, there seems little need to make Ry transsexual unless it is to make some oblique parallel between creating an artificial person (Frankenstein’s monster) and creating a woman. And as such, I will acknowledge that it is a viewpoint, but not one I would care to pay to read. If this is the real point of the novel (and I fear that it is), then it undermines some entertaining prose; is anachronistic; and is also a wee bit cowardly in doing it through innuendo and thereby requiring counter-arguments to first articulate the proposition that Winterson would presumably deny she is making. Three stars for the writing, but this left a nasty aftertaste. ***00
  10. It’s a while since I read Night Boat to Tangier so some of the detail has softened. But I was left with a deep impression of two ageing Irish drug runners (Maurice and Charlie) passing the time as they wait at a ferry terminal expecting to intercept Maurice’s daughter Dilly. The beauty is in the dialogue between the two as they wait - and as we learn more about the uneasy relationship between the pair. Maurice and Charlie are big wheels back home - they trail a wake of fear behind them - but on the grand scale of things, they are medium sized fish in a small pond. They have a history of falling out and falling back in with one another, compartmentalising some pretty big betrayals. There is an air of menace throughout. It’s not clear why the men want to intercept Dilly, or even what they would do with her if they do meet, but there is as sense of significance. And, as we later see, Dilly is in no hurry to meet Maurice and Charlie. Much of the novel is dialogue, and the premise (two people waiting for a third) is reminiscent of Waiting for Godot. But the occasional introduction of other characters and the appearance of Dilly offer enough of a variation that this cannot be taken as a straight re-writing. Perhaps there’s also an element of John Travolta and Samuel L Jackson in Pulp Fiction - discussing hamburgers and morality in between hits. Night Boat to Tangier was entertaining and engaging - but did feel a bit like it was treading ground that Roddy Doyle has previously stood on. It’s a light and fast read that is grounded in our present times and will bring nods of recognition, but it probably doesn’t offer quite enough to offer an insight into these times for future readers. ****0
  11. The third (final?) instalment in the Red Sparrow series is perhaps the weakest of the novels. What made the series readable was the personal chemistry between Dominika Egorova - a Russian SVR operative - and Nate Nash - a CIA operative. And specifically, it was their chemistry as they engaged in a series of field engagements in and around Europe. In The Kremlin's Candidate, Dominika has become ever more senior in the SVR and has personal access to President Putin. This means much of the narrative is pitched at a strategic level rather than in spy-ops on the streets. Frankly, it is not as interesting. Readers want to know about hairs on drawers, hidden bugs, spy dust. They don't necessarily want to know about the strategy behind supporting the PKK to destabilise the Turkish Government, thereby undermining the NATO alliance. And as Dominika has become more senior, she has left Nate behind. He is a bit part player in The Kremlin's Candidate as Dominika deals with a revolving cast of more senior CIA players. It's just not the same. There are also some bizarre continuity errors. Dominika's ability to see people's aurae, for example, starts to wobble as Nate variously has a purple and a crimson aura. We are told that Dominika has only ever seen one black aura before when we know she has seen more. The timeline also seems to be wobbly as Dominika seems to have aged whereas Nate is still on probation. And there are some things that happen quite obviously as plot devices, there is expository dialogue and the recipes at the end of chapters have become quite tiresome. Despite these failings, there is still a broadly competent story set out - if the reader can turn a blind eye to the occasional gratuitous and puerile sexual references. The pacing is as slow as in the previous texts which does offer space for scene setting. This scrapes into 3 star territory, but it is a disappointing end to a series that started off much better. ***00
  12. When you’ve written a successful book, the temptation is to write the same book again. Palace of Treason is very similar to Red Sparrow - we re-engage with Nate Nash, dashing young CIA officer, and Dominika Egorova, Russian SVR femme fatale. They continue to have ill-advised physical relations with each other and with anything else with a pulse. We know this will not end well. More baddies and moles pop up from nowhere. Some of these baddies are delightfully grotesque if somewhat caricatured. And just like in Red Sparrow, Jason Matthews has no difficulty in killing off leading characters. Dominika continues to see auras. The pace continues to be slow. There is more repetition including, perhaps necessarily, some rehearsing of events of the first novel. There is also some disconcerting jumping of timelines as points of view alter - creating some situations where the reader has already been told the outcome of an episode that is then set out in some detail. This feels clumsy. And The Palace of Treason is just as salacious as Red Sparrow. But also like Red Sparrow, the plot carries the clunky writing and expository dialogue. This is very much a sequel - it would probably feel weird if you read this one first - but if the first one floated your boat (it didn’t float everyone’s boat) then this probably will too. ****0
  13. Red Sparrow is an imperfect thriller, but nevertheless worth reading. The basic premise is that two agents embark on their careers - Nate Nash is a young CIA agent, posted to Moscow and desperate to make an impact - and Dominika Egorova, enveigled into becoming a honey-trap agent by her wicked uncle in the Russian SVR. Inevitably the two hit it off. The story is a constant flow of agents and double agents, rooting out moles and trying to use counter-espionage to double-down on double-crossing deals. It’s quite a slow moving novel which allows plenty of space for conveying the day-to-day life in modern Russia, in intelligence jobs and in embassies around the world. It also gives adequate space to ensure the complexities of the various plots and schemes are fully understood - there’s none of the last-minute breathlessness that blight so many thrillers and leave readers wondering what happened. But there are flaws too. The slow pacing does include quite a bit of repetition. Characters are re-introduced (right down to appearances) every time they pop up in another point of view. There’s also quite a degree of salaciousness. Yes, Dominika attended Sparrow School to learn how to seduce foreign agents, but there’s a fine line between authenticity and pornography. Similarly, some of the violence feels overdone. These aspects are likely to appeal to teenage male readers but may irritate other readers. And then there’s Dominika’s synaesthesia. She can see the colour of people’s auras which gives her a special insight into their mood/character. I never quite bought this - and given that people’s auras never seem to change colour, it may be a useful tool for baselining a relationship but doesn’t seem to offer much for telling how someone is behaving in a specific situation. Ah well, it’s a bit of fun. Then there are the recipes at the end of each chapter. The idea is that a food mentioned in the chapter has its recipes included in a text box before the next chapter. At first this is endearing, but after a while it feels distracting - plus there’s a suspicion that some of the foods are only mentioned in the text because of the need to have a recipe. Overall, though, the drama outweighs the negatives and the story is worth reading. I like the idea of a modern Russian secret service trying to recreate the empire of the Soviet era or, perhaps even, the czarist era. The ending manages to be both reassuringly predictable but also shocking. Good holiday reading - especially while touring through the Stans. I will persevere with the other novels in the trilogy. ****0
  14. In Royals, we meet Steven, a famous fashion designer, looking back at the formative time that he believes to have been his rite of passage from youth to adulthood; from working class to the elite. Steven is a narcissistic, whining little teenager and the fact that his father beats him does not make it any less unattractive when he constantly plays the victim card. The plot centres around Steven’s brief relationship with Jasmine, a girl he meets in hospital after his father hit him too hard. Jasmine is a rich girl with suicidal tendencies who also has father issues. Over the space of a few days, Steven and Jasmine become intimate, bust up, get back together, share baths and travel overseas. And they hatch plans for Steven’s study and career in design. Then there is an abrupt and not altogether convincing ending. The novel is set in 1981 against a backdrop of the Charles and Diana wedding and their subsequent honeymoon. I think this is supposed to be some kind of metaphor but I couldn’t see it myself. It did give Steven an opportunity to make various forelock-tugging statements to Jasmine though. Oh, and Steven spends a lot of time telling people he hasn’t decided yet whether or not he is gay. Not sure this exactly rings true for 1981 when even Marc Almond pretended to be straight. Overall Royals was a bit mixed. There we’re some great set pieces; Somme juxtapositions of lazy inherited wealth versus hungry poverty; between Steven constantly worrying what other people thought of him and Jasmine not caring. There were some nice period details. But overall, it didn’t quite cohere into a fully formed story. I never quite believed in the world that Emma Forrest had created. ***00
  15. I remember when Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds came out in 2008 I think (great book btw). I bought it and the manager at the checkout remarked on how great the size of the book was. He said virtually all paperbacks were the same size but this was printed in a shorter but wider format and being different was something they welcomed. Still got it and not seen a similar sized paperback since. There is also those paperbacks you occasionally see that are hardback size, I suppose a kind of a cross between. Interesting topic Luna.
  16. 3 weeks ago in Dublin I got: Inland - tea obreht Crossing - - patjim statotivic Nobber - oisin fagan On Thursday in the stationery shop in my town as I was getting a mouse for work, I also got Night boat to tangier - Kevin barry The testaments - Margaret atwood Of the 5, the one I most want to get to is Nobber, despite not being interested in getting to Nobber 😉😀
  17. If you go with square for a book - either lengthens line length meaning longer to read a line. Currently, the page is a great length to read a line and start at the next line (as a child, I was not a great reader, rereading lines when going yo the left. This would be similar with phones and why portrait is preferred as opposed to landscape. - or you are making pages smaller, leading to more page turning, breaking a rhythm more. Both longer lines and/or shorter pages seem a little inefficient. Or maybe this is learnt behaviour on my part? We changed accounting package a few years ago. After working with it for 2 weeks, we had a person from the software visit with any problems. I told him in the room of 8 people, why does it like printing in landscape.
  18. Earlier
  19. This popped up on my FB and while I hadn't given it much thought it does bring up a good point : Why are Books That Shape? Any thoughts?
  20. Yes, I am Momac. It's very satisfying. Currently reading The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, her long awaited sequel to The Handmaid's Tale (it's great!).
  21. Lovely cool weather right now, a touch of Autumn. Just brought in the last of the tomatoes, pretty small. Won’t be sorry to see the last of the hot weather but could still have some hot days yet. Luna you must be reading up a storm with all the new books you have acquired.😊
  22. Number 41 in a series of 75. Maigret is on the trail of a murderer who, until the last minute was a man that spent a lot of time sitting on benches outside shops, observing the comings and goings. The prose is superb, characters believable and a plot that keeps the reader guessing until the end. Along the way there are some unexpected revelations. This is a short book, some 184 pages, but worth the read. Highly recommended.
  23. Three little Piggy’s Wallow in the swill Who’s going to show them What happened to Jill? Little Jack Horner Scourge of the sauna Who’s going to tell him Bo peeps round the corner. Piggy’s in the middle Cat’s on the fiddle Who’s going to stop them The answer’s a riddle? Three Little Piggy’s, Steve the burgh, Hellopoetry.com
  24. "When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog's care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unravelling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them." I don't know what to make of this book, the blurb makes it sound like a tale of a relationship beween woman and her initially unwanted dog, the reviews and quotes made it clear the writer was aiming at a lieterary market so i thought I was getting something a bit different. The problem is twofold, firstly it is mostly about the woman and the dog only has a bit part even though he's supposed to be driving the action, secondly, and most important there are lengthy musings on what other writers think about grief and the art of writing, so loads of quoting and little in the way of original thought. At times it seemed to descend into a form of literary navel gazing and I began to feel uneducated because I hadn't read and don't want to read many of the authors she's quoting. I did finish it though and the ending is horribly sad.
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