Book review time

#blogjune has been spotty, but I have at least gotten some ideas that I want to write about. So, as long as I actually write them, it’s not been a waste.

I have tried to review every book that I’ve read this year, even if it’s only a line or two. Not that I’ve managed that, either.

Treachery at Lancaster Gate (Charlotte & Thomas Pitt, #31)Treachery at Lancaster Gate by Anne Perry

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

An interesting story – five police officers are given a tip-off about a possible opium deal. Rushing to the house, a bomb explodes, killing two and grievously wounding the other three. The bomber seems to be an addict revenging himself on behalf of a friend he believed falsely accused and hanged for the shooting of a bystander in an arrest gone wrong.

A fundamentally interesting story about possible police corruption (with strong modern resonances) is marred by Pitt’s long internal monologues. The dialogue, replete with an excess of exclamation marks and a tendency for characters to have ‘exclaimed’ rather than rely on the old ‘he said/she said), tended to come across as a preachy tirade. Consequently, the story felt poorly paced.

This was especially evident at the denouement – which look place in the courtroom – at which point the story ended. There was no sense of how the characters might react to how the events unfolded, nothing to tie the story up.

Fans of the series may also be disappointed that some of the characters that were more central in previous stories are reduced to cameo performances. This is the bare bones of an interesting story that felt rushed to meet deadlines.

View all my reviews

Advertisements

Not peace, but not war #blogjune

image

Nothing significant today. So hwre are two of our cats. ‘ScuseMe (on the left) is a new member of the household. His owner  (across the road) has new housemates, who have children and dogs.

Purrkins is still having none of it. Meanwhile, Loki was sunning himself out the front.

Significant Ending #blogjune

This weekend has mostly been listening to the ABC Classic 100 and trying to get my final assignment done. I’ve been doing an Advanced Diploma in Professional Writing at TAFE (which is also my employer) since the beginning of 2011. It was four years part-time (I’ve taken a little longer because I’ve had a few semesters where I’ve only done one subject (and one in which I did three).

I say ‘was’ because the longer course is being taught out (but there are still short courses on offer). One of the good things about it has been the variety. I’ve written short stories, short film scripts, poems, short biographies.  I’ve met some excellent writers, like Bill Marsh, Jude Aquilina, and Ashley Mallet (who also happens to be Australia’s best off-spinner since WW2). I’ve edited a couple of biographies. As a result, I’m researching two historical novels set in the later Roman Empire and turning my short biography (about cricketer Jim Kelly) into a book.

It’s been a fantastic experience, full of highs, and it’s coincided with some terrible lows. But yesterday I handed in my last assignment for my last module. So, assuming I pass, it’s all over. It’s not as big a moment as finishing uni, but it feels significant to me.

Audio books and reading #blogjune

So, apart from semantics, is listening to an audiobook the same as reading? The question is only important to me because I set myself a Goodreads target each year, and some of those are audiobooks. Given that I do about 15-16 hours of commuting per week, at also means a lot less time to kick back and read with my eyes.

As you might expect reading with the eyes affects the brain slightly differently to reading with one’s ears. According to Eric Jaffe, we are more easily distracted when we listen. Indeed, it seems that if you’re eye-reading, you concentrate better when you read out aloud. I don’t especially like ear-reading while doing other things so that I don’t get distracted. This includes driving in traffic – I’d much rather listen to the radio.  Most of my driving is on country roads with little traffic, so really it’s a case of watching out for the odd kangaroo.

I had a cassette recorder as a kid and can remember borrowing things like Kipling’s Just So Stories, plugging in an ear jack, and listening away after it was time to turn out the lights. So I find something quite comforting in being read to. And, while eye-reading lets you imagine speech, intonation, and so on, a masterful reader can spice things up wonderfully.

And our stories once were told orally. These guys have a short podcast on what the differences between ear-reading and eye-reading, and why the former isn’t a short-cut.

 

Tonight I start first-time ear-reading of an old favourite.

 

 

#blogjune – A “#classic100 weekend

Today was the final part of ABC Classic FM’s Top 100. This year it was the baroque and before. As always, listeners got to vote for 10 pieces. I had decided not to vote for pieces by Bach or Handel because:

1) they would be popular anyway

2) one could easily pick 10 pieces from just either of these composers

I was pleased to see two Hildegard of Bingen pieces, though I was disappointed not to see Gaudete, by Anon, that most prolific of composers. It was the first piece of music that I ever heard Steeleye Span perform, and they have been my favourite band now for nearly 30 (?!?) years.

We didn’t get to hear as much of it this year with various family events, so it didn’t have quite the intensity for us that previous years have had. One of the events was my father-in-law’s birthday, and we have justr returned from there having had a couple of very nice wines. One was a Tim Adams Clare Valley Pinot Gris. The other was a fundraiser vintage made from 11 different grape varieties and was absolutely delightful.

Mixed Blessing 2009

I hasten to add that I don’t admire Churchill’s politics. However, having visited the Churchill Museum in London late last year, I got an appreciation of the breadth of his interests.

The annual Classic 100 selections make me realise how grateful I am that we have an excellent public broadcaster that has helped broadened my cultural horizons. I didn’t grow up with classical music, and the ABC has enriched my life in more ways than mere words can express. There is a quote doing the rounds that Winston Churchill opposed cutting arts expenditure during WW2 which unfortunately is inaccurate (though the sentiment behind it may not be). But he did say in 1938 that:

“The arts are essential to any complete national life. The State owes it to itself to sustain and encourage them….Ill fares the race which fails to salute the arts with the reverence and delight which are their due.”

Of course, I don’t love every program that graces SBS or the ABC, but I don’t expect it to, and don’t begrudge funding things that I myself am not interested in. But the arts and culture seems today to be unimportant, even though wee can spend huge sums of money locking up asylum seekers, and keeping them away from our shores by cloaking such efforts in ANZAC garb by calling it Operation Sovereign Borders. It seems to me that we have become a very mean-spirited people. Encouraging people to produce art and music and encouraging fine food is infinitely more useful than encouraging a nation of property and financial speculators. Art and food and culture can bring people together, even in difficult times. Indeed, this is when they are most at need. I hope that in the future we don’t have our Top 100 cut to a Top 80 or 90.

#blogjune Downtime and Rugby

I had thoughts of comparing a very ordinary and cheap pub dinner with a good quality lunch today and then tie it in with what I love about France and the importance they place on good quality food. But I haven’t. We had a nice relaxing day, and I think that we both needed a bit of downtime.

As much as I do like France though, I was pleased by tonight’s rugby result. 50:23 looks comprehensive, though I wasn’t sure that the Wallabies were quite as brilliant as the scoreline would indicate. But an encouraging start. Maybe this year the Bledisloe Cup returns to Australia?