Book Review 2017 – Part IX

Walking Home from Mongolia is the second book by Rob Lilwall that I’ve read. The first one was reviewed here, where he cycled from Siberia back home to the UK, the long way. I enjoyed it, although there was a little bit too much religion.

In this book he decides to walk from Mongolia to Hong Kong, a distance of 3,000 miles. He asked his old friend Al to join him, but he was busy. Instead he was joined by Leon McCarron, who I reviewed here when he cycled across America.Leon wasn’t just going to walk with Rob, he was going to film it for a TV series.

As expected, they had some problems along the way, and as with Rob’s other adventure they didn’t always see eye to eye. A lack of Visas and extreme cold were other problems, but if I’m completely honest, I didn’t really enjoy this book. It didn’t make me want to go out on an adventure. It also came across that neither man was really enjoying the walk by the end. I think I’ll stick to cycling books.

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I don’t just throw together these reviews randomly. The second book, Thunder and Sunshine is by Al Humphreys, and as you know, Al was Rob’s cycling buddy in Siberia. This is the second book by Al and you can read about the other book here. In this book he continues to write about his cycle ride around the world, mainly up the whole of the Americas. As with book review part VIII (here) there is once again the small problem of there being no roads between Columbia and Panama, although Rob does cycle through much of Columbia, and finds it to be one of the most welcoming countries he visits.

The most intriguing section of the book is the Siberian part, this time from Al’s perspective. I really enjoyed this book, which goes to show that I am definitely more of a cycling person and not a walking type of guy.

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Book Review 2017 – Part VIII

I’ve been a bit slack recently with new blogs posts and I haven’t written anything new here. Instead this is a book review that I wrote over a month ago and never got round to typing it up. Two books once again, although very different.

First up is The Longest Road: An Irish Pan-American Cycling Adventure by Ben Cunningham. So many long distance cycling books, it’s almost as if I can’t get enough. This particular book saw a group of Irish cycling novices traverse from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska all the way down to Patagonia. Very different style once again, as these guys had a support vehicle for almost all of the journey, with a large trailer for all of their luggage. Not something that I would consider, but it is one way of doing it. They also liked to drink and party whenever possible. Having their own security through Mexico and parts of South America is probably not warranted, although travelling in such a large group, sometimes up to a dozen of them, would draw attention. Also, it’s got to be expensive.

As with all of the books that I’ve read, they were advised to miss out Columbia, especially as apparently there are no roads between Panama and Columbia. I find that hard to believe. It would be like no roads between England and Scotland and you’d have to go via Ireland. Truly bizarre.

I finished that book while me and the wife were cycle touring around the Highlands of Scotland. One night we stayed in a converted train, which was brilliant. They also had a selection of books, so I left Ben’s book and picked up one about the British Wrestling scene.

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The Wrestling was written a few years ago by Simon Garfield, before the recent resurgence in British Wrestling, so it does dwell on former glories up to the early 90’s when ITV cancelled wrestling from World of Sport.

I will be honest, I was always a big wrestling fan as I was growing up, and if I had more time I would probably continue to watch it every week. Back to the book, and a lot of the names are from the 50’s and 60’s, who I didn’t recognize, but once we hit the 80’s it was totally my era. I was slightly disappointed that my favourite wrestler, Ironfist Clive Myers didn’t get a mention.

It was also sad reading about the demise of British wrestling, especially as this period coincided with the rise of American Sports Entertainment with the WWF, now the WWE. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but as I said, I was and still am a wrestling fan. It would be good to see a few extra chapters from the last five years; new names and new stars, for example, Gentleman Jack Gallagher, Will Osprey or Neville.

Book Review 2017 – Part VII

So many books to read, so many reviews to write, and too much time spent at work. Never-mind, here’s a Dean Koontz double bill.

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I’ve been a Dean Koontz fan for almost 30 years, when my Uncle lent me a copy of Phantoms, which scared the hell out of me. In the years between I have probably read most of his books, even though he is fairly prolific. I wasn’t a fan of his Frankenstein series of books, as for me they didn’t really work, but otherwise I have enjoyed all of his work.

Recently my wife has started to read some of his books, so with an Amazon voucher from work I bought two of Mr Koontz’s finest; Watchers and Lightning.

Lightning is a time travelling thriller, where a mystery man keeps popping up to save a young girl’s life. Where does he come from, or more correctly, when? The ‘science’ part of the book is definite ‘fiction’, but it’s a great read, and the ‘when’ is not what you expect.

Watchers is more horror than thriller, although it does have an intelligent dog as the hero. Apparently Mr Koontz receives more fan letters about this book than any other, and I can see why. I’ve read it at least 3 or 4 times, and will probably read it again in the not too distant future.

The dog, our hero, brings together two lonely people and between the three of them they have an adventure. I don’t want to say too much as my wife is only half way through, and I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but suffice it to say – it’s a great read.

That should be my catch phrase for book reviews – it’s a great read. You can find all of my other book reviews here.

Book Review 2017 – Part VI

Yet another book about long distance cycle touring. Good Vibrations, Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie by Andrew Sykes. This one is slightly different from the others that I’ve read recently, as Andrew has a bigger budget. This means that he doesn’t wild camp and isn’t averse to staying in the occasional hotel, but mostly he stays in pleasant campsites with showers and other amenities. Interestingly, one of the first campsites he stays in is almost in the centre of London.

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The route that he takes is based on the pilgrimage by Archbishop Sigeric over a thousand years ago, who walked from Canterbury to Roma. Luckily this route can be cycled along Eurovelo route 5, if you can find it. Andrew spends a great deal of time online before setting off trying to find the actual route. I also liked the fact that he doesn’t really know how to repair or even look after his bike, which is good to know. He’s written a follow up book, cycling from Spain to Scandinavia, which I intend to look out for.

In my last book review I wrote about a pair of cyclists who rode across Siberia, in the winter (read it here). This is the other guy, Alastair Humphreys. In Moods of Future Joys he describes the first half of his round the world cycle ride, over a year before his ride from Magadan, although Rob Lilwall does ride with Alastair for a couple of weeks in Ethiopia. Al has a very different writing style, and unlike the other book in this review, he is doing it on the cheap, very cheap. He also doesn’t hide the fact that there were many times that he felt like quitting.

Halfway through Europe and the 9/11 terror attacks occured, meaning that Afganistan and Pakistan were no go areas. I was impressed that Al decided to head south through Africa instead.

A measure of a good book is would you buy another by the same author and for both of these authors the answer is yes.

You can find all of my book reviews from this year here.

Book Review 2017 – Part V

The 30 minute train journey twice a day means that I’m reading far more than I have in the last few years, and also writing about the books. Two more cycling books to review here, the first is Cycling home from Siberia by Rob Lilwall and the second is Cycling to the Ashes by Oli Broom.

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Cycling from Magaden on the far east coast of Russia, through Siberia does appeal to me, but not in winter like Rob did with his friend Al. This section of the book was by far the best until they catch a boat to Japan and decide to go their separate ways. Al also wrote a book which I will probably hunt down soon. Rob took his time getting home, taking almost three years, with some long stops along the way, including 12 weeks in Hong Kong, where he met his future fiancee.

Another good section of the book sees him and two others dodging border guards so that they can cross Tibet. Overall the book was an interesting read, although there was a little too much God for my liking.

Another form of religion dominates the second book; Cycling to the Ashes. Obviously the religion this time is cricket, as Oli spent 15 months cycling to Australia to watch the Ashes. As with all big cycling adventure books, it’s full of ups and downs, mental and physical ones, psychological and geographical ones. Much like the first book, Oli decides to cross most of Europe in winter, wild camping most of the time. I have woken up once with a frozen water bottle when camping, and it’s not something that I would want day after day. He also managed to cross the whole of Europe without getting a single puncture. I want to know what tires he was riding.

This book, as the name suggests is full of cricket as well as cycling, so if you’re not a fan of cricket you might want to give it a miss. I did enjoy it even though I’m not a huge cricket fan.

“I think it’s pathetic he isn’t cycling home again,” said Ian Botham, which was written on the back cover. Made me laugh out loud.

My four other book reviews so far this year can be found here, herehere and here or alternatively find the Book Review category on the right hand side of my blog. Part VI will be coming soon.

Book Review 2017 Part IV

Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Series, The girl in the spider’s web by David Lagercrantz

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I was/am a big fan of the Millenium Trilogy of books by Stieg Larsson, so much so that I even bought the final one in hardback. I was saddened to hear of his early passing, and then the subsequent issues with his close family and partner. I was therefore apprehensive about the new book, even waiting to buy it only when it was on offer.

I shouldn’t have waited, the new book is brilliant, and dare I say it, better then The girl who kicked the hornets nest. The final book of the original trilogy I found to be less thrilling, almost as if you knew the outcome. This new book has given a much needed boost to the series, with all our favourite characters back, along with some new ones. Lisbeth’s sister? I can’t remember her ever being mentioned in the first three books. I tried to take my time with this book, but a long train journey to London for a conference meant that I polished off the last 150 pages in record time. If you enjoyed the original series then you will love this book, and if you’ve only seen the films, why?

My other book reviews can be found here, here and here.

Book Review 2017 Part III

Every inch of the way by Tom Bruce and The road headed west by Leon McCarron

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I must have read half a dozen round the world cycling books in the last few years, and this one by Tom Bruce is one of the best. I prefer the adventures that are not a race, although I thoroughly enjoyed both books by Mark Beaumont* and Sean Conway. I like it when the author takes their time, with rest days and unexpected detours, which can be far more interesting. Tom is obviously nervous for the first few weeks of his adventure which comes across in the style of the writing. Give it a few chapters and he soon gets into his rhythm, hooking me in. What I also like about round the world cycling books is the different routes each cyclist takes, and then being able to follow the route on the world map that we have in our bedroom.

Not another round the world book, as this one is ‘only’ across America. Leon McCarron’s trip is a fair old adventure, made harder by going the ‘wrong way’, east to west with headwinds all the way. Every adventure is unique and one thing I loved about this book is how clueless Leon is at the start, and the enormous amount of luggage he decides to take with him. Four full panniers and a trailer. Early on he meets up with Susie, a fellow long distance cyclist, and I got the feeling Leon gained a great deal of confidence from riding with her for a few weeks, and that without her he might have given up. Later on he meets up with three other travellers and they seem to gain confidence riding with Leon. The book also contains a few scary moments, but on the whole nearly all of his encounters are full of the kindness of strangers. The end of the book also has some great advice for would be adventurers. My favourite is what to do if you have a mechanical. Either you’ll fix it or someone else will, simple as that.

Leon has managed to turn his adventures into a living, and I’m hoping to pick up his other books, especially the one about Mongolia, which is somewhere that my beautiful wife is keen to cycle through.

*Today Mark Beaumont announced that he is going to attempt to cycle around the world in 80 days, 240 miles a day, fully supported. He’s off on a warm up training ride of 3,500 miles around the coast of the UK. I’m hoping to ride with him for a few miles through Lancaster.

You can read my previous book reviews from 2017 here and here.