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Willoyd's Reading 2020

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Life Without Diabetes by Roy Taylor ***

I've been getting a bit bogged down with my reading, as trying to tackle The Luminaries for one of my book groups has coincided with my annual report writing binge on local birds, which means the book has stuttered somewhat.  Have finished the report now (thank goodness!), but found this interesting looking quick read in the local bookshop, so read that this weekend - iinteresting to me at least as having been found to be prediabetic, I've been reading up on ways of tackling it to ensure it doesn't go any further.  Anyway, the first few chapters on the research the author and his team have carried out at Newcastle University was as interesting as expected, both confirming some of my reading and challenging other parts of it.  Unfortunately, the second half, when he talks about how to implement the results (basically to lose weight, whatever weight you were at to start with) was horribly wishy-washy and vague - and certainly no help for those who struggle to keep weight off once lost.  So, 4 stars for the first 6-7 chapters, and 2 for the rest, averaging out at 3. Definitely worth reading though if this is a topic you need or want to read about - it's important stuff (and by odd coincidence, it's cropped up in the papers today).


Am going to move on to Emma for now. We went to see the film last week, and both loved it, and want to reread the book asap, not least because a little uncertain in some places as to how book and film tie in, and want to review whilst fresh in the mind.  Coincidentally, the film was scripted by Eleanor Catton....the author of The Luminaries. So at least I'm sort of sticking with the author!


Other book acquisitions:

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

The Beast, The Emperori and The Milkman by Harry Pearson

Ground Work by Tim Dee

Orison for a Curlew by Horatio Clare

Belonging; the Story of the Jews 1492-1900 by Simon Schama (Kindle deal)

The Library Book by Susan Orlean (Kindle deal)




Edited by willoyd

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I have The Luminaries on my kindle and have wanted to read it for a while but I had no idea the author scripted Emma! That's really interesting. 

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Reading Update mid-March

Well, my reading has been a right mess the past couple of months.  First of all I got behind on reading for one book group, so failed to finish The Luminaries in time for that meeting. Then I started Emma as a follow-up to the film, but got bogged down in writing my annual local bird report (150+ species of birds, 50+ pages) so failed to finish that before I needed to swap to A Gentleman in Moscow to read that for my other book group....but swapped so late that I failed to finish that in time too!  So, whilst I've at least completed the report, I now have 3 unfinished books on the go, a situation I can't remember before, and really don't like!  Stupid thing is that I was enjoying all three, so didn't want to swap from any of them.  So, I need to settle down and start finishing them.  I'll start with A Gentleman in Moscow, as that'll mean one less book interrupted than if I go back to the others first.  A very unsatisfactory start to the reading year.


Book acquisition continues apace, much agains my better judgement!  Predominantly from charity shops, those added to my library since the last update include:


Life, A User's Manual by George Perec

Independent People by Halldor Laxness

Till The Cows Come Home by Philip Walling

White Teeth by Zadie Smith

The Ambassador's Secret by John North (about the Holbein painting)

Under the Rock by Benjamin Myers

Admirals by Andrew Lambert

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Edited by willoyd

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A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles *****

This was the March choice for one of my book groups, a book and an author I knew nothing about, so I didn't really know what to expect.  The premise is that the main protagonist, Count Alexander Rostov, has been sentenced to indefinite house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in central Moscow by a Bolshevik tribunal in 1922 - this is the story of his subsequent life.  That didn't seem an overly promising scenario, but I was seriously mistaken.

Right from the outset, I was engaged by both the narrative and the style of writing.  Written with a light almost elegant touch, a strong streak of humour ran through the book.  Indeed, this was a rare novel where I actually laughed out loud on a couple of occasions, and smiled through many others.  There have been one or two criticisms in reviews of the author treating serious events with too much levity, but I felt rather that he was, if anything, focusing on how the characters coped with the difficulties - and finding the humour in a situation is an effective way of retaining one's sanity in dire times.  In its own way this approach underlined the sheer madness of the system. The vast majority of the characters were incredibly likeable and came over as humans trying to cope as best they could with whatever their bizarre world threw at them, even if the setting initially seems almost too  opulent to be truly oppressive - a classic 'gilded cage'.  There are moments of unutterable sadness, made all the more so by their suddenness and the fact that they are not belaboured, occasionally being mentioned almost in passing.

I, and the whole group, loved this book, and spent a very happy hour or so discussing it in more detail.  There were some anomalies and unexplained oddities (we were not sure, for instance, how the Count could afford to live continually in the hotel, although some partial explanations were, at least, implied), but overall we were all rather pleasurably and unexpectedly surprised as none of us, including the nominator herself, had read book or even author before (our nominator had simply been recommended it, and said it looked promising). I can certainly recommend it on to others!  5/6 - Excellent.

Edited by willoyd

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Book Acquisitions

A last fling before everything shut down for a while, mostly hardbacks in my local charity shop:


The Men Who United The States by Simon Winchester

The Blackest Streets by Sarah Wise

Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight by Naoki Higashida

The Priory by Dorothy Whipple

The Seafarers by Stephen Rutt

The Planets by Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen

Mudlarking by Lara Maiklem

Postwar by Tony Judt

Deadliest Enemy by Michael Osterholm


I've also now got some 19 library books to work my way through!


Edited by willoyd

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