skyscrapers, booksellers, and school horses

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to go to a physics’ work party (not my work party…but hey, scientists generally throw good ones) that was held on the 43rd floor of the Hilton, the tallest building in Manchester (by a “wide margin” according to Wikipedia). The views were excellent; pizza was consumed in copious amounts, and the beer was cold. It was also fun to get a look into what is definitely one of the premier addresses in Manchester. The views are amazing, but we’ll probably stick with our quieter, cheaper, flat for the time being. Although being able to see the (now under renovation) Central Library (it’s that circular building on the left of the photo) from above was seriously cool. I still can’t believe that that was my public library. The new one isn’t as impressive on the outside, but it’s equally gorgeous on the inside. So cool.

The second highlight of the weekend was a new book, a new series, and a new author. (Colin) Bateman’s Mystery Man is one of the funniest books I’ve ever run across. The combination of random references to classic detective novels, what must be one of the few laugh-out-loud grammar jokes in literary fiction, and an unnamed, totally wacky, detective made it the highlight of my month, if only for quotes like this one (prompted by our not-so-intrepid detective trying to deny both that his store is named “No Alibis” and that its motto is “Murder is our business”.)

Noahbylies–yes, indeed. It’s an….Elvish word. Elvish for bookshop. We specialise in science fiction and fantasy novels. You know, Lord of the Rings. Mordor is our business.

Hee. Continue reading

Summer, so far.

YorkThis is York. I was in York with a friend who was visiting us from the US this month; it’s the third time I’ve been to York, partially because I will take any excuse, any excuse at all, to eat at J Baker’s Bistro. This place is definitely a destination restaurant, and while there are tons and tons of reasons to travel to York, it would be difficult for me to convince myself to eat somewhere else. So, so good. And reasonable. And right next to an excellent used bookstore. See? perfect!

This time I was also with a friend game enough to go to the Jorvik Viking Centre.  It’s full of animatronic Vikings, ancient medallions, and…authentic smells. Luckily, the friend I was with is a middle school admin and so is used to people breaking down into giggles at funny smells.  Also, she’s willing to giggle along. We hiked to the top of Clifford’s Tower for a gorgeous view of the town. And then wandered around the shops and various other historic type landmarks. It was great fun, and my Jorvik entrance is good for twelve months, so I have yet another excuse to go back!

Before York, though, I was at conferences in Hertfordshire and Portugal (first one…fine, second one…more fun, but exhausting). Both of them were…warm.  The weather here (up until this week) has been…well, unusual.  Super warm, a bit muggy, and not a drop of rain in sight. It was eerie, although I think I was the only one who had been programmed by her upbringing to get very twitchy at the mention of “lack of rainfall” and a “possible drought”; everyone else mostly seemed okay with the idea of a very dry summer!

I was also lucky enough to get invited to a Simon and Schuster “bloggers” event.  We watched a short presentation and got to listen to a roundtable discussion about publishing from a few of the Simon and Schuster editors and others. It was actually quite cool. Of course, we also got…free books! AND a bag to put them in.  A high-quality bag, I must mention, because it managed to cart home the 15+ books I grabbed without showing any sign of strain.  To top it off, I finally got to meet the guys who run Bookgeeks, AND I popped into the British Library on my way over.  Total success, I think.

Next, we’re off to Sri Lanka and phase two of my work project kicks off.  August and September are already looking very, very busy.

great new books, new riding school, and, basically, new weather

leviathanSo, I was recently lucky enough to read Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan. It’s amazing. The world-building, the characters, the flying whales (nope, not a typo, flying whales), all combine together to make one of those books that always ends too soon–and makes a reader grateful for the promise of entire series. Especially when the story also has mechanized war-machines, steadfast companions, and worthwhile causes.

Westerfield has placed his steampunk environment into the familiar history of WW1, and he has a deft touch with the history that makes the political shenanigans accessible to the audience without overwhelming them with the portents of what is to come. Alongside the wonderful prose are gorgeous illustrations, perfectly capturing the movement and ferocity of the world that Westerfield has designed. So, yes, go read this book, it is wonderful. At some point, there will be a much longer review of the book up on Bookgeeks, but I didn’t think any should wait to buy it.

I’ve also found another place to ride! It’s a bit farther out into Cheshire, but they have a lot more land, and it seems to be a bit livelier… Two lessons so far (with two different instructors), but I assume it will take a few weeks to make a decision. The have a ton of arenas, a cross country course, and a farm ride–and there’s just a lot more room (and a lot more horses…). The drive up there is gorgeous–although I did run into a ton of traffic the second time I went up–it’s just nice to find that there are more places to ride around here.

And the weather, well, it’s been gorgeous for two days. And supposed to be nice tomorrow. And then rain this weekend.  So, not so much new weather I guess as improved weather for a bit.  Plus, even when it’s gloomy outside, it’s still a lot warmer.  Finally. In June.