Posted in Books

WWW Wednesday – Taking on a World of Words

This week I’m taking part in  WWW Wednesdays, at Taking on a World of Words, hosted by Sam @ Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

What I’m Currently Reading

I’m reading The Sun Sister by Lucinda Riley and Magicians of the Gods by Graham Hancock.

The Sun Sister is the sixth book in The Seven Sisters series. The series is based on the legends of the Seven Sisters star constellation. I’ve read the the first book, so I already had an idea of the story of seven sisters who had been adopted from around the world by a mysterious billionaire called Pa Salt. Before Pa Salt died, he wrote a letter to each sister regarding their origins before he adopted them. The Sun Sister is essentially two stories in one: a modern day tale of Electra, a beautiful black supermodel based in New York, and her addictions and issues – and how she ultimately finds herself (in the real sense of the word) – and a story about a young white American woman called Cecily, set in 1930s Kenya during the British colonial days of the rich, white ‘Happy Valley’ set. Despite the fact that the book is about 800 pages long (!) it’s easily read and I’ve been really enjoying it. Cecily’s story, in particular, is an intriguing and unpredictable tale and I’m wondering how her story connects with Electra’s.

The second book I’m reading is Graham Hancock’s Magicians of the Gods. I’ve only heard of Graham Hancock recently, via YouTube. He writes about archeology, ancient history and the mysteries of those long-ago times. In Magicians of the Gods, he surmises that a comet brought about an end to a 2,000 year period of global warming (after a long ice age), causing glaciers to melt, leading to floods – and this could explain the various global stories at the time. I’m familiar with Noah’s Ark from the Old Testament but other beliefs have similar tales of colossal floods from yesteryear. He also looks at amazing ancient sites such as Gobekli Tepe in Turkey. A fascinating read which raises curious questions and maybe even curiouser possible answers …

What did you finish reading?

The last book I read was 127 Hours by Aron Ralston, which I heartily recommend. It’s a true survival story that’s well written and engrossing. I’ve written about it here:

What will I read next?

Traveller by Richard Adams is next on my list, as is a Graham Hancock follow-up, America Before, and The Night Hawks, a Dr Ruth Galloway novel, by Elly Griffiths. I like to have a non-fiction book (which can take months to read depending on the subject matter, the length of the book and accessibility of the writing), a classic (I’ve dropped Traveller in this category) and an escapist novel on the go.

Posted in Books, Thoughts on life and spirituality

Books: 127 Hours by Aron Ralston

In 2003, a hiker and mountaineer visited Blue John Canyon in Utah. A freak accident leads to his right hand being trapped by a big boulder and so starts a six-day ordeal of pain, isolation, fear, hunger and thirst. I’ve never watched the film of 127 Hours but it’s definitely on my ‘must watch’ list and even more so after reading the book written by the survivor himself, Aron Ralston.

Aron is an avid mountaineer and experienced hiker. He’s climbed up the fourteeners in Colorado and has ended up in – and survived – various hairy scenarios. We get to know this gradually as he writes alternate chapters – one about his current predicament followed by another focusing on his outdoors life to date. It’s an interesting juxtaposition and the background to his life shows how these previous experiences, good and bad, have shaped Aron into becoming positive and independent, always looking for a solution rather than simply panicking (which is exactly what I would have done in his place!)

The observations and descriptions were incredibly powerful, I could almost imagine what it must have been like in that situation. The cold and the utter isolation during the nights, the desperation and dry thirst during the day…

Thankfully, Aron is made of tough stuff. He’s got out of tricky situations before, he’s helped with a mountain rescue team, so he knows how to observe, keep calm, think of potential solutions and, most importantly, avoid panicking.

His outdoor skills, logical mindset and positive attitude can only go so far however. There is only so much food (burritos to be exact) and water. The canyons are warm during the day but freezing cold at night. It’s remote, so remote that it’s unlikely that anyone will come across him in Blue John Canyon before he runs out of food and water and dies from dehydration. And any attempts to remove the boulder that’s crushed his right hand has failed. Oh, and he didn’t tell anyone exactly where he was going so even the rescue attempt, once people start noticing his absence, will be a difficult one before it even begins.

Perhaps not surprisingly considering the lack of food and water, Aron hallucinates – or are they spiritual experiences? Whatever the case, for Aron, these experiences come at a time when he is rapidly losing hope; when he believes with utter certainty that he will not live to see the next day.

This has to be one of my favourite books of this year, with each chapter ending with a ‘cliffhanger’ so to speak. And although I know that Aron survived (he’s written the book so this is no plot spoiler), I am fascinated to know just how exactly he managed to survive…

Posted in Books

By Jove! Five facts about our planet neighbours

The Planets by Dava Sobel

One day, while on holiday in Norfolk, I came across a book called The Planets (written by Dava Sobel) in a charity shop. It reminded me of the fascination I had about the universe when I was a child. A fascination that has never left me. It’s a great book with a lot of absorbing facts but with no overwhelming details on physics that can bog the reader (i.e me!) down. So here’s five facts I learnt, courtesy of Dava Sobel.

The Planets by Dava Sobel
  • Jupiter, the largest planet and a gas giant, has no solid surface. The features we see is actually weather – the famous great dark spot is a storm for example. Storms can last a very long time, centuries even.
  • Luckily, the Earth has a magnetic field. This protects it from the sun’s solar wind – a ‘hot exhalation of charged particles’ which ‘keeps up a constant barrage on the planets’. The Earth’s magnetic field deflects most of the solar wind. Particles in small doses ‘trickle into the upper atmosphere near the North and South Poles’, creating the Northern and Southern Lights.
  • Uranus lies on its side and takes nearly 84 Earth years to rotate. It spends 20 years of its orbit with its south pole facing the sun and then another 20 years when the North pole faces the sun. This results in 20-year ‘days’ and ‘nights’. Can you imagine living in such a place?!
  • ‘No greater extremes of temperature coexist anywhere in the Solar System ‘ but in Mercury, the planet nearest the sun. Some regions get hot enough to ‘melt metals in daylight’ and then ‘chill to hundreds of degrees below freezing at night ‘.
  • Fancy moving to Venus? It boasts a temperature of 800 degrees Fahrenheit all over the planet. It has 90 times the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere and its clouds are made up of sulphuric acid, chlorine and fluorine.

Information courtesy of Dava Sobel’s The Planets

The Planets

P.s The phrase By Jove, used to indicate surprise, comes from the name Jove, the head of the Roman gods, equivalent to Jupiter (where the planet’s name originates from).