Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Road trips are great for audiobooks and I was able to listen to this one in the span of a single day. I discovered Hercule Poirot about a year ago while reading Murder on the Orient Express. I was completely in love with that book and I am obviously a fan of the old detective novels like this and Sherlock Holmes.

This is a solid entry in the series and is the first Poirot adventure. The story follows the similar formula, or perhaps establishes the formula for the Poirot series. Half the fun of these novels in my opinion is to try and catch the clues throughout the book to try and identify the murderer using the same methodology as the detective. There is a bit of narrative stretch that occurs sometimes. Characters seemingly pull out pieces of information from the world that you are not privy too, but overall Christie does put the pieces there for you as a read to draw upon.

I wasn't as enraptured as I was with Orient Express, but this was a solid and fun book in the series.

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Book Review: Sabriel


Sabriel by Garth Nix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. This books certainly came out of nowhere and surprised me. I started listening to this book a few weeks ago and it didn't catch me at first. I let the library rental expire and then I decided to give it another go a few weeks later. Once the story got going, it absolutely pulled me in.

This is labeled as a "Young Adult" book, but it is probably the most "adult" YA book I have read. The story is well put together. While it does cover many of the standard fantasy tropes, the world that Garth Nix has put together is incredibly well thought out. The magic system and world history is interesting. There are elements here that harken back to the John Carter or Narnia series in the way the world is constructed. It is tight and focused, keeping the world building isolated to the immediate land that the story is taking place in. We don't learn about the "whole planet", but that doesn't matter in the story telling.

I really liked the story arc that our main character, Sabriel went through. She was portrayed as a strong female lead character. She was capable where she needed to be, but knew that she was inexperienced. That inexperience was a primary plot device as it related to the Old Kingdom, but it was never used to victimize Sabriel. She didn't fall into the traps that are so commonly used with YA or genre fiction where her decisions were driven by teenage emotions. Sure, she is a young adult in this book, but her character showed the right amount of composure and emotion to make her believable. I really love that the other characters in the world held respect for her, for the Abhorsen, despite her age. It really showed a lot about the world.

Narratively I felt like this book was written as a result of Garth Nix playing D&D. Several of the plot points played out like D&D encounters in my opinion. They were satisfying though, nonetheless.

Overall, I loved the book. Any let me just put a final note in for that cover art. I absolutely love that artistic choice.

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2018 International Motorcycle Show

This weekend was the IMS in Chicago. I go to this show almost every single year. This year I was terribly sick with a head cold, and I probably should not have gone, but I was looking forward to attending for weeks, so I had to go despite the sickness. Sorry, I was so out of it that I didn't get any photos of the show, but I'll try and post what I liked below. 


Royal Enfield Himalayan 

This was by far my most anticipated bike to see at the show. I have had a fascination with Royal Enfield long before I got my motorcycle license. The look of their bikes invokes something "classic" and despite the issues with the build quality, something about their "old fashioned", mechanical nature is appealing from a motorcycling perspective. Single engine, carb'd bikes on steel frames. 

The Himalayan has been discussed for a couple of years now. The Himalayan is a 400cc single cylinder adventure bike. Not quite a a dual sport and not quite a full on adventure bike. The ADV touring segment is huge at the moment and BMW arguably dominates this world. Their bikes also cost >$20,000 most of the time. The Himalayan comes in at $4500 list. 

What immediately made me think this could be a great bike is a memory from watching the "Long Way Round" documentary a few years ago. In that show Ewean McGregor and Charley Boorman took BMW's across Russia (and the world). At one point in their adventure their camera operator's bike broke down and he ended up getting a small motorcycle to use across the countryside. While the two BMW's got slogged down in the mud, this small, light and simple little bike took to the terrain effortlessly. 

A quote from Cycleworld summed up what I thought was perfect. 

"Where are the bikes that are perfect for once-a-week adventures, not once-in-a-lifetime ones?"

Sitting on it at the show immediately caught me. It felt great, and at $4500, almost comes in at an impulse buy (at least as far as motorcycles go).

Honda Goldwing

First off, I am not a Goldwing rider. Heck, I am not even a touring bike type of rider, but the new Goldwing has been getting rave reviews from every news outlet out there. It even has Apple CarPlay and airbags. Did it look good at the show? Sure, especially that brown color. You know who I saw standing around it though? A bunch of old guys. 

Not the type of bike for me. 


Kawasaki H2 SX Touring

Another bike I have heard a lot of good things about. The H2 SX looks to be an insane engine, packed into a sport tourer. The primary requirements for a my type of motorcycling is I want a machine that I can "load up" with luggage for touring and then also "strip down" for one day rides on twisty roads. I don't want to see luggage permanently grafted onto the bike, or tons of "stuff" that adds all sorts of weight. The HS SX would fit my criteria almost exactly, except for all of the plastic fairings. But, as you can see from the photo. It looks great "stripped down". 

When sitting on it, I liked how it felt, but I did feel like I was leaning forward a bit for 10+ hours of riding straight. I suppose I would like to actually test ride this one in the real world though. It is a sharp looking bike, but also comes in at about $23,000. Yikes. 


Other Things at the Show

I was in the market for some new boots, but I unfortunately didn't see much at the show this year. I'm not sure if the vendors didn't seem as prevalent or if it was because I was very sick, but I didn't see much boots for sale at all. Just patches and "Harley" leather. 

Book Review - The Road

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a "heavy" book. The subject matter, the style of writing. All of it carried a tremendous amount weight to it and you felt as if you were carrying that weight with you all the way through the book. Every plodding step that our characters took was just as painfully dragged along with you as the reader.

The writing style of this book was the most profound thing that I noticed. The structure was very "pointed" and succinct. Sentences were punctual with very little punctuation.

The story overall was very well written and I can see why this has won so many awards. The subject matter and style of the writing sets this apart as a "work of art" in terms of literary writing. While I did enjoy this book, I somehow did not find myself emotionally attached to it. Perhaps it was because of the impending doom that we all knew coming at the end, but the conclusion of the story here left me neither emotionally engaged, nor hopeful. Perhaps that was exactly what McCarthy was going for, a story that reflected the insignificance of its importance in the world that it was written in.

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