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Posts posted by Lilliputian

  1. I love historical fiction, particularly with an ancient setting. (Please no more Tudors or Victorians, I beg you.) I finished L.M. Affrossman's Simon's Wife recently, which is set in the first century AD, and loved it. Can anyone recommend anything around this time or before?

  2. November


    I am too ashamed of my tardiness to pretend in any way that this is October’s review.


    Loving it


    Simon’s Wife

    By L.M. Affrossman


     I didn’t know much about this period of history, and rapidly discovered that the little I thought I knew was almost totally wrong. The plot covers the Jewish rebellion against Roman oppression in the decades after the death of Christ. The atmosphere is very evocative, and it’s easy to see how the events of this time inspired the writing of Revelations. The characters have an extraordinary life that I haven’t encountered since reading writers, such as Howard Fast. A fast-paced story from an author who clearly loves language. I hope there’s a sequel.


    Hating it


    Abraham: The First Historical Biography

    by David Rosenberg


    I loved the idea of this book, a scholarly attempt to create a biography of the founder of the three predominant religions on the planet. And, to be fair, it author does confess that he mixes imagination with his scholarship, making one wonder if he actually checked a dictionary for the definition of ‘scholarship’.

    The book is full of ‘facts’, for which there are no attempts at justification or evidence. Personally, I found the idea of the ancient Mesopotamian scholar, from whom many of the ‘facts’ are gleaned, blithely presented as a woman, just a step too far in attempting a modern perspective of a Bronze Age milieu.

  3. Loving it


    By Robert Holstock
    I hadn’t read much Holstock since the superb Mythago Wood, and I came across Celtika almost by accident. Generally speaking, I’m not that fond of fantasy, but Holstock is a master when it comes to atmosphere.

    The character of Merlin is superbly drawn, and the way he interweaves the plot with Celtic and Greek myths is beautifully evocative. Such a shame this talented author is no longer with us. He was one of a kind.


    Hating it


    The Memory of Trees
    by Frances Cottam
    Unfortunately, I read this just after Celtika. Sad to say, it read very like a 101 in how not to do mystery and suspense. The premise of reviving an ancient forest suggested Holstock-esque mythic labyrinths of imagination. Instead, it read like a sixth form essay, which should have been marked, unoriginal and uninspiring. It also suffers from the tell not show fallacy, with the mystic elements ploddingly explained. Guess what, the progagonist looks just like an ancient knight, yawn. The billionaire has a beautiful daughter, sigh. You get the picture.

  4. On 9/15/2017 at 7:33 PM, bobblybear said:

    I have owned Foucault's Pendulum for probably close to 20 years but have always been too daunted by it's size and reputation to pick it up. After your review, I'm still not sure if I should read it anytime soon. :lol: Sounds a bit heavy going. :o

    It is worth a read, a bit like going to the gym. It hurts, but you feel better for you, and justifies the cream bun/mindless murder mystery you consume next. :) PS, love your username.

  5. August


    Loving it


    Foucalt’s Pendulum

    By Eco Umberto


    Like the pendulum, I vacillated on whether to love or hate this book. It isn’t for the faint-hearted. The language in the first chapter is trying to reflect a mind on the brink of breakdown, and it mimics it so well that it can be exhausting to get through.

    However, without giving too much away, the satire of conspiracy theorists is fascinating and well worth the effort. At times the many references, put in presumably to show that the author has done his homework, get a little wearing, but overall this is a clever book by a master writer. And a writer, who does not feel the need to revert to the same old formula with every book.


    Hating it


    The Signature of All Things

    by  Elizabeth Gilbert



     I tried to love this book. I was lured in with promises of the ‘mysteries of evolution’, but instead found a dry fact-list on botany. Trying much too hard to be scholarly, while the story seems to take second rate to the endless botanical detail.

  6. May


    Loving it


    The Night Ocean

    By Paul La Farge


    If you’ve read any of my reviews, you’ll know by now that I hate books that follow a rigid stereotype, so I was pleased to come across this one when trawling Amazon.

    It’s probably best if you’re a big Lovecraft fan if you want to get all the references. I am not, and I was still impressed. The plot winds tighter and tighter, with nothing being as it seems. The characters are strongly written and believable. If there’s a downside, it’s probably that there isn’t anyone to directly sympathize with, but the Machiavellian plot twist more than make up for it.

    I’ve one other gripe, which is probably not the author’s fault, but the Kindle price is ridiculously high, and not quite justified by the quality of the book.


    Hating it



    by  A S Byatt


    I’ve already said that I loved Possession, and I was keen to give this a chance. Perhaps I was a little biased as I’m not a great lover of the Norse myths, but I found this book painfully dull. I cannot believe making long lists of adjectives really makes for great writing. The story, such as it is, is smothered by the completely unnecessary retelling of the myths.

    Throughout, the protagonist is referred to as ‘The Thin Child’. Perhaps the author should have also talked about ‘The Thin Plot’.


  7. April


    Loving it


    Science for Heretics

    by Barrie Condon


    Thought I would review a nonfiction for a change. I’m not a massive reader of this sort of book. It was passed on by a friend truth be told, and I didn’t expect to enjoy it. I usually find books by physicists purporting to be for the common man are exactly not aimed at anyone with less than a PhD in quantum theory.

    Condon’s work is quite different. To steal the heading from an Amazon review, it’s science, but not as we know it. Condon isn’t arguing that scepticism is good in the scientific process; he’s arguing that it’s impossible. Why? Because there is just too much science we simply can’t know. He goes through the gamut of scientific research and demolishes everything you imagine you thought. In Condon’s world 2+2 don’t necessarily make four. Scary, but a must read for those who like to question why.


    Hating it


    Time and Again

    by Ben Elton



    Normally I love Elton’s work. He’s not afraid to tackle hard subjects, and his wit generally makes up for any roughness in his prose. So, I was looking forward to reading a book that promised time-travel, history and mystery in the blurb.

    But it wasn’t long before I became bogged down in a story that seemed about as fast as set treacle (with none of the yummy sugary taste). Apart from the slow pace, the prose was incredibly preachy. Ben Elton’s left wing views have been evident in other books, but never to the extent that they took over the narrative. To cut a long and frankly tedious story short without giving any spoilers, rich people are bad, using energy is bad, being happy with just enough to get by on good. Fair enough, but Elton is worth about three million and is hardly scraping the poverty line. It gives the book a smug air, which I hadn’t experienced reading his other work. Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid.

  8. On 4/18/2017 at 7:44 PM, pontalba said:

    The Mists of Avalon by M.B. Zimmer  3/5


    A retelling of the Arthurian Legend through the Lady of the Lake's and her acolytes eyes.  I've had the book for at least 10 years, maybe more.  My now husband sent it to me before we lived in the same city. :) 


    It was an interesting version, albeit very different to Mary Stewart's Merlin Trilogy.  Stewart's was told through a very human Merlin and I absolutely fell in love with it.  Zimmer's version certainly has it's human aspects, but the backdrop of magic is more apparent and more........raw, I think.  There is a great deal of Christian bashing, and considering some of the "Christians" she ran into, well deserved.  It's not a spoiler to say though that in the end the Lady sees the good side of Christianity and while certainly not converted,  she is content living cheek and jowl with it.


    The only reason for my lower rating is that I found the story too drawn out, an editor could have cut some without losing any of the ambiance.


    Zimmer's work is certainly worth reading, but a much better Arthurian writer is the little-mentioned Parke Godwin. You might like to try him.




    Loving it


    A Big Love of Small Proportion

    by Colin Falconer


    I loved this book. At last a historical novel that doesn’t slavishly follow the stereotypes (war for boys/romance for girls).

    The setting is in Spain in the late 1400s near the end of the Inquisition during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, and is based on the dwarf painter, Vasquez.

    Falconer is a master when it comes to characterization. His men and women are poignant without sentimentality, and his prose style races along and drags the reader with it.

    Well worth a go if you don’t know this author. I couldn’t put it down.


    Hating it


    Wasp: or A Very Sweet Power Kindle Edition

    by Ian Garbutt


    It’s unfair to say I hated this novel. Really it had a lot of potential. Set in a Victorian brothel, the material starts of worthy of HBO. The unfortunate thing appears to be that the man, who was writing it, seemed to need to prove his feminist credentials. The book gets mired down in the oppression of women and loses the power of its own eroticism. Far better to read Sarah Waters, who manages to combine grittiness with pathos and manages to keep the rollicking bawdiness of her setting.


    What really gets me are the following:


    1. The word "gotten" - the word is got, not gotten. "He had got it on holiday" rather than "he had gotten it on holiday".
    2. "Of" instead of "have", as in "he shouldn't have done that" - it only tends to be in self-published novels, but I have occasionally seen poorly edited professionally published novels that have the clanger "he shouldn't of done that" and it really grates on me every single time!
    3. "OK" in historical novels. I absolutely detest seeing "OK" instead of "alright" in an historical setting. It is enough for me to lose all respect for the author and so not enjoy the book any more and have to leave it unfinished. I also hate that in period drama on TV/film - it drives me nuts, and I have been known to scream at the screen when it happens!


    I know what you mean. It drives me mad when I see anachronistic language. But actually, gotten is not incorrect. It comes from the same root as forgot/forgotten and really ought to be used that way even in UK English.

  11. Got into a heated debate recently on the rise of independent publishers. I've got to admit that I have always been pretty sceptical about indie publishing, assuming that it was only for the desperate, but our book group had a talk recently that said a lot of established authors are turning indie because of poor publishing deals and new authors are going down that route because traditional publishing isn't interested in marketing them. I was surprised to discover that one of my favourite authors, Colin Falconer, (I'm no relatiation or friend) seems to be independently publishing under the Cool Gus label.


    It's made me waver in my opinions on indie authors. Wondered what anyone else's experience had been.

  12. February


    Loving it


    One Night In Winter

    by Simon Sebag Montifiore


    This is a fascinating exploration of paranoia set in Stalinist Russia. In keeping with the ‘Russian novel’ form there are more characters than you can shake a stick at, but they’re all intricately intertwined. As the plot unfolds you uncover their secrets, some so innocent you can’t imagine they could do harm, and yet at a time when it was deemed better to kill a hundred innocent men than to let one guilty one go free, the more guileless a secret appears the more suspicious become the authorities.


    The style of the writing is a little sparse for my taste, but it suits the book, and allows the drama to effortlessly unfold.


    Hating it


    The Water Theatre

    by Lyndsay Clarke


    I adored Clarke’s, Chymical Wedding, and would strongly recommend it to anyone who loves beautiful prose. Her prose is so lyrical in fact that I would have sworn that I could adore reading it devoid of content.

    Alas, not so. The Water Theatre bored me stupid. It spans countries, times and relationships, but try as I might, I found myself simply not caring. The plot moves at a snail’s pace, and I don’t think I can sum it up better than to agree with one Amazon reviewer, who said it felt like dragging yourself through a set work for an exam.

    Sorry, Lyndsay, I haven’t given up on you yet.

  13. I've been hearing so many negative comments about David Mitchell's work lately, I have Cloud Atlas on my TBR and I'm starting to get a bit worried I'll hate it...


    I hope you have a great reading year! :) I've read two Murakamis before, and loved them. Maybe you should try some of his books that don't feature any magical elements? I found Norwegian Wood by him really interesting. 


    Hi,  Late in my replies as always. How does everyone manage to be so organized. Don't worry about Cloud Atlas, it's brilliant. As is The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. After that the books get paler until they fade into rubbish. I've heard people saying I shouldn't judge Murakami by 1Q84. I'll maybe give him another chance. :)



    Loving it



    by Eleanor Wasserberg


    Well, anyone reading my reviews probably knows that I hate formulistic works so no surprise that I love Eleanor Wasserberg’s description of a young girl’s experience growing up in a cult.

    It’s a poignant pleasure to see the protagonist grow to maturity, while the forces of the cult vie in her psyche with the lure of the outside. The power struggle within the cult provides the background on which ‘Green’ must make her decisions.

    Well worth a read. The prose has a light touch and the novel is short enough to appeal to those who are nervous about trying something new.


    Hating it


    Slade House

    by David Mitchell



    I feel mean putting up a bad review of this author. I am normally a huge fan of his work, including Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Summers of Jacob de Zoet. But, having worked my way through this flat, uninspiring tale, I feel the need to rant.

    Previously, I was attracted to the breadth and sophistication of Mitchell’s work. But Slade House barely feels like the same author. Essentially, it’s a story about vampires, dressed up in a purple prose, with amateurish stylistic errors, where characters explain the plot to each other.

    It largely reminded me of a sponge cake I once made that went terribly wrong. Instead of simply throwing it away, I kept adding frills of icing, and sprinkles. End result? A sticky mess that did nothing to hide the lack of substance.