Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Book #9: The Père-Lachaise Mystery

My ninth book done and dusted. And I'm only four books behind. Four? Four‽ If you're curious as to what that strange symbol is, it's a little used piece of typography known as the interrobang. I think I'll write a post about it. Yes, I'll get onto that.

The Père-Lachaise Mystery by Claude Izner is a murder mystery that follows a bookkeeper, Victor Legris, through the streets of nineteenth century Paris, trying to find the whereabouts of his former lover Odette de Valois. When I say we follow Victor Legris, that is not entirely true. And when I say through Paris, that's not entirely true either.

The story begins in Columbia, with a dying man being suspiciously buried in a remote village and then we sweep to the Père-Lachaise cemetry where a widow is visiting the tomb of her late husband. From here on in we explore the lives of the maid of Odette de Valois in her frantic response to the disappearance of her mistress; a strange old man; and Legris' employee at the book shop.

Throughout most of the novel you know more than Legris, yet obviously he still gets to the conclusion before you do, despite the fact that there is a very limited cast of suspects. As a matter of fact, you are never really presented with a bill of suspects like you do in other mysteries, such as by Agatha Christie. The distinction between who is a suspect and who is just an extra to place the novel in a dark, bleak Paris is never clear. I suppose that could be seen as a clever aspect of the novel, disarming the reader into not reaching the solution. I see it as annoying. I expect that is because I found the whole narrative style irriating. You spent too much time trying to work out who you were now following (Was it the nervous servant girl? Was it the guy with the dead cats?), and where abouts you were heading. They do provide a map at the front of the book, but that isn't really any help, I'd keep losing my page and then I'd not finish the book.

The book was quite feminine. Although it says it is by Claude Izner, it lies. It is infact by two sisters, Liliane Korb and Laurence Lefèvre and it shows. It gets a bit Mills and Boon in some places and Victor Legris is obviously their fantasy man. Korb and Lefèvre are also booksellers, just like Legris, and they present an idealistic idea of what it was to be one.

If you are into slushy romances and want to read a murder mystery this is probably for you. However, I'm not a slushy romance kind of guy. You can make as many aspersions about being insecure in my sexuality as you want, but it is not going to change the fact, I don't like romances.

There is a series of Victor Legris mysteries (I think this may be the second).

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Happy Birthday

Today is a very special day. It is Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday. Aung San Suu Kyi is the President-elect of Burma. She is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. She is an amazing woman and has inspired many. So surely she'll be celebrating her birthday in style. Well, no. She has spent 14 of the last years under house arrest, and this is where she will be spending her birthday. So it won't be much of a birthday.

However, you can do something for her. You can help her people beat the junta and establish the government they voted for twenty years ago. It is quite simple. All you have to do is buy a radio. The junta heavily censor the media,. however, they cannot control the airwaves. The Burmese people will have access to independent radio broadcasts and will help them beat the junta in the first election for twenty year. Click here to buy a radio.

Happy Birthday Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Factual Friday

It is possible that on this day in 1178 five monks in Canterbury witnessed the formation of the Giordano Bruno lunar crater. They reported to their chronicler, Gervase, that they saw two horns of light coming from the shaded part of the moon. Theories suggest that when a meteorite hits the moon there would be plumes of molten rock, which may have been what the monks were describing. Also, the ray system (the bits blasted from the impact) is unfaded and the rim is still visible, suggesting it is quite recent. Well, less than 350 million years young. However, an impact of this size on the moon would have affects on Earth, but nothing of the sort was recorded in any civilisation at the time.

Earth has its own mysterious impact sites. One of these is found in Russia, and is known as the Tunguska event. It happened on 30th June, 1908 at thirteen minutes and thirty five seconds past midnight, Greenwich Mean Time. What is thought to have happened is that a meteorite or comet fragment exploded between 5-10km above the Earth's surface. The explosion felled about 80 million trees, over an area of 2150km². Although there is no crater, a lake may have been formed by a fragment of it.

These two events, although 730 years apart, may be linked. They both could have been caused by the Beta Taurid meteor shower that occurs during June and July each year. However, there's no point in trying to go out at night and observe them, because the meteors approach from the day time side so the sunlight renders them invisible.

However, if you want to see an astrological event the Comet McNaught is visible in the UK's sky at the moment. It will be at its brightest on June 22nd. Comet McNaught, or C/2009 R1 as about fifty comets are called 'Comet McNaught' (Mr McNaught keeps on finding the things), is not one that will be coming back, like Hale's Comet, so this is the only opportunity ever to see it. It's most likely to be spotted at dawn or dusk.

That is the end of another Factual Friday.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Never miss a post

If you're anything like me, which I hope you're not because then you have problems, you often forget to check who has posted a new post and find yourself spending every Saturday afternoon catching up on your favourite blogs.

So it is unlikely that this is your favourite blog, but if it is one that you want to keep up to date with I have a solution. I can make it so you get emailed every new post, complete with pictures and all, as soon as it is published.

To do that, I only need one thing: your email address. You can email that to me at bookwormsblog@gmail.com or by clicking here. You can also use that address to email me blog related things or offer me lots of money as long as I give you all my banking security details. I'm pretty gullible, so it's likely to work.

With this new fangled emailything, it also opens up lots of possibilities. Like, you can be a guest reviewer and send me reviews of your favourite or recently read books. It means I get all the work for half the effort. It's a win-win situation.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Factual Friday

On this day in 1962, the most elaborate escape attempt from Alcatraz was made. Clarence and John Anglin; Frank Morris and Allen West began planning an elaborate escape by at least September 1961. Using ordinary objects they burrowed through the walls, finishing their escape route in May 1962. They constructed an inflatable raft from raincoats and made dummies out of papier-mâché, which they left in their beds during the attempt on July 11th, 1962. Allen West never took part in the actual escape because he didn't manage to remove the false wall he erected to hide the tunnel in time. By the time he had managed to the other three had taken the raft and gone. The whereabouts of the others are unknown, and they presumably drowned in San Francisco Bay. Therefore, it can still be maintained that there were no successful escapes from Alcatraz Island.

A more successful escape attempt was made by the famous womaniser, Casanova. He was housed in the famous jail adjacent to the Doge's Palace, Venice. Using a sharpened iron bar, he and a priest in the cell next door cut through the ceilings of their cells and made an escape over the roof.

Colditz was apparently 'escape-proof' but over three-hundred escape attempts were made, and over thirty managed to reach friendly territories.

This is only a small part of the long history of prison breaks. Wherever there are prisoners, there are also potential escapees.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Factual Friday

Welcome to another 'Factual-Friday-but-actually-in-the-early-hours-of-Saturday-morning' post. It's always a bit of a challenge to do a Factual Friday and to make it interesting, but a bit random.

Yesterday I went to Thorpe Park so today's topic is roller coasters.  Be prepared to go on a speeding, swerving, spinning journey of rollercoaster trivia.

Obviously, as a logophile, I'm going to first look at the name 'roller coaster', but, this time, not in English. The French and Spanish name for rollercoaster give a hint to the roots of this form of 'entertainment'. In French, they are called montagnes russes and Spanish, montañas rusas, which both mean 'Russian Mountain'. Russian Mountains were winter sled rides that were constructed out of special made hills of ice. This idea took of and went through various stages until the complete loop track was finally born.

A lot of people think that rollercoasters are unsafe. Although some studies have claimed that the more extreme rides may cause brain damage in rare cases, or trigger previously undetected heart conditions, death or serious injury by rollercoasters is unlikely. Only one in  about 90 million guests to theme parks die, and often it is due to the negligence of the guest (i.e. jumping from a moving vehicle, climbing onto a track or going in prehibited areas) or a previous medical condition. When about one in a thousand die whilst riding horse in the US every year, it sort of puts it in perspective.

Kingda Ka, despite it's rubbish name, holds the record for being the tallest and the fastest ride and having the biggest drop in the world. The longest rollercoaster is Steel Dragon 2000, which is 2479m long. It was the Ultimate, in Yorkshire (which I have ridden on), and it is the only UK rollercoaster to rank in the top ten of anything rollercoaster wise.

  1. Do you like rollercoasters?
  2. Which is you favourite/ least favourite rollercoaster?
  3. What topic should I cover in my next 'Factual Friday'?

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Children's Books and Sell-out

Okay, I admit it. I'm a sell out. A dirty sell-out. Basically, when I write about books, or other things, I may or may not add a link to the product on Amazon. If you were to click that link and then buy the product, I may or may not get a small amount of money.

Please don't hate me for it. Basically, I see it as a way for me to share my literary gems with you, and for me to be rewarded for the time and effort I put into this blog. I am also hoping that it will encourage me to write more and write better.

Anyway, I'm going to return to writing about (or shamelessly promoting) books. I've been adding books to My LibraryThing list so they appear in the widget to your left. They have been mostly children's books and have given me that warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia. It was interesting to look back on what my reading habits were, and which authors have influenced my love of books and words.

The likes of Roald Dahl (whose name I still can't spell without checking), Enid Blyton and Michael Morpurgo crop up, but if you were to ask which author was my main influence I would have probably said J.K. Rowling. I read all her books avidly as a child (I think I read The Philosopher's Stone more than ten times).

But there is probably one author that has had an equal influence in my like of literature and books: Terry Deary. My brother and I were huge readers of the Horrible History books. Somewhat unsurprisingly, my favourite probably was Wicked Words. It goes through various aspects of the English language and its literature, from 'Chaucer's chicken' (the Nun's Priest's Tale) to 'Vile Verse'. In true Horrible History style it doesn't skimp on the rude, gross or obscure.
Quick Questions
  1. What was your favourite book as a child?
  2. Which author has had an influence over you?

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Dear Software...

Dear software,

You seem like a good idea at the time. You promise such things. A virus free computer. Being able to play tetris on the internet. Podcast streaming. Oh, how you wooed me.

But let's get one thing straight.

If you require another piece of software to run: I will uninstall you.
If you add any toolbars to my web browser: I will unistall you.
If you automatically open at start up and slow down my computer: I will uninstall you.
If you update without my permission and crash my computer: I will uninstall you.
If you take too long to download: I will uninstall you.
If you so much as have one ugly icon, I WILL UNINSTALL YOU.

Got that?

Yours cordially,