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#41 willoyd

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 09:02 AM

Finished the Northumberland book, The Stars Look Down and 38/48, this morning after an intense session to get it finished.  If it hadn't been a Challenge book, I'd have packed in hundreds of pages before the end, but kept plugging on.  Would have possibly been better at barely half the length. Can't say I feel rewarded, although, reading Amazon reviews and comments here, I'm probably in a minority of one. I won't be in a hurry to try any more Cronin novels though, and am not surprised he's largely out of print if this is a typical example, as there's a very dated feel to the writing.

Edited by willoyd, 26 August 2016 - 09:08 AM.


#42 Janet

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 07:36 PM

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it, but I can't say I'm surprised!



#43 willoyd

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 08:35 PM

I'm sorry you didn't enjoy it, but I can't say I'm surprised!

 

Do explain (I can take it :smile: !).  I was expecting to enjoy this, having quite fond memories of reading a couple of Cronin books in my teens (but can't even remember which ones).  It quite surprised me that I didn't get on with it at all.  (I'll have to consult you more often before reading a book!).


Edited by willoyd, 26 August 2016 - 08:37 PM.


#44 Janet

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Posted 28 August 2016 - 07:14 PM

Well, it was one of the few books I nominated for this challenge and I was nervous about suggesting it - and all the while I was reading it I was thinking that you would probably find it too 'Saga-like' and too long. I thought it was really good (4/5) and particularly the bit when the men were trapped was so well-written that I was on the edge of my seat as I read it. I thought it was also a really good representation of the county.

I loved The Pursuit of Love - it's been one of my favourite of the challenge books so far - I gave it 5/5 and you only 2.5, so when I read your thoughts on that it just cemented what I thought you'd think of the Cronin. However, I think there have been a few we've agreed on, so we aren't completely polar opposites.  :)

I hope that makes sense - my ability to post articulately seems to have gone out of the window.
 

(I'll have to consult you more often before reading a book!).

Maybe it's not meant to, but that comes across as flagrant sarcasm. I wouldn't dream of suggesting whether you should, or shouldn't, read a book - I know you well enough to know you are perfectly capable of making up your own mind.



#45 willoyd

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Posted 28 August 2016 - 11:13 PM

Maybe it's not meant to, but that comes across as flagrant sarcasm. I wouldn't dream of suggesting whether you should, or shouldn't, read a book - I know you well enough to know you are perfectly capable of making up your own mind.

 

OMG - absolutely not! I don't do sarcasm (what I say is what I mean, especially on-line; I do try irony occasionally - but it doesn't usually work!).  I meant that genuinely: you seem to be good at judging what books people would like and dislike from what we post here, and, if I recall correctly, have got it absolutely spot one with me on a number of occasions.  Anyway, saying whether you think someone would enjoy or not enjoy a book isn't, to me, saying whether  one should or shouldn't read it - it's just a prediction of what you think someone will feel about it. I quite enjoy comparing prediction to outcome!

 

I know this may sound odd in the circumstances, but I actually think The Stars Look Down was a good choice for the list.  It is, after all, one of the best known, if not THE best known book set in Northumberland, so it certainly earns its place, and, as I said, I'm in a very small minority of readers who hasn't liked it if reviews are anything to go by.  That's the whole point of a challenge isn't it?  To provide a range of books for people to tackle, to encourage us to read around and beyond what we would normally read, to broaden our horizons?.  I may not have enjoyed The Stars Look Down in the normal sense, but I'm very glad to have read it, even if I was even more glad to have finished it!  The more I read from this challenge, the more I think what a good idea it was and what a good range of reading it is providing.

 

The Pursuit of Love is a funny one.  I first read it a few years ago, and really enjoyed it, ranking it 4/6 (I then read Love in a Cold Climate and gave that 5/6).  I was really looking forward to rereading it for the challenge, and was quite surprised that at the end I had dropped it to 3/6.  That, however, is still a book I enjoyed, even if not unputdownable (I love Mitford's style, even if I was a bit more doubtful about the narrative).  On the scale I use, the 6 is an extension of 5, solely for the very few books that are even better than excellent, that actually rate as an all-time favourite having something that is personally a bit special, a bit like going from A to A*. Only just over 100 books have ever had a 6 from me.  So, a 3 on my scale would still rate 3 if I was rating it on Amazon.  (On LibraryThing, I list my 4 as a 3.5, my 5 as a 4, and my 6 as a 5). So, whilst it dipped, I still enjoyed Pursuit of Love a bit more than might seem at first glance.  It's a book I can totally see why someone would rate it at full marks (but then, I can see that of the Cronin too).


Edited by willoyd, 29 August 2016 - 09:30 AM.


#46 Janet

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Posted 29 August 2016 - 09:23 PM

OMG - absolutely not! I don't do sarcasm (what I say is what I mean, especially on-line; I do try irony occasionally - but it doesn't usually work!). I meant that genuinely: you seem to be good at judging what books people would like and dislike from what we post here, and, if I recall correctly, have got it absolutely spot one with me on a number of occasions. Anyway, saying whether you think someone would enjoy or not enjoy a book isn't, to me, saying whether one should or shouldn't read it - it's just a prediction of what you think someone will feel about it. I quite enjoy comparing prediction to outcome!


Thanks for the explanation and apologies for misconstruing your meaning. :) Sometimes it’s difficult to gauge what someone is trying to say – or conversely sometimes it's difficult to post something online to come across the way one means it to come across. There have definitely been occasions where someone has said they wouldn’t recommend a book where I’ve read it and gone on to enjoy it.  Life would be dull if we all liked exactly the same things.
 

I know this may sound odd in the circumstances, but I actually think The Stars Look Down was a good choice for the list. It is, after all, one of the best known, if not THE best known book set in Northumberland, so it certainly earns its place, and, as I said, I'm in a very small minority of readers who hasn't liked it if reviews are anything to go by. That's the whole point of a challenge isn't it? To provide a range of books for people to tackle, to encourage us to read around and beyond what we would normally read, to broaden our horizons?. I may not have enjoyed The Stars Look Down in the normal sense, but I'm very glad to have read it, even if I was even more glad to have finished it! The more I read from this challenge, the more I think what a good idea it was and what a good range of reading it is providing.


I have definitely read plenty of books doing this challenge that I wouldn’t have otherwise picked up. So far I have enjoyed nearly all of them very much, which is testament not only to the books, but also to the choices we made as a group. I very much doubt I’d have picked up South Riding (despite having enjoyed the BBC adaptation that was on a few years ago) and yet I think it’s possibly been my favourite of the books so far!
 

The Pursuit of Love is a funny one. I first read it a few years ago, and really enjoyed it, ranking it 4/6 (I then read Love in a Cold Climate and gave that 5/6). I was really looking forward to rereading it for the challenge, and was quite surprised that at the end I had dropped it to 3/6. That, however, is still a book I enjoyed, even if not unputdownable (I love Mitford's style, even if I was a bit more doubtful about the narrative). On the scale I use, the 6 is an extension of 5, solely for the very few books that are even better than excellent, that actually rate as an all-time favourite having something that is personally a bit special, a bit like going from A to A*. Only just over 100 books have ever had a 6 from me. So, a 3 on my scale would still rate 3 if I was rating it on Amazon. (On LibraryThing, I list my 4 as a 3.5, my 5 as a 4, and my 6 as a 5). So, whilst it dipped, I still enjoyed Pursuit of Love a bit more than might seem at first glance. It's a book I can totally see why someone would rate it at full marks (but then, I can see that of the Cronin too).


Ah, okay – I see what you mean. I find ranking the books very difficult and if it wasn’t for the fact that I rank them on Goodreads I might even adopt Kay’s method of just saying ‘I loved it’, ‘I hated it’… etc. Quite often I think I over-mark and by the time I come to write down my thoughts, I’ve often reduced the mark by half or even a whole mark.

I really am enjoying this challenge though – even if there are one or two books that I’m not looking forward to. :)



#47 willoyd

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Posted 29 August 2016 - 10:48 PM

I have definitely read plenty of books doing this challenge that I wouldn’t have otherwise picked up. So far I have enjoyed nearly all of them very much, which is testament not only to the books, but also to the choices we made as a group. I very much doubt I’d have picked up South Riding (despite having enjoyed the BBC adaptation that was on a few years ago) and yet I think it’s possibly been my favourite of the books so far!
 
I really am enjoying this challenge though – even if there are one or two books that I’m not looking forward to. :)


I'd agree with you both about the challenge as a whole, so many brilliant books, and about South Riding. Like you, I would probably never have picked it up, and yet it has proved to be an instant six star read. Of the books I've read for the first time doing this challenge, it's certainly vying for my favourite, challenged only perhaps by Far From The Madding Crowd and Howards End (which I read as an alternative to P&P, as I've read this so often that I wanted to tackle something else). Of the books I've previously read, I'd say my favourite is a toss-up between Middlemarch and Emma. But there's still a few to go.....!


Edited by willoyd, 29 August 2016 - 10:49 PM.


#48 willoyd

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 09:38 PM

Completed the Tyne and Wear novel, Another Place, today. Beautifully written, as are all Pat Barker's books, but never completely engaged me. Admire it?  Yes. respect it? Yes.  Love it? No. 3/6.


Edited by willoyd, 08 September 2016 - 09:39 PM.


#49 chesilbeach

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 04:03 PM

You must be almost finished with the challenge now!  I'm hoping to get to 36 by the end of September, but I have to admit, some of the books left for me are ones I'm more reluctant to read.  I have read one Pat Barker before for my reading group, but I've always assumed she's a war writer, and that puts me off a little bit.  I haven't looked up Another Place yet, so not sure what it's about, but if it is a war story, I wouldn't be surprised.  Maybe I'll bump it up my list and try and read it this month.



#50 Janet

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Posted 09 September 2016 - 05:38 PM

I finished Another World (not Place) yesterday too (we've been staying in Newcastle) - there is an element of war in it, Claire, but it's definitely not a war book. :) I gave it 3/5 as my initial reaction.

#51 willoyd

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Posted 17 September 2016 - 09:53 AM

You must be almost finished with the challenge now!  I'm hoping to get to 36 by the end of September, but I have to admit, some of the books left for me are ones I'm more reluctant to read. 

 

Sorry to take so long to reply - been snowed under with the start of the academic year and not been here very much if at all the last week or so.

 

I've read 39, so just 9 to go.  Most of those left are predominantly chunky classics, so will take some time to get through even though I'm looking forward to them (Mill on the Floss, Lorna Doone, Sons and Lovers, Tom Brown's Schooldays, Old Wives' Tale) - probably not ones to read one after the other.  I'm currently rereading Mansfield Park, which, whilst it's not my favourite Austen (in fact, it's my second least favourite, just in front of Northanger Abbey), is still an enjoyable read.  Swallows and Amazons  will be OK and a reasonably quick read, although I know it so well that it seems a bit pointless rereading other than for the challenge.  Otherwise the only reread will be Dracula (which I haven't read for sometime, so will almost be like a new read), and the only one I'm actually not looking forward to is Set in Stone

 

As Janet says, Another Place is definitely not a war story.  Not quite what I expected from the blurb either, which was a slight disappointment as that appealed.  Mainly a modern day story, looking at the various stresses and strains operating in a modern day family where the parents have both had previous marriages and children from those relationships.  A relatively straightforward read, but one that left me wondering slightly what was the point of it.  I'd agree with Janet's rating.


Edited by willoyd, 17 September 2016 - 09:59 AM.


#52 willoyd

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Posted 20 September 2016 - 03:48 PM

Finished Mansfield Park.  Struggled a little bit earlier on simply, I think, because I was reading in too small chunks.  As soon as I settled down to read it 'properly', I found myself loving it,it became near unputdownable, and I rattled through the last half.  Not my favourite by some way (that remains Sense and Sensibility, with Emma very close behind), but still better than the best that most authors achieve.



#53 willoyd

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 10:25 PM

I haven't updated this thread for a while now, but have, since the last update, finished two more volumes in the challenge:

Set in Stone - Robert Goddard (Rutland) ***
Dracula - Bram Stoker (North Yorkshire) ***

As can be seen from the gradings, neither really set my world alight, although they were perfectly decent reads. I didn't expect much more from the former, but was surprised at the latter, given that it was a reread and I remember rating it more highly last time round. This time, though, it rattled along well enough for the first two-thirds, but then seemed to stumble somewhat during the scenes in London, with far too much unnecessary dialogue and padding, before picking up pace again as it moved towards a suitably satisfying climax.

Having said that, it joins The Day of the Triffids in being, at least for me, the most questionable county books to date. At least there were some pages set in North Yorkshire (around thirty), but th county's presence was both brief and not particularly central to the novel. Another time, I'd opt for All Creatures Great and Small.

With these read, I've now completed 42 of the 48 books.

 



#54 willoyd

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 12:15 AM

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome ******
 

Book #43 in the challenge (review copied from book blog thread).

 

This series has long been the gold standard of my childhood reading, although I remembered this first one as being a wee bit episodic, preferring later books in the series, e.g. Winter Holiday, We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea, and Secret Water. Unlike some of the others, I don't think I've reread this one since my teenage years, so approached it with some trepidation as part of the English Counties challenge.

In the event, I needn't have worried, as I rapidly and effortlessly slipped back into a world that feels so real, but now bears little resemblance to modern life (our loss). Far from feeling too episodic, the plotline was clear and strong, with sub-plots neatly overlapping to create a strongly cohesive whole. Ransome's writing is never complex, but nor is it simplistic, whilst his characters, slightly hidebound on occasions by 1930s gender sterotyping, are realistic and individual. I particularly enjoyed some of his internal monologues where the characters and their youthful perceptions, certainties and uncertainties, came to the fore. It may seem somewhat incredible to some modern readers as to quite what the children get up to, but that's more a reflection on modern life than the reality of what could be achieved in earlier years - I certainly remember having similar freedoms. A rock solid 6 stars.



#55 willoyd

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 12:18 AM

Lorna Doone by RD Blackmore ****
 
Book #44 in the English Counties challenge.  (copied from my book blog thread)
 
Phew - that was a chunky one! I read this veritable tome as part of the English Counties Challenge (Somerset), and it certainly took its time. Written in the 1860s, Lorna Doone is an almost stereotypical Victorian adventure, written from the perspective of the main protagonist, yeoman farmer John Ridd. His family lives on the northern edge of Exmoor, the neighbourhood blighted by the outlaw Doones, robbing and plundering far and wide. He accidentally meets and falls in love with a child of the family, Lorna Doone, who, whilst a member of an outlaw family, is also way above him in social station, and the story develops into a classic tale of frustrated love and adventure at the time of the Monmouth rebellion.

I thoroughly enjoyed most of the book. It is mostly a reasonably easy read, if somewhat wordy and full of detail - a classic Victorian trait which I actually enjoy. However, on this occasion, I do have to admit that it does drag a bit in places and I found myself on several occasions getting slightly frustrated at yet another windy diversion from the main plot, or an unnecessarily complicated plot device that moves the story on, but in ever such a cumbersome manner. However, by the end, I felt really satisfied with having made the journey, and, unlike some, thought the ending a good one.

Lorna Doone has, apparently, never been out of print (unlike other RD Blackmore novels, which are virtually unknown), and was an American student favourite apparently. It's good, but it's not that good, and I can think of a dozen other Victorian novels that I would go back to before this one, but that's partly because of the quality of what there is available! I am certainly delighted to have read it, a book that I've always meant to get around to but never have (especially as my parents lived in the area for several years), and it's one of the most redolent books on the English Counties list when it comes to sense of place - Lorna Doone positively reeks of the moors of Somerset. A great choice for the list.

Edited by willoyd, 04 March 2017 - 08:47 AM.


#56 poppy

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 02:10 AM

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome ******
 

Book #43 in the challenge (review copied from book blog thread).

 

This series has long been the gold standard of my childhood reading, although I remembered this first one as being a wee bit episodic, preferring later books in the series, e.g. Winter Holiday, We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea, and Secret Water. Unlike some of the others, I don't think I've reread this one since my teenage years, so approached it with some trepidation as part of the English Counties challenge.

In the event, I needn't have worried, as I rapidly and effortlessly slipped back into a world that feels so real, but now bears little resemblance to modern life (our loss). Far from feeling too episodic, the plotline was clear and strong, with sub-plots neatly overlapping to create a strongly cohesive whole. Ransome's writing is never complex, but nor is it simplistic, whilst his characters, slightly hidebound on occasions by 1930s gender sterotyping, are realistic and individual. I particularly enjoyed some of his internal monologues where the characters and their youthful perceptions, certainties and uncertainties, came to the fore. It may seem somewhat incredible to some modern readers as to quite what the children get up to, but that's more a reflection on modern life than the reality of what could be achieved in earlier years - I certainly remember having similar freedoms. A rock solid 6 stars.

 

Thanks for that great review, Willoyd. Reminded me that it's a book I've always meant to read but had forgotten about.  Been mulling over what to read next, and this'll be just the ticket!  :)


Edited by poppy, 04 March 2017 - 02:13 AM.


#57 willoyd

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Posted 04 March 2017 - 08:46 AM

Thanks for that great review, Willoyd. Reminded me that it's a book I've always meant to read but had forgotten about.  Been mulling over what to read next, and this'll be just the ticket!  :)


Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.




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