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willoyd

Willoyd's Reading 2018

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Thanks for the link. You are right that looks like a far more diverse list than the more famous '1001 books' list. 

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15 hours ago, Brian. said:

Thanks for the link. You are right that looks like a far more diverse list than the more famous '1001 books' list. 

 

I've just noticed that a new, fifth, edition of 1001 Book You Must Read Before You Die is just out.  Will be interesting to see what updates there are.

Edited by willoyd

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Summary reviews of books since July

 

Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau *****

The book for Alabama on my Tour of the USA.  Involving read about the relationship between a white landowner and his black housekeeper as seen through the eyes of his daughter.  Interesting examination of southern US attitudes, and a good story to boot!

 

The Cellars of the Majestic by Georges Simenon ****

Classic Maigret with plenty of atmosphere.

 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou ***

A book that has received more than its fair share of rave reviews, and one chosen for my book group.  Not quite sure why it's so applauded, but an interesting enough narrative, well enough told, the author showing remarkably good memory of her early years.  After all that early detail, skims quickly through through early and mid to her later teenage years, culminating in the birth of her first child, and setting herself up for a further six volumes.  I doubt I'll be reading them though. Reasonably well received by the rest of the group, but raves thin on the ground.

 

The Comforters by Muriel Spark ***

A promising premise in the author's usual somewhat anarchic style, but whilst she develops a set of interesting characters, it all slightly fizzles out and never really explains the central conceit - and it needed explaining!  Strangely addictive though, as are most of her books.

 

WTF? by Robert Peston ****

Peston analyses the mess we're currently in, and it's the first time I really feel as if I understand some of the issues concerned, particularly the capital vs labour balance (or rather the lack of it in the UK).  For me at least, this was a real eye opener in places, although Peston too readily accepts our current economic framework which urgently requires a thorough overhaul if we are to tackle the environmental challenges ahead.

 

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh ******

October's read for one of my book groups.  I dimly remember the Jeremy Irons/Anthony Andrews TV version, but have never tackled the book after a couple of mediocre experiences of Waugh since (neither Scoop nor The Loved One did much for me).  This is a completely different ballgame though, being the story of the narrator's relationship through the inter-war years with an upper class Catholic family, focused initially on the teddybear-bearing Sebastian, and then on his sister.  Superbly evocative, carefully structured, interweaving a host of themes, funny, poignant and thoughtful in equal measure, this for me was a thoroughly beautiful read; unanimously agreed in the group as one of our best ever reads (and discussions).

 

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton ***

Thoroughly readable crime fiction in the mould of Raymond Chandler, with a dose of Sara Paretsky, if not quite achieving the same heights of either.  Some strong characterisation, although the plot was rather obvious.  Worth exploring further though as a series to see if it develops.

 

Slade House by David Mitchell ****

A reading group choice.  Half strong realism, half completely fantastic, it proved a gripping read for those in the group who weren't spooked (several were).  A book where I always wanted to see where it was going and often wanted to flip back to recognise the critical bits I'd missed.  Some great characters too, all of which led to a 2-sitting read.

 

True North by Martin Wainwright ***

A paean to the North of England, this was just a bit too biased, gushing and thin to convince.  A reasonable enough read, but tending towards the disappointing.

 

Field Notes from a Hidden City by Esther Woolfson ***

Pertaining to be a book on the natural history of Woolfson's hometown of Aberdeen, sadly, the one thing that this book was short of was much to do with being 'in the field'.  Indeed, the Hidden City seemed to consist largely of the author's own home, as the greatest coverage of animal life was on those that she kept. There were a couple of interesting sections on specific urban species, but otherwise this was more a personal diary and showed little insight into urban natural history beyond the obvious.  Another book that veered close to the disappointing.

 

My Antonia by Willa Cather *****

The book for Nebraska in my literary tour of the United States.  This is one that grew on me, even after finishing it.  Written in deceptively simple prose, it is the story of an immigrant Bohemian girl told through the eyes of a childhood friend of hers (a boy).  There were times when I wasn't wholly convinced of its depth, but gradually the importance of place in Antonia's whole being (and the picture of it that was created by the author) came home to me, and the quality of the writing continues to prove itself as the book lingers on well after finishing; I want to read more from Cather!  This is exactly the sort of book (and author) I started the tour to discover.

 

Cecile is Dead by Georges Simenon ****

A more conventionally plot driven story than normal, but no less a good read, as Simenon contines to keep the characters and atmosphere to the fore.

 

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell ****

An entertaining and fascinating insight into the day to day life of a secondhand bookseller.  Bookshop, staff and customers all come vividly to life and whilst Bythell can be somewhat acerbic at times (he has a misanthropic reputation to sustain after all), it usually seems to be with good reason, especially when the challenges of the online behemoths of the book trade are involved!

 

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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I'm glad you liked Brideshead Will, it's one of my all-time favourites (and the series is too!). I used to read Sue Grafton's alphabet series but found the later books weren't so good, sadly she died last year (I think) so I hope she got to finish the alphabet series.

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10 hours ago, Madeleine said:

I used to read Sue Grafton's alphabet series but found the later books weren't so good, sadly she died last year (I think) so I hope she got to finish the alphabet series.

 

Unfortunately, she didn't - Z is missing, and it will remain missing too, as she insisted in her will that nobody be given the rights to finish the series off.  I'm not surprised to hear that the later ones weren't quite up to early standards; she's not the only one to suffer, perhaps, from overlong series. Janet Evanovich and Patricia Cornwell, for instance, both sound to have struggled to keep their early high standards going.  It must be hard to keep things fresh.

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I loved Brideshead Revisted too, although it's the only Waugh I've read. The TV series I thought excellent. I've also seen the later film, but don't remember it well, even though it included first class actors like Michael Gambon and Emma Thompson.

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9 hours ago, willoyd said:

 

Unfortunately, she didn't - Z is missing, and it will remain missing too, as she insisted in her will that nobody be given the rights to finish the series off.  I'm not surprised to hear that the later ones weren't quite up to early standards; she's not the only one to suffer, perhaps, from overlong series. Janet Evanovich and Patricia Cornwell, for instance, both sound to have struggled to keep their early high standards going.  It must be hard to keep things fresh.

Yes I gave up on Cornwell after a while as her books were getting rather tedious and seemed to have a bit of a holier-than-thou aspect about them (maybe that was just me), I'm up to the teens in the Evanovich books and they're fine for a bit of light relief occasionally.

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C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton ***

This is the second in the Alphabet series of Kinsey Millhone that I've read, B is for Burglar taking longer to arrive from the library! It pretty much confirmed my thoughts after A is for Alibi: some strong characterisation, but an average, at best, plot.  In fact, I had worked out the murderer with at least a quarter of the book remaining (and I'm not skilled at this sort of thing!), whilst the denouement was almost a cliche it it was so predictable.  Best description I can think if is "pleasant reading", and I'll probably continue to read the series as they are an enjoyable way to while away train journeys and similar, but I am, if anything, mildly disappointed so far as I had expected more.  Still manages three stars.

Edited by willoyd

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Reading books acquired

A catch up on the books I've acquired since BCF went into hibernation in August.  These are just the books intended for leisure reading and ones that I have yet to read - those I have read will be covered by reviews.  Not a lot of fiction books as I'm relying on libraries more and more.  I tend to buy a lot of the non-fiction because I often use them for dipping into and referring to as well as straight reading. All paperback unless otherwise stated.

 

Fiction

Ten Days in the Hills by Jane Smiley (hardback, ex-library)

The Sealwoman's Gift by Sally Magnusson (Waterstones BOGOHP)

The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (charity)

 

Non-Fiction

Real England by Paul Kingsnorth (charity)

Bells and Bikes by Rod Ismay (charity)

What Nature Does for Britain by Tony Juniper (independent)

Gilbert White by Richard Mabey (charity)

Wilding by Isabella Tree (hardback, online)

Roller-Coaster by Ian Kershaw (hardback, online)

A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird (Folio Society, charity)

Daughter of the Desert by Georgina Howell (hardback, secondhand)

The Kingdom by the Sea by Paul Theroux (hardback, charity)

The Ascent of Birds by John Reilly (hardback, present)

Churchill, Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts (hardback, online)

A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell (hardback, ex-library)

Rocks of Ages by Stephen Jay Gould (hardback, charity)

Travellers in the Third Reich by Julia Boyd (Waterstones BOGOHP)

Vietnam by Max Hastings (hardback, WH Smiths)

The Longest Battle by Richard Hough (hardback, charity)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by willoyd

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