The Book of Fate

The Book of Fate by Brad MeltzerA shooting, an assassin, an ex-president, an intriguing conspiracy. Half way through so far…

No wonder Brad Meltzer thanks George Dubya Bush in the beginning, he clearly has more knowledge of the secret service and US presidential aides than pretty much anyone on the planet. This story turned out be rather interesting and exciting one with well described and sympathetic characters and a good ending (for once), a most enjoyable read.

The Book of Fate by Brad Melzer

Mark Beaumont – The Man Who Cylced The World

Mark Beaumont - The Man Who Cylced The WorldThe Man Who Cylced The World
by Mark Beaumont

Great read, what an adventure, cyclng around the world by bike and with a world record deadline. That translates to pedaling 100miles a day on average over 18,000 miles, yes, crazy stuff. Really enjoyed Mark's descriptions of the places he went and people he met plus the scrapes/crashes he got into. The format of the book is also rather unique – it becomes nearly a blog style account by the end, which made a nice difference. Cycling through the Ukraine, Iran, Pakistan, India, Asia, Australia etc on his lonesome included staying in a random petrol station Mosque, sleeping under a road tunnel, waking up face to face with a huge spider, being kept in jails by the Pakistan police for his own protection whilst villagers peered in through a small window at him for hours on end  (my fave was when he whacked one of them so they'd go away, lol) and meeting the girl of his dreams and having to weigh up whether to travel with her or stay on target for the record. Guess it hepled that I'd been to quite a few of the countries he bikes through, brought back some great memories, but I think most people would enjoy this book. Mark Beaumont is a super adventurer, super athlete and this book a wicked read. Only wish I'd thought to attempt this record when I was 24! πŸ˜‰

Andre Agassi – Open

Andre Agassi - Open

Open – By Andre Agassi

The autobiography of tennis legend and genius Andre Agassi, the only man in history to have won every slam (Australian, French, Wimbledon and US Open) plus the Olympic Gold medal plus year end number 1. A well written, highly interesting and entertaining read about the great man. A general and somewhat contraversial theme of the book is how he actually hates tennis, BUT cannot stay away from it, he always goes back for one last shot. My fave bit is probably the description of and continual references to The Dragon, the ball machine his fanatical dad made for the tennis court he built in their back garden to fire balls at 100mph at a 7 year old Andre, every day after school, ordering him to Hit Out In Front until the entire court was full of balls – this kinda explains Agassi's staggering hand-eye co-ordination (probably the best ever). That followed by the story of how his first match loss was to a cheating Jeff Tarrango as an 8 year old and how he never really forgot that, hehe. Agassi also mentions how he realised he was different from arch-rival Pete Sampras and goes on about some issues he has with the guy, which is a shame cos sadly he brought this to the court at Indian Wells at the Hit For Haiti exhibition. You woulda thought he would've gotten over this by publishing it for the world, but there you go. His wooing and eventual marriage to Steffi Graf is also described in detail and there are many other pleasant reading moments, his car .

I'd rate this as the best tennis autobiography there is, it's not my favourite, but it is the best.

The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol By Dan Brown

The third in the series of Dan Brown's ultra best sellers starring the mystery solving symbologist Robert Langdon. This one starts with Langdon being called to Washington DC and the severed hand of his friend Peter Solomon being discovered. A pursuit of who/what/how happened around the US captial city, largely concerning the masons <gasp> and the symbology involving them.

I did enjoy this book, it's quite page turner, like the previous books, it also gives an incredible insight to the masons and their esoteric order. The bad guy Malakh is also pretty cool at times, as some kind of tattooed maniac, intent on bringing down the masonic order. The book is quite a bit longer than the other two and doesn't quite match them in my view – it is very enjoyable, but does go on a bit. Mind you, Angels and Demons was cracking and The Da Vinci Code, well, maybe you pretend you're some special kind of literary critic who didn't like it, but that thing was staggeringly good and one tough act to follow.

No Identifiable Remains

No Identifiable Remains By John Tagholm

The story starts with a Channel Tunnel train crash! the Eurostar ploughs into a petrol tanker and half the coaches get destroyed in the explosion. Oliver Dreyfuss is on-board – a young, good looking expert chef with a hot career woman wife and promising restaurant owner, BUT all is not quite so rosey in the real world of Dreyfuss. Through (fate and) luck alone, Dreyfuss survives and wanders to the nearest town in a daze before the emergency services arrive. He has to make a decision to wander into the French sunset and start a new life or go back to his old one – he decides on option numero uno! From there we meet the new woman in his life, the real side of his insanely jealous career wife and other colourful characters.

This book was written by the brother of Wilton legend Roger Tagholm and hence why I ended up reading it. It is an entertaining and thrilling story, mixing emotions of past and present marvellously well, throwing the reader into vivid scenes of rural France and visiting the alpine region for a  terrible tragedy amongst other things. There are some rather graphic and shocking descriptions of Dreyfuss' 'ex'-wife's affair in there too! The end is also rather brilliant, despite me shouting OH NOOO very loudly during reading.

Travel Guides I Used

These are the travel guides I used on my travels during 2004 and 2005, I was pretty lucky with them to be honest. The 2003 Lonely Planet Australia was awful compared to my one! πŸ˜€

Lonely Planet Australia, 11th edition, 2002

Excellent, contained virtually everything I needed to know/check-out about Australia. Great maps, great guides, great ideas, great tips, seriously enhanced my trip!A truly top book is all I can say.

Pity the 2004 version wasn’t anywhere near as good, I hope the 2005 version is!


Lonely Planet New Zealand, 11th edition, 2002

new zealand
Yet another Excellent Lonely Planet guide. It covered the entire New Zealand nation, both islands in brilliant detail. Contained everything and more that I wanted to see and do there, even how to find “Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu” (the longest placename in the world – a childhood must-see of mine, I was told I’m one of the few non-Maoris who can say it right!)Another brilliant book.


Rough Guide South East Asia, 2nd edition, Sept 2002

Pretty good, though could do with a lot more detailed maps and time tables. It got very annoying turning up in a town and not knowing how to get anywhere, largely thanks to the Rough Guide’s very basic directions and/or lack of town maps. Many times it meant I had to look everything up twice on the Internet.The sections for leaving and getting to places and countries were excellent though, so was the background detail and history of places and countries.

I can see why Lonely Planet is more popular than Rough Guide. Still, the Lonely Planet Shoe String guide wasn’t as comprehensive as this one at the time.


Books I’ve Read

These are the various books I’ve read whilst on my travels during 2004 and 2005. I’ve listed them in the order I read them or at least the order I think I read them in and also where I got them and my thoughts about them, as best my memory can recall.

Considering I got most of them second hand, they were surprisingly good.

If you are somewhat puzzled by my selection it may help to know that as a kid I never read any fiction books(it was a hard life), in fact I was told off at school because I hadn’t read anything in an entire term once! This meant I missed just about all the classics. So a few years ago I decided I really should start reading some of them and hence some of the choices below.

Title/Author Bought Where When Review
King Solomon’s Mines by Ryder Haggard

$3 from some second hand shop in Hobart, Tasmania, very annoying price because I saw this book selling for 50cents in a hostel in Melbourne and stupidly I didn’t buy it then and regretted that decision for about 6 weeks afterwards. March 2004 An excellent adventure story set in Africa. Great characters, scenes and story. Was well worth the weeks of hassel of obtaining this book, virtually nowhere sold it.
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

A second hand bookshop somewhere in New Zealand, maybe Wellington or Auckland. May 2004 Another excellent adventure story, by the Treasure Island author. About a boy who gets kidnapped by sailors and put onboard a ship. I found his Scottish miser uncle to be rather amusing, a very enjoyable read.
The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Melbourne June 2004 It was THE book everybody was talking about and is still talking about. Probably the best written book I’ve ever read, so easy to read, so simple to understand, yet so intriguing and keeps you hanging on and wanting to read more and turn the page after every chapter. Also a great story, even if it was ripped off from the Holy Blood & Holy Grail.
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Melbourne June 2004 The prequel to The Da Vinci Code, probably a better story than the Da Vinci Code to be honest, but a slightly more tedius in the long run. I liked this book very much, but I can understand why people it isn’t as popular. Well worth a read if you’ve read TDVC first, as it explains a few scenes and the background of Robert Langdon.
Digital Fortress by Dan Brown

Melbourne June 2004 A story about a man who developes an uncrackable code and how the US government would cope with such a quandry. It does contain the odd technical error, but it wasn’t a bad story, even if the geek hero is a woman and I know from personal experience you don’t actually get any women in the computer industry.
Deception Point by Dan Brown

Melbourne July 2004 This wasn’t a bad book, about a meteroite being discovered at the polar ice cap, that ‘possibly’ contains traces of life, then the scientists working there start getting murdered. To be honest after reading his other 3 books it now becomes obvious that Dan Brown has a forumla and you can almost guess what is going to happen.
Billionaire In Training by Bradley J. Sugars

Melbourne July 2004 Saw this in the bookshop many times on the way to work before actually buying it, but was well worth it. Very inspiring and helpful regarding business strategies and ideas.
A Scandal in Bohemia from The Complete Adventures of Sherlocks Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Blue Mountains YHA Hostel, 2 hours from Sydney September 2004 I was exceptionally tired, completely on my lonesome in a 6 bed dorm, in a hostel where everybody had gone to bed that night and suddenly I found a volume of The Complete Adventures of Sherlocks Holmes. I’ve always been a Sherlock Holmes fan (Basil Rathbone was my favourite) despite never reading one story and I actually fell asleep reading it and woke up and finished it off. Most excellent.
Paradise Alley by Sylvester Stallone One of the 3 books I bought from the second hand shop for 50cents each somewhere on the East Coast. September 2004 This was a quick and easy read, but pretty entertaining and I enjoyed it. About 3 brothers who live in the Bronx and have to look out for each other. Involves a bit of fighting, romance and gang rivalry. I liked the characters and story, wouldn’t mind seeing the film.
Think & Grow Rich by Napolean Hill

think and grow rich
One of the 3 books I bought from the second hand shop for 50cents each somewhere on the East Coast. October 2005 THE original business book, absolutely fantastic stuff. Exceptionally inspiring!
Tom Cruise – A Biography One of the 3 books I bought from the second hand shop for 50cents each somewhere on the East Coast. November 2004 A short biography about Tom Cruise’s rise to fame and fortune from literally rags. My friend Gemma is now the proud owner of this fine book about the great man!
The Last Nazi – by Stan Pottinger

think and grow rich
Borrowed this from Melbourne Central Library. November 2004 About this old nutter who acts all innocent and friendly to everyone, yet is trying to invent a virus that kills only Jews! Ending isn’t bad, but the whole thing is a bit stupid to be honest.
Winston Churchill by ? 2nd hand shop, Laura, South Australia December 2004 This was a hardback book detailing the life of Winston Churchill, it mainly had various fact/articles about Churchill by various authors and an excert by himself from his autobiography.
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe.

robinson crusoe
Swapped the Chruchill Book hardcover I think for this, I think. December 2004 Yes, the one about the man ship wrecked on an island. Took me ages to read, but is a brilliant story when you’re travelling on your own and lounging around on various beaches, also since this was an original full length copy that used the original language that Defoe used I found there was a bit more to the story than most people know.
Be An Entrepreneur by Dr.Michael Leong

Singapore January 2005 Read this very quickly, all about starting a business, the perils that go with it and the successes that can be had as an Internet finance entrepreneur.
Hell’s Angel by Sonny Barger

Given to me by my friend Mark in Thailand, who didn’t like it! February 2005 This book is quality. It’s about the life and times of the Hell’s Angels and their leader Sonny Barger. Some of these guys are true thugs and nutters and I really enjoyed this one. Reading it made me want to buy a motorbike! I’ll give you a tip, never diss an Angel! here’s my fave quote of all time (talking about the Rolling Stones Free Concert of 1969 where Hell’s Angels were used as security) “(Keith) Richards walked over to me after finishing ‘Love in Vain’ and told me the band wasn’t going to play anymore until we stopped the violence. ‘Either these cats cool it, man, or we don’t play’, he announced to the crowd. I stood next to him and stuck my pistol into his side and told him to start playing his guitar or he was dead. He played like a motherf***er.” HAHAHA!
The Quiet American by Graham Greene.

quiet american
From the amputee book seller in Siem Reap, Cambodia March 2006 A must read if you go to Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City. The scenes and characters are very descriptive, the story is a strange prophetic one. I actually went back to Ho Chi Minh City and did the Cao Dai Temple tour because of this book! Bit of a strange ending but great stuff.
The Killing Fields by Christopher Hudson.

the killing fields
From the amputee book seller in Siem Reap, Cambodia March 2006 A harrowing true-ish story about a Cambodian journalist living before and his survival after Pol Pot seizes power with his Kamer Rouge regime in 1975. This story and characters are powerful, interesting, thrilling and moving. In fact it’s one of the best books I think I’ve ever read. I’m not sure you can appreciate what it was like in Cambodia during those times if you visit there and haven’t read this book. It is way, way better than the award winning film.

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