Book Review: Running Tracks by Rob Deering

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about NetGalley (read about it here), an online book reviewing site for new or soon to be released books. Some of the books have to be requested while others can be downloaded (for free) immediately. Running Tracks was a book that I requested and after a few days was given a link to download it.

Yesterday I wrote about our love of music, and how we had re-kindled it with the purchase of a record player (read about it here). As an act of serendipity, I have now finished Rob’s book, which is all about running and music.

I’d never come across the comedian Rob Deering before, but the title and description of the book definitely intrigued me. Running and music, what’s not to like. I’m a runner and I also love listening to music, although unlike Rob I don’t do them both at the same time. Many years ago I used to, but after a couple of close shaves where I didn’t hear a car, I decided that running with music wasn’t the best idea for me. Plus, my mp3 player got wet one day and stopped working.

Rob is almost an accidental runner, but once he started running he found his true passion, alongside music. His career as a comedian has taken him all over the country so he is in the envious position of having run in loads of interesting places, and often completing a tourist parkrun while out on the road. His taste in music might not always gel with mine, too many banging beats while I prefer banging heavy metal, but music when running can provide a great lift. One of the things I said after my attempt at Backyard Ultra (read about it here and here) was that I should have run with music, and this book has definitely pushed me getting myself a small mp3 player again.

Rob is also a fairly accomplished runner, having completed the London marathon numerous times, raising thousands of pounds for Parkinson’s UK. Funnily enough today is the London marathon, and I was saying to my lovely wife that maybe I should enter a big city marathon. I did enter London over 20 years ago, but was unsuccessful, so maybe I’ll have better luck this time around.

Anyway, I really enjoyed Running Tracks and gave it a big thumbs up 5 out of 5.

Book Review – Children of Men by PD James

Many months ago I stumbled across a top ten list of the best post apocalypse books, as suggested by the Guardian. I didn’t think much of their list, so I searched out for others. One of the lists included the Children of Men by PD James. I had watched the film version of it a few years ago so I was intrigued by how much different the book would be. Actually, a great deal different. Apart from the main premise and the title, the film and book are very distant cousins.

What is the main premise of the book? 20 years earlier, children stopped being born. Both the book and the film start off with news clips about the youngest person the world dying outside of a nightclub in Rio. The UK, where the book is set, has become a right-wing fascist state, run by a dictator. Foreigners are shipped over for manual work, treated like second class citizens and then shipped back home again. There are also huge camps full of immigrants.

In amongst all this, our hero finds himself aligned with a group low level terrorists, who in fact are little more than left wing idealists. Obviously the big twist in the book is that one of the group is pregnant. The first pregnant woman for over 20 years. I’m not giving too much away here as we find out that she is pregnant fairly early on. Another one of the group was a former wid-wife, and there is a very good scene in both the book and the film where she describes seeing no more appointments after a certain date, and the phoning colleagues at other hospitals who also noted that there were no more pregnancies.

Overall the book was incredibly fascinating and I enjoyed all of it. I’m not sure about it being post-apocalypse as it is set during an ongoing apocalypse. That is something to take up with the list, not with the author or publisher. The film is also very good, even if much of it is different from the book.

NetGalley

NetGalley is a website that I hadn’t heard about until last week. Basically;

NetGalley helps publishers and authors promote digital review copies to book advocates and industry professionals. Publishers make digital review copies available for the NetGalley community to discover, request, read, and review.

It took a couple of minutes to sign up and then I was ready to browse titles. Don’t expect to see the latest Stephen King or John Grisham, but there are thousands of books to browse. Some books can be read immediately while others you have to request. I’m don’t fully understand the process for being approved for requested books, but as I understand it, the more reviews you leave on the site and the more followers you have for book related social media the more likely you are to be approved.

I have requested one book – Running Tracks by Rob Deering, all about the music he listens to while running. My request is still pending.

I have also downloaded one book which was available without request – The Ice Coven by Max Seeck, a thriller with a dead body washing up on a beach near Helsinki. I’ve not started it yet, but it is the next book that I intend to read, and then I will review it almost immediately to improve my chances of have request only books approved.

Have you signed up to NetGalley?

Book Review: The Stormlight Archives by Brandon Sanderson

According to Brandon there will be ten books in the Stormlight series, with five in the first arc, and the other five set at a different time. Book four has only recently been released, so I will have to wait a while to finish the current arc. Fortunately, Brandon is a slightly more prolific writer than say George R R Martin or Patrick Rothfuss. I was going to add that I don’t generally read books in the fantasy genre, but then I realised that I’ve read all of the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett, all of the Game of Thrones books and both books in the Kingkiller series.

Anyway, back to the Stormlight Archives, and it has taken me four months to read the four books so far, ignoring the two short books with minor characters that aren’t part of the larger series.

Each book is huge, as is the world where it is set. To be honest I can’t really start to describe it, except to say that most of it is about war, or various wars. Each book also has flashbacks for a specific character. In the first book this is Kaladin, a slave with a troubled past. While this first book is mainly about Kaladin, we do meet many of the other main characters.

The cosmere world where the story is set is very different, with dangerous storms that are so powerful anyone caught out in the open is likely to die. There are plenty of other worldly creatures along with ‘Spren’, who appear and disappear almost at random. Men are not allowed to read and women have to hide their ‘safe hand’ in a glove at the very least. I could go on.

I absolutely loved the first book, The Way of Kings, rushing through it in less than a week. I repeated this with the second book, although it wasn’t quite as good. The third and fourth books were more of a struggle, as I started to read other books at the same time. If I was to score the books, the first would receive 5/5, the second 4.5, with the third and fourth books about 3.5.

When the fifth book is released I will definitely read it, but it is doubtful that I will continue after that. Would I read other books by Brandon Sanderson? Probably, although there are plenty of other fantasy writers out there who I haven’t yet sampled.

This hasn’t really been a review as such, mostly because of the expansiveness of the whole series, and I wouldn’t want to give away plot lines from the later books if you haven’t read the first one.

Hopefully soon Mr Rothfuss will finish book three of the Kingkiller series, and then Mr Martin could publish the next Game of Thrones book. In the meantime I’m going to steer away from fantasy and read a few more travel and sport books, as well as my old favourite genre post-apocalypse.

Book Review: Murder at the University by Faith Martin

This is the second in the Detective Inspector Hillary Greene series of books, and while they’re not in the slightest bit ground breaking, I have found the first two to be well written, full of little surprises and a few ongoing story lines. I also like the fact that each book is only £1.99 for the Kindle version. My review of the first book can be found here.

Anyway, in this book a female student has been found dead in her college room. At first glance it would appear to be a drugs overdose, but then forensics find rat poison in her blood. It also turns out that the student has been working as a high class call girl. Who were her clients? Had she annoyed the local pimp?

The book races along and I really found myself immersed in the story. I also want to know more with the ongoing story lines. Will DI Greene find her dead husbands illegal profits? Will DI Greene escape from her canal boat? Will Tommy, 15 years her junior, admit how much he yearns for his boss? I doubt if it will long before I’ve downloaded book number 3 in the series. There are some obvious comparisons to Colin Dexter and Inspector Morse, but I’m beginning to think that this series of books is superior.

Book Review: Twisted by Steve Cavanagh

There is a whole load of twists and turns within this book, as expected with that specific title. It is quite difficult to review this book without giving away too much, but the basic premise is that an successful author famous for writing thrillers with unexpected twists possibly knows more about a missing person. Another less successful author is hiding because he knows too much. His wife is having an affair. The local police are trying to piece it all together.

There are a couple of minor details which didn’t ring true to me, but if you can gloss over them then this is a cracking thriller. My lovely wife read it in a matter of days and when she handed it to me I did the same. I have to admit that I guessed the twists at the end of the book, although only a few pages before they were revealed, which didn’t spoil the ending for me.

There are some very unique ideas in this book and it is also very well written. I gave it 4 out of 5 on Goodreads and if it hadn’t been for a couple of minor details I would have given it 5. Overall a very good thriller without too much gratuitous violence.

Book Review: The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis

I’ve not written very many book reviews in the last couple of month. This isn’t because I’ve not been reading, it’s because I became immersed in the Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson, and I wanted to wait until I’d read all of the books written so far before reviewing them. I have to say that the first two books were amazing, the third dragged a little and the fourth I am really struggling with, but that is all for another review.

I’m sure that almost everyone has heard of The Queen’s Gambit, which was one of the best TV shows of last year. It was based on the book of the same name by Walter Tevis and was first published way back in 1983. Walter also wrote The Hustler and The Color of Money, both made into very successful films. He died in 1984 at the young age of only 56.

Anyway, The Queen’s Gambit stars Beth, an orphan who watches the janitor at the orphanage playing chess against himself and is immediately intrigued. Before too long she is beating her first mentor, and then starts to win against far more experienced players. The book also describes her addiction to tranquilizers and later wine. Throughout the book she has two different nemeses. The first when she is young the woman in charge of the orphanage, and then later the Russian Chess Grand Master and World Champion.

Who would have though that a thriller about chess would be so engrossing. The book does get into the nuances of chess more than the TV series, but for me that is OK. What is also amazing is how close the TV series is to the book. And yes, I did use to play chess when I was young, although I was a distinctly below average player.

Overall a fantastic read which I sped through like a game of speed chess, and one that I gave a top score of 5 out of 5 on Goodreads.

Book Review: Later by Stephen King

I’ve written before about how I stopped reading new books by Stephen King for a number of years, and how recently with The Outsider, The Institute and Doctor Sleep my enjoyment has returned. I’m glad that I have as Later is another absolute cracker of a read. My other recent Stephen King book reviews can be read here.

The book is all about young Jamie growing up in New York with his mother. Jamie has a secret which his mother insists, for good reasons, that he keep quiet about. He can see dead people, and talk to them, but only for a few days until they fade away. He uses his gift a couple of times to do good, but his mother and a policewoman use his gift for their own ends, with very differing results. Without giving away too many spoilers that is about as much as I can say.

There isn’t too much original with the story, and The Sixth Sense does get a mention, but it is all very well written with a great set of characters. Additionally the book isn’t too long and keeps a good pace going the whole way through.

Anyway, a short review for a short book which I gave 5 stars to on Goodreads.

Book Review: In Search of the Rainbow’s End by Colin Caffell

My lovely wife bought me this book as a surprise. We’d binge watched the TV series over two days and we both wanted to know more. In 1985 a family of five were shot and murdered in a quiet farmhouse in Essex. The police originally thought that it was a murder suicide committed by Sheila Caffell, although it turned out to have been carried out by her younger brother.

The book was written by Colin, Sheila’s former husband and the father of twin boys, who were also killed along with Neville and June, Sheila’s parents. It was a truly horrific slaughter and it took Colin many years to come to terms with what happened. The book isn’t only about the murders as it also focuses on Sheila and how she would never have harmed her sons, despite what was printed in the press at the time. Her cousins knew that she couldn’t have done it and pestered the police to look at Jeremy. Eventually the police put together enough evidence to arrest Jeremy. His girlfriend then handed herself into the police and admitted that Jeremy had told her that he had committed the murders for the money.

Much of the book discusses Colin’s search for answers, not just to the murders, but spiritually and religiously. The good side and the bad side of the church are both on display, along with a couple of ‘mediums’. I don’t have any first hand experience of psychics, but Colin and Sheila obviously believed, and definitely helped Colin.

The book was first published in 1995 with an extra couple of chapters written to coincide with the TV series. One of those chapters covers Jeremy’s appeal. Fortunately, further forensic examination of the original case showed that the correct killer had been jailed, much to the relief of Colin.

Overall a very interesting read, although if you are only looking for details of the murder and the trial this probably isn’t the book you’re looking for. Reviews suggest that the book by Carol Ann Lee is the best of the books written about the murders. I would recommend watching the TV series, which was based upon Colin’s book, without the clairvoyance stuff.

Book Review: Kingkiller by Patrick Rothfuss

I don’t generally stick to just one genre, but I don’t read a great deal of fantasy. Not because I don’t enjoy it, it is more because I don’t know who the good writers are and who to avoid. 30 years ago a friend recommended that I should read the Discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett. At the time there were only 4 or 5 of them, but I continued to read and enjoy each and every one of them. At school friends raved about the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but I couldn’t get past the first few pages. I tried reading the Mission Earth series by L Ron Hubbard way before I had heard of Scientology, but I found them to be bland and formulaic. The 6 book Dune series by Frank Herbert however was everything I wanted in a book. When the internet exploded a few years ago when Sean Bean’s character in Game of Thrones died I knew that I had to give the first book a try. Subsequently I have read and enjoyed all of the Game of Thrones books, and I admit I was tempted not to watch the last series on TV until the book had been released. As many of you will know, George R R Martin isn’t the most prolific of writers so we could be waiting a while for the series to be concluded. The Winds of Winter is now expected in May 2021.

This was a roundabout way of saying that I don’t know much about the fantasy genre, so when the Guardian published a top ten fantasy list I was very interested. Two authors/books caught my eye. The Stormlight series by Brandon Sanderson and the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. Currently I’m about a third of the way through the second Stormlight book, Words of Radiance.

Anyway, this blog entry is about the Kingkiller Chronicles. So far there are two full books, The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear. There are also a couple of shorter books, The Lightning Tree and The Slow Regard of Silent Things, which are books 0.5 and 2.5 in the series, although as explained by Patrick they are not essential the main story arc. I’ve also not included book 0.5 as I haven’t yet read it.

The name of the Wind stars Kvothe, our hero who became a legend, an assassin, a lover and a wizard. The book starts slowly with Kvothe in semi-retirement working as an innkeeper. The Chronicler arrives and Kvothe agrees to tell his tale, from losing his parents at an early age and becoming a feral beggar/thief before enrolling at the university.

I was sucked in immediately and couldn’t put it down. I loved how expansive the realm was and how there are sudden leaps in Kvothe’s life. The university is also nothing like Hogwarts.

The second book isn’t quite as good, as it falls into the trap of being the middle book in a trilogy, in that there are loads of loose ends that will need to be tied up in the final book. It also felt that maybe the start of the book should have been when Kvothe leaves the university for the first time, but that would have added a couple of hundred pages to book one.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a stand alone shorter book starring Auri, a strange girl who hides away beneath the university and befriends Kvothe. This book is completely different to the main two as she is the only character. Patrick Rothfuss stated that he loved writing this book but didn’t think anyone else ever would, especially as he takes 8 pages describing Auri making soap. This book was a delight, even though it didn’t add too much to the larger story.

All I can say is that if you’re looking for a good fantasy series, then you can’t go wrong with the Kingkiller Chronicles, although like Mr Martin, Mr Rothfuss isn’t the fastest of writers and it could be a while before book 3 arrives.