Ending Forever, Soon Arriving

In case you missed it last year – as I know I did – Nicholas Conley‘s latest book Ending Forever first came out on Kindle Vella, which allows authors to write the book in installments, harking back toCharles Dickens, et al. 

The book will be coming out for e-readers on 10th May, with a paperback edition at a later unspecified date. With such a goegeous cover I shall definitely be availing myself of the physical copy but will no doubt be reviewing the ARC as and when it arrives in my inbox.

Check out the below synopsis to whet your appetite and also cast your eye over my other reviews for Nick’s books and author interrogations, which can hadily be found here.

Axel Rivers can’t get his head above water. Throughout his life, he’s worn many hats—orphan, musician, veteran, husband, father—but a year ago, a horrific event he now calls The Bad Day tore down everything he’d built. Grief-stricken, unemployed, and drowning in debt, Axel needs cash, however he can find it.
Enter Kindred Eternal Solutions. Founded by the world’s six wealthiest trillionaires and billionaires, Kindred promises to create eternal life through mastering the science of human resurrection. With the technology still being developed, Kindred seeks paid volunteers to undergo tests that will kill and resurrect their body—again and again—in exchange for a check.
Axel signs up willingly, but when he undergoes the procedure—and comes back, over and over—what will he find on the other side of death?

Philosophy and Literature with Iris Murdoch and Bryan Magee

I love doing the washing up, it gives me a chance to catch up with a whole host of interesting YouTube channels.  As you might expect these are a pretty eclectic mix; Agadmator’s chess match analyses, Bob Ross‘ happy little paintings, David Lynch’s weather report, a few channels dealing with apologetics, film reviews, Football Manager (as I have no time to go indepth with such a game), other assorted retro games, and science videos.

This time I wanted something a bit different so typed ‘literature’ into the search bar.  Having previously done this and ended up scrolling through a bunch of identikit YA booktubers I, understandably, left it a few years before trying again.

The below video turned up, and having heard of Iris Murdoch, but not having read any of her works I decided to give the interview a whirl. It’s an interesting chat that takes places in that nostalgically British way of having a dull studio filled with browns and beiges. I already have Murdoch’s Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature, on my list but any recommendations for her fiction would be most welcome.

Dune – Frank Herbert

Melange, or ‘spice’, is the most valuable – and rarest – element in the universe; a drug that does everything from increasing a person’s life-span to making intersteller travel possible. And it can only be found on a single planet: the inhospitable desert world Arrakis.

Whoever controls Arrakis controls the spice. And whoever controls the spice controls the universe.

When the Emperor transfers stewardship of Arrakis from the noble House Harkonnen to House Atreides, the Harkonnens fight back, murdering Duke Leto Atreides. Paul, his son, and Lady Jessica, his concubine, flee into the desert. On the point of death, they are rescued by a band for Fremen, the native people of Arrakis, who control Arrakis’ second great resource: the giant worms that burrow beneath the burning desert sands.

In order to avenge his father and retake Arrakis from the Harkonnens, Paul must earn the trust of the Fremen and lead a tiny army against the innumerable forces aligned against them.

And his journey will change the universe.

Fondly, yet hazily, recalling David Lynch’s attempt at bring Dune to the silver screen, and wanting to avoid spoilers from the new version, my hand was ‘forced’ into reading this.  Dune is an impressive, epic space – or should that be spice? – opera and sci-fi classic which stands the test of time.

From the off the world building feels fully established, and as the reader follows 15 year-old Paul Atriedes, we learn the complexities of life and the relationships of powerful factions as he does.  It really helps push the story along so there isn’t a lot of stopping to go into minutiae. There is also some of the usual jargon that comes with alien languages but it’s not too elaborate, thankfully so doesn’t get tiresome and distracting.

Speaking of worlds, Arrakis is a looming brooding presence, It is open, vast and unforgiving. The atmosphere is one of ancient mysteries with plenty of secrets left, even after the book is finished.  That all known universe interests centre upon this unique planet makes all events much more significant. Continue reading “Dune – Frank Herbert”

The Swing Set in the Backyard (Or . . . So, You Want to Write a Novel?)

As ever Mike’s word are a great source of inspiration for the writer in you.

Eye-Dancers

When I was eight years old, my parents bought a swing set for the backyard.  It was red and yellow, with two swings.  My father installed it at the extreme northern end of the yard, a few feet to the left of the brick fireplace he had built upon moving into the house, years before I was born.  I cannot say I remember whether or not I had asked for a swing set or if my parents decided it would be a good idea to get one.  Either way, that summer–the summer I was eight–I spent a lot of time on those swings.

Well, I mainly used the swing closer to the fireplace.  If anyone wanted to join me, they needed to use the other swing.  Sometimes, I’d swing for hours.  I used to love swinging on July evenings, the air warm, the yard fragrant with flowers and freshly cut…

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Stalingrad – Vasily Grossman

In April 1942, Hitler and Mussolini plan the huge offensive on the Eastern Front that will culminate in the greatest battle in human history.

Hundreds of miles away, Pyotr Vavilov receives his call-up papers and spends a final night with his wife and children in the hut that is his home. As war approaches, the Shaposhnikov family gathers for a meal: despite her age, Alexandra will soon become a refugee; Tolya will enlist in the reserves; Vera, a nurse, will fall in love with a wounded pilot; and Viktor Shtrum will receive a letter from his doomed mother which will haunt him forever.

The war will consume the lives of a huge cast of characters – lives which express Grossman’s grand themes of the nation and the individual, nature’s beauty and war’s cruelty, love and separation.

Having recently gotten back into the habit of frequenting my local library, the first book I picked up was Vasily Grossman’s – Criminally – lesser known prelude to Life and Fate, both books together were intended to be the 20th century War and Peace and I have to say they lives up to that book’s impact and legacy.

This is a version of Grossman’s book isn’t quite the same as the Russian version entitled For a Just Cause, the translator Robert Chandler has readded in parts that were originally deleted in accordance with the Stalin government’s everchanging policies.  Whether this affects the pace of the book or not I loved every page of this story.

Weighing in at almost nine hundred pages this novel is a vast panorama of voices and stories and does a wonderful job of conveying the sense of dislocation, pain and horror of World War II but also sensitively paints pictures of the lives and loves of those people caught up in those monumental events. Continue reading “Stalingrad – Vasily Grossman”

Good the be (paper) Back

How I have missed this!  Sitting down to write a blog post, talking about books, and chatting with you wonderful people.  It’s been quite a while since my last post due to changing jobs (I’m now a Recruitment Executive, helping people get apprenticeships in the automotive sector), finally moving house, then suffering the loss of internet that usually goes with such adventures, as well as other bits of life that seem to get in the way.

One of the best (but tiring) things of late has been my two hour – each-way – daily commute, as this gives me plenty of time to read, which I find easy to do on a bus at 6 am. I have read many books which will get a review in due course, including such authors as; Lionel Shriver, Stephen King, Vladimir Leskov, Edith Wharton, Emile Zola, and Vasily Grossman, to name about a third. Continue reading “Good the be (paper) Back”

Book and Beer


Having a stab at doing something a bit different on the much ignored Instagram account, and thought I would put this mildly interesting effort on here, also. There are other things I could be doing but this seems like the most important when the day tops 21 degrees.

Having had a walk around the neighbourhood, and avoiding the main roads, it’s been lovely just appreciating the bright blue skies against the surprisingly many cherry blossom trees. Waving at dogs and horses and walking up steep pot-holed streets has also been a pleasure today.

A tasty beer and a great book in this glorious weather is the other perfect pastime. Washing down Irène Némirovsky’s words with a grapefruit infused IPA helps this reader appreciate the peace of the day, contrasting perfectly with those days in France as World War Two started to take its toll as superbly depicted by one of my favourite authors.

Both book and beer are highly recommended in any weather. Plant sold seperately. As per usual for a bank holiday weekend, the weather is expected to turn miserable so shall enjoy all this whilst it lasts.

The Reacher Guy – Heather Martin

Jack Reacher is only the second of Jim Grant’s great fictional characters: the first is Lee Child himself. Heather Martin’s biography tells the story of all three.

Lee Child is the enigmatic powerhouse behind the bestselling Jack Reacher novels. With millions of devoted fans across the globe, and over a hundred million copies of his books sold in more than forty languages, he is that rarity, a writer who is lauded by critics and revered by readers. And yet curiously little has been written about the man himself.

The Reacher Guy is a compelling and authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, refracted through the life of his fictional avatar, Jack Reacher. Through parallels drawn between Child and his literary creation, it tells the story of how a boy from Birmingham with a ferocious appetite for reading grew up to become a high-flying TV executive, before coming full circle and establishing himself as the strongest brand in publishing.

Heather Martin explores Child’s lifelong fascination with America, and shows how the Reacher novels fed and fuelled this obsession, shedding light on the opaque process of publishing a novel along the way. Drawing on her conversations and correspondence with Child over a number of years, as well as interviews with his friends, teachers and colleagues, she forensically pieces together his life, traversing back through the generations to Northern Ireland and County Durham, and following the trajectory of his extraordinary career via New York and Hollywood until the climactic moment when, in 2020, having written a continuous series of twenty-four books, he finally breaks free of his fictional creation.

Three things attracted me to this book, about an author that I have never actually read.  The price, a first chapter titled The Library, and thirdly a reference to the wonderful One Hundred years of Solitude, which I happened upon whilst flicking idly through the pages.

Despite my lack of knowledge about the author, other than seeing his many books, which are seemingly everywhere, I found this biography to be very readable, no doubt because it’s good to be nosy about someone else’s life.  it is interesting how the mundane can become rich when examined from the outside, and there is a wealth of detail here to dive into here.

Over half of the book charts Grant’s life before finding his inner (Lee) child, and whilst was good to find the origins of not only the author – an inveterate reader himself  – but also of Jack Reacher, the text does jump around a bit between times and people causing a bit of confusion at times.  This part of the book about humble and tough beginnings was interesting enough and I looked forward to reading about his writing career. Continue reading “The Reacher Guy – Heather Martin”

New Title Incoming – Bastion Academy: Malware

For those of you looking for something a bit different to add to your reading pile, this could be your bag, a steampunk sci-fi, cultivation novel.

Cultivation was a new term to me but it basically means levelling up magic, or progressing a character in some other form, and it has its roots in Taoism .

I myself will be picking up book one of the Bastion Academy series when I can, and it would be good to have your company on the journey.  In the meantime check out J. D. Astra’s shiny new WordPress blog here.

Insensitivity Readers

Photo by Jonathan Borba from Pexels

Holding this book in your hand, sinking back into your armchair, you will say to yourself: perhaps it will amuse me.  And after you have read this story of great misfortunes, you will no doubt dine well, blaming the author for your own insensitivity, accusing him of wild exaggeration and flights of fancy.  But rest assured: this tragedy is not a fiction. All is true.   – Honoré de Balzac, Le Père Goriot

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