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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. Book #34: The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad for Pakistan ***** Comments to follow
  2. And now finished The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad, my book for Pakistan in Reading The World. Another 5/6 stars: short,vivid and gripping (only started 2 days ago).
  3. #33 Nevada: The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark ***** Review to follow
  4. #32 West Virginia: Rocket Boys / October Sky by Homer Hickam Jnr ***** Review to follow
  5. Finished The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, the book for Nevada in my tour of the United States. Far more than 'just' a Western! 5/6 stars.
  6. I think there's very little chance of that. I started collecting Folios back in the late 80s, and was a regular buyer until a few years ago, around the time they got rid of the membership structure. Recently, their prices have gone through the roof as they have become increasingly 'fashionable', and most of the fiction I would have wanted is only being produced as LEs (limited editions), which I have no interest in nowadays (I've sold off all but one of the LEs I bought in the past). The sales used to be good for picking up older titles reasonably cheaply, but that seems to have gone by the board in the past couple of years, and they are now of very limited interest. I'm a member of the Folio Society Devotees group on LibraryThing, and there are quite a few longer term members like me who have become rather disillusioned I'm afraid, not least because FS seem to be increasingly catering for a very different type of market, centred primarily on the fantasy/scifi enthusiast, and have seemed to have lost any interest in classical lit (other than LEs) other than rehashing a limited range of popular titles. They have improved on the American literature front, but I've gone over to Library of America for that now, which provides far greater depth of coverage and is much better value (I'm currently reading one of their volumes). i occasionally pick up the odd travel/exploration title, which they do well, my latest being Paul Theroux's Old Patagonian Express, but othewise all my FS purchases are now in the secondhand market, as there's still some interesting titles to explore from the back lists. I still have a couple of bookcases worth of FS volumes - I do tend to prefer their older more understated productions, and there are quite a few favourites which are a real pleasure to read and reread. Having said all that, my reading preferences have changed quite dramatically in the past few years, and am enjoying especially exploring more independent publishers like Peirene, Peepal, Pushkin, Fitzcarraldo, Persephone etc, along with a range of other world lit, so highly unlikely to buy much FS nowadays even if their prices ameliorated.
  7. Finished Emile Zola's La Curee (The Kill). Excellent - 5 stars (out of 6).
  8. Two more to finish October off: The Meaning of Geese by Neil Acherson **** Returning home to north Norfolk after 10 years working in South America and elsewhere as an eco-guide the experience of which has led him to reject flying as a transport option, the author is plunged straight into lockdown. He decides to spend more time on his first nature love, the wild geese that winter on the coast near his home, borrowing his grandmother's bicycle and cycling the 25+ miles return journey most days of the winter of 20-21. Framed in a diary format, this book represents his account and thoughts - very much a personal experience as the subtitles suggest. This proved a good read, but only occasionally, at least for me, tipped over into a 'great' read. As with so many nature writers, I felt that he was at times trying too hard, and the descriptive language all got rather too much - one doesn't need an adjective in front of EVERY noun, and certainly not a barrage of two or three each. When he was at his best, was when he focused on the background to the geese, talked about the work and his relationship with other birders, or spent some time filling out a related topic - perhaps because this came more naturally to him? Having said that, reading other reviews suggests that quite a few readers found his book almost too technical, and felt that this was a bird mainly aimed at fellow birdwatchers. So, overall, I suspect what actually happened is that this book actually falls a bit between two stools. It certainly could have benefited from some decent illustrations (even line drawings) to support the bird descriptions (brants and brents, pink-footed and white- fronteds etc) to help those unfamiliar with the multitude of species present in Norfolk, and, by biggest gripe with so many of these books, some decent maps. I read this book next to my phone, which has both the Collins Bird Guide on it and the Ordnance Survey app - and I was constantly swapping from book to phone and back. Both of these enhanced the book enormously, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, feeling I learnt a fair bit (and certainly it's increased my desire to spend some time down there in the not too distant future!), but what could have been a 'great' book, proved, in the end, to be merely 'good'. Mr Weston's Good Wine by TF Powys *** In the opening pages of this 1920s novel, published by Vintage Classics, Mr Weston arrives in the fictional Dorset village of Folly Down, a travelling salesman for his various 'wines', accompanied by his assistant Michael. Something is very odd - children trying to steal whatever the contents of his car are, are scared almost to death, and run off screaming. The contents of the car? We found out much later. But what we do find sooner is that there is a host of decidedly 'interesting' (read, odd) characters inhabiting Folly Down, with much carnal activity and mysoginistic abuse (particularly from one female character!) - the writing is light, but the undertones are very dark. It rapidly becomes apparent that Mr Weston is, in fact, God, that Michael is, of course, his archangel, that supernatural things do happen (like Time stopping), and that this is a religious allegory on the fight between good and evil. This book may have been written in the 1920s (and set in 1923), but the writing, at least initially, felt quite modern, and it was an easy book to get going on However, it wasn't too long before I found myself foundering somewhat, and by halfway (even earlier) this was proving a difficult book to finish. The multitude of characters didn't help - there were far too many introduced in too short a time for me to keep a grasp on them without notes (yes, I found myself making notes!), and there was absolutely no subtlety - I felt that everything, be it character, moral, idea, was driven home with a sledgehammer. I have to admit, that I did wonder, at least to start with, if this wasn't so much a religious allegory, as a commentary on rural fiction of the time in the mould of Cold Comfort Farm, the character were so cartoonish (one of them was even largely confined to the woodshed!). Equally, there was no light and shade in the language itself, and that 'moden' feel, with its mock-biblical edge, gradually became monotonously tedious. This book was only 240 pages long, but it felt much longer. And yet, it still managed, at least in part, to get under my skin, and having breathed a sigh of relief at finishing, I did find myself browsing back through it, interested enough to check up on the precise details of what happened and how things worked in the way they did. It was hard work though!
  9. Have moved on to La Curee (The Kill) by Emile Zola. Ten pages in, and it's already easy to see why it's a classic.
  10. A bit of a hiatus on my part here, and three books down since last posting: October Sky by Hiram Holkham (previously entitled Rocket Boys), The Meaning of Geese by Neil Ascherson, and, finished today, Mr Weston's Good Wine by TF Powys, in chrono order, but also in descending order of enjoyment. Not sure what moving on to next.
  11. October books See You In September by Joanne Teague ** An account of a family's 'once in a lifetime' trip round Europe after the mother, the author, is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, with a limited life expectancy. It's light, instantly likeable, but after a while it becomes very repetitive and predictable, with a succession of chapters recounting 'this is where we visited, this is where we stayed, this is what we visited', and providing little insight beyond the standard tourist experience. I'm full of respect for the author, but this was more of a book for the family and anybody who knew/knows them, rather than a book to add to one's own experiences. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston **** The book for Florida in my Tour of the States. My heart initially sank when I realised much of this - the dialogue - was written to reflect Afro-American dialect, but I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to get into, and I barely noticed it after a while. The protoganist, Janie, is a young Black American brought up by her grandmother, who marries her off at 16 is married off to an older man, effectively, as the grandmother sees it, to protect Janie. The story is of her development and self-discovery through three husbands, only the final one living up to her needs/expectations in spite of being the least secure of the three. Not surprisingly, it's often described as a 'feminist' novel, and it's easy to see why, although some of what happens would strike a modern reader as anything but (feminist)m being more typical of what a black woman might expect. it's not overly fast paced (which is actually a good thing in my eyes!), and the character development feels a little bit stereotyped at times, but it was never less than fully engaging, and I surprised myself at sailing through it. Chess by Stefan Zweig ***** The book for Austria in my Reading Around the World project. More a novella than a novel, the quality of this psychological study more than compensates for the lack of volume! A group of cruise passenger take on the world chess champion in a series of matches, and takes the latter by surprise through the intervention of a complete unknown who, whilst surprisingly diffident and uncertain and apparently having not played for many years, is devastatingly incisive, leading the group to victory. How? It's intense, stark, and utterly riveting, posing some big questions about the human psyche. October Sky by Homer H Hickham ****** Previously known as Rocket Boys. Set in 1950s West Virginia this memoir is of a childhood in a coal-mining community where the author and a small group of friends, inspired by Sputnik and the American attempts to respond, set up the 'Big Creek Missile Agency' and set out to develop their own rocket for space. In spite of initial resistance, not least from the author's own father (the mine supervisor) and pretty much everybody in authority, other than their immediate teachers, they gradually gather the community behind them, a community whose entire existence is increasingly threatened by changes in the mining industry, whilst the author's own family life becomes increasingly fractured. It's a balancing act, but overall, in spite of the difficult background, this is an inspiring and joyful read that had me gripped from start to finish. It's easy to see why it's so popular in the States. I would have liked to have included it in my Tour of the States - West Virginia hasn't been the easiest state to find a novel for - but rules are rules! Later edit: and rules are made to be broken! This is too good not to include, so have changed my criteria from pure fiction to fiction plus narrative non-fiction. Which makes this both the 32nd book to be completed in my tour, and the first non-fiction. It might also ease up one or two other states where non-fiction writing is more prominent than fiction. Or maybe I should try one of each for each state?!
  12. #31 Florida: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston ***** Review to follow
  13. Book #33: Chess Story by Stefan Zweig for Austria ***** Comments to follow
  14. Finished Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston for my tour of the States (Florida), and Chess Story by Stefan Zweig for Reading the World (Austria). Both really good: 4 stars for the former and 5 stars for the latter.
  15. Finished Incomparable World - a good, lively read if not quite fulfilling early promise plot-wise. Character and setting did a lot to make up though! Then on to a complete contrast: See You In September by Joanne Teague. Family travelling round Europe on a once in a lifetime trip. Started off well, but once on travels became rather repetitive and lacking in any real insight or reason to read unless you knew the family. "And then we did this....". An account, straight and simple, and I didn't get beyond half way. 2 stars. Now reading Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, as part of my American tour - book for Florida.
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