Sunday, 31 January 2010

Advanced Aviation Modelling

Hmm. A bit of a geeky book perhaps, but I thought it might be worth reading as it mentioned exciting things like how to do battle damage and how to scratch build etc. Oh, and weathering. Some of what was said was very interesting, and I might be trying it. Probably on one of the simpler models though, which was suggested in the book to be honest. Anyway, I did read the whole thing through. There were some very good ideas and they were mostly well illustrated.

However, I did have a couple of problems with the book. One was that although purporting to tell you how to scratch build, the details on how to do so were rather lacking, most of the advice coming under the general diea of 'use your imagination' and 'if it looks right, it is right'. The second was that the painting section dealt only with the use of airbrushes. Now, this might very well be one of the best ways to paint a model--I wouldn't know, I've never used one--but the abrupt dismissal of any other method of painting annoyed me. What's wrong with a paint brush? I don't have the space, or ventilation, etc to use an air brush. I can't imagine even attempting to use something that sprays paint around in my bedroom, the garage is also pretty unsuitable for such delicate operations as there's a lot of woodworking stuff done in there making it dusty, and my parents would not be impressed by me doing it in the dining room. So, what I want to know is this: what's wrong with using a fine paint brush to do the detail? The whole process of airbrushing, particularly for camouflage, sounds exaggeratedly difficult. Next up: the methods of displaying models. What's wrong with hanging them from the ceiling? It's a legitiate way of viewing model aircraft in their natural element, and aside from the slight danger of knocking them down, it's a space effective way of storing them. But no. Glass cabinets appear to be the only way of doing things.

But besides these narrow aspects of the work, it was very interesting. And as an inspiration and incitement to try slightly different methods when putting the finishing touches on a model, it was certainly interesting. Battle damage and weathering was well explained, and it's certainly something I fancy having a go at. The attention to detail displayed was a little obsessive in my mind (get pictures of battle damaged aircraft so you can see exactly what shape to twist the damage into?!) but fair enough I suppose. If you've got that sort of time and those sorts of resources, to get hold of expensive modelling books on various aircraft types is undoubtedly something that'd be fun. But I'm working from a limitted budget and don't want to spend masses and masses of time researching for each model. I'm quite happy to trust the manufacturers in that respect.

Certainly an interesting book, if you happen to be interested in the subject. Otherwise, I suspect it'll strike you as a rather anarakky book.

An Ending and a Celebration

Well, today Fresh Manna, which is the church I attend, officially ended. We're carrying on as a fellowship, but we currently have no name. Both our pastors have resigned see, so we kinda couldn't continue as Fresh Manna. Anyway, we had a service today to celebrate all that Fresh Manna has meant to people over the years it's been around. I actually can't remember being in any church in England where we've been as happy, or at least where I've been as happy. In fact, I don't recall even the churches we went to in America as being as amazing as Fresh Manna. It's the worship and the grace message I guess. That's what came out most.

It's kinda weird to think that Fresh Manna is no more. We're currently 'The Fellowship that was Formerly Fresh Manna' though I doubt that's any sort of official title. Oh well, we shall see next week what God's actully going to do with our church. I can't imagine He'll leave us dangling for too long. So yeh, big things happening. Oh, one other thing: it was so funny looking at all the pictures this morning. There were some really ridiculous ones of me--dressed as a chicken, at Junior Church housegroup, as a small child wearing fake glasses and dressed in ridiculously bright clothes and a hat. Not sure what that one was about... Still, it was quite amusing. So yeh, it's weird to think that something that's been a huge part of my life since I was tiny is now no more, but all the people are still there. The church meal is on Friday too--in past year's it's been called a Christmas meal, but as it's, well, significantly after Christmas, I don't think that's such a fitting lable any more. Should be fun.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Five Greatest Warriors

After having written two reviews of pretty pathetic books, I'm glad to realise that I haven't actually reviewed this one yet, so I can lift my spirits with recalling just how wonderful this was in contrast to the other ones. Matthew Reilly is back after a two year break, and the action is as unrelenting as ever. While other authors might go for romances etc that get completely in the way of the main story, with this the plot never strays far from the action. Yes, there is a bit of a romance in there, with a bit of a complication in it too, but it's relegated to a secondary sub plot, rather than being used to wallop you over the head. If you want action, Matthew Reilly is the author for you, and the pace just gets faster.

Five Greatest Warriors is the excellent sequel to Six Sacred Stones. After the huge cliffhanger ending of Six Sacred Stones, and the two year wait for the conclusion of how exactly Jack West Jr gets out of falling into a bottomless pit, the pressure was on to deliver. And I was not disappointed. If you want a great thriller that you can give to children without worrying about dubious scenes (or if you are, like me, not a great lover of said dubious scenes), Matthew Reilly is the perfect choice. The secret of Jack West's success is his devotion to his team mates, his implacable commitment to placing the stones not for personal gain but for the good of the world, and the devotion he gets in return from his team members. A coalition of 'minnow' nations, outgunned by their opponents, Jack works on the principle of never cheating a trap system. They're meant to be run as the creator intended, or unexpected surprises ensue. And his successes demonstrate that such truly is the case (or at least in this book).

And how did Jack West get out of falling into a bottomless pit? Well, you'll have to read it to find out. But I am very pleased to say, I did guess right. It always makes me feel good when I do that. High drama from start to end, I can't recommend this book enough (although it'd be smart to at least read the Six Sacred Stones first--though they are the same characters as Seven Ancient Wonders, Six and Five are more like one book with a chapter break in between them).


This was another disappointment, and I didn't finish it. And it was a disappointment for almost the same reason as 8th Confession. But this went to an even greater extreme. I've enjoyed previous Alex Hawke books by Ted Bell. I enjoyed them enough to reread them. So when I noticed Tsar on the shelf at the library and realised it was a new one, I was overjoyed. Unfortunately, my cheerfulness was misplaced.

It starts out promising enough, with an intriguing prologue involving Hawke's ancestor of the same name (did confuse me for a moment I admit, as I'd previously thought Hawke too young to have been involved in the Cuban missile crisis) on a northern island, waiting to go up against the Soviets. They had some sort of new sonar, they had to know the capabilities for the US to negotiate properly and keep their naval blockade of Cuba safe. Sounded promising.

The first chapter opened with Hawke sunning himself on the beach. Fine. Followed by something of an information dump which read rather like a character profile put into sentences. Not so inspiring, but I figured it was just to get people up to speed who hadn't read the books before--although surely the aspects of his personality would've been better demonstrated rather than just told. My misgivings mounted somewhat when a mysterious Russian woman showed up on the shore where Hawke lay naked. Hmm... However, it was fine, nothing dubious developed. Then there was a break to what the 'bad guys'--Russians, of the wealthy and powerful variety, who employ hitmen. These sections, I admit, were what kept me reading for so long--a very good cast of villains to pit against Hawke was created. Meanwhile, on an island paradise, things were rather boring, and getting worse. Over a hundred pages in, besides a few bits where Hawke accepted a new job which was basically a desk job looking into Russia, all that was happening on that front was he'd been called up by the mystery woman and asked to be a model for a portrait. Fine, but he was to pose naked, and the novel basically descended into erotic fiction. Which was definitely not what I picked it up for. I don't mind a bit of romance, as I've said before. I generally skip over the descriptive sections where this romance is practised, but this was getting ridiculous. I gave the book up. I think it's safe to say that after reading over a hundred pages, the book should have at least gone somewhere. Humph. Another disappointment. At least the most recent Vince Flynn one was good, and the most recent Matthew Reilly one truly excellent. Have I reveiwed that one yet? I might not have done... I'll have to do that in a moment. Anyway, I suppose I can't make a full recommendation as I haven't read the full book, but based on what I read it was pretty poor.

8th Confession

Well. It's the latest in the Women's Murder Club Series, and to be perfectly honest I don't know why I continue reading them. The first four were good. After that they've gone steadily down hill. While this was not quite as disappointing as 7th Heaven, that may have been more because I wasn't expecting much. I have nothing against a little bit of romance in stories at all--I'd be a bit of a hypocrite since most of mine also involve that element. What I do object to is what is allegedly a thriller degenerating into a romance that, while maybe a little better than Mills and Boon, is not a thriller and certainly not what you are led to expect. What takes up a good deal of the story in this case is a romance between Yuki and a doctor, which adds very little, if anything, to the plot, and is summarily extinguished with a random statement. If you've gone to all that trouble to get Yuki and this guy together, who I might add was rather poorly developed and whose name I cannot now recall, please don't end it with such a pathetic excuse. I was incredibly disappointed--it felt contrived, it didn't fit with the rest of the character such as it were, and while I don't think it worth your time to read it, I won't go into the details just in case. Unexpected it was, a good twist it was not. Added to this, there was almost none of the detective work involved normally in the series, or at least in the first few books. There were two murderers, completely unconnected, and either developed would have made a good plot. Both together again felt clumsy and detracted from the interest both the mysterious killer who left no mark, and the curious case of Bagman Jesus, could have excited. In all, it was a pretty poor work, and I doubt I'll be reading the next ones. The trouble is, Lindsay is a really good character, as are Yuki and Claire and Cindy. Unfortunately, they've recently been let down by poor plots and an emphasis on the romance which, I'm sure you'll agree, is out of place in a book called the Women's Murder Club. Where's the murder and mystery solving? It seems to have taken rather a back seat. Wouldn't recommend it, but the truth of the matter is, I enjoyed the first ones so much, that as with the Maximum Ride series which got very poor after the first couple, I'll probably get the next one from the library too. After all, there might be an improvement as there was with the Alex Cross ones, with which Double Cross was certainly a good book. I would rather, to be honest, James Patterson slowed down with the writing and produced fewer books a year but that they were all of a comparable quality to the earlier ones.


I have a slight problem with book reviews at the moment. I know I've read about eight books that I haven't reviewed on here yet. I know some of the names of these books, and could probably, if I took a little time, get them written down again. However, I've gone and lost the little scrap of card left over from when I was making presents. I'm sure it's around somewhere on my desk, so until I've made a serious search I don't want to go through the process of trying to recreate said list. I also took two books back to the library which I need to review. Normally, not a problem. Both, I'll add, were great books. However, I didn't make a note of the author, I can't remember for one of them, and they were on the history reader's group ticket, rather than on my own, so I won't be able to find it from there. Hopefully google can provide the answer (or at least, google can show me where to find the answer). But the book was called The Brink, and it was published in the seventies. About the Cuban Missile Crisis, but unless I see the exact copy I had, I won't know that it's the right one. Hmm... I shall have to investigate. Meanwhile, I apologise, and shall review a book I can remember the name of in my next post.

On a slightly different topic, we went to Haywood today, to go to the market. I think it's about forty odd miles--it took a fair while to get there at any rate. We also tried to go to Bury market, but there was absolutely no parking, apart from some on street stuff which wasn't even that near the market which was £1.65 for an hour! Now that, I'm sure you'll agree, is somewhat ridiculous and extortionate. So we gave up on that idea and tried to head home but got lost. We got back on the right track after a couple miles going in the opposite direction to which we should have gone, and then stopped off at a cafe to have some lunch--I was starving by this point. And then we went to Sommerfield which is technically the Co-op but they haven't changed the sign outside only the inside ones, and got some food for tea etc. Oh, I never said why we went to Haywood, did I? My dad's had an interview for a job based out in that direction, he and mum went out to find it the other week and went through Haywood, stopping off at the market for a brew. While there, they noticed a book stall which sold books from 10p each. Which is a pretty good deal--I don't know of anywhere in Preston you can get them that cheap. It's cheaper than reserving books from the library too. Anyway, I ended up buying six. I actually initially only wanted one, but figured that on the basis they were also 6 for 50p, I might as well go for six.

The other thing I've been doing today, besides blogging, is modelling. Modelling as in model making, I hasten to add. I doubt anyone would take me for a model... Although as part of the history reader's group (last night) at Chorley, I had my photo taken for Lancashire Life. We did a thing in the summer on local authors, that's what they were there about. Nothing like being timely... Anyway, I've been working on a model Tornado, which is quite fun. I don't often do jets. I tend to do WWI/WWII aircraft instead. I've got six built besides this one, not counting the Me 262, which although it is a jet kinda gets counted under WWII as far as I'm concerned. Two of them are Harriers--I think the Harrier is my favourite modern aircraft. It's just so impressive looking, dangerous, and then there's the added fact that it can land vertically which is pretty ace you have to admit. The WWI ones are my favourite I think, although I am quite fond of my Spitfire, Lancaster bomber and Bristol Blenheim. Oh, and my biggest model (although not the most pieces), which I recently completed--a Short Sunderland flying boat. It's huge! It's wingspan is about three and a half times that of a Spitfire, and it's about three times as long. It dwarfs all the other aircraft currently sat on my styrofoam drying/holding while they wait to be hung 'mat'. When I say one of them's an F-15E, which is hardly a small aircraft, that gives you a bit of an idea of the size of it. Sorry, I'll stop talking about model aircraft. One of my more unusual pass times and interests. I don't actually know anyone else who builds them, though I presume there must be others or there wouldn't be dedicated magazines, two major companies, and (although there's none in Preston now Toymaster has basically got rid of their entire range) a lot of places that stock them in large numbers.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Best Maths Lesson Ever!

So, I had my maths exam on Monday--Mechanics 1. Slightly harder than I expected, but I think I've still done pretty okay. Anyway, I had a lesson not that long after on Monday, but the teacher let us all go after a few words about the test and basically saying there was no point talking about it because it was too late. Showed up on Tuesday expecting to start doing more maths, and he announced that we had three choies of what to do: we could go and do chemistry revision if we had a chemistry exam still to come, we could do Maths Core 3 revision (what we did earlier this year, but we've not had the exam yet), or we could take part in a draughts and connect four championship. Guess what I picked? On the basis that I don't do chemistry, I figured connect four and draughts was more fun than Core 3, and it certainly was. It was so funny--I beat James, first at draughts and then we got put against each other on connect four too, and so I beat him twice more (it was best of three to get through on connect four). Quite amusing. I then ended up playing against John (my teacher) while I was waiting for whoever should've been playing against me next in draughts to finish another game. Technically the result was a draw, but I had four crowned pieces and he only had one left, so I would've got him eventually, we just ran out of time. Great fun.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

My Motto For Life

Last night, I was doing part of my distance learning course, which involved reading a bit of Ecclisiasties. This is widely regarded, it seems, as the most miserable book in the whole Bible, with the writer basically saying eveything is meaningless, that being good and being bad is pointless because you're going to die anyway, etc. Now, as quite a cheerful person I must confess I've never really paid much attention when I've been reading through the book before. I can't have been or I would surely have spotted what basically amounts to my philosophy for life:

I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everythign beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in hte hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Here's the best bit!) I know that there is nothing better for man than to be happy and to do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil--that is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. god does it so that men will revere him. (Ecclesiastes 3 v 10-14)

Isn't that just great?! I have now found Biblical authority for my philosphy of 'smile, you're not dead yet'. And in the most gloomy book of the Bible. Do you know what the really cool bit for me is? I just spotted it while I was looking back over and going 'yeh, that's cool'. My real name is Joanna, and that means gift from God. So: 'That everyone may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all his toil--that is Joanna'. :) Okay, I know you don't really do that sort of thing, and it's probably not accurate etc, but it's still really cool, because that's how I see life and the words there have the meaning of my name. If I have to do something, I do it willingly, cos it might as well be done as best I can, right? Make the most out of life you can--you never know when the next opportunity to do it will be. Plus if you try and make the most out of something, you generally find you get more from it than you expected. Look at an obstacle as a challenge rather than a barrier. Look at work as something to put your guts into and I think you'll find it gives you something back. Go for it!

Operation Valkyrie

Another 633 Squadron book, this one was the third one (at least as far as I'm aware). Again, the realism was brilliant, though this time the mission wasn't quite as exciting as the past ones. The characters were still as good as always. I don't know what else to say about it that hasn't already been said about the last two I reviewed. Didn't enjoy it quite as much perhaps, but it was still a good read and enough to keep me up until late.

On a related but slightly different note, I'm amused by the fact I'm actually behind with book reviews already. I've got a little list on a scrap of paper in front of me, of books I've read since last Saturday. There are nine on the list, which for eight days reading (haven't yet read any more books today, only bits for history coursework), I reckon is pretty good going. Unfortunately, so far I've only written three reviews, plus this one. So it looks like I might go back to having a backlog, less than a month into the year. I guess that's what happens when you have a sudden fit of reading loads.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Amazing Grace

I don't do film reviews very often, as you've maybe noticed. However, this film certainly deserves a mention. I'm not much of a movie person, so the fact that I've watched it four times in a week should tell you this film is something special. The fact that I have also been inspired enough by it to write a novel on similar lines should tell you that it's exceptional. The only film I've watched before that's been enough to do that was Top Gun. I don't know whether this one will finish or not, but at the moment, I'm enjoying writing it.

So, what's so special about Amazing Grace? The trouble is, when my Mum asked me this, after telling her that we needed to keep it out the library for another week so I could watch it again, I couldn't actually explain fully. The story just resonated with me. William Wilberforce, lone voice for justice in a hostile world, standing up for his principles. When I was younger, living in America, one of my favourite things to read about was how slaves escaped their masters, how they gained their freedom, how the Civil War brought emancipation. I didn't know a whole lot about it from an English point of view. I think I have to say that a children's book about Harriet Tubman was the first historical non-fiction I ever read. I even did a book box on it in school (can't remember what grade, I think 2nd or maybe 3rd). I built a model of the boat she used to help the slaves escaped, and I couldn't believe how amazing she was. So slavery as a topic is clearly something that speaks to me. I suppose another side to the explanation of why I loved this film so much was because it was historical fiction, and the period is around what we've been studying recently at college--we're looking at Ireland and Catholic Emancipation, which happened in the same period. Apparently O'Connell, who we're looking at just now (although not in the film) was one of Wilberforce's supporters. Then there was the fact that the way the story was told, the way the campaign fell to a low point and Wilberforce felt like he'd failed, and then there was that fantastic revival, that just clicked. I don't know. I can't tell you for certain whether it was one of those, or some other factor that really got the film into my head. What I can tell you was that it takes its place amongst my favourite ever movies, which include: The Dark Knight, Top Gun, Fireproof, and Over the Hedge. Quite an eclectic selection, I will concede. Taking Top Gun apart, I think the one thing I can see in common with all of them is a flawed hero, someone driven who pushes themselves to reach the goal they need. Well, maybe Over the Hedge less so, but I love the story behind it. Tough, free wheeling guy suddenly realises that maybe a family is worth more than he ever imagined... Anyway, Amazing Grace is a brilliant film and I highly recommend it. It gets in your head and I am certainly going to be looking into the life of William Wilberforce. I think it might just have revived an interest in that particular aspect of history...

Thursday, 21 January 2010

A book that should've been on my list of ones to look out for

So, I went to the library again on Tuesday. I happened to notice a book on the new books shelf: Pursuit of Honour, by Vince Flynn. Having now read it, I've come to the conclusion that I was a bit of a fool to decide I didn't want to read the one before it in the series on the basis that it didn't really look like it would be about Mitch Rapp and that it didn't sound that interesting. This one was certainly fascinating, and Mike Nash who I understand was the main character in the last one was just as interesting as Mitch Rapp. Wow. What a book. I'm so glad I noticed it on the shelf, and I feel rather stupid for also having stopped my collection of these books (admittedly, they are hard to find second hand, and no wonder as they're the sort you could easily read several times over).

Completely engaging political thriller, fantastic action, and a hero you have to love for all his flaws and engaging humanity. Tough, dangerous, slightly bitter, Mitch Rapp is one of the best thriller heroes I've come across. I think the best way of describing these books would be: like Alaistar MacLean ones, only with more intriguing and three dimensional characters and a personal side, with issues that are up to date now, rather than being thirty odd years out of date. Not that there's anything wrong with the issues being thirty years out of date--they weren't at the time. But I have to say, in terms of characterization and thrills, Vince Flynn has the edge. Particularly in this book. I was captivated from the moment I started it. Which had unfortunate consequences on the fact that I did actually need to get some work done and so should now be doing it instead of blogging about the book. But still. I'm going to have to go on a major hunt to find the rest of tehm now to re-read...

Highly recommended. I suspect that there'll be more reviews of Vince Flynn books to come shortly--can't wait to get my hands on Extreme Measures which was the one before this that I missed. Love them.


This was the second piece of sci-fi I picked up at the library the other day, and again, the main problem (well, only problem) was that the same person had had it out before me and it stank of cigarette smoke. Meh.

The plot, on the other hand, was brilliant. An agent gets dropped into a mysterious planet. All he knows is that his superiors expect him to survive the atmosphere and that they think there's life. But as he begins to investigate the mysterious world they call Haze, he starts to realise there's more to it than met the eye. Which, as the only thing visible from afar was a misty blanket that shaded the whole world and hid everything from sight, is not hard. Skilfully interwoven comes the tale of a different assignment, one in which Roget first found himself questioning the wisdom of his masters, and their assumptions about the world. Two brilliant stories, and three conflicting cultures depicted fantastically. The systems just feel so real, so true, and yet there are no huge data dumps, no awkward conversations which are clearly there just to pass on essential details about the systems. Roget's querying of everything eh sees on Haze, his struggle to understand this technologically superior culture in which there are no overt methods of control leads him to question in turn his own values and judgements, continuing the questioning that first began years ago when he infiltrated a religious community. Fascinating.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

The Wolf at the Door

This one's by Jack Higgins. I had wondered about getting it as soon as it came out, but I decided to wait and get it from the library. I have to say, I was glad I didn't buy it brand new. It was supposed to be in the Sean Dillon series. The amount of story actually about him was almost negligible, which was part of the reason I was so disappointed. It's a fine story, and it was, I have to say, better than I thought based on the blurb. From the blurb, it looked like it would be identical to the last few. Somebody's not happy with the Prime Minister's private army and their friends. Oh no! They have to fight their way out of a mess. Admittedly, the previous ones did this fairly well, but there is a limit to how many times you can care about the threat to the characters. Particularly when they've survived who knows how many attempts to kill them before. I think the book would've been better were it not a Sean Dillon one, but rather focussed on the bad guy (which it spent most of the book doing anyway), and had picked another target for the bad guy's attention. That side of things was interesting, but not what I was reading the book for. Well, it was worth reading, and I might get the paper back at some point, on the basis that I do have all the others. That was really the reason I decided to read it after having been disappointed with a couple of the more recent ones. Still, never mind. A good book, not as good as I'd hoped on the basis of earlier ones in the series, not as bad as I'd feared on the basis of the blurb.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Eternity Artefact

I had two slight problems with this book. One was that the person who had it out the library clearly smoked and the book absolutely stank. The other was that it took me until half way through the book to realise that at the start of each chapter it actually told you who's perspective it was from. I had, by that point, come to the conclusion that you could work it out just from the style it was written in. Quite an achievement on the author's part to my reckoning--I've not written in first person very often, and when I tried to do that I found it very difficult. I was only annoyed because I felt rather stupid for not noticing...

The Eternity Artefact was a brilliant piece of sci-fi. I was very glad that I got two books by L.E.Modesitt, Jr after I finished it--it just looked quite interesting, and as it didn't seem to be part of a series I figured I might as well get two of them not in a series. I couldn't put it down. I was captivated right from the start, and I was impressed by the way the different view points were woven together. The technology was believable, as was the way the world had developed from now to 5000 years into the future. To be fair, when you've got that time span, you can make anything believable. I bet (with the possible exception of HG Wells) that 100 years ago they didn't seriously think that we'd have things like atom bombs that could destroy entire cities at a go, regular trans-Atlantic flights carrying over 500 people at a go. Oh, and computers that enable you to read what I'm writing seconds after I press a button. I think my favourite piece of technology was either the needle boats, or the mind link things. They were really impressive, and well written. It just sounded natural and expected.

A planet had been found, a planet with unknown technology upon it. A team is gathered, amongst them traitors who are determined to prevent the discovery of what they believe to be Lucifer's weapon. And yet, you cannot be sure which side you want to win the conflict. Half of me sided with the Covenanters, half with the main team. A fantastic novel, the characters were believable and engaging. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thursday, 14 January 2010


I was listening to some music by Superhero yesterday, and this idea in the lyrics really struck me. "We've crossed a state divide, jurisdiction has been denied." Called El Nino, it's about living in God's state, under God's laws and jurisdiction. I can't find it on YouTube for you, sorry, but you'll just have to take my word for it. A brilliant song.

Anyway, it got me thinking about salvation, and jurisdiction and things along those lines (hence the title...). When you become a Christian, jurisdiction is denied. You're in a different place, living on this planet but not of this earth (to quote another lyric by the same band...). 'We're in El Nino State, a state of mind'. We have Jesus in us, working through us, and we don't have to worry about people on this earth. They have no jurisdiction, no authority over us. I'm not saying go out and start killing people or any of that--what I am saying is this: don't let anyone get you down, put you down, make you feel worthless. You belong to a different state, a state where you have worth and meaning. We're ambassadors here. We're showing the world a different way of living, a way that means something, a way that gives value to those who feel worthless, a way that lifts up those who have been trodden on, which gives hope to the broken hearted. Ambassadors don't belong to the country in which they're staying. They don't belong to those rules, those customs, those people. They're separate, and because of that, they're protected. Ambassadors are in a bit of a curious position really. They're living in a country, but they're not subjects of it, and they can't be punished/prosecuted by that country (unless the country feels like making a bit of a point). All that can be done to them is that they get expelled.

I'm not saying that makes it all easy. It can be quite tough being an ambassador. People will think your customs and ways of doing things are weird, because to them they are weird. Loving people unconditionally, forgiving each other, that sort of thing is not normal for this world. But it is normal in the state you belong to if you're a Christian. Sorry, this is slightly rambling, but I think it's important. The world which has jurisdiction over me does not believe in punishment--that's been dealt with. I believe in grace, complete grace, complete forgiveness, complete freedom. That doesn't mean I go out and get drunk every night, that I cause chaos on this planet. No. It means that I act out of gratitude for that grace and forgiveness. It's a bit like this. You have a best friend, you're really close, and they can see that what you're doing isn't good for you. As a close friend, they feel they have to tell you about that, and they do. You have a choice to listen to them or not, but they're your friend, listening to them is probably a good idea, especially if they can see something you can't. It's a bit like that with God. You don't have to listen--God'll still forgive you even if you don't. But it's a heck of a lot easier if you do listen. Grace doesn't mean no consequences on earth. If I go out having casual sex, there might very well be consequences from that--I'm not immune. God put a world in place, and then he gave us a guide book on how to use it (including don't have sex outside marriage). It's like having a manual--you might be able to use something without reading the manual, it might even seem to be working just fine, but if you're not using it in the way it was meant to be used, you risk breaking it.

So, jurisdiction has been denied. We've crossed a state divide. God's got a hold of us, and He'll protect us.

Operation Rhine Maiden

This is the second 633 Squadron book (I know I've reviewed that at least once in the past, and I haven't reread it that recently, I just watched the film again over Christmas), by Frederick E. Smith. I got an omnibus of the first three the other day in Southport, and I was really chuffed because they're quite hard to get hold of (or at least, they seem to be to me).

The mission is interesting, and the flying scenes described are brilliant, stay up till midnight (again, I really should stop reading at night or I'll never get any sleep) action. However, the real thing that draws me to these books is the characters. They're so real, from the new 'toff' who's leading the squadron after it was all but wiped out in the attack in the first book, to the stubborn Yorkshireman who survived the raid and has a grudge against all wealthy men and the establishment. The conflict between them is brilliantly written, as are the other key characters, including a wife terrified lest her husband get himself killed and leave her and his son all alone, an intelligence officer who feels a failure, and a host of other minor characters. A fascinating book, not only in terms of the missions but even more so in terms of the character interaction and details. You get the distinct impression the author has first hand experience--I've had a bit of a look and haven't been able to find out whether or not that's true. At any rate, they feel realistic, from the terror and horror to the mad cap escapades and treks across the moors. Maybe quite a similarity to the first in terms of the plot involved, but like I said, the plot isn't really what's so outstanding about this book. The characters are the important bit.

Growing Tutor...

Meh, I had a great tutor group up till today. There were only nine of us, and my form tutor's really nice. Well, she's still really nice, but there's not only nine of us any more. I got to tutor today and discovered that there were double the normal number of people in my group, and it's a permanent thing :(. I don't know any of them, and it's really quite annoying. Just when I was getting used to everyone in my form and starting to get to know them all a bit, there's a sudden influx of people. It won't be so relaxed and fun any more--it can't be because now there's loads of people so we can't just chat a bit when we're doing General Studies stuff. Meh. Gotta go, food awaits :D. I'll be back later, probably.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Heretic's Treasure

I just happened to spot this on the shelf at the library, and thought it sounded like the kind of thing I quite like, although I usually don't like the fact that it's a standard assumption absolutely everything to do with the church is corrupt and false, and it's generally a mission to disprove it all. But when I read the blurb and found that it mentioned Ben Hope, a character I was sure I recalled from somewhere else (The Mozart Conspiracy, as it turns out), I decided to give it a go. And I was surprised. No, by now rather boring, attempts to 'prove' that either Jesus never existed or never meant church to be church, etc, but instead, a fascinating book that delved into Ancient Egypt. The Heretic in question was an Egyptian Pharaoh, Akhenaten, who decided that the polytheism practised by the Egyptians was all wrong and he was going to make everybody worship just one god. There are some who link him to Moses, and until recently almost nothing was known about him. Incidentally, I read a fantastic book about him/his time called Act of God (non-fiction), and there has clearly been plenty of research into this book. Fast paced and gripping, this is a brilliant example of an archaeological thriller, those books which have got me half wishing I was going to do archaeology... Although to be honest, I doubt it's quite as glamorous as these books make out. Exciting, with a couple of fun twists (although not the most unexpected of twists perhaps), I thoroughly enjoyed this book and once again stayed up later than I probably should have done.

I would just like to add that I have nothing against books in which the characters happen to find evidence of church corruption/that things aren't quite as Christians think. I just a) find it tedious that it seems to be the only 'mystery' a lot of authors bother with, b) find myself wondering why some new heretical gospel should be more accurate than the ones we already have--what's to recommend them above others, and surely if they were suppressed there was perhaps a problem with their accuracy/statement of events (and let's remember that the first copies of the gospels were circulating within about forty odd years of Jesus' death, not, as these books constantly seem to suggest, within about four hundred odd years), and c) find that they rarely give any good ideas as an alternative. Take, for example, David Gibbins' The Last Gospel. All well and good, it was a brilliant book. But the ending, I felt, rather spoilt it. Jesus' parting words ran along the lines of 'don't build churches'. Hmm... Anyway, I highly recommend The Heretic's Treasure, and I'll be looking out for more books by Scott Mariani for certain.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Bear Island

A brilliant Alaistar MacLean (you'll get fed up of reading about them before I get fed up of re-reading them I suspect...). Set in the Arctic, a film crew sets off to a desolate island to create a new movie. But something's not quite right. At first wondering if it's just film people in general who're fishy, Dr Marlowe is even more suspicious when a spate of disasters hit the ship while they're still heading for the island. And once they're dropped off on it, well, it starts to look like they'll be fortunate to make it out alive. Mary Dear and Mary Darling are somewhat weak characters, but the others are pretty impressive. From what I've seen, the film is totally different from the book--that seems to be about standard. However, I can only speak from experience, and yet again I was up till the middle of the night, again despite having read it before. Very enjoyable, an intricate plot, and plenty of twists.

Perseus Spur

Apparently, this is the first book in the Rampant Worlds series. I think I got it in a three for two at a charity shop or something, because it's not the sort of book I would normally buy. But it was on my bookcase, and I felt like reading last night, so I decided to read this one. After reading the blurb, I felt slightly dubious as to whether it was really the sort of book I would enjoy or not... But I couldn't be bothered climbing about to find another book, so I started it. After two or three chapters, it seemed pretty mediocre, but it certainly picked up as the book went along. In fact, it got rather exciting. I'll certainly be looking out for the rest of the books.

At times amusing, at others bizarre, and with a gripping plot (almost) throughout, I'm glad I picked this book up. It was certainly worth reading, and the style of it reminded me slightly of Artemis Fowl, though the plots were different to say the least.

Helmut Icicle was once a top flight cop, fighting corruption amongst the Concerns--the businesses that effectively govern the Human Commonwealth of Worlds. Until he was accused of corruption himself and lost his citizenship. He drifted to a world on the edge of the colonised area, and ended up taking sports divers down to see strange creatures. Until a giant sea monster eats his house. The bizarre accident launches him back into the world he thought he'd left, and forces him to work once more with his estranged father who hated his decision to become a cop. But Helly's sister is in danger, and he has to go after her, even if that means becoming a part of the family business.

Strange creatures galore, and, once it gets going, an intriguing plot. It was slow to start. But I'm glad I continued reading for the good bits. A satisfying read.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


I got the third book in this series out the library a while ago, realised it was the third, so took it back and ordered the first one, Spiral. I'd started reading the third, came to the conclusion that it was very interesting, but I needed to know what went on before. I've read too many serieses in the wrong order and spoilt them that way. And I was glad that I did order this one. Engaging and dramatic, it's a brilliant piece of sci-fi, set in the not that distant future.

Spiral is an organisation dedicated to saving the world from itself. Their teams of operatives go all over the world in the fight against terrorists, rogue governments, and other threats to civilisation. Completely clandestine, technologically superior, their agents all 'dead' men and women superbly trained, Spiral is ideally suited to its task. Until someone starts to attack the DemolSquads, until the mysterious Nex appear, until Spiral is betrayed from within. Fast paced and gripping, this is the story of a man who thought he was finished with Spiral, retired, but finds himself called back to the fight. A dangerous man, Carter battles with a demon in his soul, his alter-ego Kade, as well as with the Nex and their leaders. Incapable of trusting any completely, which, given the circumstances is a definite bonus, he fights against the shadowy Nex and those who would betray Spiral.

My only criticism is that there was too much use of the f-word for my liking. But it was certainly gripping, and it didn't put me off too much--it just seemed a shame that for such a great character, he seemed incapable of expressing himself in any other way. Still, I would highly recommend it. Just don't let parents peer over your shoulder...

Force 10 from Naverone

I didn't enjoy this quite as much as the first one. However, it's certainly still a good book. I think there're fewer twists, and there's not that much character development compared to the first. It did have me up till early in the morning though, and the action is still brilliant (there's a lot more tension in this one, rather than the somewhat more intellectual side that Alaistar MacLean's books usually have). Very enjoyable, just not quite as good as the first in my humble opinion.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Guns of Naverone

I appear to have reviewed this one before. Never mind. I've read it again, so I'll review it again. It's another Alaistar MacLean, and it's brilliant. I watched the film version of it--it was on over Christmas. Unfortunately, I was watching it with my brother, who has a nasty habit of demanding to know 'who's that', and, worse, he kept asking me whether they managed to blow up the guns or not. Argh! The film was completely and utterly unlike the book. In fact, it was so different to how I remembered the book being that I wondered if I was getting confused and had to read the book again to make sure I wasn't. The book is definitely better than the film, moreover, the characters are much better portrayed in the book than the film. I enjoyed re-reading it, and even though I knew how it ended and could remember the twists, there's still a great deal of pleasure to be had from reading a book by Alaistar MacLean and I can particularly recommend this one. Especially because, as a bonus, it has a sequel. It's the only Alaistar MacLean book that does, and I love a good series because it gives me a bit more to read and I'm a fast reader.

Gotta go, it's tea time. Anyway, I'm about done. This is what you'd expect from such a great story teller--a great book. Don't read it at night or you'll be up till you've finished it.


This was the Antony Beevor one. And, after waiting for over a month for the library to pass it on to me, I was disappointed. I think the person on the waiting list after me will also be disappointed. It was a good book, don't get me wrong. But it was not as good as I'd heard it was supposed to be, and it certainly wasn't worth the excitement over the fact that it had finally got up to me.

I will give Antony Beevor his due. It was well written. It was, for the most part, quite readable. It did highlight certain aspects of the campaign that I was unaware of, most notably the high civilian casualties (apparently the Allies killed more French around the Normandy campaign (build up and during) than people were killed in the Blitz). There was also a highlighting of the problems of friendly fire, particularly in terms of air support bombing the wrong people. And I think I mentioned before that Beevor reckoned that unit casualties were higher in Normandy on both sides than they were on the Eastern Front.

However, there were a number of bad points too. The emphasis on friendly fire incidents got to the point where it was both tedious and you started to get the impression he thought the Allied soldiers and Air Forces went to Normandy with the sole intention of incompetently shooting each other, and it took away from the descriptions of the actual fighting. There was a huge focus on the inferiority of the British and American tanks, which also got tedious. Every time there was a mention of a Tiger (the German one), there was the reminder that 'this tank often accounted for three or four Shermans without getting destroyed. It had better armour and a longer range gun, so it could start shooting before the Shermans were within range'. As you can imagine, after the third or fourth time, it was rather irritating. The format of the book was also confusing. Chapter titles seemed to bear little to no relevance to what filled the chapter--they might relate to the first half, but then the author would move on to something else and not bother to change chapter. It got rather confusing to try and follow what was going on, particularly as there was some skipping about in terms of time and place. Beevor's attitude towards Montgommery seems to shift depending on what section of the narrative he's in--at times he seems to suggest that he's had an unfair bad press, at others that he completely deserved it. As the overall commander, Eisenhower gets surprisingly little mention. The use of different notation for Allied and German divisions (one was infantry, one was referred to as infantarrie, I'll let you work out which was which...) did solve a problem which I've sometimes had in working out which was which. However, that did not prevent the descriptions of Allied divisions sometimes becoming difficult to follow. This may have been because the generals kept getting moved about; in reality I suspect that it was a little bit more to do with the fact that despite the repeated emphasis on the failings of our tanks, there was no attempt to make sure that this part was repeated at least vaguely as a reminder of who was who. Perhaps a cast list would've been helpful?

Another point to keep in mind is that this book is not, despite it's title, mostly about D-Day. There is virtually no mention made of the intricate planning that took place before hand, and the actual events of D-Day make up a tiny fraction of the book. One thing I will say: I thought that Max Hastings was being overly harsh towards Typhoon pilots in his book Overlord; Beevor does confirm these statistics, but makes the point that they were quite effective against unarmoured supply vehicles and that tank crews would often leap out of their tanks and hide when Typhoons attacked. He agrees with what I would say, in that over-exaggerated claims don't mean that the attacks were ineffective. You're always going to get exaggerated claims because, let's face it, if you're in a hostile area flying low to the ground are you really going to turn round and check to make absolutely certain that you did destroy that tank?

I suspect I sound overly critical of this book. Perhaps I am being so, but I get annoyed at books that are overrated, particularly when the inside jacket claims they're basically the best, most comprehensive coverage of the battles in Normandy you're gonna find. It wasn't. I don't suppose that in a one volume book you're likely to get all that close to comprehensive, because there was a lot of fighting. There was massive over-emphasis upon the shooting of prisoners, and whether one side or the other engaged in it more (I got the impression that if you became a POW, particularly if you were taken by the Allies, you were more likely to get shot than to survive, which I'm pretty certain was not the case). There was, it began to seem, before every battle a discussion of how many men were casualties because they got bombed by their own side. I'm not saying it's not worth knowing that there were friendly fire casualties; I am saying that surely the actual fighting deserves more emphasis than friendly fire. There were more statistics relating to friendly fire incidents than there were relating to how many were killed fighting the Germans, or at least it felt that way. There was a lot about the miseries of being a civilian, and you were subjected to the same rant about this every time a village was liberated. The poor French were torn between welcoming their liberators and viewing with horror the devastation caused to their country. Fine. But that's not necessary to be put in every time a village is liberated. We're not that stupid.

I'm starting to rant a bit now, I apologise. This book was not completely awful. There were some interesting segments. Unfortunately, it suffered from poor organisation and over-emphasis on certain aspects which, while worth a mention, are not the main part of the story. There was also little about the German perspective, though there was a 'chapter' on the bomb plot to kill Hitler. Fine, but a good portion of the chapter was not about that, and while there's a good amount on what it was like to be an Allied soldier (if you were in a tank at least), there was little of this on the German side. It did show the improvements made during the campaign, which was a little lacking from Max Hastings book. However, on the whole, Overlord is a much better book than D-Day. Neither, however, actually talk all that much about D-Day itself and focus more upon the campaign in Normandy. I have yet to find a book that's just about D-Day, though I have one by Stephen Ambrose to read, which I suspect might be.

If you see this book on the shelf in the library, it is fairly good. It might be worth reading, just for the odd insight here and there. However, I wouldn't recommend you go out and buy it. It's not that good.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

I got a letter...

Yesterday, I got a letter. Actually, I got two letters. I was lying in bed, feeling a bit ill, when my Dad came in with the post. The first one he handed me was red, with an American stamp on and handwriting that was familiar. A letter from my 3rd Grade teacher in America who I still keep in touch with. I was quite excited about that. After all, it's not that often you get proper post now. However, before I opened it, he brought another letter out from behind his back and handed it to me. This one had a Cambridge stamp on it. Naturally, I had to open that one first. I'd been checking my e-mails ridiculously often over the previous few days, assuming it would come through UCAS who would send me an e-mail to say that my status had changed. But here was a letter from Christ's College Cambridge, not an automatically generated e-mail. So I opened it, struggling a bit (I hate to tear open envelopes, no matter how much I want to get at the contents, and the glue was quite sticky), and unfolded the letter. And I have an offer!!! A*AA and I can go to Cambridge. Which is a pretty tough offer I guess, but I reckon I'll do it. So yeh, all being well I'll be starting at Cambridge in October this year studying history! So chuffed :D.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Where Eagles Dare

I think I might actually have read this before New Year as well. If I did, it wouldn't have been much before. I was working quite a bit over the Christmas holidays, so the specific dates have gone a bit blurred. Did I even post about Christmas?

Anyway, Where Eagles Dare. Got my brother to record a film for me, thought it was this one. It was actually based on Jack Higgins' The Eagle Has Landed, not the Alaistar MacLean book of similar name. However, as the film was slightly disappointing, I decided that it was worth rereading Where Eagles Dare. I think this was actually the first Alaistar MacLean book I ever read. And it's still just as good as it was the first time. I have to say, that as far as these sort of 'inetellectual' thrillers, the sort of books where you have a million twists in the plot and that's what makes them exciting rather than just pure action, you can't beat Alaistar MacLean. Hmm, I was just looking on Fantastic Fiction to check I was spelling his name right (I am), and I actually seem to have all the books he actually wrote, with the exception of a book called Fire of Humiliation. Apparently it was published in 1993, but that's all I can actually find about it. Anyway, Where Eagles Dare is your standard brilliant book by Alaistar MacLean. You have no idea where it's going to end, and it seems that every page offers a new twist, culminating in a shocking conclusion in an aircraft at the very end. As usual, you don't really find out what's happening until the last page, as usual, you're gripped throughout. Brilliant action, brilliant plot, brilliant characters. What more can I say? Only that the library is foolish to hide these books away in storage because they're not brand new. They should be out on the shelves, so that these brilliant novels are not consigned to obscurity. This book (or, to be perfectly honest, any of the others) would make a much better must read classic than Jane Eyre.

Highly recommended. I have not yet come across a book from this author that I haven't enjoyed, and I've read all apart from the odd few that I have left to read. Oh, and of course this mysterious Fire of Humiliation. If anybody knows anything about it, I'd appreciate you letting me know. Could it be a different name for one of the others? After all, Aliastar MacLean died in 1987, this one came out in 1993. Hmm, I shall have to try and investigate a little more. Maybe one of the booksellers on the market knows something, though who knows when I'll be able to get in there again given the snow and the fact that more looks to be on its way.

The Geneva Deception

This is the other book I read before the new year that I decided to review, on the basis that I only read it a couple of days before January 1st, and it was really good.

I got it in WHSmiths, though unfortunately it wasn't on sale. However, it was worth paying full price for, even if I do think that books are getting ridiculously expensive to buy new (especially when you consider how little authors get out of that). Still, it was definitely worth it.

James Twining is an amazing author, and his main character, Tom Kirk, is fantastic. Having read the first three, I was taken slightly by surprise to discover that there was one I hadn't read in WHSmiths. I'd checked on Fantastic Fiction and it seemed that those were the only three, so I simply figured fair enough, I'm happy with a fantastic trilogy. So I was delighted when I spotted one that I knew I'd not read, flicked through a bit just to make absolutely certain, and got it. I then read it that evening, pretty much in one go, despite the fact that I kinda needed to get stuff done. Tom Kirk, ex-art thief, is enlisted to help an FBI agent (who he happens to have fallen in love with some time previously though their long distance relationship over the Atlantic was not going particularly well). But all is not as it seems, and Kirk discovers that he can't trust the FBI (not that he didn't know that already). A dramatic thriller that deals with the shadier side of museum artefact gathering, I thoroughly enjoyed it. In short? Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Another Book to Look Out For in 2010

I've just found something out, something quite exciting. A series that I have been following since the first book came out in 2001 is going to have another book, a seventh book. I was given the first one as a present, and so I have the first American edition, which is pretty neat. It's a series that I've written fanfiction for. It's the series that most influenced my early writing, to the extent that one of my friends who had read both my novel and the novel I'm talking about here said that Nutmeg (my MC) was very similar to the MC in those books, and that she could see where I got the inspiration from. I think it's less obvious now. But the fact remains. Artemis Fowl is the series I've been reading for the longest of any series, even longer than the Redwall books because I only started reading them when I was back in England. They are fantastic. Which is why the fact that I have just discovered there will be a seventh, despite fears to the contrary (to be titled The Atlantis Complex).

Here is the synopsis, taken from FantasticFiction (probably the best website to look out for details of new book releases on, this is where I first found out about the new Eragon book, and the most recent two Redwall books, and I use it all the time to find out other books by authors I've enjoyed):

In this seventh adventure in the blockbuster series, an army of fairy space probes have returned to Earth reprogrammed to destroy Atlantis - and only Artemis Fowl can stop them. As he races to save the subaquatic city, the young mastermind must also combat an onslaught of obsessive-compulsive and delusional disorders, both byproducts of prodigious intellect and immense stress at an early age. In his signature pairing of suspense and comedy, Eoin Colfer has woven another masterpiece sure to delight fans of the series and draw in a host of new followers.

So, there we go. A new Artemis Fowl book to look forward to, along with the other ones I mentioned in my New Years post.


On the basis that this book, by David Faber, was absolutely brilliant, I'm making an exception to the general rule I decided on that I was not going to review any books I'd read last year and not done so far. It's also the book which gets both my 200th review (or at least, 200th post with the label 'books'), and first one of the New Year. I thought I'd better pick a good book for this one :)

Munich is basically a book that covers the year 1938 in great detail, from both British and German perspectives, and with a fair bit about the Italians thrown in for good measure, along with some France and USA. It charts the lead up to the Munich Conference of 1938, and the result of that conference. A fascinating book, one that I couldn't put down, were it fiction I would compare it with Tom Clancy. For want of a better comparison, that's what I'll still do. If you've ever read one of the Jack Ryan series by Tom Clancy (probably his others too, but I can't speak from experience), you'll know what I'm talking about. Political thrillers of the highest order, the processes of government dealt with judiciously, the characters brilliantly depicted, the tension such that you can scarcely bear to put the book down, even if it's four in the morning and you've to be up for college in the morning. That's basically what reading Munich was like. Change the names, maybe a couple of details, and David Faber would've written a great piece of fiction. But the evidence of careful research is there, and this book was both highly enjoyable, gripping, and informative.

One of the criticisms often levelled at narrative history seems to be that it draws no judgements, it's not proper, analytical history. It was not difficult to see Faber's opinions in this book. Nor was it hard to agree with him. The parallels between Chamberlain's style of government and Hitler's were astounding. They weren't highlighted, but at the same time Chamberlain was basically forcing Eden to resign with a bit of a manufactured disagreement over Italy to hide the true reason (Chamberlain's out of hand rejection of the US offer to mediate in Europe) which couldn't be made public, Hitler was creating scandal to get rid of those generals he did not quite approve of. This wasn't pointed out, but it was something you noticed. And one of the other things was that at the end, I found myself more disgusted with Chamberlain, based on his personality, rather than with Hitler.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. My history teacher also keeps recommending it, and every time he does, Grace (person I sit next to in history, who leant me the book while I leant her the AJP Taylor one) and I look at each other and nod. If you are doing A-Level history and Appeasement, or at any other level I guess, it's absolutely brilliant. It gives you fantastic insight into the events, and it's not even boring! To be perfectly honest, even if you have no interest whatsoever in history, you'll probably still find this book fascinating, and it works as a book to read for entertainment too.

Snow Day!

Well, today is a snow day. It's snowing pretty hard outside, which is quite unusual for Preston. We had a bit before, then it all melted (including my snowman, poor Fred!), but now it's back! We have about an inch and a half so far, which is probably more than we had in the entire of last winter. Who said the earth was getting warmer?! (Okay, I know that global warming is actually gonna make England colder because we'll lose the gulf stream current that keeps us warmer than Siberia/northern Russia which is apparently on about the same latitude, but still.) I may have to go outside and remake Fred.

I went to college this morning. I didn't even get in the building though. Thankfully, I'd persuaded my dad that it would be a good idea for him to drop me off, rather than for me to walk, because my ankle's hurting again. I would've been so annoyed if I'd walked all that way. Basically, I got there, saw one of my friends, and she said 'college is closed'. I was somewhat surprised. I mean, yes, it was snowing rather hard, but there wasn't that much snow on the ground at that point. But college was closed, so here I am, back home. I couldn't call my dad to come back, cos he was driving away and was out of sight, but my friend's dad was able to give me a lift home, so that was good. So I went to college for about five minutes, stood in the snow for a bit, and got home again.

The best bit about it is this. I was hoping to go to the cinema with James (my brother) to see Sherlock Holmes, cos it looks amazing, but then we realised that I wouldn't manage to fit it between finishing college and going for my clarinet lesson. But now I'm off college, I can go to an earlier showing, and there's no problem at all, plus we get cheap tickets because it's cheap day Tuesday at the Vue round the corner from us. Pretty good going, by my reckoning. The only annoying thing is that my Mum also decided that since I was off college, it would be good if I were to tidy my room completely, including dusting and hoovering. Meh.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

If you gotta start somewhere, why not here? If you gotta sometime, why not now?

I was just listening to this on CrossRhythms radio. I don't know the name of the song, or who sings it. It might be City on Our Knees or something like that. Anyway, it just stuck with me just then. I've even put it on facebook as my status. If you gotta start somewhere, why not here? If you gotta start sometime, why not now? Well, why not? I can kinda think of plenty of reasons, not least being that it's half past five on a Sunday night, so there's not a huge amount that can actually be done. But probably my greatest reason is that I don't know where I'm meant to be taking my life. Having said that, I got the definite sense when I was in Cambridge that I wasn't going to know until I was ready for the next step. Right now, I know I'm going to study history, and that's far enough to know for the next three years or so. Let's face it, I got to the thing at college with my results with no real idea of what I intended to do, besides history, maths and English Language, and probably sociology. I wanted to do either biology or physics, they said it probably wasn't such a great idea, I decided in the end to do English Lit, and it's a decision I'm very glad I made the way I did. Then, this year, I was thinking I'd drop English Language and do American History (was going to do it the year before, but the teacher ended up not being there, and I was already definitely dropping Sociology), but I couldn't do that because it's actually the same syllabus as the Modern one, you just do different questions. Then John said I could do AS Ancient if I wanted, so now I am. Life's exciting.

So, 'If you gotta start somewhere, why not here?'. What've you got to start with? Well, if you're reading this, you obviously have access to a computer, and enough of an education to read. That's a pretty good start, more than a lot of people have. More than that, if you're reading this you have the know-how to actually use a computer, to look at blogs and web pages. That's a start. What are you going to use the computer for? To bless others, or to satisfy yourself? Actually, you can do them both at the same time. Blessing someone, with your time, with your thoughts, with your prayers, with your money perhaps, can give you just as much as it gives them. If you read other blogs, chances are, you've your own. What are you using it for? I'm talking to myself as well here, by the way. Is it a blessing, or is it a curse? Is it something that people can read and gain encouragement, or is it something that tears down? There are, of course, a lot of other things a computer can be used for. When you use it to communicate, does it bring words of life or death? 'If you gotta start somewhere, why not here?'. Why not? 2010 (nearly wrote 2009 then!) is a new year. What better time to decide that, in this new decade, you are going to use this computer to bless, not to curse?

'If you gotta start somewhere, why not here?'. If you're reading this, you can read. You can see. What are you looking at, what are you reading? Again, I'm speaking to myself here too. Are you reading things, watching things, that build you up? Or are you watching things that damage you, that destroy you? I find it incredibly difficult to find stories that are both interesting and clean. It seems that every thriller writer feels the need to have a femme fatale, or just a femme full stop, and they also seem to need their MC to fall in love and describe exactly what that falling in love entails. That's not love, that's lust. Alastair MacLean is one of the few thriller writers who doesn't have his characters leaping into bed with beautiful women. And I was watching Indiana Jones yesterday, and it would've been a lot more enjoyable had there not been a clumsy, awkward scene in the middle where he was waiting for her to come sleep with him and she was waiting for him to come sleep with her. So, how do you avoid it? Well, I guess you skip past the chapters that contain it, or try and find authors who don't think that's the best policy for their characters to follow. It's not easier. In fact, I found it a lot easier to find good, clean music to listen to than to find good, clean books to read. I can highly recommend as the perfect place to listen to Christian and secular music that does not equate love and lust, does not involve swearing, and is still brilliant music that you would not feel ashamed to let your mates listen to.

'If you gotta start sometime, why not now?'. It's a New Year, a new decade even, just about (okay, so it was yesterday, but still, close enough). Isn't that the time people always use as a good marker to change something about themselves? So, why not now? I kind of think I am. I think this post is the start of me integrating what I was trying to do last year with Point of Contact, into this blog. And I'm going to try and keep it up, through the year. And, as a bonus, I have just found out for you what the song I quoted in the title is. City On Our Knees (I guessed write!), by Toby Mac. Worth having a listen on YouTube, I would say. Here's the link: .

Happy New Year!

Well, happy New Year everyone. 2010 is now upon us. What's to happen this year? I can tell you one thing: if it's as exciting as the past two years have been, it's gonna be pretty manic. Kinda ironic, isn't it? I start writing a blog just before my life takes a dramatic turn along a different path. Well, maybe not quite as dramatic as it felt at the time, but still. Since I started blogging, my mum's had cancer, and is now (hopefully) almost fully recovered, though she's still tired etc from the after effects of radio and chemo. My dad's lost his job and still not found a new one. I've finished high school and started a college where I knew the grand total of um, three people, none of whom were in my year. I've also written a lot more than I used to (since Nanowrimo 2007/since getting a computer in my room and as they both happened pretty close together I can't say which exactly I've written way more, or seem to have done, than I had previously), and still managed to carry on reading. I feel like I'm a very different person to when I started this blog. One day, it'll be interesting to read through all my old posts. I wonder when historians will start using blogs as evidence. Looking for widespread discontent about the war in Iraq/Gordon Brown, perhaps? Or looking for reactions to the economic crisis? I doubt they'd find my blog much use. I wonder if any blog would be much use in those respects? They tend to be quite personal, from what I've seen. Maybe I should comment more on the state of the universe? But it just seems a given, almost. Gordon Brown is a nuisance and probably won't last past the next election, when he eventually calls it. But I don't see that any of the other potential leaders we've got are a whole lot better. The problem is, nobody really knows anything about the politicians etc. Sorry about that pause (not that you'd notice...), I just realised that I've gone and ruined my two best brushes because they came out the water and now all the bristles are stuck together. Politicians are just too good at obfuscating the issues at stake. And look at this whole palava over the mentally ill guy who got shot in China for smuggling drugs. I heard a bit of a discussion about it on the radio. This guy was saying that he doesn't agree with the death penalty for anything other than murder, and he doesn't see how anyone else can't agree with that. What?! Isn't smuggling drugs as good as killing someone, just in a slow and highly profitable manner? Oh, I know that the man probably wasn't a high up chap or anything like that, and it won't stop the supply. But a stand has to be made, and if it isn't made at a point that it can be made at, where is it going to be made? If people were not willing to run that risk, because they knew the consequences were severe, then the drugs trade would have to dry up, the bigger fish would be forced to take risks. And the other thing was with regard to his mental illness. Now, I have nothing against the idea that it should be taken into account in court, in regard to determining guilt and in regard to deciding on the sentence. But, if he was so mentally ill and gullible that he cannot possibly have been guilty, and his family quite clearly knew it and wanted it spread about that he was an innocent victim and hadn't the ability to know what he was doing, then why was he travelling on his own? You don't (or at least, generally don't), send young children off on long journeys on their own to countries with dubious human rights records. So why was he allowed to travel by his family? The whole thing does not seem to add up, and the media certainly did not take any of this into account. And they wonder why people are so apathetic when it comes to elections! It's because all concern, all sense, has been worn out of us by the mass media. Anyway, enough of that rant about the stupidity of the media, politics, and sheep-like people in general, this post has the title Happy New Year and is turning into more of a ramble about the state of the world which probably says more about my mental state than anything else.

*Deep breath* Where was I? Oh yes, I'm a different person to when I started this blog, and then I got into an involved discussion about the merits of using blogs as evidence. You have to be even more careful than with a diary, would be my conclusion. At least with diaries, you know it's generally not written to be read, and is more likely to reflect true feelings etc, whereas with a blog, the whole point is that people can read and comment. Which means that it may not even be a true reflection of the person, but rather what they want to put across, what they want other people to read.