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Brian's Book Log - Ongoing

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On 6/20/2019 at 11:45 AM, Athena said:

Your shelves look really nice :D!!

 

Thanks Gaia. I used to have books literally stacked everywhere a few years ago but I had a massive cull of anything I had read. Recently I have been collecting Folio or fine press editions of the books I really loved to keep forever, they are the ones on the top shelf.

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It's been a good week for me reading wise and I have read 3 books and abandoned 1 (although I am counting as read because I gave it a good stab. I popped into the library and after a bit of a nose round I picked up a Teach Yourself book called Write A Novel (4/5). I'm not a writer, far from it in fact, but I am always interested in how a novel is crafted and this book gave a really good basic insight into the stages and different approaches to writing a novel. It may inspire me to give some short stories a go, we'll see. At the same time I started to read my copy of Cocaine Nights (4/5) by JG Ballard that I bought a while ago and has been sitting on the bookcase ever since. I read, and loved Empire of the Sun in 2014 and gave Crash a go a few years back but didn't get on with it so put it down after an hour and I'm yet to go back to it. I really liked Cocaine Nights, especially as I had no idea what it was about going into it. I like a lot of what Ballard has to say both in the book and in his interviews so I may have to give Crash another go soon.

 

Yesterday was fairly quiet at work so I managed to read one of my BCF prizes, The Fox (3/5) by Frederick Forsyth. After Milkman (more on that soon) it was just what I needed to get me going again. Very easy reading with a fast moving plot which was interesting even if it was fairly far fetched. I do have a few bones to pick with it, especially the way the Luke Jennings situation came to it's conclusion at the end but it entertained me nonetheless. Now finally onto Milkman (1/5) by Anna Burns. I bought this as it popped up in my recommendations on Amazon. I read the blurb and it sounded like the sort of thing that would keep me interested. It had also won the Man Booker prize so I thought that was another positive sign. I generally don't pay much heed to prizes but there is no doubt that some prize winning books are superb so I didn't think I could go far wrong. Well, I managed to stick with it for a few hours before throwing it across the room (figuratively, I wouldn't actually throw a book, not even Tess of the D'Urbervilles). The style just killed the book for me and I couldn't get on with it at all. Stream of consciousness isn't my bag but I can usually adapt to it as I read but in this case it was too much for me. The story seemed to really trudge along at a painfully slow pace and none of the characters have names, very annoying.

 

If anyone wants Milkman or Cocaine Nights, let me know and I'll happily send them to you free of charge.

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Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy Milkman. Interestingly I find stream of consciousness novels difficult to get on with as well but loved Milkman.

 

What did you think of the overall plot and how the story dealt with The Troubles?

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7 hours ago, Angury said:

Sorry to hear you didn't enjoy Milkman. Interestingly I find stream of consciousness novels difficult to get on with as well but loved Milkman.

 

What did you think of the overall plot and how the story dealt with The Troubles?

 

I didn't finish it so I can't speak on the plot as a whole but what I did read story-wise was the sort of thing I really like. I always really get into book which have a basis in some historic passage of time especially when it is recent enough that I have a grasp of what happened. 

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I second Athena's point on the nice bookshelves! That Dracula spine is very nice, what edition is that? Also (just reminded me, seeing all the folio editions!) have you seen the folio society sale? There are some really beautiful ones half price.

 

It's a shame you didn't like Milkman, it does seem to be a very 'love it or hate it' kind of book. Glad you liked The Fox though!

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16 hours ago, Hayley said:

I second Athena's point on the nice bookshelves! That Dracula spine is very nice, what edition is that? Also (just reminded me, seeing all the folio editions!) have you seen the folio society sale? There are some really beautiful ones half price.

 

It's a shame you didn't like Milkman, it does seem to be a very 'love it or hate it' kind of book. Glad you liked The Fox though!

 

The Dracula is a Barnes and Noble leatherbound classic collection edition. Originally I was after a Folio one but they don't do one at the moment. I did notice the other day that Amaranthine Books have just launched 2 limited editions of Dracula which look absolutely stunning but they are really expensive. I have seen the Folio sale and they keep tempting me with emails but there isn't anything in the sale that I am wanting to buy urgently. I do need to buy the next in the Bond series but I might wait until they print the next one as well to save a bit on postage.

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Just looked up the Amaranthine edition, that is really something special, you can see why it's so expensive. I love the quote inside the slipcase and the fact that it's a limited run of 666 copies :giggle2:

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Over the last 10 days or so I have finished another 2 books, bringing my total for the year to date to 23. First up was The Templars (4/5) by Dan Jones. I started this book back in May and despite enjoying what I read it got sidetracked for other books. It is an account on the rise and fall the the Templars. The book is really well researched and written with loads of footnotes and sources. I really enjoyed reading this one.

 

Last week I had half an hour to burn in town before an appointment so popped into the library and picked up The Outsider (4/5) by Albert Camus. I can’t really put my finger on why, but I did enjoy this one and it helped that its only just over 100 pages long. I thought I had previously read another book by Camus but a quick check of Goodreads shows that this is not the case so I will have to remedy that soon.

 

Up next for me is a forum favourite, Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch.

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Time for another update.

 

The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (4/5)

I bought this at the start of the month based entirely on the fact that I kept seeing it get favourable reviews on BCF. I purposely avoided reading the synopsis so went in completely clueless and wasn't even aware of the genre the book falls into. As it turned out, it's a fantasy novel set in London with the story revolving around a policeman who sees a ghost during an investigation. This isn't the sort of book I would probably read out of choice but I am so glad that I did. The only other fantasy book I have read in the past that I can think of is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I also really liked that so maybe I should put more effort into searching out fantasy. Just remembered I've also read Game of Thrones.

 

Dare to Tri by Louise Minchin (2/5)

I picked this up on a whim at my local library while looking for a book on triathlon training. I've always fancied doing a triathlon, I run and ride on a semi-regular basis but my swimming is really poor in comparison so I was looking for some pointers. Anyway, those in the UK will probably recognise Louise from breakfast TV on the BBC. What you may not realise is that she has represented GB in her age group in triathlon. She went from occasional exerciser to international competition in the space of 18-24 months. So far, so good but here is where I got a little frustrated with the book. The blurb portrays is as a zero to hero story and while I do not want to take anything away from her achievements, this is misleading. For many years up until the age of 17 she swam competitively and looking at her swim times she has lost little of this ability over the years. Her run times also indicate that she must have been doing some recreational running before she decided to give triathlon a shot. Despite these grumbles it is a well written book and I found it interesting enough to finish in a day.

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (4/5)

For some reason I thought this was a book written in the 60's instead of the 90's, I'm not sure where that confusion comes from. The plot revolves around Charlie who is an awkward, shy, introvert who is starting out at college. It's a coming of age story full of the kind of issues faced by adolescents as they start their respective journeys into the wider world. I really enjoyed this one, again it was another book which I read very quickly. My one criticism is that the book tried to cover every issue you can think of into too short a novel (230 pages). As a result it doesn't really get into the depth of some of those issues. Charlie also comes across as a much younger age than his character is meant to be. I assume this is intentional by the author and I have even read some reviews saying that he is Autistic but I'm not sure where I sit on that theory. The 'big reveal' at the end of the book was a surprise to me and hit me like a hammer.

 

Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (3/5)

Originally published in 1939 this book tells the story of an attempted assassination gone wrong and the following escape an evasion. It is very much in the same mold as The 39 Steps by John Buchan but with a little more of a 'super spy' feel to it.

 

Storm Front by Rowland White (4/5)

This is a non-fiction book about the 1972 Battle of Mirbat and the two years leading up to it. White is well known for his non-fiction accounts of aviation history and although this book covers the RAF support of the battle it also does justice to the epic defence of Mirbat by a handful of soldiers. Like his other books it is superbly well written and researched and contains loads of really good colour photographs, some of which I hadn't seen before. I would recommend anyone with an interest in aviation and the first missions into space to check out his books.

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On 7/12/2019 at 10:23 AM, Brian. said:

Dare to Tri by Louise Minchin (2/5)

I picked this up on a whim at my local library while looking for a book on triathlon training. I've always fancied doing a triathlon, I run and ride on a semi-regular basis but my swimming is really poor in comparison so I was looking for some pointers. Anyway, those in the UK will probably recognise Louise from breakfast TV on the BBC. What you may not realise is that she has represented GB in her age group in triathlon. She went from occasional exerciser to international competition in the space of 18-24 months. So far, so good but here is where I got a little frustrated with the book. The blurb portrays is as a zero to hero story and while I do not want to take anything away from her achievements, this is misleading. For many years up until the age of 17 she swam competitively and looking at her swim times she has lost little of this ability over the years. Her run times also indicate that she must have been doing some recreational running before she decided to give triathlon a shot. Despite these grumbles it is a well written book and I found it interesting enough to finish in a day.

 

Nice review! You're right that it is misleading that they made it out to be a zero to hero story. Glad it was interesting enough to read it.

 

On 7/12/2019 at 10:23 AM, Brian. said:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (4/5)

For some reason I thought this was a book written in the 60's instead of the 90's, I'm not sure where that confusion comes from. The plot revolves around Charlie who is an awkward, shy, introvert who is starting out at college. It's a coming of age story full of the kind of issues faced by adolescents as they start their respective journeys into the wider world. I really enjoyed this one, again it was another book which I read very quickly. My one criticism is that the book tried to cover every issue you can think of into too short a novel (230 pages). As a result it doesn't really get into the depth of some of those issues. Charlie also comes across as a much younger age than his character is meant to be. I assume this is intentional by the author and I have even read some reviews saying that he is Autistic but I'm not sure where I sit on that theory. The 'big reveal' at the end of the book was a surprise to me and hit me like a hammer.

 

I didn't read him as autistic to be honest, and I don't think I particularly related to him back when I read the book. I'm not sure about that theory either to be honest.

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I have The Perks of Being A Wallflower on my pending list - and strangely I also thought it was older than it actually is. Glad that you enjoyed Rivers Of London, I love the series, and Gaiman's Neverwhere is a favourite of mine. 

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On ‎12‎/‎07‎/‎2019 at 9:23 AM, Brian. said:

The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (4/5)

I bought this at the start of the month based entirely on the fact that I kept seeing it get favourable reviews on BCF. I purposely avoided reading the synopsis so went in completely clueless and wasn't even aware of the genre the book falls into. As it turned out, it's a fantasy novel set in London with the story revolving around a policeman who sees a ghost during an investigation. This isn't the sort of book I would probably read out of choice but I am so glad that I did. The only other fantasy book I have read in the past that I can think of is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I also really liked that so maybe I should put more effort into searching out fantasy. Just remembered I've also read Game of Thrones.

 

Yay! Another convert!

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Update time.

 

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (4/5)

I read this book based off of an episode of the Rich Roll podcast featuring Cal Newport. I knew who Cal Newport is and have been really interested in his research and thoughts on focus and concentration. I've had one of his other books, Deep Work, on my TBR for a while but despite me feeling like I would benefit from reading it I still haven't got round to it. Too many books, not enough time, something I think we can all identify with. Anyway, the basis of this book is that we have far too many distractions to deal with in life as it is and this is made far worse by things like social media. Newport also explains that it's not really our fault that we become somewhat addicted to our phones and social media, they are engineered that way. He also delves into the importance of solitude and time spent thinking without distractions. All of this really makes sense to me and it was the final straw in me deleting all my social media. Most importantly I think is that he explains that social media isn't necessarily evil and you don't need to delete it but you should be careful to make it work for you and not the other way round.

 

A Border Station by Shane Connaughton (2/5)

I picked this up at the library because I liked the cover (yes I can be that shallow). The story follows a young boy and his family living and working at an isolated Garda station between Fermanagh and Cavan. The father is the local policeman and has to deal with a collection of petty crime. He is pretty negative towards the boy who wants nothing more than his father's approval. Things start to change for the family and this threatens the comfort of routine for the boy. I didn't really get on with this despite the glowing reviews it has. There is nothing wrong with it, it just didn't jive with me for some reason.

 

The Distant Echo (Karen Pirie 1) by Val McDermid (5/5)

On a freezing morning in the run up to Christmas four drunken students find the barely living body of a local woman. In the aftermath of the crime the four students are the prime suspects and despite being 'innocent until proven guilty' suspicion remains on them while the crime goes unsolved. Many years later a cold case review is opened up and we find out what has happened to the four students as the result of the suspicions cast on them for so long. This is a fantastic book and despite being fairly large I whizzed through it and just couldn't put it down, I loved everything about it. The build up is slow but because we good really good backstory for all the main characters is never feels slow. There are plenty of twists and turns and although I eventually worked out who was guilty it keep me guessing throughout.

 

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Digital Minimalism sounds interesting. I have mixed feelings about social media. It definitely has benefits for networking and keeping in touch with people you don't live near to, but it's also got a weirdly pressured side. I think it's even worse for younger generations too. Speaking to my niece makes me extremely glad social media wasn't a thing when I was at secondary school (apart from myspace but that was basically just decorate your own webpage :lol:). Using social media does make me really appreciate this forum though. It's nice to have an online space full of genuinely nice people who share your interests - I feel like that's what social media should be, but instead it's too often competitive and judgemental.

 

I'm adding The Distant Echo to my to-read list based on your review!

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@Hayley I  still have my copy of The Distant Echo on my "to the charity shop" shelf, I'm more than happy to send it to you if you would like it.

 

Since my last update I have finished the following.

 

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (3/5)

In the same way that Dracula showed me where all our modern ideas of vampire lore came from this was full of the things I typically thing of as pirate related. It's a shorter book than I thought it would be and was glad of that as the language was a bit hard going for me in a few places. I found it to be really well paced with the big plot points coming in just the right places to keep everything kicking along.

 

Colorless Tszukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (4/5)

After reading Norwegian Wood in 2012 I was left awestruck and decided that Murakami was my kind of writer. This opinion has largely remained undamaged and this book is another one along the same kind of lines. You know that in a Murakami book there will be some re-occurring themes of Jazz, characters who feel listless, and mysterious women. This book ticks all these boxes and while some parts of it were really good, I was left wanting more. Reading some of his earlier work I would regularly read passages and then have to pause because of how much they struck me. This book had some of these passages but at a much less frequent rate. It felt a little bit samey.

 

Sub by Danny Danziger (2/5)

A non-fiction book about life serving on a British nuclear submarine. The author spent some time on a submarine on active service and as well as his own personal thoughts, he shares the thoughts of the crew members and their families that he interviewed. It was a quick and interesting read but inevitably the interview answers all became fairly repetitive. I felt that the book could have been cut down by 50 pages and nothing of value would have been lost. Fun fact, anyone taking the submarine commanders course/test has to pass if they wish to continue to service on submarines. Fail and you are sent to the regular navy never to work on submarines again regardless of how much experience you have.

 

The Odessa File by Frederick Forsyth (4/5)

I flew through this in a few days, Forsyth really is a master at creating intrigue and tension in equal amounts. There are a lot of different strands which come together in the plot and I can only imagine how hard it must have been to make all these work properly.

 

Pietr the Latvian (Inspector Maigret #1) by Georges Simenon (3/5)

A random selection made at my local library brought about by the mention of a Latvian in the title. I hadn't heard of Simenon and had no idea he was such a prolific writer and one of some regard. I enjoyed this enough to make me want to read more of the books in the series. I really liked the fact that Maigret is a no nonsense kind of detective and relies on hard work and intuition to get the results he wants.

 

The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick (3/5)

I'm a fan of the movie but hadn't read the source material so it made sense to read this. The inspiration is there but like many movie adaptations, the book contains more substance. Like the best Sci-Fi this really gets the mind going but it did feel unfinished to me. I think to make the most of the great idea it needed fleshing out more, especially the characters but I guess that wasn't Dick's way of writing. Nonetheless it was an enjoyable read.

 

Pacific Vortex (Dirk Pitt #1) by Clive Cussler (2/5)

I have a large bunch of Dirk Pitt novels on my kindle, the only reason being is that I always see Cussler novels in charity bookshops so thought he must be doing something right. I had collected them with the plan to get round to them at some point. I will state from the start that the premise is ridiculous and Pitt is a ocean going James Bond with all the bad character traits of the 80's movies. Women are only there for his amusement and even if they are in the enemy camp they can't help but fall for him (feel familiar). Baddies always leave an avenue for escape when they have him trapped, and he is stronger and smarter than everyone else. Accepting that it's daft, I found it entertaining in a trashy way.

 

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles (3/5)

One of reviews on Goodreads from a member of BCF, Kell, remarks that "there is something quite pleasant about just sitting back and enjoying the ride as you glide from the first page to the last" and I don't think I can sum it up better than that. Not a huge amount happens by way of plot but you find yourself going along for the ride. All the of characters are strong, I found myself being drawn to all of them even if I didn't always understand their actions. Despite all this, it's not what Towles writes that will stay with me, it's how he writes. He's got that quality that I can't put my finger on but is just....pleasant I guess. I don't know how to describe it, it's just really good. I have another one of his books and I can see myself reading in very soon.

 

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33 minutes ago, Brian. said:

Colorless Tszukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (4/5)

After reading Norwegian Wood in 2012 I was left awestruck and decided that Murakami was my kind of writer. This opinion has largely remained undamaged and this book is another one along the same kind of lines. You know that in a Murakami book there will be some re-occurring themes of Jazz, characters who feel listless, and mysterious women. This book ticks all these boxes and while some parts of it were really good, I was left wanting more. Reading some of his earlier work I would regularly read passages and then have to pause because of how much they struck me. This book had some of these passages but at a much less frequent rate. It felt a little bit samey.

 

I remember enjoying this when I read it a few years ago.  Whilst I do like Murakami's more bizarre stories, it's good to read the occasional story that is a little more grounded!

 

33 minutes ago, Brian. said:

The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick (3/5)

I'm a fan of the movie but hadn't read the source material so it made sense to read this. The inspiration is there but like many movie adaptations, the book contains more substance. Like the best Sci-Fi this really gets the mind going but it did feel unfinished to me. I think to make the most of the great idea it needed fleshing out more, especially the characters but I guess that wasn't Dick's way of writing. Nonetheless it was an enjoyable read.

 

After trying several of his books, I've come to the conclusion that I don't like Dick. He had some excellent ideas, but he generally didn't round them out very well and I'm not a great fan of his writing style.

 

33 minutes ago, Brian. said:

Pacific Vortex (Dirk Pitt #1) by Clive Cussler (2/5)

I have a large bunch of Dirk Pitt novels on my kindle, the only reason being is that I always see Cussler novels in charity bookshops so thought he must be doing something right. I had collected them with the plan to get round to them at some point. I will state from the start that the premise is ridiculous and Pitt is a ocean going James Bond with all the bad character traits of the 80's movies. Women are only there for his amusement and even if they are in the enemy camp they can't help but fall for him (feel familiar). Baddies always leave an avenue for escape when they have him trapped, and he is stronger and smarter than everyone else. Accepting that it's daft, I found it entertaining in a trashy way.

 

The only Cussler book I've read - way back in the mid/late 80s - is Raise the Titanic, which is another of his earlier books and fits in with the above pattern.  

 

They did lead to the film Sahara, however, which is also entertaining in a fairly trashy way!

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On 05/08/2019 at 4:21 PM, Brian. said:

@Hayley I  still have my copy of The Distant Echo on my "to the charity shop" shelf, I'm more than happy to send it to you if you would like it.

Thank you, that would be great if you don't mind! :) 

 

Interesting review of The Minority Report. I haven't read the book or seen the film, but I know roughly what the story is about because it's such a 'cult classic' type thing, and I imagined that it would be really good! 

 

I read The Odessa File years ago and really enjoyed it. It was one of those books that I literally couldn't read fast enough. I'm glad you liked it too!

 

Treasure Island is a book I definitely want to try too. I had a version of it when I was younger that was mainly pictures and obviously the text wouldn't have been particularly close to the original, so it would be nice to read the 'real' one as an adult! 

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