Wednesday 27 July 2016

Review: Under the Tump: Sketches of Real Life on the Welsh Borders

Under the Tump: Sketches of Real Life on the Welsh Borders Under the Tump: Sketches of Real Life on the Welsh Borders by Oliver Balch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Strangely enough, the only reason I know about Hay-on-Wye is because of the books. This Welsh town has over 20 bookshops and is the host to a huge literary festival at the end of May. When the writer Oliver Bach decided to move to the village of Clyro, just outside Hay; he wanted more than to immerse himself in a world of books, put down roots and make it a maybe make it a place he could call home

Compared to London and Buenos Aires where he had lived before it was utterly different, and he wasn’t to settle into village life with his family. He is ably assisted by the Victorian diarist, Francis Kilvert, a curate who wrote about the village in the 1870’s. Bach wanted to see how much had changed since then, as well as find out just what had stayed the same. Like all newcomers, he is treated coolly at first, but ever so slowly, people warm to him. The village is full of characters, he meets local councillors, activists, hippies and a family that have dropped of grid. Hay even has its own King, self-appointed of course. Being a rural community, agriculture is a major part of the economy and he spends time with the local young farmers groups, finding out just what keeps them entertained and helping out at a function.

It is a nicely written book and he is honest in his opinions of the qualities and flaws of country living. Initially he feel like an immigrant, but the longer he spends there he finds that he is not the only incomer; there are others that even a few generations on feel like they are still new. I particularly liked the history of the area that he discovers, uncovering details about where he now lives and the houses and landscape around. As interesting as it was to read though, there did not feel like there was a huge amount of depth to the book. Just need to arrange a trip to Hay now…

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Saturday 23 July 2016

Review: Bradley Wiggins: My Hour

Bradley Wiggins: My Hour Bradley Wiggins: My Hour by Bradley Wiggins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cycling is full of great races, The Tour, the Giro, Paris-Roubaix. These are tough, and few have the capacity to win, but these are all undertaken with lots of other riders. There is one cycling record that is even more gruelling than these; The Hour. Those that have set a new record join an elite club; those that have won the Tour de France and set a record are the crème de la crème.

One man.

On paper it looks simple enough, how far can you cycle for one hour. But this is one of cycling and sports toughest events mentally and physically. If you start hard and fast you’ll fade by the end, if you start slow, then you’ll never be able to reach your target. It is a discipline that requires a metronomic speed around the track with fraction of second differences each lap. Many riders who have undertaken, including the great Merckx, it say it is the hardest thing that they have ever done.

One bike..

The UCI have changed the rules several times on the type of bike and position the rider can use. They can now ride with a regular time trial machine. Naturally the bike Wiggo uses is very technical advanced. They spent a large fortune on the Pinarello Bolide and is pure excellence for the bike geek, it includes custom printed titanium set of handlebars, reduced friction chain, redesigned front fork and a carbon frame designed in conjunction with Jaguar. It is a thing of beauty.

One hour…

He takes us behind the preparation for this attempt. But as a team they had nothing to go on, so they designed their own programme building of stamina and utilising the famous ‘marginal gains’ that UK cycling is now known for. Scattered throughout the book is profiles of those that have taken on this challenge and won; these men were heroes of Wiggins, and with this he joins their ranks. The photography in the book is brilliant, there is a mix of informal portraits, arty bike shots and dynamic image as he hurtles around the velodrome. It is a really enjoyable read by one of my favourite sportsmen as he takes on that clock.

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Library haul

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
The Art of Neil Gaiman: The Visual Story of One of the World's Most Vital Creative Forces by Hayley Campbell
Walking Through Spring by Graham Holland
High Rise by J.G. Ballard
Molotov's Magic Lantern : a Journey in Russian History by Rachel Polonsky
and was given a copy of Holloway by Robert Macfarlane & Dan Richards

Friday 22 July 2016

Review: The Man in the High Castle

The Man in the High Castle The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It is post World War II, but in this alterative future Roosevelt had been assassinated in 1933 and America had never emerged from the great depression. The Axis powers won and America is now under the Nazi’s on the east coast and Japan invaded and established the Pacific States of America (PSA) on the west coast. The Rocky Mountain States are now a neutral buffer zone. With the Nazi victory came sweeping changes across Europe, genocide in the African continent and they mastered space.

In this strange new world, PKD has scattered a cast of characters that are loosely linked. Bob Childan owns an antiques shop specialising in Americana relics some of which have been bought through the Wyndam-Matson Corporation. Frank Frink, who is secretly a Jew and a previous employee of Wyndam-Matson, discovers that the antiques are fakes, and walks away with a sum of money to start a new business with another colleague. His ex wife, Juliana, is now living in the neutral zone, and has begun a relationship with an Italian truck driver called Cinnadella. A Swedish industrialist named Baynes has recently arrived and is asking for a meeting with a Nobusuke Tagomi, a Japanese trade official, who had visited Childan’s shop to buy a gift for him. Several characters in the book are reading the banned novel, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy by Hawthorne Abendsen, who according to lore lives in a guarded home called the High Castle. This novel within the novel has its own alternate history, our future, where the Allies have won World War II. Throughout the book, some of the characters use the ancient divination text of I Ching to help them make decisions even though the choices presented are not always what they want.

I have come to like PKD books. Not all of them are great works of literature, but they all manage to mess with your head. In this parallel world, he has conceived a future with the Axis powers running most of the western world and still causing horrific acts. The story is woven with tension, from Julianna realisation about her boyfriend’s intentions, the power struggles at the top of the Nazi hierarchy and the potential for another world war. I liked the overlapping coincidences in the novel within from our world and the new parallel world that he conceived. Whilst the plot is not hugely strong, it’s a book that makes you think about the paradox of alternative futures and what the world might have been like. Good stuff. 3.5 stars.

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Review: Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Brings You 90% of Everything

Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Brings You 90% of Everything Deep Sea and Foreign Going: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Brings You 90% of Everything by Rose George
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is a high chance that you are reading this on some sort of screen that arrived in your country in a container, or box, having been shipped across the oceans of the world to the high street shop of your choice. The ship that brought it was one of 40,000 that ply the world’s oceans carrying 80% of everything you purchase and 90% of the energy that you consume.

This huge global business is safely out of sight and out of mind; you’ve probably never even thought about it.

To find out about this secret behemoth, George has travelled the across the seas on container ships and naval vessels, talking to officers, crew, engineers, chaplains and dockworkers to see if she can scratch the surface of it. It is an industry that deliberately chooses opaqueness; ship owners sail under flags of convenience, regulation is scant and rarely enforced and the law seems not to apply at sea. She speaks to those who track some of the 10,000 containers that fall overboard each year, environmentalists who are trying to tell us just how polluting the ships are and goes to Somalia to see the modern pirates being tried.

In this book George concentrates more on the effects of the shipping industry, both positive and negative, considers the challenges that it faces as costs are driven down and the implications of further changes to come. Rightly so, she gets angry about lots of things, pirates, the scant respect of the law and the conditions that some crews have to suffer. This is an industry that uses the flag of convenience to escape taxes, responsibility for environmental disasters and has no desire to change at the moment, but she does get drawn into the almost romantic notion of ploughing the oceans bringing goods from faraway places. It is a good companion book to Down To The Sea With Ships by Horatio Clare. 3.5 stars

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Thursday 21 July 2016

Review: Down To The Sea In Ships: Of Ageless Oceans and Modern Men

Down To The Sea In Ships: Of Ageless Oceans and Modern Men Down To The Sea In Ships: Of Ageless Oceans and Modern Men by Horatio Clare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you take a look around you at some of the things that you own, almost all of the have arrived in the country in a box. A container box that is. These containers are shipped in their millions back and forth oceans and round the world every year.

Clare was invited to be the writer on board for the Maersk Group, to see how these veins of the capitalist world work and operate. He joins the first ship at Felixstowe, the UK largest port, on its journey from there to Los Angles via Suez and Hong Kong. On the ship he is allowed free access anywhere, and to meet and speak with the crew and officers with the aim of finding out just what makes these vast vessels tick.

His second journey takes him from Antwerp to Montreal. It is an older ship, that reeks of diesel, and they are travelling into a huge storm in the atlantic. On this journey he finds out just how dangerous this journeys can be for the crews.

It is a fascinating book to read as Clare gets to the heart of the shipping industry and the people that run these ships. The size of some of these ports is huge, I know I have seen the Hong Kong port, and everything is organised down to the last detail, so much so that on his first journey they dock to the minute have travelled three quarters around the world. Clare manages to convey well the feelings and the pressure that the crews feel, as well as recounting some of the stories from other ships some of which are terrifying. Did drag a bit at times, but otherwise worth reading.

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Tuesday 19 July 2016

Review: Pit Stops, Pitfalls and Olive Pits: A literary license to enjoy driving escapades throughout scenic Italy

Pit Stops, Pitfalls and Olive Pits: A literary license to enjoy driving escapades throughout scenic Italy Pit Stops, Pitfalls and Olive Pits: A literary license to enjoy driving escapades throughout scenic Italy by John Tabellione
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Received a free copy from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Italy. It conjures up images of blue seas, expresso coffee, sunshine, fine foods, medieval cities, ancient ruins and olive groves. Evocative things that make a holiday in Italy great. John Tabellione has been to Italy many time clocking up thousands of miles from Bologna to Palermo and scaring himself on the twisty coast roads of Amalfi. Drawing on this experience, he has written a guide to navigating the entire driving process in Italy; from rental nightmares, driving down tiny streets not much wider than your car and what to do when you meet a bus on a hairpin bend. This is a combination of travelogue as he takes you to various locations meeting family members and a self-help manual for surviving the Italian roads

Some of this was really lovely to read, the descriptions of the food and cities made me want to head back to Italy. But I’m not sure that I’d want to take a driving holiday there though; I have driven in Italy and at times it can be terrifying especially in the cities and he does have sound advice for would be drivers. I would have preferred the ‘pit stop’ advice to be moved to the back and heard more about his travels and personal stories. Not a bad little book though.

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Review: Engines of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost on the Railways

Engines of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost on the Railways Engines of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost on the Railways by Christian Wolmar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Before the advent of mass transport, battles were short, sharp and brutal. Troops only could be supplied with a certain amount of food, relying on scavenging from the local area and they did not require vast quantities of ammunition. With the advent of the railways, armies were suddenly more mobile. Large number of soldiers could be easily moved into a region, with abundant supplies of materiel to support military action.

In this book, Wolmar details all the major campaigns from the Crimean War, the American Civil War, the Boer Wars and the two World Wars and the pivotal role that the intelligent use of railways played in making these far more deadly than every single conflict that went before. He shows how critical battles were won by those who used the railways properly and how others were lost when armies failed to understand the finer detail of timetables and scheduling. There are examples of how it would cause chaos when officers would send a single package with one man in a whole carriage and how Nazi reliance on roads without having the lorries or the fuel meant that the battles did not have the logistical support that they needed. Having delivered their deadly cargos to the fronts, they were then essential in bring out the wounded and deceased. Mostly the trains were used for supplies, but there are examples of armoured trains, guns and even missile launchers that were developed for the cold war.

This book confirms the maxim that an army marches on its stomach and in this book Wolmar has highlighted the role of the railways in wars over the past century. He has managed to make what could have been a dry subject reasonably interesting. It is full of fascinating detail and anecdotes and eminently readable.

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Monday 18 July 2016

Recieved today courtesy of Head of Zeus s copy of Stonehenge: The Story of a Sacred Landscape by Francis Pryor

Saturday 16 July 2016

Review: All Is Not Forgotten

All Is Not Forgotten All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Fairview, Connecticut is a quiet, affluent town that not much happens in. That all changes one night when a girl, Jenny Kramer, is viciously attacked at a friend’s party. She is rushed to hospital where her wounds are treated, and is also give a drug that will erase the memories of her assault. The town is shocked and the search for the attacker begins. Jenny is slowly healing, but the emotional turmoil is a struggle, especially as her factual recall of the night has gone. Her father, Tom, is obsessed with finding the man himself and her mother is trying to pretend it never took place at all.

To help recover the little memory she has she is working with a therapist, Alan. He is using a number of methods to try and draw the memories out again. He is helping her parents too; and as the secrets are uncovered from all three of them, the tensions from all of this put a strain on their marriage before rippling out through the to the wider community, bringing to the surface events that have been hidden for years and are probably best forgotten

To read the read the rest of this review go here

2.5 stars overall

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Got three books from the library today:

John le Carré: The Biography by Adam Sisman
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Under the Tump: Sketches of Real Life on the Welsh Borders by Oliver Balch

Friday 15 July 2016

Review: Rice's Architectural Primer

Rice's Architectural Primer Rice's Architectural Primer by Matthew Rice
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Until now if I was to stand a look at a building I could tell you the basic elements, windows, doors, roof, gables, eaves and soffits. But there is a lot more to learn for the amateur. In this little book Rice takes us way back to Norman architecture, with an explanation of key design elements of the that time, and illustrated with cheeky little sketches of buildings and details from pilasters to pediments, buttresses to bulls eyes and queen post to quoins.

I really liked the sketches in the book too; they are little freehand ones that have a certain charm, panache and humour to them. There are broad brushed strokes of significant buildings that he recommends you visit, detailed ones of the specific elements that you should look for to date a building and even a set for the brick, stone and other materials that you will find. The explanations are clear as he describes how trends drift from one era to another and significant architects are highlighted in the text. One thing that did bug me was that key elements were highlighted in capitals and so were other random elements. Generally, not a bad introduction to architecture.

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Review: Wall of Stone

Wall of Stone Wall of Stone by Heather Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The year is AD 121 and in the far north of Britannia the Twentieth Legion of Rome stands at the very boundary between the civilised world and the savage Picts. The Roman empire is a long way away, correspondence takes an age to arrive and they feel isolated; tensions are rising as the Picts feel that this is their opportunity to strike hard against the Roman might. Maximus ignores orders and decides that stabilising his position and finding the rebels is more important. One local family, the Teviots, seem to hold the key to infiltrating the rebels, but will his actions solve the problem or cause a war.

I rarely read historical novels preferring non fiction history books, but have read the odd ones in the past such as the Shardlake series which I enjoyed. I promised Heather, who I know a little that I would read and review her book. The main characters are solid with a set of good traits and flaws, the peripheral characters were quite light but didn’t detract from the story. I liked the way the plot tied in with the real events and places in Roman times too and there is a reasonable amount of tension in the storyline. Personally I’m not keen on books with romance in them and whilst it does not dominate, it is still a significant aspect of the story. It was still a book worth reading in my opinion, 3.5 stars overall

Disclosure – I received a copy of the book direct from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Tuesday 12 July 2016

Review: Violence in the Skies: A History of Aircraft Hijacking and Bombing

Violence in the Skies: A History of Aircraft Hijacking and Bombing Violence in the Skies: A History of Aircraft Hijacking and Bombing by Philip Baum
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Even though a number of people do die in accidents each year, the number is incredibly small when compared to the numbers flying. To put it in perspective around 500 people per annum die in plane crashes, whereas around 150 die per day in road accidents. This makes flying is one of the safest forms of transport ever invented. What the engineers cannot do though, is plan for human actions.

In this book Baum has delved into the history books as far back as 1911 to look at all manner of hijackings and other well-known and lesser known acts of crime that have taken place not only in planes but have happened in airports and where civil aircraft have been subject to external attacks. Each chapter covers a period of around five years or of time and Baum provides a clinical analysis of all the available facts on each event, drawing on interviews from the passengers, crews and even from the hijackers themselves.

Whilst it is well written and aimed at the general reader, rather than those with industry links, it does occasionally feel quite dry. It makes for fascinating but uncomfortable reading, in particular when you consider some of the purely arbitrary reasons behind the attacks. He goes some way to prove that security measures are helping fight against this, but makes us aware that these have driven the perpetrators to formulate even more ingenious methods to spread terror and gain publicity for their cause. Using recent examples he highlights the new threats that have started to arise. It is not really a book for those that have a nervous disposition about flying, but again, it must be remembered that these tragic events are thankfully few and far between. 3.5 stars overall.

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Monday 11 July 2016

Popped into the library on the way home, as you do and got :
Walking the Nile by Levison Wood
Land of the Midnight Sun: My Arctic Adventures by Alexander Armstrong

Sunday 10 July 2016

Review: The Gifts of Reading

The Gifts of Reading The Gifts of Reading by Robert Macfarlane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story, like so many stories, begins with a gift. That gift, like so many gifts, was a book…

Most people love receiving presents, but for me the best present to receive is a book. A well-chosen book opens up a world of possibilities, it is something that can be treasured for ages and can have a resonance between giver and receiver. In this essay, Macfarlane extolls the deep significance of giving and receiving books as he recalls receiving The Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor from Don, a close friend and past colleague. This simple gift of this book, was what drove him to walk the hills and mountains and in turn has given us, the reader, his own wonderful books.

This short, intense, expresso like book is a little gem that will continue to provide insight and delight every time I give or receive a book. This is only available from Independent Bookshops, and monies go towards Migrant Offshore Aid Station.

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Saturday 9 July 2016

Got Rice's Architectural Primer by Matthew Rice from the library and bought Sea Room: An Island Life by Adam Nicolson and The World of Poo by Terry Pratchett 

Review: Adrift: A Secret Life of London's Waterways

Adrift: A Secret Life of London's Waterways Adrift: A Secret Life of London's Waterways by Helen Babbs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you think of London, the things that come to mind are the sights, the buses and traffic and the melting pot of people that make this a busy and dynamic city. What I wasn’t aware of is the canals that are still leftover in the capital. These linear watery sanctuaries edge well know parts of the capital and are homes to wildlife and people. When Helen Babbs realises that she would never be able to afford to buy anywhere in London, the idea came to her of owning a narrowboat. Quitting the expensive rented rooms, her partner S. and her purchased a boat called Pike and moved it from the midlands to London.

Deciding forgo a permeant mooring, they spend time in different places in the city, moving on every few weeks or so to another borough. Whilst they never feel that they have settled, it does mean that they wake up to different views on a regular basis. Each area has its own rewards and charm, but they all share the a common theme of being transparent to most Londoners. She takes us on nature walks, trying to find out just how many species actually live along the canal, There is a chapter spent looking for the canals that used to be there, their presence left as ponds, dips and bridges that seem to serve no purpose.

I really enjoyed this; Babbs is an able writer and has drawn together a personal memoir of setting up a home in a narrow boat with elements of history, nature and people with a social commentary on the state of our capital. She has also revealed a hidden side to London, these canals and rivers that most are unaware of have a life and dynamic of their own that deserves to be celebrated.

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Thursday 7 July 2016

Review: Arabian Sands

Arabian Sands Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the Second World War, Thesiger spent five years criss-crossing the deserts of Arabia in particular the 'Empty Quarter'. He had an unconventional life; born in Addis Ababa in Abyssinia, he spent the war in the region ending up in the SAS, before falling in love with the place and deciding to spend more time exploring it. He travelled with the Bedouin people, or as he calls them Bedu, experiencing their daily challenges of extreme heat, ice cold nights, long treks with camels under the relentless sun and the daily challenge of hunger and thirst. In most places he visited, he was the first European ever to set eyes on the dunes and wadis of those deserts. He immersed himself into their life, sharing food and water, hardship and company.

The Bedu were a people he had a deep respect for; he never ceased to be amazed by the way they could look at footprints in the sand and tell him who was riding the camels as well as picking up the subtle differences in the sands. The account of his travels across these lands show a harsh way of life that was about to vanish forever with the discovery of huge oilfields below the Arabian peninsular. It was dangerous too; whilst some welcomed him warmly, others considered him an infidel even going as far to threaten his life at times.

Thesiger has written a fascinating account of a landscape and culture of a people that is long gone. The writing has little emotion, instead the author conveys events as they happened, even when he was in the most danger, in an almost clinical way. The way that he immersed himself in the desert way of life gives us an insight that very few other authors have been able to gain since. The region has undergone massive changes since that time and this vanished way of life may never return. A traveller in the modern Arabia would not be able to have access to the deserts in the way that Thesiger did, and this fine book is a worthy tribute to a traditional society. Now I want to read The Marsh Arabs by him.

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Tuesday 5 July 2016

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the Lane The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On returning to his home village a man in his early forties starts to remember the things that happened to him when he was seven. A lodger appears at his home, and shortly after is found dead in his fathers car. He is there when the body is found and is sent to the nearest farm, where the Hempstocks give him breakfast. The death of the lodger opened a rift between this world and another, and dark things begin to happen to him. Lettie Hempstock, she says she is 11, but has been 11 a long time, aids him against these dark forces.

What Gaiman has done here is to take memories, the innocence of childhood, the fears of that age, and fairy tales, blended them together and distilled the essence into this exquisite tale. The Hempstocks are worldly and wise, and care deeply about all the things around them. The events that take place and the dark forces that swirl around this Sussex village are some of main fears that a child can confront, and yet the writing is compelling and deft.

You never get to know the name of the main character as I think Gaiman wants you to think that it is him, or possibly even you, experiencing these events. The way that the main character remembers means that reality, the dreams and nightmares, are all intertwined and you are not sure what is really happening, or is in his mind.

It is a melancholy tale, and the ending is quite powerful. Really enjoyed this and can highly recommend it.

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Review: Where I'm Reading From: The Changing World of Books

Where I'm Reading From: The Changing World of Books Where I'm Reading From: The Changing World of Books by Tim Parks
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I do like reading books about books and reading, and in this collection of essays and articles drawn from the New York Review of Books, Tim Parks, extolls the virtues of reading, asks why we hate the books our friends love and tries to fathom just how a Nobel prize winner is selected. Other questions that he considers include: why finish books, the dull new global novel, what the writers job actually is and can we learn to speak American.

All of these thing are interesting questions about a variety of subjects on reading, writing and awards, and Parks is not afraid to be provocative in answering them. He advocates rethinking the purpose of a book, what it is for, why we read it and the perils of the homogenisation of languages and the slide towards one world culture. He puts his strong opinions in a short, to the point essay style making it easy to dip into and to find a particular point he was making. I have only read An Italian Education by him so far and sadly wasn’t aware that he was a novelist as well as a translator, critic and professor of literature. He is quite well placed to make these observations and he draws on his skills to write these articles. Sadly thought there were flaws; whilst some were amusing and easy to read, others were very academic, esoteric and dry to read, which is a shame as some of the articles were superb. 3.5 stars overall.

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Saturday 2 July 2016

Only bought the one book today - Wild Hares and Hummingbirds: The Natural History of an English Village - by Stephen Moss. I read it a couple of years ago, and thought is was fantastic, so pleased to have acquired a copy

Friday 1 July 2016

Review: How the Marquis Got His Coat Back

How the Marquis Got His Coat Back How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Marquis de Carabas has mislaid his coat. Or it may have been stolen. It was unique, with imposing collars, numerous hidden pockets and was the colour of a wet street at midnight. Whatever has happened to it, he wants it back. Rumour has it that it is in being held by the shepherds in Shepherds Bush and having just got over a nasty incident of dying, he needs to be very careful how he goes. Very careful indeed…

In this all too brief novella, we are deeply immersed once again in the surreal world of London Below. As we follow the Marquis de Carabas as he seeks his coat, we are drawn through familiar but twisted places and characters. It is dark, as you would expect from Neverwhere, but full of surprises and whimsical observations. Great little story that only has one flaw; it is way too short.

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Review: The White Rock: an exploration of the Inca heartland

The White Rock: an exploration of the Inca heartland The White Rock: an exploration of the Inca heartland by Hugh Thomson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hugh Thomson first went to Peruvian Andes at the age of 22. He was seeking a ruin that had been discovered a while ago, before being lost to time again. As a fresh faced youth, he found the Inca people and the places he visited compelling, confusing but most of all intoxicating. Walking in the footsteps of the great explorers, such as Bingham, who discovered Machu Picchu and Chambi a famous South American photographer, he travels across plains, over mountains and hacks through jungles in search of the people of this land. However, this book is more than that; it is a personal journey back through time to see the sights of the ancient civilisation and to learn of how it was destroyed by the brutal Spanish conquistadors.

Drawing on his experience of making documentaries Thomson has woven together the historical account of the Incas along with details of his two expeditions to the South American continent. As he went several times with a substantial gap in between the first and second visits, he has split his account over two sections. In each part, he writes about the people and places, the heart stopping moments when travelling in the mountains and jungles and of life in the towns and villages in Peru. The first trip was with two friends, but later he went alone, employing guides to accompany him as he sought the hidden world of the Inca. Whilst this is good, and I enjoyed it, I didn’t think it was as good as Tequila Oil, his trip to Mexico. Still worth reading though for an insight into the modern lands that sit on so much history.

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