Petra X

Sexo drogo y rock y rollo. Graffiti seen on a wall in the harbour of Oporto where the yacht I was on was tied up. I knew I was going to have fun then. Later, on the same cat I sailed the Atlantic and ended up, via the Amazon, on a small island where I had variously, an art shop,  a boutique, a bar and now a bookshop.  Books are no longer a viable business. What next?  Any ideas?

Shelving: Booklikes v Leafmarks

I had several thousand books on BL and LM this morning. I've added some recently on GR so I uploaded the same file to each of them. GL reduced my books to only 365. LM got them all, on GR and LM I have nearly 3K books. I'm going to delete all my books on Booklikes and reupload the file and see what happens. Unless someone else has a good idea of how to fix this.


It worked. All my books are here now. But I shouldn't have had to do this.

So pissed-off with imports and shelves

A little while ago this morning I wrote a blog about why I'm not back. The primary reason I left Booklikes was my shelves were so messed up. Today I did an import of a couple of thousand books from GR with over 1,000 reviews. Booklikes also had several thousand books on my shelves until this import.... now it's only 365 with 224 reviews. I got an email saying the import was finished so no more to come.  I can't cope with something that works so badly, I can't be the only one and I don't know how anyone can put up with this. I'm going to try the same import file on LeafMarks and see what happens there.

I'm not back and this is why

The drama on Goodreads (see feedback thread) with Patrick having turned authors into brands and the rest of us into followers whether we like it or not has got me looking at Booklikes again. 


I read a lot of books, print, audio and some ebooks. I love to look at my shelves full of lovely hardbacks, slightly tatty paperbacks and yellowing mass-markets. I can see what I've read. The books recall memories. But what about the audio and ebooks? Once deleted from my phone, they've gone. So I need virtual bookshelves and I'm not going to trust just one site, so I upload them here and LeafMarks. 


I kind of abandoned it here in the first place because several book imports were really messed up and although Support is responsive they were unhelpful and I couldn't face reshelving thousands of books.  Still, at least the titles are here.


The there was the preponderance of fantasy/fiction/freebie reviews here that kind of overwhelmed my feed. Some of the reviewers wrote well and were friends are GR but I couldn't seem to find a large enough group of non-fiction reviewers to subscribe to.


Thirdly this thing about bully reviewers on GR that had got a lot of us here in the first place. It was a moral point with me since I don't read or review SPA books, or very rarely and I didn't know many of the people involved.. But I did learn that whereas most of the authors were speshul snowflakes there were a certain number of playground bullies and they didn't restrict themselves to authors. or to one site, offend one, offend all, here we go from site to site pursuing people whom they don't know but their friend says they wrote such and such about a friend of theirs. And like a baying mob of dogs off they go..... I didn't like that kind of thing at 9, and I can't be bothered with it at all now. (But they have a retort for that, Flouncing. You have to laugh.)


So Goodreads has a lot of non-fiction reviewers, it's as active as ever, as are the groups. Some of the people I've grown close to over the years have tried here and/or Leafmarks but drifted back to GR, some never left. It's getting more and more monetised and like Amazon there but still.


It's like going to a pub you like. They have put in new chairs, smaller so they can get more people in. They've put a load of slot machines to make more money. The drinks seem to have changed and the flavours aren't quite the same but they are selling the bottles of it as well as glasses now. Same with the music, you can buy it at the bar. It isn't the cosy old pub we loved, but even though I've found another pub I really like, the old crowd is still at the old one, grumbling but there. So am I.


The Health Benefits Of Tobacco

The Health Benefits Of Tobacco - William Campbell Douglass II Is he joking or employed by some giant tobacco company? My mum died of lung cancer, my father of heart disease and although I gave up smoking tobacco decades ago, it can apparently take up to 40 years for major damage to emerge. Apparently if they'd only smoked cigars they would have been healthy with good strong hearts and lungs. As one Amazon reviewer says, "there is no clear correlation between rates of lung cancer and rates of smoking."

I haven't read the book, I don't read much fiction or fantasy. Nor am I into books that aim to mislead, influence in malign ways or is bottom-feeder crap written to enrich some interested parties to the extreme detriment of others.
However I did peruse the positive reviews on Amazon quite carefully and have extracted the main elements, which was probably copied and pasted from a pdf anyway. Here are some of them, not to bore you, mostly in spoilers.

Smoking in women during pregnancy and its benefits for mothers and babies. Smoking in women during pregnancy has been shown to significantly decrease the risk of high blood pressure, eclampsia, Down's syndrome, and many other conditions related to pregnancy.

*Study after study failed to find any consistent, positive correlation between smoking and musculoskeletal birth defects. In fact, many studies show a negative correlation - that is, smoking during pregnancy could result in fewer defects than not smoking. (Dr. Douglass even recommends that pregnant women smoke cigars in moderation!)

Ok, so small babies, the risks of prematurity, infant asthma, increased risk of SIDS, congenital heart disease etc aren't true according to the author. Read this advice to pregnant women from a US hospital consultant.

Smoking and its positive benefits for heart disease. *Smoking inhibits blood clotting, thereby dissolving harmful clots in the arteries and relieving ischemic heart disease.
*Smokers also have a much better chance to survive, heal, and do well after heart angioplasty.
*Nicotine produces new blood vessel growth around blocked arteries.

Smoking and cancer. *One study of 300 women showed that those smoking a pack a day for four years had a 54% decrease in breast cancer over those who did not smoke at all.
*Smokers have 50% less ulcerative colitis.
*Smokers have 50% less prostate cancer.
*Smokers have 50% less uterine cancer (or endometrial cancer).
*Smokers have 30% less colon cancer.

*In various scientific studies, smokers have been shown to have 50% less cancer in general.

Has anyone heard of any doctor at all saying to people Smoke, it will help your heart disease improve and you will be so much less likely to get oh, so many different forms of cancer!

The author says, "In one study" and "in various studies" but which studies? Funded by the Marketing and Promotion Council for Keeping up the Profits of the Tobacco Industry perhaps?

Perhaps the author thinks "no negative effects" means "positive benefits of tobacco ingestion"? It reminds me of Dr. Atkins and his diet and the big cover-up that he died extremely obese from heart disease. I'm not disputing that nicotine does have some benefits, but tobacco is not nicotine alone. The Atkins diet does have, or at least for those who need insulin but either don't or won't take it, benefits. But both smoking and vast quantities of animal fat are known to be major causes of disease.

The author considers himself a 'health myth buster'. Actually I think he invents some of the myths. Has anyone heard of the US goverment testing an anthrax virus on children? No? He warned they were going to in 2011. He also advocates drinking unpasteurized milk for health benefits (if you don't get tuberculosis that is). He looks for small nuggets of truth, finds obscure single studies to prove his point and then goes in for major promotion of substances and practices absolutely known to be major risky or definite causes of disease.

There are always the gullible. There are always those who think that the latest advice from their favourite magazine, daily paper, online site or celebrity, all of them outlets for PR companies, is solid and will follow it. And there are always those who will do or say anything for money. And so it is with this book.

More dangerous shit. *Thyroid cancer is significantly less common in women who smoke.
*Moderate smokers have less gum recession than nonsmokers. Smokers are actually at lower risk from gum disease than non-smokers.
*Smoking lowers rates of sarcoidosis and allergic alveolitis (both of these are lung disorders
*Nicotine prior to major surgery reduces memory loss due to that surgery.
*Nicotine stopped the growth of antibiotic resistant tuberculosis in laboratory tests, even in small amounts.
*Even in the case of lung cancer, Japanese men, who are twice as likely to smoke as American men, not only live longer but also remarkably, have lower rates of lung cancer.
*Attention Deficit Disorder patients showed dramatic improvements as well with nicotine.
*Smoking has been shown to stimulate alertness, dexterity, and cognitive capacity.
*Smoking can also counter both depression and excitability.
*Smoking by men was shown to cause a lowering of cholesterol.
*Studies have shown that nicotine acts as an analgesic, or painkiller, in humans.
*Smokers have less acne.
*Smokers suffer less obesity.
*Tourette's syndrome improved within 24 hours while wearing a nicotine patch.
*Smokers have 50% less Alzheimer's disease.
*Smokers have 50% less Parkinson's disease.
*Smokers have 5 times less osteoarthritis.

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany - Bill Buford I read this book last year and it was deleted from my booklist by Goodreads. Who naturally say this couldn't happen, I must have deleted it myself. I've never been able to prove before that the book was on my booklist until this one. It's not on my list yet I read it, and I wrote a comment last October on a friend's, Karen's review. I just came across this comment today.

"The bit about eating pure pork fat close to the beginning really put me off. It doesn't matter what fancy name you call it, nor that the pig ate apples and walnuts and cream for months before it was butchered, the fact remains that it is lard. Disgusting, gross and all the rest."

I couldn't have written this if I hadn't read it. But that wouldn't do for GR, because I still can't prove that I didn't delete it myself. How can anyone prove that?

Btw the book was quite good. Buford is full of himself, but not as much as Batali. If you like chef-stories this is about middle of the pack for interest and enjoyment.

Read 2014.

Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale from the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines

Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale from the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines - Michael Ritland, Gary Brozek In an effort to understand what makes men want to fight, want to go to war, I have read quite a few military books over the last few years. This one was about Navy Seals and their dogs.

It presented a lot of information on how the dogs are selected, how they are trained and how they are used. That sounds interesting but because there was no narrative structure at all, and the information and stories just jumped around, it was more 'meh' than 'wow'. The author was tremendously emotionally involved with the dogs and his job but failed to involve the reader on that level.

An editor, perhaps one who deals with fiction, could have brought this book to life with better organisation and characterisation. As it was, it was almost like a collection of articles written over the years and not pulled together very well.

However, it was an interesting subject. The dogs shine with intelligence and the men's respect for these working animals right up until adopting them after their active service is over, are highpoints, so three stars instead of the 'it was ok' 2.

Read Feb. 2015

Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story

Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story - J. Maarten Troost Unlike some of Troost's books which I have enjoyed very much I absolutely loathed this one and dnf'd it quite late, two-thirds of the way in. It really wasn't about his travels in the South Seas, there were no headhunters on his doorstep or anywhere else. It was about his alcoholism and giving up the booze with sundry elements thrown in. The biographies of Gaugin and Robert Louis Stevenson were a lot less than revelatory and enthralling. The jaded eye on the rich travelling Polynesia was just so fake - this man had been a banker and was travelling as a tourist himself!

The book droned on and on, Troost so unbelievably self-absorbed and full of hate for modern society and praise for primitive pig hunters that I thought yes, when you do go to where the yachties gather and start to relate your tales they probably think you are one of them, not realising they are just more fodder for his inner hate machine. About the only non-third worlders he doesn't despise are Muslims whom he thinks get a raw deal travelling a world where they are not welcomed anywhere. Eh? Where does he get that from? We aren't all stupid and think that everyone called Mohammed is a terrorist as he implies.

What finally did it was his anti-semitism. He must have thought he did it quite cleverly. First of all he says the French are anti-semitic and they have no grounds for that at all, it's so terrible. Then through the device of a man he meets says that all the Jews are after in Polynesia is gold. Notice, all the French and all the Jews. No no, says Troost, this is not true, the couple in the next room are Israelis, the man is a medical botanist.

On his next encounter with the Israeli the man asks to buy his watch, then his wedding ring, he wants the gold! He says he travels through the islands with his hot wife (another stereotype here, dark-eyed Jewish women are hot), going from village to village to buy gold from these stupid people and then reselling it at a profit in Tel Aviv. Thereby confirming exactly the Frenchman's stories. Yes these Jews are all about gold ad ripping people off.

Does it even sound true? Do you think he even met such unnamed people? Are the French anti-semitic (as a nation, no of course not). Can you imagine someone going up to an American asking to buy their wedding ring and watch and then telling him about stupid people who do sell them?

Even in Troost's first book, [b:The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific|2868000|The Sex Lives of Cannibals Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific|J. Maarten Troost||713460] his view of local islanders was that they were the salt of the earth, really really wonderful incredibly primitive people who lived happy savage lives. But those of them who moved to the towns were without any sophistication or desire to improve themselves living in utter squalor and cared not about education or the benefits of a first world life and have only degraded local customs and traditions. So here he continues, he's not stupid enough to part with his wedding ring, and only a Jew/Israeli would be venal enough to presume he would, unlike the islanders.

I live on a small third world island. It isn't poor to be true, but there are a lot of poor people here up from the much less advanced islands. They are here to earn money to send back, so that their kids can be educated, so that they can build a proper house instead of a tin shack, so that they can get electricity from the company rather than a hook-up from a pole. And ultimately so that they can get a Green Card, go to the US, get a job and themselves an education. Would they sell the gold they have, sometimes a chain? Maybe. Would they sell a watch (like they own gold watches?), what about a wedding ring? Not a chance. Are these people likely to be different from Pacific Islanders, I think not.

Where do you think all of us came from? We all came from poverty originally but the hard work of our ancestors, distant or (in my case, my family were Russian peasants until the 1920s) not so distant has enabled us to climb the ladder from no indoor sanitation to university degrees.

Troost isn't as clever as [a:P. J. O' Rourke|7549160|P. J. O' Rourke|] or [a:Paul Theroux|9599|Paul Theroux|] with their often-jaded view of travel, probably because these authors don't have favourites and those they hate, they just generally get in a bad mood when they travel and write from that angle. But Troost, originally Dutch, a very welcoming and liberal nation - apart from the Boers who left and did all that shit in South Africa, sees life through a smaller lens, categorising people according to his prejudices and then writing about them in his sometimes humorous way.

This wasn't humorous, it was boring when it was about his struggles with the bottle. It made him sound pseud when he was going on about how life on a continent was one of the causes of his alcoholism - he needs to be in the islands. His fillers of biography were Wikipedia expanded but it was the prejudice that did it eventually. I felt he was trying to persuade (don't all racists?) and I'd had enough.

Not recommended.

Her Big Chance: A Monologue from Talking Heads

Her Big Chance: A Monologue from Talking Heads - Alan Bennett Another 5-star read from Alan Bennett. The actress in this monologue has never achieved any measure of success, but she keeps on trucking - that big part is just around the corner.

She relates the jobs she has done, parts she hasn't got, what she has been asked to do in a very serious way, but it is funny to us, the audience. She obviously can't act, isn't a babe and has a big mouth and never thinks before she speaks. She says the wrong things to the right people time and again thinking she is giving them good advice. Oh dear, she's a train wreck, but a trier.

After I read the play (aloud in parts, I like to do that with Bennett and put on my fake-sounding Northern accent, but I'm alone, so it's not embarrassing) I watched the Youtube video with Julie Walters, for whom Bennett actually wrote the monologue. She's brilliant. As an amazingly good actress playing a really bad, failed one, she's utterly believable. I loved how she brought the words to life. Also her accent is real, she's from (nearly) up North.

Finished Jan. 2015

They Said That For Real? Customers in my Caribbean Bookshop

They Said That For Real? Customers in my Caribbean Bookshop - Petra SavonDuJour Update. One of the worst-dressed customers probably in the entire world.

5. Yesterday a party of four people came in from the cruise ship. Three of them, both the men and the woman were very overweight and wore shorts and t-shirts. The fourth, a much younger woman in her twenties was maybe 75lb overweight, maybe more and was wearing a bikini. A bikini in town. She wouldn't do that back in NY or wherever she's from, why do it in my town? Anyway it wasn't just a bikini, and from a distance it didn't even look like a bikini. It was flesh coloured. Blended in perfectly with the rolls of fat. She looked disgusting in every respect. This current thing of not fat-shaming and everyone obese is now just curvy, well they aren't, some people are just plain obese and if she'd been dressed properly I don't expect anyone would have commented. But going out in a flesh-coloured bikini is asking for attention, so she got it.

But I got a sale from one of the guys. A Lee Child book.

6. This isn't going to sound true but it is. An organised crime gang of 8 year olds. There is a private school just down the road. One of the stays outside, two of them go into the toy shop area (which is a separate wooden house, joined to the bookshop but not visible from most of it) and one of them comes to the cash desk to distract me.

One of the little boys fills his bag and runs outside and swaps it, and the outside child runs off with the bag full of goodies. When I go into the toy shop I see two innocent-looking children dragging their bags around. It took me a few weeks to actually catch them at it. Then I went to the headmaster and there was hell to pay. Parents in, beatings threatened, parents having to pay back cost of goods since they had been ripped out of boxes and played with (they had got away with quite a lot of stuff, mostly spy gear).

But here is the kicker. One of the parents would only pay half price for the goods his kid had taken home. He returned the used items and said since I had them back he wasn't paying any more. I can't sell them. What kind of message is he sending his children? He's a government official. Works in the Finance sector.


I'm the 'author' kind of, really the collector of these nuggets of wisdom. Five stars for these wonderful people for lightening or otherwise my day, especially if you bought a book. Four more of my more eccentric customers in spoilers.

1. On Thursday a middle-aged Guyanese Indian lady came in. She was messy, overweight and looked like she was probably a cleaner. She said that her friend was having 'marital difficulties' and did I have any books that could help. I showed her the relationship section. 'No,' she said, 'not those kind of difficulties. Ones with her husband. She isn't happy." So I showed her the sex section. In the end she bought a very explicit sex book, large format with lots of photos. It had got wet (under the aircon) so I reduced it by 50%.

Yesterday she came back, waited until I was alone and asked me for a plastic penis. "What?" I said, not sure what I'd heard. "A black one. Large size." I said, uh sorry but this is a bookshop, I don't sell toys. "Yes," she said, "you do, all those children's toys for Christmas. Why not toys for sex too?" I explained it wasn't quite the market I was after. but she walked out in a huff saying I promoted the place as a book and toyshop. I don't think she got it.

This reminds me of an absolutely true story that is a cringeworthy, open the floor and swallow me up kind of story. It happened to a friend of mine some years ago. She was married and was returning to the island through the airport, and her husband, after quite a long break in Miami. She brought with her a jumbo-sized black vibrator, it was boxed, and she showed the Customs officer (a woman) the receipt. The Customs officer unpacked it and held it up and waved it around in the air saying, "Does anyone know how much the duty is on dis big black man-ting?" Poor Eva nearly died. Wouldn't you?

2. My bookshop is very small. The island is very small. We are far from anywhere. A family came in today and the woman struggled in English to ask for children's books in Russian. Russian? Why would I have Russian books. "Niet," I said. The only Russian word I know. They left in bad humour and went upstairs to the cafe. There they tried to pay for some rotis and curry with roubles. The lady who runs the cafe called me to come up and take their credit card (she only takes cash). The card was rejected so the lady got on her phone presumably to her credit card company (tourist cards are always being rejected, you have to contact your company and tell them you are travelling). So no luck. They leave and drive off in their hire car. Now how did they pay for it?

3. Just after Christmas a customer came in and ordered a couple of books. They haven't turned up, the boxes are probably stuck in Puerto Rico (the Caribbean hub for goods from the US). She wanted her deposit back. This customer is a middle-aged Swiss lady, a nurse. She was so pleased that one of the books, this one, [b:10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works|18505796|10% Happier How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works|Dan Harris||26365939] hadn't turned up. She said that it was a message from God. She had ordered the book on a recommendation and then looked it up at home and seen that it didn't have anything to do with Jesus and there can be no healing without God and so she didn't want the book at all.

In fact, if it had arrived she would have had to burn it. I said you could have given it as a gift. She said it was a sacriligious book and she would have had to pull the covers off and burn it, she couldn't let it soil her or anyone else. Weird right? The other book, she said if it arrives in the next week to let her know and she'll pick it up. It was [b:The Secret|52529|The Secret (The Secret, #1)|Rhonda Byrne||2001660]. That's not exactly Christian either!

4. Middle-aged guy with a big paunch, not much hair and a t-shirt that says Twin Palms Baptist Church comes in and wants to know if I have any sex books suitable for blind people. I say what do you mean, like in Braille? Yeah he says, with raised pictures I could run my fingers over. I say but you aren't blind. No he agrees (he's not even wearing glasses) but I want something touchy feely, he says leering at me. Oh disgusting. Can you get that sort of book even?

A Burnt-Out Case (Vintage Classics)

A Burnt-Out Case (Vintage Classics) - Graham Greene Do you ever start to read books that you know are really good but you can't get into them? I've been trying to read A Burnt Out Case for days. It didn't work for in print so I got the audio. Same thing. I listen to a bit and come back to it later and I don't remember what I have listened to. So I start again and remember it as I go along so it's boring, so I fast-forward listen to it, put it down. Next time I go back to it, I forgotten it all over again!

I really like Graham Greene, and what I have read (and remembered) is well-written and interesting, sort of, but it doesn't hold my attention, so I'm dnf'ing it for now. Maybe I'll remember it in the future and go back to it then.

Anyone got any tricks to get through this to where I become fully involved?

Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music

Spirit Rising: My Life, My Music - Angelique Kidjo I used to be a World music journalist - mostly African. Angelique Kidjo was one of my favourite singers. Even now her songs Agolo and Naima are going through my head. Her version of the Gerwin classic Summertime is superlative. I saw her live a few times but never met her. She could really, really dance. And now she's a political activist. Sounds a really interesting book I've just got to read. (less)

Death in the Afternoon

Death in the Afternoon - Ernest Hemingway I was thinking of bullfighting and of the bull cults that have existed since ancient times. It started with the Egyptian cult of Apis, of which the Golden Calf at the giving of the Ten Commandments was part. Then there was the Minotaur, Nandi the mount of Shiva, the various Celtic bull cults and others widespread through the world up to medieval times. In the present day, the baptismal font of the Mormons stands upon 12 bulls (derived from Solomon's bronze basin no doubt). Perhaps bullfighting, man against what is arguably the primal male animal figure, Theseus against the Minotaur, is a survival of those cults, a ceremony of worship or sacrifice where the bull must die for man to reign supreme. But this isn't mentioned in this or any other book I've read on bullfighting.

The best thing about this book is the wonderfully evocative title. The content doesn't live up to it. Hemingway obviously loved bullfighting and if he'd hadn't been so old and out of shape when he discovered it, would certainly have tried to be a matador himself. As it was, he couldn't so he immersed himself in the culture and wrote about it in this book.

The book has three distinct sections, which although distinct he does jump back and forth to information already imparted. The first section is about the horses and bullfighting. He repeats a lot of crap that he has heard. Things like all the horses are killed. That injured horses have their bellies stuffed with straw and sawdust and then sewn up so they can continue to fight on. So they are not blinkered but blindfoled, made deaf, have their vocal cords cut out and their nostrils glued up but are still in fighting condition! I did some research on this and it does seem that an awful lot of horses died in the corrida back then, still now but not so much. However there is trade in buying ex-bullfighting picador horses and retraining them for dressage which they apparently excel at.

Since the matador is responsible for all expenses for his team, human and equine, it is hardly likely they would be keen to sacrifice highly-trained animals and would obviously have done what they could to preserve life and reuse them.

The second and longest section is the retelling and explanation of a bullfight in an extremely patronising way to an old woman who sits in a cafe and lusts after the matadors. This device is thoroughly annoying and eventually irritates Hemingway enough to just dismiss it, not even really 'her'. The most interesting part of this section is about the bulls, their breeding and their selection. What was particularly interesting is how bulls are bred to be small and weak although brave so that the bullfighters can handle them. Or at least handle them after the picadors have thrust their lances into the neck muscles to weaken the animal, stop him being able to fully raise his head and to enrage him with pain. Doesn't seem like a fair fight does it?

The last section which can easily be skipped and I wish I had, was a long list of the matadors extant in Heminway's day along with a description of their virtues or otherwise.

Although this is, in many ways, the best written of the books about bullfighting I've read, [b:Death and the Sun: A Matador's Season in the Heart of Spain|517293|Death and the Sun A Matador's Season in the Heart of Spain|Edward Lewine||505226] is very informative and quite beautiful.

I am no more pro or anti-bullfighting than I was before I read the book. The weakening of the bull has always upset me, far more than the idea of a ballet drawn around death. I don't know if I would go and see a fight given the opportunity, but I might. If only for the marvellous suits of light, [b:Ora Plata: Embroidered Costumes of the Bullfight|702096|Ora Plata Embroidered Costumes of the Bullfight|Daniele Carbonel||688390].

This spoiler and the next were written when I was reading the book.

A customer came into the bookshop who actually went to a bullfight at Aranjuez Corrida outside Madrid (in 1947. He's 86, very old, still travelling). He was describing it to me and it sounds a lot less bloody and a lot more exciting than the articles I have read. When I say 'less bloody' I don't mean it wasn't cruel but that the horses were not gored, there were no entrails like ribbons, and the bull could lift his head and charge. He had also seen cows, which are used for training and considerably more dangerous than bulls because of their different horns and different ways of charging, but apparently you can't really 'play' with cows. They just want to hit the person, not necessarily gore them so they are head-up, rather than the bulls going for the blood head-down.

Other books on bullfighting I've read are
[b:Ora Plata: Embroidered Costumes of the Bullfight|702096|Ora Plata Embroidered Costumes of the Bullfight|Daniele Carbonel||688390]
[b:Running with the Bulls: Fiestas, Corridas, Toreros, and An American's Adventure in Pamplona|1392267|Running with the Bulls Fiestas, Corridas, Toreros, and An American's Adventure in Pamplona|Gary Gray||1382405],
and the fantastic [b:Death and the Sun: A Matador's Season in the Heart of Spain|22501287|Death and the Sun A Matador's Season in the Heart of Spain|Edward Lewine||505226] which I didn't review (as yet). A 5-star book about the business of bullfighting, from the breeding of the bulls through to what happens to matadors that live long enough to retire. It was a book of depth, introspection, that made me think way outside the usual knee-jerk, 'but it's so cruel' box.

The Dinner

The Dinner - Herman Koch, Sam Garrett, Clive Mantle I have tried to be oblique but anything I say will ruin the book if you are going to read it, so Say you have a terrorist in the family. You see it on the news and then find irrefutable evidence in your own home. Would you protect the person from the police? Would you get together with your family to discuss the situation and all of you agree that further crimes will need to be committed in order to protect their loved one? Would you encourage these crimes and even commit them yourself? Would you do all this in the certain knowledge that the person will do it again and again and again if you protect them? Shock, horror, right? But we see it must be happening.

What about if it was your son and he was a killer? We all know this happens in gangs too. We all wonder if it is what happens in the families of serial killers.

At first I thought the ending, a psychological excuse was a cop-out but then without it the book would have not involved the narrator (and his wife) quite so intimately.

This is a hypothetical book, one of conjectures. It leads you slowly through the action, at each stage asking you to question yourself, do you find this acceptable, would you do this yourself, what kind of moral action do you expect (or not) from private and public citizens? It asks where responsibility lies and how much nurture v nature is responsible for our ethical conduct. It is an onion book, slowly slowly peeling the skin and the layers until you get to, through tears, the seed, the seed which could grow and form a new generation. A book of horrors. It's a what-if book and one very apposite for the times.

I started to read the book in print but it was very slow indeed. Later I understood why there was such a need for a big build-up but it was hard going and I gave it up for the audio book which had a wonderful narrator that brought the character of Paul, the raconteur and only voice of the story to life.

People have said that the characters were not likeable, true. Well generally that does make it hard to enjoy a book, but not this one. If the characters had been likeable it wouldn't have been a 5-star read because then they would have been like us and this is never going to happen in our lives. I hope.

Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box - Ray Bradbury Update Read this. It's about six brothers and a sister and mother who were not allowed to leave their Manhattan home ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. They just lived real life through movies. I put the link here but I also thought of putting it with [b:Room|7937843|Room|Emma Donoghue||9585076].

In some ways this story reads as an allegory of the Garden of Eden. God, the father, created this vast world of rooms set in beautiful grounds. But God the father has gone now. His mother tells him he was killed by the beasts "out there". The Mother is raising her son to be God the Son when he is grown. He is happy in his small universe not knowing anything else and not knowing that the only two people he knows, his mother and his teacher are the same person but as he gets to puberty he is beginning to question his existence and to explore his little world. He commits a truly forbidden act and his eyes are opened, he sees a different world. His mother is stricken down and without anything to hold him back, without anyone to take care of him he leaves the mansion in a panic, he does not understand she is dead. He does not understand death, it is something his father experienced "out there" with the beasts. So there he is running into the world among the crowds of people shouting he is dead, he is dead but he likes being dead. This is the out there and these are the beasts and death is freedom or paradise or just being in the world without someone or Someone to control you.

I always wondered about that bit in Genesis, "14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” Whoever implies other people. But Jack is already dead, he cannot be killed, this is a new life.

There are other ways of reading this story, a megalomaniac mother, hurt terribly by her husband, has all the money but nothing else determines to keep her son to herself as long as she can. But she will have to die or free him when he becomes a man otherwise the story would have to take a much darker turn.

Good story, very atmospheric. I had read it as a counterpoint to [b:Room|7937843|Room|Emma Donoghue||9585076] but the two are not comparable. In Jack in the Box the mother isolates her son from the world deliberately, in Room, the mother is imprisoned and wishes nothing more than to give her son freedom. Also not comparable is the writing. Bradbury is a genius who creates worlds within worlds with just a few words and makes you think. Emma Donaghue is just a writer of contemporary fiction who can tell a good, if one-dimensional, story.

Worth reading.

I'm reading this as a counterpoint to [b:Room|7937843|Room|Emma Donoghue||9585076].

The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey

The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey - Linda Greenlaw I know a bit about long-lining and swordfishing, and I sailed the Atlantic with some friends in a small yacht some time ago, so this book has always interested me. And now I've read it.

It's very technical, but I liked that.

Review to come.

Back to Your Roots: Delicious Root Vegetable Recipes

Back to Your Roots: Delicious Root Vegetable Recipes - Parragon Publishing, Parragon Publishing You think reading this will make me more grounded, man?