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Brian.

Brian's Book Log - Ongoing

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2 more books read finished this week which brings my total for the year so far to 14. My reading mojo is higher than it has ever been so I plan to make the most of it while I can. The books finished last week were,

 

One Step Behind by Henning Mankell. Not much for me to say here as Mankell is steadily becoming my favourite writer and seems incapable of writing a bad book. Another very good book in the Wallander series and my only very minor gripe is that the medical angle is pushed a little too often.

 

The Colour Purple by Alice Walker. Another book on the '1001' list which regularly pops up in best of all time lists. I didn't realise until I started reading the book that the whole story is told through a series of letters. The story is very good but the style of writing using slang terms and spelling errors to create the pattern of speech desired grated me at times. I also found some of the asides didn't really add to the story but all in all a decent book.

 

This week I am planning to push ahead with War and Peace with the aim to have read 25% of the book by Sunday. The rest of the plan for the week is to read The Pyramid by Ismail Kadare and Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway.

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You've got a great pace going, keep it up! :smile2: I'm looking forward to your review of Farewell to Arms, I've not read it yet myself. 

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I have been quite busy since the last update so my pace has dropped off quite significantly :D

 

I read The Pyramid but if left no lasting impression on me so I don't have anything to say about it. I also failed to make any more progress with War and Peace but with the poor weather I plan to make up for that over the coming weekend. I did manage  A Farewell to Arms though and it has left me with some mixed emotions about it. The only other Hemingway I had read was The Old Man and the Sea which I remember really enjoying. The writing style in Arms was quite off putting at times and I felt it just didn't flow as I remember it did with Old Man (that could be my poor memory though). However the story was really interesting, especially as I know it is semi-autobiographical. Most of the characters were engaging but I did find the main female character to be fairly one-dimensional. I had difficulty believing the depth of the relationship that develops between her and Frederic, it felt unauthentic. The big thing that really worked for me and saved the book in my opinion is the ending. I came at me like a kick to the stomach and I was left in a reflective mood when I finished it. I rated the book 4/5 on Goodreads but had half stars been an option I would have given it 3.5

 

Next up for me is Stasi Child by David Young.

 

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Have a great reading year, Brian. I hope War & Peace goes well for you. It's one of those books that I vaguely intend to read, but it's just too intimidating to start. 

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How are you finding War and Peace, Brian? Like bobblybear, it is one of those books I feel I should read but... maybe a retirement project! :D

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Long time since my last post. War and Peace is going well and I'm only about 100 pages from finishing it. I had originally planned to read a chapter a day and at that rate it would have taken almost a year to finish so I'm pretty much 6 month ahead of schedule. The book started fairly slowly and the sheer amount of characters made it a little tricky to keep track of everything. However from about the halfway point it has all started to fall into place and I'm really enjoying it and will be sad when it's all over. The writing isn't hard to digest and the short chapters make dipping in and out easy. The experience has made me start thinking about the next 'big' book I want to read alongside my normal reading.

 

I'm off to Wales tonight for a few days and I should have it finished by the time I return so i will post up some more thoughts then.

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Good to hear you're enjoying War and Peace. I loved it, and have read it a couple of times now.  I think it's far more readable than it's bulk and provenance suggest, I was very pleasantly surprised to find, and you seem to be finding this too.  Hope you have a good time in Wales, and look forward to reading what else you have to say about it.

 

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Didn't manage to finish it while I was in Wales, in fact I didn't manage to do any reading at all while I was away :D. Too much hiking to do instead.

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We went to Snowdonia and stayed in a small village called Tregarth. The main reason we went was so that we could hike to the summit of Snowdon and complete the highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales. We managed that without any problem and also discovered just how much other great Hiking is available in the national park. I'm definitely heading back as I fell in love with the area while we were there.

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I finished War & Peace last week and I am still trying to process my feelings on it. I rated it as 4/5 but I feel there is so much more to the book that can't be reflected in a rating. I'm not going to do a big review as I just don't think I can, and besides, there are far more qualified people than me who have already done so. I will say that I preferred the parts of the book that were based around the military campaigns when compared to the scenes at home. That is not to say I didn't like the scenes at home I just thought the others were more engaging for me. I did also initially struggle to keep track of all the characters and which family they belonged to. I found a simplified family tree online and took to having it near me when I read the book in the early stages to help me. I found it very readable in the same was as I found The Death of Ivan Ilych and would urge anyone thinking of reading it to not be put off by thinking the prose is difficult. I could have done without the second epilogue and have to admit that it did drag along a bit. If you haven't read it and have been thinking about doing so, do it.

 

I have 2 books on the go at the moment. Flats & Quake by Rudolph Wurlitzer and  King Rat by James Clavell. I have noticed that the Asian Saga by Clavell is set in an order which is different to the publication order and that King Rat is actually book 4 despite being published first. I was going to stop reading King Rat and start with Shogun but given that Shogun is almost 1200 pages long I will stick with King Rat to see how I like his writing before investing my time in Shogun.

 

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Time for a big update as the forum is alive again. Although I haven't posted much in the last few years I did pop back on a regular basis to read book reviews etc. I had no idea how much I would miss the site until the closure was announced so I think it's only fair that I try and post regularly again. It is also my intention going forward to go back to the way I used to do reviews for all the books I read.

 

However by way of an update, here are the books I have read since my last post back in July. My reading has really picked up in the last 3 months and I've gone past my Goodreads target of 51 for the year.

 

What Does This Button Do? by Bruce Dickinson - 4/5

I am a big fan of Iron Maiden and although I probably would have liked a bit more about the band I really enjoyed the book. Bruce writes well about his life and especially his hobbies outside of music like flying and fencing.

 

King Rat by James Clavell - 5/5

Really enjoyed this book and devoured it in no time at all. I haven't read any of the other books in the series yet but I fully intended to.

 

The New Rulers of the World by John Pilger - 4/5

I don't recall much about this book apart from the writing style was easy to read and things were presented in an easy to understand manner. It also didn't strike me as conspiratorial.

 

Iron War by Matt Fitzgerald - 3/5

This book documents the 1989 Iron Man race in Hawaii culminating in the first 2 athletes finishing just 58 seconds apart. The two athletes, Dave Scott and Mark Allen had been long time rivals and what makes this book interesting is their polar opposite way of training and approaching Iron Man racing.

 

The Pyramid by Henning Mankell - 4/5

5 short Wallander stories which were entertaining and add a little more flesh to the Wallander legend. It can be read at anytime I guess but I like to read book series in order.

 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch - 5/5

A story about a scientist who discovers a way to access parallel universes and ends up in a fight for survival. Perhaps not the best written book in the world but one which I just couldn't put down.

 

Down the Yangtze by Paul Theroux - 3/5

A tiny book, only 64 pages long which I must have liked when I read it but I can't recall anything about it now.

 

Idiot Nation by Michael Moore - 3/5

Ditto above. Typical Moore stuff here, and interesting to see little has changed over the years.

 

Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz - 4/5

A bit of a Jason Bourne vibe but instead of fighting the government he takes on personal contracts. Good action if fairly unbelievable but entertaining none the less.

 

Murder by John Steinbeck - 3/5

A tiny book, 4 very short stories.

 

An Event in Autumn by Henning Mankell - 4/5

After many years thinking about it, Wallander finally buys a new house only to discover a body buried in the garden. Even though he shouldn't get involved he can't help but investigate it. I only have one Wallander book left to read and I will be sad to let this series come to an end.

 

The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. Hoffman - 5/5

Recommended to my by a member of staff in Waterstones as I was buying some other cold war based books. A fantastically well written account of a soviet scientist turned spy passing secrets to the west. What makes this especially complicated is that he works in Moscow, not far from KGB headquarters. The information he is passing is vast and very detailed so naturally the powers that be want more and more of it. How do you protect the man behind the secrets while at the same time get what you want?

 

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena - 2/5

A baby goes missing in while the parents are at a dinner party next door. Story evolves and it turns out everyone has secrets to hide. Ok read but nothing more.

 

Defectors by Joseph Kanon - 4/5

My second Joseph Kanon book as this year I have really been on a spy vibe. A former CIA agent gets invited to Moscow with the aim of getting a set of memoirs published. The memoirs belong to an old friend of his from the CIA who defected many years previously.

 

The Climb by G. Weston DeWalt & Anatoli Boukreev - 4/5

Many people are familiar with the story of the 1996 Everest deaths via 'Into Thin Air' by Jon Krakauer. In his book Krakauer lays a lot of the blame at the feet of Anatoli Boukreev. I've always felt this was unfair and 'The Climb' tells the story from Boukreev's point of view with interviews of some of the others involved as well. A really good book.

 

Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski - 3/5

An account of the author's various journeys into and across the soviet union as it was collapsing. A good enough read but a bit dry in places.

 

It's Only a Movie by Mark Kermode - 4/5

I am a member of the church of Wittertainment and this book is full of stories of Kermode's life growing up and his love of movies.

 

Ugly Americans by Ben Mezrich - 4/5

American bankers trading in Japan and the sheer hedonism that the lifestyle entailed. Nothing of great value here but a quick read with plenty of action.

 

A Very Expensive Poison by Luke Harding - 5/5

Harding does not like Putin and the feeling is mutual. In this book he looks into the poisoning of Alexander Litvenenko in 2006. A timely read as the Salisbury poisonings were in the news at the time. Loads of details and interviews in this book including how authorities can trace where particular poisons and nerve agents come from.

 

Hagseed by Margaret Atwood - 4/5

This one really surprised me as it is a re-telling of 'The Tempest' by Shakespeare. I was forced to read Shakespeare at school so that has left me scarred but this was really fun.

 

Iron, Potassium, Nickel by Primo Levi - 3/5.

3 short stories about Levi's training as a chemist in wartime Italy with the antisemitism around at the time. Nothing about this really sticks in my mind.

 

How to Tame Technology and Get Your Life Back by Kevin Duncan -2/5

I often feel I spend too much time on my phone. Nothing new in this book, it was ok but nothing more.

 

Arnhem by Lloyd Clark - 4/5

I tried to read this a few years ago but for whatever reason I just couldn't get into it. This time there were no such problems. Very detailed account of operation Market Garden and Varsity Plunder.

 

Stranger on a Bridge by James B. Donovan - 4/5

Reissued after the Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance movie Bridge of Spies. A great book discussing the legal approach taken by Donovan and his team during the trial of Colonel Abel. It also goes into the steps taken during the prisoner transfer which saw the swap of captured agents.

 

How to be a Stoic by Massimo Pigliucci - 4/5

A series of thought experiments and 'discussions' with Epictetus to explore how Stoicism can be used in the modern world. I really liked this book and it taught a lot of the basics about Stoicism without getting caught up in too much jargon.

 

The Power by Naomi Alderman - 3/5

People either seem to love or hate this book. I lie somewhere in between. The concept is great and I liked a lot of the issues dealt with in the book but it still felt like an opportunity missed to me. The characters were weak and the plot was a bit all over the place.

 

Stillness & Speed by Dennis Bergkamp & David Winner - 2/5

Ok book but fairly standard footballer fare.

 

The Aquariums of Pyongyang by Kang Chol-Hwan - 3/5

The true story of a family with good standing in North Korea lost their standing and were forced into a labour camp. Kang Chol-Hwan eventually managed to escape to south and tell his story.

 

Fatale by Jean-Patrick Manchette - 5/5

I've had this on my wishlist for going on 10 years but I don't know why or where I heard about it. It's the story of a female assassin, think of La Femme Nikita. Fantastically well written, this is one I will keep and re-read in the future.

 

They All Fall Down by Tammy Cohen - 4/5

Hannah is in a psychiatric unit for reasons we are yet to discover. Patients are dying and Hannah thinks there is a killer in the unit. Far fetched but entertaining with enough twists and turns to keep things relatively interesting.

 

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan - 4/5

Apparently now a Netflix film. I found this book abandoned on a plane and didn't know what to expect. What I got was a tale set in the 1940's on the Mississippi Delta about the scars left by war and a society who are mired in racism.

 

Dracula by Bram Stoker - 5/5

Halloween was coming up so it felt appropriate to read this after having it on my TBR for years. I loved it and it's amazing to see where all the vampire tropes we know so well came from. This is another book I will keep and reread again in the future.

 

Who is Mr Satoshi? by Jonathan Lee - 2/5

A depressed photographer is left to sort out the things left over when his mother passes away. Among her possessions is a package for Mr Satoshi who he learns is a British guy who his mother loved when she was very young. Eventually he finds himself in Japan trying to locate Mr Satoshi and deliver the parcel. It was OK but not great.

 

Callsign Hades by Patrick Bury - 4/5

Non-fiction book about Bury's time serving as part of a Ranger company in Afghanistan. What made this book stand out to me is the emotion that comes through in the writing. Bury talks a lot about the change him and others go through from thinking they are doing the right thing to thinking that what they are doing is pointless. He also talks about the growing hostility he started to feel towards the normal citizens and how uncomfortable this made him feel.

 

Gravity by Tess Gerritsen - 4/5

Dr Emma Watson is sent on a mission to the International Space Station to study life form and plant experiments in zero gravity. Inevitably things start to go wrong and the only person who feels he can save Watson is her estranged husband who she is in the process of divorcing. Really entertain book which has made me add a few more of Gerritsen's books to my wishlist.

 

Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know by Ranulph Fiennes - 3/5

The autobiography of one of Britain's most famous polar explorers. Fiennes talks about his successes as well as his failures and how being in survival situations really puts a strain on everyone. There is also a lot of tenderness about the love of his life, his wife Ginny.

 

Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgway - 1/5

Hawthorn and Child are policemen, partners, who are send to investigate a shooting where a man is adamant that he was shot by a phantom car. This book is a mess where the plot flips constantly, nothing makes sense and I was left feeling confused and unsatisfied. Some people seem to love it so maybe I'm just not intelligent enough to 'get it'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wow, your reading has been going well since July! Glad you got so many 4/5's and even multiple 5/5's.

 

I really like the sound of Hagseed but I feel like I might enjoy it more, or maybe appreciate it more, if I read The Tempest first. 

 

I also agree that Dracula is brilliant :)

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I'm not sure if reading The Tempest before would be a good thing or not as I haven't read it. The only Shakespeare I have read is A Midsummer Nights Dream and Macbeth, both of which I was made to read at school. I have been thinking of going back and rereading them to see if I feel any differently about them now that I am (supposedly) an adult.

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Oh, I misread your review, I thought you were made to read The Tempest at school! Well you enjoyed Hagseed without having read The Tempest then, so I think that's a good sign that I wouldn't really need to read The Tempest first.

I actually read the same two plays as you at school and I also sometimes think I should go back to Shakespeare as an adult, but there's so much more I want to read that I just never get round to it.

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This might be sacrilegious to say here, but I genuinely think it’s better to see Shakespeare performed rather than read - that’s what it was written for after all! Kenneth Branagh’s film and theatre adaptations are all excellent, and Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet was outstanding, so I’d recommend watching the films instead. :hide:

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You've read a huge amount of books, Brian! :D Well done! I'm most happy about you having read and loved Dracula! It was on my TBR list for a long time, too, but I thought I'd not get on with it at all... and was surprised how much I loved it! A definite 5/5 and a must re-read at some point :) 

 

 

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I was of a similar opinion to you, I didn't think I'd get into Dracula but once I started it I just couldn't put it down. I'm keeping my eyes open for a fine print edition of it to add to my collection now.

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1 hour ago, Brian. said:

I was of a similar opinion to you, I didn't think I'd get into Dracula but once I started it I just couldn't put it down. I'm keeping my eyes open for a fine print edition of it to add to my collection now.

 

I know you collect Folio Society - if you can find it, the FS Dracula edition is excellent.

 

I'd agree with @chesilbeachin saying that I much prefer Shakespeare performed - although it has to be a good performance (have suffered too many mediocre ones!). But when it is, the plays can be sublime. I've found that reading them afterwards is then far more pleasurable.  It's never worked the other way round for me.

Edited by willoyd

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25 minutes ago, willoyd said:

 

I know you collect Folio Society - if you can find it, the FS Dracula edition is excellent.

 

 

I discovered the FS edition online a few days ago but as it's out of print the price, even used is pretty high. I will keep my eyes out for one in a second hand book shop as buying second hand online it can be tricky judging the condition.

 

Looks like I will have to see some Shakespeare next year :)

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7 hours ago, Brian. said:

but as it's out of print the price, even used is pretty high.

 

I like the Everyman Classic editions too.  Not as pretty as the FS, but usually eminently readable and nicely handleable.  In fact in some instances, I've preferred it to the FS.  And cheaper!

 

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I have one Everyman Classic, The 1001 Arabian Nights but I never thought to see what their Dracula looks like. I like the look of the Penguin clothbound classic editions as well. Looks like I have some window shopping to do.

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I've now officially had my best ever year in terms of amount read. In 2013 I finished the year with 79 books reads (22280 pages) which has been my highest until last night. Even though I am only at 66 books, I have read 22369 pages and we still have about 6 weeks of the year left to go.

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