Book Review: Rough Ride by Paul Kimmage

In October 2012, Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for running what the United States Anti-doping Agency called the “most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”.
Rough Ride by Paul Kimmage
Three years later cycling is showing signs of recovery, but continues to feel the aftershocks of Armstrong’s transgressions. Chris Froome’s victory in this summer’s tour was marred by persistent innuendo from some cycling fans and media outlets about whether the Briton had doped.

Updated in 1998 and again in 2007 due to its popularity, Rough Ride is arguably more relevant now than at any time since its original publication in 1990. Paul Kimmage tells the extraordinary story of his journey from a cycling-obsessed teenager riding an average of 400 miles per week to an established professional surrounded by a culture of doping.

To Kimmage’s regret, it is not a story about the heroic resistance of an anti-doping white knight. He is brutally honest about the pressures that caused him to commit the sins of the sport he loved, even if it was with reluctance and disgust at himself. In the end injuries, and the realisation that he was fighting a losing battle against doping as a cyclist, brought his career to an end.

Kimmage’s sweeping prose takes you along for the ride, with the highs and lows of arguably the most world’s toughest sport leaping off the page. The effect on those closest to him and the toll the sport took on his state of mind are laid bare in a page-turner that would belong in any thriller collection.

For Kimmage, writing the book led former colleagues and team-mates to turn against him. Since its publication Kimmage has written extensively about doping for the Irish Sunday Independent and the Sunday Times and was famously involved in a heated argument over doping with Lance Armstrong during a press conference for the 2009 Tour of California. In 2014 Rough Riders, a documentary following Kimmage’s examination of the 2013 Tour de France and what cycling was doing to remove the culture of doping after Armstrong’s confessions, was shown on Irish television.

Along with Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong by fellow Irishman David Walsh, Rough Ride should be required reading for sports fans, cyclists, journalists or anyone with a passing interest in professional sport. If you’re looking for an exposé on doping in sport which is at once shocking, heart-breaking and impossible to put down, or why cycling continues to be dogged by controversy over doping, look no further.

ARTICLE BY: CHRIS MCHUGH

Chris McHugh is an aspiring sports journalist based in Oxford who has previously written sports news for the Guardian and the Times. He is currently working towards an NCTJ qualification as he pursues journalism full time. You can find his blog here.

6 Books To Read After Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl is awesome. It has mystery, suspense, huge twists, crazy characters and everything I love in a good thriller! But once you’ve finished it (if you’re anything like me), you might be left a little lost and wondering what to read next. That’s where this list comes in; here are 6 books to read once you’ve finished Gone Girl!

1. Dark Places – Gillian Flynn

Once I’d finished Gone Girl I scrambled to find everything written by this author. I was hoping I’d stumble across tens of her books which had, somehow, gone unnoticed by me for years… sadly I found just two – Sharp Objects and Dark Places. I immediately bought and read both and loved them, however, for the purposes of this list I’m going to have to admit I think Dark Places was my favourite of the two.

Flynn’s unconventional and flawed characters, which were so prominent in Gone Girl, make another appearance here, this time in the form of Libby Day who survived the ritualistic murder of her family when she was a child for which her brother was blamed. Years later, Libby’s all grown-up when The Kill Club get in touch with her – they’re a group of crime fanatics who are convinced her brother is innocent and want Libby’s help to prove it.

The book’s full of dark, creepy flashbacks, tonnes of suspense, you begin to suspect everyone as some pretty horrific secrets are uncovered and of course, there’s a wonderful twist in the end!

2. Before I Go To Sleep – S.J. Watson

This is one book that has stuck with me every since I read it. As soon as I finished it I knew I wanted to lend it to my sister so she could read it too and I’d have someone to talk about how awesome it was! When she eventually got round to reading it (because her to-read list is as long as, if not longer than mine) she finished it ridiculously quickly and in her words it was ‘proper freaky!’

Before I Go To Sleep is told from the perspective of Christine Lucas a woman who wakes up every morning with no memory of the last 20 years and no ability to retain new memories. She doesn’t know her husband, she can’t remember her life, doesn’t recognise her home and barely knows her own face.

Thanks to her doctor she begins to keep a journal of her life in an attempt to recover some of her memories. Slowly she begins to uncover her past and some of it’s hidden secrets, however her life isn’t as straight forward as it seems and Christine might be in danger.

Seriously, this is the sort of book that messes with your head – it takes the idea of an unreliable narrator to a whole new level! That said, it’s wonderfully written, you really feel for Christine and as she starts to piece together her life and what happened to her you care for her more and more, which is what makes the twists in this book all the more shocking!

3. Trust Your Eyes – Linwood Barclay

This is a lot more of a straight forwards crime novel than the others, it’s not so big on the flashbacks as such, but it’s another that’s filled with secrets and mysteries.

When Ray’s father dies he moves back home for the funeral and to look after his brother Thomas who spends all his days on Whirl360 (think Google Street View but fictional…) memorising streets and all their details from all over the world. Ray doesn’t really understand why but after talking to Thomas’ psychologist he learns that his brother thinks he’s working with the CIA and is going to save the world one day.

However, one day when ‘walking’ through New York, Thomas sees a face in a window. But not just any face, it’s the face of a woman being murdered. Somehow the two brothers manage to get mixed up in political dramas and a series of murders, all while struggling with their own relationship and unearthing family secrets.

I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to think about this book at first, but I was soon dragged into the plot and didn’t want to put it down and by the end, I was just left saying ‘wow’.

4. The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty 

Again, in a slightly different vein to the others, this is less about a crime and more about how secrets can affect a family. It’s another book full of twists and turns and so many questions!

When Cecilia finds an envelope from her husband in her attic which reads ‘For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick. To be opened only in the event of my death.’ she has to decide whether she wants to know her husband’s secret. And if she does, how will it affect her life?

Running parallel to this are the stories of two other women; Tess who’s husband has just left her and Rachel who’s still struggling to get over the murder of her daughter. As secrets are uncovered, the three stories begin to weave together and the revelations will leave you speechless.

5. Sacrifice – SJ Bolton

I’m a huge fan of SJ Bolton anyway, so maybe I’m a little biased, but this is definitely my favourite book on the list! Despite being her debut novel, it’s fantastically written to keep you hooked throughout and is easily one of the twistiest (that’s a word, right?!) books I’ve ever read.

It all starts with Tora Hamilton, an obstetrician, attempting to bury her beloved but now dead horse, on her new home in the Shetland Islands. However, in doing so she accidentally uncovers the body of a woman who looks like she died shortly after giving birth and to make matters worse, the woman has had her heart removed!

While she reports it to the police, Tora also decides to do a little investigating of her own to find out what happened to the poor woman, despite the fact her co-workers, the police and even her own husband urge her to leave things alone.

Along the way Tora discovers her new home is hiding some dark secrets and even her family may not be who she thought… there are so many surprising twists in here you’re literally going to be gripped until the last pages and then be craving even more of Bolton’s work!

 6. The Wicked Girls – Alex Marwood

This is another book with some pretty twisted main characters, big shocks and family dramas as well as horrific crimes!

The book follows two women, Amber and Kirsty, who seemingly lead pretty ordinary lives – they have families, jobs and friends. However, they share the secret that when they were 11, they were convicted for the murder of an even younger girl. The book switches between present day when the two women meet again, by accident, for the first time since then, and the past where we begin to discover what really happened on that day.

What brings the two together in the first place is when Amber finds the body of a murdered woman in the theme park Funland where she works. As more body’s start to appear, the woman have to deal with not only the horrific murders which are happening around them, but their past resurfacing and the risk of their families finding out who they were.

This book definitely has one of the darker subject matters on the list but this just adds to what a fantastic book it is. Again, it’s full of surprises and not everything is as it seems.

ARTICLE BY: RACHEL OATES

5 Tips To Becoming A Better Writer

So we know we have a lot of book fans out there, but we also have a lot of you who love writing yourself! So for all you aspiring authors, journalists, poets and everyone else, here are our top 5 favourite tips for becoming a better writer.

1. Read
How can you expect to be any good at something if you don’t understand the craft? You need to be able to understand what other people are doing right and wrong. You need to expand your vocabulary. You need something to inspire you.

Ok, you don’t actually need these things, but they can be a big help!

And don’t just feel like you have to stick to the big, fancy authors. Nabakov and Tolstoy can only teach you so much. Sometimes you have to read 50 Shades and Twilight, even if it’s only to get an understanding of why you might not want to write like that. Read everything and understand the different styles and tones; read crime, read romance, read non-fiction, read newspapers, read blogs, read magazines, even read the back of your packet of biscuits.

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2. Make it a Habit
Get into the habit of writing. Make it something you do every day or every week. Of course, it should be something you enjoy, but even when you’re going through a rough patch (everyone gets writer’s block!), don’t be afraid to make yourself sit down during your self-scheduled time and write when you said you would, even if it’s just to get through this horrible part.

3. Be Proud of Yourself
Writing is hard so give yourself a break. You wrote another page? Another sentence? Another word? You’re AWESOME! Go you!

Sometimes the hardest part is starting and putting any words down in the first place, so when you do, don’t forget to give yourself a little pat on the back, treat yourself to another biscuit, have a cup of tea, give yourself a sticker – whatever it takes to acknowledge the fact that you’re making progress and you’re doing great!

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4. Read it Outloud
This is my favourite bit of advice. I do something similar with anything I create. I feel a bit of distance from your work can really help you see it. When I take a photo, I step back to the other side of the room and look at it from a distance. When I do a painting, I hold it up to the mirror and look at it from a different angle. And when I write anything, whether it’s a blog post, an essay for uni or a short story, I read it out loud to myself.

By reading it aloud you make it so much more real than just a bundle of words on a page. It’s a bit like hearing it for the first time; you hear it as your reader will. You start to notice the rhythms of the text, any rhymes (if it’s poetry), you noticed when a word or phrase just isn’t working and you start to pick up on little flaws – Is that really something this character would say? Does that metaphor actually sound a little bit silly?

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5. Edit. Edit. Edit.
So you’ve put down all these words on the page and you’re feeling incredible. Thousands and thousands of words all written by you! That’s a lot of biscuits you’ve given yourself along the way, you’re shaking from caffeine and you can barely see your t-shirt for stickers. You’ve done this, so why would you want to go and start deleting bits of it?

To make it the best it can be.

You’ve done all this work, you’ve put so much time into it, why not make it even more awesome? Why settle for something pretty good, when you could make it AMAZING?

Editing over and over will improve your work so much! Get someone you trust to read your work and be as critical as possible. Learn to identify your mistakes and how to correct them. Don’t be afraid to delete. Get rid of everything that isn’t essential and just keep the best of the best!

Why You Need To Read Divergent

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Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is HUGE at the moment with the second film, Insurgent, having been released this week. Divergent is easily one of my favourite YA dystopian series’ out there at the minute, from the minute I started the first book I couldn’t put it down and had read the entire series in just over a week (because who needs a degree when you have a good book, right?!).

The Divergent series is set in the future during a time where society has been split into 5 factions – people are divided according to their dominant personalities traits and each faction is dedicated to cultivating a specific virtue. There’s Abnegation who always put others first, acting selflessly, Dauntless who are brave and fearless, Erudite who are focused on knowledge and discovery, Amity who are all about peace and harmony and finally, Candor, who value the truth and honesty. It’s easy to see how they all seem work together to make society work; Dauntless of course taking control of defence, Abnegation running public services, Condor controlling the justice system and so on.

This is obviously an idealised view and not everyone can make it into their chosen faction, these people become the factionless and live on the outskirts of society. However, as the series’ narrator Tris discovers, there’s another type of person – those who are Divergent who show traits which could allow them to fit into more than one faction.

As Tris makes some tough decisions, including leaving her family behind to join a new factions, she discovers growing conflict in society and begins to uncover secrets that have been kept hidden for years…

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Like I mentioned, the Divergent series is completely addictive! Veronica Roth manages to create a completely believable society which may seem ideal on the surface, but in true dystopian style, hides some dark secrets where everything may not be as it seems. While the fantasy aspect of the series is enthralling – trains which never stop, zip wires from the top of skyscrapers, being taught to fight for your life at sixteen and of course, falling in love, it also deals with the types of issues that all sixteen year olds face; bullying, relationships, family disputes.

Perhaps the biggest issue the book brings up is the fact that at sixteen years old these kids have to make a choice of which faction to join which will influence their entire future and once they decide there’s no going back. This might seem a little extreme but it echoes the choices that young people have to face today at sixteen, at least here in the UK, you have to decide whether you want to stay in education or get a job and in each case what you want to do is probably going to influence what career you have for the rest of your life. I still look back and wonder how different my life would have been if I’d bothered to listen to all the people trying to tell me what to do. In the book Tris feels there’s this expectation, especially from her parents, to join Abnegation, while she decides to follow her heart and choose Dauntless. I had pressure from teachers and family to pick A Levels like French and Maths and Geography. In the end I decided to ignore them and picked subjects I was really interested in even though I had no idea how they’d impact my future.

Tris debated with herself for a long time whether she wanted to join Dauntless, these were completely different people to who she’d grown up with, would she fit in? Would she be able to keep up? If she failed to get into Dauntless would she end up factionless? Similarly, I debated with myself for a long time about whether to pick Media Studies as my fourth A Level – so many people were telling me how good universities wouldn’t like it and how it was a waste of time. I’d been told my entire academic career that I was such a good student who excelled in maths and the sciences but my heart was never in them despite the above average grades. So I decided to go in a completely different direction to what everyone expected and I studied media.

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When Tris chose Dauntless she struggled to fit in at first but in the end her passion and hard work paid off, without giving too much away, she really excels. I used these two years I studied media to develop my photography and graphic design skills, I tried my hand at film making and learnt all about web design. Like Tris, I didn’t get on so well with everyone in my class, I felt very different to them and had a very different academic background – a lot of them took it for an easy pass, I took it because I wanted to create something and get away from the dull ‘remember and repeat these facts’ aspect of the sciences. Just like Tris I found my passion and if I hadn’t followed my heart and studied that I probably wouldn’t be here now doing a job I love! Plus, I ended up with one of the highest media studies marks in the country so all my worries about universities not accepting it were silly and I got into the uni of my dreams just like Tris got into Dauntless.

While most of you reading this post probably don’t care about my life, my point here is that I wish I’d had these books to read when I was 16 to take away all those uncertainties I had. Having to make these huge decisions which are going to impact your life when you’re so young can be terrifying but ultimately it teaches you to follow your heart and be passionate about everything you do and that way you can live up to your potential.

All that mushy stuff aside, if you’re not into that whole ‘life changing decisions’ aspect there’s also plenty of awesome action with fights and battle sequences, heartbreaking moments (I swear I didn’t cry at all… well, not much) and a romantic love story (and thankfully it’s not just another awkward love triangle!).

Check out the Divergent Books on AwesomeBooks.com now.

ARTICLE BY: RACHEL OATES

King James Bible from 1613

We love it when we find a rare old book here at AwesomeBooks and few have been more exciting that this! It’s among the first King James Bibles ever published.

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Back in 164 King James commissioned 47 scholars who were members of the Church of England to come up with another English translation of the Bible. It took 7 years and the first King James Bible was published in 1611 by Robert Barker, the King’s Printer. Our copy was published just 2 years later, also by Robert Barker.

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We’ve Found Another Rare Book!

Our lovely R&A department do work hard and they’re always finding loads of great old, rare and antique books which we sell through ebay here. This last week they’ve been lucky enough to find one of the best books we’ve ever had – it’s very old, very rare and has an incredible history!

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It might not look much from the outside but this this gem was published in 1758 by the Vatican.

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It contains a list of all books they banned along with some pretty fantastic illustrations.

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The cover is vellum which is made from Calf skin and has aged incredibly well for a book that’s over 250 years old!

Our Favourite Book Covers of 2014

2014 was a fantastic year for us book lovers – not only were some incredible books released but there were tonnes that also looked great! Here we’ve made a compilation of our favourite book covers of the year.


Missed your favourite? Let us know what it was in the comments!

Article by: rachel oates