Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • Hayley

      Signing Up   11/06/2018

      Signing Up is once again available. New members are very welcome
    • Hayley

      July Supporter Giveaway   07/01/2019

      It's Christmas in July! The winner of the July Supporter giveaway will receive this beautiful Barnes & Noble edition of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, as well as a special Charles Dickens tea by  theliteraryteacompany.co.uk .   I've been keeping this book a secret for so long (I couldn't wait until Christmas!) It's actually from a really lovely independent bookshop in Hay-on-Wye, the town of books. I'm so glad I finally get to show you! The picture doesn't even do it justice. A nice feature that you can't see in this image - the page edges are gold and (an extra surprise for the winner) the back is just as beautiful as the front! We also now have twice as much tea as previous giveaways!  (Thank you Literary Tea Company!)   As always, supporters are automatically entered into the giveaway and a winner will be chosen at random at the end of the month. If you want to enter this giveaway but you aren't a supporter, you can join in here https://www.patreon.com/bookclubforum .   Good luck  
willoyd

Willoyd's Reading 2019

Recommended Posts

On 17/01/2019 at 1:59 PM, Hayley said:

 I have seen raptors while on holiday around the UK but never from my garden, I would be very impressed with that one!

We're lucky in having really good views 5 or 6 miles across the Wharfe valley near Otley so we get to see a fair bit.  Red Kite is ubiquitous round here -we see at least one from the house every 2 or 3 days, quite often more, often drifting directly over the house.  Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel have all flown over or within sight within the past year, whilst neigbours had a pair of Tawnies roosting in a tree in their garden last winter - they've been known to sit on our chimney pot (the owls, not the neighbours)!  We're plum in the middle of residential housing, although fields and moors are nearby.  Really excited to see a pair of Barn Owl in the fields last spring, but sadly they didn't breed successfully.

Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's lovely seeing or hearing owls, we never get them where I am - too built up and not enough trees - but when we were in Cornwall last year we looked out onto a river and then fields and woods, and heard at least one owl pretty much every night, I'm assuming it was a tawny owl as it was the classic "woo woo" call, which you say is the tawny's call in your earlier post.

Edited by Madeleine

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 18/01/2019 at 10:22 AM, Madeleine said:

I'm assuming it was a tawny owl as it was the classic "woo woo" call, which you say is the tawny's call in your earlier post.

 

Yes - a male.  Woman from the BTO was on Radio 4 Today programme this morning, talking about their Tawny Owl survey.  Trying to better establish how many there are as there is a fear that numbers are falling (as most of bird population in the UK is).

Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, it was lovely to hear, I think there might have been two of them one night.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

January summary

In raw terms, a pretty dire month, with just the one book completed, Stephen Moss's The Wren - my lowest total ever  (for any month!) since I started recording my reading.  I'm also about half way through another, admittedly the chunky The Way We Live Now, some 800+ pages worth, but even allowing for that, it's only just over 600 pages of reading for the month.  Not a lot! In fact, very little. 

 

This is primarily because I've just been too busy doing other things - not least writing this annual bird report.  It's been a far bigger exercise than I anticipated, largely because it's been the first one and I've had to do a lot of sorting out first, and have not had time to get any systems in place to make this work properly - I'm already plotting for next year!  As I said before, fascinating stuff though.

 

I'm not overly bothered by all this, partly because I want to do this project (unlike the rubbish I had to do teaching, when so much was a waste of time), and partly because I said from the word go that this year was about concentrating on fewer, bigger books.  They don't get that much more substantial than a chunky Victorian classic (although LesMis is in a different league!), so that at least has got off to a good start.

 

Book acquisitions have also slowed down this month: with just 7 books added to the library (and more removed from it).  Four have already been listed in an early post, the other three are:

 

The Favourite by Ophelia Field (the book upon which the film was based - great film too!)

In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin (a nice Folio Society edition in a sale)

Along the Divide by Chris Townsend (99p Kindle purchase)

 

All non-fiction. I've virtually given up buying fiction, using the libraries more and more instead, and catching up on my own TBR. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How are you finding The Way We Live Now? It's a book that's been on my to-read list for quite a while.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 08/02/2019 at 2:10 PM, Hayley said:

How are you finding The Way We Live Now? It's a book that's been on my to-read list for quite a while.

  In short, I'm loving it.  I'm around 650 pages in, with around 200 to go.  It's taken me longer than I expected because I've had a fairly huge project on, and been reading less than I've done for quite a few years. However,I've sent all the paperwork in today, so should be able to get back into it. 

 

It's quite like Dickens, with multifarious subplots, and of course all the Victorian characteristics (and the propensity to write big books!), but in this instance I find his characters more 'real' (Dickens tend to caricatures), especially his women.  Dickens couldn't really write real women, and it's interesting that all those in my reading group - I'm the only man - said that Trollope was one of the few male writers who 'got' the female gender. 

 

The language, whilst still Victorian - which I like - is rather less convoluted.  That''s neither good nor bad, just a characteristic (and I actually like the Victorian tendency to prolix).  It's also a bit more satirical and a bit less worthy.

 

None of which makes him better or worse than Dickens.  Dickens is a long held favourite, Trollope is coming up on the rails.  Whether Trollope matches him, or even gets a nose in front, I don't know, and actually don't really care, but what I'm glad about is that there's an awful lot more of him out there to read!

 

 

Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love Dickens, particularly for his multifarious subplots, so this sounds like just my type of book! Extra satire and more realistic characters can only be a good thing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's taken just over a month, but have at last finished The Way We Live Now.  A great book, a monumental read, even if, perhaps, not quite making it onto the favourites list (so, 5 out of 6 stars).  We had a brilliant discussion at my book group about it - almost two hours back and forwards, especially as so much remains relevant today - the mark of a real classic I suppose.   Have now started something completely different, Jim Flegg's Time to Fly - an introduction to bird migration.

Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Was there a particular reason The Way We Live Now didn't make it to the favourites list, or was it just a matter of not quite loving it as much as the others on the list? 

 

I hope you enjoy your new book just as much!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 19/02/2019 at 6:23 PM, Hayley said:

Was there a particular reason The Way We Live Now didn't make it to the favourites list, or was it just a matter of not quite loving it as much as the others on the list?

 

I rarely rate a book straightaway as a six - most sixes have initially been graded five, then I see how I feel after a week or two, sometimes longer.  For me, favourites are books that live with you, and I can't always tell straightaway how I'm going to feel long term. Having said that, much as I enjoyed this, think it's really well well written, and am definitely going to read more Trollope in the near future, it's not got anything that particularly makes it a 'favourite'.  One measure I use is would I be happy to read the book again?  The answer here is probably not, at least not in the foreseeable future. 

 

Up to five stars, these are the grades I'd give a book on, say, Amazon; a six is reserved for something that for me goes that bit further on a personal level (and it doesn't have to be a great piece of literature!) - it's all about gut feeling.  This, good as it is, doesn't quite go there. But then, only some 120 or so books have ever done so!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After a slow start to the year, two books finished in two days!

 

The Big Necessity by Rose George ***

Essentlally, a series of essays on how sanitation (or the lack of it!) affects people's lives, and various projects attempting to tackle what is a worldwide problem.  Fluently written and easily readable, the author covers a fair amount of ground in a relatively small space; a considerable amount is pretty eye-opening (and eye-watering!) - there are many interesting and illuminating insights.  Having said that, even in a relatively short book, it did become a mite repetitive, and the last chapter's brief overview of sanitation in space came as something of a relief in its different view of what is certainly a fundamentally important issue. Does make me realise how wasteful (in more ways than one!) our water based sewage system really is!

 

The Widow by Fiona Barton *

A psychological thriller read for one of my book groups. The story is based on the narrative of the widow of a man killed in an accident who had been accused of child abduction - possibly murder - told mainly from her perspective, but occasionally switching to that of a reporter trying to secure exclusive rights to her story and the detective in charge of the abduction investigation. Did he, or didn't he?  What does she know? This is the sort of book that flies off my local library's shelves, with long reservation queues on first issue, and a large section of the library devoted to such crime/thriller novels.  I have to admit that I find the vast majority of those I've tackled vastly over-hyped and anything but thrilling, and this was no exception. It was certainly an easy enough read - it took up a few hours one evening - but at the end I felt not the slightest jot of satisfaction nor any sense of it having been time well spent. 

Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

February Review

A solid month's reading, with four books completed, and another into the last few pages, although I still fell short of my 2000 page per month target (in fact, only read 2000 pages over the first two months) - setting targets always proves fatal!  Quality was rather mixed, ranging from 1 to 5 stars, with no books receiving the same grade.  I just wish that my book groups would avoid choosing so-called thrillers - most of them are utterly predictable, and partly as a result, as dull as ditchwater, as they rely so heavily on the plotting.  This becomes even more painfully evident when read in the wake of writers of the quality of Anthony Trollope!

 

Figures are those for this month, unless stated otherwise, with figures in brackets being for the year to date.

 

Books read:  4 (5)

Pages read: 1560 (2150)

Average pages per book to date:  381

Genre:  2 (2) fiction, 2 (3) non-fiction

Gender: 2 (2) female, 2 (3) male

Sources: 2 (3) owned, 2 (2) library

Format: 2 (3) paper, 1 (1) ebook, 1 (1) mixed media

TBR list: 1380  +2 for month, +4 for the year

 

Books acquired for reading:

Around India in Eighty Trains by Monica Rajesh

Origins by Lewis Dartnell

Faster by Michael Hutchinson

Europe, A Natural History by Tim Flannery

The Wild Life by John Lewis Stempel

Along the Divide by Chris Townsend

 

Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A predictable thriller is very underwhelming... if you’re not invested in finding out what happens next it really defeats the point of the genre doesn’t it? Hope you enjoy your new books! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 07/03/2019 at 2:37 PM, Hayley said:

A predictable thriller is very underwhelming... if you’re not invested in finding out what happens next it really defeats the point of the genre doesn’t it? Hope you enjoy your new books! 

 

I think my problem is that I find most thrillers somewhat predictable, by their very nature.  It doesn't help that most sacrifice any depth of character to plot and the desire to create that thrill.  Conversely, I quite enjoy thriller-style films, at least the once, but then they only require a couple of hours of investment, and holes are easier to gloss over.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Finished Jonathan Fenby's The History of Modern France earlier this evening.  An interesting read that has still been a bit of a haul: 484 pages with much detail.  4 stars, review to follow.  I feel the need for a solidly good story after a series of non-fiction books, or fairly dire pulp fiction for my reading group, and am trying Miss Buncle's Book by DE Stevenson, part of the Persephone Press series.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Reading catchup

Ooh, it's almost a month since the last post - just been so busy with spring bird surveys and other voluntary stuff, holiday (when I got virtually no reading done at all, other than on the plane!) and building up cycling distances; seems I'm even busier than when I was working!  So a brief catch up to try and bring things up to date.

 

I've completed just two other books since The History of Modern France, both fortunately very enjoyable.  Miss Buncle's Book by DE Stevenson was as light as a feather, but full of character and humour, just the sort of reading to relax into and beautifully written, within the framework of time and genre (it reminded me of Winifred Watson's Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day).  Definitely want to read the follow-up.  An added bonus was this was a Persephone book, which are beautifully produced and so handleable.  5 stars.

 

The second was Land of Plenty by Charlie Pye-Smith, a personal exploration of farming in Britain, where the author visits a range of farmers (and farms!) as he takes a look into the state of farming today.  It was short (perhaps a bit too short) and felt just a wee bit on the superficial side at times (primarily, I think, because he was trying to keep things fairly straightforward for the lay reader), but I still felt I learned a lot - but then, like money, I don't know much about farming (which is why I was reading the book!) . He touches on some of the big issues raising their heads, not least the environmental impact of various practices (good and bad),  and appears to try to present a balanced viewpoint, although how balanced it was I'm not really qualified to tell.  I came away feeling that many farmers are just as concerned about what is happening to the countryside as any environmentalist, and are trying, within financial limits, to do something about it (whilst trying to sustain their business - not easy, especially with pricing pressures), but that society as a whole has to take a long hard look at itself and at what is expected from our domestic food producers.  Amongst the supermarkets, Morrison's seems to come of it better than most!  A very worthwhile read - but I feel I've still got a lot to learn, and there's room for something in more depth. 4 stars

 

I'm currently reading Advise and Consent by Allan Drury, Pulitzer prize winner, and the book for Washington DC in my Tour of the United States challenge - one of those books on my list where I'd heard of neither book nor author before starting the challenge.  I only read two books for this last year, and have completed just 11 of the 51 so far, so need to get stuck in a bit more this year.  A good read to date, centred on Washington politics and set in the late 1950s (when it was written) but at over 650 pages is keeping me well occupied!

 

Overall, this year's completed book list stands at a mere 9 so far - the lowest in years.  I'm averaging far more pages than usual (over 360), but even using that criteria, I'm way behind other recent years.  No problem - but I do feel as if I want to pick up the reading a bit from here on.  We'll see.

 

Books acquired for reading in March - all from charity shops or sales.

The Tin Drum by Gunther Grass

Appointment in Arezzo by Alan F Taylor (memoir of Muriel Spark)

Black Diamonds by Catherine Bailey (book group read later this year)

Lancaster and York by Alison Weir

The Collector of Lives by Ingrid Rowland (biog of Giorgio Vasari)

Eruption by Steve Olson (story of Mount St Helens)

Bloody Brilliant Women by Cathy Newman

Why You Eat What You Eat by Rachel Herz

The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs by Stephen Brusatte

The Wood by John Lewis-Stempel

 

 

 

Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm glad you've enjoyed your last few books. Land of Plenty sounds really interesting. I do think we're quite disconnected from the whole process of where our food comes from and that definitely doesn't help with larger environmental issues. I'm not surprised that Morrisons came out a little better. My local supermarket changed from Sainsburys to Morrisons last year and I would definitely say that they seem to be more openly concerned about the environment. The bags for loose fruit and vegetables are all paper, there are reusable boxes to buy for your fresh meat and fish, local eggs you can put in your own carton and (I noticed this one recently) a slightly more expensive bottle of milk, where the extra money goes to the farmers. I'd be interested to know if you do find a more in-depth book on the subject.

 

That's a nice set of books acquired in March too! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I worked in Sainsbury's as a teenager and when we unloaded stock we always used to put the larger cardboard boxes near the checkouts for customers to use, in fact quite often I'd be unpacking and someone would come and wait for me to empty the box so they could use it for their shopping.  We also had paper carrier bags for customers to buy if they wanted them.  This was in the early 1980s.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Madeleine said:

I worked in Sainsbury's as a teenager and when we unloaded stock we always used to put the larger cardboard boxes near the checkouts for customers to use, in fact quite often I'd be unpacking and someone would come and wait for me to empty the box so they could use it for their shopping.  We also had paper carrier bags for customers to buy if they wanted them.  This was in the early 1980s.

 

My recollection is that this was standard practice; I remember the stacks of boxes in our local Morrisons, which then disappeared - something to do with safety (?!).  It's really scary how plastic has taken over when it comes to wrapping. We've stopped shopping in our local Waitrose simply because they wrap so much in plastic (doubly so when it comes to meat - tray and film), and are making an effort to use the local market (can get there now retired!), and to shop around for loose produce. It's a pity that none of our local butchers do free range chickens etc.  When we were in France back in February, pretty much all the fruit and veg in all the supermarkets was loose, with paper bags to put stuff in.

 

On 18/04/2019 at 12:34 PM, Hayley said:

And (I noticed this one recently) a slightly more expensive bottle of milk, where the extra money goes to the farmers.

That was specifically mentioned at one point.

 

Quote

That's a nice set of books acquired in March too! 

I'd better get reading some of them!  As you can see, I'm reading a bit more non-fiction at present, although it's slightly distorted in that I'm getting a lot of fiction from the library.

Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Completed two books in the past couple of days:

 

Signed, Picpus by Georges Simenon ****

A typically slim and atmospheric example of a Maigret story, although the plot was a mite more complex than the norm.  For most of the book, I thought this was heading towards a rating above the Maigret norm, but for me the ending was just a little unsatisfactory, almost deus ex machina, so 'just' sustains the Maigret average (but above average for most!) of 4 stars.  I continue to be amazed how Simenon squeezes so much into such a small space; it's aided by a writing style that at times is so abbreviated as to be almost meaningless if you're not paying attention (but, of course, you are!), but which itself adds to the atmosphere and adds to the feeling of being inside Maigret's mind.  Totally addictive.

 

Advise and Consent by Allen Drury ****

This was the twelfth book in my tour around the states of the US, Advise and Consent being set in the midst of Washington DC politics (yes, I know DC isn't a 'state', but it's included!). For many reviewers, this is the definitive novel about the government of America, and it's easy to see why.  Fairly hefty, coming in at over 650 solid pages, and not always an 'easy' read, spending considerable passages of text working its way through the thoughts and feelings of a variety of characters, it nonetheless (or, perhaps, consequentially) proved a compelling read. 

 

It is a bit of an historical document, not least because of events subsequent to its 1958 publication date that turned out very differently to the way they do in the narrative, but it's also very pertinent to today, with much to teach us not just about how politics works, but perhaps how politics should work (goodness knows what Drury would have made of Donald Trump).  I do like, though, how he never refers to Republican/Democrat, but talks of Majority/Minority parties, leaving the reader to work things out for themselves (and thus, not detracting from a book that might have been accused of political bias, which wasn't the point). 

 

One area where its historical-ness (if that's a word!) also came through was in some of the social mores portrayed, not least the prominence of male characters and the subordinate nature of the women in the novel (this is, after all, about 1950s American and international politics). I have to admit, that this irritated me somewhat, exacerbated by the fact that none of their characters were ever really developed - they remained carboard cutout supports throughout, to the detriment of the novel as a whole. 

 

This caveat aside, Advise and Consent proved to be a well drawn,  intricately developed, novel, one I'd never previously heard about (in spite of it being a Pulitzer winner, and filmed) from an author of whom I'd never heard either, underlining why I started this tour, and the benefits of it!  There are sequels which I am likely to try out.

Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's really interesting regarding boxes in supermarkets. The only supermarket I've ever known to provide boxes is Lidl and they've stopped doing it now, at least in the shop near me. I would definitely use a cardboard box, which I can either reuse or recycle when I get home, rather than buy a plastic bag if I don't have a bag with me.

Also an interesting point about butchers. I think it's good to support local businesses and I would be sad to see my local butchers go, but I also like to check the origin of meat that I buy (whether it's free range etc.) and since not everything is labelled in the butchers you can't always tell without quizzing the butcher, which just feels awkward if there's a queue.

 

I'm glad you enjoyed your last two books. I've never read a Maigret story but I think I would like them, I'll have to keep a look out for some. I assume you don't need to read them in order?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 21/04/2019 at 11:00 AM, Hayley said:

I'm glad you enjoyed your last two books. I've never read a Maigret story but I think I would like them, I'll have to keep a look out for some. I assume you don't need to read them in order?

 

Absolutely not! I'm reading them in publication order, but chronologically they are all over the place.  Having said that, trying to put an accurage chronology on them would, I think, be nigh on impossible, although I'm sure I've seen it being tried somewhere.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great, although I do like to read books in publication order, it's interesting to see how they develop that way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free by Andrew Miller *****

 

I came to this with high hopes, the author's earlier Pure being one of my few 6-star reads.  Whilst it didn't quite live up to that, I was certainly not disappointed, and Andrew Miller is nudging towards a favourite author status.

 

Set in the period immediately after the retreat from Spain in the early parts of the Peninsular War (early 1800s), the opening scenes describe the unexpected return of the half-dead Captain John Lacroix to his home in Somerset, where he is tended to by his long term housekeeper, Nell.  Within a few pages, the quality of writing and the atmosphere generated had pulled me into the centre of a narrative that never let go - story telling at its best. 

 

We soon find that Lacroix has a past in Spain, a past that threatens in the shape of a particularly nasty character, Corporal Calley, to catch up with him.  Unknowingly, although avoiding recall to his cavalry regiment, Lacroix sets off to the Outer Hebrides, with Calley (and partner) on his tail.  The story unfolds as effectively two interwoven tales. 

 

Although other demands on my time meant that I had to read this in relatively short bursts (other than the final 150 pages, consumed in one sitting), I can only describe this as unputdownable, or, perhaps more accurately, addictively pickupable.  The plot is not overly complex, but then good stories often aren't (something some writers forget), but the strong development of characters (including a host of minor walk-on, but essential parts), and places means that the novel is never less than richly alive, whilst the plot still leaves one hankering to find out what happens next, and not just in terms of the inevitable denouement. I also like the fact that not all ends are tied up neatly - some are implied and need careful reading, one or two (not unimportant) ones are left loose - but neatly judged not to detract from the story (if anything, otherwise).

 

All in all, a cracking read that fully deserves its five (out of six) stars.  Thoroughly recommended (it would make a really good book club read too - plenty to discuss). Probably the best book so far in a year where quality is currently superseding quantity.

Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now



×