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50 book challenge

Book 6: Glory Glory!, Andy Mitten

Book 6 of my challenge was all thanks to Mary (@mekster on Twitter) who kindly lent it to me. You can check out her blog, including her own 50 book challenge, at http://meksmeanderings.blogspot.com/

Basically, Glory Glory! is the story of Manchester United in the 90s, culminating in the historical treble win in May 1999. The book comes from the perspective of the players themselves, and take the form of a series of in depth interviews with10 of the players and the Club Chairman at the time, Martin Edwards.

All the stories were really interesting and it was great to read a bit about what footballers are really like behind the scenes, and the backgrounds that they came out of. I especially liked that it didn’t focus on the big names. No Beckham, Giggs or Schmeichel in this book. Some of the most interesting stuff came from David May and Nicky Butt who were relatively small players at the club (or as small as you can be in the red shirts of Manchester United).

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who was following English football in the 90s or who has and interest in Manchester United.

Books 1&5: ST DS9 – Mission Gamma Books 1&2

MAJOR SPOILERS FOR Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Series and minor ones for the DS9 relaunch books follow.

I know I’m well behind on this and I’m unlikley to make it to 50 books this year but I’ll do my best. I’m even further behind on blogging about it so here goes.

Book 1: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Mission Gamma: Book 1 – Twilight, David R. George III

The first book of my challenge was the next up in my reading of the DS9 relaunch novels. Twilight is the first book in a four-part set called Mission Gamma that in it’s main plot follows an exploration mission of the Gamma Quadrant by the crew of the USS Defiant from Deep Space Nine.

In the previous books in the series (Avatar two parter) we are introduced to the new crew of DS9 after the ascension of Captain Sisko in the series finale. Kira has been promoted to station commander and her new XO is a Starfleet Commander Elias Vaughan. Lieutenant Nog has taken over from Chief O’Brien as chief engineer and Lieutenant Ro Laren (newly commissioned into the Bajoran militia) has Odo’s old office as chief of station security. Other new crewmembers include Andorian Ensign Thirishar ch’Thane and Commander Vaughan’s estranged daughter, Ensign Prynn Tenmei.

The main plot of the first book concerns the Defiant‘s departure from Deep Space Nine commanded by Vaughan with Ezri Dax, Nog, Doctor Bashir and Ensigns ch’Thane and Tenemi on board. The first new planet they come across is occupied by the peaceful Vahni Vahltupani but the planet is in danger of destruction from mysterious energy pulses from space. Vaughan and his crew must race against the clock to save an entire people from annihilation.

In the meantime on the station a Federation diplomatic team arrives to negotiate Bajor’s entry to the Federation.

Book 5: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Mission Gamma: Book 2 – This Gray Spirit, Heather Jarman

In the second book, the Defiant is damaged by an enemy weapon but is rescued by a ship from the alien race known as the Yrythny. The crew quickly discovers that this is a society at breaking point. The planet is plagued by strict discrimination between the Houseborn deemed genetically superior and the enslaved lower class known as the Wanderers who are stripped of many rights including the right to breed and the eligibility to serve in the military. Wanderer terrorist attacks have brought the planet to the verge of civil war. A throwaway comment from Ezri Dax about the possibility of getting an independent mediator in, causes the defiant crew to be drawn in to the centre of the conflict.

Back on the station, a Cardassian delegation arrives in the hopes of patching up relations between them and Bajor before Bajor enters the Federation.

The books are both reasonable reads. In both cases the plot on the Defiant is more compelling than the one on the station and the plot of the first book is far more interesting than that of the second. Both books, thought the second more than the first, unfortunately suffer from far too much concentration on two minor plots, the first of which is the budding relationship between Ro Laren and Quark. The second is the arrival on the station of Ensign ch’Thane’s family. Great detail is given to the complicated Andorian family structure and while it’s all interesting, I just got bored of it after a while. From the reviews I’ve read, This Gray Spirit is the low point of the series so I’m looking forward to reading the remaining books.

Book 4: Biggles and the Deep Blue Sea by Captain W.E. Johns

For book 4 of my challenge, I decided to go for another period adventure story, this time set just after World War II.

James Bigglesworth, known throughout the world as Biggles, is the protagonist in a series of books by Captain W.E. Johns, an RFC veteran of the First World War.

Biggles, a seemingly slow-aging character started his career in the Royal Flying Corps in World War I and continued to have adventures with his colleagues Algy, Ginger and Bertie throughout the inter-war years, during WWII and in the post war years where they became a special Air Police unit working out of Scotland Yard. It is in this period in the early 50s that this particular book is set. Biggles and Algy are sent to a tiny British owned island in the Indian Ocean to investigate reports of an unidentified aircraft spotted flying towards the island. There they find a mysterious Brit and come into conflict with Hashish smugglers, a giant squid and a shark.

This is a classic Biggles book. It’s all good. 8/10

50 Book Challenge so far:
Books: 4/50
Pages: 1803/15000

Book 3: The Man Who Would be King, Rudyard Kipling

This will be a much shorter review than the last one, mainly because it’s a much shorter book.

Book 3 of my challenge was originally going to be another Star Trek book but I’ve decided to leave that till a little later and do some other books first. This one is the first I’ve read of the free, public domain books I’ve downloaded for my Kindle.

The Man Who Would Be King was originally published by Kipling as the title story in a collection with shorter stories but this version stands alone.

The plot is quite simple but brilliant fun. It is told in the first person from the point of view of a British journalist on station in India at the height of the British Empire. In the film version the journalist is portrayed as Kipling himself but his identity is never revealed in the book. The journalist encounters two adventurers, Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnehan, on a train and they later visit him in his office in Lahore. They inform the journalist that they intend to journey to the least explored areas of the subcontinent. There they will find a backwards tribe and, with knowledge of weaponry and military strategy learnt in the army, help the tribe defeat their enemies and impress the tribe into making them into Kings. Needless to say their quest doesn’t quite go as planned.

The story is a fantastic little adventure and I found myself really wanting it to be longer and flesh out the details. To this end I’d really recommend the film, starring Sir Michael Caine & Sir Sean Connery as Peachy & Dravot and Christopher Plummer as Kipling. The film really uses its extended storytelling abilities to bring to life and embellish Kipling’s story, filling in the many gaps in time the story skips over.

Maybe that review wasn’t too much shorter than last time after all!

Great story but too short, I wanted more! 7/10

50 Book Challenge so far:
Books: 3/50
Pages: 1219/15000

Next up: Biggles and the Deep Blue Sea, Captain W.E. Johns

Book 2: The Teeth of the Tiger, Tom Clancy

I recently finished the third book of my 50 book challenge for and started a fourth so I thought it was time for an update.

As I’d said previously, my first book was the first part of the Deep Space Nine relaunch series, Mission Gamma which consists of four books so I’ll review the series as a whole when I’ve read all of them. That brings us to book 2.

The Teeth of the Tiger by Tom Clancy was, until very recently, the latest book in Clancy’s ongoing Ryanverse series of novels relating the life of John Patrick ‘Jack’ Ryan. Ryan was a reluctant CIA officer who eventually ended up as President, and I’ve loved all the books up to now. TotT however focuses on his son (Jack Jr.) beginning his own intelligence career at a black ops operation known as The Campus.

The whole Jack Ryan Jr. concept was my first clue that this novel would be a departure from the norm. I read this on kindle but I looked at the book in the shop when it came out and I was struck by how much shorter it was than his normal books. They bound it up in a large book to make it look good on the shelf with the others, but the type size and margins are both much larger than average so I’d say it’s about half the length of your average Ryanverse book.

So I mentioned just above that Jack Jr. was working for a new black ops organisation called The Campus and that’s the next problem with this book. The Campus is a private enterprise with a remit to defend the people of the United States through whatever methods necessary. Set up on a direct line between the NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland and CIA at Langley, Virginia so that it can intercept all signal communications between the two it has an investment bank as a front that uses intercepted intelligence to make money via investments to fund it’s operations. There are so many plot holes in the description of this place that its totally unbelievable that such a place could ever exist. It’s also totally out of character for Jack Ryan Sr. to have signed off on the place in the first place and he certainly wouldn’t of handed them a pile of signed blank presidential pardons so they’d be safe in the event they were ever rumbled. It’d be too easy for them to get into the wrong hands and an organisation like the campus would easily get out of control.

In all, The Teeth of the Tiger is a passable thriller, but it pales in comparison to the rest of the Ryanverse so I was pretty disappointed.


Book 3 review will follow shortly.

50 book challenge progress:
Books: 2/50
Pages: 1144/15000

50 Book Challenge

I’ve been wanting to do more reading for a while. Since I went to university 5 years ago, I got out of the habit of reading. Sure, I read all the huge releases (Harry Potter for example) and a few other books, mainly while on holiday, but I used to read so much when I was at school and want to get back towards that. To this end, I asked for a kindle for Christmas and I’m loving it.

Anyway, I was on twitter the other day and I noticed two friends talking about something called the 50 book challenge. Basically you read 50 books in 2011, with a total page count of at least 15000 (an average of 300 pages per book which isn’t much).  That’s quite a hefty target and I don’t necessarily expect to hit it, but it’s something to aim at. I’m starting to read more already, especially on the train rather than my usual watching, listening and angry-birds-ing.

I’m going to keep track of my progress on this blog and maybe even post some reviews. So far I’ve read one and a half books since the new year and I’ve got my next one lined up:

Book 1: Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Mission Gamma, Book 1: Twilight
David R. George III – 504 pages

Book 2: The Teeth of the Tiger
Tom Clancy – 640 pages (in progress)

Book 3: Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Mission Gamma, Book 2: This Gray Spirit
Heather Jarman390 pages (next up)