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vodkafan

Vodkafan's Reading Blog 2018

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I just finished The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. It was a doorstop! It took me a month to get through mainly because I only read it on the bus to work. I will do a full review soon.

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10 hours ago, vodkafan said:

I just finished The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. It was a doorstop! It took me a month to get through mainly because I only read it on the bus to work. I will do a full review soon.

 

I'll be particularly interested to read that as I'm thinking of nominating it for my book group (we usually meet monthly, but don't in January to enable us to tackle a bigger book over the Christmas/New Year break).

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3 hours ago, willoyd said:

 

I'll be particularly interested to read that as I'm thinking of nominating it for my book group (we usually meet monthly, but don't in January to enable us to tackle a bigger book over the Christmas/New Year break).

 

You are welcome to my copy if you want one to make notes in etc, as it was just going to be left on the book table at work...

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51 minutes ago, vodkafan said:

 

You are welcome to my copy if you want one to make notes in etc, as it was just going to be left on the book table at work...

 

Thank you - that's really thoughtful - but I've actually got both a cheap paperback copy and a nice hardback already.  Guess which one is the working copy!

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8 hours ago, willoyd said:

 

Thank you - that's really thoughtful - but I've actually got both a cheap paperback copy and a nice hardback already.  Guess which one is the working copy!

 

I am going to review it saturday  and give my opinions on it. I will say here I thought it worth the effort. I couldn't help but see the characters in the book as they were portrayed by the actors in the TV version, all except for Shirley Henderson as Marie Melmotte; her voice in the book seemed much younger.

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5 hours ago, vodkafan said:

 

I couldn't help but see the characters in the book as they were portrayed by the actors in the TV version, all except for Shirley Henderson as Marie Melmotte; her voice in the book seemed much younger.

 

I avoided watching this for that very reason.

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The Way We Live Now                 3/5

Anthony Trollope

 

This huge doorstop took me a whole month to read , mainly because I only read it  on the bus to work and breaktimes. That is actually a good way to read a book like this  because you can digest events and unfamiliar language in small bitesize chunks and retain it.  This is only the second Trollope I have read but I shall most likely read more. It is a stand alone novel and not related to any of his linked series. It is now apparently seen as his masterpiece, so all in all probably the best novel of his to read if you only want to read one!

I don't want to detail the plot but I will say the plot is overall quite simple. You have to remember that back then in 1875, Victorians thought that society was going to the dogs and values meant nothing (just like today!). To quote a line from one of George Gissing's characters : "Everything is sham and rottenness." (In the year of Jubilee).

There are a couple of sub-plots involving minor characters which are interesting in themselves and help to round out the main story. 

 The writing, which is a whole generation on from Jane Austen is fairly modern I would say and will not give any trouble to today's reader who is willing to put in a little effort. The pace is not brisk but on the other hand  it never flagged for me. There was always something going on that I wanted to see the outcome of.  There is not a great deal of description of  the Victorian environment, because Trollope was writing in his own age of contemporary things. The telegraph had been around for decades  and this features but  letters were still important and readers who like epistolary novels will find plenty of these too. 

For me the best thing was the well rounded characters and the authentic language . It is always thrilling to me to read a contemporary Victorian novel because we know the language used is exactly how real people spoke.  "I know a trick worth two of that!"  " I say, draw it mild!" Even the posh characters say the word "ain't"  (which I was forever being told off for as a child!) which has sadly now turned into the wretched "innit" today.

Some of the minor characters are so funny. Georgiana Longstaffe was a particular favourite; she was wonderfully selfish but I could also completely understand her impulses and actions to try to better her lot in the face of circumstances. She reminds me of an increasingly desperate rat trying to escape a maze. 

Thinking back I could have perhaps scored it a bit higher.

Edited by vodkafan

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46 minutes ago, vodkafan said:

The Way We Live Now                 3/5

Anthony Trollope

Thinking back I could have perhaps scored it a bit higher.

 

Interesting review.  Thank you, vodkafan.  I'm even more likely to make it my nomination for the book group now - looks just the sort of thing that would work well as a choice.

 

On your scoring, do you always stick with your first rating, or do you ever change?  Just wondered, as this suggests you don't.  I've been known to go back and change, and I have actually built that in as a default in at least one case: I score out of 6, with 6 being reserved for books that are beyond 'Excellent' and have, for whatever reason, become a 'favourite' (don't have to be great literature, just something that makes it particularly special); A fair number of my sixes, I've initially scored as a 5, and then waited to see what I thought of it long term.  I've also downgraded books when I realise that post-reading, it really hasn't made the impact I thought.  So, just wondered what you do.

Edited by willoyd

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On 5/19/2018 at 3:32 PM, willoyd said:

 

Interesting review.  Thank you, vodkafan.  I'm even more likely to make it my nomination for the book group now - looks just the sort of thing that would work well as a choice.

 

On your scoring, do you always stick with your first rating, or do you ever change?  Just wondered, as this suggests you don't.  I've been known to go back and change, and I have actually built that in as a default in at least one case: I score out of 6, with 6 being reserved for books that are beyond 'Excellent' and have, for whatever reason, become a 'favourite' (don't have to be great literature, just something that makes it particularly special); A fair number of my sixes, I've initially scored as a 5, and then waited to see what I thought of it long term.  I've also downgraded books when I realise that post-reading, it really hasn't made the impact I thought.  So, just wondered what you do.

 

Hi Willoyd, I do go back and change sometimes but I don't really have a policy on it .

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Ready Player One        2/5

Ernest Cline

 

Very poor.  A lot of the time just a listing of and nods to stuff from the 80s (which apparently  most of was not allowed to be used in the film, so I wonder what the film was about). Whole chunks of pages of the author telling his alternative history to the reader . Hardly any dialogue, no character building. The explicit descriptions of the video game contests bored me. I was being generous giving it a 2. 

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Jamrach's Menagerie              5/5

Carol Birch

 

Fantastic, dreamy, surreal but visceral and emotionally real. Probably best book I have read so far this year!

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Under The Eagle        1/5

Simon Scarrow

 

Probably the worst book I have read so far this year!

If you want a lad's book with basically a comic-book plot of WW2 soldiers dressed up in sandals and skirts masquerading as Romans of 43 ad, where the author can't even be bothered to use a few common knowledge Latin words (Gladius, Scutum, Pilum) to describe the Legionaries' kit, then this is the book for you!

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Son Of The Tree                  2/5

Jack Vance

 

 Thanks to Hayley for alerting me to an early Jack Vance novel that I hadn't read! Situation now rectified. :lol:

This was a very early one (1951) and although the trademark Vance tropes and world building are there in prototype form they are not as well developed, and his treatment of the main female character and females in general come across as a little chauvinistic if I am to be honest. Thankfully he loses this in his later novels.

One thing which struck me strongly is the idea of planet Earth becoming semi mythical as we spread out through the galaxy and it's existence being doubted as a fairy tale, it's exact location lost. It cannot be a coincidence that this is the main premise of the Dumarest Saga series of books by EC Tubb.

 The two authors were certainly around at the same time, both writing at the same time, although the Dumarest books were written slightly later. Did they know each other ? Did Vance give Tubb permission to have that idea as something he wasn't going to use? I would like to find out.

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19 hours ago, frankie said:

It's good to see people coming back to their threads :smile2:

 

Hi Frankie thanks yes it is. I am going to try not to neglect it!

 

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Reading Pure by Andrew Miller at the moment. Really enjoying it but now nearly at the end.

Edited by vodkafan

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Finished Pure and then zoomed through The Rivers Of London in one day. Both have been on my TBR for a long while so I feel good to have read those finally. I will do some reviews in a couple of days!

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Pure         4/5

Andrew Miller

I enjoyed this book. It is one of a clutch of historical novels I have read recently where I really felt I was in that particular place and time. It is based on a real event that happened at the end of the 18th century, the destruction of an infamous Paris cemetery and the removal of the bones and bodies. The author has constructed his fictional story around this, "fleshing out the bones" (forgive the pun!).  

 As such there is not a lot of plot really and the pace is languid. What tension there is happens because of the characters. I saw two out of the three major events coming a long time before they happened (The one I didn't foresee was a total surprise!).

Good things came out of bad things and vice versa.

But I did not mind the predictability as I was enjoying the writing.  

 

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On ‎22‎/‎11‎/‎2018 at 10:17 AM, vodkafan said:

Finished Pure and then zoomed through The Rivers Of London in one day. Both have been on my TBR for a long while so I feel good to have read those finally. I will do some reviews in a couple of days!

That was fast reading! I really loved Rivers of London but it definitely took me more than a day to read it! 

 

It's good that the quality of writing in Pure made up for the predictability of parts. Also nice that it did have one good unpredictable surprise though! 

 

 

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Rivers Of London     4/5

Ben Aaranovitch

 

This was such a well crafted book it drew me in and got me interested. It is obvious that the author really knows and likes London. A lot of my enjoyment came from visualising the places I knew.  It was so enjoyable the way he made the Rivers into actual physical characters. That reminded me very much of American Gods.

I also liked that Isaac Newton was the founder of both modern science and modern magic, because they are actually both related.

(read The Golden Bough and Religion And The Decline of Magic if you are interested in why)

The story never flagged and bounced along at a goodly pace. The author obviously knows a lot about police work as well, although that interested me less.

The author is certainly not afraid to have bad and (irreversible) things happen to leading characters!

Despite really liking this book I am not in a hurry to read the others unless they actually fall into my hands. Just glad to have finally got this one off the TBR pile!

 

 

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Alone In Berlin        4/5

Hans Fallada

 

What was it like, as an ordinary German, to live under the Nazis in the 1930's and '40s?

Only a handful of people are still alive who know first hand, so contemporary novels written by those who lived through it are valuable. This is such a book, and Hans Fallada was such a person.

Within the first 10 pages I could completely taste the fear of the ordinary characters, fear of innocently doing something that might bring them to the attention of the authorities, or of being denounced by an informer who might be a next door neighbour or workmate with a grudge to bear.

Otto  and Anna Quangel, an elderly couple have lost their only son in the first battles of WW2. This sets Otto off on his own small course of resistance which can only have one outcome if he is caught- torture and death for everyone connected with them.

Having read 1984 years ago I can see exactly where George Orwell got his ideas, which seemed a little far fetched and fantastical at the time, but I can see now that they were if anything understated.

I would have kept reading anyway to the end of the book, but about three quarters of the way through a completely unexpected event happened, which I thought was such a master stroke of plotting  it really made the whole book for me.

After the story was finished there are appendices that show the history of the real life characters  the story was based on, and of Fallada's own life history and how he came to write the novel, which were as interesting as the novel itself for me.

A very good satisfying book. 

 

 

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So happy you liked Alone in Berlin, it's one of my all time favourite books and one I must re-read soon.

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Christmas has rushed up so fast. Just time to say hope you all have a happy time of it and thanks all those who looked in on my blog, I hope to be more active on everyone else's blogs next year. My reading has picked up a bit this year although I have been far less tolerant of books that didn't grab me!

For those authors I say:

 "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?"

Bah Humbug!!  

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