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.

Book Review 2017 Part II

In my first book review of the year (can be found here) I reviewed four books. This time it’s just the one book, mostly because it’s a long read.

Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama

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I’d never heard of the author, but the blurb on the cover made it look interesting, so I gave it a punt. The book can take a while to get your head around, as there is lots of Japanese police procedure. The main character, Mikami, was a seasoned detective who has been transferred to press relations, against his will. His daughter has also run off from home and has been missing for a few months, feared dead. Behind all this is an unsolved 14 year old kidnapping case, with the code name six-four. This case is a blot on the local police force as the kidnapper was never caught, the ransom money was never recovered and the kidnapped schoolgirl was murdered. On top of all this intrigue, the police commissioner from Tokyo is planning a visit, for nefarious reasons.

The book is quite long and although sometimes feels as if not much is happening, I was hooked from very early on. The final few chapters are brilliantly described as you feel like you are ‘there’, and I won’t reveal where ‘there’ is. There are also more than a couple of threads unresolved, so I am really hoping that the author is currently writing the sequel.

If you’re local to Lancaster, you can borrow my copy, you won’t be disappointed.

Book Review 2017 Part I

So here I am, re-writing my Book Review blog post, after I had managed to accidentally delete it. What an idiot. I’ll try to remember what it was I wrote first time, although this will probably be more succinct.

I know that I started off my telling you that one of the good things about catching a train each day is that I get to read. I prefer to read a good book, rather than look at rubbish on Facebook or play some stupid game. So far this year I have finished four books:

  • Hell and High Water – Sean Conway
  • Mister B Gone – Clive Barker
  • The cyclist who went out in the cold – Tim Moore
  • The Moth – Various

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Hell and High Water is all about Sean Conway’s attempt to swim up the coast of Britain, via a detour up the coast of Ireland. The adventure is beset with problems to overcome and people telling him it couldn’t be done. It is also full of random strangers helping out, and how and why he grew his iconic ginger beard. I learned all about tides, and why he could only swim at certain times. The book is ideal if you want something different, but set in places that you could easily visit.

The cyclist who went out in the cold is proper bonkers. I’ve read a few of Tim’s books before, and they are always an enjoyable read. His trip around London via a Monopoly board was a great way to visit the places of names that we all know. Again his trip around Italy following the route of the toughest Giro in history, on a wooden wheeled bicycle from the 20’s was bonkers. I loved it. So I was really looking forward to reading about his latest mad adventure, and it is mad. Buying an east German shopper, adding an extra strut for support and then cycling a new Euro route which roughly followed the old iron curtain.To make it harder (more fun/interesting), he set off from the north of Finland in winter. If you like irreverent travel books, you’ll love this.

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Mister B Gone is a damn fine horror novel. I’ve been a fan of Clive for almost 30 years, ever since I stumbled across of copy of the Books of Blood and The Hellbound Heart. The latter he wrote a screenplay for, and then directed the film, which became the iconic Hellraiser. (Looking forward to the remake Clive). In Mister B Gone, the main protagonist is a demon, dragged out of hell by a crooked Arch Bishop, and follows his adventures above ground. The book is also notable as it cleverly breaks the fourth wall. I managed to pick up a copy for 1p from Amazon, plus postage, so there is no reason for not finding it.

The Moth is simply a collection of true stories, but that description doesn’t even scratch the surface. The idea is from before technology, when people would gather round a story teller, like moths round a flame. Before the book, story telling evenings were organised, and then the best were collected into this book. Some are sad, some are happy and some are downright strange, but they are always interesting. One thing for sure is that you have to take your time with this book, as invariably you’ll need a few minutes to reflect upon the magnitude of what you’ve just read. I’ve lost count how many times I cried. If you rush through this book like a trashy Dan Brown novel you’ll miss the beauty that is ‘The Moth’.