I love reading and have decided to share my experiences with the few lost souls who chance upon my site. I've changed the way I do it to reflect more accurately what I think about the books I've read. So there are three sections; My Recommendations, Beach Books and Dustbin.

My Recommendations

The Last Great Frenchman - A Life of General De Gaulle by Charles Williams.

This book will fascinate those of you with an interest in modern history. We follow the steps of Charles de Gaulle, le Général, from his strict upbringing in a catholic household in Lille, Northern France; his education at a Jesuit school. His army carreer in which he served in the Army and was held as a prisoner of war in Poland. After the war he earned the nickname Pétain's Chicken as the protegé of Marshal Pétain.

The Second World War saw him first exiled to London from where he coordinated the different Résistance movements in France and achieved their recognition as the leader of the Free French. His famous broadcasts via the BBC earned him the recognition as the voice of France.

In Algiers he established himself and the Free French forces as the recognised representatives of France, as opposed to those running Vichy France. This recognition had to be fought for. His relationship with the then American President, Roosevelt, was almost non-existant thanks to Roosevelt's total dislike of the General. De Gaulle's reputation as an arrogant, pushy negotiator didn't help. As it didn't in his stormy relationship with Churchill. They finished up friends in the end.

The post-war period saw many ups and downs for him. His dream of a Europe being led by the all powerful France was one which was doomed to remain a dream. He was President during the stormy '60's; the student uprising; striking workers. Reading this book you come to realise how close La Belle France came to (another) revolution.

In this book we discover the two de Gaulles, the total President who doesn't need a government to rule France and the family man, the private man, with his love for his family and especially his handicapped daughter Anne.

Reading The Last Great Frenchman you'll be enthralled and you'll learn many new facts about France and Europe in the 30's, 40's and 50's which you didn't know about before. An excellent book.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

In a dusty post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, a doctor is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once grand and handsome, is now in decline, its masonary crumbling, its garden choked with weeds. Its owners - mother, an elegant lady, her son, badly injured as a fighter pilot, and her daughter, a plain spinster - are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own.

But are they haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Doctor Farady, our storyteller, know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become entwined with his.

This is a book which deservedly finished up on the Man Booker Prize shortlist, 2009. Beautifully told and breathtakingly descriptive, The Little Stranger is a must. You won't be able to put it down.

Lancaster: The Second World War's Greatest Bomber by Leo McKinstry

Ok! So I am prejudiced. Since I was a kid I've loved aircraft; I was in the Royal Air Force; for a while I flew my own microlight and Cessna 150, so aircraft, especially the early ones, fascinate me. And that is why I loved this book. So if aircraft combined with recent history don't interest you then you may leave now.

The bloody background to this story is the death and destruction of the 2nd World War and especially that wrought by the extremely brave people who crewed the Lancaster. The story exposes the political maneuvering which goes on behind the scenes, the personality feuds which sometimes caused wrong decisions to be made and, most importantly, the thoughts and experiences of the bomber crews who were doing all the work.

The officer in charge of Bomber Command was Arthur Harris who's aim in the war was to flatten every city in Germany, which he very nearly did. This savage approach to the air war by the British is still the subject of heated discussions. Only recently (Dec 2009) a French aquaintenence, a history buff, mentioned the British bomber's war crimes! The strength of Harris was that even his superiors buckled in the face of his insubordination and he always seemed to get his way.

But the Lancaster. Designed by the AVRO genius engineer, Roy Chadwick, the Lancaster started off as the Manchester, a twin engined bomber which was going nowhere. He took the unsuccesful design, increased the wingspan, added two engines and the Lancaster was born. From the start the crews loved it. It was the racehorse alongside the other bombers which were the cart-horses. It was a joy to fly. And it could take more punishment than others and still bring the crews home safely. We follow its development as it was steadily improved and modified to carry 'strange' loads like the Dambuster's bouncing bomb.

More bomber crew members died during the war than any other group. Your chance of survival was 30%! That means that your chance of dying was 70%! We meet many of those brave men as they recount their experiences during long, bomber raids over Germany. Can you imagine, hundreds of aircraft flying through the night for up to ten hours, with no lights, primitive instruments, no heating and when they arrive at their destination, flying through the searchlights and flak to drop their load before, hopefully, turning for the five hour flight home. Also fraught with danger as ack-ack batteries and night-fighters were often waiting.

As well as meeting many 'unknown' crew members we are also (re-)acquainted with some household names of those days: Guy Gibson, Leonard Cheshire, Douglas Bader, Douglas Sholto and others. And on the other side we share the experiences of the recipients of the bomber crew's loads.

The basic Lancaster design lasted until 1991 when its great-great-great grandchild, the Shackleton, Mark III, was phased out.

Lancaster is a must for you bookshelf. A fascinating and gripping read.

Kim (Penguin Popular Classics) by Rudyard Kipling

This classic story is, to use the jargon of the time it was written - 1901 - a gripping yarn! Mark Twain is reputed to have read it twice a year.

I came across the names of several famous authors whilst reading 'Churchill's Wizards'. These men of literature, among them Rudyard Kipling, worked for the British government, assisting in dreaming up plans to deceive the enemy. (Another name mention was Scottish author John Buchan, writer of '39 Steps' and a future Governor General of Canada.)

Kim is a young orphan, born out of wedlock to a British serving girl and an Irish sergeant. He lives on the streets by his wits and is not aware of his legacy. He meets a holy man and becomes his chela (disciple) and travels the length of India with him searching for the Lama's holy river. We learn so much from the exciting descriptions of the people he meets and the places he passes; of the culture of the then India.

As prophesised by a fortue teller, one day he comes into contact with his father's old regiment and receives a sahib's education. He also comes into contact with a certain Colonel who recognises Kim's intelligence and aptitude for subterfuge and we see how, later, Kim and his Lama become involved in finding out what certain Russians are about in India.

The language in the book is of course that of the 19th Century but don't let that put you off. If you like history, if you like adventure, if you like colour, Kim is a book you must read.

The View from the Ground by Martha Gellhorn

This woman's stories are so brilliant she makes me think I'm there with her. This collection of reports and recollections is collated in the decades 30's to the 80's.

In the 30's she takes us to a lynching in the deep south and shares her revulsion with us.

In the 40's we witness the terrible persecution by the Un-American Activities Commmittee of people who had done nothing wrong except, that in the eyes of some, a vague connection to the communist party in their youth which made them enemies of the state. Soviet methods by Senator McCarthy in the west's largest democracy.

In the 50's we happily witness the 'downfall of' the aforementioned Senator McCarthy proving that there is justice after all.

In the 60's we visit Poland under the communists, we visit the Eichmann trial in Israel and we hear about the horror of the Vietnam war.

In the 70's we join in one of the largest demonstrations ever witnessed when the American youth protested about what their government was doing in Asia. And we visit Spain the day dictator Franco died.

In the 80's we read the mind numbing story of a young man tortured in San Salvador and we visit Cuba and meet lots of happy Cubans.

In all there are more than 30 stories spanning her life and if you are interested in what has happened in our world in the past you should read The View from the Ground. And strange as it may sound you'll notice that some things never change.

A definite must to read.

Churchill's Wizards: The British Genius for Deception, 1914-1945

This is a wonderful book. Whetther you're a modern history buff or not you'll love reading about how the enemey was deceived in the two world wars. Deceived with camouflage, pirate radios, (yes, pirate radios!), false plans, look-a-like actors, dummy guns, tanks, wagons, airfields and just about anything you can imagine. The book contains a wealth of information about the wars themselves so for buffs you may be reading stuff you know but the nitty gritty of deception, in all its forms, in Churchill's Wizards make it worth every penny it costs. A thorough good read from start to finish.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

At last, at least for me, someone who clearly says and, to my mind, proves, what many of us have been thinking about for years. God, religions, whichever, whatever, are nothing more that superstitions kept alive by people who should know better.

He shows us how Christian fundamentalists are no better than their Islamic opposites. All clamouring to apply rules from books of fables written hundreds if not thousands of years ago. The mind boggles.

He shows us the arguments made by people who still consider the world to have been 'created' 8,000 years ago, in spite of the scientific proof and evidence to the contrary built up from Darwin onwards. Some people still refuse to come to terms with the truth about the world. They prefer their superstitions.

However this is not a 'heavy' book. No, it is full of compassion and humour and, in spite of the subject matter being so shocking in parts, a can't put down read.

So be you agnostic, atheiest, christian, muslim or jewish get The God Delusion and read it. You may join the many who have escaped their superstitions thanks to it.

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

The time is the end of World War 1, the place Boston,

The book tells the story of the attempts of unions to open their struggle against their capitalist employers. How the police, themselves dramatically under rewarded, were used as strike breakers until they themselves go on strike resulting in horrific riots.

The book also tells the story of racism at its peak as it follows Luther when he flees to Boston after committing a crime. His survival is his first priority, not only from life but from a policeman out to get him.

We also follow Danny, the policeman on the beat, son of a well respected police captain, as he gives up the hope of a carreer higher up to lead the first policeman's union. The consequences of which change his life completely. Between Danny and Luther a friendship grows which ignores racial boundaries.

The Given Day is an amazing story which will have you on the edge of your seat. Emotionally, it will drag you along with it.

A thoroughly enjoyable book. Get it!

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore

Reading this book is a bit like reading the story of a serial murderer who is running rampant but unlike the real world where the good guy wins in the end, in this book the bad guy wins because he is also the 'good'guy!

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar is a horrifying account of how one man ruled an enormous empire through fear. I kept thinking, 'Why didn't someone do something? Why didn't they assasinate him?' But fear prevented that, fear for the lives of their families and their own lives and, obviously, fear of the unknown - life after Stalin!

This isn't only a history book, obviously there are large nuggets of history in there, mainly it's the intimate story of one man's reign of terror and with the parallel story, the insight into the private life of this monster. His love of singing, his daughter, how he lived, his well stocked villas, his manipulation.

The involvement of names some of us will remember, Molotov, Bulganin, Brezhnev, Khrushchev, in many of the crimes commited against the different peoples of the USSR remind us how recent this age of terror was.

I couldn't put this book down. It's a gripping story which kept me enthralled from start to finish. For those fans of recent history this book is a must.

Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope by Shirin Ebadi

Here's a book you just have to read to learn about the black side of Islam. Like all religions it has, as we all too well know, it's extremists and what is sad is that these extremists, under the cover of their religion, terrorize their own.

Shirin Ebadi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has written a book which takes you into a world which, to people who are used to freedom, will seem like a nightmare. And for those at the heart of the consequences of the 'revolution' it is a nightmare. Mrs Ebadi, a judge at the time of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, fell victim to the hard-liner's declaration that women were unfit to be judges and she was demoted to be a clerk in her own courtroom.

The anecdotes she relates in Iran Awakening as to how people in general, and women in particular, were treated made my hair stand on end. It is quite amazing to read how these extremists, fundamentalists, call them what you will, were willing to debase and humiliate their fellow countrymen and women in the name of a merciful God. The absolute ignorance of some of those given 'license' to be judges is horrifying. Read this book! It's a must for everyone who loves freedom.

The Face of War by Martha Gellhorn.

Some reference I read regarding Martha Gellhorn led me to buying a couple of her books one of which was The Face of War. Reading her reports of the wars in Spain, Germany, Vietnam and more, you realise that you're not reading history, no, they are 'as it happens' reports. You are there. This is one of a few books which moved me to tears in almost every report. Everyone should read this book to learn about the grim side of war and the cruelties of men against men.

Young Stalin by Simon Sebag Montefiore

We all know the 'media' image of Stalin, the not-so-great dictator. But of course, Stalin was also a child, also a young man. Stalin with a Mother and with school friends; Stalin becoming the revolutionary. Young Stalin gives a fascinating insight into the years of Stalin's life leading up to the October Revolution. His loves, his exiles, his cruelties, his preparation. A click of the fingers of fate and we would never had heard of him.

Beach Books

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest
by Stieg Larsson.

This third book in the Salander Triology is the best one of all. Gripping is the word. Our heroine is once again under attack, not only from the baddies but from the Swedish Secret Service, the ones who are supposed to be the goodies. Sometimes too much happens, things which really don't have anything to do with Salander and her problems but ok, they add to the tension. There are quite a few (luckily) machines à Dieu to help the plot along but don't worry about that. Just sit back, turn the pages and enjoy
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

Oh yes, wear boxing gloves; to stop you biting your nails!

PS For apostrophe fanatics the 1st title Hornets' is the British version, the 2nd Hornet's the American. I suggest the 1st is correct.

Lyttelton's Britain: A User's Guide to the British Isles as Heard on BBC Radio's 'I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue' by Iain Pattinson

If you were a fan of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, the BBC Radio 4 panel programme, then this book is for you. The short, humorous, tongue-in-cheek monologues about the town the show was visiting, with which Humphrey Lyttelton started the programmes have been bundled in this book. They are a joy to read, sometimes repetitive but refreshingly funny. Lyttelton's Britain is just the book to have next to your bed to make you smile before you switch the light out.

The Tommy Cooper Joke Book compiled by John Fisher

What a lovely book. It's small, I read it in no time - Just Like That! Sorry.

I'll be brief. If you're not a Tommy Cooper fan stop here but if you are, you'll love this book. A wonderful collection of Tommy's jokes from the ones that make you cringe to those that'll make you laugh out loud.

And to complete it some vey interesting anecdotes about the man himself and his life. So go and get The Tommy Cooper Joke Book and enjoy a lot of fun - just like that!

My Word is My Bond: The Autobiography
by Roger Moore

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. What an interesting and full acting life Roger Moore has had, Everyone remembers his successes; Ivanhoe, The Saint, The Persuaders, the never to be forgotten James Bond movies and many others.

The name-dropping is shamefully present on all pages and that just helps to add lustre to an already glittering life story. Many of the anecdotes made me laugh out loud. He tells them well.

And a lot of space is given to his important work as an Ambassador for Unicef, work which he still continues to carry out in his eighties.

I've always liked and admired this actor and My Word is My Bond was a welcome insight to his exciting carreer.

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larssen

He did it with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (see below) and he repeats his succesful formula with the second in the triology, The Girl Who Played with Fire. Another gripping thriller which you will not be able to put down I guarantee. The unconventional heroine, (actually only one of the heroes in the book) and computer hacker, Lisbeth Salander, is herself accused of not one but three killings. Is she innocent or is she involved in some way or other? You wait a long time to find out and the suspense is killing, excuse the pun.

Her closest ally is the journalist Mikael Blomqvist who we met in the first book. The theme is the woman trafficking industry, supplying underage girls for the pleasure of men. We meet those running it, those trying to expose it and the bosses and customers. `What is Lisbeth's connection? The truth is surprising to say the least. Mikael is convinced of her innocence (his company is about to publish a shocking report on the sex trafficking industry in Sweden), and he is determined to help her – whether she wants his help or not.

The Girl Who Played with Fire is another great read!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

This is the first of the millenium triology and its a humdinger.

You're taken on a roller-coaster ride with our hero Blomkvist, the humiliated journalist, who is asked to solve a forty year old mystery by the Vanger family patriarch. This complicated family is the group that Blomkvist finds himself involved with. And he's helped by the 'problem-child' Lisbeth Salander. An unlikely combination.

Sleuthing, hacking, telephone tapping, you name it its being used to solve the missing Harriet mystery. Every time you think that you, the reader, know what's going to happen something totally different happens. You are most certainly kept on your toes. Surprises right until the last page.

One min point. I don't know but I suspect that the translation into English was done by a non-native speaker. Here and there there are some clumsy uses of the language. But do not let that put you off,

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a great read.

Kate Moss: The Complete Picture by Laura Collins

I know, from the sublime to the corblimey! If you like the gossip columns then you'll love this as it reads just like such a column which isn't surprising as the author was such a columnist being the senior writer at the Mail on Sunday.

This is a nice, easy going beach book. No surprises just a story about a lucky, lovely girl who made, and is still making, millions.

Parky: My Autobiography by Michael Parkinson

This is a short review as most people will realise what this book's all about. Yes it's Parky's memoirs and very interesting they are too. Ok it's also a big name drop from finish to end but that doesn't matter. The anecdotes are told in a lively and fresh way, you hear Parky's voice telling them. And there are many very humourous anecdotes which'll make you laugh. Parky is a great, can't put down, read.

Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge by Jeremy Narby

I bought the Cosmic Serpent hoping to learn more about shamans and certainly to hear about the connections between their source of knowledge and the human DNA as a source. Alas it remained a theory. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed learning about DNA, biochemistry and how the hallucinogins, used by shamans, connect to the cells and receptors of the brain. A good read.

Duma Key by Stephen King

I have all of Stephen King's books so I guess you could say I'm predudiced. Right, I am but I haven't liked all his books. I liked this one. Duma Key grabs you from page one and keeps you enthralled. It gave me the shivers, there're shocking things in it, things which cannot exist or happen and yet ... Mr King makes them believable. A long book which keeps you turning the pages.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

A great holiday read but for people with a reasonable technical knowledge of the internet and all things PC. After a terrorist attack on American soil our young hero gets involved in the struggle against the U.S. homeland suppression. The new police state must be beaten and the internet is the vital tool needed to achieve it. Little Brother is a chilling story of how things could happen.

Dustbin Books

The Ask Felgall Introduction to Modern HTML
(not a real link, but it's not a real book)
by Stephen Chapman.

This 'book' is charged at $5.00, that's about $5.00 too much. I won't waste too much time on it here as I have dedicated a website to it which can be found at www.felgall.info.

Be aware of self-styled 'gurus'!

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