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About willoyd

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  • Reading now?
    Almost certainly!
  • Location:
    Wharfedale, Yorkshire
  • Interests
    birding, cycling (mainly touring), running, walking, family history.

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  1. Willoyd's Reading 2021

    I wasn't referring to the Maigret books, although that is what is implied by Hayley's post (not sure if you are doing that either). I enjoy returning to these, even though the plots stick in my memory, so for me Maigret is not disposable! I sometimes read them in English, but have the 10-volume 'Tout Maigret' omnibus set in French which just adds to the atmosphere! The Tey on the other hand, as with so much of the 'golden age' type of crime novel, is one which I don't think I'll feel a need to go back to.
  2. First book of the month completed: Jan Morris's Conundrum, her account of her gender transition. A valuable insight, as well written as ever. 4/6 stars.
  3. Willoyd's Tour of the States.

    I'm an inveterate list maker and tweaker! I set out my criteria, but at the time I made the original list I knew a lot less about American literature than I do now (I still don't know it well!). In particular, I'm finding out more about where books are set, and which books are 'famous' - America literature appears much more regional, and authors who might be very well known in and around their state may be virtually unknown elsewhere. Just to give one example, I'd barely heard of Wendell Berry before starting the tour, but he's one of only two (I think) living authors published by Library of America. As a result, I've been shuffling books around on and off. The latest shift around was triggered by the fact that I decided that 'In Cold Blood' didn't sufficiently fit the criteria, and that I really wanted to include Prodigal Summer as the book for Virginia as other books didn't fit as neatly. But that meant shifting around elsewhere too..... My aim is that by the end I'll have read a really good cross-section of twentieth century American literature. I've already read some stonking books - a couple of six star reads, a fair number of fives, and several authors I definitely want to follow up, or have already started to follow up, further: Willa Cather, Larry McMurtrey, Wendell Berry and Louise Erdrich just for starters (oh and, of course, Toni Morrison!).
  4. Willoyd's Tour of the States.

    Some changes to the list, and a couple of more books completed, meaning that I'm currently on 22 - still not half way! The new books are The Stone Diaries by Carol Sheilds and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Both excellent books, with many similarities, not least the common theme of identify, self-worth and self-realisation. Plenty of differences too (!), but another similarity is that I gave them both 5 out of 6 stars. Several of the changes can be seen as reversions - Arkansas: The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozacks returns, replacing True Grit - Oklahoma: True Grit reverts back from Arizona, replacing Paradise - Michigan: Song of Solomon replaces The Virgin Suicides - Arizona: The Andromeda Strain replaces The Bean Trees - Virginia: Prodigal Summer returns, replacing The Known World - Missouri: Mrs Bridge returns, replacing Stoner - Kansas: Not Without Laughter replaces In Cold Blood (not fictional)
  5. Your Book Activity - September 2021

    Finished 2 books in the past couple of days: Mrs Bridge by Evan S Connell, and Maigret's Patience by Georges Simenon. Both fairly quick, but very entertaining, reads. Mrs Bridge has many similarities and parallel threads to The Stone Diaries - an interesting coincidence reading them back to back. Simenon is as atmospheric and lean as ever - one of his better Maigrets. Both 5 stars out of 6. Moved on to Losing Eden by Lucy Jones - a non-fiction book examining the science around the dangers of our losing connections with nature. An absolutely essential subject.
  6. Willoyd's Reading 2021

    Some more one-liner 'reviews' as part of long term catch-up (stars out of 6: 1-awful, 2-disappointing, 3-fine, 4-good, 5-excellent, 6-favourite, only one or two of these years at most)! Origins of the First and Second World Wars by Frank McDonough *** A slim and straight-forwardly useful book that covers exactly what it says on the cover - used for some revision work in tutoring. The Bumble Bee Flies Anyway by Kate Bradbury ** A rather disappointing account of developing a wildlife garden from a pretty manky plot. Very twee and rather tedious. I did hope to get some insight, even ideas/wisdom - the author comes over far better on TV - but there was little of either. On the Map by Simon Garfield **** Very readable journey through the history of maps - one of those books where you find something interesting on pretty much every page. Bestsellers by John Sutherland *** One of the Oxford Very Short Introductions series. Interesting enough at the time, if a bit listy, but have to admit not recalling a single thing from the book a few weeks later. The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey **** Entertaining crime mystery set in western Scotland, a slight cut above the average Golden Age of Crime novel. Enjoyable, but disposable. What the Fat? Sports Performance by Grant Schofield et al ***(*) Useful reread of one of the few books on low carb-high fat diet that addresses needs of the sports performer. I went on this diet a couple of years ago as a response to a pre-diabetes diagnosis, which enabled me to bring my blood sugar levels, blood pressure, weight and cholesterol levels all significantly down, but left me struggling when racing for more than 40 mins. Feel it's now reasonably sorted! Sixty Degrees North by Malachy Tallack **** The author, a native Shetlander living on the sixty degree north latitude, circumnavigates the globe along that line, visiting key places along the way. An interesting reflection on place and the sense of home. Chastise by Max Hastings **** Hastings is as erudite and interesting as ever, this time on the Dambusters operation - he is one of the best writers on the state of war - although my preferred book on the subject remains James Holland's. This focuses more on the people and on the impact. The Pitards by Georges Simenon ***** Simenon says more in a few words than many writers can say in chapters. Psychological examination of the breakdown in relations between wife and husband when she insists on accompanying him on his maiden voyage as owner rather than just captain of a cargo ship. As gripping and as atmospheric as his more famous Maigret novels (of which I'm a complete fan). Woodston, The Biography of an English Farm by John Lewis-Stempel **** An anniversary present, this is an historical account of the Worcestershire farm that the author's grandfather used to run, and the surrounding area. Lewis-Stempel tends to rely too much IMO on quoting sources at length, but his own writing is excellent. It felt a wee bit rushed towards the end, but that is probably more an indicator that I was so enjoying the book I wanted even more detail! Some of his notes at the end were extensive commentaries on conservation that were distinctly thought provoking. The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields ***** The autobiography (although much written in the third person) or a fictional 'everywoman' for the 20th century. Much to say on the role and position of women during the century, and on how somebody can be misperceived and misunderstood even by those closest to them. Loved the different styles employed. This was a book group read that was unanimously acclaimed- it averaged a score of 9.2 (out of 10), the highest in our five years reading to date. Mrs Bridge by Evan S. Connell ***** Completely coincidentally read after the previous book, yet in so many ways so similar: a biography of a fictional woman, playing very much the wealthy wife and mother role in mid-twentieth century midwest America - similar husband, similar children (2 girls, one boy). Different personality, different mindset, different atmosphere,written rather more sparingly, but the comparison was fascinating. Both books in very different ways say much about the society the women grow up in. This book was followed up ten years later by a parallel volume, Mr Bridge, with both books combinedi into a film starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. The second book is already on order! Maigret's Patience by Georges Simenon ***** As atmospheric as ever, I particularly love the Maigrets actually set in Paris. This one felt somewhat grittier than some of the others I've read, which I felt give a welcome extra bite. Food is as important as ever, but it gets shoved to one side as the heat is turned on! And that, believe it or not, brings me right up to date!!
  7. Willoyd's Reading 2021

    I have tried de Bernieres a few times, but I never get beyond the first few pages, and now don't bother. Not sure why. In the case of CCM, I think it's a natural rebelliousness in that I find I'm generally very resistant to books 'everybody' is raving about (a rule I suspect that's more honoured in the breaking than the keeping!).
  8. Keeping your TBR under control

    I long ago gave up on keeping my Kindle and hardcopy TBR lists under control. I have around 300 on the former and 1400 on the latter, out of a collection of around 3000 books - I have recently divested myself of around 1000 books from the combined lists, mostly those that I've read and am not likely to reread. My fiction library, in particular, mainly consists of books I have yet to read, as I nowadays only retain favourite authors and books once read. I firmly believe in Umberto Eco's concept of the anti-library, as cited in this much quoted section in Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan: "The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary."
  9. Willoyd's Reading 2021

    I haven't yet read The Other Bennet Sister to compare, but otherwise these both are pretty accurate reflections of my reactions. On Crawdad, I don't know that part of the world, but it just didn't feel credible either.
  10. Your Book Activity - September 2021

    Finished The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields, the 22nd stop in my tour of the United States (Indiana). Immersive read, employing a wide range of styles to tell the life of 'everywoman' Daisy Goodwill. 5 out of 6 stars (excellent).
  11. Willoyd's Reading 2021

    I haven't been on the site for an awfully long time - over two months now - so have got even more badly behind on the book reviews than previously. Intend to get on more regularly this autumn, but in the meantime a list of books from the first half of summer, with very brief comments: Where the Crawdad Sings by Delia Owens G *** Mildly enjoyable read, but can't understand why so highly rated by so many - just too many flaws. What's Left of Me is Yours by Stephanie Scott G *** Interesting insight into Japanese culture, an area I know absolutely nothing about, but one which the acclaim suggests the author has a strong grip on. Can't say I was ever totally gripped though, but seem to be in a minority on that one. Native by Patrick Laurie **** Farming in Galloway - another culture insight if a bit closer to home. I was rather more taken with this one though. Days Without End by Sebastian Barry G *** Another book with rave reviews which I really didn't connect with beyond the superficial. Set in the 'Wild West', the narrator is supposedly ill-educated, yet the language belies that. Never really recovered from that fundamental flaw IMO. Compared to books by Larry McMurtrey, Cormac McCarthy et al, this really couldn't compete, although it was distinctly better than the likes of The Sister Brothers. Miss Austen by Gill Hornby ***** Found this to be a highly readable and fascinating take on the relationship between Cassandra Austen and her sister Jane, and why the former destroyed her correspondence with the latter. Really felt the author took us inside this world. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo ** So smug it beggared belief. Some interesting ideas, but overall I was very disappointed with this. The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham G **** Book group read that I didn't expect much from given the material - the life of an painter in the mould of Gauguin - but was drawn in by the elegant prose and the forensic analysis of the subject's life and relationships. A General Theory of Oblivion by Jose Eduardo Agualusa G **** Another book group read, set in Angola. A highly unlikely premise, but very entertainingly carried out - a fascinating take on the Angolan fight for independence and its aftermath. Surprisingly light. Want to read more by this author. Why Women Read Fiction by Helen Taylor ** Just felt full of assumptions, generalisations and stereotypes. No real insights. The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks G ***** Absolutely cracking semi autobiographical read. Found this pretty unputdownable. There was a touch of whinge about it, but fortunately didn't go so far as to spoil it. Fast After Fifty by Joe Friel *** Useful for a post-60 athlete like me! Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp **** An engaging story based around friendship and passion for cycling, with a strong streak of mystery. Worth a read! Airhead by Emily Maitlis **** An insight into some key political events, and the life of a (highly!) itinerant journalist. Fascinating. The Feast by Margaret Kennedy ***** Reprint of this 1950's novel, where several key characters are killed off in the first few pages, but you're not sure which ones, followed by flashback to the week leading up to these deaths in a natural disaster. Based around the Seven Deadly Sins. Super read, really well put together. Possibly the unexpected find of the year so far.
  12. Your Book Activity - July 2021

    Finished The Feast by Margaret Kennedy. Very cleverly written book, handling some heavy stuff with a very light touch. We know at the start that a number of people staying a Cornish hotel have been killed in a landslide, but after that is introduced in the prologue, we go back a week to explore what happens to staff and guests during that week, and, eventually, who survives and who doesn't. All including an examination of the 7 Deadly Sins! Pretty unputdownable. 5/6.
  13. Things in books that annoy you

    Very possibly - but it was an English author with an English publisher.
  14. Willoyd's Reading 2021

    I haven't. I read Brideshead for the first time a year or two ago, and absolutely loved it - which really surprised me! - so am very interested! (I realise, going through her bibliography, that I have also read her biography of Mary Robinson, soon after it came out so a while ago. Guess what? It was good!) Byrne is one of a group of biographers whose work I tend to read even if the subject isn't one I'd normally go for. Others include Claire Tomalin, Jenny Uglow, Hermione Lee and, (provisionally) Franny Moyle. A couple of other history writers have also crossed over into the biography genre, and I rate both types of theirs: Lisa Jardine, Hallie Rubenhold, Stella Tillyard. Interesting that they are all women. I don't think there's any male historian/biographer that I read because of their writing as much as the subject, although James Holland and Max Hastings come close.
  15. Your Book Activity - July 2021

    Completed Ventoux by Bert Wagendorp earlier this evening. Attracted by the cycling element, but, whilst that added to the interest for me, it was really just a vehicle for an intriguing and gripping read that shouldn't put off anybody uninterested in the sport. Anyway, I ripped through it in only a few sittings. 4/6.