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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Chilbolton Common Botany Trip

I recently visited Chilbolton Common, which is a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) in Hampshire to look at the various flora and fauna. The river Test, which cuts through the common, did not disappoint, and while kick sampling, we found several varieties of larvae and nymph as well as freshwater shrimp. The real interest to me was the plant life to be found all around the river itself and the meadows where cows graze. The weather was dreary, and there were not as many butterfly's around, but a few were spotted in the distance, and one closer up that was much easier to recognise. Here are a couple of things I spotted:

Little egret (Egretta garzetta)
Tortoise shell butterfly (Aglais urticae)
Freshwater shrimp (genus: Gammarus)
Mayfly and Mayfly nymph (order: Ephemeroptera)
Dragonfly nymph (suborder: Anisoptera)
Stonefly nymph (order: Plecoptera)

Cocksfoot Grass (Dactylis glomerata)
Timothy Grass (Phleum pratense)
Crested Dog's-tail Grass (Cynosurus cristatus)
Quaking Grass (Briza media)
Sedges (family:Cyperaceae)
Mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium fontanum)

Water Forget-me-nots (Myosotis scorpioides)
Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)
Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus L)
Jew's ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae)
Veronica (Veronica anagallis-aquatica and arvensis)
Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Sorrel (Rumex acetosa)
The plants were identified using the Collins British Common Wild Flower Guide by David Streeter (ISBN:978-0-00-745125-8). It's a handy little book and well worth it if you have an interest in botany and wild flowers.

Image result for Collins British Common Wild Flower Guide by David Streeter
I had a good time, despite the abysmal weather, and was completely amazed at the ammount of variety that can be found in a small meadow.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

YA Picks (Part 2)



Haze - Paula Weston ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

The plot thickens! This is the second book in the Rephaim series by Paula Weston. You can find my review of Shadows, the first book in the series here. Gaby can still not remember her life as a half fallen angel, save for the gory dream about hellions, but now she knows more about it. Throughout the book Gaby gets drawn further and further into the world of the Rephaim, both those in the sactuary and the gang of outcasts to whom Rafa and her twin brother Jude belonged to. Jason, still apart from both groups, tells us more about his acquaintances. This book is like a series of small battles ultimately leading up to the main war. It builds and builds in jumps and Weston's characters seem to jump from the page more and more with each one. I've already taken the next book in the series, Shimmer, off the shelves in my local library to get reading.

Shimmer - Paula Weston  ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Shimmer is unputdownable. By the third book in the series I'm well and truly commited to seeing this out. Unfortunately everything I have to say about the book will be a spoiler if you haven't already read the first two. In this book the main conflict is that Rafa and Taya are kidnapped by deamons and it's up to Gaby to get them back. The ending is a cliffhanger. I HATE CLIFFHANGERS. AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!! I need to know more about how the majoy reveal at the end is going to affect things. This book has me tied in knots.

Loneliness of distant beings - Kate Ling ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Seren is the most apathetic main character I have ever read. I mean that in a good way. She has what is considered a very outside view on her own situation and if she's a bit suicidal because of it, I don't balme her.

Seren lives on a space ship on a mission to intercept a signal hundreds of years away. She was born on the ship, she'll live her entire life on the ship, and she'll die on the ship, never seeing the planet her people came from nor the planet they're destined to meet. If that wasn't bad enough, all graduates from their school are assigned a 'life partner' and have a two year compulsory service doing menial jobs around the ship before they can choose their own career. Her partner is abysmal and she's slowly falling in love with someone else, despite him also being promised to someone.

Seren has very limited choices, until she has them all. She yearns for the warmth of the nearest sun on her face and the feeling of loving a life partner. She doesn't want a life on a barren ship and a future of artificial insemination. When their ship aproaches a habitable planet, that's when hopes change and dreams become realised.

This story has such an interesting concept and I can see the logic behind the way the people on the ship work, but Seren has such an interesting interpretation of what it is to live the logic. At the end of the day, no one wants to live acording to how people tell them. What's really interesting (to me anyway) is Erza's character development. Ling paints an interesting mosaic of characters, each with their own lives and goals. Very well written.

And I Darken - Kiersten White ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

This wasn't my cup of tea, but there were some parts that I liked a lot. The story follows Lada Dracul, wild-child, badass and warrior. Lada, despite being a girl, becomes important to her father Vlad, through her brash ways and fierce nature. When Vlad has to make peace with the sultan of another nation, he has no choice but to leave his children there too, for the sultan made an offer to teach the both of them far better than they ever could have been taught at home. Lada's brother Rafa, fits right in, making friends with the enemy troops and feeling connected to their religion from his first prayers with them. Lada does not. Lada hates the sultan, his people, and even her own father for leaving her there. When Lada and Rafa make friends with the third son of the sultan, and the very same third son has to rise to the occasion and take his father's place, Lada and Rafa must be behind him. But danger awaits them. For there are still members of the sultan's palace that would wish Lada's family a much less comfortable life.

All in all, the plot is quite compelling and I can't really see why I slipped up with this book. Lada is a great main character and has a lot of spunk to her. I felt connected to Rafa as well, even as he is a more sensitive character and not usually one I would favour. There was one moment that hooked me, and it was a piece of dialogue between Lada and the sultan's son. He asks to be her friend. She insults him. He exclaims that he's the sultan's son and shouldn't be insulted like this. Lada says she doesn't care. He's her friend but she's not a very good one. Very cheeky, I thought, and right up my ally.

Unfortunately there was a lot of unnessecary traveling scenes and things I didn't feel had any relevence to the main story arc. There weren't any side characters that I wanted to know about and aside from the main arc I was completely uninvested in the novel. I didn't  make it to the end of this book unfortunately. The reason this has two stars is because of that one section of dialogue and the character portrail but otherwise it wasn't for me.

Goodbye Stranger - Rebecca Stead ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

I liked 'Goodbye Stranger'. It has a nice easy reading flow and a is a good coming of age story. My favourite character arc has to be about the girl who skips school on valentines day. It's heartfelt and painfully beautiful as a story of a friendship that is manipulative and the value of apologies. The main story arc focuses on Bridge, a girl that spent a year out of school after a horrible traffic accident left her in the hospital. She can't stop thinking about a comment one of the nurses made while she was ill. The nurse told her that she must have been put there for a reason and that's why she survived the accident.

Bridge and her two best friends Emily and Tabitha go through the ups and downs of friendship and love together. Sherm, a boy from Bridge's club at school, wants to get to know her better, but is slightly jaded by his grandfather walking out on his family.

It's a sweet story but at the end of the day I don't think I can say it's any more than just nice.