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review 2017-10-20 08:00
Krakatoa
Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded - Simon Winchester

With Krakatoa Simon Winchester gives a very interesting account not only of the actual eruption of the Krakatoa and its immediate aftermath, but also spend a lot of time to set the scene and look into consequences of the eruption.

It was the first book I read by Simon Winchester and I enjoyed it a lot. Not everything was new information for me, but I liked the writing and the general pace of the book. I would recommend it.

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text 2017-10-20 04:21
Reading progress update: I've read 274 out of 371 pages.
Life: An Unauthorised Biography: A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth - Richard Fortey

Chapter IX - Monstrous and Modest

 

In this chapter Fortey finally gets around to discussing the dinosaurs that roamed the Earth during the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods. He describes how our representations and museum displays of these creatures have evolved over time and discusses their relationship with modern birds and whether they would have been cold- or warm-blooded. He also notes that the Cretaceous period saw the first flowering plants and digresses far too long on Darwin's house with its chalk walk.

 

Yes, two chapters in one day!

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review 2017-10-20 03:19
Years of Change (Upstairs Downstairs) - Mollie Hardwick

Before 'Downton Abbey', there was 'Upstairs, Downstairs.' This book, 'THE YEARS OF CHANGE', is based on an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs that takes the Bellamy Family and their servants at 165 Eaton Place from the spring of 1912 to August 1914. 

Once I began reading 'THE YEARS OF CHANGE' on the subway to work earlier this week, I didn't want to put it down. For all of its 239 pages, it was packed with some of the most lively, intense, and at turns joyous and tragic family drama that I've encountered in a novel for quite a while. The reader also gets full views of what the lives of both servants and their so-called 'betters' (i.e. the ones upstairs as represented by the Bellamy Family) were like in considerable detail. For instance, the Bellamy son, James, a rather restless, impatient and frustrated man who had left the Army (he had been an officer in India) to take up a job in London -with his father's help - with a trading company, had married a typist in haste after professing undying love to her. After the first few weeks of shows of passionate devotion and affection, the marriage settles into one of stultifying indolence. One couldn't help but feel sorry for Hazel, James' wife, who clearly deserved better. There is a scene at a hunting party in the countryside (to which James had been invited by one of his moneyed, propertied friends) in which all the invited couples had retired for the night after a day of hard riding and shooting. James was peeved at Hazel for having defied his edict that she not ride. But she had been urged on by Lady Diana Russell (who had fancied James for some time - but having been spurned by James when he was feverishly in love with Hazel, she settled for a marriage offer from another man of her class she didn't love) and several of her friends to join in the hunt. Besides, they assured Hazel they would have a placid-tempered horse for her to ride. Well, Hazel was given at the last minute a more spirited horse to ride, which gave her a fright and made her a spectacle before James and his conferes. Hazel suspected that James, having regretted married her, was awaiting his chance to steal away in the night to Lady Diana's room for some "horizontal refreshment." After all, under such circumstances, it was not at all unusual for the rich and privileged set in Britain to quietly swap partners overnight. So long as discretion was observed and maintained, there was no reason for complaint from an aggrieved husband, or cause for public scandal. 

"THE YEARS OF CHANGE" is packed with so much. I enjoyed becoming acquainted with the Bellamys, the young Lady Georgina Worsley (a distant relation of the elder Bellamy's newly arrived from a Swiss boarding school), the society in which they lived with all its complex social standards and rules, as well as the servants 'downstairs - Mr. Hudson, the head butler and manager of staff; Mrs. Bridges the cook; Edward, the footman; Daisy, the sweet assistant parlour maid he came to love; Rose, the head parlour maid; and Ruby, the loveable, well-meaning, and unassuming kitchen servant. This is a novel that, once you begin to read it, you'll probably find yourself staying up all night to reach the finish. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
 

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text 2017-10-19 23:52
Reading progress update: I've read 242 out of 371 pages.
Life: An Unauthorised Biography: A Natural History of the First Four Thousand Million Years of Life on Earth - Richard Fortey

Chapter VIII - The Great Continent

 

This chapter starts off with a digression about driving in the desert but moves on to discuss the signs of the passage of ancient glaciers in said desert and how all the continents were briefly joined as Pangea. Some of it was interesting but there really isn't much that was new to me other than some speculation about the die off in the Permian, which wasn't very satisfying (the explanation).

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text 2017-10-19 22:54
Reading progress update: I've read 34%.
Everest: Expedition to the Ultimate - Reinhold Messner

As I noted yesterday, parts of this book are really cringe-worthy. Other parts make me question whether Mt. Everest is of any size at all when compared to Messner's ego. 

Others still tempt me to pledge to dnf the book the very next time he tells us (YET AGAIN!) that he is climbing Everest without oxygen (because everything else is cheating).

 

And then you get to passages like this one (excuse the shoddy writing - like I said, the book needed an editor - or at least a decent translator):

I must get this second tent up. I do want to come out of all this, I do want to survive. One more time. So Ang Dorje and I climb out from the chaos, under the torn canopy, and try in the lulls of the storm, to erect a new tent. But over and again the gusts of wind get under the slack fabric and blow it up like a balloon. The tent is almost ripped from our hands. The storm drowns our cries; we cannot understand each other from as little as a couple of metres apart. We have to keep turning out of the wind to rub away the snow which is clogging up our eyes. Once I can see the utter ridiculousness of our situation, I relax a bit. Even towards death. It is too late for anything. The storm builds up into a hurricane. My skin feels as if it burns. The first blue-white tinges of frostbite appear on my finger tips and the end of my nose. I am chilled to the marrow although I am wearing a complete down suit. At last, after an hour, I crawl into the second tent. It sways, it flaps, but it holds. It holds, and I burst into tears.

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