Saturday, 23 May 2020

No painting but lots of reading!

Not a lot to report on the painting and gaming front not surprisingly, especially since I have been doing some 'proper' painting in the living room and dining room over the last 2 weeks.    It's amazing how much rubbish and tat we have acquired over the years so there has been a  massive clear out of stuff before we could get started and as our local recycling centre has very limited slots available that have to be pre-booked m back garden now looks like a scrapyard!  The painting is pretty much done now and I must admit it has been worth the stress and aches and pains to get it all done but I don't plan on doing any more for a while.

 Since I don't have anything game relates to report, I have taken inspiration from the excellent 'Thoughts of a Depressive Diplomatist' blog and thought I'd do an update on books I've read over the last few months.  Luckily I keep track of my reading on Goodreads so it wasn't too hard to track them down, so here goes...

Any Human Heart (Penguin Essentials): Boyd, William ...

The 1st book of the year was Any Human  Heart by William Boyd.
I've only recently discovered William Boyd but thoroughly enjoy his books.  He has an interesting knack of taking a fairly unlikeable central character and have you rooting for him by the end.  This follows the (fictional) life of a writer and art critic through the 20th century, tying him into historical figures and events. It's also worth looking out for The Ice Cream War (set in WW1 East Africa) and A Good Man in Africa, a darkly funny tale set in late-colonial Africa.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind: Yuval Noah ...

Sapiens:a Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
This is a fascinating walk through how homo sapiens became so dominant, exploring biology, anthropology, philosophy and economics.  Go and read it, it's great!

Frigates, Sloops & Brigs (Military Classics): James ...

Frigates , Sloops and Brigs by James  Henderson
I started reading this when I was painting up ships for Black Seas.  It's a very readable account of 'small ship' actions which I find more interesting than big fleet battles.  If you've been tempted by Napoleonic naval games this is well worth looking up.

Tarantula by Bob Dylan

Tarantula by Bob Dylan
A Christmas present from my son...I'm a huge Dylan fan and we both went to see him in concert in Hamburg last year (see here for the details of the trip).  Compared with his autobiography which I read last year (which is great) this is a collection of pretty dense poetry/rambling lyrics which I struggled with.  There are odd flashes of his lyrical talent but a lot of it is very imcomprehensible.

Murder on the Orient  Express by Agatha Christie
I'd never read an Agatha Christie book and haven't really watched any of the various tv series or films based on them and thought I ought to.  I'm sure there are good and bad places to start with her books but I thought I'd plunge in with one of the best known...luckily I'd never seen the film so didn't know whodunnit.  I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and will probably read more.

Marshland: Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London: ...

Marshland: Dreams and Nightmares on the Edge of London by Gareth E Rees
A psycho-geographical exploration of London and especially Hackney.  I am a fan of Iain Sinclair who I think does this sort of thing much better... this was ok.

The Liveship Traders Trilogy | Robin hobb, Robin

The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb
Sometimes you just need a bit of trashy fantasy.  I'd never read any Robin Hobb...I have a theory that if you look on a library or book shop shelf they will always have volumes 2 and 3 of her epic trilogies but never vol. 1.  I discovered my local library have a load of her books available to download so tried the 1st of the Liveship Traders series, Ship of Magic.  Essentially it's pirates, dragons and living magical sailing ships.  To my surprise I really enjoyed it and have now read all 3 books.

Another Planet: A Teenager in Suburbia: Tracey Thorn ...

Another Planet: a teenager in suburbia by Tracey Thorn
I'm a big fan of Everything But the Girl's music and this memoir by singer Tracey Thorn is a great read.  An exploration of her teenage diaries it's all about growing up in the 70s and especially about the nature of suburbia.

The Five: the lives of Jack the Ripper's Women by  Hallie Rubenhold
This is a relatively new book on Jack the Ripper which caused a bit of a stooshie among 'Ripperologists' (yes, apparently they're a thing).  The main complaint seemed to be that a) Hallie Rubenhold is a woman (gasp!) writing in a very male dominated field, and b) she focused on the lives of the 5 victims rather than on JtR, exploring them as people rather than simply as 'victims'.  Each section explores what is known of the 5 women's lives and stops just before the point they were killed.  It's a really fascinating look at Victorian social history and well worth reading.

Three Tales from the Laundry Files: A Tor.Com Original (Equoid ...

Equoid, Down on the Farm and Overtime by Charles Stross
I'm a big fan of Charles Stross' Laundry novels... think Cthulhu meets John le Carre... and this is a fun collection of 3 novellas.  If you haven't read the main series, go and check them out.

Darien by Conn Iggulden
I'd read quite a few of Conn Iggulden's historical books (the Wars of the Roses series is especially good) but wasn't sure about this step into fantasy.  It took me a while to get engaged with it and it is very much the opening book in a series so there is a lot of scene-setting.  I enjoyed it more than I expected though and would read the next one.  It's set in an unusual fantasy setting with large set-piece battles, magical style abilities and an odd mix of the usual fantasy medieval setting with handguns thrown in.

The Magician's Land: (Book 3): Grossman, Lev ...

The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman
This is the 3rd in the Magicians series (which has also been televised although I haven't seen that). It's a kind of adult Harry Potter meets Narnia with more sex, drug and violence than you'll get in either of those books!  Again, it must be good because I read all 3 books!

Reamde - Wikipedia

Reamde by Neal Stephenson
Neal Stephenson is one of those authors whose books make great doorstops as they're really, really thick.  I loved some of his other books like Cryptonomicon (really...go and read it!) and Seveneves, but struggled with his more historical set books such as Quicksilver (although I really tried to like it it was just too huge!).  I initially thought Reamde was going to be a sci-fi style book as it features a MMORPG designer and I was expecting it be based around the game.  It is, but actually it's much more of a conventional thriller.  Well worth reading.  I might even go and give Quicksilver another go (for the 3rd time!)


The Complete Father Brown Mysteries by GK Chesterton
Another author I'd never read but I quite like the rather cosy tv version that is shown on BBC1 in the afternoons at the moment (featuring the excellent Mark Williams). This is a collection of all 53 short stories which I've just started reading... all very short and quite different to the tv version so far.


  1. Well I was surprised to read a mention of my blog! But I'm glad I inspired you. There's some interesting reading there.

    Like you, I enjoy Stephenson but faltered during the Quicksilver trilogy: I keep meaning to go back to it. I didn't complete Reamde though. I consumed the Laudry Files one after another last year - I must look out for these novellas.

    I hope you enjoy the Father Brown. The tv show bears no resemblence to the stories whatsoever!

  2. Thanks for the inspiration...I need to get back to figure painting so I have something to post about!

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  4. Hi Alastair,

    The book on the Ripper's victims sounds very interesting and long overdue. There's nothing I hate more than books/people that revel in JTR and his evil. It's great that this author is celebrating the lives of his victims instead.