Boundless by Kathleen Winter

Finished my first book of the year, and as expected it is another travel book. This time through the infamous and dangerous northwest passage.

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Kathleen was a last minute addition to a predominantly tourist trip through the icy waters of the Arctic. The boat is mainly full of geologists and bird watchers, along with knowledgeable experts. A writer was also required, so grabbing whatever gear she could find she jumped at the chance.

The ‘cruise’ begins in Greenland before crossing Baffin Bay and dropping into various small inuit settlements. As with many natives, their treatment at the hands of settlers has been very poor. The Canadian government moved whole villages to other areas, hoping to end disputes with Denmark and Russia over land. As expected this didn’t end well for the natives as they didn’t know the area, where the good hunting grounds were or the means to survive.

The book also delves into Kathleen’s background and how she moved to Newfoundland as a child with her family from the north east of England.

I really enjoyed this book, with it’s mix of history, from both the native inuits and the visiting expeditions, along with the voyage that Kathleen was part of. The ending is unexpected, but if you like your travel writing with a bit more intelligence and history, you’ll love this book.

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Book Review 2018 – Part XXI

Quite possibly the last book review of the year, and without doubt the best book of the year. I’m talking about 401 by Ben Smith.

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As the tagline states, he ran 401 marathons in 401 days, raising money for two charities close to his heart. If the book was only about running then it wouldn’t have a wider appeal, but it is also about the bullying he suffered at school. His aim was not just to raise money for Stonewall and Kidscape, but also raise awareness about bullying.

I was fortunate enough to meet and run with Ben when he was in Lancaster.12928357_783341198464415_4326431857990350773_n

A more friendly person you could not hope to meet. He had time for everyone who had turned out to run with him. This was back in March 2016 and the weather was appalling, chucking it down, although there was a good turnout from Morecambe Athletics and Running Club.

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I was running with Nelly, although she wasn’t keen on waiting around and it was the first time that I had run with her in a group. She was an absolute pest, wanting to be at the front. She was such a pain that I cut our run with Ben short, but he still found the time to wish me luck in my triple ironman race that I was planning on doing later that year (read about it here).

Back to the book, and one of the reasons that it affected me was because I was also bullied at school. I hated school so much I couldn’t wait to leave. Bullying turned me inwards. I tried not to be noticed in class, and as a result my grades suffered, which became a vicious circle, convincing me that I was thick. 20 years after I left school I went to Lancaster University to study Environmental Science and since then completed a PhD. Not thick then.

I wish that I had found out about Ben earlier on in his 401 marathons, because he ran for two days in Hull, when I was living there.

You should read this book as it is utterly inspirational, and I’ve struggled to find the words to do the book and Ben’s story justice.

 

Book Review 2018 – Part XX

Another book finished. The Associate by John Grisham.

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I have a kind of love/hate relationship with JG’s books. I find them very easy to read. Airport or holiday books, perfect for sitting on a beach, but sometimes they lack enough meat for me to get my teeth into. The last one I read, which I can’t remember the name of, and I can’t find a review for, was eminently forgettable.

The Associate is much better and kept me interested all the way through. I won’t give a run down on the plot, because the plot is fairly thin. The cover of the book says it all. It’s a deadly game of blackmail, and they’re making him play.

As with most of Grisham’s books, there isn’t really a satisfying ending. You can tell when you’ve only got 40 or 50 pages left to read and there are still loads of loose ends, that many of the threads and characters are going to be left hanging. Not a bad book by a long way and definitely better than anything by Dan Brown, but nothing special, hence why I took the book to the next street where there is a little free library (read about it here).

Book Review 2018 – Part XIX

I like a good adventure book, whether it’s cycling, rowing, running or walking, and here we have another really good book about a long distance walk.  In this book Chris Townsend walks the watershed of Scotland.

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A watershed is a theoretical line where any rain falling on one side will end up in one sea, and rain falling on the other side will end up in the sea off the opposite coast. In theory, if you’re walking a watershed you will never cross a river or stream. The Great Divide in America is the most famous and is walked or cycled by thousands of people. Scotland’s is a bit more difficult to follow, and if it wasn’t for the laws allowing for access to all land, it wouldn’t be possible, or at least very difficult. As it was, the walk was difficult in places without paths.

The walk went through many areas that me and my wife cycled through in the summer of 2017, which always adds to a book. Chris also discusses land issues in Scotland, the right for access, conservation and the proposed re-introduction of Lynx or Wolves. He also writes about invasive species, as the Victorians were notorious for bringing back plants and animals that didn’t have natural predators, or pushed out natives plants, trees or animals. He is also not a fan of shooting as a sport, which I can go along with.

Chris is a very experienced walker with a number of books under his belt, along with many years of experience testing outdoors equipment for a living. This brings me to the only thing about the book that I didn’t like. He’s too experienced, too good, clued up. Some of the best adventure books that I’ve read are where the people involved are a bit clueless at the start, for example Cheryl Strayed (here). Despite this, I really enjoyed this book and will probably look out for his others.

Book Review 2018 – Part XVIII

Yet another book review. This was a book where the author was interviewed on Radio 2 as I was driving home from work earlier this year. I thought the book sounded interesting so I bought it, where upon it sat in my stack of books to read for another six months. I’ve now read it.

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You Don’t Know Me by Imran Mahmood is all about a black youth accused of murder. His trial is over, he’s fired his QC and he is giving the closing statement himself. This is where we find out about his life, friends, family and girlfriend, as well as all about the murder as he tells his tale to the jurors. He points out that his story isn’t the same as was heard during the trial.

From the off the book had me hooked as I really wanted to know everything as the author slowly reveals the story behind the murder. Unfortunately the book slows down a bit towards the end, especially after one particularly good twist. The end also doesn’t feel quite right. The reason why the accused is giving his closing statement works well, but I was left a little let down, as I said, the ending didn’t really work for me.

This is one of the few books set in a court that I’ve read that hasn’t been written by John Grisham, and I did enjoy it and will definitely look out for Imran’s next book.

Book Review 2018 – Part XVII

In my first book review of 2017 I blogged about a book by Tim Moore, The man who came in from the cold (here) and then earlier this year I read another of his books, Oh you are awful but I like you. It does appear that Tim has become a little more prolific, as here I am reviewing yet another of his books.

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This book has a simple premise; road trip across America. From the cover you might notice that the difference is that Tim plans to travel coast to coast in a 1924 Model T Ford. He also plans to attempt to navigate via the reddest of red counties and states, the ones that overwhelmingly voted for Trump. The car opens plenty of doors for Tim, as people are readily happy to chat with him, and, on a few occasions, repair it.

Tim wanted to meet ordinary Trump supporters and find out why they voted for him and what makes them tick. What he found was regular people, eager to help, kind, warm and friendly. Many of them don’t particularly like Trump, but really didn’t like Clinton, especially when she called Trump supporters deplorables. A deeply divided nation.

It’s a very good book with the usual humour and hoplessness we’ve come to expect from Tim. As an aside, today Trump is in France and was supposed to visit one of the cemetaries where thousands of American soldier were laid to rest. He decided not to go because it was raining. The sooner that this Trump sized stain is removed from office and locked away the better.

Book Review – The Immortalists revisited

A few weeks ago I blogged about The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (you can read my blog here). When I had finished with the book I gave it to my wife to read, as I thought that she might like it. My wife is very talented, so when she had finished the book she wrote a review, although unlike me she doesn’t have a blog. I have therefore copied her book review, word for word, and added it below so that you can read how a decent book review should read, instead of my random ramblings.

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Book review
The immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
My husband read this book before me, I noticed when he bought it because it wasn’t the usual kind of book he bought in that it wasn’t about traveling or cycling or both.
When he finished it he handed it to me and said ‘you’ll like this’, so it was stacked in my pile of reading material to read at my leisure.
It was a week or two before I got around to picking it up, and from the first few paragraphs it had me gripped, I read it all eagerly in just a few sittings.
The story takes us through the life’s journey of four siblings who were told at a young age by a ‘fortune teller’ at what age they would die.
Essentially the story is about how that information impacted them, each sibling reacting in a different way to the unwanted knowledge that was so harshly thrust upon them.
How would you live your life if you knew the date of your death? Was the question arising from the narrative.
The book was extraordinary in its ability to draw you to certain characters and their lust for life, their self awareness and determination to be themselves whatever the cost.
Beautifully written, thought provoking and intelligent.
Highly recommended.
If one day I might write something half as good as my wife’s book review, then I will be happy.