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2018 reading with PGMCC - Chapter II

This is a continuation of the topic 2018 reading with PGMCC - Chapter I.

The Green Dragon

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Edited: Oct 20, 6:31pm Top

Read in 2018

Title Author Status Start/end date
Gladiators, Pirates and Games of Trust by Haim Shapira Reading 08/08/2017-
Confessions of the Pricing Man by Hermann Simon Reading 25/09/2017-
Who Rules the World? by Naom Chomsky Reading 20/10/2017-
A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston Reading 30/12/2017-
The Severed Streets by Paul Cornell Read 12/01/2018-06/02/2018 400pages
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro Abandoned 08/01/2018-25/01/2018 38pages
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers Reading 07/02/2018-
Confusion by Stefan Zweig Read 10/02/2018-14/02/2018 150pages
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens Reading 14/02/2018 - 13/03/2018 360pages
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. 13/03/2018 -
Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan 30-03-2018 - 08/04/2018 470pages
Only the Dead Can Tell 2018Apr
The Quiet American 2018May
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett ? - 17/05/2018 214pages
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens 18/05/2018-08/07/2018

Buried Shadows by John Howard 09/07/2018-
The Leopard 12/07/2018 -30/07/2018 270pages

Write to the Point by Sam Leith. 31/07/2018 - 24/08/2018 271pages
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw 24/08/2018 - 04/09/2018 353pages
Dubliners by James Joyce 05/09/2018 - 20/09/2018 160pages
Dune by Frank Herbert 20/09/2018 - 06/10/2018 550pages.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson 06/10/2018 - 15/10/2018 155pages
The Green Man's Heir by Juliet E. McKenna 15/10/2018- 20/10/2018 365 pages

Edited: Jun 3, 6:07pm Top

Currently reading Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, a weighty tome of some 769 pages excluding notes and introduction.

I am just over 200 pages into the book and enjoying the humour, characters and the language. As with Dickens' other works he is highlighting important issues of the day (many of which are still relevant today) but he does it in such an interesting, convolute and humorous fashion, it is hard not to read Dickens with a straight face and it is impossible not to smile, if not laugh out loud, with the turns of phrase he uses and the situations in which he puts his characters.

I think works by Dickens have become comfort reading for me.

Jun 4, 8:12am Top

Hi Peter and happy new thread to you.

I'm glad you're enjoying NN. You're absolutely right about smiling and laughing out loud.

Edited: Jun 4, 4:09pm Top

>3 karenmarie: You had no small part in my catching the Dickens bug.

Thank you!

Edited: Jun 19, 5:03pm Top

A funny thing happened to me on my way to the Forum. Well, not on my way to the Forum, but when I was searching for a book on LibraryThing that had been recommended by a colleague. The book is The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.

When I clicked through to the book page I noticed there were five books recommended for me "based on my books". These books were:

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco,

The Bridge Over the Drina by Ivo Andric,

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco,

The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hasek,

and, Q by Wu Ming (or Luther Blisset)

"So what", I hear you say, "is so funny about that?"

Well, the recommendations are based on the books I have. As it happens, I have, and have read, all these books, and have given all of them FIVE STARS.

A cheap stunt, you might say, by recommending five books that the system has recorded my five star ratings for. I would rather think of it in a more positive light. I presume the system is recommending books that I might like if I read and liked The Leopard, the book that I was enquiring about. Taking the reverse view of this, if I liked, and to be honest I loved, the five books on the list, then it is a safe bet that I will like The Leopard.

I believe I have received a book bullet from my colleague. (He is the CEO actually, so I should really take his recommendation, even if it is a crap book.)

I guess I know the next book I shall be buying.

P.S. I strongly recommend those five books.

Jun 19, 5:13pm Top

Oh my. Those all look very interesting. Maybe I can sprinkle some of them in this year. I'll confirm the bullets as I get to them.

Edited: Jun 19, 6:30pm Top

>6 Jim53: Just let me know how many notches to mark up. :-)

By the way, in relation to Q, it was written by an Italian writing collective who brought it out under the pen name, Luther Blissett, an English soccer player (whom I had never heard of). Their subsequent books were brought out under the name, Wu Ming, which is the name they used for their group. I understand it is the Mandarin for, "No Name", or "Anonymous". The other books of theirs that I have read, and loved, are, 54, Manituana, and Altai. I particularly recommend 54.

Jun 22, 9:44am Top

This was not my intention. It happened by pure fluke; a stroke of luck; a random, fortuitous event. I did not plan it at all. Honestly!

Last week I was getting ready for work and put on a suit that I have not worn for a few months. On checking my pockets I discovered a small piece of card. It turned out to be a folded piece of card. It was a folded piece of card containing an "UNUSED" book token. It was one I received as a gift for my birthday last year. I had forgotten it was there.

Now, what am I to do with an unused book token and a free weekend?

Suggestions please, on a postcard, address to...



The Happy Bunny!

Jun 22, 12:38pm Top

What's a book token?

Jun 22, 1:53pm Top

Oh dear!

It is a gift card dedicated to the purchase of books.

Do they not exist in the USA?

Jun 22, 2:27pm Top

I would use a token for the subway or bus. Barnes & Noble has gift cards

Jun 22, 2:54pm Top

>8 pgmcc: - new books! Lovely, I hope you have something in mind! Are the tokens for a defined money amount, or for a single book?

Jun 22, 3:06pm Top

>12 NorthernStar: It is for 60 euros. I bought two discounted Graham Greene books with it yesterday leaving me with 52 euros on it.

>11 suitable1: Book tokens have been available here as long as I remember. It was always a wonderful gift to receive; a birthday card with a book token in it. In those days it was a piece of paper with an amount printed on it. Nowadays the gift card technology is used. They are still called book tokens. You can get them for any amount and the general book tokens can be redeemed in any bookshop for any books, as long as there is sufficient credit on the card.

Being let loose with a book token is guilt free book buying. What on this Earth could be better than that?

Jun 22, 7:41pm Top

>13 pgmcc: I've always been appreciative of book tokens as a gift form... They've resulted in many happy purchases over the years.

Jun 22, 10:22pm Top

I find it interesting that you can use it in a variety of bookstores, rather than at a single vendor. There must be some way for all the stores to recover the funds. Impressive, actually.

Jun 24, 10:10am Top

I wish we had something like that!!! I'm afraid to give Barnes & Noble gift cards these days.

Jun 24, 6:16pm Top

O_O Need America to implement book token. NOW! I suppose the closest we have would be an all-purpose Visa gift card, which can be used at any vendor, not just for books.

Jun 24, 9:50pm Top

Book tokens sound wonderful! What a delightful thing!

Jun 25, 3:43am Top

The most wonderous thing about book tokens is that you can only spend them on books. There is no opportunity to feel guilty about not using the token to buy other things. Total freedom to indulge in guilt-free book procurement. Bliss!

Jun 25, 9:04am Top

>19 pgmcc: That's what I was thinking. When you get the cards you can spend on anything, so many mundane things come to mind, like gas for the car, or groceries, or something you can share with others.

Jun 26, 6:46am Top

Still making my way through Nicholas Nickleby. The slow progress is due to limited reading time rather than lack of enthusiasm. I am finding the book fascinating and love Dickens’ sense of humour. I still find myself stiffling out-loud laughs on the bus.

Jun 26, 6:47pm Top

>21 pgmcc: Nicholas Nickleby is one of my favourite books. If you can find it, I also highly recommend the filmed version of the 8 hour Royal Shakespeare Company stage play, featuring Roger Rees as Nicholas. It's brilliant.

Edited: Jun 26, 11:55pm Top

>22 tardis: I shall try to hunt it down.

I suppose that counts as a DVD bullet from you.

Edited: Jun 28, 6:01pm Top

I am faced with the reading traveler's dilemma; I have 60 pages left to read in the 770 page edition of Nicholas Nicklbey and I am flying to France tomorrow. Do I take the thick book with me for the sake of the last 60 pages or do I leave it behind and finish it on my return? If I take it with me then I shall need something else to read so I will need a second book.

Answer: Of course I am going to take it with me. It has been, and continues to be very amusing.
ETA: ...and of course I am taking another book. No real bibliophile would consider it a burden to carry two books.

Jun 29, 4:56am Top

>24 pgmcc: Wot? Only two?

Edited: Jun 29, 5:49am Top

>25 hfglen: I am travelling with only one small carry-on bag. It is a budget airline that sells you cheap tickets but charges you for every little extra.

On the other hand, I did drive to France (via ferry lest you are tempted to crack a joke about a road link to the continent) and my wife still has the car there along with a little collection of books I brought over at that time.

How are you keeping?

Are you feeling back to normal but constrained by rules and prohibitions?

Jun 29, 6:31am Top

Thank you for your concern, Peter. You are quite correct: I feel normal, but am chafing against the rules and limits -- and only get to see Himself this time next week, so no hope of getting limits raised till then, and I fear precious little chance even then.

Jul 17, 5:11pm Top

>27 hfglen: Hugh, I had typed lengthy post in response to your post #27 and I thought I had saved it, but on my next visit to the thread I realized I obviously had made a Boo! Boo!. My excuse is I was using my telephone in another country to post and somehow it got lost. I shall attempt to replicate its main content here.

Your rules and limits reminded me of what happened my father in the 1970s. He had a few chest pains and the doctor insisted that he lose weight. He was put on a strict diet and was told he could not eat any bread. My Dad loved his bread so he pleaded with the doctor to be allowed eat some bread. The doctor, being a kind and soft-hearted man, relented and allowed my father to eat one quarter slice of bread a day, without butter.

After the initial shock my father started to acclimatize himself to the notion of only having one quarter slice of bread a day, without butter. The upshot was my father saving his quarter slice of bread until supper, which in our house would have been at any time from 10pm to 1am, which was consumed before people started to retire to bed. (I know it is not the healthiest approach to eating but we were all in the habit of having tea late at night and perhaps a biscuit, or a bit of cake, or a piece of tomorrow's roast and gravy if it was ready.)

This resulted in what can only be described as a ritual. The table would be set for supper; the tea pot brought out to the table; and my father would take his place sitting on his favourite stool. There would be a solemn procession from the kitchen as my father's piece of bed was carried out on a plate and placed at my father's place. He would then enjoy his savoured moment and consume the bread with relish, and I do not mean the sort you spread over things.

I hope you are feeling the benefit of your abstinence and discipline. Keep well.

Edited: Jul 17, 5:24pm Top

I have been remiss in posting with having been away on training programmes/secret mission holidays, being very busy at work, and having a very active time at home.

A quick update on recent reading, to be repeated in more detail at a more relaxed time.

Nicholas Nickleby was super. I finished it and want to extract some of the things I learned while reading it. The whole of Chapter II was a description of the machinations and hype around the launch of a new share offering and it could have been the setting up of a new web company. The same promotional techniques were used as are used today with the technology being the only exception.

Buried Shadows by John Howard is a wonderful collection of weird short stories. I brought this on holiday and have read about half of the stories. I find them truly wonderful but they must be read slowly. I found that I could not finish one story and go right onto the next. I had to put the book down for a few hours, or even a day or so before starting the next story. They are very evocative, thought provoking, and a joy to read.

The Leopard was recommended by our Chief Executive. Being the lackey that I am I investigated. The fruit of my investigation is documented in post #5 above. Needless to say, I sought out and acquired this book. (I used some of the credit on my birthday book-token so it was bought in a totally guilt-free fashion. I wonder if one acquires a book in a guilt-free fashion can it really be considered a book purchase that can be set against one's Thingaversary obligation. Debate for another day.)

I am about 70 pages into the book (length, 260pages) and am loving it. Historical fiction with a lesson about politics, influence, revolution, change that keeps everything the same. A wonderful book.

Now I am heading to bed and hope to see you all again soon.

Night! Night!

Jul 17, 6:04pm Top

>29 pgmcc: Thanks for the update, and we would love to see some secret mission holiday photos!

PS I am convinced I need more Dickens in my life. NO PUN INTENDED! ;o)

Edited: Jul 18, 5:35am Top

>30 clamairy: I shall look into the clearance of the classified material you are requesting.

I shall get on to that in the next couple of days. Photos will most likely involve Tin Tin, hummingbird hawk moths, and the occasional avian neighbour.

Edited: Jul 18, 10:29am Top

>29 pgmcc:

What, exactly, composes an "active time at home"? Enquiring minds!

Jul 18, 11:41am Top

>32 suitable1: ummmm? Fixing leaks in the plumbing. Planning a bathroom refit. Watching the formerly green grass and plants turn brown in the drought.

Jul 18, 11:44am Top

>33 pgmcc:

Oh! I was imaging something more fun.

Jul 18, 11:52am Top

>34 suitable1: I know you were.

Edited: Jul 18, 11:59am Top

So, how's your back these days?

Jul 18, 1:08pm Top

>36 suitable1: My back is doing fine, thank you for asking. I just have to be careful when I am being active...at work or at home.

Jul 18, 3:29pm Top

>37 pgmcc: No more lawnmower wrestling matches I take it?

Jul 18, 3:48pm Top

>38 clamairy: I let the boss do all the wrestling matches.

Jul 18, 5:43pm Top

>30 clamairy: Here you will find some of the classified documents you were looking for.

Some of our training equipment

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Damsel in distress. Well, not really in distress; more at the side of a lake.

The country cottage. We call it Chateau Cheverny.

Jul 18, 8:57pm Top

Bravo! I love the mix!

Jul 19, 8:53am Top

>40 pgmcc: Now everyone will want to join the secret services.

Jul 19, 11:37am Top

>42 MrsLee: MrsLee, shshshshsh!

Edited: Jul 31, 6:03pm Top

There's room for all of us in the summer cottage.

Jul 31, 5:51pm Top

For those of you interested in live action espionage games the link below will bring you to a website where you can sign up for games designed to test you skill as a spy. It is based around The Circus, John Le Carré's head quarters for his British Secret Service. The games are designed as tests of potential recruits.


Let me point out, this is not a real MI6 recruitment campaign. It most certainly is not. It is just a bit of fun. Yes, just a bit of fun. There is no way this is a spy recruitment exercise. There isn't. No way! Definitely not.

Aug 6, 8:42am Top

>45 pgmcc: Riiiiight.

Aug 6, 9:51am Top

>46 MrsLee: Shall we they be seeing your application for the scouting exercise games?

Aug 7, 8:58am Top

Let's see. Trench coat, check. Code book, check. Martini, check.

Aug 7, 10:38am Top

>48 MrsLee: I see you have had spy-craft training before.

Edited: Aug 21, 9:24am Top

On our weekend trip to Donegal the weather was not conducive to taking beautiful landscape pictures, so I ended up taking some shots of the currently resident wildlife.

In this picture you will see mallard ducks just off the near shore, followed by two black swans with their three cygnets, a cormorant sticking its head out of the water in the mid distance, mute swans forming a line further out, and geese near the far shore.

This picture shows a flight of geese arriving. About four hundred geese arrived at the lake over the weekend. They joined several hundred who have been arriving for the past week.

Grianan Aileach (http://www.megalithicireland.com/Grianan%20of%20Aileach.html) is looking spooky with these ominous clouds. The ring fort is believed to date back to the first century.

Three hares came out to watch the cows graze. Exciting stuff.

This magpie was too lazy to fly or walk so it hitched a lift on the back of a local sheep.

On a more domestic note, this cow just munched away, chewing the cud.

Aug 20, 10:07pm Top

>50 pgmcc: very nice! Although are you sure that's a cormorant? Looks kinda like Nessie.

Aug 20, 10:22pm Top

>51 Jim53: I thought the same when I first spotted it but decided to avoid controversy.

Aug 21, 9:13am Top

>50 pgmcc: The epitome of "bucolic." A lovely place, and so unexpected for spy work.

Aug 21, 9:25am Top

>53 MrsLee: No one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Aug 23, 8:49am Top

Hi Peter!

Lovely photos, especially the layered one with 5 varieties of birds. Of course the magpie on the sheep is quite special, too. I recently saw a magpie for the first time when I was visiting a friend in a different part of the US.

Aug 23, 9:10am Top

>55 karenmarie: Hi, Karen.

I hope you are keeping well. Thank you for your comments on the pictures. I had fun taking them.

Edited: Aug 25, 11:52am Top

I have finished Write to the Point by Sam Leith and I have given it a five star rating. I would never have thought I would enjoy reading a book about grammar and punctuation so much. He tried to strike an informal conversational style and he succeeded. Well worth a read for English language writers on either side of the Atlantic. Leith deals with usages from both sides without prejudice or malice. :-)

Edited: Aug 24, 6:55pm Top

I have started reading Strange Practice. I am only a few pages in and am enjoying it.

Aug 27, 9:30am Top

>57 pgmcc: It may be that that one needs adding to the wishlist!

Aug 27, 10:02am Top

>59 Peace2: I certainly found it entertaining. I found myself making time to pick it up and read it. There are not many grammar books that would have that effect on me, or anyone else I know for that matter.

It also gave me a pleasant Twitter moment. I am not a frequent user of Twitter but when I reached the half-way point in Write to the Point I thought I would see if Sam Leith was on Twitter and if so let him know I was enjoying his book. When I searched for him a 2015 post appeared. It was announcing the publication of "Write to the Point". I thought he does not use Twitter much but I shall leave him message on the off-chance that he might pick it up.

Within a minute of my posting he had Tweeted a thank you and followed me. That made my day. :-)

Aug 27, 10:05am Top

>60 pgmcc: I love hearing stories of authors who acknowledge their readers - makes me appreciate them even more.

Aug 28, 5:02am Top

>58 pgmcc: Strange practice has caught my eye a few times in bookstores. I will await your thoughts on it with interest.

Edited: Aug 28, 8:53am Top

>62 Sakerfalcon: I picked up Strange Practice some time ago with the thought that it could be good fun or dreadfully terrible. Someone in the GD mentioned reading it and enjoying it and starting the author's next novel. That was enough for me to dig it out and start reading. I am about 45 pages in and enjoying it. It is well written and the characters are entertaining. Many of them are taken from traditional Gothic stories which adds an extra appeal.

ETA: Word of warning. I did spot one irritant. The main character drives a mini: in one scene she opens one of the back doors of the car. Aaaaaaarrrrrggggggghhhhh!

I forgave her, but I am watching.

Aug 28, 9:51am Top

>63 pgmcc: A proper Mini or the current, bloated version?

Aug 28, 10:01am Top

>64 hfglen: There were no pictures so I cannot tell. It was referred to as a car that was not worth stealing so it could be either. :-)

Aug 28, 12:07pm Top

I asked because the current, bloated version one sees around here has 4 doors. I would rate is as "not worth stealing" other than as an example of a design that's lost its way and its point.

Aug 28, 1:14pm Top

>66 hfglen: After your query I googled mini cars and was disgusted to see four-door abominations appear in the mix of images. I think you would agree that if a car has four doors it could not possibly be a real mini.

Aug 28, 9:42pm Top

Forgive me for what may be a silly question, but isn't the major selling point of a mini the way that it fits into ridiculously small parking slots? Is it really relevant the number of doors?

Don't mind me. I'm just here to provoke discussion.

Aug 28, 10:33pm Top

>68 jillmwo: Yeah, the 4 door ones are not Minis. Oh, they're called MINIs, because BMW bought the marque, but they're both wider and longer than a proper Mini, which is a very small, two door car with a tiny boot in the back. Proper Minis fit in small places, need a certain amount of babying to keep them running, and are ridiculously fun to drive. The BMW version of the Clubman is practically an SUV.

There are variations on the standard Mini - there's a tiny woody station wagon, a van (like the station wagon except with no windows in the back), a pickup truck, the moke (like a beach buggy), and a few others.

My husband loves Minis; he has 4 at the moment. They are proper Minis, from the 1960s, complete with ineffective defrosters and dodgy Lucas electrics. Three are in running condition, one is waiting for restoration. He also has a Wolseley Hornet (kind of like a Mini), a Ford Cortina (British Ford), and a Saab Sonnet.

Aug 29, 1:04am Top

Many years ago, I learned to drive in a Mini with an instructor (driving a much larger car at home with my Dad) - it was a real Mini (as in small and two door!) and I used to panic every time he picked me up at the bus station that the buses couldn't actually see us because we were too small! It was a relief to pass my test and not need to go in them again. SMART cars give me the same impression nowadays (although they seem to be driven here by much worse drivers than the Minis were).

Aug 29, 6:11pm Top

>69 tardis: I may be mis-remembering this but wasn't there also something about Minis being able to kind of deflate their tires and sink down, once parked? I would swear that I watched somebody's Mini do that in a parking spot in Amsterdam. The whole conference room gathered at the window to watch.

>70 Peace2: Yes, that would be a really unnerving aspect if driving in an urban setting.

Aug 29, 10:38pm Top

>71 jillmwo: On-purpose tire deflation is not a feature that I've ever seen - certainly not in any of my husband's Minis. I'm having trouble seeing an advantage to it :)

>70 Peace2: Smart cars are everywhere here - the difference between them and Minis is that they're a lot taller, so visibility is better.

I learned to drive a standard transmission in a Mini - when I dinged the fender in a parking lot and my instructor (also my boyfriend) didn't go ballistic, I knew he was the guy for me. I was right - still together after all these years :)

Edited: Aug 30, 4:05am Top

>72 tardis: That is true love.

My wife asked me to teach her to drive. I have always maintained that it is a bad idea for one partner in a relationship to attempt to teach the other partner to drive as there are so many potential landmines. I attempted to teach her but my efforts only stretched to two lessons after which we both agreed I was right and, for the sake of our relationship, she should get a professional driving instructor to complete her driving education.

Lesson 1: On a wide, firm-sand beach while the tide was out.

My wife was driving along the beach and started to steer towards a tree stump that was sticking out of the sand. I suggested she steer away. She continued to narrow in on the tree stump. I said brake. The car did not slow down. I said brake again, probably a little louder. "I did" replied my wife.

I managed to grab the steering wheel and the car veered past the tree stump. With the hand brake and my wife taking her feet off the pedals we managed to stop the car with a jerk. It was still in gear.

Post Lesson 1 analysis:

Me: "Why were you steering towards the tree stump? Why did you not steer somewhere else?"
My wife: "There was nothing else to steer towards."
Me: "Why did you not brake when I asked you to?"
My wife: "I did."
Me: "Your foot was not on the brake."
My wife: "I had put my foot on the brake to turn it on. It works like a switch, doesn't it?"

Lesson 2: On a local road.

Approaching a junction at which we intend turning left. (Cars are on the left side of the road here so we were not crossing traffic.) We were travelling at 30 miles per hour.

My wife indicated, turned left...without slowing down. We took the corner on two wheels and luckily did not flip over.

Me: "Why did you not slow down to take the corner?"
My wife: "I did not realise you were supposed to. I thought the speed limit was 30 mph."

Having just recovered from the 30mph left turn we came to a roundabout. My wife enters the roundabout without giving way to the traffic already on the roundabout. Horns blown. Lights flashed.

Me: "What...What...What...did you do that for?"
My wife: "I remember being in France and the driver was trying to remember the rules there for roundabouts and kept repeating, 'Give way to cars joining the roundabout. Give way to cars joining the roundabout. Give way to...'. I remembered that and as I was joining the roundabout the other drivers should have given way to me."
Me: "That was an old rule in France. It was never a rule here. We give way to traffic on the roundabout."

Lesson 3: Never happened.

Edited: Aug 31, 4:49pm Top

Oops! Another couple of slip-ups by Vivian Shaw in Strange Practice. In adjoining pages she had two of the main characters using verbs that did not match their subject in number. One might forgive this in reported speech from two modern day characters who would frequently make such a mistake in this day and age, but the two characters who made these mistakes are centuries old aristocrats who would rather die than use incorrect grammar. That is shoddy. I am really enjoying the story but it was disappointing to be tripped up by such uncharacteristic word usage. Vivian was not consistent in her characters' personae. I understand how Meredy felt when reading A Gentleman in Moscow and coming across the use of millennia rather than millennium.

Aug 30, 8:18pm Top

>73 pgmcc: I'm glad you survived this experience. It sounds a lot like when I tried to teach my wife to play bridge. We decided we'd rather stay married.

Aug 31, 12:20am Top

>71 jillmwo: I've never seen a Mini do that - but do remember Citroens used to have a sort of sinking suspension when they parked, (something to do with a smoother driving experience on bumpy roads), so the car would drop (slowly) when parked up. I don't think they do it anymore. If I remember correctly it used to be really noticeable on the 2CVs (a strange car if you ask me - a friend drove one and it had this release where you could open the bottom of the windscreen on I guess a hinge when you wanted to demist the screen or I guess have more air through the car!)

Aug 31, 4:15am Top

>76 Peace2: I remember the Citroen C4 suspension with its pump. When you turned on the engine the pump activated and the car rose, only to sink back down when the engine was turned off.

Aug 31, 4:16am Top

>75 Jim53: I am not quite sure which is more life threatening, teaching a partner to drive or teaching to play bridge. I can see arguments for both cases.

Aug 31, 5:43am Top

>76 Peace2: I once had an acquaintance who drove a long-since-obsolete Citroen (DS, I think) around the nature reserve in Swaziland where she worked. As she didn't worry too much about whether there was a road or even a track under the car, the hydraulics leaked. And the "green blood" it needed to rise up before takeoff was almost unobtainable in Swaziland. This made her guided tour of the reserve an, er, interesting experience (though the scenery was and for all I know still is, breathtaking).

Aug 31, 6:33am Top

>73 pgmcc: LOL, I enjoyed your driving lesson stories. Did the professional instructor look a little shell-shocked after each of your wife’s lessons? :)

Aug 31, 8:10am Top

>80 YouKneeK: She had her lessons while I was at work so I never got to see the condition of the instructor.

In the end she passed her test first time, so there was a happy ending.

Come to think of it, I did not get to see the condition of the examiner either.

Aug 31, 8:47am Top

>73 pgmcc: The secret to a long and happy marriage, is knowing when NOT to work together. :) Mark and I discovered that very early when we tried to put together an antique Knockdown Wardrobe. A closet which fit together like a puzzle, and really did take two people to assemble, but was demonic in nature. We kept it until our fifth move (I can't remember how it ever got assembled, not by us as a team, that's for sure) and then passed it along to my brother and his wife. For all its beauty, I wasn't sad to see it go. It never functioned well as a closet for us, being too narrow for modern hangers.

We can work beside each other, on our own projects; he grilling the meat, me working on the rest of dinner. Things like that.

Curious. Who taught your kids to drive?

Aug 31, 9:21am Top

>82 MrsLee: My eldest daughter has had lessons from an instructor but has not done her practical test yet.

None of the others drive. Insurance is very expensive and running a car costs a lot. Public transport meets the needs of the family mostly.

My wife uses the family car and I take it when I need it for work.

Funnily enough, I drive mire in France than I do here.

Aug 31, 1:48pm Top

>82 MrsLee: Both my boys had lessons from professional instructors, but I was the one who got to sit in the passenger seat of my car while they practiced, because my husband's cars were too precious. I suggested he could sit in the passenger seat of my car, but he always found something more important to do. Older son got into racing and rallying, and has become a "car guy". Younger son still doesn't have a license and it's been 10 years since he took lessons. He seems to manage fine without a car most of the time.

Sep 2, 3:59pm Top

Hi Peter!

>73 pgmcc: Oh my. I can see why there was never a lesson 3.

Roundabouts are somewhat uncommon in the US, but here in North Carolina they are building more of them because they really are more energy efficient - no electricity needed for lights and less gas wasted being at an arbitrary stop. When I was growing up you had to take driver's education through your high school. Then and only then could you get a permit, which was when parents could help coach you and let you drive under supervision. Ditto for daughter - she took driver's education, got her permit, then I let her drive to and from school until she was old enough to try for her driver's license.

Sep 2, 11:03pm Top

>73 pgmcc: oh my! Do you not have to take a written test about driving before getting to actually drive?

When I was in college, my then boyfriend tried to teach me to drive a manual transmission. Not good. My roommate ended up teaching me instead.

>85 karenmarie: we have tons of roundabouts here in Bend. They are tricky when first learning them, but now I really like them. They are way better than four-way stops.

Sep 3, 12:28am Top

>86 catzteach: The theory test waa introduced about twenty years ago. My eldesr daughter has passed it and has been taking lessons. One now has to have had at least twelve driving lessons from a qualified instructor before taking the practical driving test.

Sep 3, 2:40pm Top

I am sorry, but I have to interupt this transmission to inform you that I am drinking wine and eating Gruyère cheese.

Edited: Sep 3, 4:51pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Sep 3, 6:38pm Top

I hope you're enjoying it :D

Sep 3, 8:51pm Top

Edited: Sep 4, 3:58pm Top

I found this an entertaining read; a bit of fun, but with a few flaws that interrupted the enjoyment and leave me not convinced about buying the next Greta Helsing adventure.

Without giving any key elements away, the story involves some rather elderly aristocratic characters who would be very serious about doing thins correctly. Shaw has them saying things that their characters would never say (e.g. “Shut up”) and making basic grammar mistakes that their characters would be totally ashamed of (e.g. “..there’s been eleven murders” and “there’s some other tunnels”).

The book is an interesting diversion and an easy read but it is no more than that. If one wanted to give it a heavier meaning one could say it was an allegory for the periodic rise of evil regimes in the world, but this is only a superficial similarity, albeit intended. It can also be considered a commentary on the value of diversity in a population.

The characters are all quite derivative and the story has the feel of fanfiction. I also found the actual story predictable, which took the edge off it.

This book has a lot going for it, but with its derivative nature, out of character dialogue, and storyline predictability I can not give it a very high rating. A good book rates three stars with me. I would have given this book a three star rating had it not committed grammatical sins and been so predictable.

E.T.A.: I expect to receive hate-mail for my above comments.

Sep 5, 7:33am Top

>92 pgmcc: Thank you for your comments and warnings about this book. I shall continue to resist the temptation when I see it in the bookshop.

Edited: Sep 5, 12:52pm Top

>93 Sakerfalcon: It is an enjoyable read so do not write it off totally. The things tgat annoyed me may not annoy others. I am just a fussy old curmudgeon. Perhaps borrow it from the library.

Sep 5, 11:41am Top

>94 pgmcc: Speaking of fussy old curmudgeons, I think that is my developing role in our mystery book club. I've seen a couple of notes in advance of our Thursday meeting that praise James Patterson's writing. I'll have to decide how fussy, grumpy, etc., I want to be.

Sep 5, 11:50am Top

>94 pgmcc: Hail, fellow curmudgeon! Yes, what you mentioned in the Greta Helsing book would irritate me as well. Those errors aren't so much grammatical (though on the surface they are) as failures in characterization. I'll pick this up if it's on sale as an ebook, but otherwise probably skip.

Sep 12, 5:07pm Top

Yes, I am reading The Dubliners by James Joyce. It is a collection of short stories and I can get one read on my commute in the morning and another on the way home in the evening.

Unlike the other works of Joyce I have attempted this one is very straightforward and the stories are not long enough to generate the "Why am I reading this" reaction. The stories are little glimpses of Dublin life. There are vivid and are a record of Dublin and its characters of the time (early 1900s). The stories focus on the darker elements of Dublin life; the type of thing people seldom talk about, e.g. the alcoholic who comes home and beats up his wife and his children, the scroungers who smooch from their friends for a drink, the timid character whose old friend who migrated to London years ago comes home for a visit and makes him feel even more inadequate than he had before, etc.. These are all sketches of real life and they indicate Joyce's observational skills.

One of the things I find interesting is the backdrop of a Dublin which at that time was considered the second city of the British empire. The collection of stories was published in 1914, two years before the Easter Rising. So far I have only detected one tangential allusion to the politics of the day. These stories contain details of the life of ordinary people getting on with life and bring out people's insecurities and the drudgery of their everyday lives.

Am I enjoying it?

These stories are hard to enjoy, but I am glad I am reading them. They deal with some horrible situations but it is good to see some Joyce writing that I find value in.

I read a note recently that Joyce was asked why, having lived abroad for many years, did he continue to set his stories in Dublin. Apparently he responded that if he continued to write about Dublin and dissect it he would eventually understand every city in the world because the general is in the particular. I can see this in these stories, in that he is capturing "types" and one can imagine equivalent "types" anywhere. As I have said before, "It is amazing how often people turn out to be people."

Sep 12, 5:47pm Top

>97 pgmcc: From what I remember, I'd say I appreciated these stories more than enjoyed them. Even the last one, which is so impressive. But it's been so long I might profit from a re-read.

Sep 12, 7:34pm Top

>97 pgmcc: AHHH...Are you saying you had never read these stories before? How is that possible? What kinds of things were you assigned to read in what we call high school?

>50 pgmcc: The photos are simply wonderful. Especially the magpie on the cow!

Sep 13, 3:26am Top

>99 clamairy: I grew up in Belfast in Northern Ireland, the part of the island under British rule. The recommended books on the school curriculum were all by British writers. Of course, given that the whole Island was within the British Empire at the time of Joyce writing these stories one could claim Joyce was a British writer but one would not expect the British civil servants designing the school curriculum to think of that. Anything associated with Dublin, and hence the current Republic, would be an athema to those setting the syllabus content. A book called, Dubliners, appearing on a Northern Ireland school syllabus would have given rise to protests and riots in loyalist areas of Belfast.

Apart from the socio-political environment of my youth leading me away from Joyce, I had attempted to read Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and was disinclined to attempt any other Joyce.

Does that answer your question? :-)

Thank you for your comments on the pictures. I could not resist the magpie on the sheep. It was hilarious.

Sep 13, 3:30am Top

>98 Jim53: I would say that is an appropriate description of my reaction these stories too. I have just finished A Painful Case and it is the best one so far; it captures the emotions, the place, and the characters.

Sep 15, 1:10pm Top

>97 pgmcc: I read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man while in high school and must admit that I was never sufficiently absorbed in it to think to revisit him as a writer. You do make The Dubliners sound attractive so I may have to rethink my previous experience of Joyce.

Sep 15, 2:27pm Top

>102 jillmwo: Whenever I would tell people how unimpressed I was with Joyce they would say I should read Dubliners. They would say, "Those stories are more accessible." I think they were trying to insult me, but the stories are good and the other works still fail to impress me.

As Jim53 said in post #98, one appreciates these stories rather than necessarily enjoying them. I would say they are worth a read.

I have praised Kevin Barry's short stories. He is a modern, young writer who has been winning big prizes. He has two collections of short stories and two novels published. His first publication was a critique of Joyce's The Dead. It is the final story in Dubliners so I am keen to read it. Barry is an excellent writer. I can see how his short stories are like Joyce's stories in "Dubliners", but they give a glimpse of a more recent Ireland. Some of his stories are located in England and he is just as astute in his capturing the nuances of English culture. I would say he is a better writer than Joyce, but I can see he has learned from Joyce and added to it. Kevin Barry is accepted by the literati in Ireland, the pompous high-brow snob world of literature, but he is a wonderful, straightforward human being who does not promote the snobbery of the literati. He is really down to Earth and a very pleasant person.

Yes, I am recommending you have a look at his short stories.

Edited: Sep 18, 9:36am Top

Did I mention we have a new member of the family?

Her name is Willow, she is almost a year old, and has been living with us for two weeks.

Sep 18, 11:35am Top

>104 pgmcc: Willow is adorable! :)

Sep 18, 12:15pm Top

>105 YouKneeK: She says, "Thank you!"

Sep 19, 3:55am Top

I am on the last story of James Joyce's collection, Dubliners. His stories really catch a sense of place, character and the times. These stories were published in 1914, two years before the Easter Rising. It is interesting to see Dublin in those pre-revolutionary times. There is limited reference to the politics that gave rise to the Rising (if you excuse the pun) but the final story, The Dead, has an element of it. I am only half way through the story but there has been a discussion that clearly identifies the sentiments and attitudes that lead firstly to the Rising and the War of Independence, and subsequently to the Irish Civil War.

These events were all in the future for the Dubliners of the time when these stories were written.

Sep 20, 12:12pm Top

>104 pgmcc: Not only is Willow adorable, but the composition of that photo is lovely. I thought it was a painting at first.

Sep 20, 12:19pm Top

>108 MrsLee:

Thank you! I took seven hours planning and setting up the shot.

Or was that the lucky shot I took with the camera in my phone?


Edited: Sep 20, 5:04pm Top

I am enjoying Dune.

Sep 20, 1:38pm Top

>110 pgmcc:

I think I need to read it again.

Sep 22, 8:56pm Top

>110 pgmcc: I re-read Dune a couple of years ago and found it hasn't aged too badly. I still can't stomach the sequels, though.

Sep 24, 2:54am Top

>112 Jim53:
I find it holds up well and is even relevant to current happenings. Everything changes and everything remains the same.

Sep 24, 6:03pm Top

As with so many other books, I got far more out of it on a second and third re-read.

Sep 25, 6:44am Top

>112 Jim53: & >114 jillmwo:
The copy of Dune I am reading is a fiftieth anniversary edition. It could have been published yesterday.

I am about 100 pages in and see common elements between this book and The Leopard in relation to political maneuverings.

Sep 27, 4:45am Top

I am enjoying Dune very much but have been surprised in some places by poor copyediting. I am reading the 50th anniversary edition and I am surprised that the publisher has released such an iconic book without better copyediting. The errors are mostly missing letters, such as "its" without "s", a couple of duplicate words, and the occasional missing word.

This is not taking away from my enjoyment of the story but it does trip one up as one is reading and it disturbs the experience. The errors are not evenly distributed but they are frequent enough to warrant comment.

On the positive side, I am seeing layer upon layer of meaning and theme in the book. I still see plenty of thematic commonality with Lampedusa's The Leopard and see much of the content very relevant to today, both ecologically and politically.

The viewpoint changes frequently in the story and I am finding this intriguing and very useful. With two people having a conversation Herbert gives us the thoughts of each participant as well as the words they speak. This is proving excellent in terms of showing the different aspects of the situation in which the conversation is taking place and the motivation of the characters involved. It is also used effectively to give information without using an info-dump.

Sep 29, 11:25am Top

Willow is adorable!

Dune was one of my dad’s favorite books. I’ve been meaning to read it for years. The Husband likes the movie. I’ve never seen it all the way through, just snippets and it doesn’t appeal. It’s made me put off reading the book.

Sep 29, 11:51am Top

>117 catzteach: I have had a copy of the book for over twenty years but am only getting to it now. I am really enjoying it.

If you are put off by the length of the book you might like The Leopard by Lampedusa. It has many similar themes to Dune but is historical fiction rather than set in a Science Fiction world. It is also much shorter. I think that if you like it you will like Dune.

Sep 29, 12:27pm Top

>117 catzteach:
Don't judge the book by the movie!

Sep 29, 12:45pm Top

>119 suitable1: Hearty agreement. I didn't like the movie at all.

Edited: Oct 8, 3:22pm Top

Finished Dune on the ferry to Holyhead on Saturday. Five stars.

Started We Have Always Lived in the Castle on Saturday. Enjoying it but not too much progress due to the busy social weekend.

Oct 9, 9:05pm Top

I think I’d probably like Dune. I’m convinced to try it. It is a long one so I’ll have to read it during a vacation.

Oct 9, 9:27pm Top

Castle is the only Jackson novel I like.

Oct 11, 5:13am Top

I am enjoying We Have Always Lived in the Castle. As with many good stories it gives hints about what is happening and can lead you in a wrong direction. My thoughts to date on the book are behind the spoiler screen.

Impressions before reading the book: I had developed the idea that the book was about a ghost family living in a castle but having started reading it I see that I am wrong.

Initial views from first chapter:Initially I thought the narrating character was a ghost and was inferring that people could see her in certain situations. That stopped when she was addressed directly.

Moving on: If she is not a ghost then she is socially inept, and introverted. I was wondering why the locals had such venomous feelings towards her so there was obviously a story behind that. I thought that perhaps her sister and uncle had died and that she was living alone and only, due to mental illness, not accepting that they were dead. I pictured their rotting corpses in the house that only she entered.

Now: The secret was obviously the poisoning of the family and the trial of the sister, Constance. I suspect we will find that the narrator, who obviously has mental illness issues, is the culprit and that possibly Constance has shielded her from the accusations of murder.

The cousin has just arrived and I await the next event. I suspect the narrator will take some notion and poison her remaining relatives, and perhaps even herself. I am sure I am wrong. I always am. I am a man, after all. :-)

And then again, Constance could be the killer, or it was all an accident.

Oct 11, 8:51am Top

>121 pgmcc: Two of my favourite books in the same post! I look forward to following your thoughts on the Jackson.

Oct 11, 9:44am Top

>125 Sakerfalcon:

I am enjoying the Jackson, even if I am totally wrong in my speculations as I progress through the story.

I watched the film of Dune last night. It is decades since I saw it and had fond memories of it. The special effects were cringe-worthy by today's standards but I still enjoyed the film. Some of the characterisation was over the top (e.g. Baron; Baron's nephews; evil advisor;...) but I was amazed as the cast and delighted that I recognised some actors whom I had not realised were in the film.

It was only half way through that I realised the Paul Atreides was played by Kyle MacLachlan whom I knew from Twin Peaks; and that Chani was played by Sean Young whom I know better as Rachel from Blade Runner and recognised in one of her early scenes with Paul Atreides.

Other actors that I was delighted to see include:
Patrick Stewart
Linda Hunt
Max von Sydow
José Ferre
Leonardo Cimino

I tend not to look at the cast in much detail before I watch a film and am usually very bad at linking the faces with names or remembering where I have seen them before.

It is a great cast.

I was also delighted to discover the screen-play was written by David Lynch who also directed the film. I am a big fan of Twin Peaks.

I thought the film was quite stiff as it was trying to give the story without missing key elements, but not including a lot of the detail from the book. Squeezing a 550 page novel into 1 hour 38 minutes required cutting a lot out and as is generally the case, the book is much better. I still enjoyed the film despite its corny costumes and characterisation. Very entertaining. Luckily my younger son did not come in until late or I would have had him complaining about the special effects.

Edited: Oct 12, 9:04am Top

>104 pgmcc: Ah, what a lovely pup!

>107 pgmcc: The Dead is the best of the lot, IMHO.

>121 pgmcc: I've been thinking about listening to some of my old favorites, and I think Dune might be one of the ones that I attempt. I'm ashamed to admit I started We Have Always Lived in the Castle a couple of years ago and couldn't get into it. Although if memory serves me correctly it would be well suited to this time of year.

Oct 11, 7:43pm Top

>124 pgmcc: Having read We Have Always Lived in the Castle twice, I am enjoying your guesswork, Peter. Recalling the book, I can see exactly where you are getting those impressions from and, though you are finding your gender an obstacle in making accurate predictions, your guesses are nevertheless similar to some thoughts that I recall having during my first time through the novel. Of course, I am also male so perhaps that explains that.

>127 clamairy: I was rather lukewarm on the book the first time I read it. However, I had a much better time during a subsequent re-read, (coincidentally, it was in the month of October! ;). I picked up on a ton of little things things the 2nd time around just from knowing what was (or wasn't) coming. One could do worse when choosing a 'Halloween read'.

Oct 12, 7:45am Top

>127 clamairy: Willow is cute.

I agree with your humble opinion. The Dead is a very moving story.

Having read the collection of stories and having been greatly impressed by them I am amazed his bigger works have turned out to be so boring. I still cannot get into them.

Dune is certainly an excellent book. I have many underlined sections in my copy and I suspect it may prompt me back to writing more than just a few paragraphs about a book. There are so many things in the book that are applicable to any time or place.

How is the unpacking going? :-)

Oct 12, 7:49am Top

>127 clamairy: With regards to We Have Always Lived in the Castle I can understand someone not taking to it. It is a horror story and it could be regarded as depressing or dull. I have always meant to read this book and I think October was the final prompt that got me to start it.

Oct 12, 8:52pm Top

>129 pgmcc: As you could tell from all of the beach picks I took a break from the unpacking while the workmen were ripping apart parts of my basement, and using a jackhammer on the cement floor. Now they are finally done with the new bathroom and the giant closet, but I am having troubling making myself get back to the unpacking. Tomorrow, perhaps.

Oct 13, 1:50am Top

>131 clamairy: Do not be beating yourself up about unpacking. There is no obligatory schedule to keep to. Taking photographs and long walks is much more beneficial.

Oct 13, 12:41pm Top

This is a test post to investigate a phenomenon jillmwo has noticed.

Oct 13, 1:30pm Top

>131 clamairy: You know the cold, short, winter days are coming. Save your unpacking for those days, then opening each box will be like a celebration because it will have been so long since you saw your stuff. :)

Oct 13, 1:30pm Top

Thank you, pgmcc. However, the problem has mysteriously cleared up. The posts on the three separate threads are now all appearing as they should. (The gremlins responsible for double-posts on my thread have found a new way now to torment me.)

Again, thanks for checking!

Oct 13, 6:51pm Top

>135 jillmwo:
You are welcome Jill.

Edited: Oct 16, 5:27am Top

I have finished We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I thought it was disturbing and excellently so. Themes include family relationships, societal prejudice, bullying, and mental illness.

At least I got one thing correct: the narrator was the killer. However, Constance was not as innocent as she appeared since she had realised what had happened and she had not called for medical help until it was too late.

The cousin was a totally nasty piece of work. The villagers were caught up in misinformed hysteria and I was wondering if Merricat was going to poison the water source and kill the whole town population.

I think Jackson did a great job of getting the reader into the world of the main protagonist and showing us the world through another's eyes.

This is definitely a good eerie book for this time of year.

Edited: Oct 18, 5:31pm Top

I have started reading The Green Man's Heir by Juliet E. McKeena.

This is the first one of Juliet's books I have read and I was hooked in the first chapter. So far I am four chapters in and am finding it interesting and well paced.

It is set in rural England, involves a murder mystery and some supernatural beings. I understand the idea of modern surveillance comes into the story but that has not come to the fore just yet, though I believe I have spotted the way it will come into the story.

Without giving away any spoilers, the story is about an innocent man who stumbles into a murder investigation and is probably going to get into the position of being a suspect, if not the only suspect. We shall see.

Oct 16, 6:44am Top

>137 pgmcc: Glad you enjoyed the Jackson, it's one of my favourite books. Merricat is a great narrator and character.

Oct 17, 4:26am Top

The Green Man's Heir has captured my attention and I am picking it up at every opportunity. I read to 1am in bed one night, something I have not done in a long time. I am even reading it on the Kindle app on my phone. I am going to that abomination of a place, Starbucks, on my way to work and reading, arriving in work a 8:45am rather than my usual 7:50am.

It is a mixture of murder mystery, folklore tale and woodland guide, a mix that works very well. It takes place in the English country-side with visits to an ancient woodland. The locations are described in a way you feel you are actually there. The country villages and their pubs are realistic. The people are believable and behave in believable ways.

This is the first Juliet E. McKenna book I have read but I will be reading more of her work.

Oct 17, 8:52am Top

>140 pgmcc: A direct hit. I only intended to put it on my ever-growing wishlist, but the Kindle version was under $5, so it now belongs to me. I think I will start reading this soon because mystery, folklore and nature reading are three of my favorite genres.

Oct 17, 9:57am Top

>141 MrsLee: I hope you enjoy it.

Oct 17, 10:04am Top

>141 MrsLee: yep, that one got me too! Folklore seems appropriate at this time of year.

Oct 18, 5:09am Top

I am showing great restraint. My pre-ordered copy of Haruki Murakami's new novel, Killing Commendatore, arrived this morning. It is a hefty 681 page tome. The first paragraph is his usual clear, succinct, and intriguing prose.

I have wrapped this book in a plastic bag to protect its dustcover and will be handing it over to my wife this evening for her to put away as her Christmas present to me.

Yes, I am in a cold sweat; yes, I am biting my tongue; no, I do not know if I will be able to go through with this. I need your support.

Oct 18, 8:19am Top

*coughs, looks the other way*

Oct 18, 8:28am Top

>144 pgmcc: maybe you can take your mind off this book by picking up a few others... yep, I'm an enabler...

Oct 18, 8:56am Top

>146 Darth-Heather: I am depending on Juliet E. McKenna’s The Green Man’s Heir to see me through the next couple of days, but afer that...?

Perhaps The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson. That has been on my TBR mountain for some time.

Edited: Yesterday, 4:23pm Top

I finished The Green Man's Heir on Saturday. I enjoyed it and would agree with MrsLee's assessment of it in her thread.

While I read it using the Kindle app on my phone I ended up buying a copy at Octocon as the author, Juliet E. McKenna was at the con and I did not want her signing my mobile phone.

That is Juliet on the right.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Garth Nix who had a book launch at the convention and who visited our table and was gracious enough to pose for a pictures. He came across as a lovely person.

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