Mini review: “One Deadly Summer” by Sebastien Japrisot

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This is a book that I first read as part of my French classes at school  – it is a translation of Japrisot’s “L’été meurtrier” – and I’d wanted to read it again for a while, so I took it on holiday last summer to Spain where some days it was blisteringly hot. Perfect reading conditions for this book.

A young woman is out to avenge a vicious attack on her mother many years ago.  The impact on all those pulled into her path is life-changing.

The story is told from the differing vantage points of some of the main characters and you are given a lot of information – especially dates – which allows you to build up a fuller picture of what is going on.  Towards the end of the book you need to keep reading as you know there is very little time left to bring the story to a close.  You really do have to read to the very last word to know how things come together.  It is very well done, leaving you to reflect on all that you have learnt so far.  I was left with a sense of horror at the end.

A little word of warning: the writing style might not be to everyone’s taste as this is a translation of a 1970’s French book.  As with Japrisot’s earlier book “Trap for Cinderella” the translation leaves something to be desired.  Some phrases are translated too literally, but to be fair, the author does play about with the language of the young woman especially when she refers to herself in the third person and exaggerates periods of time that have passed.  Still, don’t let this put you off –  it reflects aspects of the character’s personality and you get used to it.

If you’re a fan of crime books and fancy a break from all the Scandinavian noir I highly recommend this Gallic story of deception, consequences and revenge served cold.

 

 

 

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Mini review: “Troublemakers: How a Generation of Silicon Valley Upstarts Invented The Future” by Leslie Berlin

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This unconventional, informative and entertaining book looks at the history of Silicon Valley between 1969 and 1984 by interweaving the personal stories of seven people who are not necessarily widely known.

I was drawn to the book by the fact that Bob Taylor featured, who I knew played an important role at Xerox PARC and at the beginnings of the ARPANET, which would go on to form the basis of the internet. I had recently read about him in an article in Rolling Stone magazine from 1972 and wanted to find out more. Mike Markkula was also a name that rang a bell but I did not know about his story. It was really interesting to find out the essential role he played in the early days of Apple Computer – I follow Apple news closely so I was surprised how little I knew about him.

It was also good to have a couple of women amongst the men – this book takes a good look at their particular battles against the attitudes of the time. Having said that, it is not the only reason they have been included. All the stories – regardless of gender – highlight the skills, hard work and dedication needed to succeed, and also how they dealt with setback or failure.

What was occurring in Silicon Valley at that time really was remarkable, even if it did not always seem that way to the people there at the time, and even if the magic of that moment was not to last.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in Silicon Valley, especially if they work in the field of IT – a bit of insight into how we got to where we are today would be valuable, and this is an easy, likeable read.

Also:

• Spare Cycles: Article: “The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce” by Tom Wolfe (an excellent article if you want to go back to the very earliest days of the Valley, from the 1950’s to the 1970’s).

Film: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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The best damn Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back.

• Spare Cycles: Film: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story

• Spare Cycles: Film: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

• Spare Cycles: Happy Birthday to… The Empire Strikes Back

• Spare Cycles: Review: Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (Special Edition) soundtrack

 

 

Marvel Cinematic Universe: movie reviews Assembled

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I had a bit of a strange experience when on holiday in Spain earlier this year. In the town I was staying there was an advert for an open air screening of “Captain America”. Nice. It did not say which Captain America film, but a QR code took you to a YouTube trailer for The Winter Soldier (Captain America 2). I hadn’t seen it, so I went along.

In the end, I missed the first 30 minutes of the film, so I assumed it was The Winter Soldier.

When I got back to the UK, I watched The Winter Soldier, in English this time. It was not the film I saw in Spain. I then watched Civil War (Captain America 3) and it was awfully familiar.

I really enjoyed both films, so I decided to prolong my stay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and watch a few more.

A few things to add:

1) I’m certainly no expert and I couldn’t explain all the intricacies of the plots.

2) Never stop watching before the end of the credits – there are twists and links to the next film(s) that you should not miss…

3) It’s best to watch these films in order. Where I have become confused, it is typically because something has happened in a previous film that I hadn’t seen.

4) There are still a number of films to see that have already come out…

– Thor: The Dark World (I’d prefer not to, but this should sit between Iron Man 3 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
– Ant-Man
– Doctor Strange

… and several more still to be released.

So here we go, in the order that the films feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe:

Iron Man: here

Iron Man 2: here

Thor: Crap

Captain America: The First Avenger:

Pretty good, not as good as the following Captain America films. Benefits from a re-watch after seeing the two sequels.

Avengers Assemble: here

Iron Man 3: here

Captain America: The Winter Soldier:

Up there with Iron Man as the best of the films in the MCU, we discover that S.H.I.E.L.D has been infiltrated by the enemy and that Captain America’s best friend has been turned into a brainwashed killer. It’s effectively part 1 of a story that concludes with the third film in the series, Civil War.

Guardians of the Galaxy:

A move away from straight superhero fare, this is an enjoyable sci-fi flick. You find out more about the Infinity Stones – these have appeared in some of the earlier films too. I look forward to seeing the sequel.

Avengers: Age of Ultron:

This was a disappointment, especially as I had really enjoyed the first Avengers movie. The film looks like a video game, especially during the action at the beginning. The Hulk has to be included but there is little character there to develop and the idea of a romantic relationship building between Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) and Bruce Banner (Hulk) seems far-fetched, is unconvincing, lacks any spark and leaves me a bit queasy.

The idea of sowing discontent between the Avengers is a good idea and leads nicely into the events of Captain America: Civil War. It is also essential to see this before Civil War, as there are a couple of characters that appear here for the first time.

Captain America: Civil War:

This may as well be another Avengers ensemble movie given the huge cast that appear from elsewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Some of the characters that appear in this film appear for the first time in other films and if you haven’t seen them you will be somewhat lost. I had no idea who some of the characters were because I originally saw this straight after Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Not having watched Avengers: Age of Ultron first meant that people such as Wanda Maximoff (the Scarlet Witch) and Vision featured heavily but were not introduced in any way.

Still, very good.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2:

Lots of fun but I got the impression that they needed to do a sequel pretty quickly and came up with this. This deals with the main character Peter Quill discovering who his dad is, only to find out that he is a) a god and b) an arsehole. It’s hard to see at this point how this integrates into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe – maybe the next Avengers film?

Spider-Man: Homecoming:

This was better than I was expecting and was a lot of fun.  Spider-Man first made an appearance in the MCU in Captain America: Civil War and here the adolescent Peter Parker gets some help from Tony Stark, in particular a new outfit that has some rather impressive features.  New York looks great.  You can’t go wrong with this – it’s light-hearted, has a decent enough plot and serves as a good introduction of Spider-man into the Marvel Universe.  I’m looking forward to seeing how they use him in the next Avengers film.

My first website is now back online, hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS)

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To celebrate the 20th anniversary of my original website from 1997 I have re-published it for all to see.

This site has moved home a few times over the years.  It was originally hosted at CERN when I was working my first proper job and then on Google Drive.

Now I have it hosted on Amazon Web Services (for less than 60p a month).

Enjoy!

Andre says: Make yourself at home!

• AWS: Hosting a Static Website on Amazon S3