23.3.15

The Amber Keeper - Readers Book Club Questions

The Amber Keeper 

After her mother’s suicide, Abbie Myers returns home to the Lake District with her young child—and no wedding ring. Estranged from her turbulent family for many years, Abbie is heartbroken when she hears that they blame her for this tragedy.

Determined to uncover her mother’s past, Abbie approaches her beloved grandmother, Millie, in search of answers. The old woman reveals the story of how she travelled to Russia in 1911 as a young governess and became caught up in the revolution.

As Abbie struggles to reconcile with her family, and to support herself and her child, she realizes that those long-ago events created aftershocks that threaten to upset the fragile peace she longs to create.

Set against the backdrops of the English Lake District in the 1960s and the upheavals of revolutionary Russia, The Amber Keeper is a sweeping tale of jealousy and revenge, reconciliation and forgiveness.

  Here are Questions for a Readers Book Club - have fun.

1 - It felt to Abbie that a mistake she’d made in her past as a teenager had ruined her life by damaging her relationship with her family. Is this something we all suffer from on occasion, and how can it be resolved?

2 - Did Millie make the mistake of being too outspoken with the Countess from the start, or was she right to stand up for herself?

3 - Could Stefan have done anything to prevent the Countess from pursuing him, and do you think he encouraged her in any way?

4 - Was it sensible of Millie to take part in the demonstration which ultimately sparked off the rumblings of revolution? And was the Countess right to sack her for having done so, or was her attitude symptomatic of what was happening in Russia?

5 - Would you describe Millie as naïve or courageous in the way she handled the problem of being handed a child at the cost of her reputation? What would you have done?

6 - Is it right to keep a secret which involves others, or should we reveal all to our offspring, no matter what the consequences? Do you think there are any lurking within your own family?

7 - Which character do you like the most or least, and why?

8 - What emotion did the story evoke in you as a reader?

9 – Did you find the historical setting engaging, revealing something you didn’t know?

10 - If you could change the ending, what would it be and why?

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20.3.15

Birds in our Spanish garden


I thought you might like to know a little more about the kind of birds we have here in Spain.

 









These wild red legged partridge are the latest guests to visit us in our garden. They are so beautiful and happily feasted on the olives that had dropped on the ground.

The Black Redstart male looks a little like a wagtail with a black chest and face. The female is grey but both have a flash of red under their tails. Their call is a distinctive tseep tseep tseep followed by tak tak tak.  They're very fond of insects and larvae so useful to have around. They are more often seen in northern Spain but we have quite a few pairs in our neighbourhood.


Our favourite bird is the Black Wheatear. It is quite rare and the only all dark wheatear in Europe with a white flash under its tail. It has a hard scratchy call with coarse rolling sounds like schrl rl rl rl and thin shee or stee noises. It's very tame and rather cheeky, like the robin who also comes to stay with us for the winter. One we call Willy, spends most his nights nestling in our space heater on the back terrace. He has a friend we call Winnie.
 


The Crested Lark is rather stately in appearance and very common in the Mediterranean. They like to sing on our electricity lines and feed on insects and seeds.
 

We also have the Hoopoe with its far carrying poo poo poo call. Looks quite spectacular in flight with its black and white wings and orange body but can often be quite difficult to see on the ground. It has an orange crest with black and white tips.
 



 

Bee Eaters visit us in quite large flocks in the early summer. They make a lot of noise when a flock settles in a tree or on overhead wires. The mature bird is very colourful in blue, yellow and reddy brown. They feed on insects on the wing.

 


There are various warblers including the Orphean Warbler, Pied Wagtails, Yellowhammers, Robins, Swallows and House Martins, and Kestrels and Buzzards of course. Sometimes we're fortunate enough to see a Bonelli’s eagle. The adult is black and white with a five foot wingspan. It happily feeds on all these small birds and small mammals. Oh dear! It is more usually seen in the larger mountain ranges nearby but comes visiting occasionally.     

    



4.3.15

Canaries Cruise

We enjoyed a wonderful cruise around the Canaries over Christmas. I did put some of the photos up on Facebook, but thought I'd put a few on my blog too, as they are so lovely. We began with a visit to  Cadiz in Spain, then on to Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Tenerife, finishing with a visit to Lisbon.

Lanzarote





Our first call was at the Columbus Museum, which was fascinating, giving wonderful insights into the history of this man.






Here's a reproduction of his cabin. I must say I wouldn't have found this one as comfortable as the one we had on the Queen Elizabeth. (Big grin)







The views over the seas from Lanzarote were quite stunning.


On Gran Canaria we took a trip over the mountains. Rather too many windy roads for me, but the views were equally stunning.






Here is one of the wonderful dragon trees on Tenerife. Very rare and even extinct in some places, but they grow well in the Canaries.








 
Agatha Christie was apparently inspired to write The Mysterious Mr Quin, following regular visits to the Orchid Garden while holidaying on Tenerife.


 




The orchid house is a wonder to see.
 For more information you can visit their website.
Teneriffe Orchid Gardens



Queen Elizabeth