Atomic Habits — James Clear

This book is a must for everyone who wants to improve their lives in any way at all.

James dives deep into how our human brains work and how we’re hardwired, and gives great, sound advice as to how to use this hardwiring to our advantage instead of being mindless slaves to it.   I just wish i’d read this 40 years ago, but, it’s never to late to change and i look forward to the benefits that this information can bring to my life moving forward.   I would even go so far to say that his book should be essential reading at all schools: the sooner people can get this stuff into their heads the better their lives and their futures would be.

It’s definitely a keeper and a book that i know i’ll be re-reading some time in the future once i’ve done some work on it all.   In the meanwhile i just have to get on with the process as i’ve got some annoying habits to be rid of and good habits to build.

I repeat, once again, this book is a must.

James’ Page

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The Queen’s Gambit — Walter Tevis

I am at a loss as to how many 5 star reviews this book has.   I can only imagine that it’s from people who never read fiction but play a lot of chess and are over-extending their enthusiasm for the game by proclaiming any book that mentions a chess game as a masterpiece of writing — regardless.

One can only imagine all the anorak and fingerless-glove wearing train-spotters who read books about people on trains and give them 5 star reviews just because there’s a train in the book: Thomas the Tank Engine has so much to answer for.

All i can say is that i managed to finish it, but it isn’t anything to get excited about in any way: unless you have wet dreams about chess games.

The suggested drug abuse and dependency never actually materialises.   Sure, Beth has her moments of alcohol exploration as most teenagers do, she even tries a bit of pot at a party — OMFG — and sometimes she even takes a tranquilliser or two to get to sleep; but i’d hardly call any of it drug abuse as she only manages to lose one game of chess, ever, due to having a bit too much wine and then never drinks again for the rest of the book.   It’s like the gender/sex discrimination it reportedly deals with: i would imagine that most women would gladly be the first in the queue to have a few grumpy old men being annoyed at being beaten at chess by them instead of the real gender/sex discrimination real girls and women have to deal with every day.

And — shock and horror for middle class suburbia — there’s even the suggestion that Beth may be a lesbian, or at least bi-curious.   Oh the wildness, call the morality police before it all gets too far out of control!!!

To put it all mildly, it’s all very nicely portrayed and sanitised for the middle class, chess playing people of it’s day.   Even the children’s home is positively idyllic compared to what a real one is like — and yes, i was in a children’s home.

I really don’t think this book has aged well at all.

All in all, a disappointment, but if you like listening to chess matches on Radio 4 and don’t like anything too risqué then it may just get you a little tingly where it matters.

Walter’s Page

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A Rose Point Holiday — M. C. A. Hogarth

After all the shenanigans of the first three books, Reese moves into her new home, Rose Point, a dilapidated run down castle.

Gone are all the nasty people wanting to enslave, imprison and kill her and Hirianthial, and in their place she is given a castle full of staff, the new horses and dogs, plus some Eldritch peasants to Lady it over and win to her side, all while preparing for the winter holiday season and all the protocol and guests that that entails for her new status — not to mention her upcoming wedding.

Admittedly the plot may sound a little dull after the earlier books, but it actually works really well and it’s a really nice and enjoyable ending to this tetralogy, though technically it should be read before the “Epilogue” at the end of Laisrathera as the wedding comes after the events of this book.

All in all, this whole series is well worth a read.

M. C. A. Hogarth’s Page

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Laisrathera — M. C. A. Hogarth

This is a super good book and builds on the first two books perfectly: yeah, you guessed it, it all kicks off with the Eldritch.

It appears that when you get to book 4, A Rose Point Holiday, that it fits in just before the Epilogue at the end of Laisrathera, so you may wish to pause this book at that point and read the fourth book and then come back to the Epilogue: your choice, as always.

All said and read: great writing, great pacing, great characters, just all round good sci-fi with a nice hint of fantasy tropes courtesy of the Eldritch.

And as with the first two books, i’m going to dive straight into the next book, A Rose Point Holiday.   I think it says a lot for a book series when you just pile straight through all the books without any inbetweenie reads.

M. C. A. Hogarth’s Page

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Rose Point — M. C. A. Hogarth

I dived straight into this after Earthrise and just like Earthrise, i really enjoyed it.

This time we go off around the galaxy with our intrepid crew starting with a strange planet that breeds horses where Hirianthial is kidnapped (again) and because of complications from that we then have to go to the world of the Eldritch where we begin to find out what they’re all about and why they’re so secretive.   Yes folks, lots of secrets, Queens, castles, nefarious plots and everything needed to spice it all up.   It seems the Queen has big plans for Reese, but are Reese and the crew ready for the world of the Eldritch and is the world of the Eldritch ready for Reese and the crew?

All good stuff.   These are big long books that really give value for money and, without pause, i’m diving straight into Laisrathera.

M. C. A. Hogarth’s Page

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Earthrise — M. C. A. Hogarth

Super duper stuff.

If you enjoyed Firefly then this should be quite up your alley.   However, unlike Firefly we don’t just have humans, we are set in a far distant future where humans have made genetically modified people mixed with cats and other creatures.   So now we have cat people who can’t stop wanting to have sex with any humanoid that comes within sight, griffins, centaurs, advanced mind reading Elven types and other things besides — all on spaceships and stuff.

And there’s pirates and slavers and some nice police/military types that actually help normal people (it’s a strange future when the police/military types are actually helping the good guys).

A very good start to this tetralogy and i’m now off into the second book, Rose Point, for more fun adventures with our bizarre and wonderfully strange mix of crew mates.

M. C. A. Hogarth’s Page

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March of the Lemmings — Stewart Lee

It came up for £1.19 on an Amazon deal, or something like that, so i gave it a go.

As a stand up comedian i think Stewart Lee is really good and very enjoyable to watch: if you’re a person of lower intelligence then you will probably disagree with that statement, that’s fine, really, we can’t all be part of the liberal intelligentsia.

But as a newspaper columnist, he pretty much sucks donkey balls.   So why did i buy this book when, after all is said and done, it’s just lots of his newspaper columns regurgitated with foot notes?   Because i don’t read newspapers and had no idea that he sucked so badly at writing columns for them.   But i do now.

To be fair though, it’s hard to ridicule and take the urine out of a bunch of narcissistic psychopaths and sociopaths — the career politicos of our age — when they themselves revel in being caricatures of their own urine, faecal and menstrual stains and happily parade their utter incompetence across all public realms for all to see: which bizarrely does actually encourage middle england to eagerly clamour and queue to vote for more.   Why even attempt this satire and/or parody or whatever it is?   Because the newspaper offered him money to make the attempt because David Mitchell wasn’t up for it and he’d have been a fool to not take said money: he’s got a mortgage to pay after all.

So i got 11% into this and mostly got utterly fed up going back and forth to the footnotes that explain the minutiae of every column that no one really cares about other than broadsheet newspaper readers just in case these things become part of a clue in the cryptic crossword the next day.

So if you are one of those broadsheet readers then this might amuse you, or not, i don’t really care.   After 11% i’m done with it as i have many other more interesting looking books clamouring for my reading hours.   The problem with brexit now is that there’s nothing more to say or read on the matter that hasn’t already been said or read — all we’ve so far achieved is the creeping erosion of our legal rights and a trade deal with Japan that’s worse than the one we had when we were in the EU — all the other trade deals we were promised have not emerged.   The NHS is a complete mess, the economy is in tatters, unemployment is sky rocketing, Boris is determined to spend 100 billion to create 20,000 jobs building a new toy train set for the rich and wealthy while the old, decrepit, poor-people’s trainset’s franchises are all handing their franchises back to the government and are merrily washing their hands of the whole affair: the post brexit future is exactly what every remainer said it would be — but oh, thank heavens for corona virus, at least the leave camp have something else to blame for the mess we’re all in.

Stewart’s Page

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Before the Coffee Gets Cold — Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Somewhere in Tokyo there’s a tiny basement cafe with no windows, three clocks telling different times, that sells Mocha coffee and has a special seat with a ghost that sits in it reading a book while drinking said coffee.   Once a day the ghost needs to go to the toilet and while she’s away from the seat anyone who sits in it can be served a coffee and travel back in time: but there are rules.

Rule 1: nothing you do in the past will ever change the present.
Rule 2: you cannot leave the seat.
Rule 3: you can only meet people who were in the cafe at the time.
Rule 4: you only get to use the seat once, no second chances.
Rule 5: you must finish the coffee before it gets cold.

If you don’t drink the coffee before it gets cold you become a ghost.   It doesn’t say whether you replace the existing ghost or if that’s how the existing ghost came to be, just best not let the coffee get cold.

The book is divided into 4 chapters, each with it’s own time travel escapade.   The character list is quite small as it only involves the staff and customers of the cafe — which is a very small cafe — this gives us a much more intimate relationship with each of them and their problems.

As the book builds so does the emotional level of each journey, getting deeper and deeper until the very last journey which i found to be quite a damper of ones eyeballs.

The main point of these stories seems to be that if you could go through time to meet someone but meeting them wouldn’t change a thing in the present what exactly would be the point?   This is where most temporal sci-fi falls flat on its face because we always get to the paradox of you wouldn’t have gone back in time if you changed the reason for going back in the first place: this book doesn’t make those temporal mistakes.

All in all, very enjoyable and emotionally moving.

My only gripe: why’s there a cat on the cover when there isn’t a cat in the book?

Toshikazu’s Page

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Holy Sister — Mark Lawrence

A brilliant ending to a really enjoyable trilogy.

It was a slow start in Red Sister, some might even say “tedious” in those early pages, but for those who stick with it you’ll be rewarded well for your reading efforts as the whole trilogy has been a good, slow crescendo all the way to the end, and it’s an end that doesn’t disappoint at all.

If you like really good fantasy with a little sci-fi thrown in then these books will not to disappoint.   It’s big, a lot of pages, but it’s well worth all the hours.

Best of all, when you get to the end of the Kindle version you’ll find out that it doesn’t end there.   For all us Abeth fans, Mark has just begun a new trilogy with The Girl and the Stars.   I am so looking forward to more from this ice world.

Ten out of ten.

Mark’s Page

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Bound — Mark Lawrence

A novella that fits in between Grey Sister and Holy Sister.

Essentially, it’s just an enjoyable little side escapade for our protagonists as we are all invited to a Sis’, young adults, soiree down in Verity after a series of unexplained poisonings.   And we even get the beginnings of some real romance creeping into our story line for Nona: ooh-er!

Yes folks, more of that great action packed shenanigans that we have come to expect from a Sis soiree: all good fun.

Mark’s Page

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