Monday, 5 March 2012

Book Reviews - Haynes Acoustic Guitar Manual & The Alchemist's Secret

Hello - book review time...

First up Haynes Acoustic Guitar Manual by Paul Balmer.

I already own the Les Paul and Stratocaster Manuals from this series but have to say the Acoustic one is the best I've had so far.  I bought this on a whim in WHSmith after a quick flick through.

Ok Mr Balmer goes through a quick history of the acoustic guitar and then delves into the major types and issues you may have.  Lots of very detailed DIY tips and like all the Haynes Manuals the photography really sets it apart from many many other guitar manual type books.  There is stuff about nut work, saddle work including making custom compensated ones using a neat little gadget to determine the ideal break point for the string.  There is some stuff on dealing with a bellied acoustic, my Yamaha 12 string which is approaching 20 years old I think has this issue.  I'm now seriously thinking about having a go at one method shown in this book which uses a brace you insert, attach to the bridge and brace against the end block.  This might stop you needing an expensive neck reset - frankly for my Yamaha that is not cost effective but is it a shame that guitar isn't as playable as I'd like.  An installation of an under saddle piezo system is shown as well.  And a top class luthier does show in great detail a complete neck reset on a 1930s Kalamazoo.  But frankly not for a DIYer but helps if you ever get to having a conversation with someone, might help you to judge their level of knowledge.

There are then several case studies of guitars from cheap student ones through to top level concert level classicals and limited edition Martins etc.  Much of this section is a bit repetitive however but again great info and inside view of how these are put together and what to look for when buying esp second hand etc.

If you have any interest in DIY acoustic guitar maintenance / repair I'd thoroughly recommend this book to be an addition to your bookshelf. 

Double thumbs up with a smile!

The Alchemist's Secret - Scott Mariani.

A thriller in the - centuries old secret protected by religious zealots that a single lone wolf hard man uncovers.  Ok so the story is that there is an elixir of life that the Cathars of old had found before the Crusade against them.  This was handed down in a very small group of initiates until into the 1930s where the trail goes cold with a Nazi connection thrown in for good measure.  Enter Ben Hope - a real good guy - although the body count in his wake has to make you question that frankly!  He is employed by a mega rich guy to find this and help save his dying Granddaughter.

Fast paced, with mystery about Ben's past, romantic entanglements, totally loony killers from a hidden Catholic sect and a corrupt Archbishop.   The book reads like it was originally a Hollywood screen play, gates "breaking like Balsa wood", glass shattering around him... etc.  It is ok if you want a fast paced thriller which as little believability ... however Mr Mariani claims at the end that this is all well researched.   Maybe on the key points of the story but then it is let down by poor research and other non believable stuff.   We're told Mr Hope only ever deals in cash which he gets from a safe deposit box... once...  but he buys a car, a motorbike, rents numerous hotel suites and villas etc.  all I can say is Mr Hope must have a jacket with bloody big pockets!  Also sadly for a real nitpickity sod like me a Citroen 2CV car is made an unlikely hero in a scene involving a level crossing... the 2CV is mortally wounded in this encounter as we're told the water is pouring from it's radiator... funny 2CV only ones I've ever seen were air cooled!  I know a silly little thing but really if it had been a Clio I'd not have thought - couldn't you have wiki'd that to be certain?

A couple of level thumbs with a shrug of acceptance over the 2CV continuity balls up.


  1. On a completely different riff - I can recommened the Haynes Apollo 11 manual. A fab format for an insiders eye on the story

    1. They do a Millennium Falcon and Red Bull F1 ones as well I know my son has looked at them :-)