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Play ball with me

Hail Storme

by W.I. Ripley

A NetGalley Review

The characters just rip up a storm in this book – literally and figuratively – all puns intended..

This is the first book in the Storme series and as such introduces you to the characters of Wyatt Storme and here, his mysterious buddy Chick, who claims to be just a skip tracer but turns out to be something more, and really has such useful skills I hope he stays for the rest of the series.

As the first novel in a series it is set not that long after the Vietnam War or Second Indochina War, 1954–1973 (or what did the US call it? They certainly didn’t admit that their soldiers were at war – just supporting or advising?). In any event it left significant numbers of Vets as they began to be called traumatised and with PTSD – often unrecognised – which left them liable to nightmares and flashbacks that hindered their ability to maintain a successful life outside the military after returning home. This fact is still not always admitted.

Over 20 years, more than 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and more than 150,000 were wounded. Yet the US were not the only troops fighting – we hear little about the Australians, the New Zealanders and the South Koreans who also fought.

Public opinion was initially in favour of the intervention and thus the majority of those fighting volunteered rather than were drafted and this included those in minority races as well as white Americans.

Here are some facts – not too many though:

  • 9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the official Vietnam era from August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975.
  • 2,709,918 Americans served in uniform in Vietnam.
  • Vietnam Veterans represented 9.7% of their generation.
  • 8,148 soldiers were killed in Vietnam.
    • 75,000 were severely disabled.
    • 23,214 were 100% disabled.
    • 5,283 lost limbs.
    • 1,081 sustained multiple amputations.
    • Of those killed, 61% were younger than 21.
    • 11,465 of those killed were younger than 20 years old.
    • Of those killed, 17,539 were married.
    • Average age of men killed: 23.1 years.
    • Five men killed in Vietnam were only 16 years old.
    • The oldest man killed was 62 years old.
    • As of January 15, 2004, there are 1,875 Americans still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

So Wyatt Storme came back from the war and made a career in American Football which seems to be a very rough sport indeed from the tactics her learnt to subdue opponents. but the violence on the field became too comfortable and led to a lifestyle that is all too common amongst the rich and famous. Eventually however, he realises that his football tactics are emulating his fighting in the Vietnam War tactics far too freely and gives up his career – with the usual footballer injuries of course.

He is still full of testosterone and chivalry it seems and can’t let a wrong go un-righted and so gets involved where others would not in a local dispute that ends up with people dying. “People talk about what they want and who they are: few are concerned with duty and responsibility – the things we must do to be what we are.”

I did enjoy this book and read it very quickly – within 24 hours as the style is easy and uncomplicated and you did want to find out just what was going on and who was involved and who was the goody and who the baddy – and this seemed to change as you read on.

I did bookmark the stuff about male clothes in this book as there seemed to be a fascination with what people wore: oxblood loafers came up several times – which seems to be a shade of red that is popular; not sure why Haggar slacks/pants are mentioned as they are a style of trouser that is very casual and rather baggy but add in the oxford cloth shirt and you have a preppy style that is very popular in the US. Florsheim shoes are also still available and again a very classic look.

London Fog raincoats – or trench coats are not sold in the UK but seem again to be a very traditional style. It is interesting that although this book was first published in 1993, the clothing ranges are still current – in the US, I doubt if they would be in the UK. Now I just was fascinated by Gglen plaidlen Plaid and so found myself a photo of it:

Not forgetting that the Rep or Repp tie is again a preppy essential – the diagonal striped tie.rep tie

 

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Can you remember?

Smart but dead

By Nancy G. West

A NetGalley Review

Telomerase – also called telomere terminal transferase – is a ribonucleoprotein – and if you know what that means you’re clearly a scientist with a degree in biology and working on cancer drugs or anti-ageing.telemorase

Well in this book it is all about anti-ageing and age-related diseases.

In Faust the Devil suggests that the best way to stay young(er) is to:

Seek out a life of moderation, stop being lazy, exercise regularly and avoid unhealthy foods! But Faust prefers the magic pill / potion, and so too do many people – after all living a healthy life is just too much work! We don’t want to gradually lose our memories – forgetting where the car key is – the name of the flower – who that celebrity is – nor do we want to get flabby and lose muscle tone – those batwings are not attractive! So we all look for the magic potion as mentioned in the press that will stop the decline – eat blueberries, or flax seed, or drink kale smoothies, or, or… or just maybe there is something else that we can take – a medicine – perhaps related to telomeres that will do the job without us having to lift a finger.

For the scientist who can market an anti-ageing pill that really work on the cellular level – that actually prevents cells from ageing, there is a fortune waiting to be made. A similar pill could be adapted to prevent cancer or to heal and reverse it, and as it is estimated that 1 in 3 of have some form of cancer before we die, just think how much money could be involved.

“Where does this interaction of telomere-dependent and telomere-independent aging pathways as well as the influence of known (and many unknown) stressors leave us? The molecular understanding of cellular aging is progressing steadily, but the complexity of cellular aging and the even more complex question of how organs such as the brain and heart age requires a lot more work. There will be no single molecular switch which can reverse or halt aging and triple our lifespan, but most aging researchers do not this as their goal. Understanding specific aging pathways, as well as the genes and stressors which activate them, will allow us to prevent and treat age-related diseases as well as one day be able to provide personalized advice to individuals on how to maximize their “healthspan”.

Originally published as “The Stress of Aging” in the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting blog.”

For now, we can stick to some of the broad lifestyle interventions which were recommended by Mephistopheles: exercise and a healthy diet.

So from all of this we can conclude that if someone could find the way to maximum life span then there is a lot of money to be made and it would be worth killing for .

In this book I learn quite a lot of science about ageing – I learn that the APOE genes are implicated in 20-25% of Alzheimer cases; this gene is found on chromosome 19 and has 3 variants – depending on which of the 3  you have, your risk of Alzheimer’s is increased or reduced, but there is also Vascular dementia, Frontal-temporal dementia which also runs in families and other ways to lose your memory as you get older – over 65 (Oh dear, I’m now 65!).

So it seems that 35% of the individual differences in ageing are inherited and that lifestyle can change the length of your telemeres. If you do as the Devil recommends.

I learnt all of these facts (with the addition of what I looked up) in the first 50% of the book but as the storyline didn’t explore much further I gave up. it was a very thin story-line indeed and it seems to me that I never found out enough about the heroine – she wasn’t young that was clear from her interest in the genetics of ageing; and she seemed to lust after the detective. In her role as detective (very privately) she seemed rather inept even if it was a sideline. I felt that the story was just a way of getting across the science of ageing in a very lightweight way without exploring the issues connected – included just what a drug company would do to get their hands on a wonder drug!

This is the 3rd book in this series and to me it was just one of those series that seems to tail off as more is written. Other reviewers have called this series ‘cozy’ or ‘lighter reading’ and I do agree and thus it is not for me.

3 *

 

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London Over and Under

London Over and Under: 

This is the post I have intended to write for a very long time but which has been sparked by the Tuesday Falling. In it the heroine lives under London in the forgotten and secret places and streets that still exist from all the previous Londons that have been built on and covered up.

I am going to go through the secret places that are mentioned in the book and then I will talk about some of the other secret places that exist. I take my research from a number of websites but also several books: Shakespeare’s London by Stephen Porter; I never knew that about London by Christopher Winn; London’s Lost Rivers by Paul Talling; Underground London by Stephen Smith; Vanished City by Tom Bolton; and London – City of Disappearances by Iain Sinclair.

 Places mentioned in Tuesday Falling:

The Marquis of Granby pub is at 41 Romney Street in the area known as Fitzrovia and also at 2 Rathbone Street!  Interestingly they are both owned by Nicholson’s.  It was named after the an 18th century war hero who rewarded officers from his own coin.  Only officers it would appear… John Manners – the Marquess as it was titled then, was a Lieutenant-General 1721-1779 and served in the 7 years war (which affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines) and eventually was named Commander In Chief of the Forces. It is said that he has more pubs named after him than any other person because he had the practice of setting up old soldiers from his regiment as publicans.

Brydges Place, Convent Garden,  is known as London’s narrowest alley. It is by the Coliseum and connects St Martin’s Lane with Bedfordbury.  The Marquis of Granby pub backs onto the alley – and it is this pub that was where Dickens drank. The Harp pub also has a back entrance into this alley harp-covent-garden-10.

Convent Garden itself is the heart of the market of the old Saxon town of London. Aldwych means ‘port’ in old Danish and we see his reference in the name of the church that peals out ‘Oranges and Lemons’ ie St Clemens (or Clements) Danes. [See the nursery rhyme details below] This current church is a Wren design on the ruins of an older church an dthe rumoured burial place of Harold Harefoot, the Danish king.

Westminster also sees the River Tyburn flowing through it. ‘Ty’ meaning boundary and one can see why here as there were many boundaries for it to chart through the ages.

Convent Garden is of course famous for its Flower Market and theatres and opera house where one could find various forms of companionship amongst those wandering there as well as purchase the odd nosegay…

Now it has been revitalised as a tourist destination with outdoor entertainment and stalls selling handicrafts and other trinkets as well as some trendy eateries.

Nursery Rhyme:

Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement’s.

You owe me five farthings,
Say the bells of St. Martin’s.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great Bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

Interestingly the earlier versions of the rhyme do not have the last 2 lines in them – those which are of course, the childrens’ favourites! However there is a another version of the rhyme which is more sinister:

oranges

chopper

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Flying in the Sky?

A Witness Above

 

By  Andy Straka

 

A Netgalley review

 

These books just keep getting better.

So unless you really need to read all the back story, I don’t suggest you start here with the very first novel in this series.

I didn’t. and I’m really glad, I guessed all that was necessary from what was written in the book I did read. However, don’t let me stop you reading these books in order – it is often the best tactic .

This is an author who has learnt his trade as he has written and published.

His main character is fairly stock – especially in this first novel but with one great unusual characteristic – he flies hawks – taken from the author’s own passion. And in A Witness Above, we don’t hear enough about the hawks – for me. Which is why I prefer the later book which I have already reviewed (A Killing Sky on the 20th August on my blog: Tiggerrenewing).

So just 3 stars for this early novel, but then I find that authors with series generally fall into two categories:

  1. Those who start with a great bang and the subsequent books are more and more disappointing as they run out of storylines; or
  2. Those who start more modestly and improve steadily with each book written – their skills as story-tellers increase and they learn more about the 5 stages of classical story-telling and fit their characters better into them. This author falls into this category – I think.

 

 

 

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Why Tuesday is Best

Tuesday Falling

By

I. Williams

 

A NetGalley Review

 

This novel was written for me personally – I swear.

S/he [profile picture shows a male but…] has picked all my favourite topics to write about, from a feisty young woman who stands up for herself – and others – against immense odds and some real nasty villains, to hidden London. And the Internet and world of the Dark Net and coding and…And all in an easy, acceptable, riveting [and amusing] style, that makes a story compelling you to read until the very end.

Williams says s/he got the idea Whilst travelling the London Underground and spying an indy girl with stay away eyes and F you clothing I immediately wanted to write a book with her in. And so he did.

For me this book ticked so many issues including what it must be like to grow up in such an abandoned area of social environment, where lawlessness has ruled for a long time and where retribution is unknown. A world in which you believe you deserve what you get and thus don’t protest or protect yourself from harm. The baby mothers who are just children themselves but are needed for their homes for drug trafficking in ‘comfort’. What is clear from the various UK Governmental deprivation indices available, is that these deprivations tend to occur as clusters – ie social deprivations go alongside economic, health, physical environment and activity deprivations, and have a tendency also to cluster crime within these boundaries of deprivation. In London the deprived areas are also clustered around the areas where immigration is a key factor such as Hackney.

Within these deprived areas, housing is an issue as is skills and education with many children not completing their secondary schooling due to health or other factors which can then lead to criminal behaviours to obtain money or to maintain a social role and standing within the peer group. And thus we gain a culture of crime being an everyday, expected and anticipated occurrence with no attempt to live outside the criminal mentality.

This is the setting from which Tuesday appears on the street as a young abused child, homeless but with a razor sharp intelligence that enables her to learn fast and to plan strategies with the best generals – Sun Tzu would be proud of her. She benefits from the online culture of today to assist her in her plan. Her plan, that has every move calculated precisely with all the potential outcomes also factored in and thus responses also provided. Her plan to help those abused like herself turn the tables on the abusers – with ferocity and determination that astounds all who encounter them and her.

 

So I went through the novel bookmarking madly.

Firstly there are all the computing aspects – which not all of which I knew about, and I do try and keep reasonably up to date here. For those less techno-able I have collected a few and will now try and explain very briefly what they are about.

  • Open-source hacking: if you go to the Internet you can actually find articles about how to be a hacker. A hacker is not just the adolescents who break into NASA but also the people who create new ideas within the software world – crackers break, hackers don’t. hackers solve problems and build things and believe in mutual help to solve problems. Open source software is software that doesn’t belong to a company such as Microsoft but is created free to use. Thus an open source hacker is using free to use software to solve a problem. In this novel, Tuesday is often a cracker rather than a hacker as she uses the software to break connections etc.
  • Mirror protocols: a mirror is basically just that – a second site or set of protocols that mirror – replicate – the original site or protocol so that the instruction goes to both and thus can be intercepted before action.
  • Spirit-slide: this seems to be something quite difficult to find but seems to be related to mirroring and shielding and routing in programming and you need to be able to program in C++ to be able to do it!
  • Silk Road: Now I already knew about the Silk Road but it had been shut down by the police and FBI in 2014. It was basically an online illegal (and anonymous) sales site especially for drugs and guns but it seems that it was so popular that Diabolus Market (cannabis only) immediately went into business as the new Silk Road [https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/good-bye-silk-road-2-0-welcome-silk-road-3-0/]
  • Dark Web: I had also heard about this – [http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/how-to/internet/what-is-dark-web-how-access-dark-web-deep-3593569/] this site explains the dark web as a series of web sites that are publically visibly – such as the Silk Road – but hide the IP addresses of the servers behind them. They are thus effectively anonymous and difficult to police. The Dark Web can be useful for legitimate uses such as when you live in a country that has banned external contact, you can do this through the Dark Web, but mainly it is for illegal activities.
  • The Deep Web: includes the Dark Web but also all user databases, webmail pages, registration required web forums, and the pages behind paywalls. This means that every page visible on the internet has maybe millions of Deep Web pages behind it which can be accessed.
  • The Dark Internet are further networks, databases or websites that cannot be reached over the internet and are proprietary, niche, or very private.
  • BMR – ebay for dark Webbers – Black Market Reloaded – another illegal sales site.
  • Interzone: which is described as –scuba-diving through a police sea – in the book is the place where the internet’s heavy users inhabit. They live through the use of digital media and physical presence is secondary to virtual presence.

“If the Interzone as William S. Burroghs anticipated it represents a transitional phase in between, the Internet would then be an interzone between real life and the virtual life that creates the illusion that what you see is what you get” [The Internet as an Interzone by Laura Borràs Castanyer, (University of Barcelona), p5 2011?]

 

The second major aspect of the book is all about Secret and Underground London – and there is so much of this favourite topic of mine in this novel, that I am going to give this its own post and take my readers through the places mentioned and some more they maybe also hadn’t heard about!

I really can’t believe myself here, but I’m going to give this novel, 7 stars out of 5!

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