New current book – The Hunted by Tarn Richardson

proxyReally quick update due to sudden availability of The Hunted by Tarn Richardson. I know Tarn, and have been itching to get hold of some of his writing. I haven’t been able to crowbar a copy of The Damned from him yet, but the teaser trailer is The Hunted; a prequel that was released today! AND, it’s free on Amazon!!

I want to read this so much I’m promoting it to my actually current book! Stand aside Primo Levi; I’m enjoying you very much, but this prequel must be read now!

So what are you waiting for?? Go get a copy from Amazon. I have been watching the progress of reviews coming in for The Damned on Goodreads and they are all really good so far.

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Next Book – The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

I’m about to start a chapter called “Gold” in Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table. I am as usual building up a head of steam, and suddenly find myself past half way through the book when I still feel as if I am getting started with it. The prose is well constructed and comfy and I am enjoying the content, but it has not revealed it’s true purpose to me yet. There is darkness brooding in the form of World War 2, but it hasn’t really affected Levi or the main themes of the book yet. Segregation and a certain tension, but I know from the blurb that bad events will come to pass before I reach the end.

2015-02-22 20.03.58If I’m honest, I am actually a bit premature with this next book post. I usually like to get blog posts finished at the weekend if I can, as I have more time to twitter away, and then occasionally even some left over to read and check before committing my words to the eyes of the internet… I wish I could spend the larger part of my time developing my blog, my community and my ability to both read and write. It feels like the right thing to do, but at the moment it doesn’t pay the bills.

My next book is going to be The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum. The copy that I have is one of the first publication run in 1980. It is VERY second hand, and apparently cost me 85p from a charity shop; good grief, how long ago was it that even charity shops sold books for 85p? It wasn’t even in a sale, but written in pencil inside the cover! I have had this for a good few years: probably since the film came out, and that was 2002 – 13 years ago!!!!!!!!!! Oh My Goodness.

I chose this book as my next because it represents a genre that I haven’t touched yet. Spy fiction, action, thriller. I have a few more of this sort of thing squirrelled away and I am looking forward to diving in. My preconceived expectation is for tight fast paced prose and gritty, detailed descriptions of, well, um, aviators and bullets 🙂 I’m estimating that I should get to start this by next weekend, but recently I seem to have been overestimating how long it takes me to read. Maybe I’m speeding up? Is that good or bad? Two questions to end this post that I won’t be answering soon. If you have comments feel free to start the speed debate.

Book Review – The Woman in Black by Sandra Hill

2015-02-02 18.28.46The short version of my review of The Woman in Black: Well, it didn’t shit me up as much as the film did!

In one way, that encapsulates most of what I want to say about the book. Because I had watched the film when it came out in the cinema, I was expecting something more directly scary than the book turned out to be. Watching the film influenced my expectation of the book. I suppose I could have guessed that the two would be different because books and film are different. Where The Woman in Black is concerned, each work to the strengths of their respective mediums.

The film was scary, but it affected you more because it made you jump than anything else. Tension built to a crescendo, then something very sudden happened. It is hard for a book to accomplish the same things. A book can surprise you if you don’t know something is about to happen, but in horror, and in The Woman in Black as an example, if something is going to pop out of a door, you know what it will be, therefore the impact of the shock is reduced. A book needs to play to its strengths, or more it’s USP! I recently heard a great description of a book as; A jumble of markings on a page that can induce visions and emotions across any distance of time between writing them down and them being read. So, a book can speak of depth of emotion and understanding that could never be understood from a film. This is The Woman in Black‘s redemption. The book uses emotion instead of shock. The main events that truly affect our protagonist while in Eel Marsh House are very intensely emotional to him. No jumping, but caution, tension, sorrow and hatred. With these tools Susan Hill deftly illustrates a tragedy stuck in time, repeated over again to the detriment of all who see it.

The book did a wonderful job of describing two main themes. Firstly the landscapes and scenes and secondly, almost everything about our main character. In both cases the positive, healthy and up beat was emphasised to provide a foil for those times when things went bad. I do have to admit that despite the quality of Susan Hill’s prose, I was not completely satisfied with the story by the end of the book. I loved the way that the final twist hung on until the actual physical last page of the book, but I think more could have happened, there was unfinished business in Eel Marsh House. That said, I think that a feeling of un-ease may be a fitting end to a book of subtle emotions like The Woman in Black.

The Woman in Black on GoodReads

Rating 8/10

Book Review – Out of Chingford by Tanis & Martin Jordan

2015-01-20 18.21.23Since first seeing the wonderful cover of this book I felt sure that I would enjoy it. I am of course, an adventurer myself, and so to read a book about such amazing exploits as those undertaken by Martin and Tanis was wonderful.

At first their approach to their whole life amazed me. I have trouble actually getting on and doing things, not because I can’t be bothered, but because there is always other things that get in the way. With microadventures, I even get caught up thinking about where you should or shouldn’t go? If you go where you think you will be allowed and you get caught, what do you do? In essence, there are many things that can stop you doing what you want, and Out of Chingford is a shining example (along with Alastair Humphreys and others like him) that you’ve just gotta do it. I grant you, stepping outside the back door isn’t quite as big a step as disappearing into the Amazon. The commitment to live life in that way and to have the tenacity and patience to spend what was sometimes 18 months preparing for a trip was truly astounding.

But the real meat of the book, the part that drew me in and kept me reading was the adventures themselves. I felt that I relaxed along with Martin and Tanis when they finally got back to the parts of the world that they identified with and I was in part living along with all of their exploits as they went up and down the various rivers and in and around the rainforests. I have to admit that I have sat in a boat a short distance from what was a very small large Caiman crocodile in Australia and the thought of being any closer to much bigger animals would far from fill me with happy thoughts. The book therefore allowed me not only to discover an Amazon that is no longer there, but also to experience second hand a multitude of situations that I know I will never see. I might manage to hit a few, but not all, definitely not all, and that makes me feel sad.

I have indicated in other posts that I gave this book 5/5 on goodreads. You will see at the bottom that I have scored it 9/10 in this review. Why so high? I think it’s largely because:-

  • Because I identified with Martin and Tanis.
  • And because they were both so unerringly honest that you really got to know them during that time.
  • And because it was in many parts funny, emotional, conflicting and almost everything in between. It is one of the most complete descriptions that I have read, even though not everything is written down and sometimes the narrative flicks around, particularly at the start.
  • And because I think I was lucky to find the book at all. I don’t think that it was a massive best seller?
  • And because I was lucky that Martin and Tanis were able to go on their adventures, and that they decided to write it all down, edit it together and get it published.

A perfect storm for me, and I appreciated it hugely as I read.

So, there you go. Go read it!

Good reads link

Rating 9/10

P.S. just because it is fun, here are the other travel titles listed in the back of the book that you could have bought ‘back in the day’ when Out of Chinford first came out.

A Traveller on Horseback by Christina Dodwell

Up Mount Everest without a paddle by Derek Nimmo

To the Navel of the World by Peter Somerville-Large (Yaks and unheroic travels in Nepal and Tibet)

We bought and Island by Evelyn Atkins

Next Book – The Periodic Table by Primo Levi

I find myself slightly on the back foot as I write this hasty next book post. I am really enjoying The Woman in Black, but not more than Out of Chingford. I gave Out of Chingford a 5/5 rating on goodreads, but that will round down to a 9/10 on the final review (well, you can’t give a 10 can you!!) I really like the goodreads rating system BTW. I’m finding myself using that and doubling it for my ratings. Silly I know, but I started rating out of 10 and it would be a pain up the proverbial to change it now! For info, goodreads ratings are, and I paraphrase here:-

  1. Don’t touch it, even with someone else’s!
  2. OK, take it or leave it.
  3. Good Book, I enjoyed reading it.
  4. Great Book, I recommend it and you should really read it if you can.
  5. READ IT! rush out and buy it or you will not be able to breath tomorrow. It is fantastic!

So, Out of Chingford was a really good book. I think I will rate Woman in Black a 4/5, but although I’m not rating it as highly, I cant put it down! I have been reading it while walking along and took the opportunity to read at lunchtime today, both are things I haven’t done for a long time, at least since starting this blog. There is of course the possibility that I subconsciously want to get it over and done with, but I don’t think that is really the case. I am finding that I’m actually goading myself into being scared by it and doing it anyway…

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Sorry, just realised that I have digressed. Quick post to announce the next book, then back to the reading!

My next book is The Periodic Table by Primo Levi. I chose it because I didn’t want to dive back into another fantasy or go towards sci-fi at the moment. Something based in reality felt right, maybe because I enjoyed Out of Chingford so much, but I think this is going to be wholly different! When I bought this book I actually thought it was about the periodic table, but on reading the blurb I am really interested to find out about Primo’s life and experiences. I get the feeling that it is going to be a very well written book, written in a slightly quirky style that partly diffuses the hard reality of a life that has seen some great suffering. Partly, but from the short reviews on the cover the book is “brave” and honestly confront and describes the facts of a life partly led in WW2 and the holocaust. Lastly, there is a review on the front cover. It starts “The book it is necessary to read next…” OK, so be it.

My First Microadventure

I have always like “the out doors” I suppose that it is one of the many reasons why I am interested in green, sustainable, post consumer, ecologically responsible things. Lets face it, nature is really nice 🙂

Back in the summer when I started my post consumer book club (membership one) and simultaneously created this blog and my twitter account, I started following people who like books and reading. I also followed people who like ecology and the environment. After a while I began to find an unexpected group of people cropping up in my searches – Adventurers! Obviously, I instantly started following a few, well you would wouldn’t you? One of the first I found was Alastair Humphreys. He not only does proper big boy adventures, but also has ideas that cater for all stratum of adventures that can be had! There is Adenture1000 (#adventure1000) in which you should save £1000 or 1000 of whatever your local currency is, then adventure as much as you can with it. That one will stay in the back of my mind for possible later use. I think intentionally, it is about the amount you would spend on a normal holiday, and why wouldn’t you prefer to go as far from the beaten track as you can for your cash??

Anyway, back to my more modest adventuring beginnings… Alastair also imagined and has created the Micro Adventure (#microadventure). The blurb on Alastair’s website describes these as:-

trying to encourage people to get outside, get out of their comfort zone, go somewhere they’ve never been. A microadventure is an adventure that is close to home, cheap, simple, short, and yet very effective.

I loved the idea of that. I go to work on the train and there are loads of places where I could happily disappear for a night beside a river or in a bit of the woods… But that still seems too big for me, at least for now. I love camping but it doesn’t get that far up my agenda as often as I would like, especially as Mrs.PoCoBooC isn’t quite as interested! I also have trouble breaking away from the need to go to a campsite. I yearn to disappear into any old field and sleep under a bush (no honestly, I do) but I still struggle with how you go about actually doing that. Maybe this is because it really as devilishly simple as just going and doing it?

Thankfully Alastair took one final step down the rungs of the adventure ladder, descending to one where I could actually step up without too much wailing or gnashing of teeth. He actually made a year of 12 microadventures for the year, but the first is “camp in the back garden”. It’s a first step, and it is January, so it is still something that you wouldn’t normally do. Brilliant. So that was the challenge for January and the astute amongst you will notice that it’s february, but hey, better to do it than not do it, and as I said, Mrs.PoCoBooC would be a long way from pleased if I tried to spring the February challenge on her!

I took the opportunity to get adventuring on Friday night. I stayed at a friends house for the night as we had a curry and films night planned. Instead of sleeping in the spare room I announced that I would be camping in the garden 🙂 Great fun. The adventure was booked. Now, as you may have realised, curry and films meant that I didn’t need to eat in the great outdoors, but I can add cooking into future adventures. I also went with what I have, so didn’t take the bivvy bag route. I had been seriously planning a real micro adventure with a bivvy bag, but I’m still not sure yet. Anyway, I own 3 tents, so why not just use them? In my own special way, my choice of tent for the event also added to the fun. My tents are:-

  • Tent 1 – Vango “Icarus” 6 man – The family weekend or longer tent
  • Tent 2 – Vango “cant.remember” 3 man tunnel tent. This is my oldest tent and is the one I take as my one person tent (What? I like the space!)
  • Tent 3 – Eurohike Flash Fuse II – Oh my, the pinnacle of tent engineering, the pop up tent. I got this for me to actually use to camp in (it is one of the dual skin ones no less) but it has spent most of its life in the garden on sunny days with the kids in it, usually accompanied by a decent number of plastic balls! To add to the fun the single continuous pole in this tent snapped last year. I managed to repair it, but the pole is now a little short and the overall aesthetic of the tent could be described as “slightly wonky”.

Obviously it was Tent 3 that I took out on Friday night. Partly as it is very quick to erect and pack away, and partly because a VERY cheap and slightly broken tent felt like the right accommodation for this epic adventure attempt.

So Friday afternoon stumbled into existence and this is the heavenly accommodation that I setup for that night.

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The tent took about 5 minutes to put up. I actually took longer to blow up the air-bed than put up the tent. Yes, Yes, I used an air-bed. I have a self inflatable mat, but I forgot to take it. OK! I also went one step further and added even more “luxury”… Because the tent is old and exceedingly cheap, I discovered almost as soon as I crawled into it that the integral ground sheet leaks, a lot! I carried on setting up, but got two wet knees for my trouble. My host for the evening provided a genius solution –  a bit of old carpet from the shed!! This micro adventure was getting odder and odder, but who doesn’t pass up the offer of a carpeted abode for a night under the stars?? In addition to the carpet and the air-bed, I had 2 mid season sleeping bags and 3 blankets. All set.

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*** various films and a decent curry later ***

It was 1 am when I step out of the back door towards the tent. It was obviously pretty cold, but not anything as extreme as I thought it would be. I didn’t take a coat out, but I did have a woolly hat which stayed in place of the duration! I disappeared into the tent and what I expected to be very cold sleeping bags were also not too bad. It took quite a bit of faffing to get clothes off and arrange one sleeping bag inside the other and me inside that as quickly as possible. I think more haste less speed would have been a good idea, but I was in a tent in my mates garden wrapped up like a caterpillar. Quite comfy and quite warm. Content in my decision to do this, I fell asleep pretty quickly.

I woke a few times in the night, but for no reason that I could discern. I wasn’t overly cold, and I know what being woken by the cold feels like (yeuk.) All I can imagine is that a “big” cat, or a “wild” pigeon might have broken the silence of the night (the part not filled by other noises!) Anyway, I went back to sleep each time and that was that.

The next morning I woke up at around 8. That’s later than I usually get to sleep in at home 🙂 I was woken by a drip from the ceiling… Oh bugger, I thought, it must be really dewy outside and it is coming through the tent. But I was to discover that it wasn’t. I put up with the situation for a bit, I love that bright morning light inside a tent and I was honestly really comfy and warm. By the 5th or 6th big drip I decided I should get up. By the 10th or 11th I began to get up! Clothes came into the sleeping bag with me to warm up before I put them on, then I was dressed and out of the tent. Oh…

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There wasn’t any dew on the tent. It was frozen! From this I concluded that the drips were condensation. According to the weather report it got down to -1.5 degC. Not the coldest, but I’m pretty proud that I slept out in it. Especially as I had a good time and a good sleep. Here is another nice picture to record the temperature of the event.

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And that is that. First micro adventure complete. It invigorated me. Even with the odd “curry and film” approach that I took, it showed me that you can camp in most places at most times. Im not sure that tent would have coped with rain and wind, but it did well under the circumstances. To conclude this whistle stop diary entry, the total cost of my first ever micro adventure?

£0

For that price I will be doing it a lot more 🙂

Next Book – The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

2015-02-02 18.28.46This “Next Book” update finds me motoring through Out of Chingford at a great rate on knots. In doing so, I have noticed something about the way that I read a book, I guess it is similar to most people? I potter around the start wondering how I am ever going to finish this book in anything short of 6 months. By the time I have got 1/2 way through, I am either picking up pace quite quickly (good book), or I really notice that I am 1/2 way through and wonder when I am going to start picking up pace (bad book or one that saves all its fire for the end.) If I get a decent way into the second half before I notice, then I am obviously on a roll, the story is really great and I am in danger of finishing it pretty soon. That is where I am with Out of Chingford!

So, next book… On the activity page I had previously written:-

Thinking it might be a horror? maybe The Magic Cottage by James Herbert?? But then again I read a James Herbert and I have other horror. Hmm??

I had a think and have now made a choice. Firstly, I thought I would go for a horror as I haven’t really read a proper horror since I started. As you know, I did read The Fog by James Herbert, and if you read the review, I didn’t find it all that, well, horrific! The Magic Cottage came to mind as I tried to read it many years ago and it freaked me out quite a bit. From memory, it starts with an idyllic cottage in the woods. On returning to this cottage, the protagonist of the story finds an altogether more sinister building. It freaked me out as I wasn’t expecting it. I am therefore pretty sure that The Magic Cottage will be a good read when I get to it, but The Fog was poor enough that I have been left doubting my memory and wondering whether The Magic Cottage is going to be as scary as I want it to be. So, I have grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns and chosen The Woman in Black by Susan Hill as my next book. I saw the film when it was in the cinema and although scary, it was more tense and jumpy than anything else. Great film, but I get the feeling that the book is going to be much more “interesting”!!

To add to the fun, I have a second hand copy of the book and it is filled with additional writing a bit like the half blood princes potions book! I think in this case it was a study book for GCSE or A-levels. As you can see from the photo it even has stick in tags to mark certain pages (oooh.) The additional info will either add to the experience or detract from it, I will let you know in the review. It is not a huge book and the font is pretty big so I don’t think it will take long to get through. Especially if I rush it so I don’t have to read it at night 🙂 I should be back with another “Next Book” pretty soon.

On re-reading what I have written I realise that I have just decided to read a REALLY SCARY BOOK that also happens to be a GCSE course text. DOH. Lets see shall we. If it’s not as scary as I expected I solemnly promise to read The Magic Cottage next.

Book Review – Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen Donaldson

wpid-20150109_144108.jpgLet’s start this review by saying that Lord Foul’s Bane is a really good book. I tweeted and wrote progress updates on goodreads while I read the book and while suffering from bouts of descriptive amnesia, “it’s good” was all I could muster. OK, maybe not the most in depth descriptions in the world, but most definitely true.

The flow of Stephen Donaldson’s wonderful prose is one of the things that keeps you reading the book. Forget the story lines and characterisation, his descriptive ability, especially of the forests of Morinmoss is great, on a par with the best I’ve read elsewhere. Stephen’s prose is spot on, although some of his choice of vocabulary didn’t sit quite so well with me. I have to admit that this is at least in small part due to my own vocabulary evidently being somewhat smaller than his! I could have found Stephen’s use of interesting words off putting or jarring to the flow of the prose, but his writing is so good that you pretty much know what the new word means without having to check. I just found that in places it detracted slightly because there wasn’t a need for it. Unfortunately, I think I will still have to check what each word means if I find any of them in other text 😦

I have to say that I can not fault any of the main story arcs in the book. I found myself reading yet another book that starts off in the normal world and moves somewhere else. This is interesting in that I thought they were pretty rare, and here is another. I, like many have a book idea burning smoldering quietly in the back of my head, and that also has a bit of location hopping. On writing now, more and more examples are coming to mind; His Dark Materials, Stardust, the Jon Shannow series and of course The Sword of Shannara. What Lord Foul’s Bane does that most of the others does (except mine!) is use the move between worlds as one of the main plot hooks. Thomas Covenant is a complex character. They say give a character at least one flaw and that can be the making of them. Well, Covenant has quite a few! I think they are the making of him as a lead, but there are many who found him just a bit too much. He is grumpy, violent, self centered and in at least one significant event unexpectedly evil. I found myself wondering why he acted the way he did in some scenes, but as mentioned, Stephen Donaldson did a fantastic job of characterisation throughout the book and Covenant is true to himself. There are many times when the emotion of an individual or of a whole group is very effectively conveyed to bring the story alive against your own emotional experience, and you cant ask a lot more than that.

It has been said that the Unbeliever books, of which Lord Foul’s Bane is the first, follow the LOTR story. I started the book thinking that I was going to get a repeat of The Sword of Shannara, but I didn’t, possibly because my knowledge of LOTR is not tip top anyway? This might be a good juncture to introduce the fact that my memory is *slightly* on the poor side. It does what it needs to, and it appears to work relatively well for both my job and excruciatingly odd facts, but occasionally when I need the normal use of a memory, it falls woefully short. This has both positive and negative effects. In the negative are all the obvious things that a lack of memory is known for. My absolute worst is names. I can attempt to have a conversation about a film and people become “the one that jumped off the building” or “the one that wasn’t Batman!” (I joke you not!) On the positive side, I do have a very good memory for plots and detail (I’m a stickler for continuity errors) as long as someone reminds me I have seen the film it usually only takes a few queues and I’m back in the game. Anyway, I let you into that particular mental issue because I don’t really remember the finer detail of some of The Fellowship of the Ring, and I haven’t read the others yet (strike me down with hellfire and brimstone instantly!) The Sword of Shannarah definitely registered on the LOTR alarm, but although I had been warned that Lord Foul’s Bane was also quite closely related, I didn’t notice it. After about 3/4 of the book I finally managed to link the “important ring” story arc and when the Ranyhyn appeared at the end, what with the mountain and all, yeh, well, that was pretty familiar too!

In the almost conclusion to this review, I think that it is suffice to say that; I own the first trilogy of the Thomas Covenant books… I also own the second trilogy of the Thomas Covenant books, and if they are all as good as the first one, then I am looking forward to reading them. For a multi-volume story Lord Foul’s Bane even managed a good ending. It’s not knock your socks off brilliant. You don’t get an “I never saw that coming. WOW!” moment. But all the loose ends tied up, it provides a strong enough reward for the build up and it does make you want to continue the journey. That journey will happen for me in between other horror, comedy books and the usual genre mixing that I am trying to chaotically follow.

So to the actual conclusion: I started my reading of Lord Foul’s Bane by finding a dog ear on page 308 that had evidently been put there by the previous owner of the book. The page contained what I now know to be one of the best pieces of verse in the many that the book contains. It is about death and I end the review with it because I think it is quite beautifully written and, well, because this is the end (of the review.)

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Rating: 8/10

Link to Lord Foul’s Bane on Goodreads