Reading Challenge – March Update

Well, I have managed 14 books in 13 weeks, 7 ahead of schedule and only 16 to go to complete the challenge. At this rate, I should have read about 55 by the end of the year.

This month’s books were:

What do you do when the doctor says you could die at any moment? Well…after you’ve made a cup of tea, of course.

Nathan James is young, successful and has the world at his feet. Unfortunately, he’s also about to die—which ruins things somewhat. And now he’s staring imminent death in the face, Nathan is having to rethink some of his life choices very hard.

This means embarking on a hectic journey of self-discovery that includes, amongst other things, losing his dignity to an inescapable bean bag, suffering screaming nightmares about a monstrous potato, and getting up close and very personal with a bipolar donkey.

All of which is fine, but then Nathan falls in love with a charming girl called Alison, which is a really stupid thing to do. Because how can you give your heart to someone when it might be about to stop?

From Nick Spalding, the bestselling author of Fat ChanceBricking It and Mad Love, comes a comedy about dying—which is easy—and living, which is most certainly not.

‘Thinking Betty was in the bath Graham was watching a late-night programme on Channel 4 called Footballers with Their Shirts Off when she unexpectedly came in on the trail of the hairdryer.

“I didn’t know you were interested in football,” said Betty.’

No one must ever find out that Graham is ‘not the marrying sort’. Certainly not his wife, or his mother. As sex, blackmail and fanatical tidiness take over the West Yorkshire parish of Alwoodley, an unlikely caper unfolds.

A skewering of the American underbelly by the New York Times bestselling author of Seven Deadly Sins and You’re Making Me Hate You

The always-outspoken hard rock vocalist Corey Taylor begins America 51 with a reflection on what his itinerant youth and frequent worldwide travels with his multiplatinum bands Slipknot and Stone Sour have taught him about what it means to be an American in an increasingly unstable world. He examines the way America sees itself, specifically with regard to the propaganda surrounding America’s origins (like a heavy-metal Howard Zinn), while also celebrating the quirks and behaviour that make a true-blue American.

Balancing humour, outrage, and disbelief, Taylor examines the rotting core of America, evaluating everything from politics and race relations to family and “man buns.” By continuing the wave of moral outrage begun in You’re Making Me Hate You, Taylor skewers contemporary America in his own signature style.

Arthur C. Clarke, the creator of one of the world’s best-loved science fiction tales, revisits the most famous future ever imagined in this NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, as two expeditions into space become inextricably tangled. Heywood Floyd, a survivor of two previous encounters with the mysterious monoliths, must again confront Dave Bowman, HAL, and an alien race that has decided that Mankind is to play a part in the evolution of the galaxy whether it wishes to or not. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

When Kendra first visits her ailing grandmother, Ella has only one request: that Kendra writes her story down, before she forgets…

In 1937, seventeen-year-old Ella’s life changes forever when she is sent to spend the summer on the beautiful Île de Ré and meets the charismatic, creative Christophe. They spend the summer together, exploring the island’s sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, and, for the first time in her life, Ella feels truly free.

But the outbreak of war casts everything in a new light. Ella is forced to return to Scotland, where she volunteers for the war effort alongside the dashing Angus. In this new world, Ella feels herself drifting further and further from who she was on the Île de Ré. Can she ever find her way back? And does she want to?

From the windswept Île de Ré to the rugged hills of Scotland, Sea of Memories is a spellbinding journey about the power of memory, love and second chances.

Music and me

I love music, I really do. When I was young I learned to play several instruments, and my father’s family are quite musical too, with quite a few pianists, especially my cousin A, who is incredibly talented. Whilst growing up I learned to play the piano by ear. I also did the Royal School of Music exams. My problem, like my talented cousin A, I cannot read music, well, not at a speed that would allow me to play from sheet music. I have a very mathematical brain, and I think this is the problem. The notes, quavers, semiquavers, crochets and all the other symbols do not compute. A dot (note) being placed randomly on a set of lines really does not trigger anything. Put a load of mathematical symbols on a load of lines and I can make sense of that.

For as long as I remember I have had music playing constantly in my life. As a kid, my father always played his records, and when he was not there my mum did the same. I played their records, and one day had my own stereo. When I was in my early 20’s I bought myself a huge Kenwood Tri sound system that I still have today and it works like a dream, it cost me at the time £1,500.00. I guess the price proved a point as 25 years later it is still in perfect condition. Over the years too, I have had every type of personal music player too, and I never skimped on paying out for good quality products. Today, I still have the sound system, but I tend to use my iMac and a set of Harmon Kardon speakers, £160 but worth every penny, the sound is exquisite, and I also subscribe to Apple Music.  My car has Kenwood speakers that have great bass. When out walking the dogs on my own I will have a pair of Bose Bluetooth ones feeding my ears with music too.

My musical taste really does run the gamut. My music collection consists of thousands of CDs and Vinyl albums. I love digital as it is easy to get, click a button to pay, and there it is on my iMac, but you cannot beat the feel or sound of vinyl, however, here in the UK it is usually three or four times the price of a CD. My vinyl collection is extensive and includes rare items from picture discs to limited pressings, white label, and signed. I started as a kid listening to my father’s rock albums, mostly Queen, ELO, and others of the time, and his classical music albums. But then I discovered Goth, and it just blew me away. My first love of Goth was Fields of the Nephilim (The Nephilim in the USA), and I have seen them in concert many many times, traveling up and down the country to see them. Of course, I loved nearly all Goth music, especially the obscure. The I added Rock and Metal to my collection, them some punk. Then I found the heavier the better, my taste over the years included Napalm Death, Pantera, Slipknot, Rammstein, and others.

The latest CD to add to my collection is Stone Sour’s “Hydrograd”. What a pleasure this is to the ears. I listened to Corey Taylor and Josh Rand talk about the making of the album and what a blast they had, and it shows in the music. Needless to say, I have had it on repeat since its release on Friday. I had pre-ordered it through Amazon, so received the physical item later on Friday, but had the digital download delivered in the early hours of that day, so it was there for me when I woke up. I guess I am a fan of Corey as I have all of Slipknot’s albums too, and I have read all of Corey’s books too, which, I heartily recommend to everyone. He looks at life they way we all do but manages to bring a bit of sense about the chaos that we see. If you are offended by explicit language, then this really is not for you. I also listen to his Beats One show entitled “A series of bleeps”, and I am sure you understand the reason for the title.

Throughout my adulthood, I have been to about 400 gigs, and about 100 classical music concerts. The most memorable classical concert would be Brahms “A German Requiem”, Goth would be a toss up between Fields of the Nephilim and The Sisters of Mercy, punk would be a Stiff Little Fingers, Gothic Punk has to be Creaming Jesus (incredible gig in Liverpool). Rock would be Pantera (Castle Donnington), Alternative Metal Henry Rollins. Pop (?) would be Alison Moyet. Electronica has to be Jean Michel Jarre. Every gig has a small place in my heart and I guess I will reminisce about them till the day I leave this earth.

My list could go on and on, as will my collection, my memories, and the music.