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Everything posted by willoyd

  1. Finished Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. My first Morrison, and an excellent read - really didn't want to put it down. Book group read, and my book for Michigan in my Tour of the States (21 now read). 5/6
  2. Went in to Leeds today to visit The Leeds Library (the subscription one, not the public one which I can visit closer to home), just re-opened. So good to get back - it's such a friendly treasure trove, with a very different profile of books ot the two public libraries I belong to. Came away with just a couple of books (Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars, and Hilary Rubinstein's Catastrophe at Spithead), but a list of others to go to once I've finally got to the end of the current pile (I took 7 books back, but still have half a dozen to go!). Dropped into Waterstones, my first visit there since December. I have to admit, I couldn't get enthused - I'm much more excited by my two local independents - but came away with two books: The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and Walden by Henry Thoreau, both nice looking hardbacks. Finished two books in the past couple of days: Blood and Iron by Katja Hoyer, a slim, succinct but illuminating history of the Second Reich, and Travels in Scottish Islands - The Hebrides by Kirstie Macdonald Jareg, an interesting exploration of both Inner and Outer archipelagos. Some of it went over well-worn ground, but there were flashes of insight that made it a rewarding read, especially as we're booked to revisit Islay this summer - fingers crossed! Both 4 star reads. Must catch up with the reviews on my blog thread!! Currently about two-thirds the way through Barbara Kingsolver's Unsheltered, aiming to finish in the next day or so - enjoying it a lot.
  3. Ask a Mod

    Could one of the moderators please unpin Book Activity for March, and pin the Book Activity for April thread please?
  4. The list Looking back over my reading in recent years, it has tended to be somewhat Euro-centric; in particular, I have tended to shy away from American literature for reasons that aren't actually all that clear. Indeed, what I've read in recent years, I've tended to really enjoy. So, I've decided I need to broaden my experience. This tour list is based on the challenge on which the English Counties list was modelled: 51 states of the US, each represented by one book. The original list is here, but in the spirit of broadening my experience, I have amended it using these rules: a. it must be fiction; b. an author can only appear once; c. written since 1900; d. no children's books; e. no rereads. Inevitably some truly great books will be missing*. Equally, in order to make this particular jigsaw fit together, I may not have chosen an author's best or most famous book nor the most famous or most representative book for a state, but so be it; the point is to try and read a portrait of the USA as a whole, and I think (maybe in my naivety!) that these 51 books/authors do achieve that. I also reserve the right to change the list as I get to know American literature a bit better. Books that have been read are highlighted in blue. * some books already read, and thus omitted, include: To Kill A Mockingbird (Alabama), Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (Alabama), The Great Gatsby (New York), Of Mice and Men (California), Thousand Acres (Iowa). 20/51 01. The Keepers of the House - Shirley Ann Grau (Alabama) **** 02. To The Bright Edge of the World - Eowyn Ivey (Alaska) ****** 03. The Andromeda Strain - Michael Crichton (Arizona) 04. The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks - Donald Harington (Arkansas) 05. East of Eden - John Steinbeck (California) 06. Plainsong - Kent Haruf (Colorado) **** 07. Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates (Connecticut) 08. The Saint of Lost Things - Christopher Castellani (Delaware) 09. A Land Remembered - Patrick Smith (Florida) 10. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers (Georgia) 11. The Descendants - Kaui Hart Hemmings (Hawaii) 12. Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson (Idaho) **** 13. The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow (Illinois) 14. The Stone Diaries - Carol Shields (Indiana) 15. The Bridges of Madison County - Robert Waller (Iowa) **** 16. Not Without Laughter - Langston Hughes (Kansas) 17. Nathan Coultar - Wendell Berry (Kentucky) ***** 18. All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren (Louisiana) 19. Empire Falls - Richard Russo (Maine) 20. Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant - Anne Tyler (Maryland) *** 21. Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton (Massachusetts) *** 22. Song of Solomon - Toni Morrison (Michigan) 23. Main Street - Sinclair Lewis (Minnesota) 24. As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner (Mississippi) 25. Stoner - John Williams (Missouri) ** 26. A River Runs Through It - Norman Maclean (Montana) 27. My Antonia - Willa Cather (Nebraska) ***** 28. The Ox-Bow Incident - Walter van Tilburg Clark (Nevada) 29. Peyton Place - Grace Metallious (New Hampshire) 30. The Sportswriter - Richard Ford (New Jersey) **** 31. The Crossing - Cormac McCarthy (New Mexico) 32. Underworld - Don DeLillo (New York) 33. Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier (North Carolina) ***** 34. The Plague of Doves - Louise Erdrich (North Dakota) ***** 35. Winesburg, Ohio - Sherwood Anderson (Ohio) *** 36. True Grit - Charles Portis (Oklahoma) **** 37. Trask - Don Berry (Oregon) 38. The Killer Angels - Michael Shaara (Pennsylvania) 39. The Witches of Eastwick - John Updike (Rhode Island) *** 40. The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd (South Carolina) *** 41. Welcome to Hard Times - EL Doctorow (South Dakota) 42. A Death in the Family - James Agee (Tennessee) 43. Lonesome Dove - Larry McMurtry (Texas) ****** 44. The Nineteenth Wife - David Ebershoff (Utah) 45. The Secret History - Donna Tartt (Vermont) 46. Prodigal Summer - Barbara Kingsolver (Virginia) 47. Snow Falling on Cedars- David Guterson (Washington) *** 48. Advise and Consent - Allen Drury (Washington DC) ***** 49. Storming Heaven - Denise Giardina (West Virginia) 50. The Art of Fielding - Chad Harbach (Wisconsin) 51. The Virginian - Owen Wister (Wyoming)
  5. Willoyd's Tour of the States.

    Major Update It's a long while since I posted on this thread, so some major updating. First of all, I've done a fairly major overhaul on the books, going back to some original choices, bringing in a few others that I've found out about. Many of these reverse the June 2018 update, not least because I later found one or two books were allocated to wrong states. Rather than list all the changes, I'll just comment that the only signficant change relevant to the thread to date is that I removed Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees (read for Arizona) from the list as I wanted/needed to include her Prodigal Summer for Virginia. That, inevitably, dropped me back a book, but a sacrifice worth making IMO. In addition to the books cited to date, the following have now been read: Plainsong by Kent Haruf (Colorado) **** Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (Idaho) **** Nathan Coultar by Wendell Berry (Kentucky) ***** Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler (Maryland) *** Stoner by John Williams (Missouri) ** The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich (North Dakota) ***** The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike (Rhode Island) *** Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (Texas) ****** As can be surmised from the ratings, Lonesome Dove was my favourite of these - a totally absorbing doorstopper of a book - but the 5 star reads were also excellent, and I've certainly found three authors there that I want to explore further, especially Wendell Berry. The Haruf and Robinson books were also strong reads, and again I want to try them out further in future. The only disappointment was Stoner, which I though vastly overrated, whilst the Tyler was the weakest of hers that I've read to date IMO, even though others have rated it as one of her best. The Updike felt a bit more of a triumph of style over substance, but I did enjoy the style! That takes me to 19/51, so a long way to go yet. Some intensive work on reducing the 'to read' list down further looks to be somewhat overdue!
  6. Got back into this a couple of years ago, and done a few populaires of 100-150, and a couple of 200s. Would like to go further, but have been very lazy this winter so need some time this spring/summer to build up again. I love the relaxed nature - I really enjoying watching cycle sport, but haven't a competitive cycling fibre in my own body (save that for orienteering!) - very much from a touring background which is OH's and my favourite form of holiday. I find even sportives too competitive! The one thing I'm looking forward to beyond lockdown is being able to get back to continent for a good 2-3 weeks touring.
  7. One last book for this month: Seven Kinds of People You Find in Bookshops by Shaun Bythell. A slim little volume, almos a Christmas stocking filler type. It's a fun look at some stereotypes, and, having worked in a bookshop, I can certainly see whereh he's coming from! I can't say I was enraptured, but it was a smile-inducing bit of fun. 3/6 stars.
  8. I think you hit the nail pretty much on the head with that point about unprocessed food. I recently read Tim Spector's Spoon Fed, (I think you would enjoy it), where he takes aim at a whole load of dietary 'myths'. At the end he reckons that the only rule really is that - eat food as unprocessed as you can. He classifies different degrees of processed food, and what I find interesting is how much of our western carb based diet comes under the more highly processed categories (including bread, pasta, pizza). And if you're going to eat carbs, make sure it's minimally processed carbs.... I also agree about slipping back into older habits - but I've not found myself doing that this time round, it's been very much a lifestyle change (much to OH's surprise!). TBH, I find myself preferring this diet to my old one for all sorts of reasons. It's also easier to stick to because I know I need to - I can't afford to let blood sugar levels kick in, although I do, very occasionally, transgress - almost always for something home made! On the cycling front: I do a lot too. However, most of mine is audax orientated, ie low intensity endurance. I find a low carb diet perfect for that - I just don't get anything like as hungry as I used to. Nuts tend to be my main on the go fuel. I think if you up the intensity, it becomes a bit of a different game. My high intensity sport is orienteering, but as I don't race for more than 50-55 mins, a low carb diet is fine. However, I do know of some high level athlets who still swear by low carb diets. It is, and it isn't. Low carb food by its nature is low GI, but there's a lot of low GI food I don't eat. A lot of peole I know on low GI diets also cut back on their fats - I've done rather the opposite! Agree with you about body type! However, what you describe is a keto diet, and I've avoided going on that (some diabetics I know swear by it). Because I was pre-diabetic (last time, my blood sugar average had dropped below this) I could afford to be slighly less ferocious, so for instance I always allowed myself berries (every day) and worked to keep below 50g per day (keto is below 20g). Nowadays, I occasionally have lower carb pulses, and am less rigorous on some fruit (although haven't eaten a banana or mango for 2 years). I was a bread addict, but find that I now just enjoy the occasional slice of a special bread (usually as toast!), and haven't eaten potato, pasta, rice or pizza for the same 2 years (I actually prefer cauliflower rice and mash!). My taste buds have completely changed: sweet foods are generally horribly oversweet tasting now - I just don't like cakes etc now - too sickly sweet; I used to love 'ordinary' milk or dark chocolate, and disliked 70%+ cocoa - now I only eat 90%, and vastly prefer it. Sorry if post is overlong - I find this a fascinating subject - but I think as you both suggest, it's finding what works for you - andit appars the science is starting to support that individualisation.
  9. That's really interesting because, if anything, I've gone the opposite way. Having been a vegetarian in the past, and even more recently strongly plant centred with my diet, I found I was pre-diabetic. In an effort to lose and keep weight off and keep my blood sugar levels low, I've gone over to a low carb, high fat diet, although not full on keto diet. Like you, weight sloughed off, losing 20kg in around 4 months, and keeping it off for the past 2 years. I've pretty much abandoned bread, pasta, potatoes, rice, cereals and other higher carb foods (including some pulses, fruit, root veg etc), which obviously included anything with added sugar, and eat a lot more fat and protein. In addition to weight loss, blood pressure down, cholesterol levels down, long term blood sugar levels down to normal levels. I'm very careful where i source meat from- but it (including fish) is a fair proportion of my diet, and I eat a fair whack of dairy and eggs (the latter particularly so!).
  10. Two books finished in quick succession (interleaved with one unfinished): First off was Richard Mabey's biography of Gilbert White. Well up to Mabey's high standards, a slim, fascinating book, somewhat of a contrast to the increasing tendency for substantial biographical bricks. Excellent 5/6. I then started Philippa Gregory's Tidelands, the choice for one of my book groups this month. I didn't get very far, barely 60-70 pages in. By then I was already thoroughly bored, and could see it heading down a highly predictable path (which, according to reviews, is exactly what it does apparently). Not being in that sort of mood, I decided to cut my losses - I decided I needed to do this more readily nowadays - there are far too many books crying out to be read to spend my time on books I really don't want to read. As I didn't positively dislike it, it gets 2/6 (Disappointing) and, as I hadn't read enough of it, it doesn't count to me totals. Then on to The Stubbon Light of Things by Melissa Harrison, a collection of her monthly Nature Diary for The Times. I was going to read an entry a day, but simply couldn't put it down and gorged on it instead in 3-4 sittings. Simple, lucid and wonderfully written - loved every second if it. That makes it the first 6/6 non-fiction book for almost 2 years (I've read plenty of really good ones, but none that have quite qualified for 'favourite' status). Which takes me to another major personal reading landmark, The Stubborn Light of Things being the 100th book I've read in the past 12 months, the first time, as an adult, that I've ever reached that figure in a year (and the first time I've reached 25000 pages in the same period)! A small cause for celebration! Am so pleased to have done so with such a great book. Next book is Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, for another book group. Looks far more promising than the Gregory.
  11. Chose to read a book that's sat a while on my shelves: Touche, by Agnes Poirier, a look at the differences between French and English society and culture from the perspective of a French ex-pat living in London. Disappointing, based on very limited, London 'bourgeois' experience, bathed in stereotyping. Just scraped 2 stars out of 6, as didn't positively dislike it. On to Richard Mabey's biography of Gilbert White.
  12. Thread Contents Please note, none of the links currently work owing to a problem with software. Post number 02. Book List 2021 03. Favourite books 04. Favourite authors 05. Tour of the United States 06. Classic fiction: Dickens, Zola 07. Fiction: O'Brian, Sansom, Leon, Simenon 08. Some stats 09. Big Reads 10. spare 11. spare 12. spare 13. spare 14. 2020 review, 2021 preview 15. Accolades for 2020
  13. Willoyd's Reading 2021

    Of the two, Love, Nina is definitely better, of that the whole group were agreed! Definitely smacked of the editor of a successful book asking the author if they've got anything else ready to ride on the back of previous success. I decided to finally plump on giving Man at the Helm two rather than one star, so not hopelessly disliked (unlike Body Surfing!)
  14. Just completed The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike, the book for Rhode Island in my Tour of the USA. Easy enough read, distinctive style, but never fully engaged me. 3/6. Still deciding what to move on to.
  15. Not been on for a while - first post here this month. Just finished my book of March: Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? by Lev Pariakin, an account of his return to birdwatching, and efforts to tick off 200 birds in the year without 'twitching'. An easy read, I could relate to this as so much of it reflected my own return to birdwatching having, like the author, beein a keen youngster. I particularly enjoyed where he related his experiences to those in his professional career as a conductor, and his childhood and relationship with his father. 4 stars. Other books completed in the past 2-3 weeks: The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey (5 or 6 stars: superb!), The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste (ungraded as unfinished: couldn't handle the unremitting grimness), The Ash Tree by Oliver Rackham (4 stars), The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (5 stars), Birdsong in the Time of Silence by Steven Lovatt (5 stars).
  16. Willoyd's Reading 2021

    A bit of a catch-up on reviews I've let reviews slip behind probably worse than I've done since I joined this forum, so, almost two months after the last post, I'll try and start to catch up. My excuse is that I've been too busy reading! This is actually the strongest start to a year' reading since I started keeping records - something to do with lockdown I suspect! I've really not managed to keep up with so many other things either, like physical exercise! Anyway, here are the next five reviews, starting with the last 2 books read in January, and bringing me back to within a month of writing! Bringing Back The Beaver by Derek Gow ***** An account of the efforts to re-introduce the beaver into the British landscape, the author being one of the leading experts and promoters. This was a brilliant read: insightful, no-nonsense, full of experience and knowledge, and in places really funny - well it made me laugh, and books don't often do that. It also left me in despair at times - not with Gow or his subject, but with the machinations of our bureacracy and the whole way this country is run, particularly the way land is managed and owned, but then I've despaired on that front already, so it's not the books fault! George I, The Lucky King by Tim Blanning **** Part of the Penguin Monarchs series, these little books are proving to be a minor hit with me, proving a set of really interesting overviews ot monarch's lives from some of the top historians around. I've previously enjoyed a couple of Blannings bigger tomes, and he's an engaging writer even in these more formal works. Here he sounds more relaxed, and the book benefits from that. These early Georges often get skimmed over in our history, but these early years of the 18th century saw so much of modern day Britain laid down, and I came away feeling I'd learned a lot both easily and quickly. Thoroughly recommended! The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman **** For once in a while, a 'popular' book that lived up to its hype. We're not talking great literature, but that was neither the aim or the point. Osman has a nicely balanced style - sufficiently light and gently humourous enough to fit neatly into the mould of 'cosy crime', but with sufficient bite and respect to not descend into whimsy. I say respect, because he treats all his characters as humans, with both strengths and weaknesses, whether 'baddy' or 'goody' (or in between!). And his writing flows very nicely too - this was a positive gallop of a read. Good plot too - it really did keep me guessing to the end. I'll definitely read more of his as they come out. The Motion of the Body through Space by Lionel Shriver * So, after a string of thoroughly likeable reads, we come to this one, an examination of extreme sport addiction. Sereneta has been a lifelong exerciser, committed to her daily routine. Her husband, Remington, is levered out of his job and, with time on his hands and self-esteem to rebuild, decides first of all to run a marathon, and then attempt the MettleMan triathlon (an obvious take on the Ironman). In the process, he becomes utterly addicted, endangering his marriage. It's been described as 'scabrously funny', and members of my book group (for which I read it) really enjoyed the satire. Me, I found it heavy handed and very one-sided: we definitely got Shriver's strong views on exercise, ultra sport and diversity in spades. And no, I didn't find it funny, not once, but I did find it very inaccurate in places. By the end, I was rather tired of the preachiness too. I ummed and aaghed over my grading, fluctuating between one and three stars initially, but in the end, I decided that I do actually actively dislike this, so 1-star it is. A Short History of Europe by Simon Jenkins **** The author attempts the impossible! It's certainly a heck of a gallop, and there's inevitably plenty missing, but I enjoyed his style, and appreciated the overview it provided. It certainly enabled me to put a lot of my 'bits and pieces' knowledge of European history into a stronger framework, and enable me to link things together more effectively. A good read, that I'll almost certainly return to (my memory is getting worse by the day when it comes to retaining book content!).
  17. Superb read - one of the best, if not the best, in a while. Last book that grabbed me this way was Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other. An initial 5/6, but this is one that may well get upgraded. I'm attending Monique Roffey's talk at the Leeds Lit Fest (online) next Saturday, and discussing the book at book group the following week - really looking forward to both as it's a book that needs to be both talked about and thought about, but in the meantime am left still savouring its passion, colour, and enormous humanity. Yes I have - good film too, even if as you said. I wouldn't put Enigma in amongst my favourites, but it was certainly one of Harris's most satisfying reads! So glad you're enjoying this. I found it wore what it said, some potentially very heavy material, very lightly. Not quite a 'quirky' read, but pretty much unputdownable - work can be very irritating!!
  18. That's an excellent summary. Finished it last night and, yes, I enjoyed it - indeed gripped - but yet again it left me rather unsatisfied, especially the ending. I always enjoy reading his books, but almost invariably that bit disappoints. Have also just finished The Gustav Sonata. Very thought provoking. Wish it had been a book group read, as so much that could discuss. Just started The Mermaid of Black Conch, another group choice. Stunning start!
  19. Forum Fixes - An Update

    Thank you!
  20. It is assumed that you have read the book before reading posts in this thread, as the discussion might give away crucial points, and the continuous use of spoiler tags might hinder fluent reading of posts. Welcome to May's book circle. My apologies for the late posting, owing to my being away on a school residential for the past week or so! I think we have book that is a tremendous stimulus for discussion, so look forward to reading everybody's input. I've posted a few questions of my own to start with, but will add others later on, some from other sources. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber. Some questions to help discussion along: 1. The book is a pretty massive volume. Did you find it difficult or easy to read? Indeed, was the length inherently important to the impact of the book? 2. The book is a classic example of a story told by an omniscient narrator, one who makes it perfectly clear that they are directing what the reader 'sees' and 'hears'. What, if any, impact did this deliberately intrusive style have on your reading? 3. The depth of historical research is worn very clearly on the author's sleeve, with extensive detail in places. Did you enjoy this, did it enhance your reading, or did you find it intrusive? To what extent did it affect the story? 4. The theme for this month was 'The Great Wen' - books that included London as a character in its own right. Did Faber achieve this. If so, in what way(s), and if not, what prevented London fulfilling this role? How has your impression of Victorian London been influenced, if at all? 5. What did you think of the characters? 6. What are your feelings/views on the (at least to me!) very surprising ending?
  21. Forum Fixes - An Update

    Hi Hayley Has the update gone through yet? I was away for a few days, so never knew whether went offline or not. Just asking as there are one or two things that aren't sorted out yet, so wondered if that was because they were left over, or whether it's because we've not had an update yet.
  22. Hope you enjoy it as much as I, and the rest of my book group, did (it was the subject of our last face to face meeting, which seems ever such a long time ago now!). Just finished John Hillaby's Hillaby's London. First three-quarters was a good read, if a bit dated at times (publ 1987), but feel he lost his way towards the end. 3/6. Now on to Rose Tremain's The Gustav Sonata, and Robert Harris's The Second Sleep. Tremain I'm reading because someone recommended her to me, and it was readily available in my local library, the Harris because it's a book group read - I've read several of his books before, and none have really grabbed me other than Enigma. They've been OK, but just felt lacking in depth. We'll see!
  23. A couple of books completed since I was last online a couple of weeks ago: The Motion of a Body through Space by Lionel Shriver, for one of my book groups. Some thought provoking ideas, leading to some great discussion, but can't say that I particularly enjoyed the book, even though it's about a topic I'm very interested in - just found it all like being hit around the head to prove a point, although others in my great rated it more highly. 3/6. A Short History of Europe by Simon Jenkins: what it says on the tin. Rattles along, giving me just the overview I was looking for. Well written and very readable: 4/6. Currently reading John Hillaby's Journey Through London
  24. Problem with editor

    I've tried several times to insert a link into a post, using the link tool. Every time I get message saying 'unable to load content". Same if I try to edit links in my signature. Any advice please?
  25. Finished Richard Osman's book The Thursday Murder Club, pinched off OH after she finished it (Christmas present). Really good fun, surprisingly moving in places; thoroughly enjoyed it: 4/6. (I've avoided listening to the abridgement on Radio 4, but heard a clip earlier today - doesn't sound right at all to me!).