Book Review 2018 – Part III

Did I mention that I’d had a go at publishing my own short e-book? Read about it here. Sales have doubled today, it’s up to two copies.

Back to the book review, and I have two very good books for you (both much better than my short story).

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First up is What Goes Around by Emily Chappell. When I lived in Oxford I often travelled to London and I was always fascinated by the cycle courier’s, and slightly terrified by what they did day in day out. Emily’s book takes us from her start as a courier, when she was a newbie up to her being one of the most experienced couriers in London. She writes about the people she meets, other couriers, receptionists and her friends from the world of cycling. I love the short cuts and the hang-outs that only the courier world know about. I really enjoyed this book, although it reinforces by desire not to cycle around London. I find it bad enough between Wigan and Leigh and I doff my cap to cycle couriers the world over.

Next up is Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl decides to walk most of the Pacific Crest Trail, a route that starts at the border with Mexico and heads all the way to Canada, passing through the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. Many years ago, after reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, I was all set to take on the Appelachian Trail, but promotion at work put a stop do that dream.

In this book Cheryl doesn’t hide anything, including the death of her mother and her infidelities which led to her divorce, along with her intermittent heroin habit. She is also completely inexperienced when it comes to long distance walking, and never tries out her loaded rucksack until the morning she starts. Inevitably she can’t lift it as she is carrying everything including the kitchen sink. Fortunately she meets some kind and experienced walkers who help her sort out her kit, sending home the items that she won’t need. The year she’s walking also has some of the worst snow in history, meaning that almost everyone walking the trail has to leapfrog a section.

This is another book that I really enjoyed, even though its hard in places. As with the courier book earlier, I’m not planning on long distance walking, but that doesn’t stop me dreaming about other adventures.

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I’ve Written a Book

When I say that I’ve written a book, it’s not a book. It’s a short story, very short, less than 7,000 words, or 36 pages of a Kindle. It was more of an exercise to see how easy it was, and if I could manage it. It’s fairly easy, although I would probably design my own cover next time, if there is a next time. I was also amazed that it isn’t that easy to publish your own book for free, which is what I intended to do, instead it is at the lowest price point possible, 0.99p. I think this is all about Amazon wanting to make a profit, although they do allow you to promote it for a few days for the knock down price of free.

What’s the book (short story) about?

Last summer, me and my lovely wife went cycling in the highlands of Scotland for a week, and this is my take on our mini adventure. Here is a link to the book, although I won’t be disappointed if you decline to make a purchase. Below is another link, and did I mention that I wasn’t particularly happy with the cover.

Within a day of my book (short story) being available, someone from Canada had bought a copy. I doubt if my royalties will allow me to get that Colnago.

As I said earlier, it was more of an exercise to see if I could self publish, and over the next few weeks I’ll probably post each chapter on my blog. If I’m honest I don’t think it’s very good, but then I’ve bought loads of books in my life that have been unreadable.

I would like to have another go in the future, but something longer but probably still cycling related.

Book Review 2018 – Part II

Normally I review two books at once, but this one deserves a review all of it’s own. Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff.

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I’m not a fan of Trump, but this isn’t new. I didn’t like him years ago when he declared bankruptcy and stiffed loads of ordinary workers when his big casino failed. I never watched The Apprentice, and I wasn’t happy when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

When he stood for President I never expected him to win, like almost everyone. I would have liked to have seen Bernie Sanders stand, or Joe Biden, but as we’ve seen over the last year, Trump has been a complete and utter disgrace.

I tried to buy a copy of this book when it was released, but Leigh doesn’t have a bookshop, so I had to wait until the weekend. I don’t really need to go into too much detail about the book as it’s been in the news for weeks, but if you’ve been living in a bunker, the author was given access to the White House and had almost unfettered access to everyone. Apparently he has tapes as well, just in case anyone from the Trump administration tries to sue him.

The book plays to my prejudices, as I like to read about what a moron Trump is. I don’t watch the news on TV anymore, and I generally get most of my news from left leaning websites, for example, The Canary or Evolve Politics. I am just a guilty of this as someone who only reads The Daily Mail and sups up every last piece of hate. OK, so I’m not as bad as the hate filled racists who avidly watch Fox News or it’s ilk, but you get the idea.

Back to the book, and one of the most interesting aspects was how the whole Trump team who not only believed that they would lose, but actually wanted to lose, just not by too much. They could then blame illegal voting and try to claim the moral high ground, saying that Trump actually did win. This would then boost the Trump brand. This is backed up by the fact that there were no plans or policies in place just in case he did win.

The other interesting fact is that everyone close to Trump has to try to manage him, as he doesn’t read, and isn’t interesting in anything except himself. If there is justice then Trump and his entire family will end up in jail.

Read this book and laugh at how pathetic he is.

Book Review 2018 – Part I

Time for my first book review of 2018, or more accurately, my last book review of 2017 as both books were finished before Christmas. It’s unlikely that I will be reviewing as many older books this year. This Christmas and last Christmas, the company that I work for gave everyone a £200 one4all voucher, which I mainly spent on second hand books from the stores that sell through Amazon. Unfortunately, Amazon no longer accept one4all vouchers, but Waterstones do, so all is not lost, although the selection isn’t as good.

Back to the book review, and two really good books, Alone in Antarctica by Felicity Aston and Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier by Terry Darlington.

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Alone in Antarctica is all about one woman’s attempt to walk across the most inhospitable continent on the planet. Felicity had been to the area a few times, most recently walking to the pole with a group of women, but on your own is very different, especially if you’re setting off from the ‘wrong’ side and not stopping at the pole. I found it very interesting plotting her route, as she wanted to avoid crevasses, obviously, and not have to climb too many steep slopes towing all of her gear. The loneliness really comes across in the book, and I was hooked, although this is one area that I might not plan to cycle across.

Narrow Dog is on the whole a much more local book for me, as he writes about the area I know well. I’ve always loved canals, whether running, cycling or walking, or reading about them. You also can’t go wrong with a couple of less than intelligent but loveable dogs. This is Terry’s third book and I will be honest, I’ve not read the others. He doesn’t just write about canals and dogs, but also reminisces about his work and how he took up running. I enjoyed the chapter on the Lancaster canal, and loved his disparaging comments on the Huddersfield canal, saying that it was horrendous to navigate and that maybe it should have been left unpreserved.

Both books were good, although very different, with very little humour in the first, and a lot of dry humour in the second.

I am now also caught up with my book reviews, so my next review is for a book that I’m still reading.

Book Review 2017 – Part XV

I’ve been an Iron Maiden fan since the early 80’s and even had an album by the band Samson, so I was always going to read Bruce Dickinson’s autobiography.

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Iron Maiden were also the very first band that I saw live, in Hull back in 1984 on the Piece of Mind Tour. I’m also a big enough fan to know that some of their more recent albums have been a long way short of their classics.

There is so much about Bruce that I already knew, the fencing, author, DJ, pilot, brewer and solo recording artist that it is amazing that he managed to find the time to fit it all in. The book is a great read, and was also written by Bruce himself, not ghost written like most autobiographies. I also never knew about his recent battle with cancer.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and even if you’re not a fan of Iron Maiden you will probably still be fascinated. Bruce also decides to leave out births, deaths and marriages, as he said that if he’d left them in the book would have been twice as long. It might have been nice to have had a little more details about his children and wife (wives), but in the end the book is about Bruce, which is what you really want.

Book Review 2017 – Part XIV

I have just finished reading what is quite easily the best fiction book that I have read this year, The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker.

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Some of you might recognise the character on the cover a ‘Pinhead’ from the Hellraiser series of films. 30 years ago Clive Barker wrote a novella, The Hellbound Heart, which introduced Pinhead. Mr Barker then wrote a screenplay and when he struggled to find a director who could do it justice, he decided to direct the film version of the book. The eponymous Hellraiser began. Unlike other horrow films, for example Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th, Pinhead isn’t the ‘monster’. He is more complex and as with other Clive Barker films, humans are shown to be the real monsters.

The Scarlet Gospels is a sequel to the original book, probably set after all of the other Hellraiser films. I had a quick look on IMDB and it would appear that there are over a dozen Hellraiser films. I gave up at number 6 as they were gradually getting more and more rubbish. Mr Barker had a hand in the first three, so I would suggest watching those and then stopping, although he does have a hand in the remake due next year.

Back to the book, and it grabbed me form the start. New characters are introduced, nut the detective Harry D’amour makes a welcome return, as does Pinhead, who we discover hates the nickname. The book also describes the ‘pins’, which are big long rusty nails that pierce deep into his skull. The basic plot is that Pinhead has murdered all of the magicians on Earth and using their power wants to take over Hell. Harry’s best friend get kidnapped, so Harry and his band of Harrowers descend in to Hell to rescue her.

This book isn’t for everyone as it is an out and out horror novel, with blood, gore and visceral imaginary. It would probably help if you had read The Hellbound Heart or some of the stories with Harry D’amour, although it isn’t essential.

My first Book Review of the year featured another Clive Barker book (read about it Here), and he remains one of the favorite authors, and I would love to see this book made into a film, as long as Clive Barker is involved.

Book Review 2017 – Part XIII

Thirteen book reviews, that’s more than one a month and I’m catching up on the books that I’ve read. Two more books to review here and they are both long distance cycling ones.

First up is I’ll be Home by Christmas, by Matthew Blake. As the title suggests, Matthew was indeed home for Christmas, although it was four years after he set off. It’s been over a month since I finished this book, and I’ll be honest I’m struggling to remember anything about it, which is awful. Was the book just not very memorable. Is this the book where the writer was arrested crossing South Sudan? Is this the guy who set off overweight and could hardly ride a bike? I should probably write my book reviews a bit sooner after finishing them. What I will say is that I’ve never read a long distance cycling book that I’ve not enjoyed in some way. Maybe someone out there could read it and tell me a few of the highlights to nudge my memory.

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The Hungry Cyclist by Tom Kevill-Davies on the other hand I do remember. Tom likes to eat and to ride a bike, so he combined the two. He began his journey cycling from New York to Seattle, before heading down the west coast and into Mexico, crossing South America and finishing in Rio.

He meets loads of interesting people, as you generally do when riding a bike. He also adds many of the recipes he tries at the end of each chapter, including beaver tail soup! Probably one that I won’t be trying at home, although the rice dish he shared with Puerto Rican construction workers in New York did sound good. In Mexico he falls in love with seafood tacos as he cycles down the Baja Peninsula.

Obviously he couldn’t cross the Darian Gap, but he does cycle through Columbia. He then heads inland, trying guinea pig in Ecudor, before taking a boat down the Amazon, stopping in Manaus. A friend that I did my PhD with had a stop over there and dexcribed it as an absolute hole. Tom eats street food outside a brothel in the depths of the dodgiest areas of the city.

I really enjoyed this book, and as you can tell it was memorable. Tom’s route is also something that I would like to try, although without the Amazon boat section.