Monday, November 4, 2019

October Books: Words and Weather

Words, weather, and a couple of unexpected finds close out my October book list.
The Little Book of Lost Words: Collywobbles, Snollygosters, and 86 Other Surprisingly Useful Terms Worth Resurrecting by Joe Gillard
This e-book was new to the library website. It’s a fun book, full of old words, their part of speech, where they come from, definitions, examples of sentences using the words, and artwork. Some fun words are:
ataraxia—from ancient Greek, meaning a state of peaceful serenity, calmness, and bliss

blatteroon-- 18th century English, meaning a person who talks or boasts incessantly and constantly

eyeservant—16th century English, meaning a person who works only when someone is watching

fopdoodle—18th century English, meaning an insignificant fool or buffoon

 The Rose Tree by Mary Walkin Keane
I found this book on the ‘leave a book, take a book’ shelf upstairs in the building the library is in. I’d not heard of the author, but saw she was born in Co Donegal and that the story takes place in a small Irish town, so I took it. I wasn’t sure I’d like it based on the blurb on the back, but I decided to give it a try and simply put it back unread if I didn’t. The following day, Bill had an appointment, so I stuck that book in my bag to read while I waited, since it was at the top of the pile and was smallish. I sat in a waiting room with a TV set to some UK shopping channel. We aren’t TV people, so I am not familiar with what sorts of channels people here get. There was a TV in our current home and free access via some satellite the landlord had installed, but we asked for the TV to be removed. This is a small place and we could use the space for something else, rather than a TV that would sit there unplugged and unused. In any case, the only TV I’ve seen is what I see in waiting rooms and that always seems to be crap from the UK. In this case, I was treated to exhortations about an inflatable bed (with an inflatable headboard—whatever purpose would that serve?), a music player, an apparently magnificent mattress (this was played twice), and finally, a ‘classic’ music collection. The appointment turned out longer than expected. In spite of the fact that I was tired, I was able to mostly tune out the blather from the TV and read. I read almost half the book. To be honest, had I not been in that particular situation I might not have continued. The first part was pretty painful to read.
 The main character is named Roisin McGovern, a young girl who lives with her family in Duneen. She’s the youngest of three children and has a sister and brother. She doesn’t fit in anywhere—not at school and not at home. Her mother clearly finds her more of a nuisance than anything else and she does not really have many friends at school. She struggles. Eventually, after some kids play a trick on her and she is falsely accused of something, her mother decides to send her to the boarding school where a former schoolmate had been sent. This is where I ended in the waiting room and I didn’t pick the book up again for several days. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read on. But I decided to give it another shot before deciding. I picked it up and was pretty quickly involved in the story, which from then on was not relentlessly painful, although it wasn’t all sweetness and light, either.

The book opens with the adult Roisin writing to someone, although we don’t learn who until near the end. There are a few of these asides starting off chapters, but these stop for a good chunk of the book and I’d forgotten about them until the last one appeared. The book is sort of a circle, with Roisin writing her story for this unknown person and heading back to Duneen for a funeral at the beginning of the book, although we also do not learn who has died until the end. There is no wrapping up of the story, which I would have liked, I think. We know that Roisin does come to an important decision in the last sentence or two, but what the result of that decision is, we do not know. All in all, I am glad I continued with the book.
cover art by ben warner
Danger from the Dead by Elizabeth Ferrars
I discovered this book at our local charity shop. I have found several books there by authors that are not so widely known. The name of this author seemed vaguely familiar to me, but I knew I’d not read any of her work, so I brought it home with me. In looking her up, I discovered that this is a pen name and that she was very prolific. She wrote a few series, but this is a stand alone novel.

Gavin Cleavers is a teacher in the same boarding school he and his brother, Nigel, attended as children. This is not a close family—Gavin and Nigel are not particularly close and neither cares much for their two sisters, who also don’t have much to do with each other or the guys. So it seems odd to Gavin that, when his holiday plans fall through, Nigel eagerly invites him to spend his holiday in a cottage on the property he and his wife own. In spite of his misgivings, he goes, partly because Nigel’s wife’s sister, Caroline, will be there. Gavin and Caroline once had a relationship. Caroline is a well-known actress who had been in a soap opera, but had left to come help care for her sister (Nigel’s wife), Anabel, a famous and very successful writer of romance novels, who was still recovering from a stroke. But many things just seem off. And then, within a day or two of his arrival, Gavin goes to the house and discovers both Anabel and Caroline dead. What happened? And who was the balding guy in the grey Mercedes?

This was an enjoyable read and I will be keeping my eyes open for more by this author when I’m scanning the bookshelves in various charity shops. I would happily read more of her work.

 The Weather Machine: How We See Into the Future by Andrew Blum
I came across this book when scrolling through the new titles available in the e-book section of the library website. This is the blurb about it:
When Superstorm Sandy hit North America, weather scientists had predicted its arrival a full eight days beforehand, saving countless lives and astonishing us with their capability. Their skill is unprecedented in human history and draws on nearly every major invention of the last two centuries: Newtonian physics, telecommunications, spaceflight and super-computing.

In this gripping investigation, Andrew Blum takes us on a global journey to explain this awe-inspiring feat – from satellites circling the Earth, to weather stations far out in the ocean, through some of the most ingenious minds and advanced algorithms at work today. Our destination: the simulated models they have constructed of our planet, which spin faster than time, turning chaos into prediction, offering glimpses of our future with eerie precision.

This collaborative invention spans the Earth and relies on continuous co-operation between all nations – a triumph of human ingenuity and diplomacy we too often shrug off as a tool for choosing the right footwear each morning. But in this new era of extreme weather, we may come to rely on its maintenance and survival for our own.

I found this to be a very interesting book. It’s written for a general reader, so while he speaks to many meteorologists in many parts of the world, he doesn’t get so deep into jargon that the reader gets lost. The blurb doesn’t mention this, but what the first part of the book offers is a history of meteorology, which was fascinating—and sometimes amusing. He was on a remote Norwegian island and he asked the weather guy there if he felt like he really knew the weather. The guy looked at him and said, ‘I know when it’s dry and I know when it’s wet.’ Near the end of the book, he writes briefly about weather diplomacy. This idea is illustrated throughout the book as he explains how the science has evolved, but in this end section, he is more explicit about this.  

Our current weather is mild, with sun and lots of cloud. I hope it's a nice day in your part of the world!


Vicki said...

The Gillard, Ferrars, Blum books sound interesting to me.

Shari Burke said...

They were really good! I am not sure how it is that I never read Ferrars, because she's the kind of thing I usually like a lot. Better late than never, though! I'm glad I've found her now. :-)