Sunday, 17 April 2016

Words & Pictures

 After Music & Words, come words and pictures, and what do you know? I've only gone and read as many non-fiction as fiction books this month!
 I say "read", but in actual fact, the texts of the three non-fiction books were mainly skimmed through due to their nature (I did read parts of these properly), as it was the pictures that I was most interested in.

16. The Mitchell Beazley World Atlas of Birds (1974)

 This beautifully illustrated book (along with number 17, below) was one I poured over as a child. I loved the flamboyant birds-of-paradise, the long-tailed pheasants and peacocks, and the large flightless birds such as the ostrich, cassowary, and rhea - probably because they weren't to be found in the garden or on the bird-table.

17.  Birds of Britain and Europe,
 by Nicholas Hammond & Michael Everett (1980)

 This book was invaluable for identifying some of the birds that visited our garden in the childhood home. Unlike book 16, this one was full of photographs rather than illustrations, but they are pretty amazing photos.

18. The Latter Fire (Star Trek: The Original Series),
 by James Swallow (2016)

 James Swallow has become one of my favourite Trek authors (alongside Christopher L. Bennett, David R. George III, and Una McCormack), and this is his latest novel.
 Here's the blurb:

 The five-year mission of the Starship Enterprise has brought the vessel and her crew to the forefront of an important first contact situation. Under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, the ship is heading to the planet Syhaar Prime in the Beta Quadrant—the home world of an alien civilization preparing to take its first steps on to the galactic stage. One year earlier, the Enterprise came across a badly damaged Syhaari explorer vessel drifting in deep space. In collaboration with the explorer’s captain, Kirk and his crew were able to restore the ship to full function and send it on its way. And now, as the Syhaari display rapid technological advances made over the past year, hard questions must be asked. Did the Enterprise crew leak advanced technology or information to the Syhaari during their first encounter, in total violation of the Prime Directive?

19. Rise of the Federation: Live by the Code (Star Trek: Enterprise), by Christopher L. Bennett (2016)

 This is the fourth of the Rise of the Federation series of novels and, as always from Mr Bennett's novels, a thoroughly entertaining, intriguing, well thought out, characterful and precise story.
 I was never a huge fan of Enterprise or its crew, with the exception of the delectable chief engineer (beware of the bulges if you click here), Charles "Trip" Tucker, and communications officer, Hoshi Sato, but these novels have really improved on the source material and fleshed out the characters (especially the criminally underused Sato and Travis Mayweather).
 Oh, this shouldn't matter in this day and age, but it does (as it's still so rare): This novel features characters from the entire LGBT range. I found one of these surprising but believable (mainly due to the lack of fuss about it), however all are dealt with in a totally matter-of-fact, no-big-deal way. Click here for spoilers. 
 Here's the blurb:

 Admiral Jonathan Archer has barely settled in as Starfleet Chief of Staff when new crises demand his attention. The Starfleet task force commanded by Captain Malcolm Reed continues its fight against the deadly Ware technology, but one of the task force ships is captured, its Andorian crew imprisoned by an interstellar Partnership that depends on the Ware for its prosperity. Worse, the Partnership has allied with a renegade Klingon faction, providing it with Ware drone fleets to mount an insurrection against the Klingon Empire. Archer sends Captain T'Pol and Endeavour to assist Reed in his efforts to free the captured officers. But he must also keep his eye on the Klingon border, for factions within the Empire blame Starfleet for provoking the Ware threat and seek to take revenge. Even the skill and dedication of the captains under Archer's command may not be enough to prevent the outbreak of the Federation's first war!

20. Absolute Favourites, by Mary Berry (2015)

 I love Vincent Price Mary Berry (don't they look alike though?!), but I don't have any of her books. This one is The Mother's. I read it flicked through the recipes, oohed and ahhed over the pictures, and read the chapter introductions last week when visiting The Parents'.
 And yesterday, I sampled some of the recipes as The Mother had made them for a late birthday meal for The Father. The trifle was particularly delicious! 

Chocolate torte (back) and apricot trifle (that The Mother forgot to embellish with toasted almonds before serving!)

The yummy apricot trifle

21. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet,
 by Becky Chambers

 After Sparky Tim mentioned that he was reading this novel based on my recommendation, I thought I'd give it another go to make sure it's still good.
 It is. Most definitely so! And I had a good cry at the saddest part of the story. Again.
 Anyway, here's my review from November last year:

 I love this book. I LOVE IT!

 It's about the (mostly) close-knit crew of a spaceship, the Wayfarer, that opens interstellar tunnels from one star system to another, allowing travel, commerce, etc. What they do isn't anywhere near as important as the crew themselves, something that the author and I agree on, which is why I enjoyed this book so much.
 This wonderful novel focuses on how the diverse crew get along and interact with each other and the people they meet during their year-or-so long job. There are so many set-ups for obvious conflict and cliched tropes, but none of them ever come to pass which is so wonderful! These are nice people. They are enlightened, fun, accepting, loving, definitely not perfect, but a far cry from the damaged, bitter characters that could so easily have populated this story. Race, gender, sexuality - all these topics and more are explored without hand-wringing angst, melodrama, and violence.
 There are a few horrible moments, though: an attack by space pirates (but even this is handled in a brilliantly enlightened way), the nearing extinction of a sapient race, the arrest of a crew member, and an unexpected death. But, even these moments are handled in a non-obvious, non-stereotypical, but realistic way.
 While reading this book, and now that I've finished it, I'm reminded of Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future in Star Trek: A utopian future with no war, no disease or famine, where everyone gets along for the greater good. The author has managed to capture this vision, but with realistic touches.    

 Amazing! I thoroughly recommend The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, and I hope Becky Chambers gets to write more stories in this universe she's created.

After finding her website and having a flick through, I've discovered that Ms Chambers is indeed writing a companion novel to The Long Way. Yay!



  1. I see your Mother also forgot the sherry in the trifle so you had it separately. Very sensible, and allows for personal dosage.

    1. And The Father did rather overindulge in his personal dosage!

  2. I only know of Mary Berry from watching Bake Off on public TV here. I will look for one of her cookbooks next time I'm at the book store. The Chocolate Torte and Apricot Trifle look yummy!

    1. Mary Berry is a recent find for me too, despite having been a staple (it seems) on the UK cooking scene. I don't know how I managed to miss her until a year or two ago?

    2. You only had to ask whether my aunt was a celebrity chef!

    3. Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs! Really?

  3. I luv apricots, the best & my favorite of all the stone fruits! The chocolate cake & trifle look spectacular & scrumptious! Scrummy, as Mary/Vincent Berry/Price would say! Like LX, I had no clue who Berry was til I saw the Bake Off on public tv, & I think it's the best baking competition on tv--no cutthroat or backstabbing antics that other poorly made cooking shows mistake as entertaining. Kudos to the mother for creating a festive feast!

    The bird books look awesome! I love paging through large nature picture books, too! It's neat to learn of new exotic species & see local, familiar ones. Makes nature, esp. local nature, seem more magical & amazing.

    The Star Trek prime directive has always been a controversial point for me. I'm all for noninterference in domestic matters & respect autonomy & independence. But at some point, you have act to do the right thing, though it may be right in your views only, but I've always thought that people should be left alone to live their own lives, esp. if they aren't hurting others or themselves.

    Trip & T'Pol & Travis are my fave Enterprise characters. Archer's dog, Porthos, was also one of the most interesting ones on the crew. I imagine that dog has marked every first contact planet with the canine version of planting a flag, which starts by raising a leg...

    It's a great testament to a book's value when it inspires the same great feeling upon repeated readings. Thanks for the reviews & Happy B'ltd B'day to the father!

    1. You're right, the Bake Off is a marvellously entertaining and educational show, all without resorting to the sensationalising tactics that many reality shows use. TV (and the world in general) could use more nice!

      I hadn't realised the link until you mentioned it, but the Rise of the Federation novels also deal specifically with the reasons for the introduction of the Prime Directive. At this stage in the timeline, the Federation is still getting involved in other cultures affairs, but due to a few bad experiences, is considering the ramifications of their action/inaction and introducing the PD.

  4. Ah. I really don't like apricot. Is it okay to use chocolate orange instead?

    1. You may have to clear it with Mary Berry, first. It seems like someone here might be able to help you with that...

      ::scrolls up to reply to Hound::

  5. I don't know Mary Berry, but Vinnie gave me his recipe for spinach and bacon salad.

    1. No, dear, Vinnie Price.He was a very talented chap in the kitchen and a nice bloke to boot.(Not that I ever kicked him!)

    2. Oh. D'oh! How could I have not got that back then? What a wally!

  6. I saw Mary Berry in "Back in Time for Dinner," a show about going back in time to recreate typical British meals decade by decade.

    1. I think I saw that too - it certainly sounds very familiar. I seem to remember prawn cocktails and black forest gateaux...

  7. I did enjoy TLWTASAP very much. You actually had good taste in books for once.

    1. ::breathes sigh of relief::

      Thank gods for that!


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