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      May Supporter Giveaway   05/03/2019

      It's May! The height of spring and a truly beautiful time of year so, when I saw this beautiful book cover, I knew we had to have it for the giveaway! May's winner will also receive the very first, completely unique, BCF bookmark!     As always, supporters will be entered into the giveaway automatically and a winner will be chosen at random at the end of the month. If you want to enter the giveaway but aren't currently a supporter, you can become one at https://www.patreon.com/bookclubforum.


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About willoyd

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  • Reading now?
    Almost certainly!
  • Location:
    Wharfedale, Yorkshire
  • Interests
    birding, cycling (mainly touring), running, walking, family history.

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  1. Your Book Activity - May 2019

    Just finished Patrick Barkham's The Butterfly Islands, the story of his attempt to see all 59 of the UK's species of butterflies. Excellent read, 5 stars. Started Origins by Lewis Dartnell, about how the earth's geography and geology has influenced history.
  2. Intrigued. If we don't have children, what happens to the species? (Which admittedly might be a good thing from the planet's point of view!).
  3. Andrea's reading in 2019

    I did Middlemarch for A-level, and, like Emma, really didn't like it by the time I finished my first year. I then decided to read all my texts as books over the summer holidays, and found that I generally really liked, in some case loved, them - I suppose the study to date had provided me with some insight, which I could now appreciate as I put the books all back together again. I loved Emma so much that I went and read all the rest of Austen's main novels (bar Mansfield Park) before the end of the holidays. Both books are amongst my favourite half dozen or so novels of all time. I reread Middlemarch a year or so ago, and it was, if anything, even better than I remember it. The same, admittedly, can't be said for some of the more modern books I studied (Gatsby just about manages 'OK' in my ratings for instance!).
  4. Andrea's reading in 2019

    Agree about S&S, which is my favourite, but my other six-star read of hers is Emma (which I did for A-level, and introduced me to Austen). The latter is a lot sharper in flavour than either of the other two though, and may therefore be more of an acquired taste (people usually rate P&P highest). Romantic they are not! The only book that I have a few doubts about is Northanger Abbey, but like/love them all. Lady Susan is IMO her funniest, and is only 80 pages or so long (turned into a film - excellent - that for some reason was called Love and Friendship, which was the name of one of Austen's other stories, although it's usually misspelled Freindship, as that it was Austen did). As you may gather, I'm a fan!
  5. Busy reading

    I've been meaning to read Les Miserables for some time. Even my son has raved about it. Must, must, must get round to doing so! Thanks for the reminder! Madame Bovary....hmmm..... When I read it, back in 2012, I was one of only a few here who'd enjoyed it, although I think 'enjoyed' was probably the wrong word. At the time, I wrote (slightly abridged): I found Madame Bovary fascinating, but I can see why others might not. I suspect a prime reason is that there are no really likeable characters, least of all Emma Bovary herself - there are plenty of villains in this piece, especially those prepared to take advantage of Emma's weaknesses. Not surprising, really, as I don't think Flaubert had much time for the bourgeoisie. I struggled to even believe in her character some of the time - could anybody be quite so self-centred and uncaring of those around her, quite so self-deluding, with such an excess of romanticism? But I think that's the point: Flaubert is contrasting her excessive romanticism with the mundanity of provincial life, emphasised by his detailed descriptions, most of which focus on the very ordinary (jam making for instance!). Having said that, I've got a real penchant for well developed settings, and Flaubert certainly works on those, so straightaway I'm probably on-side! This is a book that grew on me, resulting in my being absolutely gripped on a train journey finishing the last quarter or so. Not quite a full six star read - some of the writing is just a bit OTT and there's still that element of Emma not being quite believable enough at times - but a book that made me think long and hard, and one that will certainly live with me for some time. (And as for Ove? Hated that - one star! Can't agree on everything I suppose!)
  6. Hayley's Reading 2019

    Well, I think it is. Rated it 6 stars, one of only 120-odd books I've given that rating to. I only did a mini-review of it, as I was a fair way behind on my reviews at the time (summer 2016), so perhaps rather limited in its usefulness. Here it is anyway: Set in nineteenth century England, recently widowed of a domineering perhaps abusive husband, Cora Seaborne moves out of London into coastal Essex to follow her interest in natural history, in particular to investigate a rumoured sea serpent, the stories of which are threatening to terrorise the local neighbourhood. This sounds like the basis of a Victorian mystery, but whilst the plot, and other sub-plots, bubble along, the real centres of focus are the characters and their relationships, particularly that between Cora and the Ransome family, Will Ransome being the local vicar. I absolutely adored this book, wrapped up in it from the opening page. I loved the language (regarded as rather too florid by some, but to my mind simply wonderfully coloured and evocative), I loved the characterisation, and I loved the setting, all crowned by a series of plot lines that gently intrigued me. As close to a perfect read as I'm ever going to get from modern fiction - with the most fabulous dust cover to boot! With a review like Hayley's , and a my experience of Essex Serpent, Melmoth has definitely moved on to my TBR list!
  7. Willoyd's Reading 2019

    Yes, and that is, as I suggested, probably why I landed up giving it 3, not 2, and why I'll probably land up reading the others. They're a very quick, easy read, so it's not as if they need much investment. I've just bought Frances Brody's A Death in the Dales, for the princely sum of £2.50 (new) for similar reasons. It'll be interesting to compare.
  8. Willoyd's Reading 2019

    The Body in the Dales by JR Ellis *** Murder mystery set, surprisingly enough, in the Yorkshire Dales. A body is discovered during a caving expedition, and the question is as much about how it got there as who did it. I wanted to like this, and to some extent did, as I had some fun in tracing the geography, given its local proximity (quite a few of the madeup names are fairly obviously based on real names, and thus real places). The plot itself had some promise, but....well it was obvious that there was a but coming up....but the writing left a lot to be desired. I think the best word I can find to describe it is clunky. It just never flows, with dialogue in particular very stilted. The author all too often fell into the 'telling not showing' trap, leaving characters sadly undeveloped (but overworked - even to the extent of describing a character's clothes twice in three pages), and characterisation predictable to the point of corniness; the 'Yorkshireness' in particular was laid on with a trowel. It didn't help that the solution was fairly obvious from fairly early on, whilst I had worked out the culprit by half-way (and if I can do it, it can't be difficult!). And yet, the book isn't unlikeable. I suppose it's just amateurish. I'll probably read the other two, just to see how the author uses the area (and because we already have them from a Kindle sale). So, to that extent, I've just managed to scrape a three star award although, to be honest, it probably should have been a two. PS - it's once you have read a book like that, that you begin to appreciate quite what a good writer someone like Tracy Chevalier is, even when, by her own high standards, she is a bit disappointing!
  9. Willoyd's Reading 2019

    I only hope they live up to expectations now! For future reference, if you're interested, I list all my six star reads in one of my introductory posts on page 1 of the thread. There's currently around 120 of them.
  10. Willoyd's Reading 2019

    At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier **** Although this was specifically read for one of my book groups, it is actually a book that has been sitting on my shelves waiting to be read for a short while. Tracy Chevalier has never quite made it on to my 'favourite authors' list, but on the quiet I have found myself reading most of her books - it's only The Lady in Blue and The Last Runaway that I have yet to read. This has to say something about the general quality of her books, as it's not often I read such a high proportion of an author's work, particularly a modern writer. After a run of books set in England or the Low Countries, Chevalier's last two have taken her back to the country of her birth, most specifically Ohio. At the Edge of the Orchard is initially set in the Black Swamps, SW of Lake Erie, although it later moves to California. Set in the mid-19th century it focuses on the Goodenoughs, a family of settlers who for some not fully explained reason have settled in one of what sounds like one of the most inhospitable places in the mid-West. James and Sadie, the parents, have gradually descended into sullen antagonism which every now and again flares up into out and out anger, usually centred on James's passion for apple trees, in particular his efforts to grow eaters. Sadie's passion, it seems, is for alcohol. In the meantime the children, in particular the quiet, almost studious, Robert, are caught in the middle. Eventually (for reasons only later revealed) Robert leaves home and eventually finds himself in California, initially in the gold rush, but latterly working for plantsman William Lobb, using the knowledge he gained from working with his father. Gradually his previous life threatens, or is it promises?, to catch up with him. Chevalier has a penchant for writing historical fiction that has her characters interacting with real-life people and involved in discoveries and creations that can be seen today, and this is no exception. The legendary Johnny Appleseed features from early in the story, William Lobb (and his brother) is well documented, and others also come to the fore. The discoveries etc? That's part of the story! And Chevalier is a good story teller, often outstanding, bringing characters and situations to mental life. She doesn't always hit the bullseye (Burning Bright for instance was a disappointment), but she definitely succeeds more often than not, and is always worth trying! The first two-thirds of the book promised much, and by half way I was convinced this was going to be one of her best. In Robert Goodenough she has in particular developed a character of realy sympathy and depth. Others in the group were mixed in their views - I think it depends on how much one enjoys some of the detail that Chevalier brings in, and what one makes of her characters, although Robert was universally well regarded! For me, that detail helped bring the story alive (particularly when she describes James's and Robert's efforts in growing their apple trees - at the heart of the first part of the novel) and in itself produced some discoveries (I didn't know.....!), others felt it got in the way. But then, we moved into the last part, around one-third of the novel, and it was like moving into a different book. Suddenly the plot galloped along, characterisation and setting were put aside, and all the carefully built up atmosphere was subsumed to the mechanics of a fairly standard family saga with all too convenient events and coincidences. There were vestiges of the earlier parts of the book left, but what had promised so much unfortunately moved into the almost breathlessly predictable and mundane. It's almost as if an editor/publisher had told the author to get on with it and finish the book pronto. Whatever the cause, the novel sadly declined from one of Chevalier's strongest to the weaker end of the spectrum - better than Burning Bright, but below her others. It's still a good read, and so much better than some of the dross our book group has read recently, but she is capable of so much more. So, 4 stars (so still 'recommended'), but with Falling Angels at 6, and several others at 5, that's a relative disappointment. On the plus side though, Robert Goodenough will certainly feature as a candidate for my favourite character of the year come the end of year review!
  11. Finished At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracey Chevalier. Chevalier is always good, and this was no exception, although by her own high standards, it went a little off the boil for me in the last third as it descended towards the conventional saga, having threatened to challenge as one of her best. 4/6 stars.
  12. Willoyd's Tour of the States.

    Book no. 12 completed, review copied across from my book blog thread: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury ***** This was the twelfth book in my tour around the states of the US, Advise and Consent being set in the midst of Washington DC politics (yes, I know DC isn't a 'state', but it's included!). For many reviewers, this is the definitive novel about the government of America, and it's easy to see why. Fairly hefty, coming in at over 650 solid pages, and not always an 'easy' read, spending considerable passages of text working its way through the thoughts and feelings of characters, it nonetheless (or, perhaps, consequentially) proved a gripping read. It is a bit of an historical document, not least because of events subsequent to its 1958 publication date that turned out very differently to the way they do in the narrative, but it's also very pertinent to today, with much to teach us not just about how politics works, but perhaps how politics should work (goodness knows what Drury would have made of Donald Trump). I do like, though, how he never refers to Republican/Democrat, but talks of Majority/Minority parties, leaving the reader to work things out for themselves (and thus, not detracting from a book that might have been accused of political bias, which wasn't the point). Its historical-ness (if that's a word!) also comes through in some of the social mores portrayed, not least the prominence of male characters and the subordinate nature of the women in the novel (this is, after all, about 1950s American and international politics), but none of it detracts from what is a very fine, intricately developed, novel which I'd never previously heard about (in spite of it being a Pulitzer winner, and filmed) from an author of whom I'd never heard either - my ignorance more than anything else, but underlining why I started this tour, and the benefits of it! There are sequels which I'm definitely going to try out.
  13. Willoyd's Reading 2019

    Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller ***** I came to this with high hopes, the author's earlier Pure being one of my few 6-star reads. Whilst it didn't quite live up to that, I was certainly not disappointed, and Andrew Miller is nudging towards a favourite author status. Set in the period immediately after the retreat from Spain in the early parts of the Peninsular War (early 1800s), the opening scenes describe the unexpected return of the half-dead Captain John Lacroix to his home in Somerset, where he is tended to by his long term housekeeper, Nell. Within a few pages, the quality of writing and the atmosphere generated had pulled me into the centre of a narrative that never let go - story telling at its best. We soon find that Lacroix has a past in Spain, a past that threatens in the shape of a particularly nasty character, Corporal Calley, to catch up with him. Unknowingly, although avoiding recall to his cavalry regiment, Lacroix sets off to the Outer Hebrides, with Calley (and partner) on his tail. The story unfolds as effectively two interwoven tales. Although other demands on my time meant that I had to read this in relatively short bursts (other than the final 150 pages, consumed in one sitting), I can only describe this as unputdownable, or, perhaps more accurately, addictively pickupable. The plot is not overly complex, but then good stories often aren't (something some writers forget), but the strong development of characters (including a host of minor walk-on, but essential parts), and places means that the novel is never less than richly alive, whilst the plot still leaves one hankering to find out what happens next, and not just in terms of the inevitable denouement. I also like the fact that not all ends are tied up neatly - some are implied and need careful reading, one or two (not unimportant) ones are left loose - but neatly judged not to detract from the story (if anything, otherwise). All in all, a cracking read that fully deserves its five (out of six) stars. Thoroughly recommended (it would make a really good book club read too - plenty to discuss). Probably the best book so far in a year where quality is currently superseding quantity.
  14. Willoyd's Reading 2019

    Absolutely not! I'm reading them in publication order, but chronologically they are all over the place. Having said that, trying to put an accurage chronology on them would, I think, be nigh on impossible, although I'm sure I've seen it being tried somewhere.
  15. Completed Allen Drury's Advise and Consent and Georges Simenon's Signed, Picpus - the latter one of the Maigret series. Reviews on my book thread. Have now moved on to Andrew Miller's Now We Shall Be Entirely Free, which I'm consuming quite quickly - superbly written. I'm also dipping into Tim Flannery's Europe: A Natural History, but it's all about the dinosaurs at present, and I'm not overly interested, so am hoping it moves on to more recent times soon!