HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Archive for March, 2009

Entry for March 15, 2009 – Crises in Chislehurst

Posted by HelenEdith on March 15, 2009

We are still without heating. It was supposed to be fixed last Thursday but the engineer who was due to do it called in sick. I phoned the plumber on Friday, but by then they had two out sick. I have an appointment for tomorrow. I hope the engineer booked for the job is fit and well.

At least it was warm today and we didn’t have to run the fan heaters continuously. It still gets cold at night and Stephen’s really feeling the cold. He found an additional fan heater so now we’ve got one in the living room, one in my study and one in our bedroom and we don’t have to keep unplugging them and moving them around.

This morning I was supposed to be playing wind quintets with the girls at Sutton Valence. I got everything in the car and set out up the road and decided that I could hear noises which weren’t coming from the car radio, so I turned off the car radio and listened and sure enough, I could hear a crunching noise.

So I came back around the block. Stephen was on the driveway and he’d heard the noise when I left, so wasn’t too surprised by my return. He got in the car with me and we drove up the road with the windows down for a listen and isolated the noise to the exhaust system, which after 10 years, had picked today to let go. 😦 So I missed my trip to Sutton Valence, as Stephen didn’t want to think about what would happen if the whole exhaust came off. He later decided that it had enough anchorages that it would just make a big noise, use lots of fuel, and hopefully not do drastic things to the turbo, but he didn’t decide that in time for me to make the 60-mile round trip to Sutton Valence.

Being a somewhat unusual car, I decided not to just front up at the nearest KwitFit but to phone around first. I got a consistent story: bring it in for a look-see so that we know what it is and we’ll order it in for tomorrow. Stephen wanted to come with me for the look-see and I wanted him to come, too, because if I order something that he doesn’t approve of, I won’t hear the end of it.

So we duly took the car for a look-see and it needs the central and rear parts of the exhaust replaced. KwikFit will make some calls in the morning. I’m not altogether optimisitic that they will locate the spare parts by tomorrow, so I suspect that getting it fixed might have to wait until the next time I’m home-working later in the week.

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Book Review: Deneane Clark – Grace

Posted by HelenEdith on March 14, 2009

This is a Regency romance featuring Grace Ackerly, the second of six sisters, and Trevor Caldwell, the Earl of Huntwick.

Grace has decided that she wishes never to marry, as she can’t see that the institution has much to offer a woman and a great deal which counts against it. She enjoys wearing breeches and riding astride on her father’s land and hopes to continue doing so.

Enter Trevor and his friend Sebastian, Duke of Blackthorne, who have a close encounter with Grace’s youngest sister Mercy, aged thirteen, who also has a tendency to be clad in breeches. Mercy and her horse jump a hedge and land in the path of Sebastian’s coach, causing an accident. Trevor and Sebastian bear Mercy back to her home, where they make the acquaintance of the other sisters: Patience, the eldest, Faith, the third; and the twins Amity and Charity.

Trevor decides then and there that he wants to marry Grace, but Grace has been dodging her other beau, Sir Harry Thomas, and intends to do the same to Trevor, although she does quickly discover that she likes Trevor much better than Harry.

Trevor moves to his nearby country property the better to court Grace, but Grace, anticipating this, decides to take her aunt up on a London Season, and departs with Faith for London. Naturally Trevor follows.

An entertaining and occasionally scandalous courtship follows, but Trevor does eventually win Grace.

This book has something of the feel of a series about it, but appears to be a standalone title. I think that the author could definitely get some mileage out of Mercy – and probably the rest of the sisters, too. It would be intriguing to know how she would handle Patience, who took over the raising of her five younger sisters when aged only twelve. I will keep an eye out in case Deneane Clark decides to further develop any of the characters in this book.

Actually, it turns out that there will be books about more of the sisters. I’ve just been to Deneane Clark’s blog at deneaneclark.wordpress.com and find that she’s working on Faith and that Charity is next in line. Deneane writes in her blog that she hopes that these books will be as good as Grace. I hope so too, as I really enjoyed Grace!

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Book Review: Catherine O’Flynn – What Was Lost

Posted by HelenEdith on March 13, 2009

I generally confine myself to the genre shelves in the library, where I can find science fiction if that is what I fancy; or romance; or crime. However, a few weeks ago I made a rare foray into the “General Fiction” shelves and this book was one of those that I came up with.

In addition to not having a genre sticker on its spine, the front cover announces that it is the winner of the Costa First Novel Award, was shorlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Broadband Prize. That’s a lot of critical acclaim – enough to scare me right away from a book! Fortunately it didn’t, as this turned out to be eminently readable.

The story is in four parts: the first and third of which are set in 1984 and follow the story of Kate Meaney, a little girl with a passion for detective work who frequents the Green Oaks shopping centre in Birmingham, taking notes about people she thinks are suspicious. The second part is set in 2003, where the main characters are the security guard Kurt and the record shop duty manager Lisa. Kate disappeared back in 1984 and Lisa’s brother Adrian was suspected of being involved although never charged. Kurt starts seeing Kate on the security cameras at Green Oaks, and when his path crosses with Lisa’s late one night when her usual exit from the centre is locked, they start to realise that Kate affects both their lives. The final part is set in 2004, where the elements of the first three parts are pulled together and we finally discover what really happened to Kate.

This wasn’t as fast-paced as some of my more usual reading matter, and the point of some of the early chapters took some time to emerge, but the book was easy to read and it will be interesting to see what Catherine O’Flynn can produce in her second and subsequent novels, assuming that she continues to write.

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Book Review: Mary Carter – Accidentally Engaged

Posted by HelenEdith on March 10, 2009

This is a “little black dress” book – something I haven’t come across before. It’s a rather quirky romance – or maybe it’s a humorous book with a romance in it!

Clair Ivars is a psychic who reads Tarot cards. She is quite good at it – except when she tries to read them for herself, when she is inclined to get her predictions quite wrong.

A customer at a psychic fair requests a reading and then tells Clair what to say in order for her prospective sister-in-law just outside to hear that the marriage shouldn’t go ahead. Clair goes along with this, and after the customer has departed, discovers her customer’s engagement ring and a note asking that it be returned.

Clair being Clair, she doesn’t just put it in a box and mail it back – she decides to deliver it in person – and that’s when things get really weird.

Much that appears supernatural goes on, including a crashed car that isn’t crashed at all – and I think I lost count of all the bumps in the night! Clair also finds herself in the position of taking over the position of bride-to-be, even though she is more interested in the mysterious Mike than in the spurned Jack.

The blurb on the back of the book describes Clair’s prospective mother-in-law as hiding one hell of a family secret – and indeed when you get to the end of the book, you will find out that she really was hiding something pretty big!

This was an entertaining enough book, but I don’t believe that it has hooked me on Mary Carter.

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Book Review: The Medieval Murderers – Sword of Shame

Posted by HelenEdith on March 8, 2009

When I picked up this book, I commented to the librarian that it looked a little more heavy-going than my usual reading matter. It is a series of linked stories about a sword made before William the Conqueror invaded England. Five authors collaborated: Michael Jecks, Bernard Knight, Ian Morson, Susanna Gregory and Philip Gooden. Between them, they spun a tale stretching from the 11th Century to the present day which followed a beautifully crafted but unlucky sword through all of those times.

I think that all except Ian Morson’s story, set in Venice in 1262, use characters which can be found in full-length novels by these authors. Funnily enough, it was only Ian Morson’s Venice story which I struggled with.

The other authors and their characters will undoubtedly draw me back to the library: Bernard Knight’s Crowner John; Michael Jecks’ Keeper Sir Baldwin and Bailiff Puttock; Susanna Gregory’s Matthew Bartholomew and Brother Michael; and Philip Gooden’s player Nick Revill.

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Book Review: Loretta Chase – Miss Wonderful

Posted by HelenEdith on March 6, 2009

(A Carsington Regency romance)

I have read one of the other books in this series, “Mr Impossible”, and found that one somewhat heavy going, but “Miss Wonderful” was a much easier read. Maybe it was the setting: this book is set in Derbyshire, while “Mr Impossible” is set in Egypt, a place which I don’t find as interesting as some people do!

“Miss Wonderful” is Miss Mirabel Oldridge, a thirty-one-year-old lady who broke an engagement a number of years earlier in order to take up the running of her father’s estate when he lost interest in it after his wife (also Mirabel’s mother) died.

The Carsington in this book is Alistair, third son of the Earl of Hargate, and a very expensive man to keep in clothes. Alistair is also a war hero, and prior to Waterloo, he had been in a number of scrapes (expensive, naturally) involving women from varying stratas of society. Now the Earl has given him an ultimatum: marry an heiress or the Earl will sell the properties earmarked for his fourth and fifth sons in order to provide an annuity for Alistair.

Alistair shares this ultimatum with his friend Lord Gordmore, and between them they hatch a scheme to provide themselves with an income. The scheme requires them to build a canal through the Miss Oldridge’s father’s property – a scheme which is almost universally disapproved of by the locals.

Gordmore sends Alistair to Derbyshire to try and win the landowners over, and as the Oldridges are the major landowner, that’s where he starts. That’s also where he falls into a stream and sprains his ankle and becomes a guest of the Oldridges while he recovers.

He becomes very smitten with Mirabel, but with no idea that she’s an heiress, he sticks to his guns about the canal, believing that he needs income from the coal to be transported on the canal before he will be in a position to offer for her.

There are subthreads in this book about Alistair’s war injury and a disgruntled ex-bailiff who was sacked by Mirabel years ago. It all adds up to an enjoyable book with rather more to it than just the romance.

I won’t leave it quite so long before dipping into some more of Loretta Chase’s work.

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Book Review: Eloisa James – Kiss Me Annabel

Posted by HelenEdith on March 4, 2009

(Book two of the Essex sisters series)

I haven’t actually read book one, “Much Ado About You”, but it doesn’t really matter, as this is a self-contained novel, however, I will probably go back and make it my business to do so as I enjoyed this “Essex sister” book.

Annabel Essex was discovered by her father to be good with numbers, and she spent her growing up years being his unpaid bookkeeper, while her sisters fished and grew vegetables. I’m not quite sure where they managed to acquire their training to be young ladies in the course of all this, but maybe if I read the earlier book, all will become apparent.

Anyway, Annabel has decided to marry money. She never ever wants to lead a life similar to that she was forced to lead during her formative years. Annabel is therefore not particularly impressed when she meets the Earl of Ardmore, whom she believes to be poor.

Events overtake them, though, and Annabel is compromised and finds herself travelling to Scotland in the company of the Earl, whom she needs to marry.

Her sisters, knowing how little Annabel wants to live in Scotland married to an impoverished Scottish Earl, have a plan to rescue Annabel. However, Annabel finds herself falling in love with her Earl – and also discovers that he can afford to keep her in the style in which she wishes to become accustomed.

Annabel, overcome with guilt about wanting to marry for money, nearly allows her sisters to “rescue” her, before her prospective grandmother-in-law, who likes Annabel despite (or more likely because of) their barbed initial encounters, takes a hand.

This was another enjoyable Regency romance, and Eloisa James is another author who will be on my library list in future.

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Book Review: Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough – Third Watch

Posted by HelenEdith on March 3, 2009

(Book three of the spin-off series dealing with Acorna’s Children)

This book has the feeling of a final book. Khorii has been reunited with her twin sister Ariin and they are off working out what to do about the plague which has metamorphosed into ghosts which eat inorganic material, and which have been dubbed inogres.

Everyone now knows that the cat Khiindi is really Grimalkin, frozen in small cat form.

Khorii and Ariin do some time travelling in an attempt to find a solution to the problem of the voracious inogres. Khiindi comes too, and is able to be Grimalkin once again when he gets back before the timeline when his shape was frozen. He has problems when he jumps forward in time though!

As you would expect, a solution is eventually found to the inogres, and even more surprisingly, right at the end of the book, the question hanging over from the “Acorna” series of how the Friends created the Linyaari in the first place is finally found.

The words “THE END” printed on the final page really do signify that there probably won’t be any more adventures involving Acorna or her daughters. I will be sad to see them go, even if this was a series that tended to cross the line between Science Fiction and Fantasy, and in fact seems to be categorised by the library as Fantasy.

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Website Update: Snow Pictures, February 2009

Posted by HelenEdith on March 2, 2009

We had a significant snowfall in London at the beginning of February.

It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally edited the pictures I took over the course of the first three days of snow disruption, and they are on my website here: Snow, February 2009

Here are a few of the pictures you can find on the page linked above:

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This is one of my signature night shots, and was taken with the aid of a tripod, as it was an exposure which ran into seconds. I had to clean up the colour balance in the raw file because the sodium street lighting rendered everything a rather uninteresting orange.

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Here’s the same house the next morning by daylight.

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By the time this picture was taken, it was the next day, the sun was out, and one of the cars had been dug out.

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There were many snowmen. I even saw one on the roof of a bus shelter! I don’t know how it got up there: maybe there was enough snow up there to build it in-situ. This one was on the footpath of a village street.

You’ll have to visit the link provided if you want to see the rest of my pictures!

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Entry for March 01, 2009 – Demonstration last week!

Posted by HelenEdith on March 1, 2009

Last Thursday I went out to get some lunch and heard rather a lot of noise coming from between the Lloyd’s Building and the new Willis Building, so I went down there to investigate and discovered a small but noisy demonstration going on.

It transpires that the cleaning contractors employed by Willis altered the working conditions of the cleaners and got rid of some altogether and nobody’s happy about it – at least if they’re a cleaner.

I found some more information about the dispute here: City cleaners demo report and new callout

I took a couple of photos on my mobile. I got moved on by a Willis security employee at the first attempt. He told me I would have to go across the road as I was on private property and I couldn’t take photos on private property.

So I walked as far as the kerb and took my pictures from there. It turned out to be a better aspect anyway!

It does beg the question of whether I’ll be able to take some pictures of the wall frieze on the building next to the Willis Building. Maybe I’ll need to request permission. They might be more sympathetic to granting that than they would have been to “May I take a picture of the people who are trying to paint you in the worst light possible?”

(Picture included on original Yahoo 360° posting – if you’re viewing from FaceBook, click the “View original post” link to see the picture.)

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