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About willoyd

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  • Reading now?
    Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
  • Location:
    Wharfedale, Yorkshire
  • Interests
    birding, cycling (mainly touring), running, walking, family history.

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  1. You're not alone Poppy; on the two books I know, I didn't think you were being brutal at all! I'm a great fan of Sherlock Holmes, but he is much better in the short story format than in the novels. I don't think it's chance that really only The Hound of the Baskervilles is well-known amongst his novels (but I'm not a fan), the other three receding somewhat into well-deserved mists of obscurity. A Study in Scarlet sometimes emerges, but only because it's the one where Holmes and Watson meet up. I'm not a fan of short stories, much preferring the novel format, but the Holmes stories are the one, huge, exception to that rule for me: they are genius at the short story level, but otherwise meh! The Sign of Four is mediocre at best (as is The Valley of Fear). I also agree with you on The Time Machine, but then that one has never worked for me, and marked me sufficiently that I've never tried any of Wells's other science fiction.
  2. Willoyd's Reading 2017

    One month later..... Well, not quite, but it's almost four weeks since my last post. How? Where did the time go? Good grief.... A week away at the end of October is partly the reason (a few days in Cornwall, then a couple of days visiting relatives in Pembrokeshire - a lot of driving!), but also some slowing up on reading, with more birding and film festivalling (if that's a word!). Also, I've been getting a bit bogged down, but more on that later. Reading-wise, it wasn't the most inspiring of Octobers. After the very much middle of the road The Deaths, Carlo Rovelli's Reality Is Not What It Seems, an introduction to some of the latest thinking in quantum physics, was, if anything, off the edge and into the ditch - virtually incomprehensible in the second half. I think he forgot it was meant to be an introduction, which means he needed to explain each step, not make fairly large leaps in understanding. Not one to hold on to, and a big disappointment after Seven Brief Lessons in Physics (2*). Jane's Fame was the highlight of the month, and it was a genuine highlight too, being a thoroughly readable account of how Jane Austen rose from fairly mildly regarded to one of the all time greats in the pantheon of English literature (5*). Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio after that was an OK read (3*), but again, not one I'm rushing back to. Not sure how it became John Steinbeck's favourite book. And that was it, although I have also, since the start of November, managed a quick gallop (about 3 hours) through Gabrielle Zevin's The Storied Life of AJ Fickry, my book group's choice for this month's meeting. I think the word generally agreed was 'innocuous', but not much more (3*). I've also added a few books to the shelves: A Secret Sisterhood - Emily Midorikawa and Claire Sweeney (from the Ilkley Literature Festival) Brexit, Why Britain Voted To Leave the European Union - Harold Clarke (a statistical view rather than opinion) The Card - Arnold Bennett Birders - Mark Cocker The Penguin Book of the American West - David Lavender (a history) And finally.... I've been feeling quite bogged down with quite a lot of my reading - trying to complete too many challenges and finding myself reading books to satisfy those rather than because I actually really want to read them. It's a sense that's been creeping up on me for a while, but it's come to the fore this month, so I've decided to do something about it, and focus on books I actually want to read - there are enough of them on my shelves! I'm going to carry on with my own US States challenge, with my own focus lists, and with trying to reduce the number of to-be-read books on my shelves, but everything else is going overboard; as of today. Hopefully, I'll start to make some inroads into my collection of non-fiction books, which always seem to get put aside so that I can tick another challenge book off. Not any more! PS - Cold Mountain is proving an excellent read - about half way through and hoping for it to carry on a while yet.
  3. Strictly Come Dancing

    I agree Claire, I don't like the theme shows either, for the same reasons. I thought Aston's Paso was brilliant, but was strangely unmoved by Debbie's Charleston. I admire her enormously, think she's got a great relationships (as far as one can tell) with Giovanni, but she rarely makes me go 'wow'; the judges raved about her rumba, but I really didn't enjoy it. Not quite sure why. Have to admit, my favourite is Gemma, particularly given how far she's come since that first week, but funnily enough I was really surprised at how positive the judges were this week - it all looked a bit solid and stompy to my unexpert eye. Reckon at present it's Alexandra, Debbie and Aston for the final with any one of several others. Davood has a chance if his partner sorts out her choreography, Joe is coming up on the outside (after a good start, he looked a bit wobbly for a couple of weeks) - loved their routine far more than last week's Paso. Gemma is on the short list too. Possibly Johnny, although that cha-cha was pretty horrible, as was Susan's foxtrot - I was really worried that they had put themselves 'in the zone', but fortunately the right result ensued. Don't think Mollie has quite got it, but she continues to improve, so you never know. In other words, it's one of the most open for ages, and anybody could go, and anybody could stay all the way! Loving it all, as always!
  4. The Last Film You Saw - 2017

    The Leeds International Film Festival programme has come out in the past week, and it looks excellent, so much so that I've bought a full pass that allows access to pretty much every film. The Festival runs from November 1st to 16th. There are four main threads, of which the most interesting to me looks to be what they call Cinema Versa, basically documentaries, or at least the equivalent of the non-fiction section. There's quite a few others though that also appeal. It could be a hectic fortnight!!
  5. Just finished Claire Harman's Jane's Fame (all about how Jane Austen's books became such a cult) - an excellent read with 5/6 stars - and have turned to Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, part of my United States Challenge, and apparently John Steinbeck's favourite book.
  6. Willoyd's Reading 2017

    This week I haven't managed an awful lot of reading this week. I have, however, started Jane's Fame (Claire Harman), which after just over 100 pages is proving a fascinating book on how Jane Austen came to be one of the most famous and revered authors in the English Language. But that's about it. That's not to say, though, that books haven't been prominent. For instance, the Ilkley Literature Festival has been running for the past couple of weeks, finishing on Sunday. Although the programme didn't inspire me as much as previous years (too much poetry and social issues and not enough science, natural history or travel, amongst others, for my taste), there was still enough to make me a regular visitor. Highlights so far have been talks by Sarah Dunant on the Borgias and Regina Lee Blaszczyk on Fashion, Tweed and Abraham Moon, and an interview with Michele Roberts and Katie Hickman, whilst disasters have been Alys Fowler on her new book Hidden Nature, and Steffie Shields on Capability Brown. Fowler's book looks really interesting, and I definitely want to read it, but her interviewer was awful in the inanity of her questions and responses, whilst Fowler herself couldn't finish a single sentence without including at least one but usually two or three of 'like', 'you know', 'sort of', 'kind of' or similar. After twenty minutes I was desperate to get out of the room, and don't know how I hung on until the end. Will power, sort of, maybe? My birthday last week produced just one book (but loads of other lovely presents!), a really nice edition of Tweet of the Day, an ideal bedside, dipping into book, I did receive some book tokens. So off I toddled to Waterstones and Blackwells this week for a browse. I didn't go completely mad and actually managed to come home with some unspent, but the shelves are going to have to make room for: A History of Britain in 21 Women - Jenni Murray Jacob's Room is Full of Books - Susan Hill The Secret Life of Cows - Rosamund Young Why We Sleep - Matthew Walker I also acquired Jane Smiley's Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel from our local charity shop, a book I've had on my wishlist for some time. I have to admit, I do feel as I've been really treating myself buying all these new books, as most books, particularly fiction, are now coming from the library. Our local library has re-opened as a 'community library', which means that it's mainly staffed by volunteers (of whom I'm one), and it's good to get back to being able to use it. Jane's Fame is one loan, and I've a pile on my library shelf to get through. Anyway, this weekend there are 3 more festival events on our programme, all on Saturday, with the festival finishing on Sunday. Next up is the Leeds Film Festival - browsing through the programme I think I might just take a sleeping bag into the town centre for a week or so!
  7. Alexander's Literary Odyssey 2017

    Can only agree with all you say Brian! I do do Twitter, the only social medium I've got my head around, but I've deliberately limited it to my birding. I only post on that subject, and, with a couple of exceptions (mostly family), only follow those who post about local birding. It means my twitter feed is pleasantly manageable and provides genuinely interesting (for me) reading in the evening. Only way I can cope, because I know it could so easily get out of control.
  8. Alexander's Literary Odyssey 2017

    We're living in an increasingly polarised world: we are exhorted to empathise with celebrities by media that always seem to want to know how interviewees are 'feeling' (the most inane on this front being sports interviewers where the interviewee's feelings are all too obvious!), something that first really came to prominence with the hysteria surrounding the death of Diana, but at the same time we are dealing with generations who increasingly get their news, social interaction etc second hand through social media, and who therefore struggle to learn to genuinely empathise, increasingly removed as they are from everyday face-to-face contact. Anybody who is in anyway different to the mob's norms, outside the 'tribe', is particularly vulnerable. One only has to look at the amount and intensity of abuse thrown at people over social media when they deviate from those norms to see where real empathy is in danger of going (this is something that even primary schools have to deal with all too regularly now). Part of the reason for the rise of populist politicians. Sorry if I sound cynical! I probably am!
  9. Alexander's Literary Odyssey 2017

    Sadly, not really. That's a fairly typical response nowadays. There's a whole generation growing up who simply don't have the mental resilience to concentrate and focus on anything like reading for any length of time. For instance, hardly any of the children recently going through my class have read Harry Potter - they've all got the story through the films. They and an older group are used to a highly graphical environment, and used to constantly changing images. Their minds need constant re-engagement. As a result their minds often work at a fairly superficial level and struggle in so many situations. Interestingly, even talking to my 25-year old son, who whilst brought up in the internet age is a regular reader, he tells me that there's a generation younger than him who simply don't read because they are permanently on their phones etc. I was travelling into Leeds during the rush-hour a few days ago, and all the books/Kindles were being read by 'older' (30+) commuters. I didn't see a single younger one doing so, unless they were reading on their phone, but looking at thumb movements I didn't spot one likely to be. I'm not saying Alexander's individual was that young - he may not have been - but there are a lot of people around in the same position. I wouldn't be shocked: TBH I'm desperately sorry for people like that as for me it shows a mental deficiency that they are barely aware of, but which impoverishes them on so many levels.
  10. Willoyd's Reading 2017

    I've put it on the backburner for the moment. Not because I wasn't enjoying it (I was), but because I had a reading club book to finish off etc. Will pick it up again later this month.
  11. Top 5 (or 10) Wednesday

    The Witches of Eastwick - John Updike The Witches: Salem, 1692 - Stacy Schiff The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis Mist over Pendle - Robert Neill The Last Witchfinder - James Morrow The Schiff and the Morrow (one history the other fiction) are more about people suspected of witchcraft, but still about people thought to be witches at the time!
  12. Have you tried changing the sorts of books you're reading? I think we probably all have times when we can't really get motivated to read, and the last time I did that, I changed the level of reading: I found I'd been ripping through loads of easy reads, none of which actually engaged me very much and none of which actually made much of a mark. I got stuck into a 'big' book (it was a Dickens), and that seemed to turn things round. Equally, I've needed something light sometimes to alleviate feeling a bit overwhelmed by yet another 'serious' book. And so on. Nowadays, I rarely read series of books at one go, or loads of books by one author, simply to try and sustain my enjoyment. So, if you're reading a lot of children's and YA books, maybe something different? Another thing I tried which seemed to work on that occasion, was simply backing off reading altogether - not just books, but magazines, newspapers, even the internet - the lot! After a couple of weeks of nothing, I was mentally screaming to get back into it! Whatever, hope you get your mojo back soon.
  13. You're so right - his body count stats must be pretty good (or do I mean 'bad'?!).
  14. Thomas Hardy has to be in there somewhere. Dickens's body count is not insubstantial either! (I find it hard to think of Shakespeare as an 'author', simply because he wrote plays. I know, I know, but for me author smacks of prose and books).
  15. Willoyd's Reading 2017

    The Deaths by Mark Lawson *** Read as this month's reading group choice, this is a modern satire examining the lives of a certain type of upper middle class family in the post credit squeeze era. It focuses on four couples and their children who all live close by each other and socialise together to such an extent that they describe themselves as The Eight. The book starts with a bang, as the murders of one of the families is discovered by a delivery driver for the specialist coffee service company they all subscribe and seem addicted to, CappucinGo (it's a satire!). We don't, however, find out who the victims are until towards the end of the book, and most of the narrative is in flashback, describing the days and weeks leading up to this violent act. Satire is for me at its most potent when it sends up the attitudes it wants to home in on, but does so without excessive heavy handidness. First vibes here were of a thoroughly readable novel with plenty of bite: the four couples are all quite difficult to tell apart (I wrote out the names of the families as I worked through to help me keep track,and am glad I did!), each with their mixed gender 2-4 children, requisite dogs (a labrador and other each), antipodean nannies and other essential accoutrements, all assiduously trying to keep up with each other and leave the 'plebs' behind. I have to admit, though, that after a while, the incessant barrage of nastiness and patronising attitudes (one character apart) began to tell, and about half way through I began to find it rather wearing. The book has been described as humorous, but I can't remember having even smiled let alone laughed; I cringed a lot though! Having said that, Mark Lawson does hit a fair few nails on heads - I was reminded on more than one occasion of people who I've (had the misfortune through work to have) met - and it was these touches on reality that helped keep me going to the end. I was also intrigued how by the end I did find myself at least in part caring, or was it feeling sorry?, for these characters - partly the deaths themselves perhaps bringing out more of the humanity that one hopes is in all of us, and partly the fact that the reader is all too aware that they are human enough to have insecurities and weaknesses just like the rest of us. At 460+ pages this is 50-100 pages too long, and needed more editing, especially some of the over described and elaborated set scenes, and the aftermath (although I almost missed the final twist in the last half dozen pages which I only latched onto in the final few lines when I started to wonder why it was ending the way it was). However, it was fairly straightforward to get to the end, being well enough written and sufficiently deftly plotted. Having said that, I'm in no great hurry to explore Mark Lawson's other work with so much high quality reading out there, and do wonder a little if I'd have made it without the prompting of my reading group. It'll be interesting what they have to say - it's certainly a good one for discussion.