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March Calendar Picture

March 1, 2015

Calathea warscewiczii

A few hours later than usual today… usually, I schedule these Calendar Picture posts in advance, but this year, I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Like the February picture, this is from the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco.

Spring Is Here!

February 21, 2015
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Sorry for being so quiet again… I try my best, but it’s so easy to always slip back into bad habits…

Anyway, spring has arrived on the balcony – this is what I found when I went out to water today:

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And I’m back at work, selling lettuce plants and spring flowers… I think I should get my containers ready for planting!

Book Review Backlog – Spring 2014

February 8, 2015

1. Kameron Hurley, God’s War (new, English): another book from the WFC book bag, and I can only say was that it simply wasn’t my kind of book. I guess there are people who’ll like it, but it’s just not for me. I’m a fantasy reader in large part for the majestic wild places, for the deep forests and high mountains, for the places that make feel like I can take a deep breath of clean air, and this book doesn’t have any of that. Quite the opposite. This book felt dark and gritty, like dust under my feet and crunching between my teeth, like dirt and crawling insects all over my skin. Especially the insects, because there were a lot of them in this book. I never quite figured out if it’s by magic or technology, but everything is powered by insects. And my mind seems to be so focused on all those insects that I can barely remember the plot. All I remember is that it’ set on some other planet, and the culture is based on Islam, which I found a refreshing change.

2. Mark T. Barnes, The Garden of Stones (new, English): a WFC book again, and another one I can barely remember. I think that was the one that annoyed me by throwing too many characters and fantastical creatures at me too early on, so I got quite confused… I spent so much time just trying to keep the characters straight that I never got formed any kind of connection to any of them… and if I don’t care about the characters, I can’t care about the book in general. So this is another one I won’t buy the sequel(s? I don’t even know) to.

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With The Garden of Stones, I reached my goal of reading my height in books. It took me from February 1st, 2013 to April 10, 2014. A year, two months and ten days.

3. Richard Gianfrancesco, Praxisbuch Selbstversorgung (Grow Your Own Food) (new, German): Clearly, I buy too many gardening books, because I don’t remember this one at all. Flipping through it now, it seems like a good book, although the instructions on when to do anything are a little vague, just things like “early spring”. For some reason, that annoys me. What do you mean by “early spring”? Give me months, like every other gardening book I have. (Although I suspect this might be so that the book will be useful for people in different climates. “Early spring” doesn’t happen in the same month everywhere in the world.) But apart from that, I think it was good, with detailed information on how to grow a wide range of plants – vegetables, herbs, fruit, nuts –, a bit of general gardening advice and a few pages on how to conserve your harvests.

4. Robin Hobb, Der Weitseher (Assassin’s Apprentice) (reread, German): I guess I reread that in preparation for Hobb’s latest book. I’ve reviewed it before.

5. Tad Williams, Der brennende Mann (The Burning Man) (reread, German): I read this for a group reread on the Tad Williams message board, but ended up not participating very much, because work was killing my brain. It’s nice to get another look at my beloved Osten Ard, but I’ll never love Breda and the other Burning Man characters as much as I love the ones of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. (Although there is one who appears in both, and I certainly love that one.)

6. Robin Hobb, Royal Assassin (reread, English), and
7. Robin Hobb, Assassin’s Quest (reread, English): Continuing my Robin Hobb reread. See the review at the link above.

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8. Chris Colfer, The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell (new, English): I read this as a favour to an acquaintance who insists on referring to it as “the next Harry Potter”. It wasn’t bad, for a children’s book, but… not on a Harry Potter level.

9. Robin Hobb, Assassin’s Quest (reread, English): I don’t think my list is correct, here. I wouldn’t have read the same book twice in two weeks. Wow, work was really killing my brain at that time!

10. Jay Kristoff, Kinslayer (new, English): I shouldn’t have read this book at a time when I spent far too much time working… because I know I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the first part, Stormdancer, but I don’t remember enough about it to say what, exactly, I loved. The one thing I can remember is that I’d just, before reading it, thought about how I wanted to see gay characters whose sexuality wasn’t a big, angsty part of the plot, but just a part of who they are, and Kinslayer had just that.

11. Tad Williams, The Very Best of Tad Williams (new, English): I’m generally not really interested in short stories, but I’ll always make an exception for Tad’s stories, because they’re always good. I just picked the book up again because I couldn’t really remember which stories are in it, and ended up rereading Every Fuzzy Beast of the Earth, Every Pink Fowl of the Air in all its funny, absurd glory and now I wish I had the time to reread the whole book!

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Even though I’ve reached my goal of reading my height in books, I think I’ll keep the chart. It’s kind of fun.

 

Snow and Spots of Colour

February 6, 2015

If any of my readers are sick of snow already, I apologise. We haven’t had nearly enough of it here. But I’m only posting the pictures that have a bit of colour in them.

A few days after Christmas:

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Some kind of Cotoneaster – I’m not familiar enough with them to know which species it is.

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Frozen rapeseed (Brassica napus) field

There wasn’t much of colour to be found in the little forest behind that field, so my next walk took me to the park:

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Well, okay, there’s not much colour in this. But I like the shape of the seed pods of the European spindle (Euonymus europaeus)

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The Kerrias (Kerria japonica) had started to bloom since it had been so warm for so long.

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Some kind of dogwood (Cornus)

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Probably guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus)

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And again.

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And again.

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The forsythias were also tricked into blooming.

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Chenault coralberry (Symphoricarpos x chenaultii)

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A great tit… yeah, that bird has a somewhat unfortunate name. And was also hard to get a picture of, since it would not stay still.

One picture from a walk on New Year’s Day:

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Winter heath (Erica carnea)

And from my walk up by the castle:

Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)

Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima)

I also passed some Viburnum x bodnantense a couple of times (also winter-blooming and scented, like the honeysuckle), but I never had my camera with me.

And a few from the botanical garden last week:

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Primrose (Primula vulgaris)

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Witch hazel (Hamamelis)

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Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)

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A hellebore, probably holly-leaved hellebore (lHelleborus argutifolius)

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Snowdrops again

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Another witch hazel

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And another one

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I have no idea what this is, but it’s blooming.

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Ornamental kale (Brassica oleracea Acephala group)

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

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Some lovely moss on a tree, and I’m not going to research what kind of moss this is! I have no idea where to even start. I might know a lot about a lot of plants, but I know very little about moss.

 

 

 

February Calendar Picture

February 1, 2015

 

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Like January, a picture from San Francisco, this one from the Conservatory of Flowers. There’s something about the colours of this Cymbidium that makes it feel more like a painting than a real flower to me.

Book Review Backlog: Winter 2014

January 30, 2015

Almost a month ago, I said I wanted to catch up on my book reviews “in the next couple of days”. Ha! Well, I’ll just try again…

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1. Trudi Canavan, Priester (Priestess of the White) (reread, German),
2. Trudi Canavan, Last of the Wilds (reread, English), and
3. Trudi Canavan, Götter (Voice of the Gods) (reread, German): I often have trouble with books in which gods are a real power in the world, instead of just a myth. This is the one exception, in which it really works for me. I also enjoy this trilogy more than Canavan’s Kyralia books, because there is more wilderness (not as an important part of the story, but there is some) and there are more fantastical creatures, both of which are high on the list of reasons why I read fantasy.

4. Jay Kristoff, Stormdancer (new, English): out of all the books from WFC 2013, this was the only one I thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t remember it in as much detail as I would like, but as I said, fantastical creatures are high on my list of why I read fantasy, so having a griffin as such a central part of the story is a big plus. And I loved the human characters just as much – Yukiko and Kin in particular, but even if I don’t remember the other characters as vividly, I still remember they felt very believable and “real”.
And then there’s the setting… I’m not really into steampunk, but there was also a nice bit of wilderness, and I rather like stories of the “technology is destroying the world, we have to stop it” variety. But what’s more, it’s set in a world based on Japan, and one of the things I find myself wanting more and more is fantasy stories not set in a quasi-European world.
I never quite felt like the world was real, the dirty city and the red fields of blood lotus feel a little too… larger than life is the closest I can come to putting my feelings into words. But it was still the best book from my WFC book bag.

5. Arto Paasilinna, Der Sohn des Donnergottes [The Son of the Thunder God] (reread, German): My father had lent this to me over a year ago, and I kept putting off returning it because I wanted to reread it and copy out some of the funniest lines. Which I suppose I did, because I returned the book when I’d read it. It was still as hilarious as it was the first time around.

6. Col Buchanan, Farlander (new, English): one of those books from the WFC book bag, and oh my god, this book annoyed me so much. I don’t know why I even finished it. I spent the entire time I read it trying not to throw things against the wall. It’s probably a good thing that a year has passed since I read it, because I know I had this whole list of things I disliked about it, but I never wrote it down and now I’ve forgotten the specifics. And don’t really want to rant about the terrible books – I want to spend time saying good things about the books I enjoyed. (But, for some odd reason, that is so much harder.) I doI mostly remember some over-the-top fight scenes. And the fact that the main character should have died about five times in the first chapter (or prologue or whatever it was) alone.

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I finally updated my “reading my height in books” chart, too.

7. Erika Johansen, The Queen of the Tearling (new, English): I seem to remember I liked this book in the beginning (although, since this was right after a book I hated, I’m not sure how good my judgement was), but I think by the end, I felt pretty indifferent about it.

8. Gwyneth Jones, Grazing the Long Acre (new, English): I have the feeling that this might be a good book for some people, but it wasn’t the right book for me, since I don’t really care for short stories or science fiction, and certainly not both combined.

9. Kaaron Warren, Walking the Tree (new, English): The sixth WFC book, and I picked it up mostly because the idea of a book set on an island called Botanica amused the garden geek in me. But I have to say… it seems to me like the author just thought, “Oh, wouldn’t it be cool to have a tree so big it takes months to walk all the way around?”, had a lot of fun with worldbuilding, but never came up with a proper plot. Walking around a tree isn’t a plot, not even if it takes years. And there weren’t even any interesting botanical references. (At least not that I remember. And if they’d been interesting, I’d remember them.)

10. Käthe Recheis, Die Gespensterburg [The Ghost Castle] (reread, German): I was behind on my reading again, so in my desperation to reach eleven books before the end of three months, I reread another children’s book. But Käthe Recheis is always good. And I know I said I don’t care for short stories, but these were nice.

11. Thomas Brezina, Sieben Pfoten für Penny: Was ist schon ein Hundeleben? [Seven Paws for Penny: What’s a Dog’s Life Worth?] (reread, German): I must have been really desperate to sink so low as to reread Brezina…I know I was obsessed with them as a kid, and I suppose at least the Penny books are less unrealistic than the Knickerbocker Gang… it’s not that they’re bad books, not in a way that makes me hate and want to criticise them…they’re just so formulaic and forgettable.

I started this “reading my height in books” thing on February 1st, 2013. With these books (the last of which I read on March 20, 2014), I’ve almost reached my height. The picture doesn’t really show it, but I’m still about three or four centimetres taller.

Out of several attempts, this was the least apkward look/posture.

Out of several attempts, this was the least awkward look/posture.

 

A Winter Walk

January 27, 2015

I was over in Big Town today to watch the stage version of what’s probably my favourite children’s book, and since the theatre is just a bit down the hill from the castle, I decided to go for a little walk in the snow and sunshine:

View from the "Castle Mountain" (which is really a hill). You might want to click on this one for a larger view.

View from the “Castle Mountain” (which is really a hill, I don’t know why we call everything “mountain” here). You might want to click on this one for a larger view.

The Castle

The Castle

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Looking across the river again.

I can appreciate a bit of poetry... (It says, "This is a GARAGE GATE, only an IDIOT parks in front of it."

I can appreciate a bit of poetry… (It says, “This is a GARAGE GATE, only an IDIOT parks in front of it.”)

And then I went to warm up among orchids and camellias and butterflies, but I’ll save those pictures for another post.

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Someone was having a lot of fun with camellia flowers…

 

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