Dove

Thoughts: Death’s End, by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu

At first I was putting this off because I wanted to let the story sit for a while, and then I found myself putting it off because I didn’t want it to be over. How can it be over?! I know that Cixin Liu has given me more than I deserved. He gave me a whole extra book after the perfect ending of The Dark Forest! He took me to a time before The Three-Body Problem and then all the way to the end of the universe! He even gave me a sort of wink at the end to reassure me that my secret opinions about the choices of the characters were all correct.

Spoilers everywhere, as this is the last book in a trilogy!

Continue reading

Thoughts: East Lynne, by Mrs Henry (Ellen) Wood

So a few years ago I read Lady Florence Bell’s At The Works, a study on Middlesbrough life in the 1800s, because it’s local to me and no one ever talks about places local to me unless they’re blaming us for Brexit (which, by the way, is very misleading and pack that in, please). One question on the surveys of the Boro steelworking families was about their reading material, and a large proportion of them were enjoying Mrs Henry Wood*’s East Lynne, so out of a weird desire for connection with the past, I stuck it on the list.

And what a roller coaster it has been.

Continue reading

Thoughts: La Nuit, by Elie Wiesel, translated by Marion Wiesel

(It was really difficult to find Marion Wiesel’s name as the translator of this edition – Elie Wiesel mentions in his note on the text that his wife translated it but her name seems to be nowhere in the Kindle edition. Publishers: name translators.)

Holocaust memoirs are a genre of writing that I never thought I’d ever be familiar with, so this is a very strange place for me to be in. I say familiar, but it never really becomes familiar in some ways. There’s always something new, everyone’s lives are different. Everyone’s lives were different, whether they got to share their stories or not. I read this one in French because I need to keep my hand in, and because the French version was published before the English, which was a good enough arbitrary reason for me to read it instead (the original was in Hebrew).

Continue reading

Thoughts: The Walls Around Us, by Nova Ren Suma

From dense and serious to pure indulgence. Nova Ren Suma is quickly becoming one of my favourite weird authors. Her Imaginary Girls was unlike any YA spec fic I’d ever read, so everything else she’d ever written went on my list as soon as I was done (unfortunately, not enough to satisfy my endless appetite for weird. Why are the best ones never prolific? Kit Whitfield, another writer of totally off-the-wall premises, is the same). I had a lot of difficulty finding Imaginary Girls and was pleased to find that The Walls Around Us is just on Kindle. Hint hint. Nova Ren Suma is ridiculously underrated.

Spoilers ahoy.

Continue reading

Thoughts: Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman

This is another book recommended by a friend, and I admit I was a bit wary about it at first, mostly because I read Freakonomics in the recent past and something about its overly friendly hip nerdness had… not exactly rubbed me up the wrong way, but made me suspicious, perhaps? I have of course read other non-fiction books on brains and intelligence of a different kind (notably The Mismeasure of Man and Intelligence: All That Matters) but for some reason I got a Freakonomics type vibe from Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Which is all moot because I was totally on the wrong track.

Continue reading

Thoughts: The Dark Forest, by Cixin Liu, translated by Joel Martinsen

This is the second book in Cixin Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy. I enjoyed The Three-Body Problem, that weird grim sci fi tangled up with China’s Cultural Revolution, but I loved The Dark Forest.

More spoilers! Be warned!

Continue reading

Poem – A Break-Up Letter

I don’t do this very often, so let’s get it over with. Am I happy with it yet? Not really, but when was the last time I was happy with something I wrote? Exactly.


A Break-Up Letter

So firstly, England, yes, I miss you,
and I think there’s part of me that
always will. I told myself I
wouldn’t be so sentimental
but it’s true. I’m still not
coming back.

It wasn’t you-or-me, we simply
grew apart. We never would have
worked. And, oh, I told myself
I wouldn’t, but you ought to know –
you never were supportive, and
remember when you laughed at me
and told me my opinions were –
enough of that.

Of course we’ll still be friends. I’ll visit
every year, and see you in
old haunts and new, keep up with all
your news. And thank you, too. You let
me go so easily, without
a fuss or radge or song and dance,
just set me free.

I wish I could have left you in
some loving arms, but you’ll find
someone else. Just let them in.
If I could name my own successor…
but who’s good enough for you?
I’m choosing everyone who is
what I could never be. The poets,
doctors, politicians, those who
drive the buses, wild-eyed thinkers,
tailors, those who carry vanished
worlds within them. All the people
reaching out to you, who see things
in you even you cannot. Be kind
to them. Be worthy of their love.

Thoughts: The Inheritors, by William Golding

I feel like I should have a lot to say about this one, but I don’t think I do, and I’m disappointed with myself. I should have clever things to say – it was a clever book, but what can I say more than I enjoyed it?

When you hear the name of William Golding, you think of savage schoolboys, but he had a few other tricks up his sleeve, apparently. The Inheritors is about the end of the neanderthals* and the beginning of the age of humanity. Basically, the ultimate historical fiction.

Continue reading

Thoughts: Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer

I go through phases of being a Goodreads stalker, seeing what my friends are reading, what their new friends are reading even, seeing what they thought of the books they’ve read (I don’t give my own ratings but naturally am perfectly happy to peruse other people’s) and how many books we have in common in our reading pasts and futures. So I’d seen Annihilation around before it was suggested for Casual Brunching Book Club (name not final) and I was glad to have an excuse to read it. It was generally well received and though I’d read the blurb I didn’t really have any idea what would happen, which is as it should be for a book like this. Which is also my way of saying this review will be full of spoilers so look away now.

Continue reading

Hyperlocal Everyday Nature – Business Birding in Niederrad

I work in a big office building in Niederrad, the business district of Frankfurt. It’s not residential at all, and to many people it’s probably one of the most lifeless places in the city. Nothing opens on weekends. Before the morning commute, after the evening commute and between commutes you’ll hardly see a soul out walking. You notice every time you pass a dog walker or a mother with a pushchair because it’s so odd, and you’ve forgotten just how odd it is.

If thou gaze long into birds, birds will also gaze into thee.

But Niederrad has its upsides. The things that make it so devoid of people make it peaceful for the local wildlife. Big office buildings in Niederrad are surrounded with trees and gardens, spaces for its workers to look out on or wander through at set times of day to make the office job seem not that bad. For the vast majority of time, they’re empty of people.

Walking through Niederrad on the way to and from work are some of my favourite times of day, and not just because I’m not at work. Working in the same place and keeping roughly the same hours gives you a sort of temporal focus point from which you can watch the interplay between the seasons and the space.

Birds are by far the most common non-insect wildlife in Niederrad (anyone who’s ever foolishly tried to eat outdoors in glorious summer will know the necessity of the qualifier) and it’s through them that you can track most of the changes. The same species return at the same times every year. Some of them stay year-round, and you can start to recognise their songs. Even if they’re playing hard to get, it’s nice to know that the blue tits are awake or the chiffchaffs are close by.

So, what can a prospective nature watcher expect to see on a ten minute walk from Niederrad Station to the office?

Plenty.

Continue reading