Wednesday, 16 March 2016

2016 Reading Part One

Remember those old-fashioned things with pages, lots of words and very few if any pictures? Being retired and not spending hours in hotels or on trains means I do less reading now, but I still enjoy a good book. We've one to mop up from the end of 2015 and the first six books I've read during 2016.

At the end of last year I had read just 30 books, about half the number I used to read when out on the road all the time. The final one came after my last book article on the blog so here it is - Alistair MacLean's Caravan To Vaccares. This deals with agents and double agents tracking a band of gypsies across Europe, some of whom are suspected of smuggling activities. The book is the usual Alistair MacLean forced march through a series of murders, beatings, chases and bluffs all of which contribute to a very enjoyable reading experience. At one time or other the reader is led to suspect each and every character!

I do look forward to a new Bill Bryson book and The Road To Little Dribbling marks his return to a book of travel writing and to a new journey through the UK which has the added hook of me personally knowing many of the places he visits. I loved the book until he came to Blackpool where he picked on all the worst aspects and had obviously not bothered to visit very much of it. We have three piers, Mr Bryson, not two. You didn't even get as far as the town centre if you managed to miscount them... It still made me chuckle a lot.

This was a Christmas present and is a list of short articles on places both well-known and obscure. I learned a fair amount from its pages, but couldn't get over the fact that many of the places deserved a bit more time and text spending on them.

This is the second of Tom Holt's books I've read where looking through a hole in foodstuff (doughnuts, Polo Mints etc) plunges you into a parallel universe and I enjoyed it quite a bit more than the first. The hero of the piece in this book has a rather aggressive and very capable girlfriend who disappears. He is a little taken aback to look into a box at work and see a tiny version of her sitting inside a jar at the far end of what appears to be a very large room in the normal-sized box. He has to work out how to open the thing that the jar is when it isn't...

The twelfth book centred around 14th century Cambridge scholar and medic Matthew Bartholomew sees Matt and Brother Michael, Cambridge University's Senior Proctor, on a trip to the city of Lincoln, where Michael has been honoured with a post at the cathedral. The city proves to be a rather unruly place with two factions about to break into open warfare. With one faction led by someone from Matt's past who still bears a grudge, the Cambridge visitors are drawn into danger and intrigue that threatens their lives.

The third of Dennis Wheatley's Roger Brook stories, The Rising Storm covers the build-up to the French Revolution with Roger once again acting on behalf of the British Government of William Pitt the Younger. He gains the confidence of Queen Marie Antoinette of France and then to some extent blots his copybook by undertaking a mission for her that places him at odds with his work for England. In the meantime he falls in love with a Spanish woman of noble blood only to lose her to an unwanted arranged marriage and then in a most final way during the excesses of mob behaviour as the revolution starts to get under way. You either like Dennis Wheatley or you don't but his mix of historical fact with a fast-paced agent story is an approach I always enjoy.

And I finish with this one for this article. The 13th book featuring Roman soldiers Macro and Cato sees them back in Britannia chasing their old enemy Caratacus. Some great set piece battles that place you in the thick of the action and with added interest provided by a spy and a plot against the two heroes.

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