Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Day Zero Project: Learn to drive

Due to a slight problem defrosting a chicken at the weekend (in that it didn't) we ended up staying in on Sunday (to eat the chicken we couldn't eat on Saturday) so I didn't get to post my Ice photo. I'll do a double whammy next Sunday.

Way back on January 1st, 2012, I set myself 101 things to do in the next 1001 days. That's about three and a bit years to do all the things on my list.

A year on, I'm taking stock of how I've been getting on with the tasks I set myself. And so far, it's not too bad.

Though of course, the first one on the list is as yet uncompleted.

I'm wanting to learn to drive. I can drive very well in an automatic, but I really want to master a manual. It'll be so much more practical and it'll give me the opportunity to be a bit more independent instead of relying on Mr Click for transport everywhere.

Plus if we ever wanted to take the campervan on holiday, we could take the car along too so we'd not be without transport.

My provisional license expires this year and I never got around to updating it to my married name, so I figure at some point this year I'll take care of that.

I got the hang of driving a manual quite quickly but I just don't get on with changing gears. No one has been able to explain it in a way that makes sense to me. I just don't get them. I'm thinking about using a different driving instructor to see if that helps.

But at the moment this one is still firmly on the 'to do' list.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Book 3 of 2013: Flash and Bones

I started reading Kathy Reichs' Temperance Brennan books shortly after my 20th birthday when I received some money and, as I'd been enjoying the series Bones, decided to give the books a go. I bought the first three and was back about a week later buying the next three; one of my friends couldn't believe that I'd spent £20 on books each of which I read in about a day and a half.

I picked up the first few books fairly quickly and for a while I would get each new one as it came out; rereading the books that had come earlier before I started the new ones. Then, of all things, a change in the covers slowed me down. I mean, they were starting to get a bit repetitive and predictable, which helped lessen the urgency to buy the latest one, but not being able to get a copy which matched all the others kind of put me off for a while. I've got over that now, and I've been able to pick up all of the most recent ones (ignoring the fact that they don't match the covers of my earlier copies) in charity shops.

The last one in my current collection is Flash and Bones, the fourteenth book in the Tempe Brennan series. We were in Clydebank before Christmas and I insisted on a trip round the charity shops there which aren't usually too hot for clothes, but are often really good for books, and spotted this one. I wasn't sure whether it was one I already had so figured for the sake of £2 I'd take it and see. And got home to find it wasn't one of the ones already on my shelf.

This book begins with a body being discovered at a landfill site beside the Charlotte Speedway. The hunt for the body's identity gets Tempe involved in looking at an old missing person's case as well as educating her about NASCAR. It follows the regular format for a Tempe novel (one which the last book diverted from ever so slightly), and takes place entirely in Charlotte with minimal input from Ryan, but does introduce ex-dective Cotton Galimore.

One of the things I really like about the Kathy Reichs books is that they are nice quick reads. I probably could have read this in just a couple of sittings (if I hadn't had an essay to write which ate into my precious reading time). As it was, I still had it finished pretty quickly, and I even stayed up pretty late one night to finish it, knowing full well I would be exhausted the next day. The problem with these books is that Reichs is brilliant at leaving chapters on cliffhangers so you just have to keep reading a little longer (the trick here is to read the first page of the next chapter, then stick the bookmark in and go to sleep).

I was a little worried when I picked this up that the NASCAR stuff was going to be lost on me. I'm really not at all sporty or into cars so I knew nothing about it. What made it easier is that Tempe is largely in the same boat, so everything is explained quite nicely and there are moments where she puzzles at things that puzzled me. I liked that. I expect someone who was into that sort of thing would be able to feel a bit smug that they got what characters were talking about when Tempe didn't.

One slightly unfortunate thing was that every time the Speedway was mentioned I kept thinking of the following clip from Whose Line Is It Anyway? I was never really a hundred percent certain what a Speedway was, now I know, and I have Wayne Brady singing in my head!

I liked the way that this one was written. All the clues were dotted through the book and I sort of took note of them, but didn't piece them all together until Tempe did it for me at the end. If I'd not been reading it insanely late at night on a work night, I probably would have figured out at least part of it myself. I love being able to do this with books.

This book also introduces the idea of the character Tory Brennan, the lead character in Reichs' new series of books. I have picked up what I think is the first of the series. It does answer one question that was bugging me, how her surname can be Brennan and exactly how she is related to Tempe. It was a neat little way to introduce the idea withouth smacking you over the head with a new book series that you might want to read. If you weren't interested in the new series or didn't know about it, it's glossed over in about three paragraphs. It's succeeded in making me curious though and as I've not got the next Tempe Brennan book, I might visit the Tory Brennan one I do have to see how it compares.

Next up I'm reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, another of the books listed in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I was a bit apprehensive of starting it and flipped between reading it and another book beginning with I (for the last letter in the Winter Challenge). I'm excited for reading another book that's been translated from another language, from another culture, but at the same time a little nervous that I won't enjoy it and I'll find it really heavy going like Eugenie Grandet. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Book 2 of 2013: Eugenie Grandet

This year I decided to start reading some of the books from the book 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (mine is the 2008 edition, it appears that they've released a newer version in the last year). I'm quite impressed with the number that I've actually already read, there are some that I've visited already during this OU course, and there are some which I've wanted to read for a while (so I'm hoping this will serve as motivation to actually do that).

When I considered reading all these books before, I realised that to read all of them it would take approximately 80 years and would cost goodness knows how much if I wanted to make sure I had a copy of each book. Which is where getting a Kindle last year has made this slightly more practical.

I decided to begin this self-imposed challenge with Eugenie Grandet mainly because it began with an E which I needed for my HTV Winter Challenge, and also because it was one of the ones available as a free download for my Kindle.
It tells the story of Eugenie Grandet, hence the title, though the story is mostly focused on her father who is generally known as Grandet or Pere Grandet. He's a miser, incredibly tight with money and very strict with his wife and daughter. Towards the beginning of the story Grandet's nephew, Charles, comes to visit the family and at the same time they receive news that his father has killed himself due to being heavily in debt. There's the hint of a romance between Eugenie and Charles, before he is sent away to make a man of himself in the West Indies.
It's only 180 pages, so I thought it would be a nice quick read after the relatively long The Fellowship of the Ring. I was wrong. For such a short book, it's a surprisingly long read. I struggled to get into it, and I struggled to get through it, until about the 75% mark when I was able to whizz through to the end quite quickly.
I think part of the problem I had with it is that it is quite repetitive. There are two rival families who each want their young male heir to marry Eugenie so there are various scenes dealing with that; Grandet doesn't like spending money, but makes a lot through his business deals which are frequently recounted. You feel like you've read it before, especially because I didn't actually understand the financial stuff - not only was it dealing with something I don't know much about, it was also talking about French money two hundred years ago. I was way out of my comfort zone.
The character of Grandet was really unlikeable, I guess that was kind of the point. But I also never really warmed to Eugenie or her mother. I realise the story set during a time when men and women's roles were very different, but they just came across as doormats. I was hoping that with time Eugenie would stand up to her father, which she kind of did but then went back to being a bit of a doormat. Charles also disappointed me; he was a bit of a jerk.
As much as I'm sure this is a valuable example of Honore de Balzac's writing, or of French writing from that period, or whatever, I wouldn't say it's one of the greatest 1001 books in the world. I'm glad I read it because I can tick it off my list (along with the letter E in the word Winter), but I'm glad I finished it and it's not something I'm likely to revist.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Book 1 of 2013: The Fellowship of the Ring

I like to reread Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings every year. It's become a massive tradition for me now and I get antsy if I get towards the end of the year without having covered it. Although I only read it about six months ago (and I usually save it for my summer read), The Fellowship of the Ring was picked as one of the Challenge books for the HTV Reading Challenge, so I decided that I'd start the year by revisiting an old favourite.

I've got loads of different copies of The Lord of the Rings, from a large hardback illustrated single volume copy to a single volume copy which was purchased when my Mum was pregnant with me (so I've grown up with it on my bookcase). I'd originally planned on reading the single volume which I found in an Oxfam shop several years ago and then shortly afterwards realised that it was an early single volume edition and therefore doesn't have all the appendices that more modern ones have.
But then the challenge for The Fellowship of the Ring was posted, so I decided to go for the three volume edition. I only own one three volume edition, the version I first read when I was sixteen; the first time I made it all the way through the book. I love revisiting this book, I can remember the various places these paperbacks have been with me and different places I've read them. The last time I read this copy it was lying in the campervan out at Ettrick Bay, towards the end of the summer, the year we moved to our new place, before we got Tara.
This is obviously one of my favourite books. It's so familiar that I find myself looking forward to my favourite bits. I'd practically decided which quotes I was going to write into my book journal before I even got to them.
Sometimes I find myself sailing through my annual reread, different sections I tend to get through quicker than others; the beginning parts I usually read quickly, slowing down once the Hobbits leave the Shire and meet Tom Bombadil and Aragon, I'll pick up after the Fellowship leave Rivendell and then slow down again as I draw to the end of the book. It's a pattern I've noticed in the last few read throughs, I'm sure it's because I get nervous about the dangerous bits, even though I know everything will eventually work out! This time I was quite slow to read it because instead of reading before work, I had taken to dozing in bed, as well as knitting while watching TV in the evening instead of reading.
There's something about this book that just begs to be read aloud. There's something about the way that it's written that I just love to hear spoken. I think it's something to do with how fascinated by language Tolkien was, he understood about the history of the words that he was using and so the words he picks carry a lot of weight. Even if you're not aware of whether a word is Germanic in origin, or whatever, it carries some sort of meaning, based on how it's been used before. I love reading this book out loud, which often leads to it taking longer to read, but it sounds so much better.
Each time I reread these books, I find myself drawn to different characters or bits of the book. This time I found myself really enjoying the Hobbits. I like how they offer a bit of comic relief. Perhaps it's because I went to see The Hobbit at the cinema a few days after starting this, it just put me in the mood for them. I also felt really interested in Boromir as a character this time around. I'm not sure what it was, but I'm looking forward to seeing if that influences my view of Faramir and Denethor as I read the next two books.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Project 52: Week 3 - Hats

I had big plans for my photos this week, which I didn't really achieve. I'd been hoping that with the theme Hats I might be able to get some portrait type photos (of either myself or of other people). But it's been dark and using the flash makes people look a bit weird (highlighting any imperfections on their skin). So I stuck to still life photos instead.

When we went to Ikea a few months back we got a funky coat stand for our front lobby, it's got these swirly bits on top which is where I keep some of my hat collection. I'm a bit of a fan of hats. I like knitting them, because they're usually quick and easy and you can watch TV while you're doing them. I like wearing them, because I have long hair and live in Scotland and sometimes it's the best way to keep everything under control. Plus they keep your head warm, which is a bit of an added bonus.

Week 3: Hats

I like the way this one turned out because it's a really good idea of what our coat stand has been looking like in this cold and wet weather. You come in, strip off the waterproofs or jacket or whatever and dump them on the stand (which is so much better than hanging them off doors, dumping them on the bed/spare bedroom floor, etc. as we'd been slightly in the habit of doing before we got it). I'm fairly certain that I took this one just after I'd come in with the dog and I'd been wearing the stripey pink hat, hence it's jaunty angle.

The orange stripey on belongs to Mr Click, he got it the day we got Tara because he'd not got a hat and had been having trouble with his ears at the time. It's lovely and thick and warm and I've sort of adopted it as my own because it keeps my ears warm. It's a wee bit too big for me so the corners at the top stick up which makes me look like a cat or something as well.

Just underneath that is a hat that I knitted, following a pattern from Charmed Knits for a beret. I was going to do it in Gryffindor colours, but I didn't have the right shade of yellow so in the end I did it just in red, at some point I will use the matching pattern to my a Slytherin beanie (though according to Pottermore I'm a Ravenclaw, which would agree with, hehe).

When I realised that portrait shots weren't really going to work for me I had an idea to get all of my hats out and take a photo of them spread out rainbow style, but I just never really found a good way to do it, so in the end stuck with this simple photo. It seems like the BBC themes knew that I'd missed the opportunity to take the sort of photo I was wanting to, because in a couple of weeks the theme will be self portrait.

Of course the weather has been hat sort of weather, though we've not had any of the snow that the rest of the country has had. I have to admit, I'm a little bit disappointed. This weekend would've been the perfect time to have a good snowy day. There's a hint of snow forecast for tomorrow and Tuesday, but I think it'll be sleet more than snow, which is a shame because I'd love to see how Tara reacts to it.

And the next photo theme is ice which might not be too easy. We've had cold weather but it's been cold and crisp, without any ice at all. But I suppose that's the point of these challenges, coming up with something that fits the theme, even when you've not got a clue what you could use!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

2012 Book Catch Up: Books 104 - 107

And now I’m finally up to date with my book review posts from last year, just in time to start getting caught up with the ones for this year, these are the last three books that I read; better late than never.

Book 104 of 2012: The Santa Shop, The Samaritans Conspiracy Book 1 – Tim Greaton
This was a free Kindle download I found in the run up to Christmas, and as I had a little bit of time to kill on the 23rd of December, I decided that this looked like a good quick read, I wanted something that I could finish before Christmas. It tells the story of Skip, a man who has lost his wife and son and blames himself for their deaths. It’s almost Christmas and he decides that the best way he can be rid of the guilt he feels is to end his own life. He hears about a place where each Christmas Eve someone kills themselves and resolves to travel there, but he’s unaware of a secret organisation whose path he runs into.

It was a very quick read, it was only 180 pages long and I read it all in one day. I managed to finish it right before midnight, making it the last Christmas book that I read last year. I very nearly skipped over it because I thought it was going to be a really religious book, which it wasn’t. There’s a priest in it, and a few mentions of God, but otherwise it wasn’t what I was expecting at all.

There were a few little continuity issues that I spotted; like an amount of money changing between a couple of pages. But there weren’t any really serious mistakes. I wouldn’t say that the writing style was particularly imaginative; it reminded me a little of some fanfiction I’ve read, everything seemed very straightforward without any spectacular bits of prose, but it wasn’t too bad. On the whole it was good for killing a few hours.

The premise was a little weird. Though I have to hand it to the author, I never imagined that I’d get quite so into a book which basically involved the main character traveling to kill himself. The secret organisation thing was a bit weird, but I suppose it worked well with the general story plot. This is the first book in a series and I can’t say I feel like going on to read the others, though there were a couple of previews at the end of this one for other books by the same author and one of those did seem like something I might like to read. If I saw another book by this author being offered as a free download, I might give it a go.

Book 105 of 2012: The New Discworld Companion – Terry Pratchett & Stephen Briggs
I got this as a gift for someone, who ended up giving it back to me. It’s basically an encyclopaedia of characters, places and things in the Discworld universe. It was originally published in 1994 and this is an updated version from 2003, from around the time that The Wee Free Men was brought out, I’m not sure if there is a newer version but there are obviously some things missing that now exist on the Disc.

I’ve seen Stephen Briggs’s name on various Discworld things, but I didn’t realise that he was basically a big fan who ended up getting in contact with Terry Pratchett because he wanted permission to adapt one of the novels for a play for the local drama group. Things seem to have snowballed from there and he’s helped produce a number of books and adaptations relating to the Discworld.

I enjoyed this a lot. There was plenty of classic Discworld humour. There were some bits that were obviously taken from the books; I don’t think I would have noticed this if I hadn’t been rereading all of the books over the last couple of years. I’d originally planned to hold off reading this until after I’d finished reading all of the Discworld books, but I’d read I Shall Wear Midnight and didn’t yet have Snuff but wanted to read something from that shelf that would take me up to the end of the year.

I have seen a couple of the Discworld diaries, but I’ve never really looked at them that closely, and I have no idea if I’ll ever actually own any of them now, so it was good to find out little snippets of information which were originally printed in the diaries. There are other little bits that I must have missed out on while I was reading too, it’s good to have all the facts in one place. I’ve got to have a look and see if there’s a newer version that I could perhaps replace this with at some point.

I really liked the little pictured that are included around the text. It looked as though most of these were drawn by Stephen Briggs; I love seeing how people interpret fictional worlds, and these looked really close to the way that I imagined them. There was also an interview with Terry Pratchett right at the very end. I think that this dates from the time that I met him, maybe from shortly after, because when I met him he mentioned something which I’ve since realised was a reference to Monstrous Regiment (I’m fairly certain The Wee Free Men was either just out or was about to come out when I met him).

I’m glad that I waited to read this until after I’d read all of the books that were covered in this one because there were some spoilers. It was a little bit weird because some entries were very careful not to give away anything from the story, then others gave it away anyway; in particular there was the main point of Thief of Time which is carefully avoided all the way through, until one of the very last entries which gives away the twist. On the whole though, it was an interesting read though, and I’m kind of looking forward to reading the Science of Discworld book that I’ve got on the shelf now.

Book 107 of 2012: Dictionary of Proverbs and Their Origins – Linda & Roger Flavell
This was my very last book of the year and is the third of a set of books about origins of words and phrases in the English language. I was a little worried about starting it on the 29th of December, because I don’t like to finish the year on an unfinished book, but I managed to get to the end of it by about 10pm on New Year’s Eve (then had to wait two hours before I could start The Fellowship of the Ring).

The book focuses on proverbs that we use regularly, or which have been used in the past and elements of which still linger on today. It was interesting though it wasn’t quite as tongue-in-cheek as the previous books have been, though often I felt like they didn’t quite hit the mark they were aiming for with their humour, I missed it in this one. It felt a bit dry and dusty at times and there wasn’t anything to lighten it up.

The way it was organised seemed a bit random. A word was selected from each proverb to be its main word, and these were then sorted into alphabetical order. It seemed a bit random, like ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ could have been listed under ‘apple’ or ‘doctor’, I forget which it was actually under and there is an index at the end to help you look them up, but a better way to arrange them might have been by meaning. The alphabetical system seemed a bit arbitrary.

There was a lot of focus on the history of the proverbs, which was interesting, but I think it would have been interesting to know a little more about the modern use of them. Some of them had a little bit after the description that would say something like ‘Usage: Rarely used in modern English’, but there were others like ‘Every little helps’ which could have had something about how it’s now used as an advertising slogan, or others have been accepted into popular culture through songs. This was originally published in 1993 and then republished in 2006, but I don’t know if it was revised at all, I think that would have been an interesting addition.

It was interesting to see how some of the proverbs we use in English are closely linked to proverbs which are used in other languages around the world. Or how other languages might have a saying that is totally different but means more or less the same thing. I suspect that this will be closely linked to the final book I have in the set which is dealing with idioms, I hope that it has explanations of idioms from around the world too.

Monday, 14 January 2013

CD Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Soundtrack

This is a first for me, I’ve never actually done a CD review before. Mainly because I rarely buy music, I’ve got the stuff I like and I listen to that. In the last few months I’ve bought five albums (four physical and one mp3 download) for myself and this is something of a rarity for me.

A great deal of the music I listen to comes from films. I’ll watch a film that I enjoy, so I buy the soundtrack, then I find there’s one or two songs that I like to listen to a lot, so I investigate their albums or listen to their songs on YouTube, then when I find I’ve got an earworm I can’t get rid of I’ll treat myself to the CD. I found Taylor Swift this way, she was on an episode of CSI and I looked her up, fell in love with the thirty second samples of her songs and ordered her first two albums right away. Ditto the Cardigans (though that time it was through a fan video on YouTube) as well as Eva Cassidy (the Love Actually Soundtrack).

When the Lord of the Rings films came out, as part of my quest to own everything associated with them, I got the soundtracks as a matter of course. Then bought them again when those became worn out. And I’m going to have to invest in them again at some point because it’s a set I lost when I moved. There was never any question that I was going to have to buy the soundtrack for The Hobbit films. The only real debate was how long I could bring myself to wait for it.

I saw the film on Saturday 5th of January. The soundtrack was ordered on the 6th. I think that probably tells you something about the music in the film, which I’ve already mentioned in my review of it. Howard Shore is a genius, who just seems to get the stories and is able to create pieces of music that not only represent specific characters, places and events in the films, but manages to tie them all together so that when you’re listening to a song, you can pick out who or what or where it’s about. My husband would start talking about fancy things like leitmotifs and things here. I’m really not a very musical person, but there’s something about the music in this film that just settled in my heart and I love it.

I had a bit of choice when it came to ordering the CD, choice that wasn’t available when I got the original soundtracks for the Lord of the Rings films. Now you’ve got the choice between the physical CD and a digital copy, as well as the regular two-disc set, or the special edition two-disc set (which is obviously also available in a non-physical two-disc set, complete with digital version of the little booklet that comes with it). Or you can just buy the individual mp3 tracks that you want.

There wasn’t much doubt that I was going to go for the special edition version, it’s got an extra three songs and has a little booklet with it (or digital version) and I just wanted to have something pretty that I could hold and take photos of. I love the immediacy of mp3 downloads; the fact that you buy it and it’s right there to listen to right away, but I guess the Lord of the Rings habit is hard to break and I wanted to actually own the CD. Even if it meant waiting an extra three days or so to listen to it.

Considering it’s a special edition version, it’s not really that special a case. It’s all made out of cardboard which is already starting to look a little bit worn around the edges through everyday wear of opening it and getting the CDs and book out. I’d much rather have a plastic CD case because it feels like it offers greater protection and is less likely to get worn out like this. Plus it’s easier to replace if part of it gets cracked or whatever.

That said, it is beautiful. It’s leather-look with the text embossed in gold on the front (so shiny) and with all the tracks listed on the back (in the same font as on the Lord of the Rings CDs for anyone who’s taking note about things like that). It unfolds to reveal a portion of the map from the film and the CDs tuck into little pockets on the left and right sides. Then in the centre is a place where the booklet is hidden, it can be slid out from either side.

The booklet is lovely. It’s got your standard photos in it, there’s Gandalf outside Bag End, Thorin, the Company being led by Gandalf, Gandalf with Galadriel and Elrond, Gollum and Bilbo, and Bilbo up a tree with Gandalf and Thorin on the ground while the Eagles swoop in to save them. There’s the words to the songs (for some reason the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien gets credit for the lyrics amuses me, because, well, I know he wrote them, but it just does). And then there’s a lovely little section with photos of Howard Shore and the London Philharmonic Orchestra as well as a run down of the events of them film and how the music was written for the characters, places and events. I find it fascinating how the music was shaped to help tell the story; it explains which chords were chosen and why, as well as the idea behind the use of certain instruments. Definitely well worth a read.

And then there’s the music.

Which I’ve already said is wonderful. Three of the main reasons for wanting this CD were for the two songs performed by the Dwarf Cast and also the final song playing over the end credits (written and performed by Neil Finn). Track 4 on Disc 1 is easily one of my favourites on the album, I’ve listened to it again and again; it’s Blunt the Knives, the song the Dwarves sing as they cause havoc with Bilbo’s crockery. When reading the book I’ve always imagined it as being a raucous, upbeat sort of song and this doesn’t disappoint, it’s exactly as I imagined it.

Misty Mountains (Track 6, Disc 1) is a little different to how I thought it would be. I imagined all of the Dwarf songs to be upbeat, but this is very slow and quite mournful. And it fits wonderfully. It’s a song about leaving and travelling back to a place you were forced to leave, a place that, despite the lure of the treasure there, is quite dangerous. It makes more sense as a slow, sad song.

My other favourite song on this soundtrack is on Disc 2, Track 8: Riddles in the Dark. I suppose it stands to reason that my favourite chapter of the book, which became my favourite chapter in the film, would be my favourite piece of music on the soundtrack. I put it all onto my phone and have been listening to it while getting ready in the morning, so I’ve not always been able to see which track is playing. At the very beginning is what I think of as the Ring-theme, which you hear in several songs on the Lord of the Rings soundtracks, so as soon as I heard that I could pinpoint exactly which song was playing. The music sounds ‘dangerous’, like it’s emphasising how much trouble Bilbo is in at that point, you know that Gollum is unhinged and dangerous and the music reflect that. But there’s also the call of the Ring, which is sort of a chilling bit of music, but also kind of nice at the same time, like that last bit of cake that you know you shouldn’t have.

I could probably quite easily write a blog post about each track on these CDs, but I’m going to control myself. By the time this posts, I will have seen the film again and I’m really looking forward to hearing the music and seeing the images on the screen, but it’s going to be very tricky not to join in when the Dwarves start singing Blunt the Knives!

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Project 52: Week 2 - Skies

This week’s photo theme was ‘Skies’. Ordinarily this probably wouldn’t have been too difficult to do. Up here in Scotland we get some truly spectacular sunrises and sunsets. Alas, we’re currently in the middle of winter and I’ve been working 9-5:30, which means that it’s mostly grey and getting light when we leave the house and grey and getting dark when we get home.

This has led to some creative attempts to capture different sorts of ‘skies’. I took a photo of my course book on the page with the poem ‘To a Skylark’ with a bit of creative framing so that one stanza was sharp and the rest was out of focus. I took another of a blanket which I knitted (which features in many of my knitted Roley Poley photos as it lives over the back of my chair); it’s in pinks and oranges and purples which remind me of the sunset. I also took a couple of photos of pages from The Fellowship of the Ring which feature mentions of the sky. I’m quite pleased with how those turned out actually and they were my leading contenders until our Saturday dog walk.

Against all expectations Saturday was actually dry. The sky was mainly cloudy but otherwise it was a lovely crisp and cold sort of morning when we left the house. So I took my camera. I’d been hoping for one of two sorts of weather this weekend, either rolling moody clouds which would make a nice brooding sort of photo, or else lovely sharp blue skies that don’t have a cloud in the way.

It was actually a bit of a combination of both. I took some photos of some interesting clouds, none of which were interesting enough to make the photo of the week. I also tried to get some shots of birds flying which I’ve managed once or twice before and I’ve thought looked nice. In the end I decided to go with one of my perennial favourites, the tops of trees against a nice clear sky.

Week 2: Skies

It’s maybe not quite the sort of picture that I was hoping to take, but I quite like it. I’ve taken photos of the sky and this tree before, it’s one of my favourites on our walk, from this picture you can’t really appreciate just how tall it is. I didn’t actually do much editing to this picture, just sharpened it up a little and adjusted the white balance slightly. If I’d got one of low clouds I was going to play around with desaturating it and fiddling with the contrast, I might have a go just for fun next time we get a good stormy sort of day, as I said, I live in Scotland, hopefully I won’t have to wait long.

Next up is ‘Hats’ which shouldn’t be too tricky for a serial hat-buyer (and knitter) like myself. I’m thinking it might be a good opportunity to try taking Portrait photos, which is something I’d love to do, but I just don’t really seem to have got the hang of yet. Then it’s ‘Ice’ and right now all that’s springing to mind is the inside of our freezer, though I’m sure the weather will help me out if it can.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

2012 Book Catch Up: Books 102 - 103

Almost at the end of the book catch up posts now, just one more after this (and then I can start reviewing the books I've been reading this year)! Here's three more from 2012:

Book 102 of 2012: Christmas Penny Readings Original Sketches for the Season - George Manville Fenn
Yet another of my Christmas reading books that I got for free for my Kindle. This one was a collection of dozens of stories which are all set around the Christmas period. The stories are all obviously set back at the time that this was written, I'm not sure of the exact date, but I'm guessing some time around the Victorian period.

Considering that this was a pretty short book, it took me a fairly long time to read. Part of this was probably due to the fact that I was hanging with a really bad cold at the time when I started it and I just didn't have then energy to read a lot in bed on the morning or at night. Even taking that into account, it was a very slow read.

I can't honestly say that I thought much of this book. I didn't feel like I got very much from any of the stories. They all seemed to start well, but they would end in strange places and I found myself thinking 'was that it?' There weren't any that really stuck out to me, I can't really think of any memorable stories and even the ones that I can half remember sort of merged into each other.

There were some poems in the collection as well, though I only remember this because according to my review notes I liked the one about potatoes. There was a quote that I noted down from this too "Or who'd think nice / Soppy plain-boil'd rice, / Or parsnips or chestnuts toasted? / Earth has no fruit / As a substitute / For the 'tater plain-boil'd or roasted." I think it was mainly because it reminded me of Sam in The Lord of the Rings.

I don't think that I'd really recommend it to anyone. The stories weren't even that festive really and I'm glad that it was a free book. I'm just disappointed that it took me so long to read in the run up to Christmas when I could have been reading a more interesting and enjoyable festive book.

Book 103 of 2012: Letters from Father Christmas - J.R.R. Tolkien
This is a book that I reread every year in the run up to Christmas, I've got a lovely hardback copy of it which is absolutely beautiful, but also massive and so not at all practical for leaving the house with. For this reason I had to be really careful to choose the day I read it so that I didn't have to worry about taking it out of the house. Luckily my Secret Santa on HTV got me a paperback copy for Christmas so I won't have to worry about that in the future.

I really, really love this book. For me it's like A Christmas Carol in that I have to read it in the run up to Christmas. It's such a magical book and it reminds me of Christmas days as a child, the excitement of Christmas morning and discovering that Santa has been. I also received letters from Father Christmas for years, though mine came in cards, rather than with Tolkien's beautiful illustrations, but that helped to prove that this was obviously real for me.

I love that there are stories which are told through the stories and these continue from one year to the next. I wonder if in the run up to Christmas the Tolkien children brought out their old letters to remind themselves of what their special visitor had been up to since the last time he'd come.

It always makes me feel a little bit sad as I head towards the end of the book and gradually the letters are written to fewer and fewer children, until finally it's just Priscilla and then you know that those are going to end too. All the same, I like the middle when you can see that the belief is at its strongest and you can see that everyone is writing, with Father Christmas even making reference to the children's toys who have written to him. I vaguely remember doing something similar myself as a child and having my stuffed toys write to Santa.

The pictures are beautiful as well. They're so magic and beautiful. I love the work and effort that Tolkien put into them. The edition of the book I read has aspects of the picture incorporated into the text as well, which helps to make it look interesting. It's also fun to try and spot where the picture has come from in the actual picture. It's a book I can't wait to share with my own children in the future, and see what's happening with Father Christmas when he writes to them.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

2012 Book Catch Up: Books 99 - 101

I'm still getting caught up with the books I read towards the end of last year. I've got less than ten of these left to go, so hopefully I'll have these all written up by the time I'm ready to start writing the book reviews for this year.

Book 99 of 2012: The Rough Guide to Lord of the Rings - (Edited by Paul Simpson, Helen Rodiss & Michaela Bushell)
This was a little book that Mr Click found for me in a wonderful Oxfam shop in Oban. I was distracted by some other books and he just pulled it off the shelf and asked me if I had it. It was only a couple of quid, so I picked it up and it wound up in a box of books in the spare room. So when I rearranged my bookcase I pulled out and stuck it on the shelf expecting it to be a quick read. It was actually a longer read than I was expecting because it's very detailed and although there's photos from the films on the cover, a great deal of the book is actually given over to Tolkien and the books.

There were a few bits that were kind of repetitive, which I put down to the fact that different bits of the book were probably written by different people. It has resulted in reinforcing some little bits of knowledge, like the fact that Sean Astin put on 30 pounds for his role as Samwise Gamgee.

The book was in black and white with some orangey-yellow text in places. So there were black and white photos throughout the book. Most of these didn't add much, they were often from the film with captions that were (at times trying a little too hard to be) funny. Often these didn't add to much to the book and weren't anything that I hadn't seen before, though at the time this was published The Return of the King wasn't out yet, so some probably weren't so familiar. What I did like was the photos of places where Tolkien had lived or been, they weren't anything special (and they were in black and white) but I thought they were interesting.

There was a good mix of topics covered by the book; some was totally mundane, like music and merchandise linked to The Lord of the Rings (scarily enough most of the merchandise I actually own, though it reminded me to look out some of New Zealand Mint Lord of the Rings coins which are now worth around £40 which is good to know). Then there were deeper topics looking at serious things like religion and politics. I would have liked a little more about the later topics, but I suppose that might not have appealed so much to the target audience and I do have other books that discuss those things.

If anyone's a little bit obsessessed with interested in the Lord of the Rings, then I'd definitely recommend it as an interesting little read.

Book 100 of 2012: Christmas Eve at Swamp's End - Norman Duncan
Another of the many Christmas Kindle books I downloaded in the run up to Christmas. This tells the story about an orphaned teenager at Christmas who is desperate for a baby of her own. The teenager, Pattie Batch, knows of a mother who has several children already and proposes to take the latest addition off her hands, but is turned down. She's even made a little shawl for the baby that she is waiting for. Meanwhile, a local man finds a little abandoned basket which he takes to the local pub...

It was very short, only 27 pages. I took it to the bath with me and read most of it while I was in there, finishing it off in bed later in the evening. It was a nice quick little read and was a simple story. Honestly, I could relate to the character of Pattie. She's really yearning for a baby and has made a shawl for it, imagining what her baby will be like.

I couldn't help but want more from the story. It ends after Pattie has been given a very special gift for Christmas, but I wanted to know more about the backstory as well as what would happen next. Obviously it's set during a different time and things worked differently back then, but it would have been nice to know a little more about what came next.

It needn't have been a Christmas story, it could have been set at any time of the year. But it was a nice little addition, it was a sort of festive 'magic of Christmas' thing. Ignoring the little question marks about what came before and what happened next, it was a nice little quick read.

Book 101 of 2012: The Curious World Of Christmas - Niall Edworthy
This was a random book that I found when I was sorting out a box of books. I have no idea where it came from, I suspect it was popped into my stocking one Christmas, though I've never read it before. It's a collection of facts about Christmas, the origins of traditions with little stories from people in jobs various fields, about their experiences at Christmas.

It was a really interesting book. I love Christmas and I like hearing about the history behind the things that we do at Christmas time. I learned lots of things that I didn't know. It was also pretty funny. I couldn't help but read extracts out to the people I was with because it was so interesting that I couldn't help but share.

It was very well presented. The facts were arranged in boxes or in different fonts and styles, with little pictures beside them as well. The book was divided into various sections dealing with the traditions, the food, history and other bits. That meant that it was easy to back and find bits that I wanted to share with people. The one problem I did have was that the stories from people which interspersed the other sections was printed on grey pages and in some places had a picture behind it as well. That made it a little bit tricky to read, especially when I was in a darker room.

The addition of the bits from real people, with their (often unconventional) Christmases was pretty interesting too. I actually would have been interested in having a few more of them. There was a surgeon who managed to save a man's life on Christmas day, a Firefighter, a lifeboat man, a priest (who's dog ate almost all the Christmas dinner). They were interesting, because I think everyone tends to think that their Christmas Day routine is the best way to do it, so it's nice to see how other people celebrate Christmas.

This book was definitely aimed at adults as opposed to children, some of the facts leaned towards the more adult side of things. I think it would be good to share the facts with children but some are dealing with sex and stuff, hehe. I think I'll probably pull it out again in the future and remind myself of some of the little details.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Project 52: Week 1 - Hope

As I said on Sunday, I'm trying something a little different this year, as I successfully completed Project 365 last year (even if I did complete cock up my number of said photos). I became aware that I seemed to be posting a lot of photos that I had taken just for the sake of taking them, purely because I had to take a photo for the day.

Not that there's anything wrong with a bunch of iPhone photos, but it seems a bit boring after a while. Just as photos of whatever book I'm reading can be useful for when I'm posting a photo for my book review, but it's difficult to find something to say about them when you're ending up with one a week.

All the same, most weeks I've checked the BBC: We set the theme; you take the pictures page to see what the theme for the week has been. There have been a number of times when I've thought I'd take a picture and submit it, but just haven't gotten around to it.

Until now. I'm loosely following the themes that they suggest each week, and when I think I've gotten something okay, I might even submit it to see if it'll be featured. This week's theme is Hope and so I started out looking for words that said 'hope' in books, on cards and out and about. Then I opened the wardrobe and spotted a little bag tucked away in one corner and I was inspired.

I tried taking the photo several times during the week, but I was struggling because I was taking it during the evening when I didn't have any natural light so was having to use the flash. I didn't seem to be able to avoid a sort of blow-out on the light areas. I experimented with different layouts and positions for it, but then took the actual photo this morning when I would be around at mid-day when I'd have better light. It worked out well in the end because I had a sudden burst of inspiration and realised that blue and pink would make a better backdrop than just plain white.

Week 1: Hope
I thought these work well for the theme of Hope because I've kept them with the hope that some day we'll have a little pair of feet to fill them. They're so soft and tiny. I bought them when we started what could probably be termed 'our IVF journey', basically going over to the hospital to answer a bunch of questions after we'd been referred for IVF.

It's now been eight months since we went onto the list and we've still got another sixteen months to go before we're anywhere near the top of the list. That won't even be the start of the IVF, that'll be the start of checking that my body is okay for IVF, because the reason we can't conceive is due to something that will only get worse with time and in the two years we'll be waiting, changes could take place that will cause more delays. It's easy to feel a little bit hopeless at times, but I'm glad I've kept these little booties, they give me something to look forward to and a reminder of what we're waiting for.

As for the photo itself. It bothers me a little that there's a huge obvious wrinkle behind the booties. That's actually one of my t-shirts propped up on the windowsill and the pink is my nightie, hehe. It was a bit grey outside, so I couldn't get quite as much light as I would have liked. Looking at it now, I wish I'd gotten a bit of white paper to hold up on the left hand side to reflect some of the light back because it's a bit dark on that side.

Next week the BBC's theme is 'Skies', that'll be a bit tricky because 1) I live in Scotland and it's winter, which usually means that they sky is a murky sort of grey colour, and 2) it's still very dark on a morning before I go to work and it's pretty dark when I get home at night. All the same, I'm looking forward to the challenge of figuring out what my picture will be, and hopefully I'll learn something from my camera while I'm trying to get the sort of photo I want.

Or maybe I'll find another weekly photo challenge and do that week's challenge instead, hehe.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I've been cautiously looking forward to the film of The Hobbit ever since they first announced that it was going to be made, quite a few years ago. The Hobbit was one of the first books I remember reading at the age of six, and it's one that I've revisited regularly over the years. Since I was about sixteen I've made an effort to reread it each year.


Unfortunately, living on an island makes it a little tricky to get away to see films in the cinema. The days that I originally planned to go we had to cancel because the weather was bad and the boats were affected. In the end though, it was probably for the best, because we went on the 5th and it couldn't have been a more perfect day. And I discovered that by booking the cinema online, I saved 10% (and as we were seeing it in 3D that basically covered the cost of the glasses).

Now, just as a little warning, there will be spoilers in this post. If, like me, you've not had a chance to get to see it yet, I might give away something that you don't want to know. If that's the case, go and check the screenings at your local cinema and then come back to read this later.

I thought that the beginning of the film was very very clever. It's basically happening right at the beginning of Bilbo's party in The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo's got the same outfit on and puts up the sign on the gate as he leaves. It's a nice little way to tie everything together.

Martin Freeman as Bilbo is perfect. A little bit of me kept on seeing him as his character in Nativity! He does blustering very well. It's quite funny because while he was talking to Gandalf at the beginning, during the 'Good morning' exchange, I couldn't help but be reminded of Billy Boyd as Pippin in the Lord of the Rings films. When Gandalf mentioned that Bilbo's mother was Belladonna Took, I thought 'oh, that'll be it, it's the Took in him', hehe. I was obviously sucked in pretty quickly.

I was unsure about the Dwarves when I first heard about them making a film. In the books there are a couple who stand out; Thorin's the leader, Fili and Kili are the young ones, Bombur's the fat one, but otherwise they're kind of just a group of general dwarfness. But they were definite characters. Some have bigger or smaller roles, but I didn't have any trouble telling them apart and by the end of the film I could pick out pretty much who was who in each case. I especially loved that Gloin looked very similar to Gimli, that was a neat touch.

I was expecting to find Fili and Kili attractive, because, well, they're obviously designed to be the eye candy in this film. What was surprising was the fact that I found myself being slightly drawn to Thorin as well. I knew that Richard Armitage was hot from his time in Spooks, but I've never really thought of the Dwarves as good looking. He reminded me of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn and I think I might be developing a slight crush... I wonder if Mr Click will let me put a post up on the bedroom door like I used to during my Lord of the Rings days.

Speaking of Thorin, I did catch one little goof. During the bit when he has been thrown by the white Warg, his sword is blade up to his head and he struggles to reach it. When the eagle picks him up, it's lying on his body with the hilt by his head. It's probably just a little continuity goof, but it does make me wonder if maybe there will be an Extended Edition, it's probably fairly certain that there will be and I can't wait to see what's been left out.

My favourite scene was perhaps the Riddles in the Dark bit. It's my favourite chapter in the book and I've been half looking forward to, and half dreading, seeing how it will be tackled on the screen. I mean, on the one hand, it's a huge pivotal point in the story; on the other, it's two short guys with big feet quizzing each other. It was done so well though, even though I knew how it was going to end, it was just perfect and I think that's how I imagined it in the book, it's certainly how I'll be imagining it from now on.

And Gollum, well, maybe it was because we were seeing it in 3D, but he seemed better than ever. I completely forgot that I wasn't watching a real person, he seemed so real. Speaking of the 3D, I know it's been a bit divisive, but I loved it. It's only the second Real 3D film I've actually seen and it didn't take me long to get absorbed into it. We'll be going to see it in 2D locally soon and I'm curious to see how it compares.

There were obviously changes made from the book. I think I was probably more aware of them because I'm so much more familiar with this book than I was with The Lord of the Rings when I first saw The Fellowship of the Ring. I was a little bit worried about the addition of the White Council and Radagast, but it fitted in well. It's true to Tolkien because it's based on things in the other books and appendices, and it helps to flesh out the story as well.

I was also worried about what Mr Click would think of it. He enjoys watching the Lord of the Rings films with me (but often falls asleep and sometimes struggles to keep the plot straight). The Lord of the Rings is a more complicated story than The Hobbit, I think even with the added strands it's far more simple. The fact he enjoyed it, possibly as much as me, takes away all my worries that these were going to be a series of films which are aimed at fans of The Lord of the Rings. I quite hope that this will suck in some fans who may have been two young for the first trilogy.

The scenery was perfect. I think that everything was pretty much how I've imagined it. I'm really looking forward to Lake Town (to see if it's how I picture it when I read the book) and Mirkwood. I loved seeing Hobbiton and Rivendell again and lots of the walking was pure scenery porn which makes me want to go to New Zealand more than over. Actually, lots of it look just like Scotland which makes me look forward to our trip to Oban for my birthday that we're currently planning, because that involves driving through very similar scenery.

I'll wrap this up with a mention of one other little thing that made the film for me; the music. I'm so glad that Howard Shore scored this film again; from his interviews on the Lord of the Rings films it's clear that he's a fan and really understood how the story could be told with music. My heart soared when I heard the Hobbiton theme at the start of the film, the Ring's theme is there as well and then there's the new music for the Dwarves. They've got the dwarf songs in the film and the song for the end credits is definitely up there with May It Be, Gollum's Song and Into The West, I mean, just listen. (I've just ordered the Special Edition soundtrack, I can't wait for it to arrive).

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Project 365+1: The End

Somehow I've managed to misnumber my photos for my Project 365+1. I've definitely got 366 in the folder, but as I switched between different formats for labelling them, and took them from three different devices by the end of the year, it's gotten confused. Somewhere is a photo which has the same number twice, but I've scanned through and not been able to see exactly which one it is.

Suffice to say, these are the last two photos for 2012.

This was the last book I read last year. I was worried that I wouldn't get to finish it before the end of the year, so I was reading it until around 9:30pm while we were sat watching films and random things on TV. I'm still working on my book reviews, so hopefully I'll have a review of it up in the next couple of days.

And here we are at the end of the year! Hope everyone's had a good one, and that 2013 will be full of good times.
I'm planning on continuing Project 365 in the coming year, but I'm doing it with a slight twist this time. I'm still taking a photo every day, usually around something theme, but I'm only going to post one a week - the best one. Hopefully that should reduce the number of crappy iPhone photos I'm taking (but will still leave me with a good bank of photos to post when I'm wanting one for a post).

Saturday, 5 January 2013

They're Taking The Hobbits To Isengard

Or rather, my husband's taking me to Glasgow. To see The Hobbit. In 3D.

I can't wait! This seemed like a fitting video for the day (I've been singing it all week).

Thursday, 3 January 2013

2012 Book Catch Up, Books 97 - 98

Here we go, carrying on the catch up of my last year's reading so that I can hopefully get back on track with my reading reviews this year. Luckily the book I'm reading right now is The Fellowship of the Ring which should keep me going for a week or so, which gives me an opportunity to get these all churned out.

Book 97 of 2012: Winnie the Pooh - A.A. Milne
I've had this book for years but it's been ages since I last read it. I've got three different versions of Winnie-the-Pooh (a fancy hard cover illustrated copy, a cute little box designed to look like a cupboard with each story in its own individual little book, and the copy I chose to read which was I've had for as long as I can remember). It's always been on my bookcase so it was lovely to revisit it.

I kept on getting a little bit muddled between the books and the Disney films. This book didn't have Tigger in it, though I kept on expecting him to appear. While I was reading I was imagining the Disney version, I've got the original Winnie-the-Pooh movie on DVD so I think I'm going to have to dig it out and watch it now.

It's impossible to pick a favourite because they are kind of classics, but my favourites were the first one which introduces Winnie-the Pooh, the one about Eeyore's tail and the one about the 'expotition' to the North Pole. Reading it as an adult is interesting because you pick up on little things that you don't get as a child, like the sign on Piglet's house saying 'Trespassers Will'. I just didn't appreciate some of those little jokes which I'm sure were put there for the adults reading the stories to their children.

There are little snippets of poetry throughout the book and it's made me want to revisit some of A.A. Milne's poetry, so when I next rearrange my bookcase I'll have to dig out When We Were Very Young & Now We Are Six.

Book 98 of 2012: A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
For the last few years I've reread A Christmas Carol in the run up to Christmas. I used to try to read it on Christmas Eve, it was a good way to make myself fall asleep because I'd start in the early evening and not let myself go to sleep until I'd finished it. Now that's not really practical, so I have to try and get to it a bit earlier.

In the last few years I've read this in a different format each year; book, online using Project Gutenberg, on a free book 'game' on my Nintendo DS, and since I had a Kindle this year, it seemed logical to get a free ebook copy.

When I was reading it, we were in the middle of watching all our Christmas films and (no kidding) we have about six different versions of this, so I couldn't help but picture the various films we'd been watching. In some ways it was a bit distracting, but I suppose it shows what an enduring story it has become.

I've read this so many times that I've got favourite lines that I look forward to. In particular the line about 'more of gravy than of grave', it really disappoints me whenever an adaptation doesn't include it. I must have highlighted huge chunks of this book while I was reading it, just as well I was reading it on Kindle rather than in paperback.

It really just embodies the perfect Christmas story for me. It's short and it's familiar, as it's been adapted so many times, even if you've never read the book, you know the story. Even though I've read it so many times, every time I read it I feel like I notice something new or something that I've not seen before. I'd definitely recommend this to anyone who's never read it, and if you're read it before, go back and take another look at it. ;)

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Books of 2012 Catch Up Post, Books 94 - 96

Happy New Year everyone!

Let's hope that 2013 is as good as/better than 2012 (delete as appropriate).

I'm trying to get all caught up on my book reviews for 2012, seeing as I got a little bit behind. I had good intentions to get all caught up, but then failed slightly because I was too busy having fun during the Christmas break.

Book 94 of 2012: A Little Book for Christmas - Cyrus Townsend Brady
I could have sworn that I've already written a review for this, but apparently not!

This was a short collection of just a few stories which was written by a priest. In between the stories were also little poems as well as short essays, all with a general Christmas theme. It was a free download for the Kindle and I was looking for Christmassy stories I decided to give it a go, it was only 116 pages long so I was able to read it within a day.

It was a nice, quick little read, which was good. In the run up to Christmas I was trying to get through as many Christmassy books as quickly as possible and this fit the bill quite nicely. Due to its author, there was a strong religious theme to the stories. It didn't really bother me because it wasn't particularly preachy.

My favourite of the stories was about a Boy Scout who found himself on a stranded train carriage on Christmas Eve. In his attempt to get help he comes across so children who are in danger of freezing to death so he puts his Boy Scout skills to use to help save all of them. It was a bit cheesy, but you can get away with that at Christmas time. I think I might dig it out again in the future.

Book 95 of 2012: Spider Bones - Kathy Reichs
This is the thirteenth of the Temperance Brennan books and takes place all over the place, beginning with a dead body found in a lake in Canada, which links to someone who is believed to be already buried in America, which then takes Tempe out to Hawaii to investigate a military link.

I really enjoyed this one, which was a bit of a surprise, because when I realised that it wasn't taking place in North Carolina or Montreal I thought I would be disappointed. I just tend to prefer these books when they're not heading off to unfamiliar places and I suppose I'm still feeling stung by the one set in Israel. But despite my misgivings, I really got into this. Hawaii was a brilliant setting and I felt like I got a good feel for the place.

The books often throw in little references to TV programmes, in the last few ER, Cold Case and the assorted CSIs have all got a mention. This one threw me slightly with a throwaway reference to Bones. I mean, Bones is based on these books, it pulled me out of the story slightly because Bones is based on the book series and in Bones Temperance is writing a book series about Kathy Reichs, so how does the real life book series fit into this. I'm sure some people probably enjoyed the little nod to the TV series, but it really took me out of the moment while I tried to puzzle my way through a paradox.

The case/cases were quite complicated but I enjoyed them. They weren't so complicated that I couldn't follow them. I like to try and figure out what's happened and the how and why of the cases which I was able to do with this one. It's always satisfying when everything comes together and you realise that you were either right or at least on the right track.

This story also featured Ryan and his daughter Lily, as well as Tempe's daughter Katy (who we've not really seen that much of before). I enjoyed the interaction between the other characters and hope that we get to see more of them together in the future. My copy of this book had the first chapter of the next one, which seems to pick up pretty much where this one leaves off (within about a week of these events), and luckily I managed to find a copy in a charity shop a while back, so I'm looking forward to reading that.

Book 96 of 2012: The Little City of Hope, A Christmas Story - Francis Marion Crawford
Yet another of my selection of Christmas Kindle books. Rather than a series of short stories, this was a story about an inventor and his son. The inventor is trying to create a type of engine which he is ploughing all of his money into. It's the run up to Christmas and they've got very little money left to celebrate with, together they build a little model of the city where they used to live, while the inventor continues to work on his invention in the hope that he can get enough money for a Christmas celebration.

It was a nice quick little read, running to 214 pages. If you wanted to, you could probably read it in just one sitting. I liked the way that the story was told, though I'll admit that at the beginning I wasn't too sure whether or not it would be my sort of story. That led to me putting it down when, if I'd read another chapter or so I would've gotten into it.

The story was originally published in 1907 so it's over a hundred years old, but it doesn't really feel that dated. The author cleverly doesn't give away too many details about what the invention is that is being made, so it's all left fairly ambiguous. It obviously takes place in the past, but you could almost imagine it was taking place at any time in the last hundred years.

At times I felt like I knew what the ending was going to be, but there were moments when I wasn't so sure. There were two ways it could have gone and so there was an element of suspense in the end which was good, because I always feel a little disappointed when endings are really obvious.