Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy New Year!

Well, I'm afraid I've not been as good at posting this year as last, and I'm way behind with book reviews. But new year, new start, right? So, what I'm going to do is this. On the basis that I have read a lot that I haven't reviewed, and it's starting to get a bit difficult to write reviews of stuff I read over a month ago, as of tomorrow I'm going to be starting again with book reviews. I'm not going to review anything that I've read this year, with perhaps one or two exceptions, though I doubt it (I've done a lot of re-reading in the past week or so, rather than reading new stuff, and I think I've reviewed some of it already). Anyway, I thought I'd let you know that.

So, New Year's Resolutions?

Keep up to date with this blog. I'm also going to integrate in my other blog, I think, to this one (, but failing that I'll try and keep that one up to date with at least one post a week too.

Write. I'll be doing this anyway, I don't know how I'd survive if I didn't write stories. As for specific goals: I'm pretty fed up of looking for a publisher for Nutmeg Angel. I'm going to try and contact the organisation that runs the musicianaries project, and see if they'll take a novelist too. And if they won't, well, I'll just have to finish editing Winged Fire and try and get that published instead. I'd like to fill up the hole in the Nutmeg Angel series too--it's only one book big now, so that should be okay. And the story that will go in it seems to be going well (watch this, writer's block will now strike). I'd like to do some more historical/semi-historical fiction, and maybe even finish off my monster novel which is over 100000 words already and maybe two thirds through what I expect it to take. I have an ending, I just have to get it there.

Read. Again, I'll be doing this anyway. I want to read the books I've bought and not actually read, that would probably be a good idea :). New books to look out for, that I'll definitely be buying: Five Greatest Warriors by Matthew Reilly. After the cliffhanger ending of Six Sacred Stones (and boy was it a huge one!), I can't wait for this book. It's already out in Australia, but I can't seem to get hold of the Australian edition in England :(. I did wonder whether to ask my cousin who now lives in Australia to send me a copy, but there's only a few more weeks to wait for it. This is a fantastic series, and I'd highly recommend it. Matthew Reilly's thrillers are incredibly fast paced, as in, think of a crazy OTT action film and then stick it into novel format that you can carry about with you and enjoy. Dramatic, gripping, he's probably the best escapist, fast paced thriller writer I've come across. The Sable Quean by Brian Jacques, and yes, Quean is spelt like that. I've been reading the Redwall series for something like eight or nine years now, and my only disappointment was when I couldn't get hold of Eulalia last time a new book came out for ages and ages. I finally managed to borrow a copy from the library and bought the paper back edition. A number of them have been re-read by me 15 + times. Don't be put off by the fact they're about talking animals, Brian Jacques writes the sort of timeless classic that you can enjoy again and again. Good versus evil, it's your stereotypical children's story, with the 'good' creatures (mice, squirrels, moles, badgers, and we mustn't forget the hares), facing off against the vermin (rats, ferrets, weasles, pine martins and the like). Fantastic feasts, great descriptions, and some fantastic sword-fighting, I suspect Brian Jacques is the reason the angels in my stories tend to use swords rather than guns. Also, the final Cherub book, Shadow Wave (provisional title). Again, I've been following this series for a long time, and I love it. Think Alex Rider, only it could actually happen, and the characters are a lot more realistic. I can't wait, although I'm sad that the series will be finishing. There is, of course, still the Henderson's Boys series by the same author, and I suspect I'll be getting the new one of those too. They're reckoned to be great books to get teenage boys into reading; as a teenage girl who already loves reading, I can certainly recommend them.

Models: I don't know whether this counts as getting a goal. Again, I'll be doing it anyway, it's something I love. I would like to do a few more tanks, but they're harder to store and display than aircraft. Having said that, my ceiling is getting rather full. I probably won't get the 1:24 scale Mosquito--it's a lot of money, even if it is a lot of model, and I don't have anything else in that scale. So, probably another couple of bombers. The Short Sunderland I got the other week is nearly finished; it's the biggest in size I've ever done. I've still got a couple of models that I've bought and not built. Actually, maybe more than a few... Two jets (Tornado and Saab Gripen), three more WWI ones, and two of the three club models I got this year.

I think that's about it. College, of course, and my distance learning thing, but again, I'll be doing that anyway. Scary thought: this time next year, I'll be preparing for my second term at university! I wonder where I'll be. Hopefully Cambridge :), but could be anywhere I guess. Well, I'll be off now. Not staying up till midnight--I've done it once but it's not exactly gonna be fun on my own. I think I might go and read--I bought a couple of books yesterday, and they're going to be an exception to the not reviewing anything that I've read this year rule. Cheerio.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Pilgrimage of Grace

Hmm. I didn't finish this book. I got fed up. By Geofferey Moorhouse, this is one of those unfortunate books that suffers from too much detail in a dry, boring manner. I have nothing against detailed books. I quite like them. But this was just irritating. I was intrigued to know more about the only aspect of the English Reformation that I actually knew something about. However, the author seemed to feel it was his personal mission in life to act as though it was a completely ignored part of the English Reformation and that he was the only person who had ever paid it any attention whatsoever. Huh? There was a nice section on it in the Dickens book which I reviewed previously, and as I said, it was virtually the only aspect of the English Reformation I had a bit of knowledge about to start with. We'd covered it in oh, maybe Year 8 or something, briefly. If there was one thing this book did not suffer from, it was brevity. And yet, the actual reasons for the Pilgrimage of Grace were, I felt, inadequately covered. The author basically took it as read that they were fundamentally spiritual in grievance, and that was why it happened, making scant reference to the whole history of protest and the fact that the harvests had been bad which always makes things worse. There was an over reliance on narrative and detail about what exactly happened when and what happened next and what happened next on the other side and... you get the picture. It seemed to just go on and on and on, so I'm afraid I got fed up and took it back to the library without having finished it.

Not recommended, as you can see, unless you have a particular fascination with the Pilgrimage of Grace and are desperate to get to know all those little details that you probably won't find anywhere else. But other than for that purpose, it's not a particularly good book.


This book is by Max Hastings, and deals with the Normandy Campaign. It's well written and interesting, though he completely disparages the contribution of the Air Forces in helping to win the battle--he basically claims that the RAF/USAAF cooperation with the ground forces was negligible, played no really significant part, and even suggests that in parts it did more harm than good. Hmm... I know I'm slightly biased on the whole RAF thing because I absolutely love aircraft and aviation history, which would tend perhaps to go the other way and exaggerate the achievements of that branch, but I suspect he was going a little too far. The same was true of my opinions regarding his book on Bomber Command, which basically said exactly the same thing (the RAF/Bomber Command was pretty useless), which I can't agree with. Okay, the bombing did not achieve the results expected, but it sure as heck achieved something. Maybe it should have been more concentrated, maybe there should have been a focus on the synthetic oil plants, maybe a million things, but it's impossible to deny that it did something. You cannot drop that quantity of explosives on something (even if some did miss), without attaining some results. But his complete criticism of the ground/air cooperation seemed a little OTT in this book too. He cited an example where an aerial controller was killed and there was no one to take his place. Well, let's just make a couple of points. Controlling aircraft from the ground is not going to be an easy task. You have to know enough about flying to know what landmarks should be pointed out and which should be ignored on the basis that they won't be visible. You need to have equipment that works, that you can carry around (wireless was hardly what you'd call easily portable), you need training. So it's unsurprising that there was no one to replace them really. Another thing that annoyed me in this respect was the way in which Hastings suggested that things did improve in the campaign, but failed to actually go into this properly, leaving the overall impression that the air domination was utterly useless.

It was, however, quite well structured, and provided a good overview of the operation. It lacked some depth in parts, for example with relation to the use of airborne troops, but on the whole it was a good book. The pictures in the middle bits again were poorly labelled and didn't do much for the story, but this criticism can be levelled at almost any history book. Even D-Day by Anthony Beevor, which I think so far to be the better of the two, has not integrated the pictures very well at all. However, these considerations may come from the publishers on the basis that its uneconomical to put a lot of words onto the picture pages, as obviously the glossy paper is more expensive to use. There were little sections thrown in that gave a sketch picture of a piece of equipment and information about it. These would perhaps have been better in their own section for reference too, with a little note as to which were included in the section when they first showed up, and the quality of the sketches was also pretty poor--it was hard to distinguish much in the way of features, and they almost may as well have been a mere silhouette. Again though, this is a criticism that would perhaps more fairly be directed towards the publisher.

On the whole then, it was a good book, but not spectacular. A good coverage of the subject, but it was by no means comprehensive, and certain aspects were skimmed over with the explanation: these have been well documented in other books. Fine, but this book itself is now pretty old as far as getting hold of copies is concerned, and probably out of print (one sec while I check that...), hmm, seems to be the case. There was an edition came out near enough four years ago, and there's another coming out in a couple of months, but the trouble with that is that the library I live near has a nasty tendency to stick older books away somewhere in the bowels of the library system and you have to go fishing on the computer to dig them out. So while there might have been a spate of books on that particular subject at the time of writing, it's no guarantee that they're still hanging about now. I have to say, I'm finding the Antony Beevor one a better book, but I'll let you know for certain when I've finished (unfortunately, this one isn't out in paperback yet, and therefore on the basis of comparing how much the two books cost, I'd have to go with Overlord as being better value for money as they make very many similar statements and are both well written and equally readable, though D-Day seems to take into account a more balanced picture). One thing it was good on was the German perspective, detailing hte experiences of various groups of Germans in opposition to the Allies--this is something that lacks from D-Day. Both are good books, but if you're getting them from the library I'd have to go on the side of D-Day on the basis that it seems slightly more comprehensive.

One thing I will add: don't read this book if you're looking for a detailed account of D-Day itself. Were Cobra and Goodwood really a part of Overlord? I was always under the impression that was just the initial period, the actual landings. Maybe I'm mistaken here, but it seems as though the book goes a little outside the scope you'd assume from the main title, though beneath it adds that it is about the 'Battle for Normandy'.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Cromwell and the English Reformation

This book was by a guy called Dickens (not, however, the Charles variety who wrote A Christmas Carol), and it was remarkably good. I really enjoyed it, despite the fact it was about fifty years old. Okay, perhaps history does move on and there might be different views put forward about things now, but I enjoyed the style of writing and the informative nature of the book. By looking at the English Reformation as a whole, but with a focus on Cromwell, it cut the information down into a more manageable introduction to the subject--useful as a) it can cover such a large amount of stuff and b) it's something I've never had a proper look at before, other than a vague awareness of the Pilgrimage of Grace and the fact that it happened because Henry wanted a new wife. This book (understandably) highlights the role of Cromwell as organiser and goes to some trouble to stress that he was not personally responsible for the closure of every abbey and that he was not a personally horrible man. It was a fascinating read, and I certainly enjoyed it. It was well organised, and (although it must be borne in mind I don't know a lot about the period so I don't really have any way of judging whether it was of adequate scope on that basis), it was comprehensive in what it covered and did not leave too many irritating unanswered questions. It was clearly written with the fact that the audience may know very little in mind, and for that reason I would cite it as an ideal introduction to the topic and one of the main figures in it.

My only reservation in recommending this book quite strongly lies in its age. I suspect it'll be hard to get hold of, yes, looking at Amazon it appears the most recent edition of this was in the 70s, so that's not going to be much good. Sorry about that. You might be able to reserve it from a library--I think they keep their stocks of older books hidden rather than getting rid of all of them (well, they must have a copy in the Lancashire Libraries because that's where I borrowed it from, through the History Readers' Group in Chorley Library). If you can get hold of a copy, I would suggest that it makes an interesting introduction to the topic, and gives you a bit of an understanding of it, without going into too much detail (which can be off putting in the first book on a subject you read, where you just want to get the basic stuff straight in your head before looking into it more).

Merry Christmas!

Well, I've been a bit useless about posting over the past few weeks, but I'm back here just now. I had a fantastic Christmas yesterday, although I also ate too much... Anyway, had a great Christmas dinner, and lots of fun with a large number of guests and opening presents. Rachael made me an absolutely amazing little aeroplane, I may have to borrow mum's camera and stick a photo on, and it's filled with chocolates too! It shall go and hang on my ceiling when I've eaten them all, or perhaps on the shelf next to my Dakota. I hope you all had as much fun yesterday as I did.

Work's going pretty well. I have to confess, I am enjoying it mostly. Yes, it's a little bit repetitive and it's not challenging, but most of the customers have been pleasant (although let's face it, I have yet to encounter the customers in the sales, which may be a rather less pleasant experience), and I've managed to do a pretty wide variety of tasks, including: bag packing, shelf stocking (I even found a tin can that I took out the packet to put on the shelf and it was empty!), putting clothes back on the rails after people have tried them on, pricing up clothing for the sales, pricing up books and crockery for the sales, and so on. The money's pretty good for what it is, and let's face it, that's the only reason I'm really giving up my spare time. Whether I do end up getting the Mosquito in 1:24 scale I'm still not entirely sure about--it's rather large and three times more pieces than the next most complicated thing I've attempted. I might get a 1:24 scale Spitfire or something instead, or another big bomber to do--they're quite fun. And the 1:48 ones also look pretty awesome, with the added advantage that I've already got two of that scale, so they're not quite as out of place.

I'm still reading D-Day by Anthony Beevor, although I've read another couple of books while I've been reading it, on the basis that after overeating I wasn't feeling well last night and so read an Alaistar MacLean as it's somewhat easier reading than a history book, no matter how well written. There's a limit to how much comprehension you can offer when it's one in the morning and you feel ill, so I figured it was better to read When Eight Bells Toll (which I've read before), than carry on with a fascinating but by no means light book.

You might have seen that Borders UK was closing recently :(. It was one of the better bookshops in Preston--in fact, it was one of two new bookshops that I would actually class as bookshops. I was quite annoyed, although I must confess that I've not shopped there very often, as my dad hates going to Deepdale, which is one of the worst places to get into and out of. So now we just have a Waterstones, although there's also a very good Oxfam Bookshop and a stall on the market which is good for fiction. WHSmiths doesn't count as a bookshop, it's not got a proper selection of books really. There's another two bookshops, one new, one secondhand, but I scarcely ever go to them--they're from the same chain, and I've only ever been in the secondhand one, which is not really a proper secondhand bookshop, but is more a rare one. So although they might have Biggles books in, which I love, they're generally priced too high for me to afford (the same, unfortunately, is true of the Oxfam bookshop, although you can understand why they do it--if they can get the money for them off collectors then they might as well, but it's a shame for people like me who just want to read the things). And the other older books I like--Alaistar MacLean mostly--don't tend to feature as 'rare' books, but nor are they available in the library or new bookshops, except for a couple of re-editions they're gradually doing. However, the one good thing about Borders closing was that I managed to get four new history books which look really good for under £13, and one of them was meant to be £15 and I actually nearly bought it the other day. You can't get them secondhand for that--they're at least £3-£4 from the Oxfam bookshop, and that's assuming they get them (the market guy doesn't sell much non-fiction at all, though he might have one or two history books in at times). Anyway, now I'm done ranting about the state of bookshops in this town, I shall leave you in peace to enjoy the rest of the Christmas season.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

First Day of Work!

Well, today was the first ever day I spent in paid employment--everything else I've done has been volunteer. So it was kind of my fourth separate job (Oxfam bookshop, Bethany House, Museum of Lancashire in the summer, and now this). I have to admit I was a little nervous. My ankle was really sore last night, and I wasn't convinced I was going to manage working. It stopped hurting during the night (or at least, it was fine when I woke up), but as soon as I stepped out of bed it hurt again. Meh. Anyway, I had some painkiller and stuck this bandage thing on it and I was fine. So I did a nine till six day today, though the morning was all training. Pretty much common sense, but I guess they have to make sure, just in case people don't have any common sense. I'm pretty tired now, I'm gonna go and read. I've got the D-Day book by Antony Beevor which is supposedly pretty revisionist, but so far it seems to be saying basically the same things that Overlord by Max Hastings said. We shall have to see. It, did, however, talk about the parachutist stranded in Saint Mere Eglise who got stuck on the bell tower of the church and pretended to be dead. Which may not sound so exciting, until you realise that I stayed there when I went on holiday to Normandy, and the man who owned the chateau we were renting had seen him hanging there! Actually, to be fair, there are a couple of small things that are different, though they're both just as readable. Beevor does point out too that most of the fighting in Normandy was actually killing a higher proportion of men in divisions than the war in the East over the same sort of period, which I found quite stunning. Of course, there were far more troops involved in the East. Anyway, I'll let you know when I've finished reading it.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Halo: Contact Harvest

By David Staten, I just happened to see it in the library and it looked interesting. I didn't realise until I'd read the blurb that it was based on the Xbox game (which my brother happens to quite like), but I was intrigued. Normally, these things are not the sort of book you expect to get a lot of enjoyment out of--most of the movie/game/tv show adaptations I've attempted to read have been pretty poor. But this one was brilliant. I was dubious, so I read a few pages out of it, and it seemed pretty interesting still, so I got it out. And when I got home and started reading it, I found myself hooked. I actually struggled to put it down. I was amazed at how well written it was. The action was brilliant, but so too were the characters. They just seemed so real and alive, and you actually did get a bit worried about them when they were fighting. The aliens were brilliant! I found myself utterly gripped, and really enjoying the little details about the aliens that made them seem so real, so incredible. The society on both sides was well constructed, the incidents believable. It was, basically, great sci-fi, despite the fact it was based on a world from an Xbox game.

I have to say that I'd really recommend this book, strange as it may seem. I had a look on Fantastic Fiction and it seems that the rest of the Halo series is written by other authors--I might try them as well. Unfortunately, it also appears that the man who wrote this hasn't written anything else. I certainly hope he does.

One Minute to Midnight

Well. I was not overly impressed by this book. It was about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and though the author went to great lengths to show that the Americans and Soviets were never really eye to eye in the way commonly envisaged, that did not seem to prevent him engaging in what I considered cheap dramatics. For example: an aircraft was coming into land, the brakes failed, and then... It randomly skipped to something else for a page or two before reverting back to that story to finish it off (the pilot was fine by the way). As that particular 'character' had only just been introduced, it felt rather poor storymanship (if that's even a word!) to skip away from it and leave the reader hanging. Fine, have tension, but please, about someone we actually care about, and have been introduced to with a little bit more than about a page sketching in the details of this flight. It just felt a bit, well, pathetic really. If I was reading a fiction book that did that I'd think it just as cheap and pathetic. Another part of the problem was, the story focussed too much on telling it completely chronologically, which, towards the end of the book when it was getting detailed, tended to fragment it somewhat. Chronologically is not always the best way to do history--it can be better to follow a particular thread to its conclusion, then go back and follow another thread. Provided the reader is kept aware of what's being done, it is a lot easier to follow than switching abruptly between various sets of people.

The other thing about this book that annoyed me was the use of bad language and slang, the way the whole thing was laid out completely like a story. I have nothing against narrative history; I really enjoyed reading Munich by David Faber which is a brilliant piece of narrative history, but it just seemed excessively done. Okay, I'm sure presidents do swear and all the rest of it, but. It was not particularly appropriate, and it rather gave me the impression to be honest, that the Kennedys were more like gangster bosses than people I could show any respect for. In the same vein, JFK and RFK is just about okay, but using nicknames? I know it can be a little tiring to write out full names every time (which would have to be done given that John and Robert both played quite major parts), but surely randomly switching between proper name, 'Jack' and 'Bobbie' is annoying to someone other than me. It felt both unprofessional and as though the author was trying too hard to make it readable. It's an interesting topic, let it speak for itself rather than dumbing things down. Were it not for the fact that the topic was interesting, and I'm reading it for History Readers Group, I would've put it down and taken it back to the library (and been incredibly disappointed if I'd bought it). However, I finished it. And yes, some of the insights it gave were good, and I liked the way the smaller incidents did get some space in the narrative, but that didn't make up for the fact that it just felt amateurish, which would have, no doubt, been even more annoying if it had been fiction! It just wasn't well written.

One final comment: there were a load of photographs in the middle bits of the book, you know how you get some nice glossy pictures. They were all black and white, fair enough I guess, but surely it's not that much dearer to put them into colour (I assume they would be colour, perhaps not I suppose), but the other thing was, the captions were all but useless. A lot of them said 'previously unpublished, found in such and such a place', but didn't really explain what they showed. They just seemed a little pointless, though that, I suppose is a complaint that could be made about the pictures in a lot of history books. They don't always quite fit in with the text, and they're not always explained very well.

On the whole then, it's an interesting topic, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and this book did have one or two interesting things to say (like how things nearly kicked off thanks to a U2 getting lost over Russia, how another U2 was shot down and that really annoyed people but the Russians had actually authorised it etc), but it did not fulfil what it claimed to do. It was not a book that gave you the details of the ordinary people. There was nothing on public reaction other than the odd vague comment, there was nothing other than the fact that some of them moved to Florida on the people who would've formed an invasion force, in fact, there was almost nothing about the 'ordinary people' it was claimed would be represented in the book along with the big decision makers. The only people that really got a mention other than politicians were pilots and missile crews. It was also poorly written, so I'm sure there must be better books on this incident out there. Hopefully the other one I got will be.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

A Job!

Well, I have a job. Yep, I wasn't actually looking for one actively, which my dad unfortunately is, but I got offered one and decided to take it. Marks and Spencers for two weeks over Christmas, about sixty hours worth of work. I got a phone call to say that I'd been recommended for the job by a friend from church, would I come for interview on Friday. Naturally I agreed, remembering that a while ago the friend had mentioned they took extra people on for Christmas, was I interested and I'd said yes. So I turned up for interview, slightly nervous because I've never actually had a real job before--I've only ever been a volunteer. Anyway, I got asked four questions, for which I had to use personal experiences to talk about times I'd shown various qualities (I was pretty glad that I'd done the Duke of Edinburgh, it gave me something to talk about as that was quite a challenge but very enjoyable--we ended up doing our final expedition in February, which was maybe not the greatest of ideas as we got hailed on and were slightly concerned that the trees were going to drop down). Then the interviewers (two this time, one to ask questions, the other to write down what I said), went out the room to confer and left me a sheet to fill in. Then they came back and told me that I had the job, and here were my hours and I have training on Saturday. So I was pretty chuffed. The pay's good, particularly as I'm not actually entitled to minimum adult wage yet but they pay everyone the same regardless of age, though I've a few quite long days. Still, I managed Oxfam bookshop, when I was the only person on the till (somewhat unnerving at times, particularly at first when I didn't actually know exactly what I was meant to be doing and how various things were put in!), and college is hardly easy. I guess I would quite like to have Christmas just to chill, but let's be fair, what would I be doing? Only building models, reading, and spending time on the internet, and it's not as though I'm going to have absolutely no time to myself. I was doing three days a week (though with somewhat shorter hours) over most of the summer and that wasn't a bother--I still had plenty of time for myself. So yeh, I'm actually quite looking forward to it. It'll be a new experience, and they're always useful for stories.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Cambridge! Day 2

Right, as promised, here's day 2...

I woke up really early (about six o clock), and decided that I was fed up of trying to sleep, so I got up and opened the curtains. It was still really dark outside, but there was a vague sense that there was something quite impressive out my window, but I couldn't see any details. I sat on my bed and started to read, and I kept glancing up, seeing a few more details each time I looked up. Eventually, about seven, I got up and found myself drawn to the window. I looked outside, and lo and behold, I was in a magical world completely distinct from the world you find in Preston. It was like being in a castle. I was completely awed at how beautiful it was. There were huge, ancient trees opposite my window, and behind them, a wall. It was a castle-type wall, with great old stones, weathered and strong. Then I looked to my right, and that was what really took my breath away. I hadn't really seen it the night before because it was dark; in the light of the dawn it was incredible. The Fellow's building was there, ivy creeping up the lower half of the wall, an elaborate gate in the centre. The brickwork was old and beautiful and I was so amazed. I felt like I was in another world, like I'd left England and stepped back into the past, to a world where you could see princes and dragons and have a huge adventure. I'm actually going to set a story there.

Then it was time for breakfast. I went off through the grounds, and it was so beautiful. Anyway, had my breakfast and then it was time for my interview! I went into this building further along into the College, and when I got inside I was a bit awed, because it was just so old and amazing. The staircase felt like it was ancient, with the really old wood all shiny and dark. [Wow cool, I just got mentioned on the radio! I'm on the CrossRhythms chatroom and they just mentioned me on the show! Sorry, back to my story...]. I got to this door, and it didn't quite look like an office door, but I wasn't entirely sure. So I knocked on it and there was no response, so I decided that I'd go in, because I was pretty sure it wasn't the actual room. It wasn't. I sat down as it was a sort of waiting room area, and I was about ten minutes early so I read my magazine for a bit, and then the interviewer came out and promised me a passage to read in a few minutes. Came back, gave me the passage, it was really interesting. I was quite surprised by it to be honest, I was expecting something a bit more well, maybe ancient or pompous. Anyway, it was all about propoganda in the German Reformation, and it was quite surprising in a way. I never really thought about it as propaganda... Quite good though, because the last topic at our reading group had actually been the English Reformation! So I did have a bit of an idea of what it was talking about! But I really enjoyed it, and had a great discussion about the passage.

After that interview finished, and I managed to misread the pictures I got shown under the assumption that the artist was a Protestant who would disparage the Catholic excesses (or perceived excesses). Turns out the artist was a Catholic who was probably somewhat peeved about the fact that things had been 'rationalised'. Oh well, I tried my best. Then I went down to this waiting room and got to meet a bunch of other people who were there for interview too, but nobody who was there for history. Then there was another interview, and this one was a forty minute one. Really interesting again. I actually quite enjoyed myself I have to say. All about different 'types' of history eg oral as opposed to source based, objectivity and whether that was possible (no, there's too much chance that some little thing you have in your past is going to influence you--in weighing stuff up different people will naturally give different emphasis to different aspects or instinctively trust certain sources more than others), and using novels as a source.

Next came lunch, and then I tootled off to try and find the train station. Well, I was going to go by bus, but there was a one way street right outside the college, going the wrong direction. So I assumed it would follow about the only piece of logic Preston has managed to incorporate into its roads and there would be a one way street going the opposite direction if I walked off in a parallel direction. As an added bonus, I could go see King's College on the way. However, when I realised that I'd done the whole touristy bit and gaped at King's College (which is absolutely stunning, if you don't know what I'm talking about google it and you'll see why I was quite happy to go off on a diversion), and there was no sign of a road they even let cars down, let alone one going in the right direction, I realised that I'd perhaps misjudged things somewhat. But right at that moment, who should I see but a lady I'd met the previous night at church?! It just shows how awesome God's provision is. I was just starting to think I might have to stop a random passer by when lo and behold someone I actually knew (kind of) was walking past. So I got directions to the bus station where I could catch a bus to the train station. So that's what I did.

Had an interesting experience at the train station though... I misread the boards, went to platform three to catch the Birmingham train, and a train pulled up. I knew that the train wasn't due to leave for a while, and I was a bit dubious about the train. I can't say why exactly, it didn't have a destination on it or anything, it just didn't feel right. So I decided after a little while of reading that I would go and just check the boards, and that's when I discovered that the train was going to somewhere else (I can't remember where, but it certainly wasn't Birmingham), and that I actually wanted to be at platform four. So I managed to get on the right train home, or at least, half way there. I got there and discovered that Birmingham New Street is one of the worst stations I've ever been to. There was nowhere to sit down, and I had no idea what platform my train (in about half an hour) would be going from. I also thought, based on the timetables on the platform I'd got off at, that the train was actually going to Preston, it wasn't, it was going to somewhere else as its final destination. Thankfully, I realised this in time and was able to catch it without a problem. From there, it was a relatively simple matter to get home, where my dad met me at the station. So I had a wonderful time in Cambridge, and even if I don't get in (hope I do though), I can at least say I have slept in Christ's College, which was a fantastic experience.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Cambridge! Day 1

I went to Cambridge on Sunday. It took me four trains to get there, which was slightly annoying. Although the constant changes did break up the journey and stop me getting bored, they also meant that I lost a heck of a lot of time when I'd been hoping to read--I had a brilliant book on the social history of Britain between WWI and WWII with me--because since I didn't know any of the stations I didn't know how long it would be between the station before and the one I was getting off at. As I managed to fall down some stairs in a shop on Saturday and twist my ankle, I was hobbling a bit too so I needed to make sure I had enough time to get coat on, get handbag, and retrieve suitcase from either over my head or on the luggage rack. Not the easiest thing in the world when I'm not all that tall and my ankle was sore. But I managed all the changes without a problem (perhaps half because I was up for up to ten minutes before we arrived at the stations...). Anyway, I got to Cambridge over five hours after setting off from Preston, and the weather was really bright and blue skyed! It had gradually got bluer as I travelled down. I've been reliably informed that it rains nowhere near as much in Cambridge as it does in Preston. To be honest, it would be difficult to find somewhere that rains more than Preston.

So because I had another hour or so before I was due at the college, I got on a random bus (no idea where it was going--there didn't seem to be anythign that told you where they went besides the final destinations that meant nothing to me, so I figured I'd just get on and see where I ended up), and went past Parker's Piece. So I got off and tootled along, since I knew where I was then, and sat on a bench in the park to read until it went dark. The only problem was, that made my suitcase wheels somewhat muddy... I don't think my dad was so impressed when I got back :).

Once it was dark, I went to Christ's College and got the key for my room, and then I rang a lady from a church in Cambridge who used to go to my church but left before we came back from America. So basically, a friend of a lot of friends :D. She arranged to pick me up so I could go to their church, and it was amazing!

It was a little weird being picked up by somebody I'd never met before, but everyone in the church was really friendly and the worship was amazing. I'm not a complete swing off the chandeliers sort of person normally, but it was awesome. And the message was fantastic. All about taking things a step at a time and living by faith, trusting and going for it. And the fact that it's not too late to take an opportunity you thought you'd missed. It was really encouraging, because I certainly feel like I'm going at life without a master plan. Got to college and only decided on the day I was finalising my application complete with results exactly what combination of subjects I was going to take. Realised that history was definitely still my favourite subject while doing at college, and eventually decided that I didn't want to do it with another subject, and which universities I'd apply for. So I think I've worked it out up to the point where I graduate. Then what? Well, does it matter? I'll find out when I get there, which should be soon enough. I've got three years yet.

As this post is getting rather long, and I'm going soon to house group, I'm going to split this up into two posts. Tomorrow (hopefully) will come part two.


I've just realised that I haven't actually posted on here since the end of November... Oops. I never told you how I did with the whole novel in a month thing... Well, I managed an official total of 109,694. Which is the most I've ever written in a month before (my previous record was 108,000 in January. Actually, I just checked that to see exactly, and it's not actually the highest I've ever managed! That would be 117,454 in January, not 108000 as I thought. I never realised it was that much! To be fair though, I did have about a week with nothing to do--I think about half of that was written before I went back to college, I do know that I managed to write an entire story in 2 weeks). Anyway, I'm quite chuffed with that total as you can imagine, especially because I didn't neglect college work or even reading to attain it. I've just discovered off the nanowrimo website that out of the people in Manchester signed up for the Regional Word War (we came 12th--it goes off average words rather than total so that it's fair), I got the highest wordcount! The wordcount there as the highest is mine!!! Sorry, I shall calm down. I didn't know that before. Anyway, nanowrimo went pretty well. I wrote Moonwalker from start to finish, and begun another story which I will hopefully finish at some point which is currently untitled. I'm quite chuffed with Moonwalker, I don't think it's gonna need that much editing. Well, not major major editing. It does need a couple of random off topic injunctions taking out, and there are a few scenes I need to delete and alter, but nothing too major.

Well, I've just started another new story (yeh, I can't help myself sometimes, but it's a story I've been trying to write for a while and I think I might actually get it down this time as it has a totally different start to where my previous attempts went from), and it's another angel one. Mainly focussing on Red, who I think is one of the most interesting characters I've ever written. It'll be the seventh chronologically, although it's the ninth that I've actually written. And I think I should probably do a bit of editing work on Winged Fire (second angel story). Well, rewriting. Anyway, I should go do some work on my Assignment...


Well, on Wednesday after college I tootled off to Manchester along with the rest of the back row of my class in maths--four of us in total. We went on the train (eventually!), and we were supposed to be looking round the German market. However, we seort of ended up looking round about a million other shops first... And then we went for tea. Found a really nice Chinese and had duck and chicken in okay sauce--really yummy :D. However, when we went down to the Christmas Market, it was closing :(. It appears that it closes at nine, rather than at ten as we assumed. So we only managed to get a quick look round, although it was rather magical. Everything was lit up, and there was a huge Santa on the roof of the town hall. I did really enjoy it, although I have to admit I was a bit disappointed we'd missed most of the Market. However, I'm probably going again with my family, so that's okay. And it was quite fun looking in posh shops, because my dad would never go in places like that. So it was a good time, and I enjoyed getting to spend time with my friends in maths, because I don't normally see them outside of lessons.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Murder Mystery!

I went to a murder mystery night on Friday! It was so much fun! And also quite amusing as it was set at the end of WWII, and my parents both had parts as German officers. So they were wearing swastikas and carrying fake wooden guns (which, as my dad had made them himself out of bits of wood were quite obviously fake), and we had to go in that... I went as a land girl. I didn't have a proper role so I decided to go as that, my brother didn't have a proper role either but being a boring sort he didn't bother to dress up. Well, we were a little bit concerned because as I was walking home from college I noticed the police were stopping people to check for drink driving. And there were my parents in German uniforms complete with swastika armbands! We made sure to take the invitation just in case, but it was okay, they'd gone when we went past. But that could've been quite interesting.

It was great fun throughout, although there was rather less improvising and acting involved than I'd imagined there would be. However, the story was quite amusing. Buster made an amazing sausage seller, and my dad was a very convincing German officer (am I allowed to say that???). Frank was also brilliant as Frank Le Orful, particularly as he was doing the whole thing in a broad Lancashire accent (and he was supposed to be a French cafe owner). I was dead chuffed that I managed to guess whodunit before we were told the answer, and I'd even guessed it from a clue right at the very, very start of the mystery. Yay! I had a great night though, really enjoyed myself. If you ever get invited to one, go for it, just completely go for it as much as you can and have a laugh :D.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

In a Free Republic

Okay, so I have masses of books that I've read before this one (just finished it) to review still, but never mind. By Alison Plowden, I picked it up because I'd got interested in the English Civil War (Cavaliers and Roundheads variety) and I wanted to know what happened afterwards. While I get the impression that this is a very interesting period in history, with all the religious disturbances, the change to a Commonwealth, then Protectorate, then Commonwealth, then restoration of the King, I found this book quite poor. It was badly organised, that was one of the main problems. Things weren't told in even a vaguely logical order. There were references to a particular royalist uprising, but then later references to apparantly the same thing seemed to suggest it happened after Oliver Cromwell's death, while the initial description seemed to suggest it was while he was still alive. The reasons for the Protectorate were mostly dealt with succinctly, but when you start to find information about the medicinal practices of the time in a chapter about (or at least allegedly so) Coffee Houses and Witches. It was partially in chronological order, partially in a vague sort of topic order, which had the effect that it was difficult to follow clearly and I cannot imagine trying to find information in that book with regard to any specific topic. It really was quite all over. So I was very disappointed that such an interesting topic was so poorly covered. I wouldn't recommend it, though I would certainly like to know more about the period. Oh, the other thing that confused/annoyed me was that at the end of the book when it was talking (in very brief terms) about the Restoration, you initially got the impression they were talking about Charles II! And of course, he'd had his head chopped off... So if anyone happens to know of a good book about this period, I'd appreciate it if you could let me know. It's just hard to find books on something like this when your local library, despite having two and a half bookcases full of WWII books, has less than a shelf on the English Civil War... I'm sure there're some in storage somewhere, but I don't really like browsing books on the library catalogue (particularly as when I was looking for books on WWI aviation it brought up nothing, and when I've searched for English Civil War, it's come up with books on the American Civil War instead. Humph. Anyway, it wasn't a great book by any stretch of the imagination.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


Well, not only am I now an official Nanowrimo winner, I have also managed to finish Moonwalker! There are one or two bits I need to go back and fix, but that can wait. I'm just chuffed that I've done it. 26 days from start to finish, and it's approximately 80000 words. I'm really pleased with how the story itself turned out as well. Especially since it was the first time I ever went into Nanowrimo with a plan--normally I find it quite hard to write from a plan. I tend to go in with a couple of characters and just run for it. But I had a beginning, a vague idea of a middle, and a vaguer idea of an end. Still more than I normally write with. Character profiles are the only planning I've ever done for a story that's worked, not the synopsis I came up with for Moonwalker (although I hadn't worked out the title until half way through). Anyway, I'm not finished with Nanowrimo yet. I've started another with a character that leapt upon me on Sunday and demanded a story as soon as I'd finished this one. I suspect it's going to have a historical element to it, perhaps a little more so than with Moonwalker which was technically sci-fi but also involved Egyptians. Anyway, I'll go now and do a little more writing, but I just wanted to share that I've finished Moonwalker :D.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


I'm purple :D. Yay! I lost a couple of words because I think open office is a little more generous as to what constitutes a word (as in, about a thousand extra words more generous...), but I'm still purple. Okay, I suppose I need to qualify that statement a little. It maybe doesn't quite make sense. Basically... I'm now an official Nanowrimo 2009 winner. I scrambled and uploaded my novel, and the word counting monkeys deemed it long enough to make me an official winner. My story is also nearly finished. I just need Sprite to walk out the hospital, borrow/steal with the intention of returning (I hope) a Naut (my name for an aircraft on the Moon), head out to the First Colony, and join up with the archaeologists again. Then he can explain to them in no uncertain terms that the First Colony most certainly did not have weapons, they were a pacifist society that got wiped out by the Americans. Oh, and it might be a good idea to fetch Emma back after she ran away when I kinda killed her boyfriend with a booby trap. Yeh, I think she needs to return at some point. Soon I hope. Cos I have another story which seems to want writing NOW and I keep telling the characters to hold off until I've finished Moonwalker. And I need to decide what time period new story is set in too, as I'm half tempted to place it in the 1950s... We shall see.

Friday, 20 November 2009

First Blitz

I really really enjoyed this book. I nearly bought it, decided that it was a rather big book to have on just one topic, and didn't. But then I saw it at the library and thought I'd give it a go, and have now come to the conclusion that it would've been worth buying it. Neil Hanson does a fantastic job of bringing an intriguing and little known event to life. At times his tale is very moving, particularly when describing the deaths of a number of schoolchildren due to a German bomb which fell on a primary school. There were tears in my eyes as I read the first hand accounts which were woven into the narrative throughout (although I admit I am quite an emotional person at times). Now, I'm a bit of a WWI aviation fan, as you may have noticed :D, but I'd never heard of this attempt, or the England Squadron as it was termed. And though I had a vague knowledge, inspired by some pictures, that there were a couple of massive aircraft built by Germany, I had no idea just what they stretched to. Aircraft, biplanes remember, and rather flimsy things at that, which had five/six engines, and the Giants were bigger than anything the British or Germans flew during WWII (so bigger than a Lancaster bomber, and that is BIG). Can you imagine what it would be like to fly in something like that?! Well, Neil Hanson does a very good job of capturing the sorts of emotions flying through the pilots and crews minds as they set out on their missions.

The England Squadron's sole purpose was to deliver a devastating load of bombs to London, in order to force England to capitulate. The theory was, that if London was wiped out, the ability of the British people to resist would be shattered. Basically, it was area bombing as later practiced by the British. Hanson traces the battle from both sides--that of the victims on the ground, and that of the aircrew who flew these tremendously long missions, bearing in mind that in 1917 when the thing really got started, aeroplanes had only been able to fly over the Channel for eight years. And in 1918, apparently the Germans were only minutes away from delivering a massive strike upon London, one which would (theoretically) have had a similar impact to the attack upon Dresden as the incinidaries to be dropped were almost identical in design, and the methods had been finalised as a result of experience gained previously. At the last minute, politics intervened: the German high command felt sure they were going to lose the war, and feared that by bombing London they would inflict upon themselves a more punitive peace than would otherwise be the case. It is interesting to ponder what would've happened had the messenger's car broken down and the England Squadron taken into the air. Would London have been wiped out? Would enough planes have gotten through to cause substantial damage? There was little risk from anti-aircraft fire, which could not see the night-flying bombers, and relied upon pinpointing them with sound (apparently blind people were used for this role, as they had more sensitive hearing) and then ranging the guns accordingly. The anti-aircraft guns were in fact more of a danger to London than to enemy aircraft. And the aircraft sent out as interceptors had only the most rudimentary night time flying equipment--it was all rather trial and error, and incredibly difficult to find a Gotha or Giant when you were up there in the dark. No, the real danger was from the aircraft themselves. Only two sorties out of every single mission flown by the England Squadron had no aircraft suffering engine failure and returning to base. It has to be remembered that they were flying these massive bombers at a time when the Sopwith Camel killed about as many pilots through its own violent right hand spin and engine failure and structural failure as the enemy pilots did shooting them down.

This is a remarkable book, well written and gripping, and echoes of WWII sneak through its pages. The air defence system which was put in place by the end of WWI was identical in every respect apart from the fact that radar replaced audio direction finding, to that used in WWII with such success. The lessons learned from the bomber offensive were ironically used differently by each side. The British concluded that a) the bomber would always get through, and b) it would be possible in future for a knock out blow upon the enemy, that morale bombing would work as they had seen such disruption (completely out of proportion to actual damage). The Germans on the other hand, concluded that it was pretty much a waste of time. Both conclusions are still drawn about area bombing.

I would strongly recommend this book. Not only does it tell a fascinating story, Neil Hanson writes with insight and flair. I really enjoyed this book, and will probably find myself reading it again, and I'll certainly keep my eye out for other books by him.

A Question...

Okay, so what I want to know is this: I normally use Firefox. Today, it is being awkward and insisting that I have a non-responding window open when I blatantly don't, and therefore won't let me open it. I can't be bothered to restart my computer--it takes a fair while. So: why is it so different looking on Internet Explorer? I mean, it's not even as though I'm on a different website. But for some reason, all the controls at the tob of this web page are bigger, the text in this box is smaller, and everything seems rather square. And also, why does Chrome not work with Blogger? You would've thought that with them both being google things, that Chrome would be the optimum platform to use with blogger. But I tried three times to log on, and I know user name and password was right, and even when I clicked sign in rather than enter it just refreshed the home page rather than logging me in. Humph. So now I'm forced to write this blog post without using Firefox, so it all looks a bit weird, and without a built in spell checker, which is always useful when you have a tendency to make loads of typos. Can any computery people explain in non-technical language? Or is it just that it is like this?

Thursday, 19 November 2009


James May did a programme on TV a few weeks ago about the joys of model making. Now, that just happens to be one of my hobbies, so although I was at a Blest rehearsal when it was shown, I made sure to catch it on BBC iPlayer (incidentally, the first time I've ever used it--worked well and wasn't difficult to operate at all). One of the things he said struck me; he claimed that the reason they're having to make GCSEs easier is because people are not making models any more. Now, having done GCSEs quite recently myself, I don't quite agree that they've got easier. However, it did get me thinking. What's the point in making models? What do you learn from it? And do you even learn from it or is it just fun? Well, I can identify about twenty odd aircraft quite easily because I've made models of them. When I read stuff about Spitfires, I can look up and there's one hanging right over my bed, along with a Lancaster and a Mosquito and a couple of other WWII types. But the ones I really love are the WWI ones. I've built six, and have another three to build. And I'm really pleased to say that Airfix has finally decided to release some WWI aircraft in their range. Previously, I've had to get Revell ones, and the instructions just aren't as good. They take longer because you have to sit there at the start and make a note of which letter represents which paint (not helped by the fact that most of my paints are Humbrol, and they have different numbers to the Revell ones). And I had some real difficulties with the instructions when I was building my Chinook, because some of the instructions were wrong. Anyway, I'm really pleased that Airfix has finally decided to release some. I did manage to find a few Airfix ones before--from the car boot, and they'd been released ages ago and discontinued.

Anyway, what skills do you gain from building Airfix models? Take it from one who's built over thirty (mostly aircraft, but a truck and gun, and a tank too), you definitely learn patience. And besides the obvious fine motor skills painting and poking little parts into place, you do learn how to follow instructions and think ahead--you quite often have to paint things like the area around the cockpit cover before you can put the pieces on, which can mean flicking to the end. Plus you learn about what you build, because there's always a bit of information with it. For example: the Seafire which I just built informed me that although it was superb in the air, the narrow track landing carriage made it very difficult to land on a ship.

Or am I just totally justifying a hobby I love for the simple reason that it's enjoyable and rewarding to look at a model and think 'that used to be x number of bits of plastic, and now it's a...'? Hmm, maybe :D. I'd really recommend you give it a go though (the starter kits are great, they come with all the paints and the glue that you'll need, and if you get a more basic one, you shouldn't find it too hard).


This was the first James Rollins book I've ever read, and it was brilliant. I'll definitely be reading loads more of his books (actually, I've read a couple since and really enjoyed them too). The characters were brilliant, I have to admit I completely fell in love with Sam. I think one of the things that really struck me, besides the brilliant plot line and action, was the way the characters interacted so realistically. To me, that's the most important thing. A book might have the most intriguing plot in the world, but if the characters fall flat, it's pointless and I just can't read it. It's the little details that make the characters in this book, like Sam's battered cowboy hat. The plot, as I said earlier, was also pretty awesome. Sam's leading an archaeological team (I can spell that thanks to my nano novel!) in the Andes, and they stumble across some intriguing remains in an old temple. When an earthquake traps them below ground, they have to find another way out, and discover a tribe that has been 'lost' to modern knowledge. A fascinating story, and packed with believable details, it really impressed me. I'd highly recommend it.

Monday, 16 November 2009


Yay!!!!! I've finished!!!! Well, not the story, but the word count. Fifty thousand, yay!!! Can you tell I'm excited??? Maybe I should stop using so many exclamation marks, but yay! Finished today (had a thousand words left on Sunday, but I was at church in the evening and Ruth's in the afternoon, so I didn't get chance to quite make it all the way), and now, I get to try and finish the story before the end of the month. I wonder if I could have two certificates if I do double the needed word count? I wonder if I could even manage double the needed word count, cos obviously I still have college stuff to do etc. Anyway, I'm chuffed. And if you look across to the left at the top of this page, you get to see that my participant status has changed to winner :D. Heading off for English Lit. Cheerio.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

45000 Words!

Well, I've only five thousand words left to win nanowrimo for this year, although my novel has a good bit to go yet. I think I'm going to have to do some quite severe cutting back when I'm finished though. I have several gratuitous fight scenes which I should probably cut out. I blame bonfire night :D. But yeh, I'm thinking I should manage to hit fifty thousand tomorrow, when I can come back and scream about it. But for now, I think I'm going to abandon computer and go finish reading The Venetian Betrayal by Steve Berry (very, very interesting, although I'm slightly miffed that I appear to have started a series some distance into it, and there's a slightly confusing aspect but I'll talk about that when I come to write the review).

Thursday, 12 November 2009


I realised after I posted that and was going to go, that I never said about how my novel was coming on. Well, it's no longer untitled. It's called Moonwalker. So far, due to repeated attacks by various 'baddies' including robots, wild animals, Ferals (radiation affected humans who often have an affinity with animals and may act like wild animals too), and a slight diversion when I sent Sprite off to help some other military chaps to take a hill, my characters have not yet arrived at the site of the First Colony where they'll start digging. However, Sprite has picked up a baby tiger, they've been joined by Catcher who was rather unexpected, and the characters have developed quite nicely. I'm also at just over 36000 words, which means I'm ten days ahead of schedule. (In other words, I've written 36000 words in twelve days!) And I've still managed to read a bit and build another two models (a tank and a truck with a gun). Oh, and my dad helped me hang another ten aircraft from my ceiling the other day, so the sky above my bed and throughout my room is starting to look rather busy. They're quite hard to count because they're all over the place, but I think there's about thirty of them up there now, of various types. The only thing that unites all of them is that they're all military (I'm counting my Tiger Moth as military because it's got RAF roundels on and it was used as a trainer). Other than that--well, there's two Harriers, three helicopters including a Chinook, a Lancaster bomber, an F-15E, six WWI aircraft, a number of WWII ones of German, British and American make, and several inter-war aircraft. So not really a particularly unified collection, but it looks good. Most of them are English. Oh, there's another two jets that I forgot about, a Red Arrows Gnat which was one of my first Airfix ones (I used to build wooden models, then 'graduated' to Airfix type), and a Skyhawk. And a wooden one too. And a Dakota on a stand. I nearly forgot about my Dakota. Hmm, yeh, quite a collection I guess. I'll have to get a Hurricane sometime to go with the Spitfire and the Defiant. Yeh, that went slightly off topic. Never mind. Suffice to say, Nanowrimo so far is going pretty well, I'm on the downward slope from 35000, hopefully I have enough spare time to finish it off.

Jane Eyre

Well, I did read this over the summer, in the end. (Yes, I'm still on the books I read over summer, but you'll be glad to know I am now actually reaching the end of my huge long list, which was 45 books long... I haven't written reviews of stuff I've read before though, and one or two books I read that weren't so good I've basically forgotten what happens (they were pretty mediocre fiction), so I won't bother with those either). I put it off most of the way through the summer holidays, and realised three days before going back to college that I was actually going to have to read it. So I picked it up and tried to find the point I'd abandoned it at about three years earlier because I just couldn't face any more, and realised that instead of it being a third of the way through, as I'd thought, I was actually only three chapters in :(. It dragged, is all I can say. I had to bribe myself with letting myself reread Foxbat by James Barrington, and the truly excellent Excavation by James Rollins (have I reviewed that? I should do if I haven't, it's amazing!) in order to get through it. To be fair, I thought the plot wasn't too bad. I suppose I've been 'spoilt' by reading such fast-paced thrillers as Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly, which goes ridiculously fast and has stuff happening constantly, but I couldn't help but find large parts of Jane Eyre rather boring and superfluous. For a lot of the book, the most fun I had was looking up the occaisional word I didn't know, and finding out that a Barmicide Feast was from Arabian nights after a rich guy pretended to give a beggar a feast, but it was actually just a plate with nothing on. I enjoyed, I have to admit, the part where she was flirting with Rochester while still a governess, but I guessed really early on that there was either an illegitimate child or a wife in the attic (without having ever gone near the story before), and that kind of spoilt things for me. And then there was the whole wandering in the Moors. When she was lying in the heather etc I found myself wanting to slap her and scream at her to stop being so pathetic and feeble, and to just go back to Rochester, marry him, and let me go and read something a bit more exciting. However, it did end (fairly) well, although part of that might have been my relief that it was finally out the way.

To be fair on the book, when reading it in small chunks to analyse in English Lit, I have enjoyed looking at it. There's a limit to how much you could possibly write about something like Scarecrow by Matthew Reilly, because it is literally all action. Maybe something about the evils of capitalism??? I know that my dislike of Jane Eyre is rather controversial--I was surprised to find myself rather in the minority in my English Lit class, and when I commented that I didn't like it on Facebook, I got a considerable number of people saying they totally disagreed. Fair enough, but I suppose romance (or at least, romance this long-winded) is not my style of book. I don't think it's fair to say that just because it's a classic everyone should read it and enjoy it, and I also don't think it's fair to slate authors such as Dan Brown (I really enjoyed Digital Fortress), just because they're thrillers and they're somewhat escapist rather than 'serious'. Digital Fortress does address the issue of whether or not the government should be allowed to read our e-mails. I wonder if the government reads this? And I was hoping to pair Mattimeo by Brian Jacques with Jane Eyre, as Mattimeo is definitely a bildungsroman, and involves plenty of journey. However, the Welsh exam board said it had to be a 'respectable' sort of book, and as Mattimeo is technically a children's book, and also about talking animals, I don't think it quite fits into that category. It's a brilliant book though, and it certainly addresses the issue of growing up and of having expectations placed upon you that you might find it difficult to live up to/ don't want to live up to. I honestly think Brian Jacques' books deserve to be classics far more than Kidnapped which I never managed to read and did not get past the first page when I tried at an age when I (supposedly) should have enjoyed it. Anyway, that's enough of a rant about Jane Eyre. I wouldn't recommend it, but a lot of people would, maybe you should try a few pages (the middle bits are the best bits...).

Churchill's Wizards

This was such a fun book to read. It was completely awesome! The stories of deception and cunning that were employed in both World Wars, from the early efforts of the camofleurs, to the later, sophisticated deception operations including creating an entirely false alternative D-day landing, sticking documents in a dead body and floating it into occupied France, and racing about the desert with various false armies and camoflauged real ones. It covers deception from the earliest efforts at avoiding aerial reconnaissance, through sniper covers, false trees (one of which was unfortunately struck by a shell after a great deal of effort getting it into place and destroyed), dazzle paint, paranoid inventors who believed that the Germans had disguised entire roadways under massive false terrain, and all the way through to D-day. Incredibly well written, it turned what could have been a dry and dull book into not just an informative but also a fascinating read. I'd highly recommend this book, as it adds a fascinating insight into how the art of camoflauge came to be what it is today, and how deception was used throughout the Second World War to get the Germans to look in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like I said, it's a fun book to read and I really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

History of Military Aviation

I read up to the end of the Second World War bit in this book, and to be quite honest I was disappointed. I think the trouble is, it was trying to cover to big a period. There were some skimpy mentions of the early early part, like the early use of balloons as observation platforms (eg Boer War), and about the really early stuff in Britain. I think there was too much focus on the English side too, and yet they missed out some of the mega journeys (like the one over the Atlantic! Which was even done by naval aviators!), which obviously had an impact on the rest of it. I suppose the part on the First World War was okay as a summary, but that's really all it was. I got a bit bored to be honest and gave it back to the library. I wouldn't really recommend it except as a starting point--if you know much about it already, it doesn't say much new. In fact, there were only the odd one or two details which I didn't know about. The pictures were quite impressive and large scale, but the real problem is that it was trying to cover over a hundred years of aviation history in one volume. I have a bigger one now that covers the history of aviation up to about 1936 when it was published, which is made up of a series of articles. The first one was about the flight across the Channel in 1909, and there was a very relevant point made--the idea that you could be completely out of sight of land and could only see the sea below doesn't seem all that major to us now, but to Bleriot it would have been pretty stunning. If his engine went wrong then (which was quite likely--there was another man who was on the verge of doing it before him but had to ditch, then tried again on the same day and again had to ditch, though both times he was rescued), he would've been stuck. It had never been done before, and the engines were unreliable enough over land, where at least you had a half decent chance of finding an empty field and landing there. Anyway, the History of Military Aviation basically has good pictures and not amazing commentary alongside it. If you ever happen to see Aerial Wonders of Our Time though (and you have an interest in the subject...), I would highly recommend you grab it.

The Guilded Seal

Wow! I started reading James Twining because the book just happened to be in a buy one get one free and it looked like a cool cover (I know, I know, don't judge a book by the cover, but I read the blurb too, which also made it sound cool). So I got it, and boy am I glad I did. I've now read all three in the series, and I wish there were more.

Basically, they're about an art thief, the best in the business, who decides that it's time to leave the game. So he ends up setting up a business with his ex-fence in order to help people recover stolen works of art and to suggest security improvements using his own experience. That doesn't really do it justice, but I don't want to just post them one after the other and do them individually. They're really really good basically, and I'd highly recommend them if you'd like to read a crime novel from the 'other' side. So yeh, well worth investing a bit of time into these books. They're quite fun to read, and the main character (Tom Kirk), is absolutely ace. If they did this as a film (and did it well, some books have been done shockingly badly like Eragon), he's the sort of character everyone would be drooling over, because he's got such depth and yet he comes across as so quick and fun, the sort of person you'd want to spend time with. So that was a whiz speed review of James Twining. Watch this now, I'll click on post and then realise I've actually written about him already. Never mind.

10K Shout Out!!!

Yay!!!! I hit ten thousand words a little bit earlier. I'm now on eleven thousand, but ten thousand's a mile stone. And I hit it three days early (not literally I hope, that could be quite painful to hit a mile stone, they're pretty solid...). So yes, that's ten thousand words into a brand new novel. All in three days. I've also finished off my English Lit coursework and an essay for my distance learning course. Which I guess is a bonus (although for both of those my problem was more cutting down the word count, because I had too much to say and not enough words to say it in). Anyway, I hit ten thousand words. And so far the only unexpected thing has been a contingent of robots, but as I'm writing sci-fi, I guess that doesn't really matter too much. Robots are just fine in sci-fi.

Sunday, 1 November 2009


Not Nanowrimo. Just the story I was writing before Nanowrimo. Well, novel. The Ark is now complete, don't ask me how long because it isn't typed up. Any rate, I managed to finish it 22 minutes before Nanowrimo began. And today, I have managed so far 4492 words, which is about two and a half days worth of novel. So far, it's going pretty well. My inter-character conflict is developing quite nicely (and naturally) by itself, with Vari and Patrick hating Sprite's guts, and Emma sitting on the fence a bit. I think she might have to get together with Sprite, but Patrick is definitely chasing her. Definitely. And they're all on the Moon, without any mishap (although Vari was rather intimidated by the pilot telling her he'd 'only' hit the sea seven times in the past twelve months, and as it wasn't that long since the most recent hitting the sea it wasn't their turn for it). And I wrote in Lukas like he asked me too :D. Anyway, that's where it stands at the moment. They're just about to head off for the First Colony, so we shall see what happens.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

If I drop off the face of the internet...

If I drop off the face of the internet for a month, it's because I'm in nanoland. My username there is NutmegAngel too, so you can all go see how I'm doing (if you can be bothered :D). But in two hours and forty minutes, Nanowrimo is going to start, and that means I'll be trying to write 50000 plus words in a month. I know this is doable. I've done it twice before in Nanowrimo, and I've hit twice that in a month before now. However, I do also have to keep up with college work, distance learning course, and I'd like to continue reading because I just bought a new book and got a bunch out the library. So, that means that things like going on the internet are probably going to take place less frequently (although there's a high likelihood of me procrastinating over on the Nanowrimo forums... ).

I went to the Kick Off Party today. Off on the train, all on my lonesome, which was quite an adventure in itself (last time I did that was to York Uni, and that was also the first time). I got to Manchester over an hour and a half early (I blame my dad--he took me to the station really early, so I got on an earlier train that was also faster), wandered around the Arndale (is that how you spell it?) Centre for a while, got a book from Waterstones, and then off to the Chinese Buffet. Very fun. We all got goody bags with stickers and even a magnate! Great to chat to people who are about to embark on this crazy and insanely fun adventure. You should do it too :D. And I was amazed that I got treated like a bit of a veteran because this is my third year, and hopefully third win as well (you win if you complete--it's nothing to do with how good your writing is, only to do with the fact that you have to write 50000 words, and technically, yes, you could write the same word fifty thousand times, but where's the fun in that?!). So I guess that does make me a bit of a veteran. There were quite a few new to it. I was surprised, but I guess I shouldn't be. Stuff that good has a habit of gathering an increasing number of people to it. Anyway, I should go and finish off my ancient history homework, and hopefully my current novel, so that I can start at midnight. Two and a half hours to go! Yay!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Less than 1 week to go!!!

Well, it's less than a week until Nanowrimo starts. I'm still thinking I'll go with the same story (archaeology on the moon, so technically sci-fi, but also kinda historical). Although I might skip out the robot thing, or have him less sentient. I already have four major characters, so I don't know that I'll need another. Anyway, this is probably a pointless discussion. They'll probably wind up running off to Pluto or something equally ridiculous--nothing I've done at Nanowrimo has ever gone to plan (in fact, I can't actually think of a single story I've done that's actually gone according to what I expected...). So I also have less than a week to finish writing my current story (archaelogical thriller--a non sci-fi version this time, although I suppose... no, it doesn't really fit in the sci-fi. It's just not definitively set in a specific time. It's round about now, but not really, if that makes sense. Anyway, it's about a search for the Ark of the Covenant, and it winds up being in South America. And there's a golden ship too. I'm quite pleased with it at any rate, and it is almost finished. I just need Jay to get the golden ship off the Opposition, load the Ark back on, and head off to Israel. Just... Nah, it's doable. I've had 10k days before now, and if that's really what I need to finish it off, that's what I'll do.

Oh yeh, I also have two books to read before Friday evening for the History Readers group, although I'm part way through both (started one, realised I really couldn't follow it, decided to read the other first and then I had a bit of an idea of what the guy was talking about--we're doing the Fall of the Roman Empire, and I think that was one of the things I missed when I lived in America--at any rate, I know very, very little (or I did, I'm starting to learn a lot more now). So yeh, that to do, a bit more of my distance learning course to do, and a couple more books to read. Including a massive massive massive one that I got from the car boot today, which was published in 1936, and therefore is just about aviation pre WWII, which is the bit that I'm really interested in! This might be the nice fat, interesting book I've been looking for since I started reading Biggles. Hmm... it's smiling at me. I might just go read a chapter or so, and then read the Roman ones. That sounds like a good idea. Bye :D

Saturday, 17 October 2009

They Fought For the Sky

This is basically the only book I've really come across that's dedicated just to WWI aviation as a general history of it. There are some books on specific aircraft (Osprey Aircraft of the Aces), and generally a WWI book will mention them in the vaguest terms, as will (usually) a history of military aviation, although they quite often just start with 1918 when the RAF was formed. Unfortunately, I don't think it's in print. One sec. Yeh, I've just looked on Amazon and the most recent edition they have is 1977. But it's really good. I was totally gripped, and it wasn't just because I love WWI aviation (at least, I don't think it was). I really enjoyed it.

There was more mention of the thrilling exploits of the RNAS in Belgium, though I got the impression that a lot of it came from Churchill's book... There were a lot of references to Churchill too, although to be fair, Churchill was Chief of the Air Ministry or something along those lines, and also as the Minister for the Navy he was involved with the RNAS too.

It was a really good introduction to the air war, with sections on the people involved (the aces), the aircraft, the tactics. However, I don't think it really went deep enough to be completely satisfying. I still want to know more. I saw one or two new books in a bookshop in London on the topic, but they don't seem to have them at the library (with the exception of First Blitz, which is absolutely excellent, but does only cover a limited aspect of the air war). Still, it was an enjoyable book, and the pictures were great because I was trying to put strings on a Sopwith Triplane at the time, and the instructions with the model weren't very good, so I was able to see what it should look like.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Blest Rehearsal

So, I said a while back that I'd volunteered myself to play my clarinet at Blest at the next one. Well, nothing happened for a little while, and then I got a text saying the rehearsal was on Tuesday. Lukas very kindly picked me up after my clarinet lesson (I had an hour on Tuesday because my exam was Thursday), and took me to Inglewhite. Please don't ask me where that is, I really have no idea. I've only ever been there and back in the dark. It's a gorgeous little church though, and it kinda looks from the inside like somebody's chopped the back end off. I was a little bit nervous--I'd never been to a Blest rehearsal before, I didn't know what I was going to be asked to do or anything. But all the folk were really nice and totally put me at ease.

John got me to improvise along with this drone thing which was made by the keyboardy-piano with a bit of sellotape, and the guitar people. He told me what key, so at least I knew what sharps and stuff when I'd transposed it up one, but I've never really improvised with other people before, so that was kinda interesting. Then I was doing that into a microphone, which was even more scary, but I got used to it. So yeh, we improvised stuff around a lot, which was really fun once I got into it. The church just made me feel so creative, with the only lights from the heaters which glowed red, and all the nice churchy sculpture stuff on the building and the rest of it. It was really fun. And then we were doing one of the songs accapello, so then Lukas volunteered me to sing. Which I'm fine about. And then I realised I had to sing into a microphone, which I've never done before. But it was quite good fun, and I couldn't really hear myself so that was okay. Yeh, I enjoyed it. Totally worth being somewhat tired the next day as I didn't get home till quarter to midnight. But I wasn't too sleepy, and I didn't do anything stupid (like try to eat cereals with a knife...). Oh, apart from going to get some bread for toast and opening up the bread/cereal cupboard and then staring stupidly at the cereals trying to remember what I was there for. But it was great fun. Can't wait till this Tuesday :D.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

The World Crisis Part 1 1911-1914

Winston Churchill's book :D. I happened to see it and thought I'd see what he said about the first world war, seeing as it was mentioned in my history text book. I really enjoyed it actually. Although I was a little disappointed when I started it and realised that I hadn't bought the whole thing, and that loads of the later stuff was missing (the edition I've got appears to have the first two volumes in it, although I'm not entirely sure yet...). Anyway, having got to the end of Part 1 I figure that as most editions will have that bit as one book on its own this was the right place to review it.

I was slightly surprised at how nicely written it was, but then, Churchill was once a journalist. It's definitely biased towards naval events, and Churchill suggests that the naval arms race was the main reason for the war. Hmm... Interesting that he then goes on to advocate increasing our arms in the inter-war years. You would've thought that if he saw that as pretty much the cause of WWI he'd want them to avoid it in the prelude to WWII. Obviously it's all somewhat slanted what with being a bit of a personal account based a lot upon memory and stuff, but it's still really interesting. There's a lot of documents included, memos and stuff like that, from whatever Churchill was involved in at the time. And he seems to have had a knack of getting involved in just about everything. You get a real sense of energy and determination from the sheer flurry of messages that were sent all over the place, particularly when you realise that this must just be a fraction of the messages sent. I think the fact that there is so much primary source quoted in it makes it a much stronger book--you can see for yourself what Churchill's talking about. Although I have to confess it does get a little tedious to read through all the beurocratic stuff.

There was one fascinating passage about something I'd never heard about before, and as I have a bit of a thing for WWI aviation, I was quite surprised. Basically, a squadron of the RNAS (Royal Naval Air Service, I suppose you'd call it the forerunner of the Fleet Air Arm, although it was amalgamated into the RAF in 1918 and the FAA didn't come about until later) went to Belgium, sat on the shore, and started harassing the Germans. They started out just using their planes, then the Squadron Leader thought it'd be a great idea to start using armoured cars to bash the Germans on the ground as well. So they started racing round the countryside, using the planes to scout and the cars to attack any small enough convoys of Germans they happened to see around. Apparently (although I've no idea how Churchill could have learnt this, it might just have been him deciding that it had a huge effect because he had a bit of a thing for commandos), this caused quite some chaos, quite out of proportion to the size of the force deployed. Churchill says this is where he got the idea for the tanks, although how much that was his own idea (after all, the Germans were developing something similar, completely independent of the British). An interesting book at any rate.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

The Second World War

This is the John Keegan one. I was surprised when I started reading this and it said it wasn't a complete history. It looked pretty big to be a non-complete history. It was one of the books my history teacher recommended, and I thought I might as well get hold of a copy. I didn't bother with the A-level books because I'd got the ones from that series on Russia and I thought they were pretty rubbish--they had definitions for all the words I understood, and no definition for the odd word they used that I didn't really know what it meant. Which was annoying as you can imagine. Anyway, I read this book, and I found it really interesting.

Unlike the Osprey books, it did a good job of focussing on the military stuff like I expected it too. It was very well structured, with the war split into six sections, based on time and theatre. I found the chapter on the 'Resistance and Espionage' very interesting--basically Keegan said that the resistance movement was pretty useless and just wasted lives. That did surprise me--I'm sure they served some purpose (although thinking about it, I don't know what precisely... Maybe they didn't.). However, he does say that the 'sigint' (signal intelligence, basically Ultra) section was a lot more useful.

The sections which focussed in on battles were also very interesting. I enjoyed reading about the carrier battle (I never really realised that Midway was the first...). And there was the Battle of Britain, tank battles, city battles, all sorts. I can highly recommend this book. There was also a lot about the strategy and the decisions that had to be taken regarding it (for example relating to the opening of the second front, and how Churchill was desperate to push it back to 1944 in order to get the build up and preparations sorted so as to minimise casualties). I thought it very balanced with regard to which bits he chose to focus in on, and with regard to the coverage of both sides.

Anyway, I would highly recommend it as a very good general history of the Second World War. Maybe it isn't entirely comprehensive, but all the major bits are covered in good detail, and it's well written. I read it through like a proper book, but it could also be used for reference (I have a feeling I'll be rereading bits and pieces when we start studying the actual war rather than just the build up in history).

Fluffy Rugs, Polishing Silver, and Tidying a Room...

When I got back from college last night, I decided to do something I'd been saying I'd do for ages. I decided that I'd find the silver polish under the sink and actually polish the necklace I ended up with which was my Aunty Gladys's. It was rather tarnished, but I'd been wearing it anyway, because it's also pretty. But I sat down with a bit of kitchen roll and went at it, and I'm glad I did. I never realised silver was so shiny! It looks quite impressive now. I then managed to break one of the links pulling it over my head to try and decipher the hallmark... But my dad fixed it, so that's okay :D.

We went to Southport today, and looked in a ridiculous number of charity shops for books, and would you believe that I didn't find a single one I wanted? Not even in the awesome bookstore which is the only place I know of that regularly stocks Biggles books! They had a bunch of Biggles ones in, but I already had all of them :(. It's getting far harder to find the ones I haven't got yet... maybe that's something to do with the fact that I've got fifty odd out of maybe 90ish. Anyway, I did get a new fluffy brown rug, because my cream(ish) one which I've had for ages was getting a bit manky. So I have a new rug. And I need to tidy my room now. But I don't really feel like doing it... Meh, it needs doing. I shall have to find homes for my only dvd and the three xbox games my brother gave me. Next to the videos on my bookcase I'm thinking, and the National Geographics can then go under my bookcase. That would work.

Friday, 9 October 2009

A Short History of England by Cyril Ransome

I have to say, I really enjoyed this book. I mentioned it before, and I found it really interesting. I don't know how easy it would be to actually get hold of a copy, because I got this for 20p from the Church Fate up the road (is that the right fate? I can't remember if there's different spelling. Hang on, is called for... Oops. It's Fete, not Fate. But my inbuilt spell checker doesn't like it. Never mind. Moving on.). I was just curious, in part because I like old books and this one's certainly in that category--the edition I have was published in 1907--in part because of the description 'from the earliest times'. I don't know a whole lot about the earliest times. We've never really studied them (with the exception of a brief look at the Battle of Hastings, with a multiple choice test I remember failing miserably only because I got the numbers mixed up about four questions in and from then on put the right answers in the wrong box...).

It starts off with looking at 'the English race', which I found very interesting, because it's no longer PC, particularly with all the connotations of Aryan race. Anyway, this book was apparently to be used as a sort of text book, so I guess it was just fine to say that sort of stuff back in 1907. There was stuff on the Conversion of England to Christianity, about the early kings (did you see pictures of the stuff they've just found down near Stoke-on-Trent? It's incredible! Imagine what it would feel like to just be randomly digging up, expecting nothing more than perhaps a coin or a bent bit of old metal, and finding such incredibly carved gold! Wow!). Then comes the Norman Kings, and it was interesting that this book says that 'though it was a hard thing for the English to be conquered, still their descendants have derived greater benefits from their defeat than they could possibly have done from their victory'. This is pretty much the opposite to what the other book on Harold the Conquorer I read suggested. I wonder how much of it was down to changing appreciations of what it was like back then. Anyway, it continues to follow the course of British History right the way through to the death of Queen Victoria, and then slightly beyond so that it can close with the end of the Boer War. It's fascinating to read, not just in the history that's told but in the way it's told. Some of the reporting is not entirely how we're accustomed to seeing it. For example, what's generally called the Crimean War is referred to as the Russian War. There is a little bit about teh campaign in the bombarding of Russian ports in the Baltic, about Sardinia joining in with the French and Britsh, and the Russians taking Kars from the Turks, none of which was ever mentioned in the history text books we had... There is reference to the 'disgraceful mismanagement of the war by Lord Aberdeen and some of his collegues', but Florence Nightingale doesn't get a look in, and nor does the Charge of the Light Brigade. it's interesting to read about the 'China Question' in 1900, with teh European Powers talking about splitting it all up between them, and 'the real Chinese problem still remains to be settled'. I know I'm focussing a bit on the later stuff, but I find it interesting to see what they perceived as major problems.

The Conclusion does a pretty good job of summing up the general themes of the book. It talks about the growth of the British Empire, and there was a lot of focus throughout on politics, with the gradual opening up of the vote to different classes. The ending reads thus: 'No other country in the world can look back upon such a long career of advancement in liberty, and at the same time of almost unbroken success as a conquering and colonizing people. Let us hope that the British of the future may not be unworthy of their ancestors--a hope which every boy and girl in the country may do something to make good; and let it be truly said of us, as was untruly said of some of the Roman emperors, that we have successfully united two things--Empire and Liberty.' I've just included that because I found it really interesting to look at how they saw their Empire. I wonder what Cyril Ransome would think of the country he obviously has great love and respect for were he to see England today. The Empire is all but gone. The politicians are pretty well despised for their mucking up of expenses, and apparent inability to tell the truth. Nobody cares much for the Monarchy, and I'm pretty sure that anti-social behaviour isn't exactly what he hoped when he said about every boy and girl doing something to help advance Britain. However, it was intended as a textbook, so there's a good chance (I would assume) that things weren't overly rosy back then either.

Just one more little thing I want to pick out before I finish. At the start of the book, there was one bit that really surprised me 'the teaching of literature is happily being made a separate department from the teaching of history'. I never realised they were once the same subject. I mean, I shied away from applying for a combined History and English Lit course because I didn't think that it would do justice to either subject (besides which I do prefer history), but they were once the same thing.

It's a really good book in short. If you happen to see a copy floating around (I suppose there must be some, somewhere, or I wouldn't have got hold of one), I'd recommend grabbing it. It was really interesting to read, flowed nicely as a general narrative, and was conviniently split up into chapters based upon which monarch was ruling (and let's face it, in the earlier periods for sure, and still to a certain extent more recently, that was a major consideration, particularly when the monarchs still had a lot of power). It's detailed enough to use as a general reference to get background on a period, and it does cover certain specific events (mainly constitutional or related to the Empire), in quite good detail considering the fact that it's such a broad sweep of history. It's also short enough to read as a continuous narrative like I did. So yeh, I have no idea how many of these might be around and where you might get hold of one, but I'd recommend it all the same.

The Second World War (6) Northwest Europe 1944-1945

I have to say, I wasn't overly impressed. I think it was just too short on such a 'big' chunk of history. Basically, it covered D-Day and after. I think the introduction was part of what put me off. It tried to give the causes of World War 2 in about two pages, along with a summary of what had happened so far. Which, as you can imagine, entailed rather abbreviating it, and to be honest it would've been better off without it. It just meant giving the most stereotypical version of events imaginable and to be honest I'd be amazed if anyone didn't know that already. And again, the book itself didn't really say anything particularly new or special. I suppose it might be worth reading if you don't know anything about the invasion of Northwest Europe etc. However, I wouldn't recommend actually buying it--just get it out the library. It's not something you're really going to want to read again, and it isn't detailed enough to use as a reference book.

Currently Untitled...

So, it's nearly nanowrimo. Well, okay, it's three weeks off, but I'm planning my story, okay? So here's what it's about...

Basically, my main character is an archaeologist called Vari on her last dig before retiring from the field. She's asked to go to the Moon, to look at the history of the Lunar Colonies, from the Space Race during the Cold War, to the destruction of the First Colony (a Quaker settlement which was bombed by the US), through the second Cold War between the EU and US, right up to the present day Troubles since the disintigration of the US left lots of nuclear powered space rockets cheaply available, along with equipment to exploit the Moon's resources. The Moon was modified so that it's got oxygen etc and some plant life, although the main attraction is the gold and other precious minerals, so lots of Enterprisers have gone up and the place is still pretty much a war zone. Vari's assisted by a Moonwalker (an elite special forces soldier based on the moon) and two research assistants. There's quite a bit of conflict between the two groups--they look down on the Moonwalker (who doesn't yet have a name), while he finds them naieve and irritating. There's especially lots of conflict between the assistant Mark and the Moonwalker, because Mark's a pacifist and also rather wimpy and pathetic, and so he keeps niggling at the Moonwalker and asking how he can possibly stand being a soldier and killing people etc. Vari determines to dig at the First Colony, despite the Moonwalker's repeated attempts to dissuade her because it's still very much a disputed area. While they're looking at the remnants of the First Colony, they find something much, much older. As in pre-Egyptian older. And they find a 'man', specially augmented (basically turned into a robot), who calls himself an Immortal when they inadvertantly wake him up. But the civilisation from which he harks was incredibly advanced, and Vari etc are not the only ones interested in him. And the other group is fully prepared to kill to get their hands on the Immortal.

And hopefully this time I won't go too far off track. But you never know with nanowrimo. I have had some rather ridiculous experiences with writing novels in a month. And I've only done it twice (well, as part of nanowrimo. I did write Shadows in the Sky in something like three weeks...). Anyway, we shall see.