Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A to Z Blogger Book Survey


Prompted by an excellent book list related post on Legatus's blog [clicky], which in turn was prompted by interesting posts at the The Laughing Ferret [clicky] and the Too Much Free Time [clicky] blogs, and as a life long book lover, I felt inspired to put finger to keyboard to document my favourites... don't hold back..  have a go yourselves....
  • Author you've read the most books from: 
Difficult this one as I'm one of those kinds of people who once they've found a good book, immediately try to source all the others by the same author..

Bernard Cornwell has written over 50 books (somewhat surprisingly, I had no idea it was so many!), and I've read every one  (even Stonehenge ). Unlike most people though, I came to Cornwell via the thrillers he wrote rather, than his historical fiction...  though I did of course move on to Sharpe...  if you've not tried them, I recommend the thrillers...  very good...
Picture courtesy Amazon - in all cases,
by the way, in the following I've tried to find the cover of the book version I own..
But the answer for me, after much thought, is Enid Blyton..As a child I was a voracious reader, so I read all the Famous Five (21 books), Secret Seven  (15 books), the Adventure series  (8 books), the Five Find-Outers (15 books), St Clares (for shame!- 9 books), Mallory Towers (6 books)  etcetcetc. Did anyone know that in her life time she wrote 762 books!


  • Best sequel ever:
Lord of the Rings....  the Hobbit was good, but as a sequel Lord of the Rings takes some beating... I wonder if it actually counts as a "sequel"??
  • Currently reading: 
 
Recommended by Tim Gow of Megablitz fame - unputdownable - highly recommended..  PS. Also huge... it's taking some time...!
  • Drink of choice whilst reading:
Real ale - preferably a golden, hoppy, IPA style..  I am particularly enamoured at the moment of Fullers "Wild River" brewed with the new style American hops..

  • E-reader or physical book:
Both - each have their strength and their weaknesses...  E reader (I have a Kindle) for when I'm travelling or need quick access to a novel (usually the next book in a series!), hard copy for reference books ie. basically anything with illustrations or maps as they just don't translate to Kindle...  I was one of those "oh I could never own a  Kindle" type of people until I bought one for the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer one Christmas and was completely won over...
  • Fictional character you would probably have dated in high school: 
The young Steve the Wargamer was a callow spotty youth with poor skin, a retiring manner, and attending an all boys school - it was unlikely that anyone would have dated  (yuck) "gone out" with him...  but he would have secretly been enamoured of Emily (in David Copperfield) before turning his attentions over to Cathy (in Wuthering Heights.. but  only because she looked like Kate Bush.. )

  • Glad you gave this book a chance: 
Crime fiction is not a favourite but I tried this on the suggestion of the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer and was very pleased I did...  Peter James writes some very good, nasty criminals...  recommended...
  • Hidden book gem: 
A couple of books really...  I'll start with this one though.. those of you who've followed the blog for some time will know that I also have a penchant for yachts, and this is without a doubt one of the best yacht racing based thrillers I've read....


I found this one in a charity shop somewhere, I'd never heard of the author, was purely attracted by the cover so picked it up - glad I did! Very much recommended if you're into late Roman period military novels...


  • Important moment in your book life: 
Discovering Ronald Welch [clicky] (and Don Featherstone) at my local library as a 12 year old set me off on a wargaming hobby that has lasted over 40 years to date..


...while Arthur Ransome, discovered at exactly the time, did the same in an entirely different direction...!


  • Just finished: 

Biography of Captain Eric Melrose "Winkle" Brown a British Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm pilot and later test pilot who has flown more types of aircraft than anyone else in history (487 different aircraft types) he also holds the world record for aircraft carrier landings (2,407!) - a fascinating read but in the end little more than a (very) long list of planes... 6/10 (more if you're interested in air combat/wargaming)
  • Kind of book you won't read: 
Chicklit, romcoms, Mills and Boon, self help books, medical journals, Economics text books (which accounts for the 2.2), biographies/autobiographies, (usually) anything that qualifies for Booker/Orange Literature prize...  an endless list showing nothing but my narrow mindedness...
  • Longest book you've read:
 That's easy - I read "War and Peace" this year [clicky]!
  • Major book hangover because of disappointing endings: 
Simply couldn't finish it, it was so bad...  and that after virtually devoured the first two Chronicles...
  • Number of bookcases you own: 
Four, plus a share in one the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer uses...
  • One book you've read multiple times: 
Impossible to answer - I re-read books all the time...  Sam Llewellyn, the Desmond Lowden book, the Cornwell thrillers, and at one period (teenage - lot of time on my hands) I read Lord of the Rings every year for about 5 or 6 years...books for me are like good friends, why wouldn't you want to re-visit them??
  • Preferred place to read: 
In the garage, sat in my big old, wooden, garden arm chair... radio on, light, beer, cigar... it doesn't get any better - but it's a bit cold in the winter...
  • Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you've read: 
Can't think of one...
  • Reading regret: 
Spending so much time trying to like the "Wheel of Time" books - sorry, I know other people love them, I found them over long and formulaic...


  • Series you started and need to finish: 
I am driven so I tend to finish all series I start - I guess it might be nice to finish off Game of Thrones but I'm in no rush.. too much other stuff to read...
  • Three of your all-time favourite books: 
Lord of the Rings...   'natch... but I don't think I could come up with another two as there are simply so many..
  • Unapologetic fanboy for: 
Ransome, Welch, Featherstone...  apologetic fanboy for Scarrow, Cornwell  (they can be a little formulaic at times)
  • Very excited for this release: 
There's a new Scarrow out (which I have on the reading pile), a new Cornwell out (ditto) and a new Iggulden out (not got it yet) good times....


...but not half as exciting as the news that Sam Llewellyn [clicky] has a new book in preparation....

Last book, but a new one is on the way!
  • Worst bookish habit: 
Reviewing them on my blog...   ...but I suppose bending over the corner of the page to mark my place
  • X marks the spot - Start at the top left of your bookshelf and pick the 27th book: 

  • Your latest book purchase: 
  • Zzz snatcher book (the last book that kept you up waaay too late):

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Donald Featherstone Obituary

From The Times on Saturday (19th) - click to enlarge..

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Portsea Island Beer Festival - 2013

Poster courtesy Irving's
How quickly does this festival come round?? It hardly seems like a year since we were last here, but this weekend was the 3rd (!) Portsea Island Beer Festival at the Groundlings Theatre near Portsmouth Hard....  this is old school Pompey, in the heart of the historic Dockyard area (so HMS Victory and Warrior are just across the road). The venue is a theatre and as well as being Georgian, is famous for being the supposed place where Mrs Dickens went into labour, and soon after gave birth to young master Charles...  it's a superb venue, possibly my favourite....

This years festival  theme was Heriot-Watt University's Brewing and Distilling School - the event is sponsored by local brewery Irving's whose head brewer went to the school so all the beers at this years festival come from breweries where there is a similar connection - either BSc or MSc in Brewing and Distilling [clicky]

An interesting idea, and there was a broad range of beers but in my view it  didn't make for a classic festival - there were a lot of choices, but too many unknowns to make some informed decisions. Most beer lovers will tell you that for the lack of any information about a particular beer, you look to the provenance of the brewery - if you've liked their other beers you'll probably like the one you don't know anything about. In this case though there were a number of unknown (to me) breweries so nothing to fall back on...  that said - a few duffers aside there were some crackers, and one living legend...


Brewery Beer (click for more info) ABV Notes (from brewery website) What I can remember...
Bristol Beer Factory Independence 4.6% "US Style pale ale. Very distinctive pale ale that we have hopped continuously throughout the boil". 1st beer - no idea on this as I'd never heard of the brewery, but I was drawn to the description in the tasting notes. Good choice! Definitely in the top 3 of the afternoon...  very hoppy, and a good dry/grapefruit taste..   very nice..
Compass Brewery Isis Pale 4.1% "Malty aromas on a backdrop of distinct Cascade hops. Sweet malt with some fruity esters and a gentle bitterness that lingers". (Ha! ) Another unknown brewery, but they're from Oxford  (which is a good thing)  and the tasting notes again point to something worth trying. Not quite as successful as the first - not quite so zesty - but very very dry..
Ilkley Pale 4.2% "Strongly hopped to give a strong but mellow floral finish. Think classic NZ Sauvignon Blanc, reformed as an uncompromisingly refreshing and refined beer." With a description like that you have to give it a go, don't you?! Again - I seem to have hit a winning stride - another cracker - livelier than the previous...  top 3...
Brecon Brewing Three Beacon 3% "Pale golden APA remarkably full flavoured and extensively hopped a beer that truly defies its strength". Errr... I don't think so... dul, dull, dull....  down the sink with this one...
Timothy Taylors Landlord 4.3%
Pale Ale
Pale Amber
Citrus, Hoppy, Fruity
Full, Sweet, Lingering Hop
A benchmark beer, and one we know well, and bought in this case to give us a control to compare the other beers against... have to say it just went to show how good the others had been..
Irving Iron Duke IPA 5.3% "luscious golden modern style IPA. The nose is dominated by the aromas of sherbet and lemon from the Liberty and Columbus hops added late in the hopback. The palate is soft fruits and pineapple balanced with a subtle toffee sweetness, finishing with a pleasant citrus bitterness." Nice ale, but a little on the sweet side - very bitter and hoppy though, so a return to winning ways
Irving Frigate 3.8% "Golden bitter with citrus hop flavour derived from the addition of English Sovereign and Boudicea hops in the hopback. Complemented by a background sweetness from the subtle use of light crystal and cara-malt" I've tried this before at my local and liked it, but I thought it was below par today - either that or I should have tried it before the Iron Duke!
Wells and Youngs Courage Imperial Russian Stout 11.7% "Courage Imperial Russian Stout has a rich, espresso body with pear overtones and an intriguing fresh, smoky, fruity finish. The beer is brewed with chocolate, amber and pale ale malts, Hersbrucker and Styrian Goldings hops and accredited natural mineral water from the brewery’s very own well." Yes that beer strength really is correct.. This is an absolute classic, talked about amongst beer aficionados in hushed tones... it's a stout (not my usual choice of beer) but it has a huge historical significance and is as rare as hens teeth so I had to try it.. the beer dates from an 18th century recipe which was perfected to withstand the freezing temperatures of the Baltic so the beer could be exported to the Court of Catherine the Great in Russia (who had become a convert to the drink). I have to say that the legendary status was entirely deserved...  very strong and warming, dark chocolate/coffee/alcohol... but a real sipping beer (and only served in a third of a pint due to the strength) #1 beer of the day without doubt.. delicious..
Irving Admiral Stout 4.3% "A classic dark Oatmeal stout, brewed with a combination of Roasted Barley, Chocolate Malt and Crystal Wheat Malt to give a deep black colour and Oat Malt to give a smooth rounded malt flavour. This lovely malt flavour is balanced with a strong bitterness from Fuggles and Sovereign Hops" This was always going to suffer in comparison - but I thought it held it's own surprisingly well given the power/flavour of the previous brew..
Fullers 1845 6.3% "1845 is matured for at least 100 days before being released for sale. During this time the rich fruity characteristics of the beer are enhanced, while the well-rounded malt flavours create a wonderfully balanced ale." Seeing this stuff on draught is also very rare - it's primarily a winter brew being quite dark, heavy, and strong - a particular favourite in bottled form so I just had to try it from the barrel - very pleased I did and it bought the festival to an end on a high note..

Picture courtesy Strong Island

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Miniature Wargames (with Battlegames) #366.. a(nother) review

...so how has the magazine fared since I last reviewed it [clicky]??

Just finished #366  (which is the latest as I write - dated October) be interested to hear the view of any of any of my fellow ex-Battlegames reading bloggers...

Forward Observer: Is it me or does Neil Shuck have the most unusual tastes..??

He always seems to review the more unusual products, that I find myself looking for the relevance to my gaming experience...  so this month we got "Ninja's" and "Gods and Mortals" & fantasy skirmish rules...  couldn't agree more with him re. the White Queen historical accuracy vs popular drama discussion, however...

Wargames Widow: Using crepe and foam to make woodland Indian long houses.. I probably won't use the terrain as described, but an interesting idea, and method stored in memory for possible alternative applications..

John Treadaway: Skip...

"Stop Thief!": Dan Mersey small skirmish scenario set in the Zulu Wars, but applicable to other periods - I read it with interest but it seemed a little simplistic, and my interest wasn't piqued enough to try it..

Wild West: A long time ago I used to play Wild West skirmish for a time (the "Annals of Cedar Gulch" are still up in the loft somewhere) so I found this pretty interesting- and I've actually cut it out to keep

Tealight Ironclads - interesting, but seen the methods used before - not everyone will have though, and the magazine is aimed at all levels..

CK's column: as good as usual (you know where to send the cash  ) and given the obituary to Don Featherstone in this issue very apposite given that that this month CK deals with battlefield walks - always one of Don's favoured activities... good advice  given re. preparation but I'm surprised no mention was given to the Battlefields Trust site [clicky] which is absolutely top notch for background/maps etc. He's also a "vile canting fellow" for not picking the right Bath pub to celebrate his walking of Lansdown - as any fule no the best pub in Bath (if not the whole of Christendom) is the Old Green Tree, though the Volunteer Rifleman's is a good second..

Wargaming the Siege of Malta: Bit Malta'd out to be honest - read the Scarrow book [clicky] earlier this year (see book reviews) so a lot of the history was known...  not really my period...

Tribute/Obituary to Don Featherstone: Very nicely done gentlemen, Chris Scott's in particular was very moving...  I'd have bought the magazine for this alone if I wasn't a subscriber...

Wiener Planspielregeln: a history of the Austrian wargaming pioneers from the 1950's onwards.. long article (which I read all of) but the game involves grids..  loved the pictures of the old games though, almost identical to the pictures of the early games in the Featherstone article...  cardigans, sleeveless jumpers and ties abound

SpyFi masterminds: Wargaming James Bond...  skip....

Recce: A good and varied selection of reviews - quite interested in some of them - a  shame about the ECW rules though!

The score stands 7 out of 10 this month...  highlights were the Obituary to Don, the Wild West article and rules, Recce and CK....  low points as ever were the Fantasy Review (wasted paper for me) and the SpyFi article....

All of the previous purely my view of course...