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Lily's Library

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February

 

Loving it

 

One Night In Winter

by Simon Sebag Montifiore

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00CBVSVAM/ref=oh_aui_d_detailpage_o03_?ie=UTF8&psc=1

This is a fascinating exploration of paranoia set in Stalinist Russia. In keeping with the ‘Russian novel’ form there are more characters than you can shake a stick at, but they’re all intricately intertwined. As the plot unfolds you uncover their secrets, some so innocent you can’t imagine they could do harm, and yet at a time when it was deemed better to kill a hundred innocent men than to let one guilty one go free, the more guileless a secret appears the more suspicious become the authorities.

 

The style of the writing is a little sparse for my taste, but it suits the book, and allows the drama to effortlessly unfold.

 

Hating it

 

The Water Theatre

by Lyndsay Clarke

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Water-Theatre-Lindsay-Clarke-ebook/dp/B004XCDJ54/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488623041&sr=8-1&keywords=the+water+theatre

I adored Clarke’s, Chymical Wedding, and would strongly recommend it to anyone who loves beautiful prose. Her prose is so lyrical in fact that I would have sworn that I could adore reading it devoid of content.

Alas, not so. The Water Theatre bored me stupid. It spans countries, times and relationships, but try as I might, I found myself simply not caring. The plot moves at a snail’s pace, and I don’t think I can sum it up better than to agree with one Amazon reviewer, who said it felt like dragging yourself through a set work for an exam.

Sorry, Lyndsay, I haven’t given up on you yet.

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March

 

Loving it

 

A Big Love of Small Proportion

by Colin Falconer

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Proportion-Classic-Horistical-Falconer-2016-05-10/dp/B01K3GJNRG/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1491170590&sr=1-12

I loved this book. At last a historical novel that doesn’t slavishly follow the stereotypes (war for boys/romance for girls).

The setting is in Spain in the late 1400s near the end of the Inquisition during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, and is based on the dwarf painter, Vasquez.

Falconer is a master when it comes to characterization. His men and women are poignant without sentimentality, and his prose style races along and drags the reader with it.

Well worth a go if you don’t know this author. I couldn’t put it down.

 

Hating it

 

Wasp: or A Very Sweet Power Kindle Edition

by Ian Garbutt

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wasp-Sweet-Power-Ian-Garbutt-ebook/dp/B00TNTA98W/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492630627&sr=1-1&keywords=wasp+or+a

It’s unfair to say I hated this novel. Really it had a lot of potential. Set in a Victorian brothel, the material starts of worthy of HBO. The unfortunate thing appears to be that the man, who was writing it, seemed to need to prove his feminist credentials. The book gets mired down in the oppression of women and loses the power of its own eroticism. Far better to read Sarah Waters, who manages to combine grittiness with pathos and manages to keep the rollicking bawdiness of her setting.

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April

 

Loving it

 

Science for Heretics

by Barrie Condon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Science-Heretics-much-science-wrong-ebook/dp/B01HGDWKKQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1494445276&sr=1-1&keywords=science+for+heretics

Thought I would review a nonfiction for a change. I’m not a massive reader of this sort of book. It was passed on by a friend truth be told, and I didn’t expect to enjoy it. I usually find books by physicists purporting to be for the common man are exactly not aimed at anyone with less than a PhD in quantum theory.

Condon’s work is quite different. To steal the heading from an Amazon review, it’s science, but not as we know it. Condon isn’t arguing that scepticism is good in the scientific process; he’s arguing that it’s impossible. Why? Because there is just too much science we simply can’t know. He goes through the gamut of scientific research and demolishes everything you imagine you thought. In Condon’s world 2+2 don’t necessarily make four. Scary, but a must read for those who like to question why.

 

Hating it

 

Time and Again

by Ben Elton

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Time-Again-Ben-Elton-ebook/dp/B00M76WJHC/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1494446460&sr=1-1&keywords=ben+elton

 

Normally I love Elton’s work. He’s not afraid to tackle hard subjects, and his wit generally makes up for any roughness in his prose. So, I was looking forward to reading a book that promised time-travel, history and mystery in the blurb.

But it wasn’t long before I became bogged down in a story that seemed about as fast as set treacle (with none of the yummy sugary taste). Apart from the slow pace, the prose was incredibly preachy. Ben Elton’s left wing views have been evident in other books, but never to the extent that they took over the narrative. To cut a long and frankly tedious story short without giving any spoilers, rich people are bad, using energy is bad, being happy with just enough to get by on good. Fair enough, but Elton is worth about three million and is hardly scraping the poverty line. It gives the book a smug air, which I hadn’t experienced reading his other work. Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid.

Edited by Lilliputian

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May

 

Loving it

 

The Night Ocean

By Paul La Farge

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01HNJIJYE/ref=oh_aui_d_detailpage_o08_?ie=UTF8&psc=1

If you’ve read any of my reviews, you’ll know by now that I hate books that follow a rigid stereotype, so I was pleased to come across this one when trawling Amazon.

It’s probably best if you’re a big Lovecraft fan if you want to get all the references. I am not, and I was still impressed. The plot winds tighter and tighter, with nothing being as it seems. The characters are strongly written and believable. If there’s a downside, it’s probably that there isn’t anyone to directly sympathize with, but the Machiavellian plot twist more than make up for it.

I’ve one other gripe, which is probably not the author’s fault, but the Kindle price is ridiculously high, and not quite justified by the quality of the book.

 

Hating it

 

Ragnarok

by  A S Byatt

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B005FWCOSO/ref=oh_aui_d_detailpage_o05_?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I’ve already said that I loved Possession, and I was keen to give this a chance. Perhaps I was a little biased as I’m not a great lover of the Norse myths, but I found this book painfully dull. I cannot believe making long lists of adjectives really makes for great writing. The story, such as it is, is smothered by the completely unnecessary retelling of the myths.

Throughout, the protagonist is referred to as ‘The Thin Child’. Perhaps the author should have also talked about ‘The Thin Plot’.

 

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August

 

Loving it

 

Foucalt’s Pendulum

By Eco Umberto

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Foucaults-Pendulum-Umberto-Eco-ebook/dp/B00MWT548U/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1504465629&sr=1-1&keywords=foucalt%27s+pendulum

Like the pendulum, I vacillated on whether to love or hate this book. It isn’t for the faint-hearted. The language in the first chapter is trying to reflect a mind on the brink of breakdown, and it mimics it so well that it can be exhausting to get through.

However, without giving too much away, the satire of conspiracy theorists is fascinating and well worth the effort. At times the many references, put in presumably to show that the author has done his homework, get a little wearing, but overall this is a clever book by a master writer. And a writer, who does not feel the need to revert to the same old formula with every book.

 

Hating it

 

The Signature of All Things

by  Elizabeth Gilbert

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Signature-All-Things-Elizabeth-Gilbert-ebook/dp/B00BXI0IHS/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

 

 I tried to love this book. I was lured in with promises of the ‘mysteries of evolution’, but instead found a dry fact-list on botany. Trying much too hard to be scholarly, while the story seems to take second rate to the endless botanical detail.

Edited by Lilliputian

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I have owned Foucault's Pendulum for probably close to 20 years but have always been too daunted by it's size and reputation to pick it up. After your review, I'm still not sure if I should read it anytime soon. :lol: Sounds a bit heavy going. :o

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On 9/15/2017 at 7:33 PM, bobblybear said:

I have owned Foucault's Pendulum for probably close to 20 years but have always been too daunted by it's size and reputation to pick it up. After your review, I'm still not sure if I should read it anytime soon. :lol: Sounds a bit heavy going. :o

It is worth a read, a bit like going to the gym. It hurts, but you feel better for you, and justifies the cream bun/mindless murder mystery you consume next. :) PS, love your username.

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Loving it

 

Celtika
By Robert Holstock
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Celtika-Book-1-Merlin-Codex-ebook/dp/B00P6TZFL4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1508097832&sr=1-1&keywords=celtika
I hadn’t read much Holstock since the superb Mythago Wood, and I came across Celtika almost by accident. Generally speaking, I’m not that fond of fantasy, but Holstock is a master when it comes to atmosphere.

The character of Merlin is superbly drawn, and the way he interweaves the plot with Celtic and Greek myths is beautifully evocative. Such a shame this talented author is no longer with us. He was one of a kind.

 

Hating it

 

The Memory of Trees
by Frances Cottam
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Memory-Trees-F-G-Cottam-ebook/product-reviews/B00EPOOK7G/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_hist_1?ie=UTF8&filterByStar=one_star&reviewerType=all_reviews#reviews-filter-bar
Unfortunately, I read this just after Celtika. Sad to say, it read very like a 101 in how not to do mystery and suspense. The premise of reviving an ancient forest suggested Holstock-esque mythic labyrinths of imagination. Instead, it read like a sixth form essay, which should have been marked, unoriginal and uninspiring. It also suffers from the tell not show fallacy, with the mystic elements ploddingly explained. Guess what, the progagonist looks just like an ancient knight, yawn. The billionaire has a beautiful daughter, sigh. You get the picture.
 

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I have to say I simply adore your reviews. They are concise, yet crystal clear. The vocabulary is rich, but not overly so. Most importantly: from your short reviews, it's very clear what sort of book to expect!

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Thank you so much for your lovely comment. After being unwell for a while, and indulging in a self-pity fest of epic proportions, it cheered me immensely.

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November

 

I am too ashamed of my tardiness to pretend in any way that this is October’s review.

 

Loving it

 

Simon’s Wife

By L.M. Affrossman

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Simons-Wife-L-M-Affrossman-ebook/dp/B0742CWYNH/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511024292&sr=1-1&keywords=affrossman

 I didn’t know much about this period of history, and rapidly discovered that the little I thought I knew was almost totally wrong. The plot covers the Jewish rebellion against Roman oppression in the decades after the death of Christ. The atmosphere is very evocative, and it’s easy to see how the events of this time inspired the writing of Revelations. The characters have an extraordinary life that I haven’t encountered since reading writers, such as Howard Fast. A fast-paced story from an author who clearly loves language. I hope there’s a sequel.

 

Hating it

 

Abraham: The First Historical Biography

by David Rosenberg

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Abraham-Historical-Biography-David-Rosenberg-ebook/dp/B06XD79MN4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1511039727&sr=8-1&keywords=abraham+the+first+historical

I loved the idea of this book, a scholarly attempt to create a biography of the founder of the three predominant religions on the planet. And, to be fair, it author does confess that he mixes imagination with his scholarship, making one wonder if he actually checked a dictionary for the definition of ‘scholarship’.

The book is full of ‘facts’, for which there are no attempts at justification or evidence. Personally, I found the idea of the ancient Mesopotamian scholar, from whom many of the ‘facts’ are gleaned, blithely presented as a woman, just a step too far in attempting a modern perspective of a Bronze Age milieu.

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