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Tay

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  1. I like John Wyndham’s novels, perhaps a little dated in their characters attitudes but the storytelling is strong and inventive. Unfortunately, this selection of stories didn’t quite make the grade for me. The title story is about a time in the future when men have died out and women have survived and found a way to procreate alone. But they have created a caste society limiting the women to certain duties and stations in life. The idea was interesting, but the story was dry and dull. Of the other stories the last one providing an interesting twist on the selling one’s soul to the devil was enjoyable. The others show the seeds of Wyndham’s Sci Fi imagination but felt like early drafts, not quite hitting the mark.
  2. We begin this long story of the aftermath of nuclear destruction by being introduced to a few central characters, a homeless woman, a wrestler, a young girl who has ‘green-fingers’ and a malevolent teenage boy. We experience the doubts and contradictions of the American President as events hurtle towards him, advice and contradiction, confliction and chaos swirl round like the blast wind vaporising any coherent thought until the button is pushed and unlike the pop song by The Sugababes the resulting explosion is far from pleasurable. What follows is the expected piecing together of lives and story threads, expanding on the waste and destruction, the breakdown of law and order and the inevitable ‘wars’ for what’s left of ‘civilisation’. Accept McCammon blends the expected with the unexpected, creates characters you want to succeed and some you hate (in a good reading way) from the first words they speak. The journey, because this is a journey not just in the metaphorical sense but a travelling across the States searching for a place, the place, a person, the person. Likened to Stephen King’s The Stand, there are definite similarities, the mystical aspect, the breakdown of societies mores, the breadth of characters. But McCammon goes his own way and takes the reader on a different path. Nearly a thousand pages long, at no time was this reader bored or did feel like we were treading (pure) water. If you like a post-apocalyptic novel then this is definitely one to try.
  3. In 1982 Roy Nash (former merchant seaman, trooper in the Royal Horse Guards, model, singer and guitarist, door to door salesman and night club bouncer) and Bob an American doctor of psychoanalysis walked from just outside Granada to Madrid. 260 miles on today’s modern roadways. But they decided to avoid main roads and went from village and small town over the ever changing landscape. Staying in cheap hostels and inns, amusing and confusing the locals who at that time had never heard of people walking for the ‘fun’ of it. So much so that the local hostel owners would think if you were walking it was only because you were poor and wouldn’t entertain allowing them to stay the night until money had been shown. On the way there are blisters on the feet and too much sun, hangovers and dalliances with local ladies. It’s a funny and entertaining account taking the reader to some remote parts of Spain, throwing light and shade on a time, even though only 40 years ago, when things in Spain were very different. I was lent this book by a friend because he knows I love Spain. The book felt and looked like a cheap self publication, though it is published by Oleander Press of Cambridge, and I wondered if I was going to have to wade through the kind of drivel I would write if I ever had the energy to make the walk and find time to write about it. But I was completely wrong. Well written and engaging throughout. It made me long to be on the open dusty road with nothing but sun and time and the thoughts on my mind to accompany me and a (lot) of cold beer at the end of the day to look forward to. Walking is supposed to be good for us so assuage your doctor’s worries and tell him you’re planning on a long walk in Spain, open the first page and get on the road.
  4. Thanks Mr HG another one added to the TBR.
  5. Well I hope that's a change for the better. I've said it before I always like your reviews so any you feel like passing on will be gratefully received from this infrequent poster.
  6. Not too sure where this should be put so Mods please move as appropriate. On Monday night I was in St. Andrews to see Ian Rankin. Part of the events laid on by the bookshop Topping & Company. Throughout the year they have lots of these events featuring authors with books to promote. Ian Rankin was there to talk about his completion of the book The Dark Remains based on notes by the deceased author William McIlvanney. I must admit I knew nothing about McIlvanney and was interested to learn he was one of the authors who inspired Rankin to write the Rebus books. McIlvanney created a detective called Jack Laidlaw and set the books in the 70's in Glasgow. He was advised by his publishers that tho he may make lots of money from the novels they would do little for his standing in literary circles and so he abandoned them in favour of literature, essays and poetry. After completing his first few Rebus novels and by then living in France, Rankin started corresponding with McIlvanney by letter and they became friends. Prior to his death McIlvanney had been planning on returning to his Detective Laidlaw and had written about 100 pages of notes for a prequel and a final book to close the chapter on the detective. He died before starting to write the book. The notes were just that, it wasn’t 100 pages of the prequel novel, just ideas, sketches, lines and paragraphs and no ending. Six years after his death his publishers suggested someone write the prequel book and his widow said she would like Rankin to do it. And during the second UK lockdown he set about the task and the result is The Dark Remains. Rankin spoke for over an hour and then answered questions. He has obviously spoken live many times as he was immediately at ease and soon expanding on his talk, taking little meanders down other avenues of thought relating to his writings and Rebus. One of the questions he was asked was about his first Rebus novel and the fact that in the tenement Rebus lives there was another resident called Jock Laidlaw. Rankin admitted he’d forgotten all about that but agreed it was probably a nod to McIlvanney’s creation. He also talked about other aspects he’d forgotten, like how the back story for Big Ger (the gangster nemesis of Rebus originally had him coming from Glasgow and then Rankin changed it to Edinburgh. These for me back up my disagreement with teachers I’ve had telling me all about what the author was thinking at the time of writing, how this or that passage or place or name means such and such. I don’t believe every author knows everything about their books or why they include names, places etc. Some of course do but not all aspects of books are as planned as some teachers would have us believe. And therefore, unless there is actual writing from the author stating something about the book we cannot always infer as so many scholarly people seem to do about the meanings etc in the book. I’m sure many will disagree with me on that. But, back from my own little meander, if you have the chance to go and have a listen to Rankin I would recommend it. He came across as an intelligent, amiable and informed speaker.
  7. Not sure I'll give this a go, I tried to read The Magic Mountain years ago and just couldn't stick with it. It's still on the shelf so perhaps in future I'll give it another go and if successful come back to this.
  8. Been a few weeks since I logged on, work has been a bit manic recently, so apologies if I'm late with this but it's good to see you back on BGO Mr HG. Don't think I'll give this book a go but I did learn a new word - Spruik. Thank you for that and for the review.
  9. 1971, I was eleven and probably still more influenced by the chart bands of the day but there was an awakening (if that doesn't sound too pretentious- probably fits with those mind stretching times), a realisation that music could be more than just background. Which unfortunately to my old soul a lot of new music today seems to be. This sounds like a book I would definitely enjoy. Thanks for reviewing Viccie.
  10. The latest book by Stephen King. Billy Summers is an ex-US Marine. He was a sniper and killed many people whilst on tours of duty in Iraq. On leaving the military he is recruited by a ‘handler’ who provides him with work as a hitman. But Billy will only kill ‘bad men’, people who in Billy’s eyes have done very bad things and probably deserve to die. One day Billy gets a call from a known associate with a too big to miss offer of two million dollars to do a hit. The man is a ‘bad man’ and with the money Billy can finally retire and disappear using one of his already established aliases. Up until this point the story is tight and believable, we hear how Billy moves to an area close to the intended hit, rents a house, has a cover story etc, and prepares for the hit. But of course, something goes wrong, and the story then moves in a slightly different direction. It is a story of revenge now. As to be expected from King, the story is fast paced, the characters well drawn, a definite page turner. And this is a straight novel, no twisting reality, no supernatural just a story to be told and it is told well. Except for my comments in the spoiler part below. Apart from that the book is a good story. Not one of his best but far from one of his worst.
  11. Thanks Luna, another one added to the TBR.
  12. During the first lockdown I started making a list of all the gigs I'd been to. I still have 99% of the tickets so it was fairly easy. I then researched on Google to find out the support acts. Produced a very interesting if completely person list. Good memories.
  13. Mankind's Great Divides: Amazon.co.uk: George R Mitchell: 9781910745779: Books George R Mitchell writes for DC Thomson and I believe the Telegraph. In this book he pulls together writings about his travels to countries where there is division. Physical, mental, emotional or all three. Among the countries he visits are Israel and Palestine, Belfast and unrecognised and invalidated Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus I found a lot of what he had to say was superficial and clichéd, revealing his 'amateur' regard to research. Each chapter felt like an introduction to a full book on the area, the people and the politics. The chapters lacked depth, due of course to the lack of space within a book of this nature and that left me feeling a bit short changed. That said, I did find the book interesting and informative about places or conflicts I wasn't aware of and I'm glad I read it. But as previously said, I wish it went into more depth and backed up his assertions with quotes and references to government publications. Too much of it felt like hearsay rather than verifiable fact. I think if I had read the chapters on Schengen and Russia, which showed his political beliefs, first, I would have had a different understanding of the other chapters. I found the chapter on Russia interesting and I can see a comparison with the UK in recent years. The collectivism, the nationalism being spouted and used to stir up xenophobia, to cauterise the wound that is brexit seems all too similar to the reinvention of Russia. The, blame everything on The West/EU, the rewriting of history, the control of media (in Russia by the government in UK by nom dom billionaire Tory Party donors) all seems to be on a self-fulfilling prophecy path. In a 'we told you the EU/the West was bad now we'll blame all our mistakes on them and re-enforce your blind obedience to us' way. And so we end up with a sleepwalking populace understanding nothing and caring only for their prejudices, never looking up from their hypnotic and self-induced lack of awareness screens. 1984, the novel, now a prescient mirror on the act of the successful brainwashing happening right in front of us. If you’re interested in world politics and why some countries never seem to be at peace then this book may be a good jumping off point but whichever country interests you, further reading would definitely be required.
  14. I've never read any of these books and I've got so many other books on my TBR I doubt I'll ever get round to them.
  15. I saw Rainbow in 1980 at the Royal Highland Exhibition Hall in Edinburgh in 1980 but the singer was Graham Bonnet. Dio had already left to join Black Sabbath. I have to be honest I found the gig a bit boring, very self indulgent on Blackmore's part, long drawn out guitar solos that only seemed to please him. I've seen Deep Purple and the Ian Gillan band as well. But never saw Dio or Black Sabbath. I probably wouldn't have chosen to read this book anyway but after your review Luna I definitely won't be.
  16. Thanks Viccie, another one added to the TBR.
  17. Just finished re reading this. This time on audio and I found the text dryer than I remembered. Perhaps the narrator, perhaps the film, perhaps just the blending of time and more knowledge of the subject affected how the text played out for me. That said I still enjoyed the book, Schindler is a conundrum of sorts. A complicated simple man or a simple complicated man? He rose above his 'allotted' role in life, industrialist, womaniser and drinker, to find the value of life and the knowledge that for one to be free we must all be free. In a world where the far right is once again on the rise, where hatred of the other is being encouraged by certain politicians and media outlets we may soon be in need of more men like Oskar Schindler. As Keneally says in his updated afterword to the book, The Third Reich began with name calling and proceeded to destruction. In too many places in the world the name calling has never stopped and is becoming more prevalent in established 'civilised' countries that should definitely know better.
  18. It was mid 80's when I lived there Madeleine. I think I must have visited it but I can't remember for definite. Drink was taken rather frequently back then which does tend to affect my memory of those days 😀
  19. Thanks for this Viccie. I loved An Officer and A Spy and have wondered if his other books are of the same quality. I'll add this and the Conclave and Munich ones on to my list.
  20. After the Mauritius Command I didn't know if I'd read anymore, I found it so slow. But Desolation Island was excellent and Fortune of War not far behind. As Ting says a lot of the narrative takes place in Boston concentrating on Maturin more than Aubrey. The spying aspect of Maturin is a clever addition to the books, and his lack of seafaring knowledge but almost maniacal fascination for wildlife. I very well crafted character.
  21. I used to live in St. Ives, only about half an hour from Ely and I like a detective novel so another new author added to the TBR.
  22. It does sound very good Heather, unfortunately not playing any dates in Scotland so I'll have to miss it.
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