Where In The Literary World Are You Today?

Defending Jason by William Landay

Defending Jason by William Landay

Today I am with Andy Barber, a DA, whose son, Jacob, may or may not have killed his classmate by stabbing him in the chest and leaving him in the woods. 

This is the book I am really struggling with. I am about 100 pages in and frankly I just don't care one way or the other who did what, when and why. I will struggle onwards as it is a book club read. Has anyone read it? Does it get better?

By all accounts William Landay has written two other very well received books, so there is hope!

- Defending Jacob by William Landay

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

The Moving Finger is a Miss Marple mystery. Well, almost. Miss Marple does appear, mostly drinking tea and knitting and mumbling on about this person and that she is reminded of. To be honest, it would have worked as a plot without her. 

The true stars of the book are Jerry and Joanna Burton, a brother sister who have moved to the small town of Lymstock. Jerry was a pilot in the war and is recovering from serious injury, and the pair thought that the quiet life in a small town would help his recovery. Anyone who has lived in a village or small town knows full well there is no such thing as the quiet life in these places, and that's certainly true of Christie's fictional world. 

No sooner have they got rid of the last packing case and found the kettle, they start to receive poison pen letters accusing them of not being brother and sister, but lovers living in sin. Being Londoners and therefore far more sophisticated than the locals, as far as they are concerned, they burn it and think no more about it. The trouble really starts when it transpires everyone is receiving this nasty letters, and Mrs Symmington, the solicitor's wife commits suicide after receiving one. Not long after their maid is found dead too. 

The murders seem to put a metaphorical spring back in Jerry's step, and he sets out to uncover the wrongdoer.  It truly is a tangled web, and the culprit isn't that easy to spot. I liked Jerry and Joanna very much, far more than I liked Tommy and Tuppance, and as with all Christie's best works it has that juxtaposition of comfy English country life and cold blooded murder. 

I remember this story from the marvellous BBC adaptations with Joan Hickson, but not sure how many will have heard of it otherwise. It's a hidden gem.

Photography Sunday #2: The Photography Course Commences!

We are off and running! The Hampshire School of Photography 1 year foundation course has officially started. On a chilly evening last week, I packed up my camera and pitched up at the local community centre to meet my new classmates. What a lovely bunch they are too. We range in photographic experience from a couple of decades to "just opened the box of my new camera at Christmas". 

Anstey's Cove, Devon

Anstey's Cove, Devon

The course has been developed and is lead by Kevin Ahronson, top professional photographer and all round good egg. After the obligatory course introductions* Kevin took us through the basics of operating a Digital SLR out of the Auto mode. Having done a bit of photography, none of this was new to me, but it is always good to hear the information again, as knowing the basics well is the key to everything else. 

I always think that photography is a very odd blend of the ultra technical, with lenses, focal lengths and exposure times, with the purely artistic and creative. Which makes it very inclusive, you can take joy from photography in whatever way you like. 

Now comes the slightly daunting part... the homework. We have a few weeks to go away and take some photographs to practise the skills Kevin taught us in this session. We get a personal 1:1 mentoring session with him and our shots will be critiqued. The critique part of this whole experience, is I think, going to help me the most, although I am hoping Kevin doesn't turn into the photographic equivalent of Simon Cowell with a red buzzer. On Friday I morphed into Hermione Granger and planned my shots. Yesterday saw me hunched over my camera doing my homework in the hope of getting a gold star from Kevin. In fact I wasn't very happy with the results for one shot, so took it again. I'm glad I took them yesterday, it's raining cats and dogs here today, and the light it terrible. Listen to me, talking about the quality of the light and re-taking shots. I'm an artist Dahlings! I may start lounging about the place, and having an occasional rant like an 1930s artistic Christie character. 

I am looking forward to seeing what my classmates photograph. I have a feeling we will all interpret the brief very differently. 

Signing up for a course for a whole year is quite a big decision, but after the first session know I am going to have a fantastic time, and my photography should improve too. 

* Whilst he asked us to introduce ourselves, thankfully we didn't have to do any icebreaking exercises involving building the Great Pryramid of Giza out of paperclips and rubber bands. Why do courses make people do that? Those exercises just make me grumpy. 

The Great Blogging Editorial Crisis of 2017

We are a mere 13 days into 2017, and already I am having a blogging editorial crisis. My complete lack of blogging last year due to important things has resulted in an enormous backlog of book reviews to be written and posted. Regular bloggers will exclaim, "Worry ye not! This means you have spare reviews for when you don't have time to write one, keep them in the box for later."

Backed up book reviews...

Backed up book reviews...

Well, that's all well and good, but many of these books are festive reads... Publishing festive reads in January just looks tardy and has that feel of left over Christmas pudding that sits in the fridge until someone cracks and feeds it to the birds. I suppose I could publish them in July to show just what a rebel I am, but quite honestly, Harrods will have beaten me to it by opening their Christmas shop in June. Perhaps I'll just hold them for next Christmas, and regale you with my more recent reads instead. 

I have read a couple of really good tomes in the last couple of weeks. My current read is proving to be less of a page turner than I hoped, but I shall press on as it is a book club read. It may get better you never know, but so far I have tidied my office, done some washing and swept the leaves in the garden to avoid reading it. It has to go back to the library soon, so this weekend I have vowed to finish it. It also possible that I may have had a sneaky visit to Mr B's, and possibly purchased one or two literary items that I am desperate to read, so I can use that as a bribe to finishing the current book. I can't start the new ones until I have finished this one. It's like bribing a child to eat their greens in order to have dessert isn't it? Honestly, the maturity of my mind is a worry. 

What are you reading at the moment?


Photography Sunday #1: The Patience of The Delightful Mr F

As you may recall from this post my obsession with photography as been reawakened and next Wednesday I am starting a year-long photography course with the very talented Kevin Ahronson from the Hampshire School of Photography. My excitement levels about this course have reached a level only previously attained by a trip to Mr B’s. Strong words indeed.

From Fuji UK - Fuji X70

From Fuji UK - Fuji X70

I have discovered that The Patience of the Delightful Mr F is pretty much limitless, as I have had my head in the manuals for my cameras and glossy photography books* for the last several weeks.   I have also taken to carrying my camera everywhere. I used to rely on my iPhone, but the purchase of a Fuji X70, has changed that, and now I can get high quality images with an easy to carry teeny-weeny camera.

The only real way to get better at photography is to do it.  I am hoping that over the next 12 months I can develop my technical skills as well as start to get to grips with my own personal photographic style**.  After 2016, which frankly was a bit of a slog on many fronts, I am finding photography rather invigorating.  So, for now (or until change my mind or get bored), Sunday is hereby declared as Photography Sunday on the blog. Like an annoying relative back from a mundane holiday,  I shall regale you with my photographs. You have been warned.  Lets start as I mean to go on with a few shots from Devon

2016-12-31 - Greenway Walk19-
2016-12-31 Torquay Street94-


*They are so pretty aren’t they? They also have the added benefit of making me look like an artistic intellectual. Appearances are so deceptive.

** I am an engineer and therefore have no sartorial style to speak of.


Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

This is one of my favourite Poirot novels. It shows Poirot and his little grey cells solving a crime years after it was committed. 

Caroline Crale was convicted of murdering her artist husband, Amyas Crale 16 years ago. Their little daughter was sent to Canada to live with relatives, but now she is an adult and wants to get married. She is concerned that having a murderer as a mother might put off her betrothed, and so comes to Poirot asking for him to uncover the truth about what happened. She is convinced her mother was innocent. So, Poirot sets off to talk with each of the people who were present when the poisoning occurred and to uncover the truth. 

Each chapter tells the story from a different character's point of view. We discover unrequited love, illicit affairs, violence and passion, all set against the genteel backdrop of an English summer. It's marvellous stuff. If you are feeling particularly alert you can compare the evidence of each character and it should allow you to piece together what happened to Amyas Crale. If, like me, you just wanted to enjoy the journey with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit, that's OK too. 

Roll on 2017...

Santa decoration spotted in Sainsburys, who are clearly in the Christmas spirit, having decapitated Santa. 

Santa decoration spotted in Sainsburys, who are clearly in the Christmas spirit, having decapitated Santa. 

Well, I am still here. I hope you are all still there too. What on earth has 2016 been about? Between the political shockwaves, war, terrorism and the celebrity deaths, it got to the point where I didn't want to look at the news any longer. 2016 is not a year which will not go down in history as one of the best will it?

Thankfully The Delightful Mr F had the excellent idea of purchasing some additional bookcases which has made 2016 a good bookish year. His view on these matters is that we never have too many books, just too few bookcases. He's a good egg isn't he? Due to my complete blogging failure in 2016, I will need to catch up on some reviews of the new purchases in 2017. There are some crackers in there, and I need to update my Agatha Christie Challenge page as I have ticked off another 12 volumes this year. 

In case you hadn't realised, in which case you had better get to the shops smartish, it is Christmas Day tomorrow.  The Delightful Mr F and I are planning a quiet day with some books. Karate books for Mr F and probably a good murder mystery for me. So, Merry Christmas from me and The Delightful Mr F, I hope your Christmas is just as you would like it, and here's to a better 2017*.

* We have tin hats on standby, just in case...

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Matilda by Roald Dahl

This is one of the few Dahl books that I didn't read a child. As with all Dahl books, it has some really nasty adults in it. Matilda is clever. Very, very clever. She also has pretty useless parents, who at best neglect her and are too stupid themselves to realise how brainy their daughter is. 

Matilda attends the local school, and is taught by the very lovely Miss Honey, who in turn works for the awful headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Miss Honey can see how clever Matilda is and tries to help her. Meanwhile Miss Trunchbull is preparing increasingly abusive punishments for any minor misdemeanours her charges may undertake. 

This is a brilliant book. Miss Trunchbull is a truly horrible character, very dark and very macabre. She of course gets what's coming to her, but not before Matilda and Miss Honey have gone through some mild peril. It's funny and icky and exciting. All the things children (and some grown-ups, that is to say, me) love. 

The Body In The Library by Agatha Christie

So here we are at another full length Miss Marple story, and one of my favourites from the BBC adaptations starring Joan Hickson.

Colonel and Dolly Bantry are woken one morning by their maid screaming because she has tripped over the body of a strangled woman in the library. The Colonel phones the police and Mrs Bantry calls her old pal Miss Marple. 

The Bantrys have no idea who the dead woman is, although village gossip soon ramps up to wonder whether the Colonel might have been up to no good behind Dolly's back. It transpires that the girl is a pro-dancer at a local hotel, and from there the trail leads into a web of family lies and deceit. 

Miss Marple is delicious in this, nudging the ever grumpy Inspector Slack and rather upright Chief Inspector, Colonel Melchett,in the right direction.  The solution is ingenious, and with your eyes open, you can solve this one on your own. You may find tea and knitting help sharpen your mind. 

Christie is at her best when she does these sorts of plots. A closed cast of characters, each one rather shady and with a secret, all bound up with a British stiff upper lip. Marvellous autumnal reading. 

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Here's a turn up for the books*, I read a sort of chick lit type thing. I'm not, in general, a chick lit kind of girl. I gave up after all I found within these tales were useless lead female characters falling for the wrong man and having absolutely no common sense whatsoever**. I can't say exactly what possessed me to pick this up in the library. Under normal circumstances I would have been a bit sniffy about the cover. Which just goes to show that you should never be sniffy about such things. You learned a valuable lesson there Helen, and don't you forget it.

So, what's Modern Lovers all about? We have two couples, both with teenage children, having known each other since college days and now living in the same neighbourhood. Elizabeth and Andrew have been married for years, and their son Harry is in love with Zoe and Jane's daughter, Ruby. Still with me? 

Andrew is having some sort of midlife crisis. He joins a, well not quit a cult, but creepy new age, weird yoga and suspicious juice drinking bunch of people who want his money to open a healing centre. Meanwhile his wife is approached by a Hollywood agent who want to make a biopic about the band she, Andrew, and Zoe were in in college with another, now dead friend. Down the road, Zoe and Jane are having relationship difficulties too, and the stress of running their own restaurant is taking it's toll. 

With their parents otherwise occupied, this leaves Harry and Ruby to their own devices, ending in a them being arrested for... well... I'll let you find out. It's very funny though. 

Yes, it's about relationships, yes it's quite suburban, and yes it's a family tale, all things I generally find rather dull. These types of plots really don't anything for me. If I may quote the Wee Free Men, it can all be a little bit "waily, waily, waily". Modern Lovers has a lovely balance of really quite acute family problems against the absurdity of life which lifts it above other books I have read like this. It's funny and thought provoking and I have made a mental note that as I get closer to fifty I will be wary of yoga instructors offering free cleansing juices. 


*Pun intended

** Susan Sto-Helit is my role model. 

The Very Royal Holiday by Clementine Beauvais

Oh how I love the worlds that Clementine Beauvais creates! The Delightful Mr F and I are both massive Sesame Seade fans, and the Royal Babysitters series, aimed at slightly younger readers, is just as fabulous. You may remember from previous reviews that Holly, Anna and Prince Pepino (of Britland) have been trying to save up to go on a Holy Moly holiday, and have had various adventures in the process. Finally they have enough money, and are hoping for the best holiday ever imagined. Of course, not everything is quite as it seems, and as the gang head off into the sunset, strange things start to happen. 

As with all of the books Clementine Beauvais has written there are some wonderful set pieces, it's a riot of adventure and fantastic characters** along with a plot which is funny, clever and resolves some loose ends from previous books. These are great books for kids to read either themselves or with grown ups*. 

This appears to be the last book in the series, and when I asked Clementine on Facebook*** when her next book was coming out, she told me she was working on the French side of her writing and translating one of her YA novels. Lucky old France is what I say. It looks as though I may have to improve my French over and above asking the way to the nearest post office. Either that or ask The Delightful Mr F if he will read it to me, seeing as how he speaks French. Incidentally, when we went to see the Bayeux Tapestry the lady on the ticket desk thought he actually was French, and so assumed I was too. What followed was me looking blankly at her until she realised my French vocab only stretches as far as directional requests to postal establishments and she returned to talking to the Delightful Mr F en Français. 

I digress, the book is wonderful, and if you haven't read either this series, or the Sesame Seade series, I would urge you to hot foot it to the bookshop, buy the lot, and then laugh until your sides split. 



*I defy anyone to read these aloud and not end up crying with laughter. 

** Including a space pirate, with a space parrot! Who doesn't love a space parrot?!

*** You didn't know I was down with the authors did you? 

The One About the Other Hobby...

You may remember this post, about my renewed love/obsession with photography. Well, I have been out and about taking some photos and thought I would share them here. I've been doing quite a lot of astrophotography of late, which means I get to stay up past my bedtime, sometimes on a school night!

First off we have the moon. Taken using The Delightful Mr F's telescope and my XT1. For those of a technical nature, it's ISO400, 1/60s, F2, 35mm Fuji X Mount lens.

Next up we have Cassiopeia, or rather a slightly cloudy Cassiopeia, but it was the best I could manage with the skies I had. Pretty nontheless. 

Finally we have Vega, the fifth brightest star in the sky. It's a lovely blue white colour and was particularly twinkly that night. Twinkly is an expert astronomy term you may not have heard before.

I have some ideas about some astrophotography and other photography projects that I want to do over the winter, so hopefully they will come to fruition. It is all rather dependent on the British weather though, which is a worry. 

I Need To Raid My Piggy Bank Again...

Yes, it's that time of the year when the publisher's put out all their books for Christmas, and I have to muster all the willpower I have in order not to spend every penny. It was a real struggle yesterday when The Folio Society sent me a list* of their 2016 Christmas Collection.  If you don't want to end up spending all your money on books this month then I suggest you look away now...

Remember this?

Remember this?

If you like a bit of Shakespeare of an evening, then this edition of Twelfth Night looks gorgeous. If, on the other hand, the dark nights make you want to regress back to your childhood, we have Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery, it matches the Folio edition of Anne of Green Gables which has been on my list for a while. I adored Anne of Green Gables when I was little, and was glued to the BBC version which was broadcast over the summer holidays. 

There is nothing quite like a good thriller of an autumn evening, and The Folio Society are adding to their Ian Fleming collection with From Russia with Love

Moving on to SciFi, we have an Asimov classic - I, Robot, a favourite of The Delightful Mr F, and another which has been on my list to read. Staying with the SciFi, the Folio collection of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books by Douglas Adams is complete. I have the first three, so the final two will be winging their way to my bookshelves very soon indeed. 

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

The rest of the collection is also stunning, and includes Kim by Rudyard Kipling, Michael Morpurgo's War Horse, Winnie the Pooh and The Red House by AA Milne. That's just  the fiction, the Non-fiction is equally as compelling, covering topics as diverse as the Bayeux Tapestry, Cleopatra and the history of China. 

With a collection like that, what is a reader to do? I could easily buy all of them, well, I say easily, I could if I had a smallish lottery win. Strike that, it would need to be a medium sized lottery win. Alternatively, The Delightful Mr F and I could live off bread and water for a few months. Who needs to pay the mortgage eh?

* As always, there are no hand outs here, I am on their list as a customer, not as a blogger.

N or M by Agatha Christie

So here's the thing. I am absolutely positive that I have posted a review of this book. I'd bet my last Hotel Chocolat Rose & Violet Creme on it*. The fact of the matter however, is that it's not on the site, well, not this one anyway. I know I am well behind on reviews, but I was so sure... It's a mystery worthy of Christie herself**. 

Back to the book. It is another Tommy and Tuppence story, and long time readers will know my views on these tales. They aren't my favourite. They tend to be a touch too jolly hockey sticks and to include daft espionage plots. This particular book had a rather unfortunate adaptation last Christmas on the BBC, which could have been so much better if only David Williams hadn't played Tommy for laughs.

We start with Tommy and Tuppence feeling at rather a loose end. The Second World War has broken out and they are no longer working for the British Intelligence Service and so feel rather helpless. Tommy receives a visitor, asking him to go undercover, but not to tell his wife. Tuppence, due to a rather slick bit of eavesdropping, finds out what's a foot, and heads off undercover herself. The pair find themselves on the trail of German Fifth Columnists, using a seaside B&B as a base. What follows is some mild peril and some derring do. 

Perhaps I  am getting soft in my old age, but this is nowhere near as bad as I feared. In fact, I would go as far as to say it's quite a good romp. It's not of the standard of her classic murders,  but, it will pass an afternoon very nicely. I don't mean to damn it with feint praise, but it's better than the other Partner in Crime books, but not a patch on Death on the Nile or Murder on the Orient Express. The problem for Mrs Christie is that she wrote some corking books, so the others pale next to them. My advice, if you want to read a Tommy and Tuppence book, this is probably the one to read. 


*Strong words indeed. 

** To be fair, it's nothing of the sort is it? It's more likely that I thought about writing the review, put it on my to-do list and then did something else instead. 

Harry Potter and the Curse Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling 

Where to begin? I'll try to write something sensible about this without giving spoilers, although I can't promise it will make any sense. 

First things first. In case you didn't realise, this isn't novel, despite what the press might have you believe by saying that it is the eight Harry Potter book. This is actually the script for the West End play. So, what to make of it?

In it we meet Harry's son Albus, and his friend Scorpius Malfoy, newly installed at Hogwarts, in Slytherin House. It's all very school story, there is bullying and angst, and well, not much else really. The script pushes us through several years in a rush, where Scorpius looses his Mum and has to put up with rumours that he is actually Voldemort's son. Albus meanwhile is finding the burden of being Harry Potter's son all a bit too much to bear. What follows is a time-turner, induced adventure which, on the page at least, can be a little bit hard to follow. 

Let's talk about plot to start with. I read it one Sunday afternoon, in one sitting and thought it was OK, a little underwhelming, but OK. Then after a few hours, it struck me that it is in fact utterly terrible. The Potter universe is vivid and vast, and though some of the novels were a little bloated, the detail was amazing. The problem with detail of course is that you need to be consistent with it. That's the trouble with this play, the characters simply aren't consistent with what we know from Harry's adventures first time round. The whole premise and resolution just doesn't sit well with me, knowing what we know about the characters from the main series. Can you tell I am trying desperately not to give anything away? 

Since it is a play, there is very little in the way of the descriptions of the wizarding world which make the Harry Potter books so great. There are stage directions of course, but that's all. Mind you, I don't think this plot would have worked as a novel either. 

So, are there any redeeming features? As a book, not really, but as a play I can see it would be spectacular. So if I can get tickets, The Delightful Mr F and I will be getting the next port key to a performance. 

Has anyone else read it? What did you think?

One by Sarah Crossan

One is the 2016 of the Clip Carnegie medal, so it comes with good pedigree, I was hoping for something rather less traumatic, but just as compelling as The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks.  The premise follows Grace and Tippi who are conjoined twins, schooled at home, but about to start that traditional source of teenage angst and stress – the American High School.  They are of course a source of curiosity for their fellow students, and the soon make friends with Yasmeen and Jon, outsiders themselves who accept the twins without mockery or judgement. There is of course a spanner in the works, the twins health fails and the doctors have to decide whether to separate them or not, and after 16 years, this is physically and emotionally terrifying for Grace, Tippi and their family. 

It all sounds rather straight forward, and in all honesty it is. It falls into that “teen(s) under pressure” category of YA fiction, alongside The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and The Bunker Diary. Perhaps I am getting old and cynical, but the novel feels like a well-trodden path with the new twist of co-joined twins. There are some interesting set pieces such as how their psychologist deals with giving them therapy individually, and how the practicalities of life are handled. Beyond that though, there is little depth, certainly it is missing that real psychological tension and insight that The Bunker Diary gave us, and which surely must exist in such life and death situations.  

One was up against stiff competition, including The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness and The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick, so I wonder why this won over these other fantastic novels. The writing style is unusual, with very short chapters, some written as poems, short bursts of prose and verse. Perhaps it was this, which is uncommon in YA fiction the judges saw as pushing it ahead of the others on the shortlist. I can’t help that feel though that it might be clever, it lacked soul.  Certainly read it, it’s a good book, but it isn’t a medal winner for me.

Where In The Literary World Are You Today?

Today I am staying at the Hotel du Lac, sitting on the terrace drinking tea with Emily Hope. Emily seems to have misbehaved a little at home and on the suggestion of her friends is getting away for a while. 

I can feel the sun on my face and a light breeze on my skin. It's all very pleasant indeed. 

- Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner


Yesterday I had to go to the dentist for a check up and polish. My dentist and dental hygienist are lovely people, and generally I don't have any trouble with my teeth, I don't even have any fillings. Nevertheless it is always a worry isn't it? There is that overwhelming dread of the words "drill" and "extraction". As it turns out, this visit was no problem, and I was even complimented on my flossing technique. That's not something that happens every day. Anyway, since dentists don't give out lollies anymore (why did dentists think that was a good idea?) and apparently I am too old for a "I've been to the dentist" sticker, ageist I call it, I decided a quick browse in Waterstones was in order as I had been such a brave bunny. 

Obviously after my flossing triumph I was able to justify a small purchase, and since they were on offer, two books came home with me. The first is Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter.  I have heard nothing but good things about this, and it has a crow on the front and I am a sucker for crows. It sounds terribly sad as a man and his young sons come to terms with the loss of their wife and mother, with the help of a visiting crow.  I have a feeling that this is going have the same effect on me that Spill, Simmer, Falter Wither by Sara Baume did. In which case, that's no bad thing. To sit alongside that I bought the new Katherine Rundell novel, you may remember I reviewed the superb Rooftoppers last year.  Wold Wilder is set in Russia, and features a young girl being trained up as a Wolf Wilder, a person who trains animals to fend for themselves after they have been kept as pets. I started to read the first few pages in the shop, realised I couldn't stop and thought I ought to buy it. 

So there we go, the new additions to the Fennell Towers shelves. What's new on your bookcase?

Standby, new obsession coming through...

To be fair, it's an old obsession, newly awakened. You may remember that I posted about joining a local camera club. Well, it's been a revelation and reignited my love of all things photography. Last year I did the 100 days project, which was a lot of fun, and it started that niggle to take my photography a little more seriously. The Delightful Mr F taught me to use a "proper" SLR camera when we first met and after my first payday post graduation, we toddled off to a camera shop in Guildford where I purchased a lovely Nikon FM2 camera. I was very happy taking photos and then the MonSter appeared in our lives and I was too tired to carry the kit around and it all fell by the wayside. 

Then the miracle that is digital photography arrived, and even better the wonder that is the mirrorless compact system camera. I am now the proud owner for a Fuji XT1, and my photography is back on track as the kit is light and portable.  

Armed with good kit and lots of enthusiasm I thought I would sign up for a photography course. This is not as easy as it might sound. If I want to do a degree (and remortgage Fennell Towers in the process), there are lots of options. If I was a complete beginner and just want to get out of auto, lots of options there too. Nothing in the "I like photography and know what I am doing for the most part but want to get a bit better at it" category.  Whilst I was musing this over, an advert popped up on my Facebook feed from one Mr Kevin Ahronson, local pro photographer,  patron of the aforementioned photography group with a studio about 10 minutes down the road from Fennell Towers. He and his wife Linda have started the Hampshire School of Photography and I have signed up for their new Foundation Year Photography course, with lectures, and one-to-one mentoring.  I shall blog my way through the course, starting in January, and this means of course, a good excuse to buy photography books, for research purposes you understand. 

Folio Society September Releases

It's the first of September*. That can mean only one thing. Well, actually it means lots of things**, but the one I am mostly concerned about is that The Folio Society release their new collection.  My literary love for The Folio Society is eclipsed  only by my adoration of Mr B's Emporium, so I was somewhat taken aback when a week or so back I got a letter saying that they were doing away with membership. Up until today you had to buy four books a year to maintain membership and have access to the books. There was something very nice about being a "member", with the associated magazine and catalogues coming through the post. It harked back to a slower pace of life where buying one really good item and enjoying it wasn't considered odd compared to buying heaps of cheap tat***. A chat with a literary chum, also a member, saw it differently in that now there was no barrier to the books, which is also true. I still can't help thinking that this is just the result of the ongoing onslaught on the bricks and mortar bookshops****. 

Anyway, back to the lovely books. This year's releases are, as usual, really quite eclectic and here are the ones which caught my eye. First off we have A Brief History of Time by Professor Stephen Hawking, the book that all A-Level Physics students attempt (me included) in the hope that it will make some sort of sense so they can impress at university interview. I did finish it. I didn't understand it. I am quite tempted to have another bash to see if 20 years has made any difference to my ability to understand mind bending theoretical physics. Probably not, but it will look nice on the bookshelf. 

Now this does look interesting doesn't it? A book of African folktales. I have read very little set in Africa, and this would be a good start in filing in that literary gap. 

You can't go wrong with a bit of Classic Crime, and Edmund Crispin is one of the best, and funniest. The Folio Society released The Moving Toyshop a couple of years back, so perhaps they are going to release more. I do hope so. For those who haven't read an Edmund Crispin before, then why not? It is Christie meets Wodehouse with more Wodehouse than Christie. It's marvellous stuff after a long week at work. 

Finally, we have another Pratchett. I have already dropped not so subtle hints to The Delightful Mr F that this might be quite a nice birthday present. It transpires he already knew... Pratchett books were made for Folio editions. The text provides so many illustration opportunities, it can only ever be a delight. 

Which ones take your fancy?


*How can that be? How can it basically be autumn already? It was surely only last week we were putting away the tinsel and fairy lights.

** For instance did you know that on 1st September 1159 Pope Adrian IV, the only English Pope, died? Or that in 1981 garages started selling petrol in litres? No, I didn't either. 

*** I think I am starting to rant, so will call it quits here.

**** Back on my soap box again...