Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Movember is about raising awareness of male cancer. In particular the unmentionables; testicular and prostrate cancer.

For the past month I've been cultivating some facial hair, a moustache to be specific. Not wanting this to be just a plain moustache I went for something a little more overstated. I believe it's known as a "biker", in moustache growing circles but some of my work colleagues are keen to refer to it as the 70's porn star look.

Either way it's raised £115 for cancer charities. Many thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to sponsor me.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Back To The Classics Book Challenge 2012

I was surfing twitter and the interwebs earlier this week and came across a new blog:  Sarah Reads Too Much.  She was proposing a challenge to read a number of classics within certain catagories during 2012.

As I wrote the other day, I read a lot of books during 2011 and was looking for something a bit different in 2012 as a challenge.  There are a number of classics, that I want to read, some that I have already, the books sitting on my shelves and have never gotten around to reading, others that I'll have to get hold of a copy, but again ones that I've always wanted to read.

Anyway here are the categories:

  • Any 19th Century Classic
  • Any 20th Century Classic
  • Reread a classic of your choice
  • A Classic Play
  • Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction
  • Classic Romance
  • Read a Classic that has been translated from its original language to your language   - To clarify, if your native language is NOT English, you may read any classic originally written in English that has been translated into your native language. 
  • Classic Award Winner  - To clarify, the book should be a classic which has won any established literary award. 
  • Read a Classic set in a Country that you (realistically speaking) will not visit during your lifetime  - To Clarify, this does not have to be a country that you hope to visit either.  Countries that no longer exist or have never existed count.

And here are my provisional choices (I might change some as I think more on this, but these are my gut reactions based on books that I've always wanted to read, or have on my shelves and have never gotten around to reading, and are all regarded in one way or another as classics):

  • Any 19th Century Classic:
    • Walden - Henry David Thoreau
  • Any 20th Century Classic
    • Watership Down - Richard Adams
  • Reread a classic of your choice
    • The Jungle Book - Rudyard Kipling or The Hobbit J R R Tolkien
  • A Classic Play
    • The Seagull - Anton Chekhov
  • Classic Mystery/Horror/Crime Fiction
    • At The Mountains of Madness - H P Lovecraft
  • Classic Romance
    • Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare
  • Classic translation
    • Around the World In Eighty Days - Jules Verne
  • Classic Award Winner
    • The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemmingway (Pulitzer 1953) 
  • Read a Classic set in a Country that you (realistically speaking) will not visit during your lifetime
    • The Island of Dr Moreau - H G Wells (not sure if this counts as a country that has "never existed", so might have to rethink this one).










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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Coming in December - My Big Book Year

So a Big Book Year, what’s that all about? “A Big Year”, refers to the life of a birdwatcher, it’s a year in which a bird watcher will try and see the largest number of species that they can, often within a confined geographic area. As a naturalist I’m familiar with this concept, with friends disappearing off for long periods of time, evenings, weekends, chasing the next number or species on their list, but what’s that got to do with books?

Well, this year I set a target via Good Reads to read thirty books in 2011. I reached this target in less than six months, which I was amazed at, the most books I’ve ever knowingly read before in a year is thirty-seven books, so reaching my target so early meant revising that target upward, so I doubled it to sixty. I reached that target a month or so ago, now I’m just seeing where I get to by year end. At the time of writing I’m at seventy-two books and reading!

But this year has been so much more than numbers, I’ve discovered so many “new” authors. It’s made me think as to why this year has been different. Well first probably because I got a kindle at the start of the year, which has made reading more accessible for me, you can carry thousands of books in one small device, rather than one or two paperbacks where ever you go. Second because I’ve been writing much more myself, and “hanging out” with other writers in various social media circles; Twitter, Google+ etc. I’ve also been “featuring” many more book reviews and guest posts on my blog, I’ve been participating in “virtual tours” for authors. Reading their books, reviewing them and then having them on my blog for an interview or a guest post. As a result I’ve also had a lot of “free” books, those given to me for review. In fact much of this has over taken my writing. I think I’ve written less of the current work in progress than I would have liked, but what I have written has been influenced by the other things going on and as a result has been a better result.

I’m planning to go back over my year on my blog during December, pick out my top thirty-one books in ascending order, with my top pick coming on New Years Eve. There are some more guest posts planned, and at least one “virtual tour”.

Expand Below the Line if you want to see the Seventy-Two books read to date in order!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Instagram Video

My Instagrams in Pummelvision from tontowilliams on Vimeo.

I used Pummelvision to convert my instagram feed into a short video.  I seem to take a lot of dog photo's!

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book Review: Carnival for the Dead by David Hewson

Once again David Hewson transports his readers to the magical city of Venice, Italy. It is Teresa Lupo, Chief Forensic Pathologist for the Questura in Rome who takes the lead on this occasion whilst colleagues Falcone, Peroni and Costa are on secret assignment.

Lupo has travelled to Venice to look for her Aunt Sofia who has mysteriously disappeared, leaving little explanation as to why, or her current whereabouts. It is the time of the Carnival, as Teresa tries to find her Aunt, and a series of events unfold that lead the reader on a tableau of adventure across the great city of islands, and where those dressed in Carnival costume may not be all they appear to be.

 This is the tenth novel in the “Costa” series, and the third time that David Hewson has taken us to Venice (The Lizard’s Bite & The Cemetery of Secrets, being the other two, and it is nice to see some homage to both of those novels within the pages of this latest one).

It is rare that a book makes me change my plans or keeps me reading up late into the night these days, but Carnival for the Dead has done both of those things over the last three days. Keeping me turning the pages and setting the standard for crime novels, this story unfolds a tale of mystery, history and culture set in one of the worlds great cities.

 The history is well researched and the author manages to weave the history and culture into the pages, bringing the story to life. It brings a depth and colour to the pages that it is easy to picture oneself in the great city, with the same sights, sounds and smells as the characters on the pages.

 David Hewson is a master storyteller, and this book is no exception, it is one of his best and finest to date and this series has been getting better and better.

 If you are looking for a great story, and want to transport yourself to another place, then I strongly recommend this book.


5 out of 5 Stars - I Loved It!



About the author (taken from the dust jacket):


David Hewson was a journalist working most recently for the Sunday Time, The Time and the Independent. The author of nine novels in the highly acclaimed Detective Nic Costa series set in Rome which are currently being adapted for TC, he has also written thrillers set in Seville, the US and Venice. The author live in Kent.


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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

On Amazon and Home Delivery Network

Amazon and I have had a parting of the ways today.
Yesterday I was supposed to receive a book that I pre-ordered over six months ago.  Unfortunately Amazon dispatched it via the ever unreliable Home Delivery Network (HDNL).  Amazon seem to have a preference for using this courier, presumably because they get a good rate for doing so, however HDNL are pretty unreliable.  They have repeatedly failed to deliver parcels when they are supposed to, and have (as they managed to do again yesterday) claim to have delivered it when they haven't, i.e. they lie, or don't even bother and just say you were out, and then you have to go to the depot and collect your parcel, i.e. they lie.  In fact more often than not they seem to be able to do something other than actually deliver the parcel.
When Amazon use HDNL you get a tracking number, nothing new there but obviously this means that you can see where and when you parcel is (or at least allegedly is).  I checked for mine yesterday morning and it said that my parcel was out for delivery.  Great.  At 5pm it was still out for delivery.  At 630pm it had apparently been delivered (at 5.25pm), through our letterbox (incredibly precise that tracking isn't it!), but surprise, surprise no parcel, not through our letterbox, or hidden in our garden or left with a neighbour or anywhere that I could see.
I emailed Amazon, and got a very prompt reply, with promise of dispatching a replacement, they apparently understand my frustrations with HDNL, but there is nothing they can do about that.  Er hang on a minute, how about not using them?  Getting another courier?
Skip to today.  Parcel has been delivered, but no explanation as to where it has been or why it was reported as having been delivered yesterday (at 5.25pm through our letterbox).  My only thought can be that the courier put it through the wrong letterbox somewhere else, and that person out of kindness delivered it to us?
As Amazon are going to send me a replacement I went onto the website to cancel it, I don't want two items after all, but it's too late as it's too far into the dispatch process for them to do anything about it, so I've emailed the person in customer service who helped me yesterday to see if there is anything they can do.  I suspect probably not, which means I will have to return the second parcel when it arrives or refuse delivery.  Basically more hassle for me.  All because Amazon use HDNL.
So I am cancelling my amazon prime membership, I'm not getting value for money, and I'm certainly only getting more hassle from HDNL each time Amazon use them.  I've also cancelled the ten pre-orders I had with amazon, I'll get those items somewhere else.  If I have to pay a little more it will be worth it, to not have the hassle of HDNL.  From now on the only thing that I will order from Amazon will be kindle books.  Now I know I might change my mind, particularly with Christmas approaching, but certainly I will be thinking twice about using amazon from now on.
Thing is, it isn't just me.  Go on the amazon.co.uk forums and see the number of other people who are having problems with HDNL (or Yodel, as they also describe themselves), there are 1000's of them, so why do amazon persist in using them, particularly if it's costing them customers?
It also isn't just Amazon parcels that I have had problems with, other companies use HDNL, and when I have bought things from them I have had similar experiences.  Guess what?  I no longer use those companies, and in all cases I have never gone back to them.
So Amazon, how about it?  End your contract with HDNL?  Keep my custom?

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