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Peggy Farooqi
Mum of 3 (1994, 1995, 1998)- born in East Germany --lived in UK/ Kent since 1993 -- studied criminology -- love reading / writing / travelling / needlecraft 
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27 February 2016

A Short History of Nearly Everything
Bill Bryson
Publication Date
September 2004
science, non-fiction

Bool Description (from Amazon)

Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller: but even when he stays safely in his own study at home, he can't contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to find out everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization - how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. 

Bill Bryson's challenge is to take subjects that normally bore the pants off most of us, like geology, chemistry and particle physics, and see if there isn't some way to render them comprehensible to people who have never thought they could be interested in science. It's not so much about what we know, as about how we know what we know. How do we know what is in the centre of the Earth, or what a black hole is, or where the continents were 600 million years ago? How did anyone ever figure these things out?

On his travels through time and space, he encounters a splendid collection of astonishingly eccentric, competitive, obsessive and foolish scientists, like the painfully shy Henry Cavendish who worked out many conundrums like how much the Earth weighed, but never bothered to tell anybody about many of his findings. In the company of such extraordinary people, Bill Bryson takes us with him on the ultimate eye-opening journey, and reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.

My thoughts

It took me a while to get into this book, maybe because I haven't read non-fiction, more academic style books for a while. But once I was in, I was hooked. 

And don't be put off by the 'more academic style' - Bryson writes very accessible. Yes, some things probably did went over my head, but I just continued reading and was soon fascinated. A few things which particularly stick in my memory are how 'nutty' scientists are actually are (and how conniving ! ) but also how much effort was involved in early experience / measurements etc. How much trial and error. And how much there is still unknown at this stage. What a wonder life is, and what a wonder it is that we are here at all. 

I have promised myself to read some more scientific-based books. 

21 February 2016

Tapas and Tinto
Pete Wolstencroft
Pete Wolstencroft
Publication Date
August 2012
travel, non-fiction
Book Description (from Amazon)

This is the story of how I fell in love with Spain. The main elements are the food and drink, the wildlife and the wonderful people. But the protagonist is Spain itself. I first lived in the country in 1984 when it was a very different country to the one we know today.

My thoughts

I read this book on my E-reader on the plane - not flying to or from Spain though. I love travelling and reading about people's adventure, so this very short book fitted the bill.

The book is an easy read, and the author writes with a lot of wit and humour; I found myself laughing out aloud quite a few time. The book is based on his personal experience of Spain mainly in the 1980's. I did admire his guts, leaving everything behind in the UK ans setting out for Spain, naive at first and learning the lessons of travelling, the expat community and of Spain as he went along. I think there was quite a lot of alcoholic beverages involved ;) 

This is not a 'how to' guid of travelling or working or living in Spain, but made a very entertaining quick read. 

7 February 2016

The Tommyknockers
Stephen King 
GP Putnam's Sons
Publication Date
November 1987
horror, alien

Description (from Amazon)

Everything is familiar. But everything has changed.
Coming back to the little community is like walking into a nightmare for Jim Gardener, poet, drunk, potential suicide.
It all looks the same, the house, the furniture, Jim's friend Bobbi, her beagle (though ageing), even the woods out at the back.
But it was in the woods that Bobbi stumbled over the odd, part-buried object and felt a peculiar tingle as she brushed the soft earth away.
Everything is familiar. But everything is about to change.

My thoughts

King on best form here. 
He brings us (once more) to a small town in Maine called Haven. This is where Roberta 'Bobbi' Anderson lives on an inherited farm. In the first few chapters of the book, the story is set when Bobbi walks into the woods with her dog and sees a piece of metal sticking out of the forest grounds. Curious, she examines it and finds that it is much bigger then she initially thought (not a tin can!) and she starts digging around it.

 Almost straight away, she feels a compulsion to continue digging. But this is not the only change. She also seems to have strange abilities, being able to repair household items and invent things for example a type-writer who writes by purely her thoughts. Bobbi's friend James Gardner ('Gard'), an alcoholic and almost of the brink of suicide, visits her and starts digging with her, but he is unaffected from the changes happening as he has a large steel plate in his head, courtesy of a skiing accident in his youth.

As Bobbi and Gard continue to dig, the whole town starts to be effected. People not only become able to make objects work in strange ways, but can mind-read and will communicate with each other by mind only. The whole town changes and is 'becoming'. And it is getting weirder and weirder as the strange and alien force which inhibits the object in the woods is taking everything over. 

The book is separated in 3 parts. Part 1 deals with Bobbi and Gard, how Bobbi finds the object and a bit of a background story on Gard (great descriptions again here of the fallout of alcoholism). Part 2 introduces us to the people in town and what is happening to each of them. Part 3 is the conclusion and what's happening once the object is fully out of the ground. It also sees the 'resurrection' of Gard who spends the first 2 parts in a bit of a drunken stupor. 

I loved it, I never got bored and felt the story moves along nicely. There is a bit of a dip in the middle, but the middle deals with how people in town are effected and all the strange things they do, and that makes a very interesting read. The conclusion also left me satisfied. On a whole, what makes it scary is that it is actually a believable story. Even though King is talking Aliens here, it all takes place on our planet earth and happens to ordinary people. 

3 February 2016

Black House (The Talisman 2)
Stephen King and Peter Straub
Ballantine Books
Publication Date
September 2003

horror, detective

Description from Amazon

Black House is the second collaboration by Stephen King and Peter Straub, two of the most important writers in genre fiction, and the expectations of their first team-up were considerable. But despite its impressive sales, many were disappointed by The Talisman. Rather than a truly chilling epic, what we got was a rather derivative and by-the-numbers fantasy saga. So fans were reluctant to be too hopeful about their second collaboration... but we needn't have worried. Black House is much more like it, although even here King and Straub have not quite delivered the ultimate horror marathon--this is a psycho-thriller in the vein of Thomas Harris, but none the worse for that. And there are supernatural elements. This is the tale of a small American town held in the grip of evil. Three children have vanished, abducted by a monster called The Fisherman (after a legendary murderer) with a craving for children's flesh. Ex-detective Jack Sawyer, dealing with his own personal problems (in which he is tormented by visions of another world), is keen to stay away from the horrors of this case, recognising how bad involvement will be for him. But--guess what?--Sawyer is soon supping full on the horrors, and the reader is in for an exhilarating (and highly disturbing) experience. Jack is a powerfully realised protagonist, and his journey into the dark world of The Fisherman is genuinely unsettling. Although more of King's fingerprints are on this one than Straub's (notably the conflicted hero, struggling with his own demons), the co-authors' individual styles merge indivisibly in this highly impressive chiller. --Barry Forshaw

My thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. As I previously mentioned in my review on The Talisman Book 1 , I had trouble getting into and even getting through Book 1, as I just did not seem to understand this other world, The Territories and the story was too removed for my liking from 'our world'. However, in Book 2, the story mostly plays out in our world, with links to the other world, The Territories. And the link is not immediately obvious. Jack, our hero, obviously has blocked out his memories of the Territories, but will have to go back to not only save the missing children, but also to save the world from wider evil. 

The characters are again, beautifully drawn and unlike in the first book, there are quite a few characters whom Jack encounters this time and who are envolved, and all of them are from our world. In typical King fashion, the story is based around small-town America and its citizens. My favourite character has to be the Biker (who's name escapes me at the moment).

The book is again co-written King and Straub. I have not read any of Straub's other work, but the reading flows without problem and I did not notice two different styles of writers - if there are, they are certainly nicely merged here. 

In resume, if you are a King fan and maybe didn't get on with Book 1, give this a try. I have to say though that while you can read Book 2 without reading Book 1, I think it helps you to understand and get the 'little hints' early on in the book, and without reading Book 1 first you may struggle to understand the links.