Pillars of the Earth

So I hear that there is an 8 part mini series of this book that I have read many times. In fact I am onto the 4th reading of this book.
As far as books go, it is the one that inspired me to be more interested in architecture, even if this only meant spending a little longer appreciating the magnitude of an old church. The effort and years that would have gone into its creation.
The book is incredibly graphic in many ways that are deeply disturbing and uncomfortable yet it also holds true to the period and doesn’t romanticize away the brutality and hardship that people lived with during this period. The grit, dirt, stench and barbarity of the period is captured just as well as the beauty and hardship of creating something such as the cathedral in the story. You invest a long read in these characters and care deeply about their life story. This is what draws me back again and again to them. And why World without End was a must read when it came out 3 Christmas’ ago now. I vividly remember reading it non stop from Christmas Day and through that week desperate to find out any bits of information about the characters in amongst the new time period that the follow up book now covered.
So, I look forward to seeing the mini series although at this stage I have seen nothing that relates to it coming out in NZ. This doesn’t surprise me. Possibly this means a trip online to Amazon to buy the series! No worries, I’m sure it is worth it! Has anyone seen it? Your opinion please!

Books: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Just finished this after an attempt to do so that has dragged on over the last 3 months. Really slow getting into it, OK middle and then really dragged at the end. Is it just me or did the character Robert Langdon become an absolute idiot since his last encounters? Really, I do wonder if he could manage himself out of a paper bag let alone solve the puzzles in the book.
This one is based around the world of Masonic secrets and takes place in Washington DC over a night of intense chasing, puzzle solving, murder, intrigue, surprises etc.
At the end of the day I found this a rather long winded book that seemed to take ages to get exciting, treated Langdon like he was an absolute amateur and took far too long to end. If you haven’t read the book and are planning on doing so, stop reading now as I am about to spoil a surprising section…….I have to admit it was with a sigh of relief and thanks when Langdon’s character didn’t make it out of the water chamber. This was then replaced with utter disappointment when in fact he did “come back from the dead”. What a shame as I have really enjoyed all Dan Brown’s previous books but somewhere along the way he has lost the plot.
Score would be 1.5 out of 5.

Too many books to read

At the moment on my side table is The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, Psycho Vertical by Andy Kirkpatrick, Five Greatest Warriors by Matthew Reilly and the latest Runners World magazine.

We saw Andy Kirkpatrick speak at TCA (The Climbing Academy) on Saturday. Talk about an epic lecture. We have heard him speak before up at the Kendal Mountain Festival. Very funny and inspiring. He is such a “non looking” climber that it encourages me. I know it sounds rather mean but in reality how many of us can truly look at someone like Chris Sharma and go “yeah I want to be like him” when the guy is SUPER fit, bronzed, stunningly beautiful and just incredible to watch on rock. Now Andy is the absolute opposite of this but in the same way he is probably more inspiring because I can see how he got to where he is and it seems far more in reach to me – a mere weekend warrior (if that!). To top it off his book is an excellent read and at this stage rather hard to put down, so I best get back to it!

Book: Have a little faith by Mitch Albom

Just finished this book the other day. Another beautifully told story following Mitch’s quest to write the eulogy for his Rabbi. Having drifted away from the Jewish faith and its community the call from his Rabbi to provide the eulogy when the time came, was an unexpected one.
Mitch and the Reb ponder many issues over the eight years until the time comes to give the eulogy. You can’t help but smile at the journey that happens during this time for these two men and the intersecting story of Mitch and Henry, the Pastor of “I am my brothers keeper” ministries. I find that Mitch’s writing gets you so involved with the story that you can’t help but dread the end. I knew what was coming but it didn’t make it any easier to finish the book. This was a great reflective read that I know I will revisit time and again just as I do his other books “Tuesdays with Morrie”. “Five people you meet in Heaven” and “Just one more day”. As Mitch writes in his blog (a link to his website is below) “the spirit of the book “Have A Little Faith” is that faith can be what connects us instead of what divides us.”

Have a little Faith – Mitch Albom

What’s on my bookshelf? A Little History of the World

I just finished reading “A little history of the world” by E H Gombrich. It is basically a history book for kids. Written in 1935 by a Austrian art historian it was originally produced in German. More recently it was re-released in English.
I really enjoyed it as an easy read. It focused on European history (from pre-historic to modern day) mainly as this is what has impacted him most plus doing a history of the whole world would surely mean years worth of reading.
Of course when it was first written back in 1935 there was a lot that wasn’t known at the time. However, in the recent English update he has added a last chapter correcting errors he had made now with hindsight to his advantage. I liked that. Often we think history is set in stone but it is only with distance from something that we can begin to understand particular motivations or situations differently.
I will be keeping this book on my shelf not for reference for historical facts but to see how history continues to be rounded and understood the further we move away from that point.

Book cover

Would you like a vowel? Yes thanks, I’ll have a T.

I was in Borders bookstore yesterday and came across a new recipe book by Bill Grainger. He has a great little restaurant in Sydney (aptly named Bill’s) where they do the most impressive and delicious chocolate dessert I have ever had!
However, I have digressed…The reason I mention this book (Holidays) is that the writing is wonderful. He recounts a story before each new section to lead in to the food theme e.g. BBQ’s, Breakfasts etc. What captured me with this book was the imagery he was clearly able to evoke within his storytelling. One such story was of his family going to France for a holiday and the experiences they shared of warm summer days, strolling through and being awestruck by the local fresh food markets, the excitement of buying freshly made croissants and bread each morning from the bolangerie. Possibly it is because this tale is one I also share from our wonderful experiences in France but more importantly it brought to the forefront how boring blogs can be. It is so easy to get into a rhythm of just pounding them out and losing sight of what the blog is about. As mine were originally intended to provide a silicon memory of what we get up to (in order to back up my own bad memory) then I need to provide a better recount of the event.
So what is with the title of this blog?
I recall, still with embarrassment for the man, a celebrity Wheel of Fortune show. The celebrity at the time obviously didn’t understand the difference between a vowel and a consonant. Each time his turn came around the host would try to be helpful and say “would you like a vowel” the celebrity would say “yes thanks, I’ll have a T”, the host would say “so you would like a consonant” and the reply would be “no, I’d like a T please” (I paraphase of course). My point being, we seem to continue to lose an understanding of our language and more importantly the joy of using it intelligently, expressively, descriptively etc. See, I ran out of words…

Book review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

A disturbing yet incredibly compelling read, A Thousand Splendid Suns follows the life of two women living in Afghanistan during the changing landscape and atrocities of war. We first met Mariam who is an illegitimate child living on the outskirts of Herat where her father comes to visit weekly. Never allowed to interact with his real family we see a young girl idolising her father while her mother tries to instill in Mariam that she will never be welcomed as a legitimate daughter. The realisation eventually comes when Mariam is sent away by her father and married off to a much older man, Rasheed, living in Kabul. When she fails to provide him with a son he takes a younger wife, Laila. The book follows the lives of Mariam and Laila as their friendship forms and strengthens as they do the best they can trying to survive a country at war and a brutal life at home.

The story of these women are so far outside the realm of my reality or the comprehension of their lifestyle yet it is so well written that they become familiar to you.

What amazed me about the characters is the incredible endurance through all the situations thrown at them. I still haven’t finished mulling over this book as yet and figuring out what I have taken away from it.

Book review: How to live off-grid

I have long been fascinated and probably have held a rather romantic idea of living off-grid in my strawbale construction home with my small holders set up e.g. vege patch and limited livestock. I have also thought that going off-grid probably is not that easy or more people would be far more successful at it than they appear to be. Reading this book, I would be right.

Basically the book takes you through the journey of a London freelance journalist who had bought a small place in Spain and was investigating how to improve the off-grid experience he was having. The book meets a number of different characters with varying levels of independence from water mains, electricity and sewage. It looks at different types of systems used e.g. wind, solar etc and how well (or in most cases) how work intensive they are.

It would seem that there are many people out there wishing to go off-grid but realising when they get there that it is hard work as many of the options require continual maintenance, receive little support from the manufacturer/supplier and most importantly if you try to do it on the cheap then you will shoot yourself in the foot. Do it right the first time so it doesn’t need to be done again!!

Anyway, I still have half the book left to go but am enjoying it so far. I don’t think it has tarnished the dream but has definitely given serious food for thought and reinforced my feeling that you need to make the right contacts and ensure that those you buy from or get info from are also living the experience and therefore show they can live by their product/advice.

Book review: The Bookseller of Kabul

It has been a while since I finished a book in full. I have started many and have them stacked next to my bed to complete one day. For some reason I find many other things to do besides read which is rather tragic as I enjoy a good book.

Someone from work loaned this book to me. Written by Asne Seierstad it is set in Kabul where she was lucky enough to live with an Afghan family for a few months. If what I read is correct there has been a fair bit of fall out from this book since.

Asne lived with the family for several months where she has focused on portraying the family life. The book tells the story of Sultan Khan (not his real name) a bookseller in Kabul and his family. The business has managed to survive through book burnings, censorship and much more as the country’s political regime continued to change throughout the years. The book also tells the story of the Khan family – mother, wives, sisters and children that live under Sultan’s roof. We see the struggle that Sultan has undertaken to keep his business and the struggle that his family have against his power over them and that of the social and political aspects that they must also comply with to in order to get through each day. We also see the changes occurring in Afghanistan with the departure of the Taliban.

I am still mulling over what I take away from this book besides the obvious thankfulness for the choices I have as a woman in the western world. I also take away a tiny bit more of an understanding of the Islamic faith. It has made me curious to read some more of her work though.

Book review: Fearless Fourteen

I first started reading Janet Evanovich’s novels while in Australia. Each year I always anticipated a new release. Nothing has changed. Based around the main character, Stephanie Plum, she is a bond enforcement agent (bounty hunter) that just can’t seem to get it right. The novels are a great light read with loads of witty humour and a storyline that will keep you up all night in order to get to find out whats going to happen. The latest instalment had me laughing like a mad women on the train to London. Thankfully I just blend in with all the other weirdos on the train during the school holidays. Love these books. Highly recommend starting at the beginning with "One for the Money" and just watch Stephanie bumble her way through figuring out how to be a bounty hunter.