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Willoyd's Reading 2017


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#61 ian

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Posted 22 February 2017 - 12:56 PM

Your review of Two Brothers made me laugh - I've read a few of his books and found them very hit or miss; mostly miss. I probably gave him more chances than I would most writers, as I was s fan of his comedy back when he was a stand-up, so I felt I owed it to him. The final straw for me was Blind Faith, which seemed not content with making a point, but hammering it home continuously. I've not bothered with any of his since, and on the strength of your review, I won't be bothering with this either



#62 willoyd

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Posted 22 February 2017 - 06:37 PM

Yes, I've read a couple before, and the earlier ones were better. Way back, I think I quite enjoyed Gridlock, but didn't think much of The First Casualty (didn't finish that either).



#63 More reading time required

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Posted 23 February 2017 - 12:47 PM

Visited library earlier today, and my next reading group choice had arrived Two Brothers by Ben Elton.  They warned me that it was already reserved, so I decided to get going on it this afternoon, in spite of being in the middle of Lorna Doone.

 

OMG!  It was AWFUL!!  Where was his editor?  The worst bit was the dialogue which was horrendously stilted and out of time, but the rest of the writing was little better, full of crude exposition (more tell not show!), clunky description, ("The sky that lowered over the young couple as they stepped out on to the icy pavement was so dark and so grey that it might have been forged from iron in the furnaces of the famous Krupps foundry in Essen and then bolted above Berlin with rivets of steel" - and that's on the second page!), cliches, and a desperate desire to TEACH us the history (it seems that Elton's incessant on-stage shouting has carried over to his writing).

 

To cut a long story short (I can use cliches too, and this is not worth a long diatribe!), I lasted about 50 pages (and that took several deep breaths), realised that I was barely a tenth into what was rapidly becoming a major exercise in reading self-flagellation, and gave up.  Much as I'm committed to my reading group, I just couldn't read any more of this unutterable drivel, especially when I consider how much great reading there is out there still to be read.  What I do have, though, is a significant contender for the Duffer of the Year award - it's certainly worse than anything I read last year.  I think the last time I felt this rude about a book was when somebody chose James Herbert's Ash for our group back in 2012.  At least whoever has reserved Two Brothers after me will be getting it a bit earlier than they might have anticipated.

 

Anyway, back to Lorna Doone (he says with a sigh of relief, as soft as the gentle on-shore breezes formed of an evening by the rising thermals of the famous Sahara desert in Africa, cooling the land that had spent all its daylight hours roasting in the full glare of a sun forged in the white heat of the creation of the Universe - or some such! ).  

 

I remember quite liking it. :D :blush:  Having said that, I probably skimmed through it quite quickly and didn't take note of the dialogue, just the storyline itself, which kept me entertained. However, a much better recent one of his is Time & Time Again. I really loved the concept of that one.



#64 ian

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Posted 23 February 2017 - 12:50 PM

That's the most annoying thing - the concept of the books are great - it's the execution that (for me) let them down.



#65 willoyd

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Posted 03 March 2017 - 06:02 PM

Lorna Doone by RD Blackmore ****
 
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 unknonw), 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.


#66 willoyd

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Posted 08 March 2017 - 06:42 AM

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler ****
 
It is December 1941, in the days immediately after Pearl Harbour. A small group of young women come bursting through the door of Anton's Grocery Store, seeking first aid for one of them, Pauline, who has foolishly jumped off a moving tram and hurt herself. The son of the owner, Michael, leaps to their assistance, and it is immediately obvious that this is a case of love at first sight. The rest of the novel is the story of their relationship through the twentieth century, landing up eventually in the early noughties.

The book has an interesting structure: each chapter a snapshot of a particular incident or significant period in their lives, with the only continuity provided by contextual information, an age, date or anniversary provided at some stage, perhaps a comment that "we've been married X years." Otherwise the reader is left to work things out for themselves how it fits together - it's not difficult and, for me, added to the interest (others would find this intensely frustrating I'm sure!). It does mean that some bombshells just happen to get dropped into the narrative at some points, which can be quite unnerving, but even that sort of works for me - Tyler is good at incorporating this without the reader feeling that this simply exposition.

This is my first experience of Anne Tyler's work and, whilst it's been more critically received than some of her other novels, I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a story of the meeting of two opposites, and the consequences of that. The Anton family (it's no secret that Michael and Pauline marry - that's the title!) is, largely as a result of this disparity, rather dysfunctional, and you do get the feeling that things often work out in spite of rather than because of their efforts - and sometimes they don't work out! It is basically a character study, but a study of the character of a relatioship rather than of one individual.

Tyler has a thoroughly readable style - there's almost a feel of a modern-day, American, Austen about her. Her language is never complex, but clear and precise, with none of the starkness of leaner writers. I'm not sure I particularly liked either Michael or Pauline (and cerainly not their children), but one still cared for them - they are all humans, making the best of what they have, or at least trying to. This may be my first experience of Anne Tyler, but I am it's not my last - she's definitely a writer I want to explore a bit more.

Edited by willoyd, 08 March 2017 - 06:43 AM.


#67 chesilbeach

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Posted 08 March 2017 - 05:30 PM

Interesting to read your review of the Anne Tyler book, as my reading group read A Spool of Blue Thread last year but I missed the previous meeting and hadn't picked up the book so I didn't read it myself, however in the discussion, most people were lukewarm about it at best, with some who didn't even want to finish the book.  I've often picked up her books in the bookshop, but I've always ended up putting them down.  I realise that I'm quite often the lone voice for enjoying a book from the group (and vice versa at times!) so I haven't let it put me off, but I might wait to see what else you read by her and see if there's a good book to start with. :)



#68 willoyd

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Posted 08 March 2017 - 10:49 PM

Interesting to read your review of the Anne Tyler book, as my reading group read A Spool of Blue Thread last year but I missed the previous meeting and hadn't picked up the book so I didn't read it myself, however in the discussion, most people were lukewarm about it at best, with some who didn't even want to finish the book.  I've often picked up her books in the bookshop, but I've always ended up putting them down.  I realise that I'm quite often the lone voice for enjoying a book from the group (and vice versa at times!) so I haven't let it put me off, but I might wait to see what else you read by her and see if there's a good book to start with. :)

 

I've got Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant as the book for Maryland in my US States Challenge.  However, I'm not really going to get going on that until I've finished the English Counties list, and there's still four big ones to go on that!  Having said that, I'm not really sure why I've put off starting the US list, other than I don't want to get diverted, which is awfully easy for me. I also have A Spool of Blue Thread on my Kindle, so there's no real excuse!


Edited by willoyd, 08 March 2017 - 10:51 PM.


#69 willoyd

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 08:09 PM

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon ****
 
Fairly slim sequel to The Shadow of the Wind. In it we learn more about Fermin's background, with a fair fraction of the book set in the Montjuic Castle prison. There's a strong streak of humour in these books, but they are just as equally black, and Zafon doesn't pull any punches as to the horrors committed in the Spanish Civil War.

Much of the writing is up to the standards of The Shadow of the Winds, but the quality of mystery, whilst interesting, doesn't quite reach the same heights, not surprising really given that the book is barely half Shadow's length - there just isn't the room given Zafon's discursive style to fully develop the complexity achieved in the earlier book. I do actually wonder about the position of Prisoner in the series - is it just set up to maintain continuity between Shadow and the prospective final novel, a bit like The Two Towers and The Order of the Phoenix felt to be primarily books setting up the final volumes of the Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter sequence respectively. Equally, there is a slightly unfinished feel to Prisoner - too many obvious loose ends.

Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed this: unlike The Angel's Game it wasn't bogged down in implied magic, staying firmly on the 'real' side of the fence, whilst there was more than enough in terms of the quality of writing and questions posed by the narrative to keep me reading through to the absolute end. Indeed, I'm really looking forward to the next volume, due to be published in English some time in 2018. In the meantime, this is a worthwhile sequel to read as a follow-up to The Shadow of the Wind. Just don't expect too many questions to be answered just yet.


 



#70 Janet

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Posted 20 March 2017 - 10:11 PM

Sounds like a female version of Josephine Tey's Brat Farrar.

I have Josephine Tey on my list of authors to try (specifically I've been looking at The Daughter of Time after studying Richard III in English Lit A Level as a mature student), but Brat Farrar sounds good too.  :)

I've copied the above from the thread where I was searching for a book in case you didn't see my reply.  I found the book, but I don't think it's something I will read, however after I posted my reply about wanting to read a Josephine Tey, I looked on Audible and Brat Farrar is narrated by Carole Boyd - who did such a great job with South Riding, so I might give it a try.  :)  Thanks.



#71 willoyd

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Posted 21 March 2017 - 09:34 AM

I've copied the above from the thread where I was searching for a book in case you didn't see my reply.  I found the book, but I don't think it's something I will read, however after I posted my reply about wanting to read a Josephine Tey, I looked on Audible and Brat Farrar is narrated by Carole Boyd - who did such a great job with South Riding, so I might give it a try.  :)  Thanks.

 

Glad you sorted that one out - I know how frustrating that sort of question can be! Thanks you for reposting here - I may well have missed it, as that is a part of the website I don't go to that often. I do agree about Carol Boyd - she's one of my favourite audiobook readers.  I just wish she'd done a bit more of the sort of book I read.  Her reading of South Riding was superb, and kept me gripped throughout.



#72 Janet

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Posted 22 March 2017 - 06:03 PM

I had a look to see what else she'd narrated after finishing South Riding, but when I clicked on Classics they were nearly all abridged, and she also does a lot of Josephine Cox, which are really not my type of book!






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