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  2. Willoyd's Reading 2020

    May reviews In an effort to catch up, all my May books are briefly reviewed below. George IV, King In Waiting by Stella Tillyard *** One oft the concise Penguin Monarchs series. Given the author, I expected quite a lot from this slim volume, but was somewhat disappointed, it being rather vaguer and more waffly than I anticipated. George IV is a fascinating individual, but, whilst it was functionally useful, this book didn't really capture that for me. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens ***** After the relative disappointment of The Old Curiosity Shop, this was a wonderful return to the form I'd come to expect from Dickens. Benefiting from a leaner and more focused approach than other books of his I've read, I found this almost unputdownable. Still thinking about upgrading to 6 stars, but whatever, this is going to be one of the best reads of the year. Travels With My Aunt by Graham Greene ****** Another cracking read, it's obvious the author had real fun writing this, although there are some distinctly dark undertones. An interesting contrast in style to Dickens, having commented on Dickens's leaner style in the previous review - not compared to Greene he's not. I admire the way Greene conjures up so much with such superficially straightforward prose. The House by Simon Lelic * From the sublime to the ridiculous - a thoroughly mediocre, bog standard, and typically tedious psychological 'thriller'. Given the 'psychological' aspect, why do these so-called thrillers (a misnomer if I every heard) rely so much on plot 'twists' and so little on character development. The thing is, you may not know precisely what the twist will be, but you know for sure it's going to happen. Yawn. How To Stop Time by Matt Haig ** Again, all plot and no character. At least the plot was a bit more interesting, but, as with the previous book I'd read by this author (The Humans) it descended into the predictably tedious, this time the well-worn 'secret society' device, with standard off-the-shelf denouement. Playback by Raymond Chandler ***** After two dreadful drags, thank goodness for the mastery of Chandler. Can say more in one sentence than the previous two authors seem to be able to in ten pages. One of his 'lesser' books, but a joy to read. The Regency Revolution by Robert Morrison ***** An interesting, lightly written and eminently readable history of the 1810-19 decade, that enabled me to pull a lot of disparate threads together, and taught me plenty. Very enjoyable learning! Enjoyed the social history chapters the most. Salt on Your Tongue by Charlotte Runcie **** Described as a combination of memoir about her pregnancy, exploration of her obsession with the sea and, in particular, what it has meant to women, and a tribute to her much loved late grandmother, this was beautifully written, but ultimately fell between all three stools. The sea thread was simply too unstructured and disconnected - almost random thoughts and only part of the time touching on female-maritime links - whilst there wasn't really enough of the author's grandmother to make a complete thread - frustrating, as what what there made me want to know more. I loved the pregnancy thread, and found her description of the birth profoundly moving - this'll probably be the closest I ever get to properly appreciating what a woman must go through (and brought my own experience of partnering at the birth of our son vividly back to life - 28 years later!). I enjoyed this, will definitely look out for more of Charlotte Runcie's books, but hope that she can next time more definitely decide what she is writing about, and tighten things up to match. The Little Grey Men by BB **** A classic children's novel of the last gnomes in England setting off on an expedition up the stream of their home to find its source and look for a long-lost brother. Charmingly dated (with one or two distinctly outmoded views!), it would still go down well with many children today. The real standouts here are the beautifully lush descriptions of the countryside they travel through and the lovely woodcut illustrations - BB was a naturalist of some repute, and it shows. How I Won The Yellow Jumper by Ned Boulting **** Read by Ned Boulting himself, and circulated for free during the lockdown to subscribers to his 'Road Book' of cycling, this was a thoroughly entertaining inside view on a neophyte commentating at the Tour de France. As one would expect, the author comes over well on audio, and is the ideal reader for his book! I hope he does more - I'd even buy them!
  3. Kindle and ebooks deals

    The first five books in Patrick O’Brian's Aubrey & Maturin series are 99p each on Kindle today.
  4. A Book Blog 2020 by Books do Furnish a Room

    A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli A brief novella set in Poland in World War 2. It’s a pretty straightforward story, but has a certain moral complexity. It concerns three German soldiers: two named and an unnamed narrator. It is winter with snow on the ground and very cold. The three soldiers are part of a unit which hunts for Jews and then executes them. The men don’t enjoy the executions and have managed to get out of execution duty by going out to hunt for more Jews. They do find a young Jewish man and take him prisoner. They take refuge in an old and abandoned cottage. They have some basic food, frozen bread, an onion, cornmeal and a little salami. They manage to light the old stove and burn many of the wooden fixtures and fittings of the cottage to heat the stove and make soup. A polish hunter arrives and after some negotiation joins the group and adds some potato alcohol to the soup. Relationships are strained but they eventually share a meal together. Then comes a decision for the three men. Do they now take the Jewish prisoner back to be shot now that they have shared a meal together? It is written simply and the language is spare: there are no chapters or headings, but a depth of feeling is communicated: “We came down from the hill where we had smoked. Bauer whined like a dog that he should never have sat down in the snow, that he felt cold all over now. Emmerich told him to stop, though he said it lightly, not really meaning it. Bauer yelled at us that he’d decided to whine until dark. We found another road and stayed on it for a while. It was a relief not to sink into snow at every step. On the whole, we preferred the frozen potholes, even if they were dangerous. I was beginning to feel hungry, but I didn’t dare bring the subject up yet. None of us had dared mention it since we left that morning. My stomach ached. Sometimes, when I turned my head too quickly, I felt dizzy. It must have been the same for Emmerich and Bauer” The descriptions surrounding the meal are also very evocative: “The soup looked good and smelled good. The slices of salami floated on the surface, carried there by the cornmeal, now cooked. The melted lard was still boiling. We turned away from the stove, and the heat caressed our backs. We watched steam rise from the soup. My head was spinning. We looked at the slices of bread. The soup was continuing to simmer. The edges of the bread were toasted, reminding us of things past.” There are passages where the difficulties of what they were tasked to do were stark and Mingarelli shows the way the three men struggled within themselves: “Because if you want to know what it is that tormented me, and that torments me to this day, it’s seeing that kind of thing on the clothes of the Jews we’re going to kill: a piece of embroidery, coloured buttons, a ribbon in the hair. I was always pierced by those thoughtful maternal displays of tenderness.” This is fairly slight but a powerful perspective on the atrocities related to the holocaust and it poses some very human dilemmas. 8 and a half out of 10 Starting Strangers by Antonia White
  5. Two more books completed this weekend: Charlotte Runcie's Salt on Your Tongue and Dennis Pitchford-Watkins' (under nom-de-plume 'BB') The Little Grey Men. Both good reads of their genre (the first a mixture of memoir and marine natural history, the second classic children's fiction). 4 stars (out of 6). Later in day: also finished listening to Ned Boulting read his own book, How I Won The Yellow Jumper. Really enjoyed it, another 4 star 'read'.
  6. I Love My Feet ~ Shona Laing
  7. Yesterday
  8. Finished listened to The Eternity Code by Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl #3). I really enjoyed this one, and it will be interesting how the next of the series will be.
  9. Read-a-thon 2020

    I will be joining in! I’m planning to read some short stories, possibly finally get round to reading The Wind in the Willows
  10. Last week
  11. Some recently read books. Tommie Niessen - Tommie in de zorg This is a Dutch memoir written by a health care worker. I'm not sure exactly how to translate his job title into English. He works mostly with elderly people, he visits them at home and helps them with various things. My mum was given this book through her work (she works in health care, at a health care organisation), and after she read it, she gave it to me. I really enjoyed reading this book. Tommie sounds like a really nice person and you can tell he really cares about people. Adam Kay - This is Going to Hurt 1: This is Going to Hurt This is a memoir written by someone who was a junior doctor with the NHS, in the UK. It's really funny and also insightful. There's quite a bit of medical knowledge in the book that the author explains with footnotes. An amazing read. Eoin Colfer - Artemis Fowl 2: De Russische Connectie (The Arctic Incident) (buddy read) I read book 2 in the series, together with someone else. I enjoyed this book, but not quite as much as the first one. The main thing is though, is that I did not enjoy the reading experience as much. This is not the fault of the story. What it is, is that I bought my copy of the book second-hand at a second-hand shop. It turns out, that most likely, the previous owner had a cat, because I had an asthma attack when I read the first quarter of the book. I put the book in the freezer after that. Because this was a book I buddy read together with someone else, I took the book out of the freezer to read the chapters for each day on that day, and put it back after. Gladly my allergies were less bad then, but still noticable unfortunately. I've never had this happen before with a second-hand book, hopefully it won't happen again. But from now on any second-hand books I buy, may be spending 24h in the freezer first when I get back home after purchasing. Adam Kay - This is Going to Hurt 2: Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas This was a nice read, not quite as funny and interesting as his first memoir, but a bit more of the same. Still, it was a nice read. Juno Dawson with Dr. Olivia Hewitt (ill. Gemma Correll) - Mind Your Head This is an information book about mental health written for teenagers (so YA). It has nice illustrations too. I didn't learn a lot of new information (but then I haven't been a teenager for some time), but I did find it a nice read. Maia Kobabe, Phoebe Kobabe - Gender Queer This is a graphic memoir, the author is gender queer. I loved this. Megan McDonald (ill. Peter Reynolds) - Fleur Humeur 1: Fleur Humeur (Judy Moody 1: Judy Moody) I've read books 5 and 4 in the series (in that order), and found book 1 a couple of months ago second-hand. It was nice to read this first book, it was a nice read. It's a series written for children, maybe 7ish years old?? It's younger than middle-grade (8-12 year olds). You don't need to read the books in order, they are sort of standalone stories with the same characters. K. Ancrum - The Wicker King 1: The Wicker King K. Ancrum - The Wicker King 1.5: The Legend of the Golden Raven This is a YA novel, The Wicker King. The Legend of the Golden Raven is part of the book told from another character's perspective. I really liked The Wicker King. I've read The Weight of the Stars by the same author, which I really liked. The Wicker King is her debut novel. It's a bit hard to explain this book. It's about two teenage boys who are friends, and one of them starts seeing this fantasy world. It has mental health rep, and I loved how the pages slowly get darker as the character struggles more and more to live his life. The Legend of the Golden Raven was just an okay read, but, it was free, so, I figure why not. I had heard from others that it didn't add a lot, which I agree with. But I thought since it was free I'd give it a go, and I don't regret that. I would not pay money for it, so am glad it was free, but it was an allright read giving a bit more insight. Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer - To Night Owl From Dogfish This is a middle-grade novel about two girls. Their dads are dating (each girl is a single child who lives with her dad). They haven't met and live two states apart (they live in the United States). The girls start emailing with each other, one girl emails the other about their dads being together and neither one of them likes that. The dads want to send their respective daughters to the same summer camp, to make them get along because they may be a family in the future. The whole book is emails and letters. This was a really good read. I liked the characters and the story went into directions I was surprised by. Deirdre Beneken Genaamd Kolmer, Loes den Hollander, Annelies Bast & Others - Momenten van... : Verhalen over vroeger My mum was given this book through work and after reading gave it to me. This is a book with stories of the past, written by various people and accompanied with older photos. Some of it is written in prose, there are a few poetry pieces / poems too. This was a nice read, some pieces were more interesting than others to me, but I liked it overall.
  12. Read-a-thon 2020

    May has gone fast, I agree! The June read-a-thon is not this weekend, but the weekend after, so in about one week's time. I look forward to it. Happy to have you both joining !
  13. Artemis Fowl on Disney+

    Thank you! Happy listening .
  14. If you do, I hope you enjoy it. If you decide not to, I get it, there are plenty more nice books out there!
  15. Artemis Fowl on Disney+

    I'll let you know the Artemis Fowl episodes. At the moment I don't know if they will be similar than the original Eoin Colfer books, as the trailer didn't give much of a clue of the story lines. I have only listened #1 & #2 of the books, so I'm listening to 3 #3 & #4 soon!
  16. Tiger Feet - Mud (come on, everyone who remember this one, let's all do the dance!)
  17. Read-a-thon 2020

    Yikes! I had completely forgotten about this again. But I will be in the read-a-thon for June.
  18. Fall at your Feet - Crowded House
  19. Read-a-thon 2020

    Hi! Who is taking part in this month's read-a-thon? I can't believe how quickly the month has gone!
  20. I'm glad you liked this book, even though it wasn't my cup of tea. Maybe I should give it another go sometime.
  21. Artemis Fowl on Disney+

    I've read the first 2 books in the series, and will be reading the 3rd next month (June). I didn't know they were making a TV show of it! I'd love to see the series, but we don't have Disney +. I'd love to hear your opinions on it though! I'm planning to read the whole book series this year (together with a friend/acquaintance).
  22. Bought the ebook of Jack Monroe’s Good Food for Bad Days today.
  23. When I Fall In Love - Joni James
  24. Current listening list Eoin Colfer - The Eternity Code (Artemis Fowl #3) Reading list The Way of the Househusband, Vol. 2 (Gokushufudou: The Way of the House Husband #2) The English Air by D.E. Stevenson I Want to Eat Your Pancreas (I Want To Eat Your Pancreas (Manga) #1-2) by York Sumino,
  25. Madeleine's Book Log - ongoing

    Yes this one did feel a bit dated, although it was only set in the 1970s. Great comfort reads though.
  26. Hi. I'm currently reading a book by Cara Hunter called "All the rage". I was wondering if anyone could recommend some more crime detective thrillers that are set in England or the UK? Thank you
  27. Online Book Subcription Clubs

    I realised that I forgot to update this thread with my final thoughts about The Willoughby Book Club. They offer several packages and I signed up for the three month contemporary fiction package which was £34.99. It should be noted that it is now priced at £39.99. For that I received 1 book a month for three months which were hand picked based on my list of favourite books and authors. I had 2 books which I ended up enjoying and 1 which I really loved. I actually received an extra book due to an error on their part and when I contacted them about it they told me to keep it an apologised for the mistake. So was it worth it? Yes I think it was and I would probably sign up again if the price was still £34.99, personally I think £39.99 is a bit steep.
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