Thursday, May 23, 2024

Does He Understand the Concept?

 It was Bill who pointed it out to me. He looks out the window as he's washing the dishes and he often gets a view of the guy across the river and his droopy drawers. He shared his observations with me and well, there are some things you just can't unsee. Droopy seems not to understand the concept of pants and what their purpose is. He seems to assume that they should be worn under the butt instead of covering it. He apparently feels that this fashion statement is one to be shared with any and all who are in his vicinity. I'm sure I am not alone in wishing he wouldn't, but here we are. We look out of the windows at our own risk. Yesterday, he was on a ladder fairly high above the sidewalk, giving all and sundry a better view. You'd think the breeze blowing across his butt would cause a chill, but he's apparently willing to tough it out. Has anyone ever told him that pants were actually designed to gently cover the rear end, providing warmth, comfort, and protection from stinging insects, biting bugs, splinters, frostbite, etc? We'll never know. Droopy droops and I just look away.😬

Monday, May 20, 2024


 Got happy mail today! 

It was kind of a surprise--Bill told me the other day that he'd seen a couple of books that he thought I'd like on a used book page on eBay, so he got them and they were on their way. He asked if I wanted to know what they were and I said I did, so he told me. I was (and am) thrilled! I didn't look them up, so the contents were a surprise. He was concerned that I might have already read many of the stories, but as it turns out, there are just a few between both books that I've read before. Not that I would have minded if there had been more. I love, love, love both short story collections and classic mysteries, so there is plenty for me to love here. 

I started the Victorian mysteries shortly after the parcel was opened. The second story was an amusing Wilkie Collins detective story. His Woman in White was mentioned a few times in the Introduction as one of the first detective sensation novels. As luck would have it, I found a like-new copy of that in a charity shop on Friday. The Victorian mystery anthology is divided into themes--detective, crime, international, and American stories. It seems to be quite well done and I am looking forward to reading a story or two each day. It'll be interesting to see if the stories from Spain, Italy, Germany are different in some ways from the British and US ones. I've been reading more and more Victorian literature (and a bit before that) for the past few years for quite a while now, so this will fit right in with that.

I am equally excited about the Christmas anthology, but I will summon up my willpower to hold off on that until later in the year. Reading Christmas mysteries is part of my yearly 'I am so grateful summer is OVER' ritual, so I am thrilled to know that this will be waiting for me when the time comes. It's a nice chunky book so I can stretch out my enjoyment for a while.

What better way to begin the week than welcoming fabulous books into my life?

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Immortality of a Sort?

 This will be me. 

Friday, May 10, 2024

The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

 The Minstry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

Published by: Hodder & Stoughton | Sceptre

ISBN 9781399726344

I don't usually read sci fi, although there are a few exceptions. However, I was intrigued by the description of this book, in which a select group of people are brought from the past to present-day Britain and must learn to inhabit the 21st century. I do love a good culture shock story. This excellent book is far more than that, though, and I am so glad I read it!

The book is told from the perspective of a civil servant, who had been toiling away in the Languages department, but applies for and is hired for a much more secretive and well-paying job in the Ministry, where time travel has been discovered. She will be the 'bridge' to Commander Graham Gore, who had been known as one of those who perished in the Franklin expedition to the Arctic. History says he died in 1847, but now he's learning about life in the 21st century. The bridge is there to monitor him and help him navigate this new world. Even she isn't clear about what the Ministry is about and what the purpose of the project is. This job also makes her think about her own life as an outsider--her mother was a refugee from Cambodia and she grew up with the casual racism that is sadly so common. Just as the 'expats' as they are called (in order to keep away the stigma of the word 'immigrant') must figure out what their place is in a new society, the bridge continues to figure out her place in her own. Her experience also complicates her relationship with Commander Gore at times, but in spite of the fact that this is supposed to be a job, she soon finds herself growing closer to her expat. At the same time, she finds herself uneasy about some of the things that are happening at the Ministry and isn't sure what to do about it. At one point she says, 'Life is a series of slamming doors. We make irrevocable decisions every day. A twelve-second delay, a slip of the tongue, and suddenly your life is on a new road.' (p 160)

As you'd expect, there is a lot in this book about belonging and feeling misplaced. For the bridge, this is a generational thing--there is a very moving short scene in which she remembers a trip to her mother's home place in Cambodia and how her mother's accent was ridiculed. She clearly didn't fit in there, but she never quite fit in in Britain, either. The bridge's sister writes about her experiences with racism, while the bridge tries to fit in and pass as white. In similar ways, the expats have different strategies for navigating their current world.

I don't want to give anything away, but I'll just say that the last 100 pages or so are a wild ride. I thought I knew where the book was going. I was wrong. This is a really fine book, beautifully written, and a real page-turner. I was annoyed every time I had to put it down and couldn't wait to get back to it. I've been thinking about it ever since I finished it and I think it will stay with me for a long time. Fantastic read!

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital review copy.

Update--an article about the author appeared in The Guardian and you can read it here

Thursday, May 9, 2024

The Silence Factory by Bridget Collins

 The Silence Factory by Bridget Collins
Published by HarperCollins UK, HarperFiction | The Borough Press
ISBN 9780008424046
On a Greek island in the 1820s, Sophia is trying to cope with her married life. Her husband, James, is obsessed with finding a particular spider, which supposedly spins silk that has unusual properties. When Sophia accidentally finds a specimen, neither of them realize that James' obsession will trap him in its web just as securely as the spider webs trap the rats and 'suck them dry' when they're dropped into the tanks as food. James leaves the island with as many spiders as he can carry and goes back to England. He thinks that as a British Christian man, he is smarter than everyone else and entitled to take what he wants.

Some decades later, Henry Latimer, a grieving widower, is plodding through his days as a clerk in his father-in-law's audiology shop. One day, Sir Edward shows up and engages Henry in conversation. He comments that Henry sells sound and he sells silence. Henry is clearly puzzled, so Sir Edward gives him a piece of spider silk with special properties. When one side is facing, utter silence results. The outer facing side creates weird murmurs, whispers, and disturbing noises. Sir Edward has inherited his great uncle James' estate and the family lace factory, which he is using to try to mass market the silk. Henry becomes obsessed with the silk after bringing it home and using it to block out the cacophony outside. He gets his first good night of sleep since his wife died in childbirth. When Sir Edward wants someone to come to his home to test his deaf daughter, Henry goes. He, too, gets tangled up in the web of silk and refuses to heed the warnings of people who try to help him. He desperately wants to outrun the whispers, murmurs, and disturbing noises in his own mind, but of course, none of us can do that. While he sees a chance at a new life as his feelings for Sir Edward grow deeper, he also has to work hard to ignore the horrific effects of the factory on the town and especially the people, including the children, who work there.

This is the first book I've read by this author, but it definitely won't be the last. It's a fantastic book that hooked me from the start. The book moves back and forth between Sophia's diary entries and Henry's story, with the former sprinkled throughout the book. I was gripped by both story lines as the characters struggle to escape the bonds that imprison them, whether it is James with his ego and need to
impress his brother, leading to the fixation on the spiders, Sir Edward with his sense of entitlement and need to wield power and get more cash, Sophia, who is stuck in a marriage with a man growing more angry and erratic, or Henry, who is trying to outrun his grief and guilt. The spiders provide a good metaphor for this theme as they weave their webs, entrapping and destroying prey much larger than themselves. Will they also (indirectly) destroy the humans who have stolen them from their native habitat in order to exploit them? At one point, Sophia comments that she knows the spiders are furious at them. The difference between the rats dropped into the spider tanks and the humans outside of it, of course, is choice. The rats have none. The spiders have none. The humans have choices, but will they make the right ones in time? What will become of the people involved, from those in charge to those working in the factory and at the mercy of the people and machines that make the factory run? What happened to Sophia and James? Read this excellent book to find out!

Thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for a digital review copy of this book.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

They're Screaming

 In summer 2021, "In a twenty-four-hour period, the temperature in downtown Portland, Oregon jumped from 76 degrees to 114 degrees (F), the hottest temperature in 147 years of observations...If you'd had the right kind of microphone, scientists say, you could have heard the trees screaming." 
         --The Heat Will Kill You First by Jeff Goodell, pgs 7-8

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Lucky Day!

 We hopped on the bus this morning with our fingers crossed. We were heading for the library and hoping that they still had a couple of books--one on each of our lists--that had been waiting for us until Friday. We didn't have a chance to go last week, so I emailed and asked if they could please hold the books a bit longer so we could go today. I got an automated reply back because the person was out of the office until today. I figured it'd be OK anyway, because it was a bank holiday weekend here and once they closed Friday they weren't open again until this morning. I was pretty sure that no one would jump over to the hold shelf and start removing books as soon as they opened and they didn't. We both plan to read both books, so nice that we were able to get them.

We are also both planning to read this one--me first:
Bill started this when we got home:
I read an advance review copy near the end of last year, I think and it was published a couple months ago. It's a great book and my review is here.

Finally, I got this one, which I am really looking forward to:

Our luck continued when we popped into the charity shop by the bus stop. Bill found a couple books and I made a beeline for the large plastic tub that had a few things of yarn in it. The tag said €1, so I grabbed a couple hanks of brown wool, three balls of mohair, and a cake of a thin yarn that I suspected was a wool blend of some kind, perhaps with silk.
When I went to pay, the woman only charged me €1.50 for the lot, yarn and books. I shoved the pile closer to her and asked if she got everything--LOL--and she assured me that she did, so I gave her the cash and left the store. When we'd entered, I was feeling a bit too warm and increasingly eager to get home so I could pour some coffee into myself. My fabulous little yarn haul and the books in my backpack perked me up a bit. 😁 

I did the burn test on the mauve yarn and it is indeed mohair. The thin yarn is definitely mostly wool. Not sure if the rest is silk or plant fibre of some sort, but it feels lovely. That and the brown wool are now chilling in the freezer. I didn't see any evidence of moth damage, but might as well be safe. And when my coffee and I were united once again, it was magical. Hope you have some magical moments in your day, too!