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It would seem that I am not going to the Grand Canyon this year after all. Sure I should be more disappointed than I actually feel.

Reviews written

since 28/03/2003


Witches Abroad - Terry Pratchett 01/08/2015

Once Upon A Time...

The Traveller - Ron McLarty 31/07/2015

A Stray Bullet?

Personal - Lee Child 26/07/2015

To Catch a Killer

Personal - Lee Child If you've never read a Lee Child novel but have seen the trailers for a film starring Tom Cruise… can I seriously suggest you read at least one of the books before seeing the film. To be fair, I haven't seen the film and Cruise might do a decent job of whatever script they've given him… but Jack Reacher he isn't. No offence, Mr Cruise, (or indeed Mr Walsh) but it's like asking Bradley Walsh to play James Bond. Just wrong on every single level. Reacher, for those who haven't come across this all-American hard-done-by hero, created by a Brit from Coventry is ex-US-military police. His official bio reads: Name: Jack Reacher Born : October 29 Measurements: 6'5", 220-250 lbs., 50" chest Hair : Dirty-blond Eyes : Ice Blue Clothing: 3XLT coat, 95 cm. pants' inseam You get my point? Moving on… Personal is the 19th Reacher outing. Typically for thrillers you don't have to have read any of the others to thoroughly enjoy this one. And typically for the best thriller writers having read this one, you'll want to go back to the one before or the very beginning or somewhere in the middle. It won't matter. But you will want more. In Paris, someone has taken a shot at the French president. From a long distance away. Sniper-fire. He didn't miss. Fortunately for the president, things have moved on since the Day of the Jackal and the bullet-proof glass did its job: provided the necessary few seconds for the human security teams to do theirs. There are a limited number of people in the ...

Interesting Times - Terry Pratchett 25/07/2015

The Art of War

A Small Part of History - Peggy Elliott 15/07/2015

Life and Death on the Oregon Trail

A Small Part of History - Peggy Elliott Sarah won't tell us where she is now because my Papa always told me it was best to start a story at the beginning… [and] it all really began back in June of 1845. Back then, the Springers were in Idaho, with sunlight pouring through the poplars and people gathering in the summer kitchen, which was little more than an extended verandah – one wall and a roof, three sides open to the breeze and allowing the overspill of folks into the yard, and the orchard and the meadows. A verandah large enough to hold an oak table that would seat a crowd at harvest time – which the Springers needed because John Springer had just about the most prosperous farm in Vermillion County. Blessed in that regard, he was blessed with many friends and good neighbours, and also with his children: Daniel and Matthew, then later, Willie, Joe & Sarah. Less blessed in other regards – it had taken two wives to give him this brood of happy, healthy, curious, exuberant offspring – and the two had been taken from him by the good Lord. He'd brung the young ones up though. One way and another. Slightly wild and free, but respectful mostly. Wilful certainly – but that isn't always a bad quality. Except when your one daughter is approaching womanhood, 15 years old but still thinking like an extra brother to the others, and then you bring a third wife into the household. Sarah and Rebecca did not get on. That was to be expected. Rebecca certainly expected it, so she tried very hard… and got nowhere. At best ...

Troy: Fall Of Kings (Troy) - David Gemmell 11/07/2015

Helikaon, who is also Aneaus...and Co.

Reaper Man - Terry Pratchett 09/07/2015

Killing Time

Reaper Man - Terry Pratchett Hopefully by now you'll have got the basics of the Discworld set-up… so just a quick recap for those who've been asleep for the last 25 years: Somewhere, or when, in a probably different dimension there is the Disc. A round flat planet that spins (in a fashion I haven't quite fathomed some 40 novels later) whilst being supported on the back of four elephants who ride the back of A'tuin, the great turtle that swims slowly through the vast voids of space. It is a place populated by people very much like earthbound humans, with histories (or at least stories) very much like our own. It is however, ever so slightly mediaeval in true fantasy tradition. Except it veers towards the industrial revolution and the steam age on occasions… and has some truly modern concepts on others, even though they're slightly back-dated. I'll stop trying to explain. Better you just go read. Oh, yes, and it is a place of magic and wizards and helpful species such as golems and dwarves and werewolves and… well, enough for any suspecting librarian to be happy enough to have been magically transformed into an orang-utan to want to stay that way. Whatever its mystical qualities however, the people of the disc, like people everywhere do eventually die. Some sooner than others. But all of them sooner or later, have to face the grim reaper: the skeleton in the dark cloak, on the white horse, with the scythe. Naturally for most inhabitants this is just a metaphorical construct, but as Death himself ...

Lapponia Cloudberry Liqueur Lakka 22/06/2015

Finnish Nectar

Lapponia Cloudberry Liqueur Lakka A bit of context Sometimes in life you stumble across people who such a joy to be with, that any time that you spend with them is a blessing. Such time continues to be a blessing even if they (or you) are having a hard time and the joy is muted by pain. Pete and Paula are two such people. They aren't a couple; they are some-time occasional colleagues. They are friends. I hope I can say that they are also friends of mine. Paula certainly, though we've not met up in a while, I need to put that right. Pete, erm, maybe… I'd like to think so, but maybe from his perspective I'm relegated to the box labelled "client". Who knows? He's given me enough support and laughter over the years, and the occasional kick up the whatsit, to count as a friend from this side of the fence. What has any of this to do with a review of a liqueur I hear you ask. Well, allow me one more deviation… A decade or so ago, my work-life was not exactly blissful. It was, on the contrary, extremely stressful. My hard-won position was being undermined (as in 'about to be deleted'), the firm was setting up a structure that was never going to work, under a manager who was never going to survive with us. My position was deleted, the structure didn't last long, neither did the manager concerned… but that's ancient history… the bit that matters for this story is that I walked out of my 'consultation' meeting and immediately said to myself "FCK This! I'm going to Finland!" And I was only going to Finland because ...

Moving Pictures - Terry Pratchett 20/06/2015

You've Got To Have A Dream...

Moving Pictures - Terry Pratchett Space...the final frontier... Except of course that you can't have a final frontier, because there'd be nothing for it to be a frontier to… Welcome back to the Disc. A place very much like earth only more so, and different. Different in that it really is flat (apart from the hills and stuff) and that it glides through space on the back of the four elephants who stand on the back of the Great A'tuin the space turtle. Welcome back to the joyful world of someone who knew that writing is absolutely the most fun you can you have by yourself. Not his world, per se, but the one he created and then shared and created a kind of feedback loop for, picking up ideas from fans and others and using them… Moving Pictures is the tenth in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series and like many of the others it opens with a quote, sonorous and portentous, which it then flattens with a light touch of reality. Reality – the nature thereof – is the theme of this book, as examined by a review of the growth of Hollywood – or somewhere very much like it. Thirty miles turnwise of Ankh Morpork there's a beach, and on the beach is a driftwood hut, where Deccan Ribobe, Last Keeper of the Door, is about to die. His death isn't itself significant, but that 'last keeper' part is. Because if the door is not kept, not guarded, well it might just find its way to open again and then anything could find its way through. And does. It starts with a touch of magic. Not your everyday wizard magic, but silver screen ...

Are children too reliant on television and tablets to keep them entertained ? 19/06/2015

Stories, Games and Business Ideas - but there's other stuff too

Are children too reliant on television and tablets to keep them entertained ? I'm sure there are lots of young people who never pick up a book, go for a walk, play sport, talk, cook or "turn off their TV and go and do something less boring instead" – but ignoring what impact that might have on them or society, let's first be clear about the question here: it isn't what impact an over-reliance on TV or Tablets might be – but whether the children actually are over-reliant upon them. In general: are they? I'm not a parent nor even an aunt, so maybe unqualified to judge. But let me speak of what I see… Every year I walk a few miles across town on Christmas day. Whilst for a year or two this was a quiet and depressing experience, nothing like the yuletide mornings of my own childhood when you couldn't wait to get outside (apparently!), more recently it has shown a shift. Now I invariably see new bikes, footballs, skateboards (yes, again) – and it's not just the boys playing with them. The primary school over the road has after-class sports on the light nights – mixed rugby anyone? I see games being played at lunch-break much the same as the ones I remember playing forty-odd years ago – implausible premises maybe (we had something to do with spaceship-beams which meant we had to freeze whenever the sun came out, and could only move when it dipped behind a cloud) – but basically just an excuse to run around the field, letting off energy. Who knows what their story is? During the party season, I see little princesses who have refused to remove the gown ...

Rise - Karen Campbell 18/06/2015

On The Run In the Wilds of Scotland

Delhi - Sam Miller 17/06/2015

A Capital Walk

Delhi - Sam Miller Sam Miller was born the same year I was, and in the early 1990s he was the BBC correspondent based in Delhi. Married to an Indian, he returned in 2002 (not necessarily in that order) and has remained there ever since. Which just goes to show that he has done more with his life than I have with mine. My normal injunction at this point is "Ah! But is he happy?" If this book is anything to go by, then I'd say: yes, he probably is. Not ecstatically, deliriously, joyful of every minute of every day – Delhi would never allow that – but content, certainly. Lucky soul: but then, is it not said that we make our own luck? Miller is probably one of the best people to take you on a tour of Delhi. He's not a native so has no in-bred partisanship, but he does love the place so will make sure you do too, but mainly because to begin with he HATED it… so he will understand if you don't share his ironic good humour about the shit squirter or the fact that sometimes the only way to cross the road is to take a rickshaw taxi. He's definitely the best person to take me on a tour of Delhi because he has an absolute conviction that the only real way to experience any city is on foot. Walking is the only way to see the life of a city – not just its monuments old and new – but the people who live there doing ordinary things… gossiping, working, playing, shopping, eating, living and (yes) dying. When he first moved to the Indian capital wandering around on foot was seen as just too bizarre ...

The Lotus Quest - Mark Griffiths 16/06/2015

So Many Lotus

True Blue - David Baldacci 14/06/2015

Once A Cop, Always A Cop

Ty Newydd Burial Chamber, Anglesey 13/06/2015

Ty Newydd

Ty Newydd Burial Chamber, Anglesey Bumbling and Discovering For those of us who live here, the UK is a bit of an ordinary sort of place. It's quite small if you put it in the context of Europe or Asia or America. It's even quite small if you stop comparing our tiny island with whole continents and settle for countries… India, Australia, America, Canada… erm… ok, scale down a bit… let's just compare ourselves with countries rather than continents. One website still puts us at 77th on the list. Well behind the obvious suspects like the US, Canada, Russia, India, China, Brazil… but also behind such local neighbours as Spain, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Poland & Italy… But that's just acreage. What about population? In those terms we come in at about number 23. Still behind France and Germany but way ahead (if that's the right expression of any of the Scandinavian countries. All any of this proves is that we're actually quite a small place and we have a lot of people living here. It is surprising therefore just how much of ancient history survives if you only know where to look for it. Whilst I do spend a fair amount of my wander-time actively seeking out history in the shape of museums and landscapes and country houses and derelict factories and glorious engineering achievements and so on and such forth… I take greater delight in the stuff I stumble across. If I bothered to read all of the guide books I pick up and that get sent to me by virtue of my subscriptions to various charities, then life would be the ...
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