Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • Hayley

      Moving Day Coming Soon   01/11/2021

      As many of you know, we've been looking at changing hosts for a while now. This will allow us to access the tech support we need for the site and should speed up the forum as well as ironing out a few issues we've been having recently.    We are now signed up to the new hosting plan and can go ahead with the move as soon as the new hosts have everything they need (which is currently being sorted!). The forum should not be offline for more than a day during the switch and hopefully it won't even take that long. I don't have an exact time or day for the move yet but this is an early warning to expect some downtime soon.   When we are offline, no matter how briefly, you can follow the forum twitter page (@bookclubforum) for updates.  
Brian.

Brian's Book Log - Ongoing

Recommended Posts

10 hours ago, Brian. said:

 

Fleishman is in Trouble  by Taffy Brodesser-Akner (2/5)

Toby Fleishman is recently separated, over 40, heading for divorce, and living on his own for the first time in ages. Unlike in his younger days he finds casual sex extremely easy to obtain, mainly due to the modern phenomenon of dating apps. His newly found way of life is disrupted when his wife disappears and he is left trying to balance his new life, taking care of his children, and attempting to find his wife.

This is a promising sounding summary but I struggled with this one. The writing is fine and the plot doesn't really go anywhere but the thing that really spoiled it for me was the fact that I hated every single character. They are all self obsessed bores with first world problems and I just don't get the praise that this book gets.

 

 

Interesting.  This keeps coming up in Kindle offers and from all the praise it has garnered I've been tempted to give it a go.  I'm not sure of this puts me off or makes me want to read it more as I quite like contemporary books with flawed characters!

 

Quote

 

Trafalgar by Roy Adkins (4/5)

This is my most recent Audible listen and I have found myself really enjoying audiobooks this year. As you would probably guess by the title, this is a non-fiction book about the most significant naval battle in British history, the battle of Trafalgar. This book blends scholarly history with a little bit of drama which works really well. We learn a little about each of the main players away from the battle, the history of the ships, and how country found itself in this situation. Throughout the book we are also treated to accounts from the actual sailors, thanks to letters they sent home. I found these to be a great insight into the everyday lives of the men and women who served and add real value. Going into this book I knew very little about the actual battle and this is a great book for those who want a strong overview into what happened.

 

 

I know a bit about Trafalgar; I live near Portsmouth and have been around Victory and the Royal Naval Museum many times (both for leisure and professionally).

 

I actually have a copy of this book in a pile by my bed, but it is another in a long list that I've not yet got around to reading!  

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 11/20/2020 at 10:36 AM, Brian. said:

 

The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (4/5)

Sinks start sinking for no apparent reason and strange lights are seen above the deepest parts of the ocean. Some kind of alien life form has arrived on earth and the human race doesn't know how to deal with it. I assumed, wrongly, that this would be about some deep water uber squid attacking ships due in no small part to the rum. I really enjoyed this book, it's the exact kind of classic sicence fiction that really gets my juices flowing and I can instantly see how it has served as an influence for other Sci-Fi writers.

 

 

I missed this previously! 

 

Wyndham is a master of this kind of story and this is one of his best (up there with The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos).  It has dated, but I like the period setting, and although it peters out a bit towards the end, there are some very good sci-fi concepts in this book, which as you say have influenced others.

 

Quote

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling (4/5)

I have an embarassing admission to make, I always been a little sniffy about the Harry Potter series as an adult. I don't know why this is but I would probably put it down to the fact that it was very popular when I finding my way in the world and I had a natural aversion to anything popular. I have always admired the way that the series got children reading, something which I think should be encouraged at all costs, but I never saw myself reading any of the books. As we are in a second lockdown in England I wanted something light to read and people always seem to describe the Harry Potter world as somewhere comforting to return to so I decided to give it a go. Well I have to admit that I am a convert having read the first book and I wish I had read it earlier.

 

 

Slippery. Slope. 

 

You'll be buying a wand, next...

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 19/12/2020 at 9:55 PM, Raven said:

Slippery. Slope. 

 

You'll be buying a wand, next...

 

 

I do have to admit that I did a Potter house quiz while reading to book to see which house best suited my personality.

 

On 19/12/2020 at 9:46 PM, Raven said:

 

Interesting.  This keeps coming up in Kindle offers and from all the praise it has garnered I've been tempted to give it a go.  I'm not sure of this puts me off or makes me want to read it more as I quite like contemporary books with flawed characters!

 

I'm sure you wouldn't, but don't let my review put your off. We all like different books and that's what makes this community so interesting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This morning I read the last 30 pages of

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (5/5)

I bought a copy of this as it kept popping up on the forum and other book blogs that I frequent. As usual I avoided reading anything about it as I like to pick up a book with no idea as to what it's about. The book is written from the point of view of Eleanor Oliphant, a 30 year old office accounts worker who lives alone and doesn't comform to what is 'normal'. She sticks rigidily to her routines involving work, shopping, speaking to her mummy, and her weekends. It's at this point I realised something was more than a little off with Eleanor as she spends her weekends blackout drunk. I'll stop the synopsis here as I want to avoid spoilers but essentially this book is about trauma and loneliness. The book is roughly divided into 3 sections titled, Good Days, Bad Days, and Better Days. Due to all the lockdown mess I was feeling a bit down yesterday and that coincided with me starting the Bad Days section of the book. There is an internal monologue chapter on loneliness which snuck up on me and hit me in the gut when I was least expecting it.

 

I want one of 3 things from a book. I want to be either entertained, informed, or emotionally engaged, and this book ticked 2 of those requirements. It's not the best book I've read this year, and if I'm brutally honest (like Eleanor) it just felt short of 5 stars. However, I just can't give a book 4 stars when it has made me laugh and also effected my on a emotional level at the same time so it gets 5.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Brian. said:

 

I do have to admit that I did a Potter house quiz while reading to book to see which house best suited my personality.

 

 

Well? Don't make us guess!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Brian. said:


Ravenclaw

 

I very nearly posted:

 

You got Ravenclaw, didn't you?

 

(its all those books you've read this year!)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Time to round up my final books of 2020.

 

Dark Summit by Nick Heil (4/5)

Another non-fiction book about mountaineering and specifically Everest. The blurb says this is about the 2006 season in which David Sharp lay dying near the top of Everest while forty other climbers walked past him on their way up or down to the summit. Not long after another experienced climber, Lincoln Hall was left for dead on the mountain. His death was widely reported but then he was found alive and rescued. I have a fairly keen interest in the kind of people who climb the highest mountains in the world so I knew the general story here but none of the gritty details. The blurb is a little misleading as the book starts with a general history of people climbing Everest and only later gets into the 2006 season. The synposis also misses an important point about Sharp which makes him being left on his own understandable, while at the same time being disgusting. Despite these reservations the book was an enjoyable read and is clearly very well researched.

 

The Crime Factory by Officer 'A' (2/5)

This was an impulse 'read' on Audible. The book claims to tell the true story of what goes on behind the scenes as a police detective in the modern police force. I found the book to be a real let down mainly because Officer A comes across as quite unlikeable. He seemed to be proud of very strange things and also revelled in the fact that detectives work crazy hours and abuse both drink and/or drugs. The only redeeming feature of the book is in the later stages where he talks about the psychological damage all this has caused him and other detectives. If he had toned down the dumb bravado and worked with a better writer this could have been great but in the end it was ok but nothing more.

 

Time and How to Spend it by James Wallman (3/5)

I have read one of Wallman's other books, Stuffocation, in which he talks about how many of us buy too much crap we don't need. Something I wholeheartedly agree with. I really liked that book and it got me thinking about my own consumption at the time. This book is based around the idea that despite what we think, we have plenty of time, we just spend is carelessly. If we follow the rules and guidelines contained in the book we can live much more fulfilling lives. Overall I liked the general theme and the ideas discussed but I found the book fairly repetitive. It wasn't bad, far from it in fact, but it just wasn't up to the standard of Stuffocation.

 

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle (3/5)

I don't have much to say about this one. It is a fairly short tale introducing us to Sherlock Holmes and his involvement in solving a murder that has the police beaten. I quite liked this and I look forward to reading the next tale in the saga at some point.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My Review of 2020

I guess I will start in the same way as most people have. It was a strange year for a number of reasons, the main one being a virus that meant I spent far more time at home than I had anticipated. At the start of the year I set myself a target of 40 books. This was more than the target I set myself in 2019 but far less than the actual amount of books I managed by the end of the year. I felt very confident that I would manage to read 40 books but I didn't expect to read many more than that. After a few months I found myself reading at a rate I hadn't previously and reached my target very quickly. After this I started to consider the possibility that I could reach 100 even though my previous best was 81 which I reached in 2018. By the end of 2020 I had finished 113 books and just shy of 40,000 pages.

 

2020 was the year where I started to make the most of audiobooks and by far my favourite audiobook was The Red Dwarf Collection. I found myself struggling to get on with some of the fiction audiobooks I tried but I found history audiobooks work well for me. Despite this, Chris Barrie's performance on the Red Dwarf audio is simply superb and stood up far above the rest.

 

Back to physical books, my book of the year was Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton. This was a book that I wouldn't have bought myself but received it from the Willoughby Book Club when I was trying out one of their subscription plans. They are a bit pricey but every book they sent me was a great read that I wouldn't have picked up myself.

 

So, 2020 was a great year for me with regards to reading, a welcome bonus given what happened outside the pages of my books. Looking forward to 2021, I had decided a few months ago not to set myself a reading target as I wanted to read some of the bigger books that I have neglected. However, at the end of December I finally realised that I did want to set myself a target and so set it at 50. Away from this number, I want to read some of the bigger books I own and have started with The Arabian Nights which is the very first book in the 1001 books list.

 

I am struggling to get into a few books at the moment but I know they mojo will return given time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's nice you read a lot in 2020 :). Fingers crossed that vaccinations etc will help.

 

Happy reading in 2021! I hope you find an interesting book (or two) soon that will hold your attention :).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not long after my post I decided to crack on and finish a book.

 

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (2/5)

I'm a bit of a sucker for book covers and this one managed to snare my attention as soon as I saw it at my local Waterstones. A spy novel, set during the height of the Cold War and a Barack Obama summer reading pick, whats not to like?

 

The book follows Marie Mitchell who is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She is very talented, but she has come up against the dual walls of sexism and racism and as a result her career has somewhat stalled. She find herself doing paperwork and menial intelligence work instead of being trusted with higher profile work. Frustrated, she jumps at the chance to work for a task force outside the FBI aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the president of Burkina Faso.

 

The first chapter starts with a real bang and I thought that I would really enjoy this. Sadly it rapidly went down hill and turned into a plodding, frustrating battle to avoid DNFing it. As the synopsis shows there is loads to work with. Spy intrigue, race, sexual, and world politics. There are also family issues and personal tensions but none of these are satisfactorily brought to a conclusion. I couldn't help but feel that Wilkinson would have been better served to either cut some of these issues or write a longer book to do justice to them. The endorsements on the front cover promise 'A compelling read' and  'Pacy and very exciting' but on both these accounts I have to disagree. It took a lot of effort to not give up during the first part. The second part is better and probably the best part of the book, but then the final part sags once again.

Wilkinson has also used an awkward method of telling the story in that Marie is writing a journal to her children telling them about her life. I found this especially annoying when mixed pronouns for different people at different times and often lead me to having to jump back to she who she was referring to. Coupled with constantly shifting time lines I found it to all be a bit of a mess if I'm honest.

Despite this I don't think it's a complete loss. The world politics angle is interesting, as is the way Marie admires Sankara despite some of his less democratic (in her eyes) actions. The little action there is, is handled pretty well, but there just isn't enough to push the story along when it is needed. I also think it's admirable that Wilkinson has used a protagonist that is black and female in a setting when both were dismissed as not being fit for the job at that time. When I picked this up I kind of expected  more of an Lorraine Broughton from Atomic Blonde type character but that probably shows up my own unconscious biases more than anything else.

 

If anyone wants this book, shoot me a PM and I'll post it your way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 05/01/2021 at 2:49 PM, Brian. said:

2020 was a great year for me with regards to reading, a welcome bonus given what happened outside the pages of my books.

I hope 2021 will be just as good for reading but far better in every other way.

 

 

On 05/01/2021 at 2:49 PM, Brian. said:

have started with The Arabian Nights

I really want to read this but I don’t know what edition to get! 
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Hayley said:

I really want to read this but I don’t know what edition to get! 

 

 

I have the Everyman's Library edition but I think pretty much every edition misses out some of the 'stories' as its such a large collection all together.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/7/2021 at 7:28 PM, Brian. said:

 

I have the Everyman's Library edition but I think pretty much every edition misses out some of the 'stories' as its such a large collection all together.

 

 

I have the Penguin Classic's Tales from the Thousand and One Nights (which is the same thing!) on my Kindle (another 99p purchase that I will probably never read!).

 

On 1/7/2021 at 2:55 PM, Hayley said:

 

I really want to read this but I don’t know what edition to get! 
 

 

The above is 99p on Kindle again at the moment.  I'm guessing from the title that this is selected stories, so perhaps you could start with that and get a more comprehensive volume if you like it?

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 07/01/2021 at 7:28 PM, Brian. said:

 

I have the Everyman's Library edition but I think pretty much every edition misses out some of the 'stories' as its such a large collection all together.

Yes! It’s completely understandable but it makes it such a difficult decision! Are you enjoying it so far?

 

17 hours ago, Raven said:

 

I have the Penguin Classic's Tales from the Thousand and One Nights (which is the same thing!) on my Kindle (another 99p purchase that I will probably never read!).

 

 

The above is 99p on Kindle again at the moment.  I'm guessing from the title that this is selected stories, so perhaps you could start with that and get a more comprehensive volume if you like it?

 

This is an excellent idea (and offer!) but um... is this the time I admit that my kindle hasn’t been charged for about... 8 months? :blush:

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Hayley said:

 

This is an excellent idea (and offer!) but um... is this the time I admit that my kindle hasn’t been charged for about... 8 months? :blush:

 

 

Oh no, what a pickle!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Hayley said:

Yes! It’s completely understandable but it makes it such a difficult decision! Are you enjoying it so far?

 

 

It's ok but I am reading it in small parts most nights before I go to sleep. There are stories inside stories, inside stories, inside stories, some of which end abruptly only to start up again. It is interesting to see how many of the old tales we know from our culture in the west have basically come from these stories though.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Raven said:

 

Oh no, what a pickle!

 

On the plus side, it’s definitely here somewhere, since I haven’t been anywhere else! 
 

2 hours ago, Brian. said:

 

It's ok but I am reading it in small parts most nights before I go to sleep. There are stories inside stories, inside stories, inside stories, some of which end abruptly only to start up again. It is interesting to see how many of the old tales we know from our culture in the west have basically come from these stories though.

Oooh that’s interesting. So not really something you can just dip into because one story might continue from a much earlier one? 
Part of what I love about reading traditional folklore etc. from different countries is seeing the similarities and how stories were adapted for different cultures. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, Hayley said:

On the plus side, it’s definitely here somewhere, since I haven’t been anywhere else! 
 

Oooh that’s interesting. So not really something you can just dip into because one story might continue from a much earlier one? 
Part of what I love about reading traditional folklore etc. from different countries is seeing the similarities and how stories were adapted for different cultures. 

 

You can dip in and out of the edition I'm reading because they have chunked story blocks together to make it easier to follow. I guess I didn't explain it too clearly, I'll try again. What happens, for example there will be a story involving 3 thieves and halfway through the story it will break off and tell you the story of one of the thieves followed by the stories of the other two. Then it will circle back around to finish the original story, this process is sometimes contained in another story if that makes sense. Fortunately all the stories are pretty short so following what is going on isn't too hard, even if you dip in and out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Brian. said:

 

You can dip in and out of the edition I'm reading because they have chunked story blocks together to make it easier to follow. I guess I didn't explain it too clearly, I'll try again. What happens, for example there will be a story involving 3 thieves and halfway through the story it will break off and tell you the story of one of the thieves followed by the stories of the other two. Then it will circle back around to finish the original story, this process is sometimes contained in another story if that makes sense. Fortunately all the stories are pretty short so following what is going on isn't too hard, even if you dip in and out.

Oh! I see. I like the sound of that though actually!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've got a few reviews to catch up on, this is the first.

 

Affluenza by Oliver James (1/5)

I can sum up my emotions about this book in one word. Bilge!

James promises to provide evidence for all he writes and yet mistakes anecdotes for proof, and correlation for causation. I already believe in what he set out to say but he somehow manages to make such a mess of it I wanted to throw the book across the room. His basic premise is that we need to get away from constantly desiring new things, ie greed Capitalism. This is great, I wholeheartedly agree with him on this. However, he underpins his evidence of this by claiming that rich people are unhappy, and poor people are happy. This is a ridiculous generalisation for anyone to make, let alone a clinical psychologist. His evidence is endless, repetitive, anecdotal interviews with people that are clearly chosen because they back his viewpoint. I'm sure, given a few hours I could find rich people who are happy and poor people who are unhappy, yet magically he couldn't find any.

At the end of the book there is a section titled 'The Unselfish Capitalist Manifesto' where the book really takes a turn for the bizarre. It ends up being a 37 page tirade against specific Labour MP's and the party as a whole. I'm no fan of politicians in general but none of this ire is aimed at a Conservative MP. He stops just shy of telling people to vote for the Conservatives at the next election but only by the thinnest of margins. It felt as though he decided to use the space at the end of the book as a political campaign, justifying it by the most tenuous links possible to the premise of the book. From time to time I like to seek out books that oppose my viewpoints and they generally provide a few thinking moments or alter my thoughts about something. I think this is a good thing to do. Mental or physical debate to challenge your beliefs is ever more important in an age where we can surround ourselves in an echo chamber. However, this book almost made me go against something I strongly believe in because I hated it so much, and that is a first.

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

×