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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. Books in the rest of 2019

    Hilary Mantel's third volume about Thomas Cromwell is out soon - looking forward to that!
  2. Slow start to the month, but 2 books finished in quick succession: The Ionian Mission by Patrick O'Brian (the eighth volume in the Aubrey-Maturin series) and Whose Body? by Dorothy L Sayers (the first Lord Peter Whimsey novel). Neither quite as good as other volumes in the two series, but both good reads: 4/6 stars each.
  3. Odd - I can't even remember intending to reply, so not sure what happened there. However, rereading the article again (I certainly read it at the time), this seems just a reflection the short termism that is so rife in the UK - we never invest for the long term, always seem to go for the cheapest short-term patch, which in the long term is actually the most expensive, and least effective. Latest on this theme: we're way behind other similarly wealthy countries in cancer survival rates. Why? Because we don't screen sufficiently early or comprehensively. Why? Because we don't invest in good quality health (anybody for walking/cycling/public transport infrastructure? 1 in 5 year 6 primary children clinically obese; ....), but try to patch it up afterwards through the NHS. Etc etc. Just one example of the British disease of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. Big hobby-horse!! Once upon a time, but lost interest around the time they started including American writers (Pulitzer is more interesting in that respect). Criteria may have changed at the same time, as not finishing far too many (one or two barely started!).
  4. Your Top 10 books!

    I really enjoy reading lists like these. Looking down the lists, there isn't one I've spotted that looks like one of those lists under (1). As for point 2, I would agree that they don't tell anybody why you like them, and it would be even more interesting for people to add a relevant comment or two, but I find it fun to see the lists anyway, which books people enjoy most, the dynamics and variety of the selections, who chooses similar books to you, who is completely the opposite (these two give a good idea whose recommendations to follow!), etc etc. The context of a listed book is often quite informative. Favourites are a very personal thing. I maintain a list of 'favourites' at the front of my blog thread - these are books that I have awarded 6 stars too. What these six stars are is not a measure of 'excellence'. They simply highlight the books which, maybe for specific, even non-literary, reasons, are particularly special in my reading. These are the books that I would fight to retain in my library. I hope, also, the list might help others find books that might be worth investigating further - but given that everybody has Here's further on why I enjoy these lists: http://www.bookclubforum.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/13444-your-top-10-books/&do=findComment&comment=438297
  5. A fistful of books completed since the last update, the last two being book group reads: This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay, and Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse. Both OK, but whilst I keep thinking they should have done, neither particularly grabbed me. The Waterhouse is well written, but that whole genre (northern working class 1050s male authors) has never done much for me anyway, and this just confirmed my prejudices!
  6. Bobblybear's Book List - 2019

    Stream of consciousness can be fascinating - Virginia Woolf is a favourite of mine. However, it's not unusual for the reading public's version of what a good book is to be very different from what the Booker judges reckon. There are several which I've given up on!
  7. Willoyd's Reading 2019

    Book Review Catch-Up I don't think I've every got quite as far behind on reviews as I have recently, exacerbated by the fact that I've been reading rather more than usual this month. My last review was back in the middle of July sometime, so the first three are all from that that month's reading: I Claudius by Robert Graves **** This month's selection for one of my book groups, although it's been on my bookshelf for years waiting to be read! I never saw the TV serial, so have had nothing to prejudice me either way, other than having read Graves's autobiographical Goodbye to All That - which I actually can't remember much about. The premise is that the Roman Emperor Claudius's autobiography has been discovered, and it gives a rather different perspective on the history of the Caesars to what is conventionally included in histories. Of course, we're seeing it from Claudius's point of view, so things may not be quite what they appear. However, Graves/Claudius makes a convincing story, the first part of Claudius's life up to the point where he is acclaimed Emperor being covered in this volume, with his imperial life the focus of the next volume, Claudius the God. This took a bit of getting into. The style is fairly old-fashioned, at times almost plodding, even pedantic, but with some persistence it gradually grew on me. I knew enough of some of the history to be able to compare some of the story with other historians' interpretations, but as much again or more was completely new to me. As a result, I was never quite sure when Grave was being controversial or otherwise (subsequent reading has been rather eye-opening!), but, bearing in mind that I needed to take everything with a pinch of salt, I was happy to roll along with the narrative. Whatever the truth or otherwise, the story itself did become rather overwhelming at times - or at least the bloodshed did. Not that Graves indulged in gore, far from it, but basically anybody who was anybody whatsoever seems to have got killed off (Livia, the second wife of Augustus, being the exception it seems, mainly because Graves reckons she was responsible for most of the killing!). I know it was historicaly based, but it did get rather monotonous and predictable. However, Claudius himself was a fascinating character - I was particularly intrigued by the way Graves managed to turn (twist?) the story to make him the 'good' protagonist. That alone made it worth reading, but even without that, I found myself more and more immersed and less and less willing to put the book down - so overall a good read, although I was one of only 3 amongst the group of 9 who positively enjoyed this choice. Six Lives of Fankle the Cat by George Mackay Brown ***** Having read and really enjoyed Beside the Ocean of Time for a book group read, I was keen to follow up on some of his other prose. This was the only one available through our library service, so, even though it is strictly speaking a children's book, I took it on loan. Well, it might well be labelled a children's book, and I am sure a relatively young child would read and enjoy it, but there is actually far more here than that genre allocation would imply. Somewhat like the previous read, it's basically a series of short stories linked together by a narrative thread, and it works a treat. Brownis primarily a poet, and each story reads almost like a prose poem; his language flows beautifully. I'm not normally a fan of short stories, but this bridges the divide so well, with the overall narrative arc of a novel satisfied, whilst each chapter/verse work on its own. There is also a wonderful sense of place, and the characters, even those on the periphery, come alive in just a few phrases. I'm turning into a real GMB fan - and will just have to buy the books given the lack of library material. A writer who I am delighted to have discovered through my book group - which is after all half the point, isn't it? Mrs Moreau's Warbler by Stephen Moss **** I was given this book by a neighbour recently who, being a Guardian newspaper on-line supporter, had received it as a freebie. His words were pretty much, "Here, I've just finished this, really enjoyed it, and think it'll be right up your street." Of course, he was right. I've read books by Stephen Moss before, and he's one to look out for - straightforward and well-balanced, and very informative. Always an easy read, and this was no exception. Essentially, the book looks into the history of how birds get their names , in particular at those people, mostly ornithologists, after whom birds are named (there is, indeed, a bird called Mrs Moreau's Warbler). It was particularly interesting given that one unwritten rule is that you can't name a bird after yourself - so a fair bit of story was based on the links between those who did the naming and those whose names birds now carry. There is a lot of fascinating material in this book, even if, I would guess, you're not a bird fan - it's as much about the development of our language (and some histories are not quite as obvious as one would think - eg the derivation of blackbird....no, I'm not going to explain it, but it's not just because the male is black!). I was certainly enthralled. Trouble is, it's all too easy to forget too - there's so much and my detailed retention isn't what it should be. But, then, unlike my neighbour, I'm not going to give this book away - this is definitely one to sit to hand on the shelves and be dipped into and referred to. So...those three reviews get to me to the beginning of August. Hope to get a few more done of this month before we move into the next month. Finger crossed!
  8. Just finished The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald. As ever, find it difficult to work out quite what I think about her books, but they are curiously addictive, and grow on my after I've finished (as this is already doing). Muriel Spark and Elizabeth Taylor tend to have the same effect on me! 5 stars out of 6. (Later edit) And later on in the day: Felicie by Georges Simenon, the next in the series of Maigret novels I'm reading (in publication order). As good as ever. 4 stars.
  9. A few days away, exploring Hadrian's Wall and around. Finished 3 books (stars out of 6): A Walk Along the Wall by Hunter Davies: description of a year's exploration of Hadrian's Wall back in the 70s. Very interesting comparing with today! An enjoyable read **** A Death in the Dales by Frances Brody: enjoyably insubstantial, fun. Not exactly a whodunnit, more a 'how are they going to find out?'. Likeable, if fairly stereotypical, characters. Will probably read more. *** The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry, examining the state of masculinity. Some good points, and very engaging in parts, but needed clearer structuring and more coherent progression. ***
  10. Just finished with Tom Holland's Dynasty, his history of the Julian-Claudian Roman emperors. Stopped almost exactly half way through: the language and narrative was somewhat over-blown and over-worked, yet nothing really being added to the histories from Tacitus and Suetonius (who are much more succinct). I Claudius makes for better history too. Just couldn't take any more padding. Really surprised at the number of 5 star reviews, but suspect they're mostly from people who've not read much else on the subject, and are more interested in the story than the history. 2 stars out of 6. Not sure what's next, but will read Alistair Moffat's The Wall soon, as we're going to spend a few days exploring Hadrian's Wall in the near future.
  11. Borrowed it from the library, so it was definitely also a bit dog-eared! Although I was aware of many aspects of the Stasi and conditions of East German life (Thomas Harding's The House by the Lake is particularly interesting on this topic), I hadn't realised quite how much down the route of Big Brother they had gone. Really, really scary. By focusing on just a few individuals, I think Funder said a whole lot more than many/most broader histories could have done, and, of course, made it a whole lot more personal. BTW, I thoroughly recommend the Harding book - one of the best histories I've read in the past few years: another book successfully telling a broader history through the intensely personal.
  12. Finished Stasiland by Anna Funder. Eye-opening, and very moving in places, concentrating very much on the personal experience rather than the overall picture, although effectively illustrating the latter. 4, possibly 5, stars out of 6.
  13. Your Book Activity - July 2019

    Just finished Mrs Moreau's Warbler by Stephen Moss, a look at the etymology of bird names. Fascinating stuff, that ties into the histories of both ornithology and the English language. Very readable. 4/6 stars.
  14. Willoyd's Reading 2019

    Given all that, I suspect it's actually about making money rather than any real health promotion. Shows they have absolutely no understanding of true health issues, if that's their response to your son's needs. I wonder if they are actually guilty of discrimination. Salt tablets are available through amazon etc. Look for sports electrolyte or rehydrating tablets with a high sodium content.
  15. Willoyd's Reading 2019

    Speak for yourself - I've just completed my longest ever bike ride! But you are right, the single biggest cause of middle-age weight gain is reduced activity. It's here because it stems from reviews of a couple of books I read on the subject; I'm just delighted that a book topic can provoke a discussion. It would certainly be a good subject for the debating thread, but I've not any problems with it here for the moment as long as nobody else has either. But if admin would like it moving, fine with that too.