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Search tags: 4th-of-July
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review 2018-07-20 06:40
The Italian Garden: Restoring a Renaissance Garden in Tuscany
Italian Garden: Restoring a Renaissance Garden in Tuscany - Paul Bangay,Cecilia Hewlett,Narelle McAuliffe

In 1967, while doing some shoring up of the outer walls surrounding the Pallazo Vaj, gorgeous frescoes from the 1400's were found hidden inside the wall (one assumes it was a double wall sort of thing).  This became the later inspiration for Monash University's restoration of the Pallazo's car park, back to the Renaissance garden it originally was.  This book is a chronicle, of sorts, of that "restoration".  Explanation of the quotes later.

 

First, let me say this book is gorgeous.  Beautiful in its construction, photography - all of it.   The writing was ... adequate.  Mostly written like University professors submitting committee reports, but on a subject so rich and interesting that, with the exception of one section, it's still easy reading.  (Not sure who Luke Morgan is, and I'm willing to bet he's a delightful, engaging person when he's at home, but his writing is nothing but pretentious gibberish.  I've read articles about quantum physicals that were less opaque and obscure.)

 

So, this book would make a lovely gift - but maybe not for a gardener.  The thing is, and this is my biggest disappointment, that while the book is beautiful, the garden is most decidedly not.  I realise beauty is entirely subjective, and I realise too that this garden needed to serve as a public space.  

 

But 80% of it is GRAVEL.  Hand to god, 80%. According to the book, there were only 4 types of plants used in the entire space: box (so. much. box), jasmine, magnolia and lemon.  Lovely plants, beautifully scented, but nothing else and EVERYTHING clipped to within an inch of its life.  Even the magnolias are forced into a Christmas tree shape.

 

This is the "restored" garden:

 

I'm pretty sure you could still use that as a car park, just sayin'. 

 

So, thus my rating.  Great book, decent writing, horrific garden.  Sorry Monash Uni, that's not a garden.

Source: www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwj59sKQ-azcAhVQ7mEKHSyOBWcQjB16BAgBEAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fartsonline.monash.edu.au%2Fexpectations-in-healthcare-testing%2Fevents%2F
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review 2018-07-20 06:23
The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions
The Inner Life of Cats: The Science and Secrets of Our Mysterious Feline Companions - Thomas McNamee

I'm going almost the full five stars on this because it's the best cat book I've read to date.  I've not read a ton, to be honest, but McNamee manages to capture both the science and the essence of the relationship between a cat and its owner.  He is undoubtedly a man coming at the subject with heartfelt appreciation and love for our feline overlords and his advice is rational, sound and passionate.

 

I learned a lot from this book.  I never knew that the sticking out of the tongue was a sign of friendship and acceptance; I always thought Easter-cat just left her tongue sticking out sometimes.  The front leg stretch isn't really a stretch, so much as it's a gesture of acceptance and friendship.  McNamee has me a little stressed out about Easter-cat's insistence on only eating dry food.  Small things like that, as well as much bigger issues like separation anxiety have given me much to think about. 

 

McNamee also talks about a lot of very sticky issues, especially regarding breeding, the cat's need to hunt, and the feral population problem that plagues communities around the world.  His overview of how Italy - specifically Rome - is tackling the issue is an inspiration, if not a complete solution.  I think he does a phenomenal job bringing home the basic idea that cats (and any pet for that matter) are not merely personal possessions or accessories; they are living creatures with as much right to quality of life and dignity as we might and arrogant humans so.

 

This book is a weaving of science and personal anecdotes about the author's cat, Augusta.  Those personal parts are brilliant, and sometimes nail-biting.  Full disclosure:  I flat-out skipped chapter 7 on sickness and death.  I'm a sissy, and the first 6 chapters convinced me that McNamee was going to write chapter 7 with at least as much passion and heartfelt sincerity and there aren't enough tissues in the world to get me through that chapter.

 

I knocked off half a star because some figures at the start seemed to fantastical to be true, and though there is a notes section at the back, those figures weren't cited, leaving me and others feeling distrustful of the data.  Otherwise, I thought this was a brilliantly written, fantastic resource for anybody who wants to be a better cat slave.

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review 2018-07-19 19:27
Changes / Jim Butcher
Changes (Dresden Files, Book 12) - Jim Butcher

Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it.

Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world...

He's fighting to save his child.

 

Jim Butcher must sit up nights thinking up ways to make Harry Dresden’s life miserable! Just when you think that his life can’t get any more complicated, Butcher dreams up worse things for him to deal with.

Susan Rodriguez returns to mess with Harry’s reality—and inform him that he’s a father and his little girl is in tremendous danger from the Red Court vampires. Harry has spent the last 11 books gathering friends, allies, and frenemies. He has to call on all of them, all his talents, all his anger & power, and all of his cunning to get through this tangle.

So Butcher throws everything into the blender and gives it a good whirl. There is a lot of action, a lot of blood, a lot of characters. I was happy to see the return of Butters and Toot-Toot. Also, it was great to have Mouse get to show off his powers. Harry makes a questionable deal in order to cope with the situation and gets assistance from unexpected quarters. The book ends on a cliff-hanger, so if you object to that sort of thing, consider having the next book queued up and ready to roll. Because, let’s face it, if you’ve read this far, you’re not going to quit now, are you?

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text 2018-07-19 16:44
The Bloodforged / Erin Lindsey
The Bloodforged: A Bloodbound Novel - Erin Lindsey

As war between Alden and Oridia intensifies, King Erik must defend his kingdom from treachery and enemies on all sides—but the greatest danger lurks closer to home…

When the war began, Lady Alix Black played a minor role, scouting at the edge of the king’s retinue in relative anonymity. Though she’s once again facing an attacking Oridian force determined to destroy all she holds dear, she is now bodyguard to the king and wife to the prince.

Still, she is unprepared for what the revival of the war will mean. Erik is willing to take drastic measures to defend his domain, even if it means sending Prince Liam into a deadly web of intrigue and traveling into the perilous wild lands of Harram himself.

Only the biggest threat to the kingdom might be one that neither Alix nor Erik could have imagined, or prepared for…

 

I know for a fact that I would have enjoyed this book much more if I had read the books in order. Unfortunately, I goofed—I read book 3 before this one and so I already had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. I’m usually a stickler for reading series in order and this experience just reinforces that habit!

I enjoyed this series and I liked the fantasy world that Ms. Lindsey created. Her system of blood magic, in particular, was novel (at least to me) and I thought it was effectively used. I enjoyed having a strong female lead character too. I just wish there had been a little less agonizing over decisions. Lady Alix, her husband Liam, and King Erik all seem to overthink and overanalyze everything and it get tedious after a while. Especially when they are leaders in all other ways.

I suspect that this is Lindsey’s way of letting you know that these characters are “good people.” It seems that good people are unsure and question themselves continuously, while the villains never question their actions or motivations.

I’m glad that I circled back and read book 2 despite that. Now I know the rest of the story, only alluded to in Book 3.

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review 2018-07-19 16:28
Even / Andrew Grant
Even - Andrew Grant

David Trevellyan is a Royal Navy intelligence operative who usually works undercover, sometimes with the approval of his masters—and sometimes not. On a seemingly normal evening, he takes a lonely late-night walk between a restaurant and his New York City hotel. A familiar huddled shape in the mouth of an alley catches his eye—a homeless man has been shot to death. Trevellyan steps forward…and a cop car arrives. A split second too late, Trevellyan realizes he’s been set up.

But Trevellyan isn’t worried. He’s a hard man from the shadowy world of Royal Navy Intelligence. He’s been in and out of trouble a thousand times before. But the NYPD quickly hands the problem to the FBI. Trevellyan is sucked deeper into the system. And the British Consulate tells him: You’re on your own now, mate.

With no idea who’s a friend and who’s a foe, he penetrates deep into a huge international conspiracy. The price of failure will be death, and the reward for success will be redemption, both for himself and the huddled corpse from the alley. The motivation will be his cherished life-long belief: You don’t get mad—you get EVEN.

 

***2018 Summer of Spies***

It’s nice when two different reading plans come together. I’m trying to read at least one book by each of the special guests coming to the When Words Collide conference in Calgary in August and I’m spending my summer concentrating on Spy fiction. So I was delighted to find out that Andrew Grant has written a spy trilogy.

If you are a fan of fantasy spy thrillers like The Bourne Identity or Ian Fleming’s fiction, I think you may also enjoy Grant’s adventures of David Trevellyan. If you lean more towards the John Le Carré or Len Deighton style, you may find this tale a bit ridiculous (as I did). Notably, this author is the younger brother of writer Lee Child of Jack Reacher fame (and he’s probably sick and tired of people pointing that out). Several years ago, my real-life book club read a Jack Reacher novel during our Year of Reading Fluff. We hooted with laughter, speculating about Reacher wearing his underwear inside out or backwards to make it last longer without a wash and were amused by the general unreality of his circumstances. In that regard, it is obvious that Grant and Child share DNA—you need to be expert at suspending disbelief to get into this one!

My biggest hurdle was the “evil genius” Lesley (a Bond type evil villain if there ever was one). This woman ran a supposedly intricate empire and kept her minions (all men) in line by threatening castration. In fact David Trevellyan actually witnesses one of these events about halfway through the book. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I was a guy I wouldn’t be working for someone who punished her employees this way. I’m thinking she would need an all-female staff, as men would be gone as soon as the possibility was mentioned.

So, this is spy-fiction lite, as much fantasy as espionage. Lots of action, lots of violence, not much relation to reality. Dick lit, as opposed to chick lit. I will be very interested to hear Mr. Grant’s thoughts at the conference in August.

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