Thursday, 29 March 2012

Seize and Destroy!

It's Cat Thursday once again. I've missed it for a couple Thursdays but I'm back with something special.

Cat Thursday is hosted by The True Book Addict and is a fun meme for all cat lovers. Today, I'm featuring my video of Romulus playing his favorite game of attack. I rigged up a piece of elastic, hooked it into a roll and hung it from the back of a chair and he went at it, determined to subdue this unruly creation!


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

The Last Days of Ptolemy GreyThe Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ever read a book that you don't want to end, but that you can't stop reading? Well, that was The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey for me. Mosley's writing is as wonderful as ever and there were some laugh-out-loud moments but this is a deeply moving book about Ptolemy Grey, an old man who had not fought against the dying of the light until the beautiful and very young Robyn comes into his life.

Ptolemy is 92 and has become a recluse surrounded by the usual clutter of a hoarder which has made his apartment almost unlivable. He has a perfectly good bedroom but is sleeping under a table because it's full of the things he can't let go of, including his dead wife's belongings. Life has become somewhat misty for Ptolemy who gets lost in memories of his childhood and his friendship with the amazing Coydog and doesn't have a very tight grip on the present. Then the great-grandnephew who was looking out for him is killed and Ptolemy is taken to the funeral where he meets Robyn who, as he says, is one of those rare people who doesn't look like anyone else he's ever known.

They form the most unlikely of friendships and she becomes like a daughter and yet a chaste girlfriend to me (you'd have to read the book but it's not in the least bit icky). Robyn's interest in him spurs him on to discover who really killed his greatnephew (or whatever he was).

The way Mosley captured Ptolemy's thought processes was wonderful and I believe he got it exactly right.

View all my reviews

Monday, 26 March 2012

International Giveaway - Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Today I'm giving away my hardcover copy of Miss Peregrine's School for Peculiar Children. Yay! Entries are open to anyone from anywhere!


Blurb

A mysterious island.  An abandoned orphanage.  A strange collection of very peculiar photographs.  It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience....Miss Peregrine's children were more than just peculiar.  They may have been dangerous.  They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason.  And somehow - impossible though it seems - they may still be alive.

Rules for the Giveaway are simple:-
1. Follow me here on my blog or
2. Follow me on Twitter. (if you do both that's two entries)
3. Leave a comment with your email addy telling me what you've done.

You also get a bonus entry if you blog about this giveaway or tweet it and then email me the link.  (eugeniaoneal [at] gmail [dot] com)  This giveaway will end next Monday, 2nd April so there's lots of time to get in as many entries as you can.

Open internationally!,












Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Beautiful Banaquit

Banaquits don't have a lovely song; they make what sounds almost like small clicks but their cuteness more than makes up for what they lack in voice. These small birds are sugar addicts and often visit the hummingbird feeder we've hung up. Below are pictures of one of the frequent visitors.


I've been lurking near the feeder trying to get better shots but they keep a weather eye out at all times.





Snapshot Saturday is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Sarah Dunant's Sacred Hearts

Sacred HeartsSacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading Hunger's Brides and having been a fan of the Mistress of the Art of Death series, I found this book a happy synthesis of the two. When a young woman is sent to the Benedictine convent of Santa Caterina which is run along fairly liberal lines by Madonna Chiara, her refusal to conform and the friendship she establishes with the convent's most unconventional nun, Zuana, soon threatens to disrupt the serenity of the sisters. Determined to help her new charge, Zuana, the dispensary sister, imparts much of what she knows of herbal and other medicines to the girl. After her father, a famous doctor, died, Zuana packed up and entered the convent. As a woman of modest means and with a breadth of learning not possessed by many men she wasn't a great marriage prospect but it is clear that she would have preferred a life at her father's side, assisting in the preparation of cures and learning how to diagnose illnesses. Zuana is thus keenly aware of the pain the new novice feels at being thrust into the world of convent life.

Set in the 16th century, the action of the plot takes place in the context of the larger changes taking place within the church, transformed and convulsed by the fall-out from the Reformation. Chiara must navigate these dangerous waters, conscious that there are many who are always alert to heresy while others pray for signs and miracles. The young woman, Serafina, cares nothing for any of this, however. The spiritual world is not for her but how will she ever escape?

View all my reviews

Monday, 19 March 2012

Colour and Race in the Caribbean

I went to see the Trevor Rhone play, Old Story Time, at the BVI's community college several weeks ago.  Old Story Time tells the story of Len Tomlinson whose mother, Miss Aggie, subscribes to the "black; get back. brown; stay around" philosophy and is set on him marrying Miss Margaret, she of the "nice brown skin and tall hair down to her back."  Len was persecuted during high school by the same Miss Margaret, daughter of the local preacher, and by her boyfriend, George, and her high-class friends.  He never told his mother but he was saved from their bullying by the girl, Lois.  He goes off to England to study and work and marries dark-skinned Lois to his mother's great distress.
When Len and Lois return to the island, Miss Aggie becomes convinced that Lois is the source of all her financial and other woes and turns to obeah, West Indian magic, to get rid of her daughter-in-law.  Len tries to fight fire with fire and hires his own obeah woman but counteracting an obeah spell is not that easy, and neither is dealing with scam artists like George who has conned Miss Aggie out of her savings.
The play was written in 1981 and explores color issues which are still around today.  Miss Aggie doesn't like a thing black and was clearly untouched by any reverberations of the Black Power movement in the States or even by the Rastafarian philosophy which centralizes blacks.  She's an older woman and it could be argued she's a product of her time but that wouldn't explain why so many men and women are today, in 2012, risking serious health complications to bleach their skin as you can read about here and here.

An example of a bleaching cream that doesn't use the euphemism "skin lightener" but admits what it is and what it aims to do: whiten skin.  Sad that it would be be offered by a company calling itself "Mama Africa."


The rapper Vybz Kartel is an outspoken proponent of bleaching and says it's no worse than plastic surgery or getting a weave but I have to wonder about the messages he imbibed as a child regarding his looks.  Did he grow up around a Miss Aggie or was it the jeers of his own peers that turned his mind?
Before and After

And here he explains his reasoning...

Miss Aggie would probably give bleaching creams and soaps two thumbs up but, as we celebrate Black History Month, it's clear that it's more important than ever to continue to affirm that beauty comes in all shades. Let's celebrate our diversity and relegate the attitudes of the Miss Aggies of the world to the dustbin of history!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

We Have Lift Off!

It's Snapshot Saturday! This fun meme is sponsored by Alyce of At Home With Books! Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

I went for a helicopter ride a couple weeks ago and these are some of the shots I took as we left the Terrance B. Lettsome Airport behind.  The view is of Trellis Bay and the little ferry is taking guests to one of the smaller islands.


We pull away...

High...

Higher! 

I'll post some other photos of the trip soon.







Thursday, 15 March 2012

Author Interview and Special Giveaway!

A Place of Inspiration

As promised, I'm continuing with my occasional series on authors and the places that inspire them... today I'm excited to have the wonderful Ghanaian author, Empi Baryeh, as my guest.  Empi's going to tell you about herself, her new book and her special place of inspiration.  (Everyone who leaves a comment below will have a chance to win a copy of her new romance, Chancing Faith - in ebook format.) 

Empi Baryeh

I've been writing since the age of thirteen after stumbling upon a YA story my older sister had started. The story fascinated me so much that, when I discovered it was unfinished, I knew the task of completing it rested firmly on my shoulders. And somehow the ideas and the words for the rest of the story began to pour into my mind. I've been writing ever since.
It wasn't until another thirteen years later, however, that the romantic in me geared me toward romance. I now focus on heart-warming multicultural romance with enough passion to enthral readers who want a little sizzle with their romance. I live in my native country, Ghana, which provides the exotic setting for most of my novels.

He didn’t do short-term relationships…
American ad exec, Thane Aleksander, doesn’t date co-workers either—until business takes him to Ghana,West Africa, and he meets Naaki. Now he’s at risk of breaking all the rules. Can he stop this headlong fall before it’s too late?
Until he met her!
Naaki Tabika has a burning need to prove, to herself and others, that she’s more than wife and mother material. To do so, she’s prepared to give up everything for her job. Meeting Thane, however, makes her want to get personal. But falling for her boss could destroy her career. Will she be willing to risk it all for the one thing that can make her truly happy?
Two divergent cultures, two different races, two career-driven professionals, only one chance at true love—will they find the faith to take it, or will their hearts be sacrificed on the altar of financial success?

 My Place of Inspiration


One of my favourite scenes in Chancing Faith takes place at one of Ghana’s oldest historical landmarks - Aburi Botanic Gardens, which was created in 1890 as an agricultural research station and a habitat for plants from around the world, which in turn has attracted birds and butterflies. Aburi is just about an hour’s drive from Accra and, therefore, a convenient getaway for many Accra dwellers – me, included.
I love the expanse of undeveloped land, with rich tropical vegetation and clean mountain air. The mountainous topography provides a breathtaking view of surrounding areas and Accra in the distance. It’s such a peaceful feeling to get away from the chaos and traffic in Accra to the laid back serenity of Aburi. I always knew it would make it into one of my stories, and I’m happy that book turned out to be Chancing Faith.
In the story, Thane and Naaki go on a weekend getaway at the gardens and… (well, if I say anymore, I’ll probably be saying too much ;-)).


Aburi Botanic Gardens – Palm Drive





















Aburi Botanic Gardens – vegetation





















And just because I’m on a roll, here’s an image of Golden Tulip (Accra) Hotel, which inspired La Paulanda Hotel in Chancing Faith

























 Where you can find me -





Twitter: @empibaryeh

Thanks for joining me today, Empi! 

Weren't those some fabulous pics?  I love the Palm Drive!  Now, don't forget to leave a comment and your email address for the giveaway.  Empi will contact the lucky winner!

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"Jackson liked things done properly.  There was a file in his house in France neatly labeled WHAT TO DO WHEN I DIE, and inside it there was all the information that anyone would need in order to tidy up his affairs once he was gone."  p. 35  One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Rocking the Red Pump in the BVI

Today my Saturday Snapshot is a multi-tasker.  Saturday Snapshot is a great meme hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books and I usually post stuff I see around Tortola, the island where I live, and it's all lighthearted fun.  Today, though, I'm participating in the Rock the Red Pump Awareness Project as part of activities for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, today 10th March.  So my photo is of me, or rather of my foot in a red pump.  (Umm, teeny, tiny, microscopic, really-hardly-worth-mentioning confession below.)

As I post this, I want to remember all the girls and women around the world, but particularly in the Caribbean and in the British Virgin Islands, who are affected in one way or another by HIV/AIDS.

Some stats:-

1.)  HIV/AIDS is a leading cause of death among 25 - 44 year-olds in the Caribbean.

2.)  Women aged 15 and older now comprise an increasing share of those with the disease.

3.)  In some countries of the Caribbean, HIV/AIDS prevalence rates among young women between 15 and 24 are two to three times higher than among young men of the same age.

4.)  Early sexual initiation and taboos surrounding sex and sexuality are some of the factors influencing the epidemic in the region.

5.)  Surveys in the Caribbean have detected high HIV/AIDS rates among sex workers.

6.)  A 2006 study in Trinidad and Tobago found that 20.4% of men who have sex with men surveyed were infected with HIV. In Jamaica, another study found HIV prevalence of 31%. Sex between men also seems to be driving an increase in HIV prevalence in Cuba.

(Sources - here and here.)

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky below. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see.

And now for the teeny, tiny confession (I've put it off as long as possible) - I'm basically a sneakers and sandals kind of person and most of them are either black or brown, boring I know.  But I feel like the Leaning Tower of Pisa in anything over two inches.  I went to a nearby shop, tried this on and snapped the pix.  They're Chinese Laundry for you fashionistas out there.)

Friday, 9 March 2012

Women and HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean

fm;flf,l;ef,

Today, to highlight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean and as part of activities leading up to tomorrow's National Women and Girls' HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, I clipped the following from Avert, the UK-based AIDS organization.

"The Caribbean has also seen an alarming increase in the number of HIV infected women, and again the main mode of HIV transmission is through heterosexual sex. Women are more affected by HIV than men in this region, accounting for more than half of people living with HIV in 2010.  Young women are also more likely to be infected with HIV than young men, with HIV prevalence reported to be twice as high among young women.

Often men make the majority of decisions, such as whom they will marry and whether they will have more than one sexual partner. This power imbalance means that it can be more difficult for women to protect themselves from getting infected with HIV. For example, a woman may not be able to insist on the use of a condom if her husband is the one who makes the decisions.

Marriage does not always protect a woman from becoming infected with HIV. Many new infections occur within marriage or long-term relationships as a result of unfaithful partners. In a number of societies, a man having more than one sexual partner is seen as the norm.

Commercial sex has been identified as one of the key factors in the Caribbean HIV epidemic. A study of HIV prevalence among female sex workers in Georgetown, Guyana, showed that a very high number - 30.6 percent - were infected with HIV.

Female sex workers are frequently thought of as being at a higher risk of HIV exposure as they are often not in a position to insist that their customers wear condoms. Alarmingly it has been reported that men will still pay more money for unprotected sex with a sex worker.  This means that sex workers are not only at risk of becoming infected with HIV, but that if they are already infected, they can pass the virus on to their clients.

In recent years some countries have documented a decline in the rate of new HIV infections among sex workers. In Haiti, for example, HIV prevalence among female sex workers attending an HIV voluntary counselling and testing centre rose from 50 percent in 1985 to 63 percent in 1987.  It then declined to 22 percent in 1999 and 2003. This decline has been attributed to better education and knowledge about HIV prevention."


       

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Asleep or Awake - this ball is mine!

It's Cat Thursday once again. Cat Thursday is hosted by The True Book Addict and is a fun meme for all cat lovers.  She's featuring authors and their cats on the second Thursday of the month and has a lovely photo of Ray Bradbury with his feline.

I looked for photos of some of the authors I liked with their cats but didn't find any so here's Romulus with his favourite ball.


I may be falling asleep but this ball is still mine!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Strange Afterlife of St. John, the Baptist's, Head

One of the things that surprised me most during my visit to Syria a few years ago was that Syrians believe the head of John, the Baptist is entombed within the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.  According to this online source, the head was taken to Damascus shortly after St. John's death and housed in a shrine within the cathedral that became known as the Cathedral of St. John, the Baptist.  Over time, the area changed hands many times, until finally it became the Umayyad Mosque.  Muslim leaders allowed the shrine to remain and it is there to this day.

This is the shrine of St. John, the Baptist. 
People are not allowed inside but you can peek in through the windows though the glass is so thick you can't really see anything very clearly.  If you're interested in the topic, this article discusses the various findings of the head in various places in the centuries following his death and presents the information that, in the Middle Ages, when relics became the hot thing, bits of skull fragments may have been shared out by church leaders in Constantinople even as Syrian sources were claiming to have located the head in Damascus.

Picture taken from within the Umayyad Mosque which is
considered the fourth holiest place by Muslims.
The beautiful Umayyad Mosque is one of the biggest in the world.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Women of the Lighthouse

It's Saturday which means it's Saturday Snapshot time!  Saturday Snapshot is a great meme hosted by Alyce over at the blog, At Home With Books.   Check it out and see photos from all over our Big Blue Marble!



I love old photos and found this one in an aunt's album.  The road makes me think of the islands of Anguilla or Anegada but the lighthouse suggests the place is somewhere else entirely, perhaps in the States.  I'm thinking my aunt took the picture and that these were her friends but I'll probably never know since she's not around anymore. 

I cropped the sheep out of the first which, I think, makes for a stronger composition.  What do you think?

Friday, 2 March 2012

Hunger's Brides

Hunger's Brides: A Novel of the BaroqueHunger's Brides: A Novel of the Baroque by Paul Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The word 'magisterial' is more often used when referring to non-fiction works of great scope and comprehensiveness but it totally fits Hunger's Brides. Anderson weaves together past and present in this novel about Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, the real-life brilliant poet-scientist-philosopher who lived in 17th century Mexico, and ran afoul of the Inquisition and the leaders of the Church who were confounded by the intelligence of this "weaker vessel." In a time when women were not expected to be much more than decorative objects, their interests confined solely to domestic concerns, Sor Juana's mastery of Latin and logic and her defense of science and of the rights of the native people put her at odds with both Church and State. Hunger's Bride is also about the modern-day brilliant graduate student, Beulah Lismoneros, who becomes obsessed with Sor Juana but who has her own demons to fight and whose trip to Mexico in search of Sor Juana ends badly in a way reminiscent of The Sheltering Sky. Beulah's story is told partly in the first person and partly from the perspective of the university professor whose affair with her results in his fall from grace.

It was interesting reading this at the same time as 72 Hour Hold in which we get a mother's perspective on her daughter's mental illness because, in Hunger's Brides, we hear directly from Beulah who is also troubled by bipolar disorder. (Can't remember if that was the exact diagnosis given but she had a lot of the behavior patterns exhbited by Campbell's Trina.)

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