February 2018 books

With all the excitement (?) of playing with t'internet and things webby this week, I almost forgot to bore the world (or, more likely, nobody) with the list of books consumed in the last month.

Heretic (audiobook)

By Bernard Cornwell
Read by Andrew Cullum

Started 1 February
Finished 5 February

The final volume in the grail trilogy. Eventually the main plot got resolved, right at the very end of the story. I felt this book was centered on battles even more than the first two; maybe that was the cumulative effect though. Definitely time for a break from Cornwell, though I have enjoyed the books and the narration has been excellent.

A gathering storm (audiobook)

By Rachel Hore
Read by Geri Halligan

Started 5 February
Finished 8 February

Rather underwhelmed by this, so I doubt I'll read any more by this author. The story was pleasant enough, a young woman listening to the tale of an old lady's history, which turned out (not exactly a great surprise) to be entwined with that of the younger woman's family. I didn't particularly warm to any of the characters, which meant the book didn't really good my attention all that well. The narration was fine, though, very well done.

Bryant and May and the Invisible Code (audiobook)

By Christopher Fowler
Read by Tim Goodman

Started 8 February
Finished 15 February

Full of fun as usual, along with detailed knowledge of London and main characters of whom most readers are very fond. This story started with a murder (don't they all), wandered through the troubles of being a "Government wife", laid out a number of misdirects and, for me, ended up somewhere rather unexpected. One of the more enjoyable stories, including sub-plots about biological weapons.

Bryant and May and the Bleeding Heart (audiobook)

By Christopher Fowler
Read by Tim Goodman

Started 16 February
Finished 22 February

An intriguing tale, this one. A little gruesome, starting as it did with what appeared to be a risen corpse. This is Bryant and May though… As ever, Bryant goes off on his own tangent, delving into some rather dark magic/mysticism. In the end the puzzle is solved, winning over an influential person, and the Peculiar Crimes Unit lives on.

Pompeii (audiobook)

By Robert Harris
Read by Steven Pacey

Started 23 February
Finished 26 February

Immediately on starting this book I thought the narration seemed rather fast. A shame, as I generally like Steven Pacey's voice. After while, though, I adjusted and thoroughly enjoyed the story. As is often the way with Harris, I start and, for a while, wonder if I will continue. Soon enough, though, I'm thoroughly engrossed in the story. This covers a fairly short period just before Vesuvius erupted. It follows a newly-appointed engineer, who is in charge of the aqueduct serving the area. The previous post-holder (the Aquarius) has disappeared. The new man faces resentment and resistance from his staff. Pretty soon he realises something is wrong and starts to investigate. We all know the outcome, but the story was still enjoyable.

Adventures in web-land (3)

Thanks to a suggestion from a friend on social media, both the WordPress sites I installed are accessible, showing as secure and I can log in to the admin panels. The solution? Disabling Cloudflare. I could then redirect www to the bare domain, where the SSL certificate lives and all the redirect issues went away. The only reason I opted to use Cloudflare was habit: I run some other sites through it purely to pick up the free SSL certificate they provide, nothing else.

Step 1 of many seems to be complete. I now have a lot of reading to do - and a blog theme to select!

Adventures in web-land (2)

It's the morning after the night before and certain things appear to have settled down. My bare domain (and it's allegedly mandatory www redirect) now seem to load and bring up https displaying the www address.

Email is still working - go Fastmail, I'm pretty pleased with them.

My "blog." subdomain still seems to be a bit random. I'm pretty sure I didn't forward to www on this, whilst still opting for Cloudflare - which rather contradicts what I was forced to do with the main domain. Mind you, as it's a subdomain, I don't see why it should have a www sub-subdomain, that doesn't seem logical. However, in order to get hosting for it I had to add it to Dreamhost separately from the main site. The options panel was exactly the same as for the bare domain, when I don't think it should be.

I did originally add a CNAME entry pointing to the Microblog hosted site it is set up for. When I tried to verify the WordPress installation last night I got a 404 error, so I deleted the CNAME entry, as it seems to require me to verify the WordPress installation at a published site, which strikes me as a bit odd. I would have thought I could work on it offline, without pointing it to the world. I suspect I need to read more about how to do that, and the default is for Dreamhost to publish you as quickly as possible.

This morning blog.vanessahamshere.uk comes up with the WordPress landing page, so the removal of the pointer to my Microblog page has worked. However, it doesn't have https, so perhaps I'm still waiting for that to happen. When I go to the link to verify the WordPress installation I no longer get a 404 error, instead I get a message saying the browser can't open the page because too many redirects occurred. Something to leave for later, I guess - the day job calls! It mildly amuses me that the site that has nothing redirected comes up with a "too many redirects" error.

Watch this space…

Adventures in web-land (1)

Well, dear reader, this could be the first of many posts on this topic…

I finally took the plunge and purchased some web hosting, with the intention of learning something about the subject and, hopefully, some things Indieweb, via a WordPress blog.

It started off quite well - signing up and spending money was easy enough, of course.

I added the domain I wanted to use, updated my registrar's nameservers to point to Dreamhost, nothing too taxing so far.

I added in the various records I needed for my Fastmail account. As long as that continues to work I'll be no worse off. Although, even then, Fastmail gave me three CNAME records to add, but Dreamhost would only let me add one. No idea why, as previously I'd added all three to Cloudflare for this domain.

When adding the domain to hosting, I opted to use Cloudflare, as I already have an account there and Dreamhost is an official partner. That meant that I was forced to use a redirect from the bare domain to www. Also ok, I thought, as my main blogs currently have that in place, so I can point to the AWS servers they are hosted on. The bare domain can only contain an A record; I learnt that when my provider moved from static IPs to AWS. All ok so far.

I then decided I'd like security on the site. Dreamhost provides LetsEncrypt certificates for free and does it all for you. Fine, click and it shall be done.

I installed WordPress and got that set up. My site showed the basic welcome page. Superb. Time for bed and to revisit this all at a later date. Until the site failed to load, giving me security and certificate warnings, with the browsers eventually refusing to serve up the site at all.

I'm confused and the only thing I can think is that the certificate has been applied to the bare domain, which redirects to the unsecured www subdomain. No problem, request a certificate for www. Can't. Can't add it as a hosted subdomain because Dreamhost says it already has a record of it. It probably does but I have yet to work out how I can secure it,

I went through similar processes with my "blog." subdomain but that has a 404 error message now, most likely because removing its pointer to my hosted micro.blog hadn't propagated through yet.

Tomorrow is another day and I guess that if nothing ever went wrong I'd not learn much. There has to be a solution as I don't think.I'm trying to set up anything too unusual.

18-02-2018 1

Test post for microblogging, to see if I can work round mandatory post titles.

January 2018 books

Rupture (audiobook)

By Ragnar Jonasson
Read by Leighton Pugh

Started 29 December
Finished 1 January

Book three (chronologically) in the Dark Iceland series and even better than the first two. This book weaves several different story threads together in an interesting way. It's difficult to decide which is the main story, but it doesn't matter. I like spending time with the main characters in these stories and I enjoy the depiction of life in Northern Iceland. On to the next book now…

Whiteout (audiobook)

By Ragnar Jonasson
Read by Leighton Pugh

Started 1 January
Finished 3 January

Another good book, though I think Rupture was slightly better. This had plenty of interest, though; Ari Thor reuniting with his previous boss, the progress of his relationship with his girlfriend. The plot was fine, but didn't seem all that gripping. Still, overall an entertaining listen.

Nightblind (audiobook)

By Ragnar Jonasson
Read by Leighton Pugh

Started 4 January
Finished 5 January

There was a lot more intrigue in this novel than in the previous one and I enjoyed it more as a result. The story centres around the murder of the local police inspector and I didn't guess whodunit until it was revealed, which makes a change!
I found the main character's girlfriend rather annoyingly unsympathetic in this book, whereas I had started to warm to her in the previous one. I have enjoyed these books and hope there are more to come.

How to be Champion (audiobook)

By Sarah Millican
Read by Sarah Millican

Started 6 January
Finished 8 January

Thoroughly enjoyable book, although probably not if you don't like Sarah Millican's humour. I do, obviously, as I bought the book. I haven't bought any Russell Brand books…

This book is a humorous look at Millican's life and career to date, but it is set out in the form of a self-help book, with tips on "how to be champion" at the ends of chapters. It's not all hilarious, some of it is quite sad, and parts are quite shocking. Not surprising, given the state of society today, when people seem to think that anyone in the entertainment business is fair game. The tales she tells of abusive comments on Twitter is pretty grim. Overall, I found the book entertaining, uplifting and quite inspiring.

Harlequin/The Archer's Tale (audiobook)

By Bernard Cornwell
Read by Andrew Cullum.

Started 9 January
Finished 14 January

I picked this book because it was the first of the Grail trilogy and I'm a sucker for a Grail story. In this first novel it gets mentioned, but that is all. It centres around a young archer, Thomas of Hookton, following his progress as, after the French raid and destroy his town, he joins the English army and fights in France, at the start of the 100 years war. Not my usual book, although I read the early novels in the Saxon series by Cornwell. I enjoyed it though. The main character is quite compelling; far from perfect, very human, but I found myself rooting for him and sympathising with his situation. The novel ends with the battle of Crécy, which is described in some detail, but, fortunately, not to the point of boredom. I look forward to listening to the remaining books in the series.

The Shack (audiobook)

By William P Young
Read by Roger Mueller

Started 15 January
Finished 19 January

I read this book some years ago, along with a lot of other people, I expect. I fancied listening to it, so picked up the audiobook. On balance, I think it is better to read than to listen to, but I enjoyed this. Occasionally the narrator seemed to overdo things a bit, which almost detracted from the story. I preferred it when I read the book and occasionally went "ooh". I felt with the audiobook things were rather unsubtly signposted at times. Good to wind down with, though.

Vagabond (audiobook)

By Bernard Cornwell
Read by Andrew Cullum

Started 23 January
Finished 31 January

The second instalment of the grail trilogy (although there is a linked fourth book). This book develops the story a little - somewhat scarily at one point involving the torture of the main character, Thomas, by a Catholic priest. The character was thoroughly scary; and very well portrayed by the narrator, who made him seem really creepy.

As with most Cornwell novels, there is a lot of detailed description of a number of battles. It did occasionally feel as though the story was just a vague thread holding together tales of battles in the 100-years war. I'll see what the third book brings to the main plot. Not that I didn't enjoy the book - I did and I know what to expect from Cornwell, having read a number of his books over the years.

December Books

Cryptonomicon (audiobook)

By Neale Stephenson
Narrated by William Dufris

Started 21 November
Finished 8 December

I have the kindle version of this book, but had never got round to reading it, so I thought I'd try the audiobook. Much is made in reviews of how cerebral/geeky/techy the book is, with its detailed descriptions of cryptography. I have to say I wasn't aware of that, but this could be because I know a little about the subject - but only a little.
On balance, I enjoyed the book, although I lost focus a bit towards the end. I don't necessarily think it's the classic that some people do, but I don't regret the time spent on it.
I did find the narrator's tone of voice a little irritating at times, along with some of the voices he gave to characters, but then I'm a Brit and less familiar with American accents.

The Water's Edge (audiobook)

By Karin Fossum
Narrated by David Rintoul

Started 8 December
Finished 10 December

My first Karin Fossum. I expect she is someone whose books I'll read again.
David Rintoul - I have loved this man's voice since seeing him in "Pride and Prejudice" on TV many years ago (and he still remains my favourite Mr Darcy).
I enjoyed this story. Not exactly fast-paced, but very easy to listen to.

The Body in the Thames (audiobook)

By Susannah Gregory
Narrated by Gordon Griffin

Started 11 December
Finished 13 December

I have read a number of Susannah Gregory's Thomas Chaloner novels and enjoyed them, so I thought I might give an audiobook a go, especially as it was part of a two-for-one offer. I had reservations about the narrator. He was ok, but there was something about the voice that I didn't like all that much (not to mention constantly pronouncing adversary with the emphasis on the second syllable - one of many pronunciations on my "list"). That said, I enjoyed the story; plenty of interest and intrigue to keep me listening.

The Mistletoe Seller

By Dilly Court

Started 10 December
Finished 11 December

I read this in one sitting. It's the first novel I've read by Dilly Court, and I suspect that they may well all follow a similar formula; that of a poverty-stricken 19th-century heroine who either makes good, finds good fortune, or both. That's not to say I didn't enjoy this, I did, very much. Sometimes this sort of story makes a pleasant change, much like the occasional Georgette Heyer novel does.

Killman Creek

By Rachel Caine

Started 12 December
Finished 12 December

Another one-sitting read. I pre-ordered this book, having read Stillhouse Lake, by the same author. This is the follow-up to that book and is equally as thrilling, with plenty of twists and turns. It covers a lot of bases - the nastiness that social media can spread, fake evidence, the fear we all have of being trapped/framed and struggling to prove our innocence, betrayal, isolation and a truly, believable psychopath. Thoroughly enjoyed both books.

Killers of the Flower Moon (audiobook)

By David Grann
Narrated by Will Patton, Ann Marie Lee, Danny Campbell

Started 13 December
Finished 18 December

I found this story fascinating and not a little horrifying. Like a lot of non-Americans I was broadly aware of the treatment of the native peoples, but I had never heard of the Osage, let alone what had happened to them in the 1920s. This story was told well, from the point of view of the Osage people, from the point of view of the lead investigator and then a final section drawing everything together and expanding on it from the work done more recently by the author. I found myself drawn into the tale and I am glad I picked the book.

The Last Thing She Ever Did

By Gregg Olsen

Started 14 December
Finished 29 December

Well, I finally finished this. I can't say the story really grabbed me, to be honest. It seemed a little far-fetched - not the initial part, but pretty soon it diverged from what I could accept as plausible. Add to that characters who were almost entirely unsympathetic, plus an abrupt ending and, well, I just wasn't feeling it with this one. It started well and showed promise - a day out which ended in tragedy. That set up the back story, and, to be honest, that was the most interesting part. Maybe it was just me, but I'm rather glad this was a Kindle First, so I didn't pay for it.

Cosmos (audiobook)

By Carl Sagan
Narrated by LeVar Burton

Started 18 December
Finished 22 December

I never read this book, though I probably should have. I first came across Carl Sagan when he presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, back in 1977. I was fascinated and have been interested in astronomy and cosmology ever since.
Back to 2017 and I was pleased to see this had been released as an audiobook. The narration was excellent, as expected from LeVar Burton. His voice is very pleasant to listen to. The content was, understandably, a little dated and seemed quite simplistic. That's probably because I have read quite a lot on the subject and this book was written for the casual reader. It was groundbreaking; one of the first of many and I'm glad I finally got around to it.

Lightning (audiobook)

By Dean Koontz
Narrated by Christopher Lane

Started 22 December
Finished 24 December

Good. Not Koontz' best, but intriguing and interesting. I liked the characters and there were a few plot twists. It has made me want to re-read a lot of my old Koontz novels.

Ad Astra an illustrated guide to leaving the planet (audiobook)

By Dallas Campbell
Narrated by Dallas Campbell

Started 26 December
Finished 26 December

A fairly light listen, but, although it's a subject which interests me, I do feel I learned some new things. Campbell is an engaging presenter on television and he reads his own book well. I have the Kindle version, too, to make the best of the "illustrated" part of the title. Not a groundbreaking work, but entertaining and informative.

Snowblind (audiobook)

By Ragnar Jonasson
Narrated by Thor Kristjansson

Started 27 December
Finished 27 December

I enjoyed this, very atmospheric. It was a slow burn, but set up the characters well. Some reviewers have commented that the atmosphere was conveyed rather obviously; by direct, repeated statements, rather than by allowing the reader/listener to reach their own conclusions. True, to some extent, but it didn't seem to be overly intrusive to me.
The narration was, well, interesting. On the one hand, having a Scandinavian narrator helped with setting the scene, and the Icelandic names, but on the other, it proved slightly confusing, as the speech pattern was rather different and it didn't always flow. It wasn't a deal-breaker, just occasionally required a short rewind.
I am going to continue with the series, as I enjoyed this one.

Blackout (audiobook)

By Ragnar Jonasson
Narrated by Leighton Pugh

Started 28 December
Finished 28 December

I think this book was better than the first. It is listed as book 3 in the series, but book 2 is the latest, chronologically, so I'm saving that until last. Admittedly, the characters are now familiar, but I also found the story more interesting, with a few surprises along the way. The narration was much more to my taste than the first book and this is a narrator I'm happy to listen to again - just as well, as he has read the next three books.


As it’s the end of the year, time for a little summing-up of 2017 in books.

I have read 21 books and listened to 33 (only joining Audible mid-July), making a total of 54 books consumed. My lowest number in a month was June, with no books finished, and my highest has been December with 12 books finished. Ending on a strong note.

Kingston Lacy Illuminated Walk

Some friends invited me to go with them to see the illuminated walk at Kingston Lacy, a National Trust property near to me. It meant finishing work 30 minutes early, but that was just an added incentive for me to hit my goals for today, which I did.
It was pretty cold out, so hats, scarves and gloves were deployed and hot chocolate was consumed afterwards.

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November Books

Ratking (audiobook)

By Michael Dibdin
Narrated by Michael Kitchen

Started 27 October
Finished 2 November

This book took a while to get into. I hadn't read any others, nor had I seen any of the TV programmes - which I understand may have been a good thing. Once the story got going I really enjoyed it. Of course I enjoyed Michael Kitchen's narration, as his is a voice and delivery that I have liked for years.

The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down (audiobook)

By Haemin Sunim
Narrated by Sean Pratt

Started 2 November
Finished 3 November

When I say "finished", this is a book I will return to many times, I think. It is a mixture of short tales/talks and little nuggets of wisdom. I listened to it in one sitting, but I will go back to it and study the content more closely, as certain parts really touched me. I'm not surprised, as I have long had an interest in Eastern philosophies, such as Buddhism and the Tao. This book is quite practical and doesn't confine itself to Buddhism; it refers to the Bible and other religions. It encompasses a lot of the "mindfulness" trends; something I very much need to incorporate into my life.

The Last Cathar

By Kate Riley

Started 1 November
Finished 6 November

This book was shorter than I expected, and seemed to me to be similarly light of plot. It told the tale of one of the last of the Cathar faith, a woman entrusted with the legendary treasure. Part of it was told in retrospect, part in the current time, when she cared for an injured young man. I think I was expecting more of an air of mystery than I got, so overall I found the book a little disappointing. There was also a rather random reference to 1944 thrown in, the significance of which completely escaped me.

The Night of the Moths

By Riccardo Bruni

Started 6 November
Finished 11 November

Finally, I got through a Kindle First in the month I acquired it! I enjoyed this story, about a man who returns to a town to sell his parents' house. When he used to visit the town, 10 years earlier, he became involved with a girl who was murdered. The story is told partly through the girl's eyes and partly in the third person. I have read some reviews which didn't like the prose style, or the switch between the narration styles. I can't say I felt the need to analyse the sentence structure, so it must not have bothered me that much. Whatever the grammatical errors/flaws, they worked in context and, as a simple novel, that's ok with me. I didn't find anything particularly memorable about the book, but it was an entertaining enough read.

Dead Lagoon

By Michael Dibdin
Narrated by Cameron Stewart

Started 4 November
Finished 8 November

Another in the series of books about the Italian police officer Aurelio Zen. I think I enjoyed this more than the first one I read. Possibly I have become attuned to the style and am getting to know the main character. This one certainly kept me listening. It evoked Venice well, in my opinion, which generally means showing it as it is, not simply enthusing about its glory, taking a tourist's view. This book also depicts the impression I had of Venice when I visited: faded glory, dampness and decay, as well as all the famous locations. The narration was excellent. Cameron Stewart is on my list of top audiobook voices.

Origin (audiobook)

By Dan Brown
Narrated by Paul Michael

Started 10 November
Finished 17 November

Ok, I weakened. Yes, I know Dan Brown's books are fantastically popular and, as a result, picked to pieces and derided by lots of people. Hey, they are just an entertaining read (listen). I'm not all that impressed by the narration, but that's mainly a personal preference, as a Brit; I found the accent a little more pronounced that I tend to like from an American. Not to the point of not enjoying the story though. Overall, an enjoyable book, although I did lose interest slightly towards the end, as it seemed that the last hour of listening didn't add much to the story.

Jane Austen At Home (audiobook)

By Lucy Worsley
Narrated by Ruth Redman

Started 17 November
Finished 21 November

I enjoyed this. I wasn't sure I would, although I have enjoyed Lucy Worsley's TV programmes - I was unsure how I would take to an audiobook on an historical topic. The information was well presented, and, for me at least, avoided becoming dull. Despite the carefully constructed image of Jane Austen put to the public by her family, this book manages to look behind the facade and puts together Jane's life. Although I do enjoy Jane Austen's novels, I knew very little about her life, so this was very informative. It covered her novels, too, showing how real events may have had an effect on the stories and portrayed an author with a well-developed sense of irony and a dry wit. I think I should have liked Jane Austen,

Nothing in the last week, as I started listening to Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon". That will take me a while…

October Books

This month has been another one devoted to audiobooks. I have been rather tired, to be honest, and curling up with puzzles/drawing while listening to a book has proven to be soothing and relaxing. I have started some kindle books, just not finished them. I am reading a non-fiction history of the Templars and a novel about the Cathars. I'll get through them at some point!

Outlander (audiobook)

By Diana Gabaldon

Narrated by Davina Porter

Started 10 October
Finished 13 October

I read this book many years ago and loved it, so have read all the subsequent books in the series. I also watched the TV adaptation, which was almost as good as I had hoped. I decided to re-purchase the books on Kindle and with them, the audiobook. I really enjoyed listening to the story. The narrator does a good job - these books are pretty epic, with this one coming in at about 32 hours, which is the shortest of them. One of the later ones clocks in at 57 hours!

Amnesia (audiobook)

By Michael Ridpath

Narrated by Sean Barrett

Started 14 October
Finished 18 October

I enjoyed Michael Ridpath's series set in Iceland so thought I might try another of his books. This was good; the plot developed nicely and intrigue was maintained. I felt a little less involved with the characters than I did in the Fire and Ice series. Nothing wrong with them, but I just didn't find myself warming to them particularly.

La Belle Sauvage (audiobook)

By Philip Pullman

Narrated by Michael Sheen

Started 20 October
Finished 27 October

Excellent, as one expects of Philip Pullman. A worthy successor to the His Dark Materials trilogy, and I look forward to the next book. The narration is the best I've heard yet, but then, no more than might be expected from Michael Sheen.

This book is set when Lyra is a baby and tells of a young lad who ends up having to look after her, rescuing her from danger. It starts fairly slowly, but then picks up pace and is a riveting ride.

Dragonfly in Amber (audiobook)

By Diana Gabaldon

Narrated by Davina Porter

Started 19 October
Finished 27 October

Like slipping into a cosy pair of pyjamas. I have read all these novels, and watched the tv series. I listen to these while working, as they are good company. I feel I am hearing the tale of what old friends have been up to. I loved the books; I love the epic story and the audio versions are just as good, if not better, than the written word.