The Girls by Emma Cline

Cline - The Girls
The Girls by Emma Cline

This was another impulse purchase, I was waiting for the delayed 1027 and had nothing to do but browse the bookshop at the train station. Thank goodness for train station book shops. Anyway, it is set in the US during the summer of ’69*. Evie’s parents are divorcing, and she is killing time during the summer holiday, waiting to go off to boarding school. Whilst hanging around town she meets Suzanne and “the girls”, and is immediately entranced by their lifestyle. They are followers of a man called Russell and are living at a makeshift commune in the countryside. They come to town to search for food in bins or steal it if they can.

According to the girls, Russell is showing them the way to live a selfless life, full of love and freedom. What it really amounts to is a scary and controlling cult. I didn’t realise when I bought the book, but the story is based on the Mason murders. Having realised this, around a third of the way through, the whole narrative became suffocating as I edged ever closer to the violent end.

Despite be based on one of the most notorious crimes in US history, the book has more depth than that. Evie’s innocence, and desperation to be an adult, are a potent mix when combined with a group of people totally under the spell of a very wicked mind.

 

*I know you are all singing Bryan Adams tracks now, don’t deny it!

Hello?

Well hello! Yes, it has been some time since the last blog post, and the more observant of you will have noticed that I am no longer with Squarespace. I have transferred all the blog post across from there, to the WordPress Platform, but I know full well there are lots of broken links and odd bits of code floating around. I am going to slowly work through and fix it all, but it will take some time.

So where have I been? Well, working, pottering, reading, taking photos and getting cross at the amount of money my blog was costing, and the unreliability of Squarespace is where I have been.

I am hoping now that blogging will recommence a couple of times per week. I have a nice stack of books to review, and lots of photography news to report on too. You remember the course I was doing? It transpired it wasn’t right for me at all, and so I don’t attend anymore, which is a shame.  It has, however, released some time for me to do more of my own photography, and it has gone through my mind to start a separate photography blog. What do you think?

So, what have you all been reading of late? Update me with your summer reads!

 

Photography Sunday #7: Where I Get a Severe Bout of Gear Acquisition Syndrome

IMG_0578It is quite possible that I had a slip of the credit card back in January and pre-ordered the new Fuji X100F camera. It finally arrived on Friday, and oh, it is beautiful. It’s a gorgeous camera, the fourth incarnation of the X100 launched some years ago. Those who have used one of the previous versions have raved about it, and I got all caught up in the hype and bought one.  It reminds me very much of my Nikon FM2 film camera. If feels sturdy, but not too heavy and has all the traditional dials of a film SLR. The Delightful Mr F and I went out and about in Bath to try it out yesterday. It was fantastic to use, and I can see this becoming a real workhorse for me.

It would be fair to say that I am now suffering severely from Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS*), which is a lot like Book Acquisition Syndrome (BAS) but manifests itself in the buying of photography equipment instead of literary material. There is method in my madness though. 2017 is a year for me to concentrate on my photography and a bit of kit here and there is reasonable I think. TheDelightful Mr F says that without trying things, how will I know if they work for me? I like his logic. He is a good egg, no doubt about it.

BathIt turns out that my credit card is really quite slippery as it slipped again and I also bought a stack of photography books and some Folio Society books too this month. The Folio ones were on sale, so they don’t count do they?

*What and unfortunate acronym

A Mind Worth Having?

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A place to develop your mind…

It’s been a funny start to 2017, that is to say odd rather than hilarious. Last week I met my pals, C and S for luncheon at a local eatery. C had bought her very photogenic son, T, who was as good as gold and after a suitable amount of cute baby noise generation, and batting off dotty old ladies* who wanted to play with T, we settled down for a natter.

I have, dear readers, recently been accused of being weird because I don’t have an in depth knowledge of the goings on in the Kardashian family and would rather read a book instead. I announced this to C and S with some sadness. We then pooled our collective knowledge. All we knew was that Kim was robbed recently, and that there were several of them, all having names beginning with K. We ran rather dry on facts after that. I did consider Googling, but frankly couldn’t be bothered and didn’t think it would much enhance our lunch.

I know the Kardashians are very popular, and not having watched the programme, I could be accused of not being in a position to comment. However, I do feel calling someone odd for reading rather than watching reality TV is a little bit rude. It made me wonder dear readers whether you have ever been insulted because you like a good book. I am sure the Kardashians are excellent entertainment, but better than a Pratchett, Austen, Ishiguro Wodhouse or Christie**? For some yes, but not for me.

The whole “odd” accusation had me feeling very down, until I heard Sam Harris on one of his podcasts say that in order to have a mind worth having, then you need to understand science, the arts and the humanities. I paraphrased there, but I did like the idea of “a mind worth having”. So, what would you read to help you develop a mind worth having? For me it would be a mixture of fiction and non-fiction:

  • PG Wodhouse – for the laughs
  • Agatha Christie – for the social observations
  • Terry Pratchett – for wry observations on life, the universe and everything
  • Richard Dawkins – for the rigorous biological science
  • AC Grayling – for the philosophy and to make me think
  • Christopher Hitchens – for the awe of his thought processes and writing
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – for the beauty and sheer range of his writing
  • Peter Ackroyd – for scandalous history
  • The Encyclopædia Britannica – for the joy of opening it randomly and learning something obscure yet interesting (if you have never done this, then I urge you to. You will be enthralled and unbeatable in a pub quiz).
  • Sam Harris – for the marvellous way he can deconstruct a problem and then construct an argument from the facts in front of him***.

What would be on your list dear readers?

*By the way, if you want to scare old ladies, look after someone else’s child while they order food at a counter. When aforementioned dotty old lady comes to coo over the baby and asks how old they are, answer with “I don’t know, he isn’t my baby”. The look of horror as they automatically assume you have kidnapped the child is brilliant. I should say that it is best to clarify that he belongs to your friend who is less than ten feet away otherwise you may have some explaining to do to the local constabulary. 

** Insert your favourite author here

*** I really hope he isn’t a fan of the Kardashians…

Photography Sunday #7: Where I Walk 11 Miles

2017-02-17 London_102Last week I had to go to London for a spot of work. That completed I went for a wander around and about and took some shots on my Fuji X70, which is rapidly becoming a permanent fixture in my bag. I am not well versed in the geography of our great capital city, but decided I would just amble around the place and follow my nose if I found something interesting. It was a glorious spring day and I found myself meandering in the areas of St Paul’s, Holborn, Fleet Street as well as along the South Bank. It was all very pleasant indeed. I shot a lot of photographs and had to stop when both my batteries were depleted. I was a little shocked when on the train home to find that I had walked 11 miles!

I have realised that photography is becoming much like reading for me. I am starting to integrate it into my daily life and it broadens my view of the world, which is no bad thing. It also opens up conversations that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. At one point I was reading a sign outside a church I had found down a quiet side street. Seeing my camera, a chap stopped and told me that if I walked to the end of the street and turned right there was the most amazing view of the church with great shadows when the sun came out. Then he went on his way. No idea who he was, but it was a nice interaction. I like to think he was a spy with an eye for photographic composition on his way to a dead drop. More likely he was an accountant, but why spoil a good story eh?

Anyway, here are my favourite shots from the day. 2017-02-17 London_124

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens

Stevens - First Class MurderI might be a teensy-weensy behind on my reviews… never mind, better late than never, eh? Today’s literary delight is First Class Murder by Robin Stevens, the third in the Wells and Wong mystery series. Now I will admit that I approached this book with some trepidation dear readers. The reason? Well, this is a book which pays homage to Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Now you can imagine how I might feel about someone trying to reflect Christie can’t you? This, however, is a Robin Stevens book, and therefore there is no need for panic. In fact, there is need for tea and buns and enough time to sit and read it from beginning to end.

Daisy and Hazel are off on their holidays with Hazel’s dad, and they are travelling on the Orient Express. Hazel’s father is a little bit concerned that the friends have got into the habit of tripping over dead bodies every ten minutes, which is not at all becoming for young ladies. He makes them promise to be good, and not get into any trouble. Well, it isn’t long before a body is found in one of the cabins, completely locked from the inside and the girls set out to solve the mystery on the quiet.

There is as cast of characters  including a psychic, a magician and a Russian princess. There is  also the added bonus of a young American lad who takes a bit of a shine to Hazel. The resemblance to the Christie classic is clear to see, but it’s so deftly done, and handled with such devotion, it’s a joy to read. The friendship between Daisy and Hazel is developing nicely, and really has some depth. I can see these two aged eighty, knitting together whilst chatting to the vicar about the recent murder at the village fete.

It’s a truly glorious read, and as with all the Wells and Wong books, there is a proper mystery with red herrings, twists, turns and clues to indulge the reader. The books may be aimed at younger readers, but there is no shying away from what murder means.

This series is fantastic, and even if you don’t have a Hazel or Daisy in your life to buy a copy for, pretend you do, and read it yourself. You won’t regret it.

Photography Sunday #4: Where I Have Now Read The Manual

When the Delightful Mr F first taught me how to use an SLR camera about 20 years ago, there was relatively little to learn once you had your head around the aperture, shutter speed, ISO triangle. After that it was all about practise and learning to “see” photographically. Now though, it is a whole different world… My first SLR, a Nikon FM2,  was completely manual, manual focus, manual settings, not an automatic widget in sight. In fact it was so manual it would work without a battery.

My lovely new Fuji cameras can do everything apart from actually walk out the door and take the photos themselves. The risk is that the camera doesn’t quite do what you expect and you end up with a photographic dog’s dinner. Even if you are photographing a dog’s dinner you want it to be in focus and properly exposed don’t you? Why am I rambling on about this? Well, on Monday I had my first one to one photographic mentoring session with Kevin Ahronson. We talked about my homework from the first course lecture. I had five photographs for him to review, all of the Delightful Mr F doing some karate training. Three of them I was quite pleased with, one I couldn’t quite work out why I wasn’t so happy, and the final one I had struggled with getting how I wanted it.

It turns out dear reader, that I had fallen foul of the autofocus system. The reason I was so dissatisfied with one shot was that the autofocus system hadn’t quite got things right, so The Delightful Mr F was looking somewhat blurry around the edges. I am so used to focusing manually, I hadn’t quite cottoned on to what was happening with the automatic functions.

So, on Wednesday lunchtime you would have found me reading the manual which came with my camera. Yes, the actual manual, which to be fair didn’t help a great deal, so I resorted to the wonder that is YouTube. I think I now have it nailed and so The Delightful Mr F need not be in fear of being blurry again.

The one to one mentoring is extraordinarily powerful. In half an hour Kevin had shown me where I had got things right, and where the others photos could be improved. I doubt I could have worked it all out on my own. I also met his cat, who is super cute.

So, here are a few shots of The Delightful Mr F. After almost six years, you must all be wondering what he looks like. Happy Sunday!

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