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      July Supporter Giveaway   07/01/2019

      It's Christmas in July! The winner of the July Supporter giveaway will receive this beautiful Barnes & Noble edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, as well as a special Charles Dickens tea by  theliteraryteacompany.co.uk .   I've been keeping this book a secret for so long (I couldn't wait until Christmas!) It's actually from a really lovely independent bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, the town of books. I'm so glad I finally get to show you! The picture doesn't even do it justice. A nice feature that you can't see in this image - the page edges are gold and (an extra surprise for the winner) the back is just as beautiful as the front! We also now have twice as much tea as previous giveaways!  (Thank you Literary Tea Company!)   As always, supporters are automatically entered into the giveaway and a winner will be chosen at random at the end of the month. If you want to enter this giveaway but you aren't a supporter, you can join in here https://www.patreon.com/bookclubforum .   Good luck  


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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 - July 2019

    Just finished The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey. Beautifully written, but ultimately unsatisfying - 3/6. Moving on to one of my group reads, probably I See You by Clare Mackintosh.
  2. Your Book Activity - July 2019

    Just finished The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. It's a detailed examination of the science, or lack of it, behind the low fat-high carbohydrate diet that has been the recommended standard in much of the western world for the past 30-40 years or more. Have been looking into this a bit more since I received NHS advice on pre-diabetes diet that simply didn't make sense given the causes. Slightly heavy going in places as science gets quite detailed, but readable to the end. 5 stars.
  3. Good summary. Pretty much exactly reflects my thoughts at the time I read it. Like you, I had no inclination to try for the follow-ons.
  4. Did books help develop my character? I suspect there's a certain element of chicken and egg here. It's my character that drives me to read books, but I cannot see how anyone can read regularly (whether fiction or non-fiction), and not have those books influence their character to at least some degree, even if only at the subconscious level. Or, to put it another way, you'd have to be an incredibly unresponsive individual to spend so much time reading, and not be influenced as a person by that reading in any way, shape or form. But whether one can pinpoint particular books? Trickier! All I can say is that some books stand out as landmarks in my reading, or as books that have stayed with me for one reason or another. To that extent, my pattern is not dissimilar to Brian's. As I was apparently reading books to myself by the age of 3, I can't remember any that helped form my early reading. Children's books that stand out as big influences are (in no particular order!) the Winnie-the-Pooh series (so much so that I was nicknamed after the bear!), Paddington Bear, the Grey Rabbit books, Rev Awdry's Railway books, and, almost inevitably, Enid Blyton (FarAway Tree stands out in memory, as does Secret Seven later, whilst her Nature Lover's Book was almost talismanic). I was also heavily influenced by, first of all, Tell Me Why, and then Look and Learn. I also read loads of Ladybird books at various stages. Non-fiction remains a significant proportion of my reading (around 40%). The Swallows and Amazons series was a powerful developer, opening up a whole different landscape and approach to life which has stayed with me for the rest of my life. Kipling's Puck of Pook's Hill stands for another historical landmark - I loved history novels, and remain fascinated by history. Early 'adult' books (read from about 11 or so) were Sherlock Holmes and the Hornblower series (both favourites of my father, especially the former - he was a guide for the London Appreciation Society, and one of his specialist subjects was SH). I also ripped through my mother's stock of Georgette Heyer Regency novels - which I still love. Lord of the Rings stands out at around 13. All definitely had influences, but how much is hard to say - they've certainly stayed with me since then,and stand as developmental landmarks if nothing else. My first introduction to the classics was around 14, when we were required to read either Pickwick Papers or Barchester Towers for English. I read both, and loved both! We never did any detailed analysis on either, other than a reading group style discussion in class - our English teacher simply wanted us to read and think about the book, and, dare I say, enjoy it! I can't remember any other book studied at this stage, but Emma and Middlemarch both featured at A-level, the former introducing me to the joys of Jane Austen and totally changing my reading life. Whether they changed me otherwise, I'm not sure, but given my reading is so central to me as a person, I suspect they did. I also had phases of reading certain genres - scifi definitely featured for a while (mainly Asimov and Heinlein), as did crime (Christie!). These stand out as landmarks, but I would suggest that much of one's character development through reading is a very gradual process, each book being just one brick, and the reading wall being just one wall in the house (even if signficantly structural in my case!). Thus, just to quote a couple more small bricks: we read Lord of the Flies in class when I was 11 - I hated it with a passion, and there was a niggling scar there until I reread it a few years ago and appreciated it for the great literature it actually is. On the other hand, we also read, around the same time, Paul Berna's Flood Warning (set in France), the story of which I found profoundly moving at the time. I only found a copy of it (I had barely remembered even the title, just the impact) a couple of years ago, reread it, and whilst it is still a favourite, like Lord of the Flies I have a rather different perspective on it now. What frightens me somewhat is how influential reading was on me, how many books I read - well over a hundred a year at one point - but how few of the books I read can I recall. I suppose many of the individual bricks are now simply part of that wall.
  5. Willoyd's Reading 2019

    Reading group today, where we discussed Moonwalking with Einstein. It seems we either decently enjoyed it, or just didn't finish it (only 3 out of 8 of us finished), no ifs or buts between. Full review to follow, but interesting that 2 of the 3 were the only men in the group - coincidence or not? Anyway, I've now moved on to The Western Wind by Samantha Harvey, which has started really well, recommended by a friend. Book group choices for this month: I See You by Clare Mackintosh I Claudius by Robert Graves Looking forward to both - the latter especially as it's been on my list for some years now - and enjoying the recent variety.
  6. Your Book Activity - July 2019

    Completed Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer, the latest read for one of my book groups. We choose from a list of books provided by Bradford Council for reading groups, and to be honest it's a bit of a mystery why some of them are on the list. This is one - it's not bad, but given how few non-fiction books are provided, I can't for the life of me see why anybody selected this particular one. Subject material - yes (an exploration of memory), but otherwise it's just a fairly bog-standard ordinary. TBH, getting bored with so many of this group's selections (a complete contrast to the other group who have not limited themselves to any list of books). 3/6 stars - an OK read.
  7. A Book blog, 2019 by Books do Furnish a Room

    I would agree with you pretty much the whole way, including not really seeing why it made the top 100. I haven't read all of her books yet, being about half way through, but even so have certainly enjoyed others more. Best to date, for me, has been A View of the Harbour.
  8. Willoyd's Reading 2019

    June update I've not added to this blog for almost a whole month now (although have been tracking books read on the Book Activity thread), so one big update covering the last 4 weeks. First of all, reviews; I've completed 4 books so far this month: Barring Mechanicals by Andy Allsop ***** A slim volume, being an account of Andy's efforts in riding the British Blue Riband event of audax cycling, the London-Edinburgh-London (usually known as the LEL). The event is held every 4 years, and the challenge is to complete the ride in just over 116 hours (for 1400km). Every 60-100km there is a control at which your 'brevet' (route card) is stamped, and at which food, and sometimes a bed, is available. Andy did the ride on a recumbent - not the best vehicle for the northern hills. It's fairly lightly and well written, very absorbing, and I ripped through it in a day or so. Probably one that will largely appeal only the specialist fan, but the insights are I think universal. They aren't laboured, but they are there. The mental grit shown by those who complete (only 40% of the field in 2017) is pretty awe-inspiring, but it's all so understated by all concerned. The event itself is heading towards legendary status. Daughter of the Desert by Georginal Howell ****** (later retitled Queen of the Desert) A biography of Gertrude Bell, one of the most amazing people I've ever read about. My first real insight into her life came with the film 'Letters from Baghdad' produced by and starring Tilda Swinton (phenomenal in Orlando). This unfortunately came out at around the same time as the film 'Queen of the Desert', based on another biography (by Janet Wallach) and starring Nicole Kidman, which rather overshadowed 'Letters' in the publicity stakes in spite of being vastly inferior - the Wallach book is also vastly inferior to the Howell. Howell started the book as the result of a project at the newspaper where she worked, The Sunday Times, when the editor commissioned staff to write about their particular hero for the magazine - and Howell wrote about Bell. It then grew into a full-blown book. Bell herself led a remarkable life, breaking down barriers in Victorian - early 20th century Britain left, right and centre. The first woman to take a first in modern history at Oxford (one of very few who even went to university), desert explorer extraordinaire in the Middle East, climber in the Alps with a number of first ascents ( in her first seasons, taking her skirts off at the first hut she reached, presumably to climb in her substantial underwear), internationally respected archaeologist, led up organisng and developing missing persons bureau for the Red Cross in France at the start of WW1, only woman to hold formal rank in the Middle East expeditionary force during the war, diplomat and virtual architect of the state of Iraq.....and so on and so on. At times Howell's work does drift dangerously close to hagiography but, given Bell's hero status, that's not really surprising. It is also, on occasions, a little bit unsettling, as Howell follows a theme through to its end in one chapter, then effectively goes back in time to deal with the other aspects of Bell's life in the next. Thus, for instance, a whole chapter is devoted to her relationship with the great love of her live, Dick Doughty-Wiley, ending with his death in 1915; the next chapter then resumes in around 1906 and examines her desert explorations in more depth. It's understandable why, but it can phase the unwary! Aside from these (relatively minor) caveats, it's an absolutely superb read: Howell's narrative gallops along, she uses Bell's own (and extensive) writing very effectively to really bring her to life, and neatly fits in a wealth of description and detail. She's not afraid to address some of the more controversial or contentious aspects of Bell's life (like her support for the anti-Suffragist movement) either. In short, I loved this book from start to finish, and it's the first book this year to receive a full 6 stars. It was read for our reading group, and that opinion was more generally held too. It certainly provoked one of the fullest discussions we've had for a while - almost 2 hours worth, there was so much to talk about (Bell's life mainly!). The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Performance by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney **** An excellent introduction to eating a low carb diet as an athlete. This is something I've started taking an interest in, mainly because I've discovered that I'm pre-diabetic, but the implications of the science are far more widespread if there really is a connection between the increasing prevalence of diabetes and the pre-diabetic state (now reckoned to represent between one-third and one-half of the over-60 population), and the institutional move to the view that carbs, even complex carbs, are 'good' and fats, particularly saturated fat, are 'bad' (gross simplification warning!). I'm still exploring these ideas, but this proved an interesting and thought provoking first read on the subject. Beside the Ocean of Time by George Mackay Brown ***** Thorfinn Ragnarsson is a good-for-nothing dreamer schoolboy living in the Orkneys in the 1930s. The author follows him through his life and his dreams, revealing through them changes to the island (fictional Norday) and his life, and the impact of these dreams. The story is told in deceptively simple language, which left me wondering early on whether I was really going to get much out of the book, but this very simplicity and its sense of poetry almost hypnotically pulled me into the dreams and the story as a whole. GMB was a prominent poet, and it shows. Another book group read, and another one that I loved, if not quite achieving 6-stars (at least, not yet). I'm certainly seeking out more of his writing, and may even reread this in the near future - I read it in one evening without putting it down so that would be no chore! Books acquired this month for reading France, A History from Gaul to De Gaulle by John Julius Norwich (e-book) Normandy '44 by James Holland Inspector Cadaver by Georges Simenon Stalingrad by Vasily Grossman In Search of Mary Shelley by Fiona Sampson The Tunnel through Time by Gillian Tindall Colditz, the Full Story by Pat Reid Sowing the Wind by John Keay
  9. Your Book Activity - June 2019

    Finished a quick but very interesting read: The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney. Have ordered the book prior to this, TAALOLC Living to fill in a few holes assumed by the author. Have moved on to The Rhine by Ben Coates, a description of his journey from mouth to source (we cycled source to mouth a few years ago). Got off to a good start.
  10. Your Book Activity - June 2019

    Finished Georgina Howell's biography of Gertrude Bell, Daughter of the Desert, later renamed Queen of the Desert. A straight 6 stars, making it my 125th book at that level, and the 40th non-fiction book (also the first this year, although I'm thinking about another, but a novel). At a bit of a loss as to what to read next, as I almost always am after a book in which I've been so wrapped up.
  11. Your Book Activity - June 2019

    Finished Barring Mechanicals by Andy Allsop. A slim volume, easy read, about his completion of the 2009 London-Edinburgh-London audax. One probably for the cycling enthusiast (which I am), but still a well written, easily read (if not easily imagined!) account, with plenty of character. Currently reading Georgina Howell's biography of the remarkable, fascinating, Gertrude Bell, Daughter of the Desert, later renamed Queen of the Desert.
  12. I don't want to clog up your book thread with extending discussion, so won't (!), but as I said it's an interesting one. I can certainly see where you're coming from, and I suspect don't disagree with much of it - more a case of exploring slightly differing interpretations and perspectives.
  13. Your Book Activity - May 2019

    It certainly could be YA, but I don't think is promoted as such (and I'm never quite certain what classifies something as YA anyway - it's either a good book or it isn't by the time you get to that age). In the review on my book blog thread I suggested that Jodi Taylor fans might enjoy this, although it's not quite as frenetic as her books (not necessarily a bad thing!).
  14. Your Book Activity - June 2019

    I can think of plenty of ways to describe Wuthering Heights, but have to admit that 'bit of a slog' isn't one of them! I read it for the first time about 10 years ago, and absolutely loved it. Rereading it about 4 years ago, I wasn't quite as fond of it, but still rated it 5/6. I think I found it a just bit too dramatic second time around - maybe because I knew what was going to happen? - although the sense of place and time was palpable. I can understand not liking any of the characters though!