Helenliz's 2014 tally

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Helenliz's 2014 tally

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1Helenliz
Editado: Fev 5, 2014, 2:29 pm

This year I would like to:

Read 100 books
Read at least 1 non-fiction book per month
Read at least 1 new (to me) author per month
Be stretched outside my comfort zone
Find at least one new book I love

2jfetting
Dez 24, 2013, 9:28 am

Welcome back!

3Helenliz
Editado: Dez 24, 2013, 11:06 am

Thankyou. I only found Lt earlier this year, and took a while to find the 100 books group. It's nice and varied, but not so big I loose track of everyone. That and I've come across some people who read the most interesting things in here. So I'm looking forward to diving into 2014 with you all.

As I have a habit of signing up for group reads, and TIOLI and then forgetting what I've put where, I'm going to use this thread to record what I've got planned as well as what's been read. So each month will have a planned/in-progress/finished structure to it, so I can jot down what on earth made me pick up that title and maybe remember what I'm reading & why.

4Helenliz
Editado: Fev 1, 2014, 6:27 am

January:
Finished:
1 - The White war, Mark Thompson, ***, Review - non fiction TIOLI#15
2 - The marriage plot, Jeffrey Eugenides, ***, Review - audiobook TIOLI#16
3 - Bleak House, Charles Dickens, ****, Review - Category 2014 group read TIOLI#3
4 - The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie, ****, Review - TIOLI#15
5 - The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, *****, Review, audiobook, TIOLI#19
6 - Raising Steam, Terry Pratchett, ***, Review - TIOLI#7
7 - The Prisoner of Zenda, Anthony Hope, **** Review - TIOLI#2
8 - Black Roses, Simon Armitage, ****, Review - TIOLI#9
9 - The Penguin of Death, Edward Monkton, ****, Review
10 - Some do Not..., Ford Madox Ford, ***, Review - audiobook, TIOLI#15

January's summary:
10 books, of which 9 were new titles, and 5 new authors. Managed the 1 non-fiction.

5Helenliz
Editado: Mar 1, 2014, 4:06 am

February:

Finished:
1 - Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks, ***, Review TIOLI#14
2 - Pride and prejudice, Jane Austen, ***, Review - TIOLI#1
3 - Where old Bones Lie, Ann Granger, ***, Review - audiobook, TIOLI#5
4 - Runaway, Alice Munro, ****, Review - TIOLI#3
5 - Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller, ****, Review - TIOLI#19
6 - Walking Home, Simon Armitage, ****1/2, Review - non-fiction, TIOLI#15
7 - Mischief, Amanda Quick, ***, Review - TIOLI#16
8 - A Blink of the Screen, Terry Pratchett, ***, Review - TIOLI#3
9 - War child to war horse, Maggie Fergusson, ***, Review - audiobook, TIOLI#4

February's summary:
9 books, of which 7 were new books and 5 were new authors, managed 2 non-fiction.
Year to date: 19.

6Helenliz
Editado: Abr 1, 2014, 5:57 am

March:
Finished:
1 - Daughter of time, Josephine Tey, ****, Review - audiobook, TIOLI#15
2 - The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy, ***, Review - TIOLI#9
3 - The Afrika Reich, Guy Saville, *, Review - audiobook, TIOLI#16
4 - A Reconstructed Corpse, Simon Brett, ****, Review - audiobook, TIOLI#6
5 - The Short life and long times of Mrs Beeton, Kathryn Hughes, **, Review - Non-fiction, TIOLI#11
6 - The Shape of Water, Andrea Camilleri, ***, Review, TIOLI#3
7 - The Wood is Sweet, John Clare, ***, Review
8 - Riders, Jilly Cooper, **, Review, TIOLI#1
9 - Sacred Hearts, Sarah Dunant, ***, Review TIOLI#11

March's summary.
9 books read this month, all of them new to me and 7 new authors.
1 non fiction read.
Making 28 year to date.

7Helenliz
Editado: Maio 1, 2014, 5:14 pm

April:
Finished:
1 - Wild Swans, Jung Chung, ***, Review, Non-fiction, TIOLI#10.

Well That's quite dreadful! 1 book. It was non-fiction, and it was a new author, so ticks those two boxes, but that's a really low month.
Makes 29 in year to date.

8Helenliz
Editado: Maio 31, 2014, 4:45 pm

May:
Finished:
1 - Small Island, Andrea Levy, ****, Review - Audiobook, TIOLI#2
2 - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Steig Larsson, ****, Review, RLBC, TIOLI#2
3 - Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer, ***, Review, TIOLI#10
4 - Cider with Roadies, Stuart Maconie, ****, Review, non-fiction, TIOLI#1
5 - First among Sequels, Japser Fforde, **, Review, TIOLI#10
6 - Talking Heads, Alan Bennett, *****, Review
7 - Zombie in the library, Michael Dahl, ***, Review, TIOLI#15
8 - Laughing Gas, PG Wodehouse, ****, Review, TIOLI#5
9 - The Traitor's Tale, Margaret Frazer, ***, Review, Audiobook, TIOLI#3
10 - If on a winters night a traveler, Italo Calvino, ***, Review, TIOLI#12

May's summary:
10 books, 9 of which were new to me, only the Chaucer was a re-read. 6 new authors, 1 non-fiction, so all on track there.
That makes 39 year to date.

9Helenliz
Editado: Jul 2, 2014, 8:42 am

June:
Finished:
1 - Miss Pettigrew lives for a day, Winfred Watson, *****, Review, RLBC, TIOLI#19
2 - The Keeper of Secrets, Judith Cutler, ****, Review - Audiobook, TIOLI#11
3 - Blood and Roses, Helen Castor, ****, Review - Non-fiction, TIOLI#10
4 - Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Helen Simonson, ****, Review - Audiobook, TIOLI#1
5 - To Defy a King, Elizabeth Chadwick, ****, Review - Audiobook, TIOLI#13
6 - Hope and Glory, Stuart Maconie, ***, Review - Non-fiction, TIOLI#16
7 - Jewel in the Crown, Paul Scott, ***, Review - TIOLI#7

Abandoned
Bombers' Moon, Iris Gower, Review. Probably contains plot details, although only of the first 1/4 of the book.

June's summary: At half way through the year I'm at 46 books read, which puts me behind schedule, however I would say that a lot of my reading has been new books and authors, which is probably more important than racking up the numbers. So this month's 7 reads are all new books to me, and 6 of them are new authors as well. 2 Non-fiction this month as well. I may have found my candidate for worst book of the year as well - it is very rare I abandon a book...

10Helenliz
Editado: Ago 4, 2014, 4:48 pm

July:
Finished:
1 - The Thing around your neck, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, ****, Review - Audiobook, TIOLI#18
2 - The Lady and the Unicorn, Tracy Chevalier, ****, Review, - Audiobook, TIOLI#13
3 - Day of the Scorpion, Paul Scott, ****, Review - TIOLI#14
4 - Notwithstanding, Louis de Bernieres, ****, Review

July only 4 books and no non-fiction for the first month this year. End of the month brings up 50, 100 for the year is looking less likely...

11Helenliz
Editado: Set 1, 2014, 4:30 pm

August:
Finished:
1 - Four Queens, Nancy Goldstone, ***, Review - Non-fiction, TIOLI#16
2 - Flashman, George MacDonald Fraser, **, Review - TIOLI#4
3 - The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt, ***, Review - Audiobook, TIOLI#6
4 - Wyrd Sisters, Terry Pratchett, *****, Review - RLBC, TIOLI#20
5 - The Lighthouse Stevensons, Bella Bathurst, ****, Review - Non-fiction, TIOLI#12
6 - The Attenbury Emeralds, Jill Paton Walsh, ***, Review - Audiobook, TIOLI#7
7 - The Towers of Silence, Paul Scott, ***, Review - TIOLI#2
8 - Grimm Tales, Phillip Pullman, ****, Review - TIOLI#8

So 8 for the month is a bit more on track. 2 non-fiction. 6 new authors, one new book by a previously read author and 1 re-read. That makes 58 for the year to date.

12Helenliz
Editado: Out 4, 2014, 12:42 pm

September:
Finished:
1 - The Company of Shadows, Ruth Newman, ***, Review - Audiobook, TIOLI#5
2 - Coromandel Sea Change, Rumer Godden, **** (&1/2), Review - Audiobook, TIOLI#5
3 - Season of Light, Katharine McMahon, **, Review - RLBC, TIOLI#5
4 - Aristocrats, Stella Tillyard, ****, Review - Non-fiction, TIOLI#5
5 - A Division of the Spoils, Paul Scott, ****, Review - TIOLI#5
6 - The Long Song, Andrea Levy, **, Review - TIOLI#5

September sees 6 books read, all new titles and 4 new authors. 1 non-fiction. That makes 64 in the year to date. So with 3/4 of the year gone I'm 11 books behind schedule. 100 is looking decreasing likely...

13Helenliz
Editado: Out 31, 2014, 6:43 pm

October:
Finished:
1 - Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, ****, Review, - Audio, TIOLI#4
2 - The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens, ****, Review - Audio, TIOLI#5
3 - Rob Roy, Sir Walter Scott, ***, Review - TIOLI#6
4 - Black Swan Green, David Mitchell, ****1/2, Review - RLBC, TIOLI#12
5 - The Trip to Jerusalem, Edward Marston, ***, Review - Audiobook, TIOLI#1
6 - I am Malala, Malala Yousafzai, ****, Review - Non-Fiction, TIOLI#17
7 - The Mabinogion, Traditional, ****, Review - TIOLI#13
8 - Mort, Terry Pratchett, *****, Review - TIOLI#8

So that's 8 for October, which is back up the the average I should have been getting for 100 to be feasible. Makes 72 in the year with only 2 months left.
1 re-read, 7 new titles, 2 new authors and the requisite 1 non-fiction.

14Helenliz
Editado: Dez 1, 2014, 1:36 am

November:
Finished:
1 - The Dead Secret, Wilkie Collins, ****, Review - audiobook, TIOLI#20
2 - The Grand Prix Saboteurs, Joe Saward, ****, Review - non-fiction, TIOLI#10
3 - The Black Moth, Georgette Heyer, ****1/2, Review - Audiobook, TIOLI#4
4 - Engelby, Sebastian Faulks, ****, Spoiler-ifique Review - RLBC, TIOLI#5
5 - The Best of Saki, H H Munroe, ****, Review - TIOLI#4
6 - The Foundling, Georgette Heyer, *****, Review - Audiobook, TIOLI#4
7 - The Paid Companion, Amanda Quick, ***, Review - TIOLI#5

7 in November then. 3 new authors, 6 new titles and only 1 re-read. 1 Nonfiction read as well, so all good, if a little low. Makes 79 for the year.

15Helenliz
Editado: Dez 27, 2014, 11:27 am

December:
Finished:
1 - Deborah goes to Dover, MC Beaton, **, Review - RLBC, TIOLI#17
2 - The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell, ****, Review - TIOLI#8
3 - The Winter King, Thomas Penn, ****, Review - Non-fiction, TIOLI#5
4 - Shirley, Charlotte Bronte, ***, Review - TIOLI#17

Currently Reading:
Tristram Shandy

Planned:

16wookiebender
Dez 27, 2013, 2:42 am

Welcome back! I like how you've got reads already planned for each month, kudos to your organizational skills.

17Helenliz
Dez 27, 2013, 3:08 am

Thanks wookie - the RLBC is my monthly reading group, and we draw titles in decemeber for the following year, hence they're already known. Then I seem to have signed up to a number of group reads - some probably more in hope than expectation - which I suspect I might forget about.

So my organisational skills are the counterpoint to a brain like a sieve >:-)

18LoisB
Dez 31, 2013, 9:44 am

Helenliz, I'm joining you here. We conquered 75, so now it's time to move on up!

19Helenliz
Dez 31, 2013, 10:26 am

Nice one, Lois! When I set the target of 100 books last year I wasn't sure i'd manage it - 2 books a week sounds like a lot. but its amazing how quickly they mount up when you actually count them.

20mabith
Jan 2, 2014, 12:11 pm

I've just started Raising Steam myself! Wild Swans is an absolutely amazing and fascinating book, and Black Swan Green was excellent, so I hope you like those two.

21Eyejaybee
Jan 2, 2014, 3:35 pm

Wow! You have some great reading lined up there :)

22rainpebble
Jan 3, 2014, 2:40 pm

And you are so organized!
Happy New Year Helen & good luck with your 2014 reading challenges. I look forward to following you.

23judylou
Jan 5, 2014, 10:56 pm

I like your goals for the year. Your set up for each month is impressive. God luck!

24Helenliz
Editado: Jan 10, 2014, 1:59 am

It's taken long enough, but I've finished my first book of 2014. hurrah!

The White War
Author Mark Thompson
***
Non-Fiction
TIOLI#15.
2014 CAT 2 History

I read this because I saw a documentary about avalanches and one of the ten things you didn't know about avalanches is that in WW1 on the Italian front they were triggered deliberately by troops as a means of attack. This book didn't answer the question but from knowing (just about) that italy were on the allied side in WW1, I now know far more. In some cases it's even more harrowing reading than the Western front, because the leaders seemed even more incompetent and unable to understand the facts if they hit them across the nose. An Italian punishment for being weak in the face of fire was to bring back decimation (a nice Roman tradition). Lots were drawn and those drawn executed. Not the guilty identified, it could be anyone from that brigade.

He used particular individuals to show progress of the war, and to reflect on what they did afterwards; be that Rommel in WW2, Mussolini in Italian politics, or writers & poets. He also compared & contrasted the literature spawned by war, be that the war poetry or the novels after the fact. the Italians remain miffed that Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms is the most well known book of the Italian front (but having read some extracts, I think I can see why!). As ever, the seeds of WW2 and later problems are sown in WW1.

At times I felt there was some assumption of knowledge, but for the most part that later resolved itself. An interesting read, but not a restful or comforting one.

25Eyejaybee
Jan 10, 2014, 2:11 am

Hi Helen. That's a great review and the book sounds fascinating. It makes me realise that I know precisely nothing about the role of Italy in the First World War.

There has been a huge media fanfare in Britain about the forthcoming commemoration of the centenary of the start of the war, but it has, naturally enough, focused on how Britain became involved and the story of the Western Front.

I shall definitely be hunting that book down.

26wookiebender
Jan 10, 2014, 6:59 am

Argh, Australia will go nuts with the centenary of the first world war, it's seen as our forging-of-a-nation event. I will have to grit my teeth and stock up on lots of pillows to throw at the TV for the endless platitudes.

(Note, my grandfather was wounded on the western front; one great uncle lost an arm; and one great uncle died at Gallipoli. I don't want to deny what they went through, I just don't want to have to put up with endless dull speechifying and media bites and people cashing in of what was a truly traumatic event in so many people's lives.)

But, yes, I need to know more about what *other* countries went through. Maybe I should dust off A Farewell to Arms...

27Helenliz
Jan 10, 2014, 7:06 am

26> That's interesting - it was supposed to be the same for Italy, completing the union of Italian peoples that had started in the mid 19th century. Didn't quite work out like that...

28mabith
Jan 10, 2014, 9:45 am

26 - That's how I feel about 9/11 in the US. People with a direct connection, that's one thing, and it's not like I'll ever forget that day, but it's so commercialized and that side is so gross. Plus I just can't get more upset about strangers dying just because they're Americans when that kind of thing happens so often around the world and most in the US just ignore it.

29wookiebender
Jan 11, 2014, 6:07 am

Exactly, Meredith! Although I am boggled that anyone would be crass enough to commercialize 9/11.

30rainpebble
Jan 14, 2014, 4:46 pm

>24 Helenliz:;
I am adding The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-1919 to my library of books to read for the Great War Theme Read over on the Virago & Club Read groups. It sounds very good and wildbill, as well as yourself seemed to think fairly highly of it. Thank you for the reck Helen.

31Helenliz
Jan 16, 2014, 3:42 pm

Book 2
The Marriage plot
Author Jeffrey Eugenidies
***
Audiobook
TIOLI#16.
2014 CAT 14 Connections

This is one of those books that i wonder if it's cleverer than i am. On one level it's a romance - albeit a post feminist one in which the lady has more choice than simply to marry or not. On another level it seems to be a critique of romance and romantic allusions in society and literature.
I might have enjoyed it more if the characters had been a little more, well, likable. It was one of those books where you almost feel you're watching the car crash as she ends up with the wrong person and it goes from bad to worse. But it did go by very swiftly, and i did find myself having to know how this was going to resolve itself. Not sure it's one I'll revisit any time soon.

32LoisB
Jan 16, 2014, 8:52 pm

I agree. It was somewhat disappointing - I expected more after Middlesex.

33rainpebble
Jan 16, 2014, 10:28 pm

I think I will give this one a skip. I so loved Middlesex, thought it quite wonderful.

34wookiebender
Jan 16, 2014, 10:41 pm

I've got The Marriage Plot on the shelves, but haven't picked it up yet. I hope I will one day (one does hope that most of my books *will* be read, and by me!), but I don't think that day is today.

35Helenliz
Jan 18, 2014, 2:03 pm

Book 3
Bleak House
Author Charles Dickens
**** (I think, possibly 3, based on the first 2/3rds)
TIOLI #3
2014 CAT 8 Classics

Well it's certainly large, I'll say that much for it. The first 2/3rds were slow and tedious and I did wonder if I was going to finish it. By contrast, the final 1/3 was a great read, lots of action, people getting their comeuppance and general resolution to lots of issues. But, was it worth the pain of the first 650 odd pages? Not convinced.

36Helenliz
Jan 19, 2014, 12:26 pm

Book 4
The Mysterious Affair at Styles
Author Agatha Christie
****
TIOLI#15
CAT 3 Mysteries

Well that was a much swifter read than the previous book! A day lounging on the sofa (and not doing the houseworK) sees another book finished. I've not read that many of the Poirot series - I was more into Miss Marple as a teenager. But this is where he makes is appearance on the literary stage. Clearly set in WW1, Hastings is convalescing at a country house when the lady of the house is murdered. But who did it? Her much younger husband? Her step sons? Who was she having the argument with in the afternoon and how did she take the strychnine? The answers seem to lie in one direction, move away from there before finally being pinned down. And it's an ingenious one.

37wookiebender
Jan 19, 2014, 6:01 pm

LOL, I love lounging on the sofa with a good book, ignoring the housework. :)

I know I've read The Mysterious Affair at Styles, but can't remember the plot at all!

38Helenliz
Jan 20, 2014, 3:54 pm

Book 5
The Wind in the Willows
Author Kenneth Grahame
*****
Audiobook
TIOLI#19

Just excellent. Read by Alan Bennett I first heard this as a child and it remained with me. I saw it in the library and couldn't resist it. One return journey to work (and the last 15 minutes in the kitchen) see it finished. It is simply perfect in every way. Auntie Beeb does it again.

39Helenliz
Jan 20, 2014, 3:55 pm

37> lounging around on the sofa is much more fun when there's house work to be avoided >:-)

40wareagle78
Jan 20, 2014, 9:43 pm

I feel slower than the author every time I've read Eugenidies. It's a relief to know that, just perhaps, it is not me.

41Helenliz
Editado: Jan 25, 2014, 4:32 am

Book 6
Raising Steam
Author Terry Pratchett
***
TIOLI#7

OK, I agree, it isn't the best of the Discworld cannon, but a mediocre Pratchett is still more worthwhile than awful lot of other dross. I found the arrival of steam trains to the disc really very much fun, as I'm married to a bit of a train nut. Fortunately for me he's not of the spotter variety, but it does mean that I have been known to spend the odd day wandering round grubby engine sheds while men in boiler suits & flat caps (it seems to be obligatory) polish and do other vital things to the great hulks of metal - which are always and distinctly female. The ending is slightly weak, but it has the obligatory mixture of social themes and acute observation of the human condition. It made me giggle, and that's enough. I might not suggest anyone starts the series here though.

42bryanoz
Jan 25, 2014, 6:18 am

# Completely agree, though not about hanging around 'grubby engine sheds' !

43Helenliz
Jan 25, 2014, 7:51 am

42> I did know he was a bit into trains before I married him, and a day out which involves chuffing through some nice scenery in a comfy (but not always warm) coach isn't such a bad way to spend the day.

44Helenliz
Jan 26, 2014, 3:35 am

Book 7
The Prisoner of Zenda
Author Anthony Hope
****
TIOLI#2

This is one of those books I'd never have picked up without a push, so thanks to lyzard for the TIOLI challenge and listing this book, because it's a cracking little read. All mistaken identity, derring do and a hint of chaste romance make it a fun read. It feel much more modern than its publication date would suggest.

45Helenliz
Jan 26, 2014, 4:33 am

Book 8
Black Roses
Author Simon Armitage
****
TIOLI#9

I've been meaning to read some of Simon Armitage's original compositions since I've read, and adored, two of his translations of alliterative poetry. This is the first of his work I've read. It has a lot in common with the alliterative tradition, but is not bound by that. The words are held in place by a structure that it not strict and has more to do with rhythm of speech than anything else. He places the words on the page in a way that illustrates the pace of the reading and uses everyday language that makes the piece very accessible.
And it certainly packs a punch.
30 pages take this from the birth to death of a murder victim, set upon, with her partner for no good reason. She was beaten as she tried to protect him from further harm and never recovered consciousness. Headlines make this story impersonal, the victim is made mute and 2 dimensional by the reporting 0 the aim of this was to give her a voice again. Told in the first person it paints a word portrait of someone recognisably human and with the future opening up in front of her, only for that the be snuffed out. It's brutal, in places, but that's partly what makes it work, the attack is shocking in so many ways. It will certainly stay in the memory.
I must read more of him, if this is any guide.

46Helenliz
Editado: Jan 28, 2014, 12:58 pm

Book 9
The Penguin of death
Author Edward Monkton
****
TIOLI#19

I have a small thing for penguins, not that I collect them, but I choose one as my online avatar and I have been known to respond to being called "Penguin". It was suggested I read this, so my Christmas book token was duly employed.
awww.
That's one cute penguin and a most intriguing short tale.

47Helenliz
Jan 30, 2014, 12:49 pm

Book 10
Some Do Not...
Author Ford Madox Ford
***
TIOLI#15

This was an odd book to listen too. Being mostly either dialogue or internal dialogue the continual "he said, she said" business seemed to be really very obvious when it was being read. Not to say the the writing wasn't, at times, delicious, but maybe the style would work better in print.

48Helenliz
Editado: Fev 1, 2014, 6:45 am

Book 11
Year of Wonders
Author Geraldine Brooks
***
TIOLI#14

written in the first person, this is an attempt to explore what might have happened in the village of Eyam in the plague year of 1665/1666. While the outline facts are well known, what happened in the village in that year, what the people went through while 2/3rds of the number died is open to speculation - and this book does that quite convincingly. Some of it is a little far fetched, but it works. however the ending was not convincing. I understand the need for a clean break at the end of the story, but that seem to be stretching credibility a tad too far. Good, but the epilogue lets it down.

49wookiebender
Fev 1, 2014, 6:44 am

I did like the epilogue, but I do understand why many people don't.

50Helenliz
Fev 1, 2014, 6:50 am

I think of credibility a little like an elastic band - you can stretch it so far before it goes snap. And once that happens, suddenly it's all unbelievable. I think that, for me, it stretched credibility just a little too far. As I said, I understand the need for the clean break, I just feel that where she ends up - and all that would entail - was a bit too far for me to accept.

51wookiebender
Fev 1, 2014, 7:27 pm

I think I wanted a happy ending. Shallow, eh? :)

52Helenliz
Fev 5, 2014, 2:28 pm

Book 12
Pride and Prejudice
Author Jane Austen
***
TIOLI#1

OK, I admit it, I finally see the light. I never understood why Jane Austen is considered a great writer until now. And for that conversion I have Lyzard to thank, as she was doing a tutored read with Smiler69 (ilana) and I sort of tagged along behind. It had never occoured to me that you weren;t supposed to read this straight - that it is, in fact, full of ironic asides and tongue in cheek comments on the state of society, the institution of marriage and the place of women in both. no idle love story this one.
I'm not going to claim to love it, but it was a lot more detailed and contained a much more vivid background than I had seen before.

53LoisB
Fev 5, 2014, 3:36 pm

>52 Helenliz: Interesting! maybe it's time for me to re-look at Jane Austen (with adult eyes).

54mabith
Fev 5, 2014, 3:49 pm

52 - I get that there's a lot going on, but I just can't enjoy her. It's not how I read, for one thing. Probably why I much prefer the overtly funny and overtly critical of society writings of Elizabeth Gaskell. I did like Austen's Northanger Abbey a lot more than either P&P or S&S, and now I can't remember if I've read Emma or not.

55Helenliz
Fev 5, 2014, 3:55 pm

54> i think I know what you mean. I've moved from "urgh" to an "OK". I like the language, I like that it needs attention to unravel the long & complicated sentences. I can't imagine I'll ever love it, but you can't love everything. I'm glad I read it alongside the tutored read, as it opened my eyes to what's going on in there in a way I haven;t seen before. For example, Darcy's first proposal always came out of the blue before, reading it with someone looking over your shoulder and pointing out the little clues means that i can see the slow build to the proposal, whereas I'd missed it before. I've read all of Austen's books before and never "got" any of them. I'm not going to go ploughing through them immediately, but I may revisit them over time with a more tuned eye.

53> I think my mistake was in the tone they're written. It never occurred to me that she's being ironic and sharp and cutting and getting away with it by hiding all this in a love story. Getting the tone right makes a massive difference to how it reads - or it did to me.

56LShelby
Fev 5, 2014, 6:50 pm

You people who were astonished (but pleased) to discover that Austin was being ironic and cutting, might get a chuckle from digging up a copy of her juvenalia, and reading "Love and Freindship" (sic). It's her send up of the "sentimental" romantic novels popular at the time, and contains my favorite Austin quote of all time. :)

It's probably better if you have at least a passing acquaintance with the novels she's mocking though. I had dug up a copy of Pamela and read it, because I was interested in writing regency romances, and wanted to have a familiarity with the literature the characters would be exposed to.

(Reading Pamela was so unsuccessful an experiment that I never did manage to convince myself that I should then move on to any of the "horrid" novels of the sort being laughed at in Northanger Abby.)

Shakespeare fans might also maybe get a kick of her "History of England". I gave up on that one, because, although I love Shakespeare's comedies, the tragedies and the histories never held the same attraction. So I knew enough to realize where the joke was, but not enough to actually be able to appreciate it. :(

57Helenliz
Fev 6, 2014, 2:24 pm

Book 13
Where Old bones Lie
Author Ann Granger
***
Audiobook
TIOLI#5

I realise this is number 5 in a series, but i'm not sure it suffered for that. Clearly Meredith & Markby have some sort of on/off relationship, but it doesn't really feel like you've missed much and it has little impact on the main story. A bunch of archaeologists are digging up a field, hoping to find an Anglo Saxon warrior. they turn up bones, alright, but not of the ancient type. A fun murder mystery, populated by believable characters showing all sorts of human foibles and failings.
Just what I need, yet another series to read...

58wookiebender
Fev 7, 2014, 6:14 am

Oh yes, isn't it great when you find the right tone in which to read a book? Makes all the difference.

59Helenliz
Editado: Fev 7, 2014, 11:40 am

Book 14
Runaway
Author Alice Munro
****
TIOLI#3

My first read of short stories by the recent Nobel laureate. And I can see that there's something that draws you in. Nothing dramatic necessarily happens - just real life, but the people are so recognisable human that it takes on the air of an epic drama. Really very good.

60Helenliz
Fev 12, 2014, 12:43 pm

Book 15
Song of Achilles
Author Madeline Miller
****
TIOLI#19

A retelling of the Trojan war. Told in the first person, it is vivid and immediate and wrapped me up in the story so that I didn't want it to end. You already know the shape of the story, it's too well known not to, but the use of prophecy to let you know you're allowed to know the ending was clever. The charcters were expertly portrayed and you couldn;t help but fall for the size of the love between Patroclus & Achilles. The final chapters were quite heart rending, with imminent disaster being followed by death and mind numbing grief. Excellent book.

61jfetting
Fev 12, 2014, 1:36 pm

I have heard so many good things about Song of Achilles - glad to see you liked it too! I really need to get to it someday.

62mabith
Fev 12, 2014, 1:50 pm

Ah, I loved Song of Achilles. It really was an excellent read (I think the pacing maybe went a bit at the very end, but by that point I didn't care).

63Helenliz
Fev 12, 2014, 1:56 pm

62> I'd agree, it seems to hurtle to a conclusion, then slow again and wallow in its grief. But it didn't matter. I read the second half in one go. I was going to have an early night, so went up to bed to read for a bit. Ended up being a late night, as I wanted to finish it.

64bryanoz
Fev 12, 2014, 4:10 pm

Agree - great story !!

65wookiebender
Fev 12, 2014, 7:26 pm

Echoing others' comments - I loved Song of Achilles too!

66Helenliz
Fev 15, 2014, 1:18 pm

Book 16
Walking Home
Author Simon Armitage
****1/2
non-fiction
TIOLI#15

This is by one of my current book crushes, I think everything he writes is excellent. This follows the poet as he walks the Pennine way, from top to bottom, as he was born, grew up and still lives in a town towards the bottom of the route. He does so earning his bed and board by giving poetry readins - not charging, but allowing people to give what they think he deserves. It's a slightly artificial construct, but it is a fun expedition. The book is told on route sections, with stories promted by various sights and sounds as well as details of the route and the readings. A good expedition tale for the armchair traveller.

67Eyejaybee
Fev 15, 2014, 1:23 pm

He sounds like a medieval minstrel!
I loved his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight which captured the feel of the original work, which I remember grappling with thirty odd years ago as an undergraduate. I wish Armitage's translation had been available then!

68Helenliz
Fev 15, 2014, 1:28 pm

The subtitle on the front cover is "Travels with a Troubadour on the Pennine Way", so you're pretty much on the mark there.

Sir Gawain was the first of his work I read and I fell in love with it. Since I've read his other translation, The Death of King Arthur, and a book of his own poetry. I've liked it all. I imagine hearing him read his poetry adds a complete extra layer to it over simply reading it.

69Eyejaybee
Fev 15, 2014, 3:42 pm

I agree. I recently heard Jeremy Irons reading T S Eliot's Four Quartets on BBC Radio 4. I thought that I was familiar with the poems, but hearing them read so powerfully brought out new depths to the work.

I think that it is sad that so many children are turned off poetry often as a consequence of the poems that they have to study early on in their school career.

70Helenliz
Editado: Fev 16, 2014, 5:28 am

Book 17
Mischief
Author Amanda Quick
***
TIOLI#16

Because every girl need romance in her life, especially when she has wine and pizza and valentine's day choccies - and a missing valentine. It's fun, frivolous, has the requisite peril and a hairbrained scheme to entrap a murderer (he wasn't). But it has a lost civilisation that is completely invented and the place is shoved down your throat every 3 lines - possible exageration, but it feels like it. Not the best of her work.

71Helenliz
Fev 21, 2014, 1:36 am

Book 18
A Blink of the screen
Author Terry Pratchett
***
TIOLI#3

I wanted to love this, how could I not? A series of short fiction by the marvellous Sir Terry. However it was an uneven collection interms of both quality and tone. Organised in chronological order in Non-discworld and Discworld sections, it was varied. Some of them were really good, and you could see the germ of lter, more developed, ideas. The presence of Death in the story about the obsessive record collector, for example, is clearly further developed into the Death of the Discworld. The stories about the Devil wanting to adveritise, the roadside chickens and the pigeons were very good. But there was too much that wasn't up to much; some of it was very dated, others a good idea that needed polishing, but others just weren't very good. The arrangement also didn;t necessarily help, as there wasn't a gradual change in tone or style across the collection, it jumped about all over the place.
I really wanted to love this, but I can't recommend it as an introduction to Pratchett - it's too uneven for that. this is one for the completist only. And I feel really bad about saying that.

72Helenliz
Fev 21, 2014, 1:54 am

Book 19
War Child to War Horse
Author Maggie Fergusson
***
Audiobook
TIOLI#4

This was interesting, as much for how I felt about it as the content. It is a life told in 7 chapters, each of which Michael Morpurgo responds to with a short story. I liked a couple of the stories, but I don't think I'd like him very much.

73bryanoz
Fev 21, 2014, 4:24 am

#71 Completely agree Helen, for Pratchettphiles (like me) only !

74Helenliz
Fev 21, 2014, 4:29 am

73> I'm slightly concerned that this is our book group for this month. now we do have a few Practchett fans in our midsts, but I am now somewhat worried about the response from those who are not already a fan. It seemed like such a good idea when I popped the title into the hat.

75wareagle78
Fev 25, 2014, 12:04 am

Okay, I have pondered for weeks now, I will have to risk embarrassment and ask...

What is a TIOLI?

76Helenliz
Fev 25, 2014, 1:31 am

TIOLI is an abbreviation for Take It Or Leave It. It's s challenge run each month in the 75 group by SqueakyChu. Each month she sets a book challenge, and anyone can add challenges over the first few days of the month. It's fun, no pressure and I tend to use it as, in part, a way of finding things that otherwise I might not read, or to pull things out of the endless TBR pile.

This month's challenge thread is here, if you wan to have a look.

77wareagle78
Fev 28, 2014, 12:22 am

Thank you! I will peek in, and at the very least I will no longer be puzzled.

78Helenliz
Mar 3, 2014, 4:02 pm

Book 20
Daughter of Time
Author Josephine Tey
****
audiobook
TIOLI#15

This is a very sedentary mystery. Inspector Grant is confined to bed, after falling through a trapdoor chasing villains. So is confined to bed and utterly bored. In order to try and relieve the boredom his friend Marta brings in some pictures of faces of people about whom a mystery revolves. One of these catches his attention and he discovers that it is Richard III, the murdered of the princes in the tower. Having put the portrait on the bench, not in the dock, he starts to dig a little deeper. The rehabilitation of Richard III in fictional form is no longer a new idea but it has probably never been undertaken quite like this. Knowing a reasonable amount about English history, I knew most of what was presented - for me the mystery was who Grant was going to pin the murder on. I listened to this narrated by Derek Jacobi and a most energetic narrator he was too. All the accents were done, even those of the ladies and great fun it was to listen to. While part of a series, I don;t feel this requires any reading of the others for it to make sense, it strikes me as being so atypical as a mystery that t would always manage to standalone.

79mabith
Mar 3, 2014, 4:22 pm

I love Josephine Tey, her mysteries are always a bit different (though obviously Daughter of Time is extreme). I don't think any of the Grant books really require reading of the series in order really. It was voted number one in the top 100 crime novels of all time by the UK Crime Writer's Association, which always shocks me a bit, given it's uniqueness.

80wookiebender
Mar 4, 2014, 9:57 pm

Daughter of Time is a marvelous read!

81Helenliz
Mar 7, 2014, 5:46 am

Book 21
Return of the Native
Author Thomas Hardy
***
TIOLI#9

It's only been over 25 years since I last read Hardy. I was put off by studying Under the Greenwood Tree at school under an awful English teacher (she managed to put me off every author we studied - and almost made Shakespeare boring). This wasn't boring. The most interesting things about it to my mind was the way that the landscape almost appears as a character in its own right. It strikes me as nostalgic for a past that I'm not convinced ever really existed. And I found the human characters to be the weakness of this. The star crossed lovers at the heart of the story struck me as a bit too contrary for their own good. Possibly passion superseded common sense, but I failed to see why Eustacia was surprised at Clem's desire to stay in the heath, he'd said as much. I assume she just wasn;t listening, or thought she could change him (fatal mistake). It was also quite melanchololy, even the ending wasn't as hopeful as the marriage might be, tending to concentrate on Clem's resignation to his fate. Hardy wasn't as bad as I'd thought it was going to be. He can write descriptively, but isn't exactly the happiest bunny I've ever read.

82Helenliz
Mar 7, 2014, 5:48 am

79> I saw that and all I could think was it's very unusual and that made it stick into the memory of those who voted. A book that was consistently mentioned might work its way up the ranks more than those that came top of only a fraction of the submitted lists.

80> it certainly was great fun, and the narration just had me giggling along at times.

83mabith
Mar 12, 2014, 2:42 pm

I might give Return of the Native a miss going by your review. I really loved Far from the Madding Crowd, but the love relationship you describe in that one will just annoy me.

84Helenliz
Editado: Mar 14, 2014, 6:00 am

Book 22
The Afrika Reich
Author Guy Saville
* - a candidate for stinker of the year.
Audiobook
TIOLI#16

I have to wonder why I even bothered to finish this. I was tempted to abandon it early on, but wasn't going to be able to get to the library for another audiobook for a few days. And by that time it had gone from bad, through awful and, by some sort Einsteinian reversal, to a place where I felt I had to finish it, just to see how improbable it would all be. Save yourself the effort, don't bother.

85wookiebender
Mar 14, 2014, 8:36 am

some sort Einsteinian reversal

Great comment! Sorry you got stuck with a dud book though.

86Helenliz
Mar 14, 2014, 8:55 am

>85 wookiebender: In all honesty I have borrowed it(take a bow, Sir Terry), but it caught my imagination. :-)
It became a case of wanting to know what outlandish situation the author was going to invent next. And how bullet proof our hero would prove to be.

87wookiebender
Mar 14, 2014, 8:57 am

Did he ever escape "with a bound"? That's always my favourite poorly-written escape sequence.

88Helenliz
Mar 14, 2014, 9:03 am

Not that I recall, it was always more of a drag, crawl or limp. But there was a lot of "tasted of copper" meaning blood, the "air smelt of hot metal" accompanied by items that sung past, whizzed past or brushed him as they passed.

It would have scored quite highly on a cliche bingo card >;-)

89wookiebender
Mar 16, 2014, 10:32 pm

Oh, a cliche bingo card! What a brilliant idea! :)

90mabith
Mar 16, 2014, 10:51 pm

I looked for a book cliche bingo but the ones I found were all very genre-specific, and there were a lot for book REVIEW cliche bingo. There were also some really random things such as Maple Leaf's (hockey team) cliche bingo, and "protest violence cliche bingo." Yup.

91Helenliz
Mar 17, 2014, 3:00 am

>90 mabith: I love that you looked.

92Helenliz
Mar 19, 2014, 2:20 pm

Book 23
A Reconstructed Corpse
Author Simon Brett
****
Audiobook
TIOLI#6

What have I done? Discovered another detective series, that's what. I picked this up of the library's audiobook shelf after recognising the author from Eyejaybee's thread in the 100 club. And it was a good listen. Narrated by the author the tone is quite wry and sarcastic - full of remarks for the reader's ears alone. Not necessarily a traditional detective, he was quite detached and content is his role as double for the missing man in the TV reconstructions until his curiosity is aroused by the curious co-incidences that start to mount up. The ending was not entirely what I had imagined, and that's always fun. He might not be to everyone's taste, being rather too fond of the whiskey bottle and a bit of an unreliable character, but he seems genuine and nice in a world that frequently isn't. An author I would pick up again - as if I really needed another detective series...

93Eyejaybee
Mar 19, 2014, 3:24 pm

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Helen.

94Helenliz
Editado: Mar 25, 2014, 5:42 pm

Book 24
The short life and long times of Mrs Beeton
Author Kathryn Hughes
**
Non-fiction
TIOLI# 11

I have to admit that I was disappointed by this. It felt overly long. It was interesting, but the early chapters were written with too much hinting at what happened next, and the later ones spent bemoaning the fact she'd died. I know that you can't exactly build suspense in a biography, when the ending is known in advance, but I thought this was written in a peculiarly circular manner. It also seemed to have a lot of digressions, but then didn;t finsih up an interesting thought. So towards the end she quotes Nancy Spain on the whipping episodes in EDM, where Spain says they're held under lock & key. My immediate question would be "well are they?" and that goes unanswered. I may have missed it, but while one son, Mayson, is involved quite heavily in the story, the other just fades out. Orchart gets married, but where he ends up from there wasn't clear. And I thought the family tree in the front cover was very unclear and badly laid out.
It was interesting in places, but it felt overly padded, not very well constructed and incomplete. Not one I can recommend.

95Helenliz
Mar 25, 2014, 5:39 pm

Book 25
The Shape of Water
Author Andrea Camilleri
***
Audiobook
TIOLI#3

Another detective series. I recognised the detective's name, Montalbano, as I think this has been on the TV (not that I've watched it). So into the car it went. It was a little bit gritty, but he's such an engaging character that you sort of forgive it the bad language. Set in a sunny Sicily, this focuses on a death that appears to be natural, despite the body turning up in the middle on a part of town where pimps & prostitutes roam. And to Montalbano it doesn't fit. And the pieces keep not fitting in the way that they are supposed to until the end. It resolves itself quite neatly, but I didn't really see it coming.

96Helenliz
Mar 31, 2014, 3:15 am

Book 26
The Wood is Sweet
Author John Clare
***

John Clare is called the Northamptonshire poet, but before we moved into the county I'd never heard of him. So this rectified that. Books of poetry aren't really my thing, but I read this only a few pages at a ime, and I think that worked better. All observations of nature and the seasons, but there's a tension here between nature and man that is, I feel, missing from the Romantic poets. If you see his work, have a look.

97Helenliz
Mar 31, 2014, 3:18 am

Book 27
Riders
Author Jilly Cooper
**
TIOLI#1

These books were phenomenally successful in the 80s and 90s, but I'm not sure that they have aged terribly well. None of the characters seems very real or consistent, some of their actions were baffling and the world they lived in hardly seemed real. The ending was awfully melodramatic. Not one I'll be returning to.

98Helenliz
Abr 1, 2014, 5:54 am

Book 28
Sacred Hearts
Author Sarah Dunant
***
TIOLI#11

I suspect I might have enjoyed this more if I hadn't been on a deadline to read it and I didn't have a thick head. Set in a nunnery in Ferrara in the late 1500s, this tells of two women who both came to the nunnery reluctantly, Zuora had no-where to go after her father died but has since found a peace and a niche in the convent; Serafina offered to the church as the family couldn't afford a dowry for her and didn't approve of her choice of husband (the singing teacher is not of a suitable family for them). The book mostly deals of the interaction between the two of them, and how Serafina's presence acts as a catalyst for all sorts of internal factions to start moving against the others and how Serafina gets used by them - and not for her own good. The ending is perhaps a little far fetched, but it satisfactorily ties up the loose ends. It's an intricate book and there's lots of detail in here, some of which didn't penetrate my thick head.

99Helenliz
Abr 27, 2014, 7:59 am

Book 29
Wild Swans
Author Jung Chung
***
Non-Fiction
TIOLI#10

This tells a family story of three women in China. They are very different lives and some of what they suffer is difficult to read. It is very informative, without being dull. However, I did find that the author's politics did tend to intrude on the book from an early stag and there was a number of statements that the author could not possibly have first hand information about with no reference or other footnote as to where this statement was derived from. Sentences took the form "Mao thought xxx" with no reference as to if this was fact or her speculation. But, those quibbles aside, it was a book that deserves to be read.

100Helenliz
Maio 1, 2014, 5:10 pm

Book 30
Small Island
Author Andrea Levy
****
Audiobook
TIOLI#2

I listened to this and I have to say that the narration was superb. She had the differentiation between accents down really well, and not just between Jamaican & English, she had differentiation between Hortense & Gilbert as wellas between Queenie & Bernard. That was really quite impressive. This tells of events during WW2 and afterwards, with the bulk of the action set in 1948, after the Empire Windrush had arrived. It manages to be funny and moving which being, at times, a difficult read because of the attitudes displayed. I'm sure that they are representative of the time (if not actually toned down) but it is somewhat shocking to the modern mind. It also isn't just the racism displayed, its the endemic sexism that both ladies endure that gives you pause to think.
This is a really good book, and the narration bought it vividly to life.

101mabith
Maio 1, 2014, 5:36 pm

So glad to see someone else enjoying the audio of Small Island, that reader was just incredible and such a great book. I kept going "This is one reader? It is, but how..." So much admiration for her.

102Helenliz
Maio 4, 2014, 5:06 pm

Book 31
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Author Steig Larsson
****
RLBC
TIOLI#2

The bookclub has always had a policy of nothing is out of bounds - any title can go in the hat. But I must admit to being mildly concerned when this one was drawn. I had heard that it is rather violent, which isn't my thing; but I surprised myself by really quite enjoying it. It does have some quite unpleasant voilence in it, but I think the way that, for the most part, the participants are as shocked by it as the reader seems to make it less unpleasant - somehow you're in it together. It's a difficult book to pigeon hole, somewhere between thriller and detective and journalistic investigation, but it rips along at pace and the characters reveal enough of themselves to draw you in. Lisbeth is a troubled young woman, clearly with an abusive past and is on the Autistic spectrum. She is, in no way, a classic heroine, but she is heroic. The journalist at the centre of the story is an odd character and I'm not sure I really made him out. But I can see myself finding the other two in the sequence at some point.

I will admit that I remain unsure of how some of our more elderly ladies will take this one...

103Helenliz
Maio 4, 2014, 5:12 pm

Book 32
The Canterbury Tales
Author Geoffrey Chaucer
***
TIOLI#10

This is a re-read for me, and I will admit to using a Penguin classic translation from the 50s, not the original. This is one of those books that just makes the mind boggle. The scope of it - two tales from approaching 30 people is quite some undertaking. Then there's the realism, OK, so the job titles might have changed a bit, but this is so clearly a cross section of any random group of individuals that they spring off the page to greet you. The women are, by and large, strong, independent minded and they almost dominate the tales - who wouldn't want to spend the evening with a bottle of good wine and the Wife of Bath for company - can you imagine the stories she'd come out with? This is a portrait of the English at the early stages of that concept taking root; they manage to be part of what made us who we are, and recognisably who we still are.

104Helenliz
Maio 7, 2014, 10:43 am

Book 33
Cider with Roadies
Author Stuart Maconie
****
Non-fiction
TIOLI#1

I admit to being biased, I think Stuart Maconie is fab. This is the tale of his daliance with music as it lasted form his first gig (The Beetles, aged 3) to his departure from NME in the early 90s. It's full of anecdotes, not all of them involving a rock and roll lifestyle, a fair few involving a dodgy club or another in Wigan and a flirtation as a musician. All told with a fine turn of phrase, a wry humour and some genuine giggles. Very good read.

105Eyejaybee
Maio 7, 2014, 12:54 pm

I really enjoyed this, too. I think I am just a couple of years younger than Maconie and, having grown up in the rock and roll wasteland that was North Leicestershire in the 1970s, could empathise with much of what he wrote.

106Helenliz
Maio 7, 2014, 1:20 pm

I'm a bit younger than that, I reckon he's got 10/11 years on me. And he wasn't very complimentary about the bands I was into in my teens. But then the New Romantics were probably always going to more attractive the the female teen than the 20-something male. He even described one of my all time favourite tracks as terrifically silly!
But I can excuse him that, as he's always entertaining and interesting to listen to and this was a fun read.

107Helenliz
Maio 9, 2014, 3:08 am

Book 34
First among Sequels
Author Jasper Fforde
**
TIOLI#10

I'd heard bits about the Tuesday Next series, so when I saw this reduced (due to damage) in my local book shop, I picked it up. This isn't book 1 of the series, it's book 5. And that probably makes a difference, because I spent quite a lot of this book feeling that I'd missed something quite fundamental. I finished it, and there were sparks of interest and it had an intriguing surmise - I'm just not sure we ever connected.

108judylou
Maio 9, 2014, 8:29 pm

I think it must have made a lot of difference to your enjoyment of this series. Try from the beginning and you might be pleasantly surprised.

109Helenliz
Maio 11, 2014, 12:21 pm

Book 35
Talking Heads
Author Alan Bennett
*****
TIOLI#6

If Alan Bennett has ever written anything less then sublime, I'm yet to read it. This is a collection of 13 monologues, 2 sets of 6 and an individual, that were filmed for the BBC many moons ago. Here they are presented in text form, with notes on the appearance of the speaker, the background and visual effects, such as cuts or fades.
They are not cheery, they are, as a set, melancholy, and bit bleak and, at times, awfully grim. This is the dark underbelly of life. But it is just so well done. The phrases, the images used, these people could be real, and that comes through. The jewel in the piece is the last. Just to think of it and I'm welling up all over again. If you get the chance to read or see the filmed results, leap at it.
I don't give out 5 stars like candy, this is the second of the year, and it is well deserved.

110Helenliz
Editado: Maio 11, 2014, 2:16 pm

Book 36
Zombie in the Library
Author Michael Dahl
***
TIOLI#15

I feel obliged to point out that the Zombie is not, at any point, within the walls of the library. He's created when the cleaner throws out a box of books into the dustbin, which is promptly hit by lightning. The sort of mobile book spiders were far more creepy. But all is well in the end (in case you were worried for a moment there).

111SandDune
Maio 12, 2014, 4:13 pm

>109 Helenliz: Talking Heads is not a cheery read is it? But wonderful!

112Helenliz
Maio 13, 2014, 1:26 am

>111 SandDune: No, cheery isn't the word that springs to mind! Not suggested as a pick-me-up if you're down in the dumps. But it was fabulous.

113Helenliz
Editado: Maio 22, 2014, 4:38 pm

Book 37
Laughing Gas
Author PG Wodehouse
****
TIOLI#5

This is a different setting and style from the usual English country house story of Jeeves & Wooster or Lord Emsworth, but it shares a certain family resemblance. Reggie has, slightly unexpectedly, inherited the earldom and has found himself head of the family, with all the responsibility that entails. He finds himself setting off to Hollywood to save cousin Eggy from an unsuitable engagement. From the off Reggie seems more likely to need saving than do any rescuing himself, he's a likeable chap, but hardly the most able in the taking care of things department. He duly falls in love with a blonde screen siren (she's a pill, BTW, don't let that exterior dazzle you), but the real meat of the story is that he accidentally swops bodies with a child actor while they are both under the influence of laughing gas in adjacent dentists' surgeries. It's a great ride, and you know it'll all work out for the best (it does).

114Helenliz
Maio 22, 2014, 4:44 pm

Book 38
The Traitor's Tale
Author Margaret Frazer
***
Audiobook
TIOLI#

Featuring a detective Nun and travelling player-cum-spy this is a solid whodunit set at the period of the Wards of the Roses. Sister Frevise is a determined lady, cousin to the Duchess of Suffolk. Her husband was killed by pirates (yeah, right) and the household scattered, and now, some months later, she finds that some of her household have been murdered. At the same time, Jolliffe is on a mission for his noble lord to collect a message an finds the message carrier murdered in front of him, and the message names names. The two strands come together and there is an uneasy alliance of two parties, not all of whom are natural friends. I liked the way this taps into historic detail, with a fairly feisty lady holding it together. If I had a quibble it would be the amount of story that was progressed in dialogue - there's a lot of person A telling person B what they found since they last met.

115Helenliz
Editado: Maio 24, 2014, 1:20 am

Book 39
If on a Winter's Night a Traveler
Author Italo Calvino
***
TIOLI#12
This is a strange book. It has in it 10 first chapters of books, but you never get to read the end of them. Between these first chapters is a story about an unnamed reader who is reading these chapters, and trying to find the complete book that he originally started. I'm not sure that, for me, it worked. It's difficult to get immersed in something that keeps stopping and picking up again. It's certainly clever, and rises some interesting ideas about the nature of writing and reading, but I'm not sure I'd describe it as an enjoyable read.

116Helenliz
Jun 1, 2014, 4:59 am

Book 40
Miss Pettigrew lives for a day
Author Winifred Watson
*****
TIOLI#19
RLBC
This is fabulous! Told as the events of a single day, it tells of Miss Pettigrew and how her intention of finding a position as a governess goes astray when she is sent to the house of the wildly exotic Miss LaFosse. She is swept up in Miss LaFosse's life and, in the process, has her own life turned upside down. It's a feel-good frolic and while it does, at times, show its age, it's none the worse for that. Just marvelous.

117Helenliz
Jun 2, 2014, 3:55 pm

Book 41
The Keeper of Secrets
Author Judith Cutler
****
Audiobook
TIOLI#11
Apart from this starting with my biggest bugbear - trailing the murder at the beginning so that, in this case, you're waiting for an auburn haired lady to appear and then cease to be in quick succession. Why authors feel obliged to do this, I don't know, but I do know it annoys the dickens out of me.
Which is a shame, because there's a lot to like about this. The investigation is undertaken in endearingly amateur manner by the new Parson and the wise doctor. The red head in question is a maid who the Parson rescues from the clutches of a guest at the big house and duly falls for (ho hum). The story is supported by an impressive and well crafted cast of characters from all walks of life. The story takes a little while to get going, the murder not being uncovered until ~ half way, but the things really take off. I did reach a conclusion about the murderer before our heroes did, but I suppose we can forgive them that, them being men and all.

118Helenliz
Jun 4, 2014, 4:04 pm

Abandoned
Bombers' Moon
Author Iris Gower
half a star (if that).
Not often I abandon a book, but this lurched from one wartime plot cliche to the next and I just couldn't face it any longer. Struck me as a book my granny would have read, so heaven only knows what the readership demographic is, as she's been gone these 20 years.

119Helenliz
Jun 5, 2014, 4:19 pm

Book 42
Blood and Roses
Author Helen Castor
****
Non-Fiction
TIOLI#10
The Paston letters are an archive of letters written by and to one family from the Middle ages. They are a unique window into the lives of one family in this most turbulent of times. The juxtaposition of the mundane, the personally important and the national events is part o what makes this all so interesting. That and (take away the archaic language) they are so recognisable as people. All of life is here.

120mabith
Jun 5, 2014, 5:05 pm

I will definitely have to find Blood and Roses, that sounds perfect.

121kepota
Jun 5, 2014, 5:14 pm

Este utilizador foi removido como sendo spam.

122Helenliz
Jun 6, 2014, 1:28 am

I thought it really worked. It's a big mixture of topics, all in sequential order. So they get embroiled in the War of the Roses, but are also showing how the period after the Black death brought social mobility that had been unthinkable before (and was hardly popular in certain quarters). Against the big picture stuff, you have the purely family affairs, so at one point Margaret wishes for a new girdle, as she can't fit in any of her others - she's pregnant. Its all so personal, and yet we get to read it half a century later. Plus ca change & all that. They do get embroiled in a rather dull lawsuits for 15 odd years over some land, but just plough through that, it does eventually end (even if, at times, it feels as if it never will!).

123Helenliz
Jun 17, 2014, 1:02 pm

Book 43
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Author Helen Simonson
****
TIOLI#1
Audiobook

Listened to this and it's another great combination of material and voice. Narrated by Bill Wallis, it's told by a man o more mature years, the same as the Major of the title. And it's a really lovely voyage of self discovery by a man past the flush of youth. It has some lovely moments in it, both happy and poignant. Lovely book.

124Helenliz
Jun 28, 2014, 3:25 am

Book 44
To Defy a King
Author Elizabeth Chadwick
****
TIOLI#11
Audiobook

Historical fiction done well is really excellent and this is a very good example of the art. Set in the reign of King John, this is the story of Mahelt Marshall, her marriage to Hugh Bigod (son of the Earl of Norfolk) and incidentally manages to get Magna Charter signed. Lots of intrigue and upheaval and all set in one of the loveliest castles - Framlingham is well worth a visit. Quite convincing.

125Helenliz
Jul 2, 2014, 2:19 am

Book 45
Hope and Glory
Author Stuart Maconie
***
Non-Fiction
TIOLI # 16

In this, the author explores the 20th Century by taking one event in each decade, looking at related events up and down the decades and visiting the places these occurred. As a surmise, it works, but the book is, by its nature, a bit patchy. It is also coloured by his politics more than I have noticed in the previous books I've read. However, I can forgive him a lot for picking Live Aid as his event in the 80s.

126Helenliz
Jul 2, 2014, 8:41 am

Book 46
Jewel in the Crown
Author Paul Scott
***
TIOLI#7

This isn't a book to dip into, it should be a more immersive experience. I wasn't getting on with this too well, but the last 100 pages were read in one sitting, and that really worked as a reader experience. I'm left wondering who the later investigator is, who is asking the questions. I have this borrowed from the library as the complete quartet, which does mean it's a wrist-breakingly large item. But I will move onto book 2.

127susanj67
Jul 2, 2014, 11:41 am

Here you are! I have bookmarked you.

Backing up to #109, I remember seeing one of the series of Talking Heads years ago, and particularly the one with the lady who'd sold a piece of art for far less than it turned out to be worth. And Dame Thora Hird.

The Raj Quartet is something I've wanted to read for a while, but my library doesn't have them all, which is what put me off. Now I can reserve from all over the place I should be able to get them. Again I remember the TV series from many years ago. Sorry you have such a chunkster to hold, though - I'm struggling with one of those myself at the moment and will be relieved to finish it just so I don't have to hold it open any more.

128Helenliz
Jul 2, 2014, 4:51 pm

Welcome Susan. :-)
I reserved a copy of Jewel in the Crown from the library, only it was damaged, or couldn't be found, so they reserved another one for me - only the choice was large print or the quartet in one edition. So I have the quartet. Each book is 400 or so pages so this must be over 1500 pages long. But it's numbered from 1 in each book, which struck me as a bit odd, but means I can't see how big it really is. Which could be viewed as good or bad...

129susanj67
Jul 4, 2014, 4:40 am

I always feel guilty if I reserve something that turns out to be large print, like an elderly person is being deprived of a book while I read it with my younger eyes, so I think I would have opted for the quartet too. The numbering sounds a bit odd, though!

130Helenliz
Jul 8, 2014, 1:52 pm

Book 47
The Thing Around your Neck
Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
****
Audiobook
TIOLI#18

I don;t usually "do" short stories, no sooner have you started, than you're done and it's time to move on. But they do work well for an audiobook in the car. I was listening to 1 or two at a sitting, and it fitted nicely into a journey. This is a selection of stories with a Nigerian background, but, honestly, they could be about anyone. It's about relationships, family, what we say and the secrets we keep. All of them have a strong female influence, being either narrated by or the story centered on a woman. And it works. A good selection that was a better listen than I usually find this format to be.

131Helenliz
Jul 16, 2014, 12:58 pm

Book 48
The Lady and the Unicorn
Author Tracy Chevalier
****
Audiobook
TIOLI#13

I listened to this and it was a fun listen. Another piece of fiction trying to give a back story to a work of art, this takes as its inspiration the series of tapestries called "The Lady and the Unicorn". They're fabulous, by the way, take a look. The story is not quite so cheery for all concerned. Not everyone is leading a nice, cheerful, happy life; not everyone gets what they want. And I liked it for that. Life is not a bed of millefleur, and for things not to turn out well for everyone makes a nice change. At 6 CDs this wasn't very long, but I certainly enjoyed it.

132Helenliz
Jul 26, 2014, 10:45 am

Book 49
Day of the Scorpion
Author Paul Scott
****
TIOLI#14

Book 2 in the Raj Quartet doesn't really carry on directly from book 1, in that the story centers on different places and people. Merrick re-appears (and I still don't like him), and Lady Manners takes more of a role. The book mainly centers on Sarah Layton, with diversions into Kasim & Abdul (father & son) an imprisoned politician and an aide to a wazir. The characters remain vivid and the place clearly inspires a range of emotions. However there's an air of the edifice being built on dodgy foundations, or an air of something rotten lurking behind the grapes in the fruit bowl.
Book 3 to follow, after a bit of a break.

133Helenliz
Jul 26, 2014, 12:11 pm

Book 50
Notwithstanding
Author Louis de Bernieres
****
TIOLI#18
RLBC (late!)

This is a somewhat nostalgic set of short stories set in a Surrey village of de Bernieres' youth. The stories link together to some extent, with the same people appearing in some tales. Also in some cases you have a second story providing added information, or a different perspective, on events in an earlier story. A lot of them are quite sad and concern the passing of a way of life, or the passing of an older generation. The afterward makes clear that this feeling is how the author feels about the rural village of his youth - that it no longer is. Very different from his other work, but that's no bad thing - it works well.

And that's half way to 100! Progress has slowed dramatically in the last few months. Work has been manic and it's difficult to find prolonged reading time. But hopefully the worst of the mad rush is over and I can settle down to some more reading.

134Helenliz
Editado: Ago 10, 2014, 6:58 am

Book 51
Four Queens
Author Nancy Goldstone
***
TIOLI#16
Non-Fiction

this is a very readable history of a minor family from Provence who ended up with each of the four daughters a Queen. Social climbing, medieval style. It was interesting enough, and the text is readable, but it felt a bit of the light side, factually. The lack of references for material no doubt makes this flow more easily, but it also makes if not feel like a piece of genuine scholarship.

135jfetting
Ago 5, 2014, 8:47 am

Is that Four Queens book the one about Eleanor of Acquitaine and her sisters? I've been meaning to read that, and light nonfiction sounds great right now. Although I've had the same problem you describe with nonfiction books without references - that they feel like stories and not scholarship.

136Helenliz
Ago 5, 2014, 12:21 pm

Not Eleanor of Aquitaine, it's Eleanor of Provence and her sisters. Eleanor married Henry III, and was mother of Edward 1. A far less interesting king than Henry 1 was.

137Helenliz
Ago 10, 2014, 6:57 am

Book 52
Flashman
Author George MacDonald Fraser
**
TIOLI#4

I try not to judge a book from a previous era against the standards of my own time, but in this book I met my match. There is a lot to like in this, Flashman is an anti-hero, he's a liar, a coward, a cheat but has at least the saving grace that he knows it. He gets into scrapes and manages to survive when better men fall such that his sheer survival is greeted as heroism. But what he also is is a womaniser and misogynist and that I found I couldn't forgive. I don't mind a womaniser if they are engaging or actually like women, but I didn't get that feeling with this. The female characters are all 2 dimensional cut outs for him to ride (and rape - dismissed most casually) or belittle or both. I found the choice of language to describe women kept disturbing my attention to the story. I accept it was written in the 60s and is set in the late 19th C, but times have moved on, and there are reasons for that. Sorry, but not for me and my blood pressure wishes I'd not picked it up.

138mabith
Ago 10, 2014, 12:33 pm

I'm sorry for the blood pressure raising book! There were plenty of people in the 60s and far before who weren't total misogynists, so I don't think the age of the book excuses some of the things you mention (particularly rape being casually dismissed, I mean, rape was illegal in medieval times, even if their weird beliefs made it very difficult to prosecrute). Nice for me to know to steer clear of that though!!

139Helenliz
Editado: Ago 11, 2014, 3:41 pm

Book 53
The Goldfinch
Author Donna Tartt
***
TIOLI#6
Audiobook

This had flashes of good, but the unlikeable and (to me) incomprehensible lead character made this less than brilliant. Some wonderful passages, but too much navel gazing to be a truly great book.

140Helenliz
Ago 16, 2014, 4:30 am

Book 54
Wyrd Sisters
Author Terry Practchett
*****
TIOLI#20
RLBC

A re-read for the umpteenth time, this is an excellent book. This features the Witches and the kingdom of Lancre, who has just lost its King (by stabbing in the back with a dagger - natural causes for a King) and the King is not entirely happy with this. So unhappy, in fact, that he's left haunting the place, trying to fulfill his destiny. At the same time, his son is being spirited away and grows up with a band of players. If this is sounding possibly familiar, then you're not wrong, a previous playwright toyed with the same themes, and this ends up being a mixture of Hamlet and Macbeth, what with witches, a ghost, the play within a play and destiny getting its way. Where it departs from the source material is that this has a generally for the best ending. The new King would do well to take some lessons from the Bard's romances - comparing his beloved to the 12h of June, which was quite nice, might not quite hit the mark.

141LoisB
Ago 16, 2014, 8:38 am

I agree about The Goldfinch.

142Helenliz
Ago 20, 2014, 1:06 pm

Book 55
The Lighthouse Stevensons
Author Bella Bathurst
****
Non-fiction
TIOLI#12

This is a really good, informative read. The lighthouses that pepper the coasts of Scotland are largely the work on 4 generations of one family, the Stevensons. Yet their most famous member is not an engineer at all, he is Robert Louis Stevenson. This is a fascinating sotry of how a self made man laid down the template for all lighthouses to follow and how his family followed in his footsteps.
If one were to be critical, it does tail off, with the final generation of lighthouse engineers in the family being left as youths. But even having said that, it is very interesting, detailing both the engineering and social challenges faced by those trying to bring lights to our most dangerous shores.

143Helenliz
Ago 20, 2014, 1:08 pm

>141 LoisB: Thanks Lois, Sometimes when a book is so highly praised I wonder if it is me that doesn't get it. But I see from the reviews that this is not universally popular.

144Helenliz
Ago 22, 2014, 7:19 am

Book 56
The Attenbury Emeralds
Author Jill Paton Walsh
***
Audiobook
TIOLI#7

This is party told in retrospect, with Peter & Bunter recounting the first case Peter solved, that of the Attenbury Emeralds. This case frequently gets mentioned in the books by DL Sayers, but no detail is ever given. This gives JPW her opening. And it's an interesting story, even if it does get uncomfortable, uncovering more of the psychological issues Peter suffered after WW1. But then it gets bought up to date (1951) with a question mark over the ownership of the same jewel causing the current Lord Attenbury to turn to Peter for help. The uncovering of past events works well enough, but I can't help feeling that it somewhat cruel to bring Peter into the post war world. At 60ish he is beginning to look like an anachronism in the increasingly modern world. I would rather remember him in the halycon days between the wars, when his gay man about town air suited the age so well. I accept he aged and matured, settling down with Harriet, before the DLS books finished, but, even so, I'm not sure I want to see Peter in his dotage. He's one of my first literary crushes and I would rather have him as he was when I first encountered him than to see him deteriorate. Something are best left alone, this might now be one of them.

The other notable thing about this book is that I listened to it on a nifty gadget called Playaway which I borrowed from the library. Instead of borrowing CDs the library now hold some books on an MP3 player that is loaded with the one book. No need to download to an mp3 player, no hassles at all. All I needed was a battery and a cable to connect the player to the headphone socket in the car. No more trying to change CD at high speed while approaching a roundabout >;-)

145Helenliz
Ago 29, 2014, 1:25 am

Book 57
The Towers of Silence
Author Paul Scott
***
TIOLI#2

And again we circle round the events of the first two books. This one takes us a bit further, and we discover some of the consequences of the first two books. It has quite a meditative air and there is quite a lot of mental disturbance in here, sometimes in the guise of faith or self belief, at other times something very different. It's quite melancholy, in a way. I'm pretty sure it would make little to no sense if read on its own.

146Helenliz
Ago 31, 2014, 4:44 am

Book 58
Grimm Tales
Author Phillip Pullman
****
TIOLI#8

A retelling of a selection of Grimm's Fairy tales. Nicely done. I liked that he briefly references the tale, the other occurrences of it, what he's done to the story and what else you could do to it, if you wanted to take it further. There are same fabulous stories in here, some are less good and some a bit of a mixture of other parts of other stories. But they are rich, vibrant and a joy to read.

147mabith
Ago 31, 2014, 1:59 pm

I'm sure you've said somewhere that I've just missed, but what does TIOLI stand for?

148LoisB
Ago 31, 2014, 2:01 pm

>147 mabith: Take It Or Leave It

149mabith
Ago 31, 2014, 2:04 pm

Thanks!

150Helenliz
Set 2, 2014, 12:29 pm

Book 59
The Company of Shadows
Author Ruth Newman
***
Audiobook
TIOLI#5

I listened to this and the narrator had a good line in the various accents. It tells of Kate and her quest to discover what's going on after she sees a person she believes to be her husband in the background of a friend's holiday snaps a year after he'd died. It all got a bit silly, with that many plot twists that it was a bit like riding a corkscrew, but it was entertaining enough. And there was something about Kate that made you want her to not end up in too much trouble - despite her tendency to find trouble everywhere.

151Helenliz
Set 8, 2014, 2:27 pm

Book 60
Coromandel Sea Change
Author Rumer Godden
****(and 1/2)
Audiobook
TIOLI#5

This is really very good. I picked it up as we're going to Rye House later this month, which is a house with literary connections, one of the residents being Rumer Godden. And never have read anything of theirs, I thought I ought to. This is a week in the life of a hotel, only it's a week none of the residents are likely to forget in a hurry. There's an election on and the hotel is being used as a base by the Root and Flower Party. The party elder and his sidekick are sometimes at a loss to understand the charismatic candidate, but Krishnan knows what he wants, and tends to get it. Also staying is a cultural party with the full range of ladies of a certain age who enthuse or complain according to their nature. Sir John & Lady Fisher are old friends and he's rather an elder statesman of the place, and a number of the younger characters are trying to impress him (to greater of less effect) but he's not an old duffer and comes into his own when things get messy. The central characters are Mary & Blaise Browne (with an e). She's rather naive, he's a pompous arse of the top order. They also have completely different views on India, Mary's enthralled by it and swept up in everything, he's standoffish and most contemptuous of everything. You wonder how they came to be married, and the way it's told, you can't help have a fear for their future. As the week progresses there are all sorts of sudden upheavals in the lives of the various residents and few of them leave unscathed. If I were going to complain, I would complain that the way Mary & Blaise's relationship is resolved is a little too neat, but that really would be splitting hairs. A really good book.

152Helenliz
Editado: Set 9, 2014, 1:57 pm

Book 61
Season of Light
Author Katharine McMahon
**
RLBC
TIOLI#5

I remain unconvinced by this author. This follows supposedly intelligent Asa Ardleigh as she visits Paris pre revolution and gets swept up in the salon culture of the day, discussing liberty and abolitionist views. She spouts a lot of words but seems to do very little that's useful. She rejects a perfectly sensible proposal on the grounds that his family's money is from the slave trade, but neglects to ask the gentleman concerned what his views on the matter are - it is assumed that his views are the same as his family's. She holds a torch for a French radical she meets during her first visit to France and so far, so good. Illogical, but not unfathomable. Then her sister engages a French companion for her, to teach her ladylike manners and prepare Asa for marriage. Only Asa and her naivety means she's still holding a torch and dashes off to find the love of her life in the middle of a violent revolution. From there she gets herself into all sorts of trouble by being a bit of an idiot and is extracted from it through no action of her own. I quite like good historical fiction, you know, that stuff that gets beneath the surface of the characters set in a different time and makes them seem real. This isn't like that. I don't even mind a good romance, where the love seers the pages. This isn't like that either. I'm not sure what this was, but it wasn't that good.

153Helenliz
Set 18, 2014, 3:12 am

Book 62
Aristocrats
Author Stella Tillyard
****
Non-Fiction
TIOLI#5

I picked this up on recommendation, and once I'd seen the cover remembered that I've also seen this at Mum's. It takes the lives and voluminous correspondence of 4 sisters of the Lennox family and looks at their lives and the events they and their families lived through to present both a social and personal history. I knew a bit about the family, Goodwood house (the seat of the Dukes of Richmond as they are at this time) being fairly close to where I grew up. I also knew something of Caroline, but was unaware of the exploits of the other sisters. It helps to have a passing familiarity with the history of the period, as the family play key roles in many of the events of the late 18th century, and they don't always end up on the same side. It makes for some interesting correspondence, that's for sure. If yo have any interest in social history, this makes for a good read.

154Helenliz
Set 18, 2014, 3:37 pm

I caught something that may be of interest on the BBC this week, a 6 part series of 30 minute programmes titled the Secret life of Books. Series link here. Presented by different people, they look at the way certain books were written, if they changed and how they may reflect their creator's lives. Interesting mixture so far, Dickens' Great Expectations, Shakespeare's first folio & Virgina Woolf's Mrs Dalloway (which has been added to the TBR list)

155mabith
Set 21, 2014, 3:05 pm

Aristocrats sounds excellent, definitely going to look for that.

156Helenliz
Set 25, 2014, 2:38 pm

>155 mabith: I liked the way it managed to combine the personal and the national, and how large scale events impinge on family life. At times, the correspondence sounded almost modern, but then the next paragraph would be about something unimaginable.

Book 63
A Division of the Spoils
Author Paul Scott
****

This is probably the best book of the series. It is set somewhat later than the first 3, and is told from the perspective of some of the more peripheral characters, such that it is balanced and fills in some of the blanks that remain after the first three books. It ties up some loose ends, but not all of them. However for those that are not tied up neatly, (I'm specifically thinking of Sarah here) you are left with the sensation that there is a hope for the future - and that's enough for me. As a picture of the last days of the raj it is less than complimentary about the generation or two that should have stood godfather to modernity, but instead chose to serve their own ends, not the greater good. However there are some admirable people in this edition. Some of them look set to rise to greatness, others just stand up when they could have cowered in the background. A really good rounding of the series.

Book 64
The Long Song
Author Andrea Levy
**

I'm not entirely convinced by this, if truth be told. It presents as a story of a young woman who is born into slavery, but lives through the end of slavery and when this is written is living in some degree of comfort with her son and his family. It's no quite as simple as that, as this tale takes a number of turns along the way from the start to the current situation - not all of them which show the narrator in a favourable light. The ton bothered me. There is a fair amount of flicking between present and past and it wasn't always clear which was which. It also struck me as pulling its punches. It wasn't bad, but it didn't exactly seer the imagination either. The dialect wasn't difficult to read, but a few times I had to read speech a few times to work out what was being said (I think I got there most of the time). Maybe I've just missed something, but I kept thinking it was about to take flight and yet it seemed to skirt round the difficult issues.

157Helenliz
Out 4, 2014, 12:57 pm

Book 65
Mrs Dalloway
Author Virgina Woolf,
****

I listened to this and really quite enjoyed it. There is little that happens and it is held together by happening on a single day. A first sight the story of a society women preparing for a party could be quite frivolous, but it isn't. The characters are fleshed out and you learn more about them as the day progresses; discovering their hopes, their intermingled past, their emotions which they are all (to various extents) unable to express. Some of them excite sympathy, others I didn't much like. Most enjoyable.

158Helenliz
Out 11, 2014, 12:17 pm

Book 66
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Author Charles Dickens
****

A really good read this. It is Dickens' last work and it was left unfinished by his death. It shows that he was on the top of his form, as what exists is really very good. There are some lovely characters, with good moral and common sense, humanity and compassion. Set against this is the dark side, as presented by John Jasper, with his opium habit, malevolence and undesired passion for Rosa. He's my pick for the villain of the piece. There is also what seems certain to be a romantic element, with the question of who Rosa would end up with being open at the point the book ceases. It was also surprisingly amusing, with some humourous conversations and observations of certain people and their foibles. I wonder where he meant to go with it.

159Eyejaybee
Out 11, 2014, 12:36 pm

I remember enjoying it too. There is a marvellous opening in what we would nowadays call a crack house.
It's a real shame that Dickens never completed it.

160Helenliz
Out 12, 2014, 8:18 am

I did begin to wonder quite that I'd let myself in for after listening to the first 5 minutes!

161bryanoz
Out 13, 2014, 5:13 am

Must get to Drood, I've read the others, thanks for the reminder !

162Helenliz
Out 16, 2014, 2:31 pm

Ahh, I haven't read a lot of Dickens, so I'm gradually going to work my way through them. This was one of the shorter ones on audiobook, so it got selected. Not sure how I'd cope with something that's 30 plus hours long!

163Helenliz
Out 17, 2014, 4:32 pm

Book 67
Rob Roy
Author Walter Scott
***

I find the device of framing a story as the reminiscences of an older person to be a bit difficult especially when, as in this case, the framing has a tendency to intrude on the flow of the story. I can;t say this is an easy read, the style of writing and the dialect made this a book that requires attention. Having said that, it did have me wanting to know how it was going to resolve itself, such that I never actually got bored of it, or wanted to stop. As a story, it has it all. Not sure that ending is of the same quality as the rest of the book, it all gets a bit tidied up in swift fashion, whereas what preceded it was told in some considerable detail - the contrast made it feel like he'd achieved his word limit, then had to finish quickly. I will read more of him.

164Helenliz
Out 17, 2014, 11:48 pm

Book 68
Black Swan Green
Author David Mitchell
****1/2
TIOLI#12

This is really very very good. Almost 5 stars, but I don't think it will stay with me in quite the way Cloud Atlas did, hence 4.5 stars. Written from the point of view of Jason Taylor, a 13 year old boy I am once again amazed at the pitch perfect writing. Most people can write with one voice, David Mitchell seems to be able to write in any voice, and to do so convincingly. This is set over the course of a year in a village in Worcestershire. 1982, in fact, and it is brought vividly to life. The music references, the goods, the cars, the attitudes (some of them hideous, with hindsight) the details are all there. I was 10 in 1982, and this kept bringing back sparks of memory, the way the entire world sat down on Christmas day to watch the Bond film seems ridiculous now, but it did seem that way at the time. Being a teenager is not a bed of roses, and this captures the glorious/hideous/thrilling/painful nature of that age. Jason is entirely believable, as is his environment and situation. He observes, sees, feels and you get to know him in some details through the duration of this book. I wonder what his adult self is doing now.

165Eyejaybee
Out 18, 2014, 2:59 am

I loved this book too. So different from Cloud Atlas yet just as compelling. I read this just a few months after I read Cloud Atlas - that had been the best book I read in that year, and Black Swan Green was the best I read in the following year.
Simply wonderfu!

166Helenliz
Out 22, 2014, 1:31 am

Book 69
The Trip to Jerusalem
Author Edward Marston
***
TIOLI#1
Audiobook

I've read some of this author's railway detective mysteries and so picked this up to see what it was like. And I think that the answer is, like the railway detective it is competent, but that's as far as it goes. It works as light entertainment, but there were too many diverse strands here, not all of which seemed to come together well. the resolution required information to be discovered by someone else, not the detective character. I'm not going to actively avoid his work, but I don't recommend you rush out and buy it either.

167Helenliz
Out 22, 2014, 1:34 am

>165 Eyejaybee: I think the trouble with Cloud Atlas being just so incredible is that the bar has been set very high. I felt that Black Swan Green got close, but didn't quite hit the same heights. It was very good, and I could see myself coming back to it. I wonder if I'd read them in the reverse order if I'd have given BSG the full5 stars, rather than knocking half off for not being CA. Ahhh, scoring's a fickle thing...

168Eyejaybee
Out 22, 2014, 7:20 am

>167 Helenliz: Helen, I agree. I also worry about potentially marvellous authors whom i have turned my back on simply becuase I didn't like one of their earlier books. Even with David mitchell, i wonder whether I would have bothered with 'Cloud Atlas' in the first place if I had read 'number9dream' first. I did enjoy 'number9dream' but didn't think of it as anything special, so might not have even considered 'Cloud Atlas', though now i can't imagine life without having read that masterpiece!

169Helenliz
Out 25, 2014, 5:13 am

book 70
I am Malala
Author Malala Yousafzai/Christina Lamb
Non-Fiction
TIOLI#17

This is a book that I think should be read, because of it's message, not necessarily because of its text. It reads a lot like what it is - text written by a teenager. It is not always logical in its progression, at times it becomes bogged down in detail or skips over the surface of deeper issues. but to quibble about the writing is to miss the point. Without the education her father has spent his life working for,first for himself, then for hos society, she'd not even be able to write this - and for standing up and demanding her right to be educated, she was shot. There's quite a lot of background detail in here and although a lot of it is quite superficial it is sufficient to put the events into context. Her father shines through as an honourable, upstanding man and he is to be admired for the action he has taken and for his parenting of his admirable daughter, especially in a society that values sons. This is worth reading, for the message is a powerful one.

170Helenliz
Editado: Out 30, 2014, 5:37 pm

Book 71
The Mabinogion
Author Traditional
****
TIOLI#13

I saw this book in the BBC series The secret life of books, and it was presented so enthsiastically that I thought I'd give it a go. It is a series of stories that were collected together and bound in a book surviving from the 1350s. However, as the introduction to my penguin version discusses, some of the stories are much older in form. That's not to say that it is pure Celtic tale, the knights ride horses into battle and partake in jousting - largely later introductions. There is some stunning imagery in here, and the text reflects that these are oral tales that were captured at this time, not that they were ever written to be read. There are gaps, inconsistencies and some rather dodgy behaviour, but the tale sweeps along and you're carried with it. In the sense that it is the capturing of an oral tradition you could argue that it has a parallel in Beowulf. In both there is a presentation of the past that probably never happened, but it is a shared mythical past that shows the listeners' ancestors as the people listening to the tale might wish they had been, not as they were. The knights are valiant, the deeds heroic, the ladies demure and beautiful, the landscapes stunning, the foes fearsome. If you like, this is the touchstone of what it is to be Welsh.

171judylou
Out 31, 2014, 2:22 am

A very eclectic list of books this past few months. I enjoy reading about your reading; I often find some gems in amongst them.

172Helenliz
Out 31, 2014, 6:35 pm

Thanks Judy - I like a spot of variety in my reading. >:-)

Book 72
Mort
Author Terry Pratchett
*****
TIOLI#8

A re-read for the umpeenth time - just because. A hospital appointment and a train journey meant I wanted something light that would require minimal attention, and what better than I book I can pretty much recite whole passages from memory. Love it.

173Helenliz
Nov 9, 2014, 1:04 pm

Book 73
The Dead Secret
Author Wilkie Collins
****
TIOLI#20

I have enjoyed all of Collins' books I have read, something about them makes him sounds like a much more modern author than he is. This was a good old "what's the secret in the box" type of story, with a deathbed confession of a secret being consigned to an unused room by the maid. And there it could have stayed had the maid and the daughter not come together later. ON being told "don;t go into the Myrtle room" what does the young lady immediately want to do? Of course, find and enter the Myrtle room. Doh! Wouldn't you? And it turns out that the secret being discovered isn't quite as bad as it was imagined to be. The reader doesn;t have the advantage of knowing the secret until the protagonists do. There are also some great characters in here. If I had to quibble, there were a few points at which co-incidence were required, and the end was a little bit unrealistic, and Victorian sentimentality about motherhood. But apart from that it's a cracking good read.

Book 74
The Grand Prix Saboteurs
Author Joe Saward
****
Non-fiction
TILOI#10

Written by an F1 journalist this tells of a racing driver of the 20s & 30s, William Grover, who won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix. During WW2 he joined the army and served as a chauffeur to top brass for some time before being co-opted by SOE and landed in France. His aim was to set up a resistance network. one of the first people he recruited was a fellow racing driver, this time a Frenchman, Robert Benoist. Seeing of the 119 SOE agenst who were captured, only 17 returned home after the war, I don;t think it counts as a spoiler to say that it doesn't end happily for all concerned.
To be honest, the writing was a little annoying in places and the sections describing racing clearly show where the author's strengths lie. But it is a very interesting story, and there is a great deal of information in here. The fact that most people have at least one alias makes following who's who a little confusing. An interesting tale told competently.

174Helenliz
Nov 18, 2014, 4:07 pm

Book 75
The Black Moth
Author Georgette Heyer
****1/2
TIOLI#4

How did I manage to miss Georgette Heyer? My mum had an entire shelf of her works when I was a teenager and I never read a single one - being put off by the romance idea. Call me stupid, because I am. Finished The black moth and it's fabulous. Listened to it in the car and have spent the final hour or so clapping my hands in glee and banging the steering wheel in mild annoyance. (Think a literary version of steering wheel bongos!) Official convert to the cause after just the one. Now, where's that back catalogue...

175Helenliz
Editado: Nov 21, 2014, 7:44 am

Book 76
Engleby
Author Sebastian Faulks
****
TIOLI#5
RLBC

Well this is certainly going to provoke some discussion at book club next week. Written in the first person it is a narrative in the form of a memoir written by Mike Engleby. It starts when a student at Cambridge and works forward, with flashbacks, through his life. The event that ties all of this together is his obsession with and the eventual disapperance of a fellow student with whom Mike is obsessed. It has an element of whodunit, but that is to underplay it. Mike is not very likeable, and he most certainly has issues, particularly relating to mental health. However, it had me really interested. Initially I was sure that Mike had a hand in Jen's disapperance, but, despite the evidence presented, I finished the book unsure as to exactly what had happened. That might be this book's piece of brilliance, that the most unlikeable person can gain our sympathy and empathy.

176Helenliz
Nov 29, 2014, 9:05 am

A bit of a delay in posting completed books means there's a glut to report.

Book 77
The Best of Saki
Author Saki (aka H H Munroe)
****
TIOLI#4

These are very short short stories, sometimes being only a few pages. They are, however, beautifully fashioned, although they sometimes have an unsettlingly cruel edge to them. For the most part the feature young men about town in their lead role, and usually there is some authority figure to be pricked of slighted. The best, to my mind, are those featuring children engaged in thwarting their nanny. These were written prior to the first world war, and they reflect that time, however they also have a certain air of timelessness and could be set anywhere before about the 1950s.

Book 78
The Foundling
Author Georgette Heyer
*****
TIOLI#4
Audiobook

This is just such great fun. It is an amusing romp with all sorts of trouble and scrapes for our reluctant hero to get into and out of. It serves as a coming of age tale, with our poor hemmed in hero finding out that he's not entirely useless when left to his own devices, those who would cosset him find he has more steel than has hitherto been displayed. Some fabulous characters and an air of pantomine result in a great fun read that manages to not make it feel trivial or unworthy of being read. if this is the measure of her work I'm going to have a whale of a time consuming all the library has to offer.

Book 79
The Paid Companion
Author Amanda Quick
***
TIOLI#5

A re-read that is about as taxing as candyfloss, but sometimes we all need a bit of candyfloss. It does, however, show up how poorly these are written compared the the Heyer that preceded it. The historical accuracy is lacking, the characters are stock design, the plot for the most part predictable. But hey ho, you can't read weighty stuff all the time - it's light and fluffy and trivial. Don't take it seriously and it's fun.

177Helenliz
Nov 29, 2014, 1:22 pm

Seeing we're approaching the Christmas season (Bah! Humbug!) I find myself debating what chunky I'm going to read over the holiday. I don't always have a great deal of time to just sit and churn through a big weighty tome, well not unless I want it to take 3 months. So in the last 2 years I've read Brothers Karamazov and Bleak House for my holiday read. It doesn't need to be seasonal, it just needs to be a real heavyweight. Any suggestions for a serious chunky for this year would be appreciated.

178bryanoz
Nov 29, 2014, 6:48 pm

Some heavyweights I would heartily recommend Helenliz are Don Quixote, Les Miserables, Tristram Shandy(not quite so heavy but great read),Middlemarch, David Copperfield, An American Tragedy, and more modern The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth.
Hope these suggestions help !

179Helenliz
Nov 30, 2014, 1:12 pm

Thanks Bryan - Les Mis I've read before (but that would have bene pre LT, so probably isn't listed as having been read). Middlemarch & David Copperfield were potentials already, so I'll check out the rest.

180wookiebender
Nov 30, 2014, 9:53 pm

Glad you love Georgette Heyer, she is marvellous. I was just thinking, if I read The Black Moth (which is reasonably priced for Kindle), then I could either close off "a book written by someone under 30" or "first book by a favourite author" from the book bingo. Decisions, decisions!

I don't read much in the way of weighty fiction, but would also suggest 1Q84.

181jfetting
Dez 2, 2014, 4:45 pm

Yes! Tristram Shandy! It's great, and not bleak at all.

182Helenliz
Dez 3, 2014, 1:34 am

OK, that's Tristram Shandy reserved from the library - who can resist a book described as "A novel about writing a novel is the subject of this complex classic which has been described as the greatest shaggy dog story in the English language."

183Helenliz
Dez 3, 2014, 3:45 am

I have another abandon to report. However this one's an audiobook, and is narrator related. The Enchantress of Florence had a narrator with an awfully strong American accent and it took me less than 5 minutes to decide that there was no way I was going to spend a week listening to this chap mangling the English language. Didn't get far enough to form a judgement on the book itself.

184Helenliz
Editado: Dez 4, 2014, 1:30 am

We've picked next year's book club selection. Noting them here, so I don't loose them! Order picked:
Bertie's guide to life and mothers Feb
Of love and evil Oct
The moment July
Wuthering Heights Sep
Major Pettigrew's Last stand Jan
Alias Grace Apr
Toby's Room Aug
Here lies Arthur * Dec
Mortal Engines * Mar
The Kashmir Shawl May
A possible life Nov
I shall wear midnight Jul

*by same author, so need to be separated

185bryanoz
Dez 4, 2014, 3:53 pm

Hope you enjoy Tristan Helenliz, from your book club list I have only read Wuthering Heights and I Shall Wear Midnight, so looking forward to your reviews. Cheers !

186mabith
Dez 4, 2014, 5:45 pm

Looks like an interesting book club year! Have most of the people already read the other Tiffany Aching books or will some read I Shall Wear Midnight as their first?

187Helenliz
Dez 6, 2014, 5:38 am

It's certainly a varied list. I've always said that nothing is off limits, so we could read anything. I think at most we'll have one who's read any other Tiffany Aching books. We read a Discworld book last year, which met with mixed response.

188Helenliz
Dez 9, 2014, 7:19 am

Book 80
Deborah goes to Dover
Author MC Beaton
**
RLBC
TIOLI#17

Firstly, lets get the title out the way. I'm sorry to report that it puts me in mind of a porn film, I think it has overtones of "Debbie does Dallas" in the alliteration. It is nothing like a porn film, in case you were wondering.
It's a historical tale of a matchmaking meddling busybody called Miss Pym. She has no need to remain a servant, having received a bequest, so now takes to traveling and meeting people. The setting is never really defined, Georgian or Regency, I think, but there's never quite enough detail to pin it down. It's all very easy to read and instantly forgettable. With the exception of Miss Pym, her footman (Benjamin) and Sir George (whom Miss Pym has romantic leanings towards) the characters are pretty two dimensional, they exist for Miss Pym to move them about and meddle in their lives, which she duly does.
Appears to be one of a series I won't be heading out to read the rest.

189Helenliz
Dez 18, 2014, 4:47 pm

Book 81
The thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
Author David Mitchell
****
TIOLI#8

Another very different book by David Mitchell. Set in the Dutch East India company's base in Japan at the end of the 18th century, this follows Jacob de Zoet as he joins the factory in order to make his fortune, aiming to return to his lady love left at home. It doesn't work out like that at all. The ending was quite unexpected and a little unsatisfactory, but that doesn't make it any less of a good story.

190bryanoz
Dez 19, 2014, 4:46 am

#189 I enjoyed that one as well Helenliz, have you read his recent The Bone Clocks ?

191Helenliz
Dez 19, 2014, 4:06 pm

>190 bryanoz: not yet. I've only read three of his so far, that one, Black swan green and Cloud Atlas - which is still the best, imo.
It's impressive how different they are. Most writers struggle to write one voice convincingly, he seems to be able to make them all convincing and they cover a huge range of character types and ages. Versatile is an understatement.

192Helenliz
Dez 22, 2014, 3:34 am

Book 82
The WInter King
Author Thomas Penn
****
TIOLI#5
Non-fiction

This is the reign of Henry VII, and it's a very interesting book. He often gets defined by the events that preceded and followed his reign - he ends the Wars of the Roses and he begets Henry VIII, such that what actually went on during his reign gets a bit forgotten. And quite a lot did happen - not all of it very good or very nice. Control freak of the highest order, the death of his wife has a noticeable adverse effect on his kingship. And the way in which he is viewed at the extremes of his reign make how he went from saviour and unifier of the country to dark spider at the midst of a financial web and miser really very interesting. A good, readable history.

193SandDune
Dez 24, 2014, 4:38 pm

Happy Christmas Helen!

194Helenliz
Dez 27, 2014, 11:32 am

Book 83
Shirley
Author Charlotte Bronte
***
TIOLI#17

This is a book of two parts and I'm not sure how we got from part one to part 2. Starts very much as a novel with a focus on the poor of a northern district, the impact of the inability to sell cloth abroad during the Napoleonic wars, the introduction of mill equipment to speed production, and the hardship this causes the poor. Centered on the rector's daughter and the mill owner, a mild romance in envisioned, set against the worthy background.
The Shirley turns up, with her inheritance and wild ideas of an independent life and we sort of veer away form the "it's grim up north" style and end up in something all together more middle class and end up in a romance. Odd doesn't come close to describing this, it is odd in the extreme. It may be full of useful detail for social historians, but as a novel it leaves something lacking.

195mabith
Dez 27, 2014, 11:56 am

According to Wikipedia, Shirley was partially complete when Branwell, Emily, and Anne Bronte all died in an eight month period, so that could explain it.

196wookiebender
Dez 27, 2014, 11:59 pm

It's funny how I list Jane Eyre as my favourite book of all time, but haven't actually read any of her other books yet! Such a sad family history for the Brontës.