Last night I watched Andy on stage at Ilkley Literature Festival - his first event to promote the book. He was simply brilliant - passionate, opiniona...moreLast night I watched Andy on stage at Ilkley Literature Festival - his first event to promote the book. He was simply brilliant - passionate, opinionated, funny and friendly. All of that, and a lot more, comes out in the book. From his childhood, 'our Elizabeth' (his sister Liz Kershaw), Old Grey Whistle Test, Live Aid (his first live outside broadcast), the introduction of World Music to the...world, on the spot reporting for the Today program from Rwanda during the Genocide, visits to North Korea, sharing an office with John Walters and John Peel, working for the Rolling Stones and Billy Bragg, completing his A Level economics exam in an hour to rush off to Earls Court to see Bob Dylan - 'He was terrible...' and more - much more! How he's managed to fit everything into one book (his reply to the interviewer comment that there was enough to fill two books - 'I'm not writing another one!') I'm not sure!
As you read, it's almost like Andy's chatting in your head - this is one book which cries out for an audio version, read by Andy. Recommended! (less)
Merrily Watkins, book 3 - this one's a little bit different. For a start, it's not really set in Ledwardine (it's mostly set in a different part of th...moreMerrily Watkins, book 3 - this one's a little bit different. For a start, it's not really set in Ledwardine (it's mostly set in a different part of the diocese, closer to Wales - in fact the church which is the main focus is actually in Wales) and Lol doesn't feature (he's in Birmingham, doing a psychology course). The basic plotline is that a pagan couple have bought a farmhouse which includes a ruined church. They plan to celebrate pagan ceremonies there, and Merrily, having been alerted to this via. an appearance on a 'Zoo TV' show on paganism, is encouraged to investigate by the new bishop. There then follows a very complex plot, including an evangelical preacher with a dark past, a pagan leader with an equally dark spot in his past, the press, TV, a car crash, Jane's new boyfriend, and more. It's very, very good, but if you've already read the first two, you probably don't need any encouragement from me to read this one!(less)
This is the second book Phil's written about Merrily Watkins - it starts on a deliverance course in Wales, where we meet Hugh - a priest with a past -...moreThis is the second book Phil's written about Merrily Watkins - it starts on a deliverance course in Wales, where we meet Hugh - a priest with a past - who is Merrily's deliverance course tutor. She's been selected for the course by Mick Hunter - the new,Blairite bishop of Hereford - cool, not especially religious, but looks good in purple. Hugh doesn't think it's a job for a woman, and neither does Canon Dobbs - the current incumbent. While Jane, her daughter, is becoming more anti-church and Lol, her ex pop star friend, is getting closer, something evil is stirring in Hereford, and it's not what you'd expect...
More great characterization from Phil, along with some brilliant plotting, lots of red herrings, and original ideas - this is another great book!(less)
This is the first of Phil's Merrily Watkins books - while she will become the diocesan exorcist (or rather, deliverance consultant), in this one Merri...moreThis is the first of Phil's Merrily Watkins books - while she will become the diocesan exorcist (or rather, deliverance consultant), in this one Merrily is just about to be made priest in charge at Ledwardine - newly moved from an inner city parish in Liverpool, and accompanied by her teenage daughter Jane. They're initially living in the local pub while the vicarage is made habitable - but, in the orchard at new year, something terrible happens, and Merrily soon has to come to grips with things a long way beyond her experience - something in the vicarage, the story of a former vicar with a secret, an old woman with an encylopaedic knowledge of local lore, a former pop star with a darkness in his past, and much more. If you've read any of the Merrily books, this is where it starts - when she first meets Gomer, moves into the village, and has to face something - something which leads her to her calling. It's a great book - less 'paranormal' than the other books, but setting the scene brilliantly for what's to come. (less)
This is Elly Griffiths' first book about Ruth Galloway - forensic archaeologist - who teaches at North Norfolk University, lives on the saltmarshes on...moreThis is Elly Griffiths' first book about Ruth Galloway - forensic archaeologist - who teaches at North Norfolk University, lives on the saltmarshes on the edge of the world with her cat, and somehow gets caught up in a terrifying collection of crimes and criminals. If you like Phil Rickman's 'Merrily' books, or you like the sound of the Ice King, you'll love this. Once you've got over the slightly unusual way it's written (basically, it's written in the present tense - which works well, but needs a little bit of getting used to), and got to grips with the large cast of characters (there are more books - The Janus Stone and The House at Sea's End at the moment - hopefully more to come), it becomes an involving, unusual and rewarding read. Elly sets up the locations beautifully - even if you've never been near a saltmarsh, you'll understand what it's like to live on one by the end of the book - and the case itself is cleverly set up and has a great denouement. If you're at all interested in archaeology, crime stories, and unusual settings, it's highly recommended!(less)
I love books set in theme parks - no idea why, they just seem to tick all the boxes. Utopia is one of these, and effectlvely combines the minutae of r...moreI love books set in theme parks - no idea why, they just seem to tick all the boxes. Utopia is one of these, and effectlvely combines the minutae of running an big theme park with a constantly shifting robbery/blackmail plot. It's well put together, and the characters - including the park which is a character in itself - come to life. There's the driven park CEO, the computer scientist who's trying to rebuild his career (and used to date the CEO), his daughter, a very British computer boss who may not be quite what he seems, some well drawn villains, and a beautifully realised super-park full of robots and holograms. It's well written, cleverly plotted (bet you can't guess the insider...), and constantly suprising. Simply great!(less)
I first read Dream Park a long time ago, and was blown away by it. Revisiting it recently, via. the new audiobook version, just reminds me how good it...moreI first read Dream Park a long time ago, and was blown away by it. Revisiting it recently, via. the new audiobook version, just reminds me how good it is. It's basically a dream scenario for anyone interested in roleplaying - instead of gathering around the kitchen table, players explore a real landscape full of holograms, physical effects, and technology. Although it's not dated terribly well as far as the technology's concerned (and the earthquake that knocked LA into the sea has notably failed to arrive so far...), the core plot - which is a clever mix of roleplaying wish fulfillment and a whodunnit - still holds up well. The two follow-ups (The Barsoom Project and California Voodoo Game) are less good, with Voodoo Game is particular changing and updating the concept to include VR goggles. Dream Park would be a great place to visit in real life, but if that's never going to be possible, the book's a good substitute!(less)
One of my favourite 'horror' books, although it's less horror, and more a sort of demented Time Team - the location is obviously somewhere around Whit...moreOne of my favourite 'horror' books, although it's less horror, and more a sort of demented Time Team - the location is obviously somewhere around Whitby on the Yorkshire coast, although it's not called that. An archaeology team are excavating a Viking longboat in the harbour, when SOMETHING is disturbed, and all hell - almost literally - breaks loose. It makes extensive use of Norse mythology, transposing it to modern Yorkshire, and is totally convincing. There's clever - and early, given that it was originally published in 1994 - use of web-style content to set the scene, the characters are all believable - although some of them are slightly stereotypical - and the plot's clever and involving. You should probably knock a star or two off if you're not a fan of archaeology, the Vikings, or the Yorkshire coast!(less)
I've just finished reading a book of book reviews, and now I'm reviewing a book of book reviews! The articles in this book are a collection of Nick Ho...moreI've just finished reading a book of book reviews, and now I'm reviewing a book of book reviews! The articles in this book are a collection of Nick Hornby's column 'Stuff I've been reading' from 'The Believer' magazine. It's not really a book of reviews in the sense that, say, Clive James TV reviews were collected some years back. It's a series of meditations on reading, books, what makes a good one, and what makes a ..erm.. less good one. Chatting aimiably about books ranging from the graphic novel The Complete Persepolis through JD Salinger, a biography of Arsene Wenger, and much, much more. The nature of the book makes it a good one to dip in and out of and, like 31 Songs, it flags up a range of books I've never heard of that I now want to read!
If you enjoyed High Fidelity, you'll love this! In this collection of short essays, Nick Hornby discusses 31 songs (no I don't know why it's 31 either...moreIf you enjoyed High Fidelity, you'll love this! In this collection of short essays, Nick Hornby discusses 31 songs (no I don't know why it's 31 either!) which have meant something in his life - not songs which trigger memories, but songs which are miexd into the totality of his life. From Suicide's 'Frankie Teardrop' ('10 minutes of industrial noise') to the sublime Teenage Fanclub, via. Bruce Springsteen, JJ Geils, Patty Smith, Led Zep and more. Nick is nothing if not eclectic in his tastes, and a brief sampling of the songs (some of which are available on a CD with the same title) shows that we've got pretty similar tastes. This is a great book for anyone who likes reading about music in general, and pop in particular - especially if you've taken to thinking that maybe you're too old for pop! :-) (less)
What can you say? It's the first, the original - Genesis. While the original Hitchhikers was a radio series (if you haven't heard it, seek it out - it...moreWhat can you say? It's the first, the original - Genesis. While the original Hitchhikers was a radio series (if you haven't heard it, seek it out - it's amazing, and probably the best advertisement for the BBC in general - and radio 4 in particular - that there is), this was next. The miracle of the book is that Douglas Adams managed to take something written specifically for radio, and convert it into a coherent, and very funny, novel (not to mention one of the all time classic computer adventure games, and a great TV series! - oh, and there's a film as well, but it's not in the same league). There can't be anyone who was the slightest bit interested in sci-fi and comedy in the 1980s who can't quote chunks of the text ("Time is an illusion - lunchtime doubly so"). If you haven't read it, do. If you haven't read it for a while, read it again - you'll be suprised how much you don't remember!
The follow ups (apart from Restaurant at the end of the Universe) are optional, but everyone should read this at least once!(less)