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    • Michelle

      Important Announcement!   07/28/2018

      Dear BCF members,   This forum has been running now for many years, and over that time we have seen many changes. Generalised forums are nowhere near as popular as they once were, and they have been very much taken over by blogs, vlogs and social media discussions. Running a forum well takes money, and a lot of care and attention, as there is so much which goes on behind the scenes to keep things running smoothly.   With all of this in mind, and after discussion within the current moderator team, the decision has been made to close this forum in its current format. I know that this will disappoint a lot of our long term members, but I want to reassure you that it's not a decision which has been taken lightly.    The remaining moderator team have agreed that we do not want to lose everything which is special about our home, and so we are starting a brand new facebook group, so that people can stay in touch, and discussions can continue. We can use it for free and should be easier for us to run (it won't need to be updated or hosted). We know not everyone has FaceBook, but we hope that those of you who are interested will join the group. We will share the link, and send invites as soon as we are ready to go. Added: We may as well get this going, find us here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/195289821332924/   The forum will close to new registrations, but will remain open for some time, to allow people to collect up any information, reading lists etc they need to, and to ensure they have contact details for those they wish to stay in touch with.    The whole team feel sad to say goodbye, but we also feel that it's perhaps time and that it feels like the right choice. We hope we can stay in touch with all of you through our new FaceBook group.   I personally want to thank everyone who has helped me moderate the forum, both in the past and the present, and I also want to thank every single person who has visited, and shared their love of books.. I'm so proud of everything we've achieved, and the home we built.   Please visit the new section in the Lounge section to discuss this further, ask questions etc.
ian

Ian's reading 2017

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On ‎01‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 8:33 AM, bobblybear said:

I read the first in the Amos Decker series, Memory Man.  It was ok, but unfortunately quite run-of-the-mill, as these books tend to get after a while. 

 

Yes, I remember thinking when I read the first one; I expected more to be made of Amos Decker's Synthesia. But, apart from one instance, it's hardly mentioned at all.  Still. I'm a sucker for these type of crime books, so they have to be pretty bad for me to not like them.

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I seem to have hit a bit of a slump at the moment. I'm not sure if it's because of what I'm reading, which seems alternatively to be very good and then struggling to keep my attention, or because I don't feel 100%. I seem to be tired all the time and getting a few headaches, so reading doesn't seem to be much fun. Probably just need a good nights sleep.

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I'm sorry to hear you've not been feeling well and been unable to read :(. I hope you will feel better soon :flowers2:.

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Thanks Gaia.

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I hate having a slump with my reading too...sometimes I just can't settle to a book I thought I was going to enjoy. Just given up on a book I was 3/4 way through. Hope the reading mojo returns Ian.

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Thanks everyone - I think I was just feeling a little under the weather. Once I was beyond that, I found my reading bug came back.

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Book 33: The World according to Garp by John Irving.

 

This is the life and times of T. S. Garp, the 'person of dubious parentage' son of Jenny Fields--a feminist leader ahead of her times. This is the life and death of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual extremes--even of sexual assassinations. It is a novel rich with "lunacy and sorrow"; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and robust. In more than thirty languages, in more than forty countries--with more than ten million copies in print--this novel provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line: "In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases." (Taken from Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts.

Perhaps inevitably with such a long book, I found some of this really easy reading, and other parts quite heavy going. Plus, as I said above, I wasn't always feeling 100%, so I sometimes found I was reading a page, but none of it was sticking; I had to read it again.

This is a really clever book. It manages to be both tragic and laugh out loud funny, sometimes in the same sentence. The characters are both frustrating and endearing in equal measure - and all of them are damaged in some way. The initial chapters, about Garp's mother and him at The Steering school are excellent. It was the section set in Vienna and when he returns to America that I found more difficult to read.

One of the problems that I used to have with "serious" fiction was trying to understand the books meaning. It took me a while to realise that there are no real right or wrong answers. What you think a book means, is what that book means - to you. However, I finished this and thought " What was that about?" Fortunately, my copy of this book was a 20 year anniversary issue with an afterword by the author, in which he admits that he's not sure himself what it's all about. If the author himself doesn't know after 20 years, I'm not going to give myself a hard time!

Be warned, there is plenty of both sexual comedy and sexual violence in this book. Both are handled very well, but if you don't want to read about such things, best give this book a swerve. 4/5.

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Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

 

As a child, Kathy–now thirty-one years old–lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed–even comforted–by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham's nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.

 

My Thoughts

Where do I start? There is so much going on in this book, and almost none of it is directly on the surface. I'm not even sure what genre you can call this. Sci-fi? Dystopian? Love story? Coming of age? In the end, perhaps it is all of these and more.

I'd not read anything by Ishiguro before, and I was only really familiar due to the film of Remains of the Day. I'd wanted to read that, but when I saw this in a charity shop, I decided to give it a go. As I say, I was completely unfamiliar with the story of this. I'm glad, as what is really going on at the school these kids attend - what its real purpose is - doesn't fully come out until the halfway point of the book. Even then, with the book being a first-person narration, much of what happens is couched in ambiguity & euphemism.  So I don't want to go into any detail of that. If you've not read this, I'd like to preserve that feeling for others. Makes it difficult to write a review though!  All in all, I loved this book. with everything it has to say about growing up, falling in love, friendship, regrets and death. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time. 5/5.

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Both The World According to Garp and Never Let Me Go are on my TBR, glad you enjoyed reading them :). Great reviews!

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I tried Never Let Me Go a few years ago but never finished it, however I think that was due to time constraints rather than enjoyment.  I'd also like to read The Buried Giant but apparently that is very different in style to his usual work.

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I'm glad you liked Never Let Me Go, I added it to my 'to read' list after reading The Buried Giant but, like @bobblybear said, I had heard The Buried Giant was very different to his other work so I was a bit worried I wouldn't like Never Let Me Go as much.

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The Mermaid's Singing by Val McDermid

 

YOU ALWAYS REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME...
This was the summer he discovered what he wanted—at a gruesome museum of criminology far off the beaten track of more timid tourists. Visions of torture inspired his fantasies like a muse. It would prove so terribly fulfilling.
BUT THE NEXT TIME WOULD BE BETTER...
The bodies of four men have been discovered in the town of Bradfield. Enlisted to investigate is criminal psychologist Tony Hill. Even for a seasoned professional, the series of mutilation sex murders is unlike anything he's encountered before. But profiling the psychopath is not beyond him. Hill's own past has made him the perfect man to comprehend the killer's motives. It's also made him the perfect victim.
AND PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.
A game has begun for the hunter and the hunted. But as Hill confronts his own hidden demons, he must also come face-to-face with an evil so profound he may not have the courage—or the power—to stop it... (taken from Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts.

I almost gave up on this. It's perfectly well written, but it just wallows a little too much on the torture for my liking. The Silence of the Lambs is mentioned several times in the text, and while there are some similarities, this book is far less subtle (and SOTL is NOT a subtle book!). Still, what kept me reading were the more interesting main characters; Tony Hill is very damaged and DI Carol Jordan is interesting. Some of the minor characters do suffer by being a bit two-dimensional and clichéd (bigoted police officers, hard-as-nails, using her sexuality to get the story female journalist).

In it's favour as well - some good red herrings, one of which I got sold on completely!

I know I've read one of the later books  - this is the first in this series - but I can't remember anything about that now. There is enough here to keep my interest enough to make me want to read more, but as I say, it revels in the blood 'n guts a little too much for me. 3/5

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On ‎24‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 12:19 PM, Athena said:

Both The World According to Garp and Never Let Me Go are on my TBR, glad you enjoyed reading them :). Great reviews!

 

On ‎27‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 12:40 PM, Hayley said:

I'm glad you liked Never Let Me Go, I added it to my 'to read' list after reading The Buried Giant but, like @bobblybear said, I had heard The Buried Giant was very different to his other work so I was a bit worried I wouldn't like Never Let Me Go as much.

 

On ‎27‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 10:22 AM, bobblybear said:

I tried Never Let Me Go a few years ago but never finished it, however I think that was due to time constraints rather than enjoyment.  I'd also like to read The Buried Giant but apparently that is very different in style to his usual work.

 

I've since read a few other reviews of this, and the reaction people have to it seems to be affected by what type of book they think it is. A lot of people were under the impression that it is a Sci-Fi thriller. While it definitely has some sci-fi elements, it isn't the most important thing. What kept me reading this (sometimes far beyond my bedtime!) was the mystery element. It's nigh on half way through the book before you have any idea what fate these people have. That makes it very impactful.  I would be interested to see if it could keep my attention quite so well on a second read. The narration by Kathy jumps backwards and forwards - I could certainly see that this could annoy some people.

All I can say for myself is, I still have this book on my mind - got to be a good sign, right?

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The Wind through the Keyhole by Stephen King

 

Stephen King returns to the rich landscape of Mid-World, the spectacular territory of the Dark Tower fantasy saga that stands as his most beguiling achievement.

Roland Deschain and his ka-tetJake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy, the billy-bumbler—encounter a ferocious storm just after crossing the River Whye on their way to the Outer Baronies. As they shelter from the howling gale, Roland tells his friends not just one strange story but two . . . and in so doing, casts new light on his own troubled past. (taken from Goodreads)

 

My Thoughts

Reading this was like meeting up with a group of old friends you haven't seen for a while. This book fits in between books 3 & 4 (I think) of the Dark Tower series but was written after the series was complete- you could read it in its proper position, it gives nothing away, but it does give us more insight to the back-story of Roland. Plus, it's actually 3 stories in one. It starts with Roland and his gang of fellow travellers, being stuck sheltering from a storm. To pass the time, Roland tells a story from his own past. Within that, he tells a fairytale/legend to a boy. I loved this. 5/5

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Book 37: Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

 

Ivanhoe (1819) was the first of Scott's novels to adopt a purely English subject and was also his first attempt to combine history and romance, which later influenced Victorian medievalism. Set at the time of the Norman Conquest, Ivanhoe returns from the Crusades to claim his inheritance and the love of Rowena and becomes involved in the struggle between Richard Coeur de Lion and his Norman brother John. The gripping narrative is structured by a series of conflicts: Saxon versus Norman, Christian versus Jew, men versus women, played out against Scott's unflinching moral realism.

 

My Thoughts

When I was about 12, a new bookshop opened in Birmingham. One of the shelves at the back had various classics at 3 for £1. A bargain even in those days, and irresistible to a boy like me with pocket money burning a hole in his pocket. That bookshop introduced me to lots of great books, but it's the ones that I found too difficult as a 12 year old that stick in my mind. Ivanhoe was one of those books. The language was just too much for my young brain, but I always intended to try again one day.

And I have to say - I did like it, but even now I did find the language a bit flowery and overlong. Still, the story is a good one and it's nice to read a book from this era that has somewhat sympathetic Jewish characters. I imagine that was fairly unusual in those days. 3/5

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2 hours ago, ian said:

Book 37: Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

 

 

 

Informative, concise review of a great book.  But how could you not mention jousting? There's jousting! Jousting!:ph34r:

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On ‎02‎/‎12‎/‎2017 at 8:15 PM, Litwitlou said:

 

Informative, concise review of a great book.  But how could you not mention jousting? There's jousting! Jousting!:ph34r:

 

There is indeed jousting! Quite a lot of jousting!

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Book 38: Diary of a young girl by Anne Frank.

 

Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank's remarkable diary has since become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.
In 1942, with Nazis occupying Holland, a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family fled their home in Amsterdam and went into hiding. For the next two years, until their whereabouts were betrayed to the Gestapo, they and another family lived cloistered in the "Secret Annexe" of an old office building. Cut off from the outside world, they faced hunger, boredom, the constant cruelties of living in confined quarters, and the ever-present threat of discovery and death.
In her diary Anne Frank recorded vivid impressions of her experiences during this period. By turns thoughtful, moving, and amusing, her account offers a fascinating commentary on human courage and frailty and a compelling self-portrait of a sensitive and spirited young woman whose promise was tragically cut short.

 

My Thoughts.

My first thought having finished this was "How do I rate a book like this?". Because I went through so many different emotions reading this.

Firstly, I have to say - this is very well written. Anne Frank was clearly a very good writer and chronicler. But, cooped up in a couple of rooms for 2 years with 7 other people, inevitably the things she writes about are, of necessity,  personal things. Things that are important to a teenage girl. And yes, some of those things can seem a little mundane, perhaps even trivial.

But. This is not a work of fiction. So every word of this was like a hammer on my heart. The hopes, the fears, the loves and rages. Yes, she's a teenage girl - the same age as my daughter at the start of this book as it happens. Every time she wrote "after the war, I will..." I had to stop reading, maybe for just a second, and remind myself that she never got to live those dreams, write those books, fall in love. That last entry is heart-breaking.

How do you review a book like this? For me, by thinking of this as a text book. This is a young woman who was killed, along with millions of others, simply because of the type of person she was. Because she was  "different". But reading this, she's just like all of us.  That is the lesson this book teaches, and teaches very well. 5/5

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I went through lots of different emotions too, reading Anne Frank's diary. Such a touching book. Great review!

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Book 39: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

 

Ender's Game is a 1985 military science fiction novel by American author Orson Scott Card. Set in Earth's future, the novel presents an imperiled mankind after two conflicts with the "buggers", an insectoid alien species. In preparation for an anticipated third invasion, children, including the novel's protagonist, Ender Wiggin, are trained from a very young age through increasingly difficult games including some in zero gravity, where Ender's tactical genius is revealed.

 

My Thoughts

It wasn't until the film came out that I even heard of this. I enjoyed the film, but as usual, there is much more to the book. So, while the ending isn't a surprise (which I won't spoil here), there is more going on with Ender's brother and sister than there is in the film.  I did enjoy this - it's a very easy read, but something about it bothered me - which I really can't put my finger on.  So it only gets 4/5.

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Book 40: Speaker for the dead by Orson Scott Card.

In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: the Speaker for the Dead, who told of the true story of the Bugger War.

Now long years later, a second alien race has been discovered, but again the aliens’ ways are strange and frightening…again, humans die. And it is only the Speaker for the Dead, who is also Ender Wiggin the Xenocide, who has the courage to confront the mystery…and the truth.

 

My Thoughts

I can't say that I enjoyed this book anywhere near as much as book 1. The problem here is the middle third section. Having spent the first third of the book setting up the new characters and the situation they are in, the book then spends the middle third in a sort of theological discussion. Now I get what the author is trying to do here. It's an updated version of some of the Catholic missions to south America just after it was discovered. But, having spent all that time setting up the Bishop and Governor of the colony as the bad guys; it then turns the tables, and everyone is friends again! So, I felt that the book would have functioned equally well without that bit. 3/5.

 

And really, if you want a sci-fi book that deals with the Catholic Church's missions in this way, read "The Sparrow" by Mary Doria Russell - which does it much better

Edited by ian

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Shame this wasn't nearly as enjoyable to you as book 1. I really liked book 1 but haven't read any other books by the author (I do own a couple).

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