Sunday, June 17, 2012

Four More Years

The last time we were in Florida was in the September running up to the 2008 election.  I can't really believe it's been that long. I guess Barack Obama probably feels the same. These four years haven't really gone to plan for him, have they?

Last time we were here I did my totally unscientific lawn sign survey and guess what?  It was right, so I'm doing the same again this year.  Bear in mind here though that it's still only June, the parties haven't officially picked their candidates yet, so this is even more unscientific than usual.

So, how's it going for Mr Obama?  Not well, is the result of my lawn sign poll. Mind you the economy hasn't helped him at all, and he hasn't had a lot of inter-party co-operation so it's not all his fault.  And he did have the weight of a whole lot of unrealistic expectation round his neck.  But seriously, Florida, you need to step up, here and give the man some support. I have not seen one lawn flag, not one bumper sticker in support of the incumbent candidate.

And his probable opponent, Mr Mitt Romney?  Well, there seems to be a bit of support for him.  I'm sure he's pleased about that as the Republican Party National Convention will be in Tampa next month. And what do we know about Mitt?  He's a Mormon, and he's made a whole heap of money from an investment company called Bain Capital.  Now I don't really care about his religious beliefs, he can believe what he likes so long as he doesn't try and make me believe it too.  However Bain Capital have a history of buying businesses, making all kinds of promises about job security and pensions etc and then stripping the assets of those companies and leaving them to go bust.  Does that sound like the sort of man you want running America?

Any way, we should be OK because my totally unscientific,but never before wrong, lawn flag survey tells me that the next President of the United States will be ......

Ron Paul.

Really?  Ron Paul??

You better get out there and prove me wrong! 

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Men Carrying Guns Shouldn't Carry Umbrellas

Yesterday we spent the day in Tampa before we went to the US World Cup qualifier between the US and Antigua and Barbuda. 

What can I say. It rained a lot.  We spent the entire day dashing to the car between downpours.  Quite a lot of time was spent in Barnes and Noble. What a lovely bookstore it is. I had a look at the Nook and thought it was a very impressive bit of kit.

Finally the time came to get to the stadium. And that's where the problem started.  The game was being played at the Raymond James stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers American Football team.

  It's open air because American Football is a winter sport, but this is the rainy season. And boy did it rain. At one point, about half an hour before kick-off they had to clear the seats because a lightning storm was coming.  I think I can safely say that I've never been so wet in my life. I've had showers that were dryer than that match. Still it was an interesting experience.  The US supporters were enthusiastic, if not especially knowledgeable.  Before the game they all had tailgate parties in the parking lot, as they do with baseball and football. They all threw up gazebos, lit their barbeques and started in on the six-packs.  Can you imagine the reaction that would get at a premier league game?  Throughout the game they constantly wander about the stadium, getting popcorn or hot dogs or more beer. They even bring you the beer to your seat.  And yet it's completely a family atmosphere, with all the fans mixed in together and loads of little kids.  It could not be more different from an English game.

Last night's dinner, was of course a hot dog at the game...

.   And I'm not sure if was that, or the drenching, or something else I ate yesterday but I was up all night throwing up.  Lovely.  So I'm having a quiet day today. Good news is that the sunshine is finally back so I'm catching a few rays on our balcony.

The title of this post, in case you were wondering, was a passing comment from a security guard as he ran through the rain, gun on hip, umbrella in hand, looking most incongruous.

Back soon with more fun in the sunshine state!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Feels Like Rain

Hello from a cloudy and damp Florida!

We've escaped for a couple of weeks well earned rest and relaxation to lovely Treasure Island on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

We arrived last night into Tampa in the middle of a huge thunderstorm, making the landing just a tad bumpy. Still, we're here, safe and sound. Just been for breakfast round the corner at Foxy's where the food was lovely...

Tampa is under a flood alert until 11pm tonight so I guess we are in for more rain.  Today we're going to see the US Soccer Team play a World Cup qualifier against Antigua and Barbuda, so we're hoping the rain will hold off for that or we could be in for a soaking.

Oh, and just in case you were feeling sorry for's the view from our balcony.....

Not too shabby, even if the sun's not shining yet.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Well What Do You Know...A Book Update!

So what exactly have I been reading since I last regaled you with bookish delights?

Well, not a lot of crime actually. I did have a proof of the new Robert Crais book called Taken. Now I love Robert Crais' style of writing. He's very easy to read, has interesting characters and knows how to write a plot that moves along nicely. It will be no surprise to you then that I liked this book a lot. Elvis Cole gets kidnapped while looking for a missing girl and Joe Pike has to find him. It's set in the borderlands between California and Mexico and is about the people smugglers operating there. Not much else to say really except that it's as good as you would expect and I recommend it. If you've not read any Crais before then you really should. Think Lee Child but with more humour involved. These later books major more on Joe Pike as a character then the early ones where Elvis Cole was the main protagonist. but I like both of them so that's no problem.

The next book on my list is Before I Go to Sleep by SJ Watson. This was the first book selected by the new book group hosted by my shop so I did have to read it and I was quite intrigued as I did once meet someone who suffered from short-term memory loss after a car accident, and who wrote down everything he did in a notebook so he would have a record of what he'd been doing. The premise of the book is that Christine wakes up in a strange bed, next to a strange man and it transpires that she's had a head injury and that everytime she goes to sleep she forgets everything that has happened to her in her life, or the day before. Her husband leaves her little notes around the house to remind her of who she is, and explains to her every morning that she is his wife, what happened to her etc, then he goes out to work and leaves her on her own. I have to say that I hated this book. The premise was good but it was poorly executed, I thought. There were huge gaping holes in the plot and it all became rather unbelievable. Most of the book group liked it however so maybe it was just me being over critical, jaded cynical reviewer that I am. I don't want to give the plot away if you haven't read it (though I wouldn't recommend it anyway) but the major problems with the book were the style it was written in - Christine was writing whole chapters of her life in great detail like a novel, but supposedly in brief snatches when she was able to hide from her husband. Wouldn't she have written brief notes not great screeds of prose. Also she drove me nuts by just accepting everything that was told to her. She believed her husband, she believed her doctor, she didn't question anything, just passively accepted it all. I found it very unconvincing. That was the extent of the crime I have read recently.

The next two books for the shop reading group were Pure by Andrew Miller and Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman. Both of these were on the Costa shortlist and Pure won it. I read Pure first because I thought it looked dull and worthy and I was fairly pleasantly surprised. I did manage to read it all the way to the end, even though not a lot actually happened in the book and there was a lot of untapped potential in there. It's about an engineer sent to Paris in the 17th Century to empty the graves and crypts of the a Paris cemetary which is so full to overflowing that it is polluting the whole area with it's stink of corruption. All this happens just a few years before the French Revolution, so of course this is all huge metaphor for the cleansing of France, sweeping out all that old aristocratic regime, and replacing it with a newer purer France. I did like this book, though I was frustrated by the numer of times he seemed to set up a scenario that he then didn't explore.  Pigeon English was better, about a small boy growing up on an East London housing estate. The author foreshadows the end pretty effectively, so you know what's going to happen but you keep hoping it won't.  Well written but not perfect is my assessment.

I powered through the Hunger Games trilogy in a very short space of time and thought they were really good. I don't read much teenage fiction but I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about and I thought these were fine. I can see why they've been so popular, they certainly kept me wanting to read all the way to end.

I read some other teenage fiction too - I started the first book in the Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine.  This was because the lovely Rachel was doing a talk and signing at my shop so I thought I'd better read at least one of her books.  The book was a little too full of teenage high school angst for me - but then it's not aimed at me. I can see that teenagers love these books, and they're not badly written at all, just not my sort of thing.  Rachel, by the way was totally lovely - spoke for ages about writing, answered loads of questions from the audience (the shop was packed) and then signed hundreds of books.  She did mention a new series she's started about a woman who works in a mortuary who discovers her boss is bringing people back from the dead. I thought it sounded interesting (it's an adult book, not a teenage one) so I shall probably read that when I have time. The first is called Working Stiff.  Anyway Rachel was very generous with her time (she does seem to work very hard)  and she came to the pub with us after the event with her husband Cat Conrad who was also very nice and is also a writer. She's welcome to come back anytime she likes!

A lot of my reading time has been alternating between two different series of books.  I've been working my way through both of these series on my kindle - all the books are too fat to carry around! I never would have read any of these books if I hadn't had them on my kindle.  I am reading Game of Thrones (I've just finished book 2 - A Clash of Kings), and Harry Potter (also just finished book 2 - Chamber of Secrets.).  I resisted Harry Potter for a very long time, but the Evilpixie is a big fan and I'd seen all the films so in the end I crumbled and I have to say I'm really enjoying them.  They are a welcome piece of light relief (so far anyway - I gather the books get darker as the series progresses) from the bleak darkness of Game of Thrones.  I've been watching this on TV and I only started watching it because I knew the books were popular and I needed to expand my SF & Fantasy knowledge. I got instantly hooked on the TV series, tried the first book to see what it was like and got hooked to those too. Blimey - it even has dragons in it. You know I hate books with dragons, still they're only a minor part of it so far and there are no elves so I should be OK.

Currently on my bedside table is an Ann Cleeves book called The Sleeping and the Dead.  It's one of the Peter Porteous books and while it's not, in my opinion, as good as the Jimmy Perez or Vera Stanhope series it's still a good read. 

And on my Kindle I'm reading Alas Babylon by Pat Frank.  It's a post-apocalyptic novel set in Florida in the late 1950s.  It was written in 1959 under the threat of Russian nuclear missiles and it's a little dated but I'm still enjoying it. This is a little pre-holiday reading as I shall be in Florida for two weeks from Thursday.  I'm hoping it's still there.

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get this update done.  Looking back it seems I actually started tio write in in April which is shameful as it's now June.  Anyway, next report will be from Florida.  I think I'm ready for a bit of sunshine after this bank holiday weekend!