Chess and other goodness!

•March 9, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve just received a nice thick parcel of books from Amazon, and as always have gotten unduly excited!

I ordered four books. The first, Temeraire by Naomi Novik, is the opening book in a fantasy series set during the Napoleonic Wars. Dragons vs Dragoons? Yes please! The series caught my eye as I was browsing in Waterstones last week, but typically they had no copies of the first novel and multiple copies of the rest. Amazon to the rescue!

I also ordered three chess books, as I’m at the point now where I need to start studying if I’m going to progress any further as a player. My new guides into the byzantine world of chess?  The Complete Book of Chess Strategy by Jeremy Silman, Winning Chess Tactics by Yasser Seirawan, and My System by the legendary Aron Nimzowitsch. The first two are aimed at my level as a player, and both figured highly on the various ‘Top Ten Chess Books’ lists I referenced in search of the best purchases. The Third My System, is a chess classic written in 1925 by a legendary master and is a massively important book.

I’m really looking forward to reading My System, though I have a feeling the ideas in it are going to be a bit beyond me at the moment. So I’m planning on reading that one last, after the other two have pumped me full of chess power, or such is the plan. I loved this from the preface though: ‘…let me assure you, my dear reader, that for me the passed pawn possesses a soul, just like a human being; it has unrecognised desires which slumber deep inside it and it has fears, the very existence of which it can but scarcely divine.

You see my friends: Chess, not football, is the beautiful game!

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The Diamond of Drury Lane ~ Julia Golding

•March 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Just a quick review for this one, as I’m somewhat pressed for time and eager to start my next read.

It actually came as something of a surprise to find that The Diamond of Drury Lane is a book aimed at a younger audience. I picked it up as it dealt with a couple of subjects that interest me (the theatre and Georgian London) and thought no more of it. A fun romp through an interesting period of history with some colourful characters is what I was hoping for, and thankfully that’s what I got. Regardless of the target audience it was an enjoyable read, it had adventure, intrigue, and was full of characters I wanted to learn more about.

I have to say I was a couple of steps ahead of the plot throughout most of the book, but I’ve never seen that as a bad thing. A reader likes to feel smart when they are trying to put together the pieces of a mystery after all! I got the warm fuzzy feeling from figuring everything out, and the book still managed to keep me interested in the tale. I’d rate that a success. I’m not going to go into the plot, though I will say it drew nicely from the backdrop it was set against. I enjoyed it and the ending was left open for a sequel, which I believe duly followed. I daresay I’ll pick it up in time, but for now I’m giving The Diamond of Drury Lane three and a half stars.

The Return of the Sunday Session!

•March 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Well another Sunday has rolled around, and I thought it was high time to bring back my favourite part of the old blog: The Sunday Session. Favourite, of course, because I get to post up some of my favourite clips from bands I really love. This week I’m going for Mumford and Sons’ Bookshop Sessions. I love these guys, and I love this set.

Enjoy!

White Blank Page ~ Mumford and Sons

The Cave ~ Mumford and Sons

Little Lion Man ~ Mumford and Sons

Winter Winds ~ Mumford and Sons

Dragon Age: and the great gaming push!

•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’m a massive fan of RPG games – and have a special fondness for Bioware offerings. Going right back to Baldur’s Gate I & II, Fallout 2, and Planescape: Torment. (All published by Bioware – though created by Black Isle I think?)

However Dragon Age is a game that kind of passed me by. I started it, got a decent way into it… and then got distracted by something shiny and new. With the imminent release of Dragon Age 2 though I find myself in the position of having to get through 80+ hours of gaming in the space of a couple of weeks, because foolishly I traded up to the Ultimate Edition, which has a ton of bonus content – including the Awakenings add on (itself something of a monster).

So how am I doing? I’m probably a third of the way through the original game, and really enjoying it. I’m not sure how I was tempted away from the game in the first place. Sure, the graphics are ropey, and the combat system is not exactly stunning, but the game has something. The characters are engaging, the story keeps you enthralled, and dammit if I don’t want to save this stupid world from itself. I must be leading the most disfunctional party in the history of RPGing, with Alistair: the bumbling warrior, Morrigan: the cold-hearted, sarcastic witch, and Leliana: the sweet, but possibly insane bard. Not to mention my own character, an elven rogue with a bit of chip on his shoulders. So I don’t know if the future is looking that bright for Ferelden. But hey, I’m gonna do my best!

Purity of Blood – Arturo Perez-Reverte

•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Okay first up is ‘Purity of Blood’ by Arturo Perez-Reverte, an author I’m really getting into at the moment, I’ve got a stack of his books waiting to be read, but I’m really enjoying what I’ve seen so far.

‘Purity of Blood’ is the second in a series of novels about Captain Alatriste, a Spanish mercenary and veteran of Spain’s many wars on the continent. It’s set during the Spanish Golden Age – which I confess is a period I know next to nothing about – but which I’m learning a lot about as the series progresses. The book is basically a continuation of the first novel and deals with Alatriste’s enemies striking back at him after the Adventure of Two Englishmen – in which Alatriste and his ward (and narrator of the novels) Inigo – foil an attempt to assassinate the Prince of Wales (the future Charles II – our very own Merry Monarch).

Alatriste and his motley band, which includes the poet Francisco de Quevedo and young Inigo, are lured into an ambush during a scheme to rescue a young nun from the clutches of a libidinous cleric and Inigo himself is captured and given up to the tender minstrations of the Spanish Inquisition. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition right? It turns out it was a set up from the start, and the nun and her family are accused of having Jewish blood, a big no-no in Golden Age Spain apparently, ‘Purity of Blood’ was a big issue. Inigo himself is accused of having Jewish blood, and is set to be a starring member in an auto-de-fe arranged by the evil Luiz de Alquezar in an effort to get back at Alatriste, the Count-Duke of Olivares (the King’s favourite) and just about anybody else who happens to be on  his bad side.

Things are looking bad for Inigo, as the day of his trial arrives and he finds himself in a crowd of prisoners many of whom are marked down for a good old burning. Sadly most of these are Jewish people, including the young nun herself. Fortunately (for Inigo at least) help arrives in the form of Quevedo, who had rushed off on a mission of mercy after being tipped off by Olivares about a certain green book in the parish church of Luiz de Alquezar’s home town, which it turns out contained records of Alquezar’s lineage, and his own less than pure blood. Needless to say this information spares young Inigo the indignation of a trial. Though the nun herself burns. Not a great victory for the Captain, who found himself powerless against the might of the Inquisition.

An enjoyable book for sure, though Quevedo’s appearance just before Inigo’s trial comes across as something of a deus ex machina. Even so it doesn’t feel out of place in a book such as this – which is more akin to a Dumas classic than a modern novel. I’d recommend the Alatriste books to anybody with an interest in swashbuckling tales. Reverte is great at bringing Golden Age Spain to life, warts and all. And while The Fencing Master remains my favourite Reverte novel to date. I’d give this a good four stars!

Another Reboot!

•February 23, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Well I think this is Metafur 3.0 – deleted all my posts and pages in the hopes of a fresh start. A little bit annoying for sure – but things had gotten so messy and disjointed – I fear it was a necessary evil. Anyway what new with me? Well I’m back into reading in a big way – at the expense of my gaming time – but that’s a trade I’m will to make. It also means I can start posting a few book reviews – which was why I started this blog in the first place.