Friends, this is my review of the book The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne, which I listened to recently as an audio book, when travelling around the Isle of Mull.
The book tells the adventures of five Americans on an uncharted island in the South Pacific. The story begins in the American Civil War, during the siege of Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederate States of America. As famine and death ravage the city, five northern prisoners of war decide to escape by the unusual means of hijacking a balloon. The five are Cyrus, a rail road engineer in the Union army, his manservant Neb (short for Nebuchadnezzar), who Jules states is not a slave but an ex-slave who had been freed by Cyrus; the sailor Bonadventure Pencroff (who is addressed only by his surname, but his "Christian name", Bonadventure, is given to their boat; his protégé Herbert Brown, a young boy whom Pencroff raises as his own after the death of his father and the journalist Gideon Spilett. The company is completed by Cyrus' dog 'Top'.
After flying in stormy weather for several days, the group crash-lands on a cliff-bound, volcanic, unknown (and fictitious) island. They name it "Lincoln Island" in honour of American President Abraham Lincoln. With the knowledge of the brilliant engineer Smith, the five are able to sustain themselves on the island, hoping that they will one day escape (Summary by Wikipedia)
The story then lists a series of adventures, as the island is colonised, including fighting the pirates, and trying to escape to a nearby island. The final part of the book is totally unexpected and explains the “Mysterious” part in the title as it is the sequel to 20000 leagues Under The Sea. Finally the caster-ways have to escape as the island's volcano is about to blow up.
It is claimed that the story is based on the true story of Alexander Selkirk, who survived alone for almost five years on an uninhabited island off the coast of Chile.
This was a really enjoyable book that passed the travelling time away, this was book 46 week 34 fiction 42 (12 on audio) non fiction 4
Friends this is my review of the book Debt of Honor by Tom Clancy, which I read recently. The observant will have noticed that I have, produced quite a few reviews in the last few weeks. In fact I have been playing catch up with them, as I was without a computer for a couple of weeks.
During that time I read several books but could not write about them. Since then I have been trying to get up to date, and this book is the last one from the backlog.
Debt of Honor came out nearly twenty years ago, and I originally read it back then. Rereading it recently was really enjoyable. It is a story that continues the saga of Jack Ryan and how he as National Security advisor can save America..
A fatal auto accident in the U.S., caused by faulty gas tanks in two Japanese cars, leads to the breakdown of U.S.-Japanese trade agreements .On the Pacific island of Saipan, a wealthy Japanese businessman regards his new-bought land with satisfaction. In the Indian Ocean off Sri Lanka, a foreign navy begins a series of highly unusual exercises. At the headquarters of America's major stock-clearing corporation, an engineer brings a customized computer program on-line for the first time, and smiles as he starts a world wide banking crisis. Four seemingly unrelated incidents, but all just the first links in a chain of events that will stun the world.
I found the book quite thought provoking as things, that had been written about as fiction, then became reality around ten years later, during the banking crisis. Fortunately in the real world things did not continue to progress as they did in the work of fiction.
At over a 1000 pages it is a large book, but a real page turner and certainly one of Tom Clancy's better books. It has some good twists and turns, mixed in with suspense and action.
This was book 45 week 33 fiction 41 (11 on audio) non fiction 4
Friends this is my review of the book Code by Charles Petzold – The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software, which I read recently. This is a book that I was given a few years ago, and had not got round to reading. It is a factual history of how machine code was invented, and how it is put together to make the basic building blocks of a modern day computer.
He starts off with Morse code, and moves to Braille and progresses on from there with a review of technological innovations that have lead to the modern computer. It was sobering to think that he was talking about things that I did back in 1976, when we built our first machine, and had to code in the bootstrap sequence with a series of switches on the front of the machine. I remember it could take quite some time if one made a mistake, and once running we tried our hardest not to crash the machine and cause a restart because of this.
Having explained how a machine copes with binary, via switches and gates, Charles gradually shows how things can be put together to produce memory via flip-flop gates. He then follows the logical process of putting everything together in ever greater blocks eventually leading to the computer chip.
From there he covers the bus, input and outputs. As Charles goes into great detail explaining how the circuits work, and how the code coming from the various outputs/inputs effects other parts of the system, it is not a book that can be read that quickly. But it is very interesting in showing how we have got to the basic computer chips of the 1980's.
If these seem complicated then ones of the present day are mind blowing. It is a book that helps one understand the essence of how a computer works, so if you are not interested in computing then you will find it very hard going.
This was book 44 week 33 fiction 40 (11 on audio) non fiction 4
This is the ongoing record of how we are trying to develope our garden at Trostrie Cottage. Back in May I recorded how we were trying to develope a wildflower garden, which you can read here
Well 6 months on we have to admit that it has been a failure.
Sadly all that has grown is weeds and grass
Even where we transplanted actual plants from areas that did have wild flowers they subsequently died
All it did was look a mess, so the hard decision was made.
Admit failure and cut the grass. All that has grown besides the grass is nettles, vast amounts of them.
On doing research I think the problem is that the ground is too fertile and the existing grass is too well established. Oh well who knows maybe after a few years of cutting we will have another go and see what happens then.
Unless one is building a show garden then gardening is for the long term, and not just the next couple of weeks.
This is my ad hoc update and diary describing how I am developing our garden at Trostrie Cottage in Galloway. You can see the garden for yourself if you book a self catering holiday @The Shieling which is attached to Trostrie Cottage http://www.trostriecottage.co.uk/ in the South West of Scotland.
Friends this is my review of the book The Twelfth Card by Jeffery Deaver, which I read recently. This continues the saga of the criminalist Lincoln Rhyme. Sadly due to an accident Lincoln is trapped inside his paralysed body.
Though paralysed Lincoln uses his brilliant mind, extensive experience and his helpful partner Policewoman Amelia Sachs to track down and try to stop a hit-man who seems to be all out in killing the school girl Geneva Settle.
Geneva was working on a research project into her ancestors, when she was first attacked. She uncovers a 140 year old mystery. Lincoln and Amelia soon realise that to find the hit-man they have to first solve the 140 year old mystery.
This book is full of twists and turns that though obvious when looking back, are not at all clear until they hit you full on in the face. It is a story that will keep you in suspense right to the end, and with a string of plot twists, I am sure you will not be able to guess the final ending. To give much more away would spoil the numerous surprises that come along as one goes through the story.
This is a real page turner, and an outstanding thriller. Certainly one of the best that I have read in the last few months.
This was book 43 week 32 fiction 40 (11 on audio) non fiction 3
Friends, this is my review of the book Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens, which I have listened to as an audio book over the last few weeks. The version I listened to was the Librivox version
The book was published in 1848, and is based at that time. In all aspects this book is a massive work, and the story covers the life of Paul Dombey. Though he is the central character there are numerous subplots based around the characters that interrelate with him. The story concerns Paul Dombey, the wealthy owner of the shipping company of the book's title, whose dream is to have a son to continue his business. The book begins when his son is born, and Paul's wife dies shortly after giving birth. Paul already has a daughter – Florence, but as a girl she is totally neglected. Tragedy occurs, and Florence’s plight worsens. As the years go by, Mr. Dombey sees to it that the man she loves, his employee, is sent far away. Mr Dombey remarries, but his marriage is eventually destroyed, his fortune gone, he becomes destitute. Finally he accepts help from his daughter, and life changes for him.
As it is a historical major written work there are numerous detailed reviews of the plot and story lines, some in themselves major written works. The key thing to this audio version is the reader Mil Nicholson http://www.act2sc3.com/ who is quite brilliant.
As an audio book it is over 40 hours in length, so was quite a major commitment, but through the use of extensive clever voices she manages to bring the story to life and manages to bring to life all the wonderful characters as they interweave throughout the tale
As a book this was an enjoyable, fascinating story, made even better by the brilliant vocalisation by Mil Nicholson. I cannot recommend this enough. So this was book 42 week 31 fiction 39 (11 on audio) non fiction 3
Friends this is my review of the book The Sensorium of God by Stuart Clark, which I read recently. This is the second book in his series of books about great historical astronomers. He adds a layer of fiction to the facts making a really interesting read.
The three astronomers that are the subject of this book are Isaac Newton, Robert Hooke and Edmond Halley. Stuart manages to weave a tale of fiction one assumes based on documented truth of arguments, theft of ideas, and long held grudges and resentment.
The main thrust of the book is that Isaac Newton stole some of his ideas from Robert Hooke and passed them off as his own, and the consequences of this. I have no idea if this is true or not, but it does make a very good read.
Stuart has evidently done a lot of research into his subjects, and the time that they lived, the late 1600's and has portrayed, a very realistic story, making a very enjoyable read.
This was book two in the Sky's Dark Labyrinth trilogy and having now read the first two books I am looking forward to reading the final one.
Though the book is full of factual discoveries I am still putting it down as a work of fiction, all be it historical fiction. So this was book 41 week 31 fiction 38 (10 on audio) non fiction 3
Friends this is my review of the book The Last Man by Vince Flynn, which I read recently. There is a popular saying that “it does what it says on the tin” and this is the case with this book. It does what it says on the cover.
The book is a thriller about the Hero Mitch Rapp, and his personal mission to kill all American “baddies” he comes across. Cross him and you wind up dead, and his reputation goes before him. The baddies just quake in their boots when his name is mentioned.
So this book is set in the present day with America pulling out of Afghanistan. The CIA is helping to set up the new government by paying the terrorists to change sides and become good and loyal citizens. Of course when there is lots of money slushing around people want to pinch it, especially if there are corrupt politicians.
The story crosses over the boarder into Pakistan, and its secret services. Are they trying to get a hold of the money as well. Add a contract assassin that has been given the task of killing a high ranking CIA officer as well and you have all the ingredients for a fast moving thriller. Of course the real puzzling is just how true is all this. Is it a complete work of fiction or based on some truth?
My only down point is what a sad reflection of life in our times this book reflects, if that is what it does do? Money is portrayed as the ultimate god, which is just not the case. The thought that people would even consider doing such things for money is in my view mind blowing.
This was book 40 week 31 fiction 37 (10 on audio) non fiction 3
Dyslexic doodles on photography, food (growing, cooking & of course eating), faith and other fascinating things. This is a personal blog expressing my views.