The Last Days of Thunder Child

The Last Days of Thunder Child
War of the Worlds - spin off adaptation novel.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (My Goodreads)

A Tale of Two Cities

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had heard the words for the beginning of this book. ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ etc. I had also heard the famous last words too. ‘It is a far better thing I do now…” etc. I did not know anything else about the story except it was written by Charles Dickens and the two cities were London and Paris. Also that it was against the backdrop of the French Revolution.

I downloaded this on Kindle because it was a freebie and I had often wondered about the story. I accept without question that Charles Dickens is the master of characterisation. The books of his that I have read have always been stories of wonderful and colourful characters. This story was no exception. It was dynamic and gripping. I knew the character that would say the famous last lines straight away. As soon as the person began to paint his profile for the reader I knew. Everything about this story was wonderful. People of all social persuasions come together. The rogues were splendid too. One could understand their dissatisfaction and how their ways had been tempered.

Everything built to a dynamic climax as the Reign of Terror is engulfing France. The guillotine is working overtime as the French Revolution is enforcing the genocide of the entire nation’s aristocracy. I can’t recommend the book highly enough. I have not read something that gave me an adrenalin rush like this for a long time. Brilliant!



Friday, 18 May 2018

The Chronicles of Aveline: Awakening by Ken Fry (My Goodreads Review)

The Chronicles of Aveline: Awakening

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Set against the backdrop of England's last days of King Henry II and the start of King Richard I (Lionheart). Aveline is a young lady of noble birth and an aptitude for weaponry. Especially the Bow. There are a collection of consequences. She falls in love and everything seems to be going very well. But then there is the underlay of scheming priests. Aveline must undergo some unwanted endurance tests. These are enforced by the self-righteous and powerful religious orders of the day. Aveline must come through her ordeal before she can go on a quest. A quest for love that will take her to the holy land. Here it is the time of Saladin the Great. Jerusalem has just fallen.

I am assuming this is the first story. As we go through all of these ordeals with our heroine. There is a very gripping battle scene too.

The story ends on a fresh hold. We are left standing in the doorway for a further quest. In other words, there has to be another story. I, for one, look forward to the next part. A splendid tale and would recommend to anyone who enjoys Medieval/Crusade stories.



Thursday, 17 May 2018

H.M.S. Surprise by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

H.M.S. Surprise (Aubrey/Maturin #3)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a gripping yarn. We are taken on a journey to the Indian Ocean with confrontations on land and sea. I am truly a fan of these Aubrey/Maturin naval stories. This one is no exception. The battle scenes at sea are presented to a degree where I thought I was there. The small points are taken into consideration by the Captain as the galleons square up to each other. Trying to get abeam of the ship as it leans over from the wind. This prevents it using its bottom line of guns. Thus a smaller ship fights a bigger vessel using the elements to advantage etc. There are so many things like this during the story. Splendid stuff all the way. The characters and the dialogue are marvellous as usual. I can't recommend these naval stories high enough. Well worth reading.



Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens (My Goodreads)

The Old Curiosity Shop

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story started off in the first person singular. Master Humphery tells the story. Then after a few chapters, it becomes a third person singular story. I think it was originally published in episodes via a magazine. The story follows Nell Trent who lives with her Grandfather. It is a very moving story and also rather sad. As with all Charles Dickens stories. The characters and the dialogue are wonderful. It was these gorgeous things that compelled me. It is always the same with Charles Dickens. Well worth reading.



Carson of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs (My Goodreads Review)

Carson of Venus (Venus, #3)

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I read this many decades ago. I think I was lured by the front page picture, which is not the one on the cover for this review. I remember there were Amazon women and submissive wimpy men in one part. I thought it might be along the line of Conan the Barbarian in space or something like that. It was ok, but it was not a story that gripped me. Obviously, pulp sci-fi/fantasy which is fine if you like this sort of thing. There are many people that like such escapism but it was not for me and I never followed the series after reading this.



Saturday, 12 May 2018

A Close Run Thing by Allan Mallinson (My Goodreads Review)

A Close Run Thing (Matthew Hervey, #1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I would have liked to give this 3 and a half, but there is no allowance for that. I would not go to four for one reason. The first chapter.

This was a very enjoyable story set between 1814 to 1815. The reader sees a backdrop of historical development where Napoleon is banished to Elba and then his return for the 100 Days War. In between, our British cavalryman takes two months leave and then is stationed in Ireland, before returning to mainland Europe to fight the Battle of Waterloo.

My only gripe with the story is the first chapter. It was full of narration and was intense in historical detail concerning cavalry etc. It read like a textbook and what little dialogue there was, seemed short. This made the characters look a little wooden. By the time I finished the first chapter, I was pondering on whether or not to abandon the novel. I stuck with it and I am most pleased I did. For it seemed as though the author wanted to get some of these explanations out of the way. The story started to roll and the dialogue got much better. The character of Matthew Hervey bloomed. I found him easy to identify with as his adventure began.

As the novel progressed and new things had to be explained, it was often done without the long narration and sometimes the characters told the reader through dialogue. This worked much better. I don't understand why the author, who obviously knows his stuff, could not have shown the reader the cavalry things of the first chapter via dialogue with the nun/nurse at the nunnery where the first chapter was set. As I say, this was a smashing story apart from the laborious first chapter. I will read the second book in the series The Nizam's Daughters as I did enjoy the period settings and have warmed to Matthew Hervey.



Thursday, 10 May 2018

Post Captain by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

Post Captain (Aubrey/Maturin, #2)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second Aubrey/Maturin story. They are set during the Napoleonic wars at sea. In this story, we see our heroes up against it with debt collectors threatening. Jack Aubrey needs a ship because while at sea, he can keep the creditors away. The dialogue is splendid and some of the narration has that old fashion feel too. It all makes for a great atmospheric feel. The battles at sea are particularly gripping. Even if, like me, you know nothing about sailing at sea; you'll get sucked up into these dazzling adventures. I'll definitely go for the third story after being thrilled by the first two adventures. I can't express how good the dialogue is. I know I've mentioned it before, but this is what makes the story so fine. The speech is how one might well imagine how people of such times would talk. I felt as though I was there. Walking about the old port towns and visiting well to do people. Some of these parts of the story had an almost Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austin feel about it. Then there are the descriptions of men at sea and the workings of such magnificent vessels.



Monday, 7 May 2018

Fire Power by Chris Dempster (Goodreads Review)

Fire Power

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this back in the early 1980s. It was lent to me by my Brother-in-law. It concerns the British mercenaries out in Angola during the conflict of 1974. A former Portuguese colony is becoming independent and the various factions are fighting one another. The Communists have Cuban and Soviet advisers etc. Another group has predominately British mercenaries. They are led by a man of Greek Cypriot origin. An ex-British Army man who is given the alias of Callen. In a short time, Callen becomes notorious for attacking the Communist coveys and even executing his own men. Then there is the public televised trial. The author, Chris Dempster is also present at this time and he has his own story to tell. As a young kid, I can remember watching the court case on the news and the stories in the newspapers of Callen. The whole thing is well written by someone who was there, but I can't help feeling there is a little bit of the macho bravado aspect to this. A lot of ordinary people on all sides of the conflict died brutal deaths.



Fall Out: A Year of Political Mayhem by Tim Shipman (My Goodreads Review)

Fall Out: A Year of Political Mayhem

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

God Lord! Who would the hell want Theresa May's job after reading this entertaining and very gripping account? If she is weak? No blooming wonder! The pro-Brexiteers are waiting in dark alcoves with knives drawn and ready to pounce at the slightest sign of wavering. The other dark places are inhabited by the sour EU-remain brigade who are also ready to try and character assassinate her at any moment. Then there is the fickle electorate - the nation's voters who she mistook to have won trust from. With ill-deserved confidence, she calls for another election for an EU mandate. Many of the Brexiteers are old Labour voters etc. They were not going to allow a hated Conservative a mandate to impose dementia tax etc. Many think she is trying to impose wicked penalties for defying the government. The plebiscite rebellion still distrusts all political parties. The whole thing seems farcical. The left-wing Labour party offered free everything and still could not win. The British Prime Minister is caught between a rock and a hard place concerning the EU. She knows that the British electorate expects her to deliver on the Brexit referendum. That one principal is all she can do. But either way; she is going to make enemies. No good calling her weak. The Prime Minister is having everything thrown at her from every side. I would highly recommend this follow up to Tim Shipman's All Out War. Splendid stuff!



Friday, 4 May 2018

Do You Enjoy Boxing?

Sugar Ray Leonard v Dave Boy Green



Male Dominated Sport.

There are many sports that fascinate me. I’m glued like a rabbit in the headlights. I'm mesmerised by the bravery of such men. And I am talking only of men. A world of men. Perhaps the politically correct might say, male-dominated and intentionally chauvinistic. Perhaps this is true. This is not out of disrespect for ladies. It is because the sports I refer to are completely for the world of men.
The main one is boxing. I know ladies do box in certain categories, but it is of no interest to me. I know they play football. I like to see the ladies football sometimes but there is still not that zeal or buzz to grip me. I think formula one motor racing has the gritty edge of a dangerous sport. Still, not too many ladies grace this high level. Even though, I believe some woman might be able to compete alongside men in the motor racing sport.

For me, the ultimate admiration is reserved for boxers. When two men go out into that arena, it is something truly brave. Perhaps, a little crazy too. I could never do such a thing. Yet I’m compelled by the people who do. Good boxing never fails to fascinate me. I could pick out hundreds of names from the history of boxing. Many of us would know of them. Boxers that seemed invincible, are suddenly defeated in a blinding crescendo of punches and rounds of gruelling punishment.
The solitary bravery of these lone warriors never fails to amaze me. Even when some poor boxer is getting battered about the ring. When somehow the brave and outmatched adversary is still hanging in and taking the punishment. The big mouth pre-fight slanging match before the press and then the fighter enters the ring and is taken out with an embarrassing knockout in the first round. There are all types of defeats. And most boxers, no matter how good, will end their careers in defeat.
It is strange to say that I can never get things right with up and coming boxers. I see impressive men who have all the attributes. They dispatch a collection of adversaries with impressive fights. They seem unstoppable. Then they step up a notch against someone who looks less able than some of the boxer’s previous competitors. Surprise! The unimpressive looking challenger takes out the magnificent boxer I have been following for some time.

Photo

Prince Naseem Hamed vs Marco Antonio Barrera




Variable Expectations on Certain Boxers.
This happened with Ricky Hatton. I thought he was so impressive. He won a string of victories in two weight categories. The man was dynamite in my opinion. Then he suffered a spectacular defeat against Floyd Mayweather Jr. It seemed to take a lot out Ricky Hatton and I don’t think he was the same after this.
There is also a flip side to that coin. Every time Joe Calzaghe got into the ring, I thought his luck was going to run out. It never did. He even ended his career undefeated because he had to retire due to his hands becoming brittle and broken. Some of the opponents that stepped into the ring with Joe Calzaghe were most impressive. He first shocked me when he beat the formidable champion, Chris Eubank. I thought Chris Eubank was good and he was not defeated easily by Joe Calzaghe. Yet the Welshman seemed to have this impressive speed dogging and quick sequences of punches. He was amazing. I thought it was a one-off. It was not. An intimidating assortment of fighters would come and be dispatched by Calzaghe. Every time he stepped into the ring I thought, “This is it! This time Joe is going to lose. One such opponent was Bryon Mitchell, an American who seemed to have the credentials. He was certainly bristling with confidence and could talk the talk. Well most of them can talk the talk. In the first round, Mitchell put Joe Calzaghe on his backside. The first time the Welshman had been put down in a big fight. He was up quickly and before the first round ended, Mitchell was put down too. I went from shock to awe as in the second round Calzaghe dispatched Mitchell with a technical knockout. The American seemed to have no answer to the barrage of blows that were hitting him.
I often remember Calzaghe’s opponents holding the gloves to their faces as the quick punches kept coming. No matter how formidable the opponents appeared, once they started protecting their faces, there were no punches back. If one did get slung, Calzaghe often was able to dodge the swing or ride the blow. He would always return a fast succession of blows. The boxer was amazing.

Joe Calzaghe was Undefeated.
Muhammad Ali in White Shorts.

Defeated Opponents that Keep Coming Back.

Of course one could add other great boxers. Everyone on the planet will know of Muhammad Ali. The man always told us he was ‘The Greatest’ and I for one, would not argue. His career did eventually end in defeat. However, he did come back from defeats to reclaim his title on several occasions. The boxer was a phenomenon in the world of heavyweights. He was put on his backside a few times, but when he got back up, he was usually revitalised. I remember a fight with Chuck Wepner in 1975. It seemed like a mismatch. Perhaps it was. Wepner was a boxer that appeared to take a lot of punishment yet kept coming back for more. Ali was toying with the brave opponent who would not go down or give up. Despite the arduous punishment he was taking, Wepner was tough. He had a face that looked like it had been put through a meat grinder and had come out the other side battered and hacked, yet still, it was there. He got to round 9 when he went out to face Ali again.
It is important to say, that Ali was so good that even if someone scored a punch against the man, it was something to gas about. It would be so for Wepner. A grand moment was all that most of Ali’s opponents could hope for. But such moments against ‘The Greatest’ could earn you a place in the history books and the hall of fame. One’s small moment of glory. A moment that echoes in eternity. Especially if captured on TV.
Wepner’s grand moment came and it made the fight a little bit special. He caught Ali with a body blow and floored heavyweight champion. It caused an uproar. For a moment the unknown Wepner was higher than the stars. Just for a fleeting moment! A moment for Wepner who would be able to live off of the fame for the rest of his life. To put ‘The Greatest’ on the canvas was a feat. The Great Ali then got up. Revitalised from the shock and a look that suggested he was put out by Wepner’s audacious affront.
The brave Chuck Wepner had to pay a further price for his hard-earned aurora of nobility. But he must still know to this day, it was worth it. For a few moments, he was up there in the clouds and so was the excited audience. He wanted to dance in the bubble of adulation. For a while, he tried. The great Ali went on to win the fight convincingly though Wepner was only put down in the 15th round with 19 seconds to go.
The body blow that floored Ali, earned Wepner a wonderful celebrity. One little move, standing the punishment and going the distance was what he managed against Muhammad Ali. The Rocky movies were said to have come about from Chuck Wepner’s boxing match with ‘The Greatest.’ Perhaps they did. Wepner lost a fight but gained a page in boxing legend. You can become famous for losing in the ring. Fame is a double-edged sword. To be fair, Ali never really looked like losing the fight. But perhaps he realised Wepner may have been able to gain another opportunistic punch. He appeared to respect Wepner a little more and began to work on the man. The brutish Wepner went through that meat grinder again and came out the other side with honour intact and a little halo of endeavour. Ali was still ‘The Greatest.’ He always will be.


Muhammad Ali v Chuck Wepner

The Accidental Fame of Some Boxers.

There are hundreds of moments that delight me about boxing. One splendid celebrity of the ring was a little-known lightweight called Usman Ahmed. This young man gained popularity for a dynamic loss in the ring. He had a splendid entrance whereby he did all these wonderful dancing moves towards the ring. The crowd cheering and the rap music playing. His entourage of trainers and promoters behind him. The wild crowd was lapping it all up. He went into the ring and fought well. He lost on points but put up a good show. This was a Commonwealth title fight.
Then sometime later, Usman Ahmed got into the ring with another opponent called Ashley Sexton. Uzzy Ahmed was knocked out cold in the first round. What followed was a YouTube video that went viral. It showed Uzzy’s grand dance moves from his Commonwealth title fight. This was the fight where he went the distance and lost on points. Then as he steps into the ring, the video edit is linked to the fight where he confronts Ashley Sexton. Therefore, we see a cocky young man doing all the moves and then – POW! Round one knockout. And I do mean a knockout!
Everyone wanted to see the cocky boxer get his just dues because he was being so arrogant. That is the trouble with an audience. We all like to see the banter, but we are all fickle. If you win, all well and good. If you lose, there is no mercy. You are thrown to the wolves. This is why I admire the guts of any man who steps into that ring. Uzzy had the guts to do it. He lost! He was humiliated further by a doctored video to heap further indignation upon his loss and wounded pride. But then something happened. When Uzzy went out and about in his local area, everyone knew him. His fame was established and his acceptance of such celebrity turned from ridicule to respect. He got lots of TV interviews and was able to tell his story and he did so with a great attitude. The young man instantly became a hit among his listeners and became famous for the laughable yet unfair video clip of his demise against Ashley Sexton. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Ashley, but Uzzy is more famous because of his glass jaw knockout. However, I’m sure Andy Sexton can live with his great boxing victory. I’m speaking from the entertainment point of view and the boxer who dares to step into the ring deserves respect. No matter how he approaches the contest.



Usman Ahmed - The Grand Entrance.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

Master and Commander

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I almost skipped this first story and would have started on Post Captain, which is the second of these acclaimed stories of the Royal Navy during the time of Nelson etc. However, I was informed that the movie of the same name is nothing like the first Patrick O'Brien novel of the same name. All the characters are there, but I think the movie is more like another Aubrey–Maturin story called the Far Side of the World. The movie was most enjoyable, so I'm not trying to knock it. I just thought I might already know the story.

Alas, I did not. The whole Aubrey–Maturin saga starts off splendidly in the Mediterranean. Our two heroes are on the island of Majorca. This is where they first meet at a concert hosted by musicians and wives of the British gentry. I was absolutely enthralled by the dialogue of these many seamen and the author presents the times wonderfully well. The characters are splendid and the action sequences are gripping. I would highly recommend this novel. Especially if you enjoy historical fiction of a nautical flavour. I will eventually read other stories of the Aubrey–Maturin series. I am now a fan.