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About Brian.

  • Rank
    This too shall pass
  • Birthday 11/24/1980

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    A book
  • Location:
    SE England

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  1. J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings

    I definitely share you feelings about the long preamble about Hobbits. I wasn't expecting it and although I did read it I didn't pay a huge amount of attention to it. Had I not recently read The Hobbit it may have put me off and it does feel a bit out of place. I can't help but wonder if Tolkien had written it but wasn't sure how to use it and so it feels a little tacked on. Although it not necessary, I am glad that I read The Hobbit because the back story of Bilbo gives his leaving a much bigger impact in my opinion. I wasn't a big fan of the first chapter because for some reason I couldn't get on with it. It felt too slow and plodding but to be completely fair that might just be me needing to settle into Tolkien's way of writing again as I didn't have the same issue with the other chapters. I did manage to read all 4 chapters but I'll leave the discussion of A Short Cut to Mushrooms until next week. The bit thing that really stuck out for me was the Black Riders. The sense of menace that comes across is really well done and quite impressive when you consider they don't much development so early in the book. I still don't like the song and I don't bother reading the verses.
  2. After I had finished Thin Air I did read some of the reviews on Goodreads to see how others felt about it and noted the mentions of similarity with Dark Matter. That doesn't put me off wanting to read Dark Matter though so I'll have to see if my library has it in the coming months.
  3. 2022 Book Blogs

    I have now moved the 2021 blogs into the Past Book Blogs sub-forum. If I have moved any by mistake or you wish to change your 2021 blog into a on-going continous blog send me a PM and I'll move it back into the main Book Blogs forum.
  4. Read-a-thons 2022

    I read a fair bit over the read-a-thon weekend and completed The Moneyless Man by Mark Boyle.
  5. The Lord of the Rings

    I’m in. For some reason I thought LOTR was one book and not a trilogy of books so I was a little surprised when I discovered my Kindle copy is over 1000 pages long. I’m really looking forward to starting the actual reading later this afternoon.
  6. Newbie’s advice request

    I read in short bursts for the exact reasons you mention. I’ll typically read for half an hour and then take a break for 10 minutes unless I’m completely absorbed in what I’m reading.
  7. First update of 2022. I started the first two of these in 2021 and a week into the new year I have managed to avoid buying any new books. Agent Sonya by Ben Macintyre (4/5) This is a non-fiction about a devoted wife and mother-of-three known to her neighbours as Mrs Burton who lived in the Oxfordshire countryside in the 1940's. On the surface Mrs Burton lives a pretty quiet life and had formed good friendships with the other people in her village. Her children go to the local schools and everything is the picture perfect image of rural life. However, Mrs Burton is living a secret life. Her real name is Ursula Kuczynski, she goes by the codename Sonya and she is in fact a Soviet intelligence officer. This is a remarkable story about the life of one of the my most successful Soviet spies operating in the 1930's and 1940's. Ursula lived all across the globe spying against the Japanese, Nazis, and eventually helped get the secrets which enabled the Soviets to build a nuclear bomb. As I've come to expect from Macintyre this book is impeccably research and very well written. He balances facts and drama perfectly without either being over the top. Macintyre is the master when it comes to non-fiction writing on espionage in my opinion. Fall: The Story of Robert Maxwell by John Preston (4/5) In the run up to her trial I recently watched a 3-part documentary about Ghislaine Maxwell. The documentary was nothing to write how about but I was left intrigued by the main focus of the first episode, Robert Maxwell. I remembered a little about him from news reports in 1991 when he was found dead just before the corruption of his empire was revealed. I had seen this book pop up a few times as a recommendation for fans of non-fiction so I decided I had to read it. The book really lived up to it's positive reviews and I really enjoyed it. Preston not only presents the factual side of the story really well but he presents potential reasons why Maxwell was the way he was. He does a good job of covering the humanity of his life without allowing it become an excuse for his behaviour later in life. Thin Air: A Ghost Story by Michelle Paver (4/5) I was inspired to read this by a short review from one of our members, Willoyd. My history of reading ghost or horror stories is hardly what you would call extensive. In fact, if you asked me to name books I had read that could belong in either genre I would struggle to do it even though I know there have been a few. This book is set in 1935 during an attempt for the summit of the Himalayian peak of Kangchenjunga. Having read a lot about modern and historical expeditions in the Himalayas Paver gets the details right and you can tell that she has done her research (she confirms this at the end of the book). The story moves along at a good pace but the real winner here is the atmosphere she manages to create. When needed she creates a feeling of suffocation but is equally adept at making the reader feel the panic of not being able to communciate with someone you can see. There are a few other parts to the story which I thought were handled superbly but I can't really go into without spoilers. I've been lucky to start the year with some great books, long may it continue. I've got two books on the go at the moment, one fiction, one non-fiction. The Moneyless Man by Mark Boyle and Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe.
  8. Yes, I did buy it for the cover, but I stayed for the reading! Your favourite book cover of 2021! My choice for this would be Pine by Francine Toon. I spotted this in Waterstone and l loved the artwork on the cover, an amalgamation of a deer and a pine forest. The story is set in Scotland and is a bit of a horror story set in a remote location. Despite all this promise it failed to live up to my expectations sadly. They print the words I like to read! Your favourite publisher of 2021! I'm going to be a bit of a rogue here and go for someone who doesn't print books. As much as I try to avoid Amazon, I have found Audible a addition to my reading this year and as a result I barely listen to podcasts on my commute any longer. They sell me the words I like to read! Your favourite book shop/retailer of 2021! My local Waterstones is great but my vote goes to an independent used/vintage bookshop in Bedford called The Eagle Bookshop. It is absolutely crammed with books and is run by staff who genuinely love books. It is easy to spend hours in there just browsing the shelves. It was like when I was little, and Mummy used to read to me! Your audiobook recommendation of 2021! Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. The book is narrated by Humprhey Bower and he does an unbelievable job of voicing all the characters. Despite being 43 hours long it never felt like a slog and I kept going for long walks just to listen to it. I will definitely be going back to re-listen to this again in the future. I even found one of their shopping lists! Your most read author of 2021! Val McDermid. Mainly the Karen Pirie series but also one of her standalone books. I felt slightly bereft of good crime fiction when I finished the Wallander books but McDermid has mostly filled that void for me. I don't think anyone will manage to pull me in as much as Wallander though. I'd rather kiss an anti-vaxer! Your book that wasn't worth bothering with in 2021! The Code by Jocko Willink. Self published attempt to grab as much money as possible while he is popular. All the info could have been contained in a pamphlet. I don't know where this year has gone! The book you most wanted to read in 2021, but didn't get too award! The same as most years, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Every year I mean to re-read it but rarely get around to it. Who knows, 2022 might be the year. I'm sorry it wasn't a unicorn! Your biggest literary let-down of 2021! Bit of a tough choice as there has been a few but I was particularly disappointed by The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. I really wanted to like it and although I didn't hate it I really struggled to get through it. I didn't feel engaged by any part of it. Most people pretend they have read this, but I actually did! Your recommended classic of 2021! I'm not sure if this quite meets the classification of 'classic' but I will go for The Hobbit. I've put off reading any of the Tolkien books for a while as I'm not a big reader of fantasy books. Despite my reticence I loved the book and will take part in the Lord of the Rings group read which is happening soon. He made Mr Darcy look like Kermit the Frog! Your favourite literary character of 2021! Count Alexander Rostov from A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. A fantastic book with a great main character who is so easy to like. Towles seems to be really good at writing stories which are captivating despite not much happening. I can only put this down to the strength of his characters and Rostov is one of his best. I like things to be in boxes, nicely ordered boxes! Your favourite genre of 2021! Non-fiction espionage books. I think I've read more non-fiction this year than in past years and one of my favourite subjects is espionage. I laughed so much, people moved away from me on the train! The funniest book you read in 2021! Another non-fiction book here, And Away... by Bob Mortimer. I wouldn't count myself as a particular fan of his comedy work with Vic Reeves but I always enjoyed Shooting Stars when it was on TV. However, his autobiography has so many humour observations in it that I just couldn't help but burst out laughing on numerous occasions. After two years of COVID I have no life of my own anymore, so I just read about others! Your favourite biography of 2021! As above. Humour aside Bob talks a lot about loneliness and depression in a way that I haven't come across before. He also deals with an issue which isn't discussed often, extreme shyness. Despite the sad nature of these topics he managed to convey all this without it dragging the reader down. Your non-fiction recommendation of 2021! Tough choice again but I will go for Iron Coffins by Herbert A Werner. I've read a lot of WWII history but not much from the side of the Germans. This book really conveys the pride and joy of working in the U-Boats at the beginning and the terror which came later. It is very well detailed without being bogged down and I really enjoyed reading it. Sounds like stuff someone made up! Your fiction book of the year, 2021! A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles for all the reasons stated above. They've taken out a restraining order! Your author of the year, 2021! To change things up a little I am going to pick Michael Palin. I have read quite a few of his travel books this year and thoroughly enjoyed all of them. I really like the way he doesn't look down on people from different cultures and usually talks about how he has managed to put his foot in it or made himself look foolish. He also talks a lot about the production team and camera people who were part of the journey. Most importantly he makes it out the experience and not all about him. I'll read it again, I'll tell ya! Your overall book of the year, 2021! Once again A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles.
  9. Pets - 2022

    Ideally I would get a dog as we always had dogs when I was a kid. I chose a Labrador when I was about 5 and he lived for about 15 years so I’ve always wanted another. Unfortunately, even when we do move I can’t see us getting a dog. I work long hours and it would be left alone for between 12-16 hours at a time which isn’t fair and I wouldn’t want to do that to a dog. My wife really wants a rabbit and I wouldn’t mind a cat so I imagine we would get one if not both. One thing is for certain though, I want a rescue animal when the time comes.
  10. The Lord of the Rings

    Can I put forward a suggested start date of 8th Jan (Saturday) or 10th Jan (Monday) with a target of 5 chapters a week?
  11. Pets - 2022

    Lilly is gorgeous. Once we finally manage to move house we will definitely be getting a pet or two.
  12. 2021 has departed and we are at the start of a new year. What are we all reading this month? I’m most of the way through Agent Sonya by Ben MacIntyre and about 3/4 of the way through Fall by John Preston. Both are as good as claimed in the reviews.
  13. Time for my final update for 2021. I've had a bit of a strange year reading wise. I feel like I have struggled a bit with my motivation but somehow still finished up 2021 having read almost 36,000 pages over 106 books. The shortest book was The Code by Jocko Willink (93 pages, 1/5), the longest The Arabian Nights by an unknown author (952 pages, 3/5). I've definitely avoided longer books this year as I have struggled for concentration, whether this is down to the ongoing pandemic uncertainty, the creep of my technology use, or something else, I don't know. I do know that having a constant count on my Goodreads home page due to setting a tatget hasn't helped things. For this reason I will not be setting a target for 2022. I want to read more the books I have been avoiding, especially some of the classics I have on my TBR. I am also going to try and avoid buying any more books in an attempt to work through my increasingly large TBR. I know I've had similar intentions in the past regarding my book buying so lets see if I can last longer than a few months this time. These are my final reads of 2021. Enter the Kettlebell by Pavel Tsatsouline (3/5) Not much to say here. This is a book about training with a kettlebell and ensuring it is done in a productive but safe way. The content is pretty solid but it could have done with more photographs illustrating certain moves. Fortunately it is easy to find instructional videos online to fill in these gaps. The text can also get a bit juvenile at times. Having listened to quite a few interviews of Pavel in the past I suspect it is his way with humour. This works fairly well in spoken interviews but less well in text. Role of Honor by John Gardner - Bond #22 (2/5) Part of my ongoing aim of reading all the writing in the James Bond series. I wasn't particularly impressed with the 3rd installment from John Gardner and this one follows the same pattern. In this book James goes along with a plot to appear to have left the secret service under a cloud. The idea being that he will be hired by Spectre and can destroy them from the inside. This is such a flawed plot that I can't believe it was signed off by the publishers or the Fleming estate. By this point Bond has been the number one enemy of Spectre for such a long time that they would never buy the idea that he has turned. The story does flip a bit to justify his approach by Spectre but it still feels totally out of place. I really hope the Garner Bond books pick up soon as he wrote 16 of them. The Plotters by Un-Su Kim (3/5) I picked this book up on a recent shopping trip because the cover grabbed my attention and the plot sounded interesting. We follow Reseng, an assassin who is fed instructions on how to assassinate his targets by a shadowy group of people known only as The Plotters. These instructions have to be followed to the letter and when they aren't trouble usually follows. Inevitably Reseng kills someone in a different manner to his instructions and ends up in a fight for his life. I thought this was a pretty entertaining read but I was left bemused by the "Kill-Bill meets Murakami" claims on the cover. The only real link to Kill-Bill is assassins based in Asia (Korea this time) and the Murakami links are invisible to me. The cover also claims it to be hilariously funny, again this was invisible to me. Ignoring the spurious blurb this is a decent book, which despite having a lot going on never gets hard to follow. I'm not sure I will read any of Un-Su Kim's other books but I don't regret picking this one up. Smart Phone Dumb Phone by Allen Carr (1/5) I have felt myself using my phone far too often this year and my daily screen time has crept up to 3.5 hours a day. This isn't my first foray into reading about phone or digital use and how it is having a negative effect on us but I was intrigued to find out what new advice Allen Carr and his famed 'easyway' had. If I was asked to sum up this book in one word I would use one my favourite words, bilge. I know Allen Carr's book about stopping smoking has been used by many people to quit smoking and that it is very well respected. What I didn't know is that Carr died in 2006 and that this book is therefore written by John Dicey adapting the Easyway framework to fit. Dicey spends well over half the book trying to convince the reader that Easyway will work, it is the only solution, it will be easy, and all you have to do is follow the instructions. I found myself several times almost shouting at the book to get on with it and tell my the instructions. When we do finally get to the instructions they are pretty shallow with some of them being as simplistic as 'ignore email'. To pad the book out Dicey also often jumps into other technology in particular video games. His advice if you play video games? "Just stop, what are you, a child?" Not only does this have nothing to do with the subject at hand but it also demonstrates a complete lack of understanding about the modern use and culture around gaming. There is the odd bit of good advice such as turning off notifications on all but essential apps and to use 'fetch' instead of 'push' for things like email if you can. However, these few good points don't balance out the trash and I was left feeling that this book is just an attempt to cash in on the Allen Carr name. For anyone reading this who is interested in the subject I wholeheartedly recommend 3 books, The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, Irresistible by Adam Alter, and Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. None of the these books is solely about our use of mobile phones but all of them cover digital addiction as a whole. All of them are backed by scientific research and all of them offer proper advice on moderation along with the reasons behind this advice. The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman (4/5) This book contains 366 (1 a day) Stoic passages across 12 (1 a month) different themes. Each one is then explored in a little more depth with each day taking up a single page in the book. You could read this book in a number of ways but I picked it up and read one page per day over the course of this year. I have read a fair bit about Stoicism but I still found some good stuff in here that I hadn't read before. This is a book that I will keep and revisit and it already has quite a few sticky notes and highlights in it from this year.
  14. Bookish New Year Resolutions

    For me it's the fact that for at least the last year I have almost always picked up an easy read. A lot of the books that have lasted over time in my memory have been ones I either wouldn't have picked up because I didn't think they would be my kind of thing (Pride & Prejudice), or because I found them a bit challenging but very rewarding (Crime & Punishment). I've never read loads of these kinds of books but in the past would have usually read 3 or 4 by the end of the year. Off the top of my head the only book that would fit this criteria this year was 1001 Arabian Nights. I have plenty of these kinds of books on my shelves and I bought them because I want to read them so I need to stop neglecting them.
  15. Im sorry to hear about your dog, they truly are wonderful companions.