Books

28 September 2014

News Update

Last week, the bower bird moved to another part of the garden - between some lavender and a clump of jade. He only moved a couple of metres, but it was a big job. First he had to dismantle the bower, strand by strand, and then build it up again in the new place. He is still moving all the blue objects and rearranging them. For a while, I almost considered giving him a helping hand; however, on second thoughts, I decided against it. I hope that his two girlfriends have appreciated the move and all the energy that went into it.


24 September 2014

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn


Suspenseful and enthralling from page one, Gone Girl certainly ticks all the boxes for the thriller genre (and I believe that it is about to hit the big screen at the beginning of October). It is the type of book you cannot put down until you reach the last page. Extremely well-constructed and well-written, it is definitely a book worth reading. Questions crowd in on every page: Where is she? Is she dead? Was he involved? Was someone else involved? It is, however, a difficult book to review without giving away part of the plot, so I have written a separate review (see Pages on the right-hand side of this blog) ONLY for those of you who have already read the book. DO NOT read this extra review if you have not read the book, because it will ruin the book for you.

  Photo from www.salon.com

22 September 2014

Giveaway

For those of you who may not have noticed, two copies of Room Nineteen will be given away by Goodreads on the 16th October. There is still time to enter in the draw: click on Giveaway under Pages on the right-hand side of this blog. Good luck.

20 September 2014

The Life Before Us by Romain Gary (Émile Ajar)


This is a beautiful book. Told from the perspective of Momo, an orphan Arab boy who does not know his actual date of birth, it is filled with an innocent humour that is never far from the reality of poverty and deprivation in which the story takes place. Many of the words he uses are completely wrong, paralleling the actual word in pronunciation but miles away from it in meaning, something which only tends to add to the underlying humour. Rosa, the sixty-eight-year-old Jewish ex-prostitute who takes care of Momo and several other children on the sixth floor of a block of flats, is overweight, ill and on the verge of losing her mind. She is incapable of looking after the children but she loves them, especially Momo. This is a book about love set against a background of immense tragedy and despair; in the end, it is love that pushes aside everything else and becomes the only thing that is important. Definitely recommended

 Photo from richardagemo.com

16 September 2014

More on Bower Birds

I was overwhelmed by the number of people who were interested in the post on bower birds, so I have decided to extend it with a couple of recent photos of our bower bird. The bower (the construction in the centre of both photos) is built from small sticks and pine needles and is surprisingly sturdy. The bower bird's collection of blue objects can be seen in the background.

13 September 2014

Bower Birds


Sitting at the computer, wondering what to write, I looked out on the garden and saw our three bower birds hopping around among the bushes. Bower birds are fascinating, and we consider ourselves extremely honoured to have three Satin Bower Birds - a male and two females. The birds are reasonably large - the male is a beautiful blue-black colour, while the females vary in colour from green to brown (ours are both more green than brown). The male builds a bower that he then decorates with anything and everything that is blue: feathers, stones, flowers, plastic drink tops, plastic straws, small toys, ALL the blue pegs from my peg basket... He then sings and dances in his bower in the hope of attracting some ladies. Our bower bird (who has been with us in the garden for about three years) has been most successful this year, having found himself two very pleasant lady friends. They eat mainly fruit, are very good mimics and seem to get along with the other birds in the garden. Having been around us so long, the male is reasonably tame, and he probably wonders what we are doing in his backyard... 

10 September 2014

Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child


This thriller is one of a series by Lee Child, (actual name Jim Grant), with an ex-military policeman, Jack Reacher, as the main character. From what I can gather, the only red thread joining all the books is Jack Reacher, and the books can probably be read in any order. For me, this was the first Jack Reacher book I had read, and I did not encounter problems through being unfamiliar with the past history of the series.

The book, all five hundred pages plus, moves at a very fast pace with each relatively short chapter ending with a 'hook', forcing the reader to turn the page simply to see what is going to happen. The writing, though not of any literary significance, is good with much use made of the short, terse sentence. Although Child is English, he lives in America, and he is obviously well-acquainted with New York; his explicit description of the underground map as well as different streets and buildings is very well-handled. Never having been in New York, I did not find the descriptions in any way confusing, instead, I feel that they actually add to the overall suspense. As with most books from this genre, co-incidence and imagination are the two big players, but I feel that the reader gets so swept away with what is happening that he/she does not feel a need to question the credibility of the characters, the situations and/or the background - the three things that finally tie everything together. This is a very big plus in Child's favour: I have read other books from this genre where the co-incidence factor is so badly managed that the book picks up a 'not-worth-reading' label after only a few pages. 
 
Of course, there is violence, with some expert description pertaining to guns and knives which tends to heighten the feeling of authenticity, and there is sex (which, I believe is a must with this kind of novel). However, it was refreshing that the sex was more implied than centre stage.

All over, I enjoyed the book as a form of easy-to-read escapism. It did not necessarily raise any topics that challenged my thinking, and I did not continue to think about the characters and the plot after I had finished the book; however, while reading the book, it was enjoyable - probably a bit like eating chocolates.


Lee Child from www.theguardian.com

 

06 September 2014

The Death of Forever by Darryl Reanney

In a recent post, I mentioned The Death of Forever by Darryl Reanney - a book that discusses many ideas, all related to how we view time:  consciousness, death, the arrow of time, cyclic time, linear time, the ego-self, entropy, the illusion of time actually moving...

As Reanney says: It is not time that is moving, it is our own sense of an individual self voyaging “by virtue of the choices it makes among the hills and valleys of a future that is already there (...) Our sense of the serial passing of time is very much a construction of our own minds.”
                                       
There is far too much in the book to fit into a 300-word post, but The Death of Forever is definitely worth reading. Even if you do not agree with everything that Reanney has to say, it is a book that will make you think.
 
Writing about what can happen to our concept of time when the ego-self collapses, Reanney quotes (among others) Jesus: "Verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am." and Goethe: "One moment holds eternity." He also quotes T.S.Eliot, and, to conclude this post, I will include a few lines from Eliot's poem 'Burnt Norton'.

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction 
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.
(...) 
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now.
 
 

03 September 2014

The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín


This novella or prose poem, approximately one hundred pages, is extremely beautiful. Written from the perspective of Mary, it gives what I can imagine could be a very real and emotional picture of her as a woman coping with the loss of her son. I found it interesting that the writer, a man, was able to break into the psyche of a woman and describe it so well. Although linking in biblical references, TheTestament of Mary runs parallel and, at times, even at a tangent, to what is assumed and believed. Colm Tóibín has succeeded in making Mary more human and, in doing so, he has put her suffering, and even the suffering of her son, in a completely different perspective. It is the ordinariness of them both that shines through and it is just this ordinariness that makes the suffering that much more poignant. Beautifully written, The Testament of Mary is definitely worth reading. 



  Photo of  Colm Tóibín  www.telegraph.co.uk