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willoyd

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About willoyd

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  • Reading now?
    I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
  • Location:
    Wharfedale, Yorkshire
  • Interests
    birding, cycling (mainly touring), running, walking, family history.

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  1. Round Robin Year-long Challenge

    Current State of Play We're almost there, with virtually everybody's challenges complete. There are a few holes, mainly owing to Ben's joining up a bit later, so please have a quick check on the list below to make sure (a) I've got it right -!- and (b) your challenges to others are completed. @Madeleine still needs to challenge Ben @Alexi still needs to challenge Ben @Little Pixie still needs to challenge Frankie, MRTR and Ben @frankie still needs to challenge Ben @Ben still needs to do his challenge list Ben's already PMed me to say that he's hoping to get his challenges out this weekend. Thank you to everybody for both taking part and for the really interesting set of challenges. It promises to be a stimulating year's reading! Do join in with your challenge lists, comments on books etc on the Round Robin 2018 thread. It looks as if one or two are already steaming ahead (I've just started my first!).
  2. Willoyd's Reading 2018

    Two Reviews I've finished two books in the past couple of days: The Pursuit of Victory by Roger Knight ***** Lord Horatio Nelson is one of the biggest characters in British history; he is certainly one of the most written about, and there was a particular rash of books a few years ago to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar. Inevitably there will be those who simply rode the bandwagon (a bit like the awful Waterloo account by Bernard Cornwell rode the 200th anniversary of that battle a couple of years ago), but this is not one of them. In fact, this is widely regarded as one of the best single volume biographies of Nelson yet, if not the best*. It certainly reads like that. Knight's research is clearly formidable, but he pulls it together into a coherent, gripping whole that, even at over 570 densely written pages, never loses its pace or its authority. What I perhaps enjoyed most about The Pursuit of Victory is how Nelson emerges as such a real person, both in his brilliance and in his weaknesses. Knight is no hagiographer, but nor is he one of those biographers who seeks to turn reputations upside down almost for the sake of it (or for the sake of publicity). Rather his writing is impressively balanced. Nelson comes over as a highly complex character, so secure in his leadership, yet so insecure in other ways, especially in his dealings with people, not least the two main women in his life, Frances Nisbet/Nelson and Emma Hamilton (although he is perhaps too, cruelly, certain with the former once fixed on the latter). He certainly seems to have been a very different person when at sea, especially when not having to play second fiddle to another, compared to when on land, even if he wasn't always happy or well. Knight cuts right through much of the mythology that surrounds Nelson (no telescope to a blind eye at Copenhagen for instance) but the story that he does tell, founded on extensive primary research, is actually all the more powerful as a result, and on occasion produced other just as entertaining anecdotes in compensation (what did happen at Copenhagen is that when Hyde Parker flew the message to discontinue the action, the signal was repeated to Nelson by the Defiance, under Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves, but judiciously hung so that it was hidden by the mizzen mast and sails!). Fully worthy of a five star rating. * I'm aiming to try John Sugden's two-volume biography in the not too distant future. Where My Heart Used To Beat by Sebastian Faulks ** It would be hard to think of a bigger contrast, trying to read this immediately after the above, but I needed to fit it in fairly rapidly, as it's the selection for one of my book groups and the meeting approaches fast! Sadly, the contrast didn't work, and I soon found myself skim reading sections of what rapidly became an all too tedious experience. There is no doubt that Faulks has a beautiful way with words, and on occasions his plotting and characters have lived up to his style, as in Birdsong, but here neither did. The former was utterly predictable, whilst the central device of the invitation to an exotic southern French island by a mysterious host, and the ensuing narration of the main protagonist's life story, was just clunky and unimaginative. Meanwhile, I couldn't even begin to believe in almost any of the characters, especially the women, a problem I've had with Faulks before. The war scenes were powerful, but war scenes do not make a story, at least not here! I staggered through to the end simply because it was a reading group book, but, whilst it improved a bit, my first instinct to pack it in after the first hundred pages or so still felt right at the end, some two hundred or so hard fought pages later. Two stars for the writing and the war scenes, but no more.
  3. Just finished Roger Knight's The Pursuit of Victory, his biography of Nelson. At 577 densely printed pages, it's a chunky read, I think the commonly used word is 'magisterial', and has taken me, on and off, over three weeks to read, but it's been fully worth it. No hagiography, it reveals a thoroughly complex character who, whilst brilliant in many aspects and a genius as a leader, seems to only really come to full maturity in the final years of his life. Genuinely fascinating. 5* (excellent, if not quite a favourite). I need to read Sebastian Faulks's Where My Heart Used To Beat for one of my reading groups. Have read the first few pages, and it feels rather pale and woolly after the previous book, but hopefully I will warm to it as I adjust.
  4. One way or another....glad that it helped! What has amazed me, is quite how popular Mary Queen of Scots is as a subject - these were just the ones I knew enough about to dig out, but in doing so, so many others came to the surface. You could spend your entire time just reading books about her!
  5. Give it another go then, although I'm less confident of these - but after this I'm afraid I'm running out of ideas! Spy for the Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin: girl working for Mary, but no magic. The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas: young woman using magic (magic of flowers) to help try and get casket to Mary, but doesn't work directly for her. The Queen's Mary by Sarah Gristwood: story of Mary Seton, one of Queen Mary's ladies-in-waiting from childhood; again no magic..
  6. Two books jump to mind, both fitting parts of what you recall but neither entirely: The Queen's Own Fool by Jane Yolen and Robert Harris, where the heroine, Nicola, goes to work for Mary as a jester. The Betrayal by Mary Hooper, part of the At The House of the Magician trilogy, where Lucy, who works for Queen Elizabeth I's magician (alchemist) Doctor Dee, gets involved with the Mary Queen of Scots plot. Hope it's one of those!
  7. Alex's Reading 2018

    It certainly looks it. Intriguing to see our points of contact and separation. There are a few books that you've included that my rules stopped me doing (no author more than once, all fiction*, all adult books etc), which was a bit of a regret in a couple of cases (especially Updike's Rabbit series), but they might just have to get read anyway! It'll be fun comparing notes. *I ummed and aahed about In Cold Blood, but I've read in more than one place that Capote did fictionalise it in places, and Capote himself described it as a novel, so I let myself allow it.
  8. Willoyd's Reading 2018

    I agree - I would at least try reading them before giving them away. The latest one even has a lovely inscription in it, but apparently the donator said it wasn't the sort of book she read! Given the way it opens, I don't think she even looked inside. For me, I can't believe my luck - 3 books that were on my own present list, and all immaculate hardbacks (apart from the inscription!). Only trouble is....my TBR list is even longer now!!
  9. Willoyd's Reading 2018

    Reading for the week to January 14th Another week where my main focus of reading has been Roger Knight's biography of Nelson, The Pursuit of Victory. I haven't read a huge amount as there have been other distractions (!), but only about 150 pages to go now. It's been an excellent read, although it does seem to flow more smoothly when Nelson is at sea! He was certainly a complex character, out of his depth on land (if that isn't a tautology!) but really coming into his own once under sail. His leadership skills, when not distracted by a certain femme fatale, appear awesome. I did take a short break at the start of the week to read Maigret at Picratt's, the original for ITV's Maigret in Montmartre over Christmas, which I bought last week and was my first completion of the year. I was surprised at how different the story actually turned out to be - the basic premise is the pretty much the same, but the thread it follows was different in some fundamentally different ways. Both were thoroughly enjoyable, but the books remain the favourites (although in some ways I preferred the plotting on TV!). No review to come from this though - I would simply be repeating pretty much every previous Maigret review - they remain as consistently atmospheric and as involving as ever. Oxfam continues to be a happy hunting ground in the post-Christmas period for unwanted Christmas presents that are at least on my wishlist. Books acquired this week, all from Oxfam or in an on-line sale: Where The Wild Winds Are by Nick Hunt (published this autumn, bought in Oxfam - nice one!) Seeking A Role and Finding A Role? both by Brian Harrison, the two most recent volumes of the Oxford New History of England, covering the period 1950-1990. Six Minutes in May by Nicholas Shakespeare Winter Birds by Lars Jonsson (gorgeous - a freebie!) Europe in the High Middle Ages by William Chester Jordan (long hunted hardback!) Rough Crossings by Simon Schama
  10. Round Robin Year-long Challenge

    Phew! That confused me for a moment - I thought @Ben had put his challenges up, and couldn't find them anywhere. It's actually @More reading time required who's challenged you to read 11.22.63 !
  11. Round Robin Year-long Challenge

    We must think so alike on this sort of thing! Titus Groan was my back-up choice, in case you'd asked me to change my challenge to you! For me, it's a great choice - I've had the trilogy sat on my shelves for several years and never quite got around to it, always meaning to (especially after it was shown on British TV some years ago - I never watched it because I wanted to read it first!). It's a lovely set as well - published by the Folio Society, with lots of superbly atmospheric illustrations by Peter Harding. Can't understand why it's stayed untried for so long, but this should be just the kickstart I need. Thank you!
  12. Claire's Book List 2018

    I wouldn't want to do it on a regular basis, but I think it's good as an occasional break. I know next to nothing of the books and authors that others in my group read for their own pleasure, and I would hope that this would add to knowledge of those I might not have otherwise read myself, i.e. another way of broadening my experience. Also makes me think about why I enjoy the books I do.
  13. Claire's Book List 2018

    I like that idea - must get my book group to try it out.
  14. Round Robin Year-long Challenge

    Thank you! I've tried him several times and struggled each time to see what people see in him. However....my brother, a keen fan, recommended Wyrd Sisters as a starting point (especially as I've been teaching Macbeth!), so thought I'd give him another go. No excuses now!!
  15. Willoyd's Reading 2018

    I don't think reading things concurrently will get you through books quicker, rather the reverse as you lose rhythm and flow. Whilst I was teaching, I would tend to avoid big stuff requiring concentration during termtime - that's not what I needed then! Most of my reading of classics and of bigger non-fiction was in the holidays. But then, I've not managed to keep up with the bigger non-fiction, which is why it's now one of my planned main areas of focus for this year! And to do that, I've accepted that I will read fewer books. If you've got a lot of school work etc to get through, then you probably want and need something more relaxing with your reading rather than more non-fiction (my son read a lot at school, but mainly fiction for relaxation). Maybe my non-fiction is effectively my school work! (I think there's also a difference between 'bigger' non-fiction and lighter stuff: I find a lot of travel and nature is very easy, relaxing, reading, whilst history and science requires more of me, with historical biography in between. Quite a bit of the history and biography is physically bigger too!)
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