June Books

Time Heals No Wounds by Hendrik Falkenberg

Started 21 May
Finished 10 June
Kindle First for May

This book was ok. I didn't guess who the perpetrator was, so that was good. The characters were portrayed well enough and the story was interesting; it just didn't grab me really. It didn't have me wanting to turn the page (or tap the screen) as much as I had hoped. There was a thread running through the book, about a kidnapped/imprisoned young lady which I found jarring. It turned out to be relevant, but I found it confusing and a little disconcerting. I noticed a couple of places where the translation seemed a bit off, too; it didn't pick up the English idiom particularly well on occasion.

Cold (A Joe Tiplady Thriller 1) by John Sweeney

Started 11 June
Finished 14 June
Kindle First for June

This was an excellent read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as evidenced by the fact it only took me four days to read. It's not often that I really can't put a book down nowadays, but this was one of those occasions. All the various story threads were deftly woven together. I tend not to like novels which tell different stories at the same time; often I feel it breaks up the rhythm of the overall narrative, but that isn't the case here at all. Each thread was important and, although there was a clear "hero", the side stories were just as interesting, their characters well written.

I'll admit, I wasn't sure about the main protagonist to start with. He seems to be a bit of an anti-hero, someone who used to be an IRA member. However, some of his back story is filled in during the course of the book and this makes him more human. The way this is done is subtle; it follows as part of the flow of the novel. It may be that there are areas where the plot is slightly fanciful, but I didn't feel the need to pick holes in it; I simply enjoyed seeing events unfold. I wouldn't know what is, or isnt realistic when it comes to espionage and secrets.

The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh by Marina Fiorato

Started 15 June
Finished 30 June

I have read several of Marina Fiorato's other novels, with "The Glassblower of Murano" being my favourite. This novel, it turns out, is based on a true story; a woman who fought with the Duke of Marlborough in the early 18th century.
The first part of the book deals with her search for her husband, her life in the army and her growing bond with her Captain. The second part deals with her time as a spy and the last part brings these two threads together, with a dollop of treachery and the culmination of the love story. All in all a good mix, but then I expect nothing less from Fiorato.
The book seemed a little slow to get going, but that could be purely by contrast with the previous book I read. Once I settled in to the story, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Would I read other books by this author? Well, yes, I already have. She is a fixture on my list of authors to look out for. I enjoy her writing style: straightforward storytelling, with strong female protagonists, a dash of romance, but not too much.

May books (plus a bit of music)

Still Waters (Sandhamn murders 1) by Viveca Sten
Started 1 May
Finished 21 May

Enjoyed this. It felt like an unhurried read, but quite absorbing. The characters were nicely drawn, the plot was interesting and kept me guessing until just before the reveal. I will read more by this author.

Only one book, but I did go away and spend time with real people.

To compensate, here's a link to some music I bought, by a young British musician. I enjoyed it very much. It's still the CD in my car player.

Tom Wright

April Books

Only two books in April, although in my defence I have been very busy at work and the first book was a long one!

11.22.63 by Stephen King

Started 29 March Finished 13 April

I enjoyed this. Possibly, as a non-American and someone born after that date, the subject hasn't intrigued me as much as it might some people. However, the story was enjoyable and I quite probably know more about the Kennedy assassination than I did. I lost focus in the middle part of the book; I think I got a little bored with the tale of stalking Oswald. The story with Sadie was nicely written and the contrast between attitudes and morals in the 60's and now was fascinating. How things have changed in my lifetime. I did feel that the ending of the book was a little rushed. I think I would have liked less detail in the pursuit of Oswald and more in the changed future.

Blood Defense by Marcia Clark

Started 14 April Finished 30 April
Kindle First for April

For me, this book didn't really get going until about two-thirds of the way through. Then it became interesting, although at the end there were some revelations that left a slightly unpleasant taste behind. They also felt a bit tacked-on. On the whole I enjoyed the book, but I'm not sure this is a novelist I'd choose again.

Summertime on the Feeder

DSCF1209.JPG

Popped downstairs to make a brew and spied my first goldfinch of the season on the nyjer seed feeder.
After the earlier hail/snowstorm, it was a very cheering sight.

Shopping

Yesterday some jeans I ordered online from Marks and Spencer arrived. They are two more pairs in exactly the same style as I have bought previously. Online shopping means I can get the "long" leg length, which is rarely available in stores. I expected to have to shorten them a little, as my current pair had to be turned up an inch or so. However, of the new pairs, one was exactly the right length, the other only marginally long - not enough to make it worth getting out needle and thread.

This kind of inconsistency never used to happen in M&S. I guess its our punishment for expecting cheap clothing: absolutely no quality control whatsoever. I think I would prefer things to go back to the way they were, although I have yet to find any manufacturer who makes blouses with sleeves as long as my arms. I recently bought a white blouse, as I need one for choir concerts. I chose one that fitted nicely, but the sleeves were too short. They are also so tight that it's not possible to turn them back, so I will have to convert the blouse to being short-sleeved, if I can. I know I'm fairly tall, but most sleeves are short by more than I am taller than average. Whilst I can make clothes, jeans (or tailored trousers in general) and blouses are beyond both my skill-set and available spare time.

March Books

The Aliens Are Coming - Ben Miller

Started: 2 March
Finished : 11 March

A spot of non-fiction to start the month. The book examines how life started on Earth and how likely it is that complex life would /could start elsewhere. It looks at communication: if we did receive a message from aliens, could we decipher it? I wasn't expecting a book on alien conspiracies, which was as well, because this is a book full of information & a fair amount of science, from cosmology, through biology, chemistry and biochemistry, to linguistics and cryptography. All this written with a light touch and decent amount of the kind of humour Ben Miller is known for. I enjoyed it and learned a few things along the way. Worth reading.

Off The Grid - C J Box

Started: 11 March
Finished: 17 March

The new C J Box came out. I have read all of his Joe Pickett books, as well as some of his others. The Pickett ones are without doubt my favourites and I enjoyed this very much.
Joe Pickett is a game warden in Wyoming and the books are often set against this backdrop. Box does a good job of evoking the atmosphere and creating the mental image of the scenery. This book, however, is set in an area called The Red Desert - somewhere I didn't even know existed.
Is it a little bit derivative? Well, it certainly deals with very current topics; the middle-Eastern terrorist threat and government surveillance and capture of data. I enjoyed the story but there was a small part of me thinking "oh this again". I suspect that is more because of the types of book I read rather than anything lacking in this novel. I think I just prefer to read about the mountains of Wyoming rather than the desert. Add to that last month's book, "Little Sister" and it was more on a similar theme. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel and of course am eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

The Big Fear - Andrew Case

Started: 17 March
Finished: 25 March
Kindle First book for March

Very much enjoyed reading this. The story started small in scope and widened out to take in the title. The plot kept me reading and had a few twists I wasn't expecting. It taps into the mood of the current era, dealing with manipulation of markets/economies by powerful citizens. Another novelist goes on the "will-read-again" list.

The Polar Bear Killing - Michael Ridpath

Started: 25 March
Finished: 25 March

This is a novella in the Fire and Ice series, which are about a detective in Iceland. I have read the other books in the series, so it was a given that I would read this one. I enjoyed it. I'm not generally a fan of short stories; I much prefer a decent length book that I can spend time with. However, this was a nice, quick read. Familiar characters and enjoyable.

An All-consuming Fire - Donna Fletcher Crow

Started: 25 March
Finished : 28 March

Another book in a series, this time about an American Ordinand called Felicity and her priest friend/partner, Antony . Yes, I have read the earlier books in the series and enjoyed them. They are light reading, mixing murder mystery with religion and romance. Possibly light bits of fluff, but enjoyable nonetheless. Several of the books have been set in areas I know well and this is no exception, as it is set around Pickering, Rievaulx Abbey and Ampleforth - a beautiful part of the UK. It refers to the friezes in Pickering church, which I found almost by accident one year, when I had some spare time and wandered into the church for a look round. This, in turn, led to a fascination with the churches of the Yorkshire Wolds, and some very enjoyable trips out with my camera photographing just a few of them.

February Books

Again, not too many books read, although I have caught up a bit - and bought some more to add to my list.

Fire and Ice (Liam Cunningham 1) Dana Stabenow

I enjoyed this more than the Kate Shugak book I read from the same author, as the main character interested me more. I may well read more in the series.
The only thing that jarred was what seemed like a forced attempt to get a reference to the title in, right at the end of the novel. Otherwise, it was a decent enough thriller, set in Alaska.

Fields of Wrath - Mark Wheaton

This was one of the January Kindle first selections and is labelled as the first in the Luis Chavez series, so presumably more to come. Our hero is a priest in the US. I have to say I was suspicious and wondered if I would enjoy the story, but my concerns were unfounded. This is a good read, so much so that it prompted a few early nights so I could curl up under the duvet with my Kindle. It's a thriller, as are most of the books I read. We are introduced to Father Chavez and gain some understanding of his background, but all that fits in with the main plot nicely. I will look out for other books by this author.

Little Sister - Giles O'Bryen

February's Kindle first choice. Wow, the violence depicted was pretty graphic. Made me wince more than once. That aside, the story was good, interesting, topical and I enjoyed it. I wondered at the start if it was going to be a bit patronising in tone, but I think that was scene-setting for international readers.
This, too, could be the first of a series of books about the lead character and I might well read others.

Kaweco Sport Pens

My first Kaweco was a mint-coloured Skyline Sport with a medium nib, purchased out of curiosity and for the colour of the pen. It was inexpensive and I was, to be frank, disappointed. I wanted to use it with Diamine Marine ink, which has a lovely rich tone to it in my Parker 45. In the Kaweco it was pale and thin. The nib was prone to hard starts and had a flatness to it, rather like a small stub might. Previously I had only seen that in my Parker Rialto and I didn't like it there.

After taking advice from fellow Slack-ers in the Pen Addict Slack group I tweaked the nib quite a bit. Eventually it seemed to get the message and now writes well, although still with a discernible width to the stroke.

Undeterred, I decided to shell out for a second Kaweco, this time an orange Ice Sport with a fine nib. Again, largely for the colour, as I wanted to keep it in the pen loop of my Roterfaden Taschenbegleiter, which I chose with an orange felt lining.

The Ice Sport arrived and it was lovely. I loaded up a Kaweco pearl black cartridge and all was wonderful in Kaweco-land. Once that ink was exhausted I filled an empty cartridge with Parker Quink black. Oh dear, my little Kaweco didn't like that at all. Hard starts and skips. So the next ink was Diamine Matador - a nice colour for a bright orange pen. Much better, the little Kaweco seemed happy with that, so a red pen it remains.

I was surprised by the difference between the medium and fine nibs. This fine has a definite spring to it and is delightful to write with - as long as a suitable ink is used!

As is always the way with fountain pens, this was good until I decided that these plastic pens felt, well, a little delicate. I know they are supposed to be pretty tough, but I could feel definite movement at the join between section and body. I figured if I stuck one in the pocket of my jeans, or lobbed it into my handbag, I would worry. Of course, I convinced myself I really needed the aluminium version, so one was duly ordered; a nice silver one, again in a fine nib.
Kaweco Pens.jpg

I have to say, it is lovely. I enjoy the way the pen warms up in my hand. I have had it for around a month now and I have used it quite a bit. It does get chucked in my bag, or slipped into a pocket. The fine nib on this one is different from the fine on the Ice Sport - it is more solid, without that slight spring. It writes well, though, with no skipping or hard starts. Of course, the test would come when I refilled the cartridge with Parker Quink, which I did yesterday. It took a little to get going, and on harder paper, does seem to write a little grey, but on more absorbent paper, it looks black enough. That said, it might be time to expand my horizons with regard to black ink. The Kaweco pearl black does seem to have more depth of colour than the Parker ink does - in some pens, at least. My Parker pens stopped working once, when I filled them with Schaeffer black ink, so I stuck with Quink, as black tends to be my favoured ink colour. There are more black inks out there to be tried, though...

Kaweco writing sample.jpg

Reinvigorating old(ish) kit

Spare time this week has been spent on bringing my old PC back to life. Old as in former, as well as in elderly.

My current PC is around three years old, good enough to pay some games on, with an i5 processor, GTX 560 graphics card, plus the usual other bits and bobs. It doesn't have Windows 10 yet and it may never get it; that's something I will have to decide on the coming months.

My former PC is based around a Sempron 3000+ processor and it had XP on it, bought in 2006. It had served me well, although before long I had added a hard drive from an even older PC and put Linux (Ubuntu 6.10) on it. That was later replaced with Mint 11. On the oh-so-capacious 30Gb drive, with XP remaining on the main, 80Gb drive. I know, puny amounts of drive space, but enough. Even more so now than when I first had the machine, as I have removable drives many times larger, plus a huge chunk of cloud storage.

A while ago I updated to Mint 15, so it was time to update to Mint 17.3. I opted to go 64-bit and also to try the Cinnamon desktop. That was an error of judgement, as it kept hanging. I should have realised that this machine would be unlikely to cope with one of the fuller GUIs around. Fortunately I was able to download and switch to Mate, my previous desktop. I was also fortunate to have downloaded my copy of Mint the day before the site got hacked and the version I downloaded was redirected to one containing a backdoor. Since then, the Mint website has been offline, changed servers and, hopefully, made themselves less vulnerable to Wordpress hacks. Possibly a lucky escape for me.

I next downloaded a full copy of Ubuntu 14.04, with the Unity desktop. As expected, the aged box wasn't keen on that either, so I eventually overwrote XP with Ubuntu 15.10 Mate. Yet again, Mate to the rescue. I'm not exactly a fan of the very lightweight desktops. I have tried both LXDE and Xfce in the past and they aren't for me.

I was caught out by Ubuntu's decision to allow the user to choose their own software manager, but soon got over that.
So now I have a Windows-free PC. I imagine the sound doesn't work, as Linux has never liked my soundcard, but as I haven't got any speakers to plug into it, that's no big deal.

Thoughts on the process :

Mint seemed easier to install, but that was because I overwrote a previous version of Mint, so there wasn't a lot to consider. Ubuntu needed tweaks to the partition table, to reformat the disk, create a swap area and mount point - all things I haven't actually done for years.

Ubuntu picked up the location of Grub and didn't manage to destroy it, which has happened in the past. Yes, manually editing my Grub file some years ago gave me pause. However, Ubuntu did put its own stamp on my minimalist little Grub menu - a great big Ubuntu-themed stamp on it. Not the end of the world though.

When I installed Ruby on Mint, it picked up version 1.9. Jekyll wanted version 2. Version 2 was acquired, after a little Internet searching on the topic, but something didn't work right at the end of the process. It nearly worked, but not quite! Ruby still insists it is on 1.9, but Jekyll seems happy to work, so clearly it thinks there's enough of 2 for its purposes. I don't understand this and for now I can live with that.

So, being a glutton for punishment, I tried the same on the Ubuntu side of things. That repository happily delivered me a 2+ version of Ruby. Jekyll was happy, although installing something for Github pages failed. By that time it was "details".

All this was prompted by the similar "adventures", albeit in Pi-land of a friend on social media - you know who you are!

Oh and the first thing I installed on both versions was Midnight Commander. Old habits…

Baby Steps

Yesterday I pressed the button on something I have been contemplating for a while - another domain name. So now I am the proud (?) owner of four domains. Not many by a lot of people's standards, admittedly.

Recently I have started using the name of one of my gaming (Guild Wars 2) characters as a username on some social media. I'm "hazardwarning" in a lot of places, but sometimes that name has been taken. So Mydnyght Rose, my cute Necromancer, has morphed into "mydnyghtrose". She has an email account, she has a Twitter account and is my Instagram and Reddit username. Now I have the .com domain name to play with.
I have a couple of domains in my full name, but I wanted one to use, if I felt like it, for testing and learning.

Today I joined Github, also with this username. I figured I would go for some consistency. This is also a tentative step along my "learn web stuff" path. I can play with a Github page; I can follow some Code Academy courses. I feel like I'm making some progress.

Next: download a copy of Linux Mint 17.3, ready to re-purpose my old PC. I do need to check, but I think it will run the 64-bit version. Currently I haven't decided whether to try Cinnamon or stick with Mate, so that decision needs to be made - soon.

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