Thread: Lost in a Good Book: What are you reading in 2017? Board: Heaven / Ship of Fools.

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Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

This is the thread for general discussion of any books you might be reading (as distinct from the specific Ship's Book Group discussions of particular books, which have their own threads). Feel free to talk about books you loved, hated, are curious about or mean to get around to reading in 2017.

Last year's book discussion has been moved to Limbo in case anyone wants to reference it.

Posted by Avey (# 18701) on :

I just finished Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" which is about hiking the 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail (not that Bryson completed it or anywhere near)

I've always liked his wry humour and sharp observations and enjoyed the book greatly even though I have to say long-distance hiking does not appeal to me personally at all.

I use a Kindle and have a nasty habit of picking up on what Amazon recommends at the end of a book so was tempted to buy "Balancing on Blue" a book written by a guy who did hike the entire Appalachian trail. Looks promising and will report back when I finish it.

Posted by Tree Bee (# 4033) on :

Having just re read Kate Atkinson's fabulous Life After Life I'm now re reading the sort of follow up, A God in Ruins.
Both books stand up to a second read, in fact I may be getting more out of them this time.

Posted by Twilight (# 2832) on :

I read "Life after Life," and loved it, as I've loved all her books, but when I started reading, "A God in Ruins," I found myself getting depressed over revisiting characters I knew and loved, while fearing they would have more sad endings. I also felt confused because I remembered/didn't remember things. I don't know. It was just a step too far for me. I'm glad you enjoyed it Tree Bee, she's a wonderful warm hearted writer.

I also read the Bill Bryson. He and his friend had me in stitches.

Posted by HCH (# 14313) on :

I am currently not far from the end of "Pigeon Pie" by Nancy Mitford.

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

I just read In the Unlikely Event.. by Judy Blume (One of her adult novels).

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
I read "Life after Life," and loved it, as I've loved all her books, but when I started reading, "A God in Ruins," I found myself getting depressed over revisiting characters I knew and loved, while fearing they would have more sad endings. I also felt confused because I remembered/didn't remember things. I don't know. It was just a step too far for me. I'm glad you enjoyed it Tree Bee, she's a wonderful warm hearted writer.

I loved "Life After Life" and liked "A God in Ruins" quite a lot, but I could only fit the two together by thinking of "A God in Ruins" as one of the many possible timelines of "Life After Life," played out to its full extent (and of course focusing on Teddy not Ursula as the main character). And then the epilogue at the end reminds us that the story we've just read was only one possible outcome of Teddy's life. The two are very different books and I definitely see how it would be possible to love one and not get into the other.

I also enjoyed Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" -- did anyone see the Robert Redford/Nick Nolte movie? If so, what did you think of the adaptation? It was a difficult book to adapt to a movie and I felt they had to add quite a bit of plot, as the book didn't really have much.

Posted by Huia (# 3473) on :

I was eagerly awaiting Ben Aaronovich's latest book in The Rivers of London series last time I posted. I was bitterly disappointed when I read it. I remembered someone posting that they liked his books that were set in London best. This one is set in London, but I didn't really enjoy it.

I won't post any spoilers because I know others may be reading it, but all I will say is that, for me, it lacked some of the lightness that the others have.

The best part was the dedication to librarians, and it went downhill after that

Huia

Posted by Welease Woderwick (# 10424) on :

I am, very slowly, re-reading Marvyn Peake's Titus Groan and reading other stuff between chapters. It's complex stuff but I am loving it.

Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :

The Guardian Books page has an online book club that I post on every now and again: we're busy with Penelope Fitzgerald's The Blue Flower (published in about 1995) and I am finding all kinds of 'insider' details and brilliant phrases that I missed when I first read it.

Also reading (for a writing project) the Moravian missionary Christian LaTrobe's 1816 account of a trip to the Cape of Good Hope and visits to the missions at Groenekloof (now Mamre), Elim and Genadendal. A fascinating mix of Pietist mysticism, practical details of travel, rapturous appreciation of landscape and shrewd comments on those he met.

Posted by Jane R (# 331) on :

<fails to resist temptation to lower tone of discussion> Yesterday I read a book I borrowed from the library because of its title: A cast of vultures by Judith Flanders. Fairly standard crime plot, but well-written and very funny - the bit that made me laugh out loud was the description of the meeting with the management consultants who have been brought in to "restructure" a publishing company.

Posted by Tobias (# 18613) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Welease Woderwick:
I am, very slowly, re-reading Marvyn Peake's Titus Groan and reading other stuff between chapters. It's complex stuff but I am loving it.

I think Titus Groan is magnificent - and Gormenghast too. I first read them when I was fifteen, and, looking back now, I realise that that experience marked the beginning for me of a new way of reading, with real awareness and appreciation of the literary craft and skill that goes into writing good books.

I'm not so sure about Titus Alone - I've re-read the first two books several times over the years, but the third one just doesn't work for me.

Posted by Sipech (# 16870) on :

The Gormenghast trilogy is on my to-read pile, though there are more books on it than I think I can get through this year. Am trying to curtail my spending on books, and have thus far managed to refrain from buying any, in spite of a sale on at a well known christian bookshop that is walking distance from my office.

Am starting the year gently with my first foray into the work of Dorothy L Sayers. Am currently half way through Whose Body, the first of her Lord Peter Wimsey novels.

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Sipech:
Am starting the year gently with my first foray into the work of Dorothy L Sayers. Am currently half way through Whose Body, the first of her Lord Peter Wimsey novels.

I am envious. I reread that whole series every few years, but would love to go back and read it again for the first time, ideally in order, as you are doing. Coming to it from Gaudy Night and reading backwards in bits and pieces, as I did, was a good experience, but different from seeing the character and series unfold as it was written.

Posted by Barnabas Aus (# 15869) on :

After shedding several community organisational roles in late 2016, I am making progress through the pile of non-fiction which has been waiting beside my chair for many months. Since a week or so before Christmas I have read Paper - paging through history by Mark Kurlansky, Train by Tom Zoellner, At Home by Bill Bryson and Passionate Nomad - the life of Freya Stark by Jane Fletcher Geniesse.

I enjoyed Kurlansky's writing and want to read Salt which I understand takes a similar approach. I have followed it up by presently immersing myself in On Paper by Nicholas Basbanes which I have half-finished. This takes a different approach, drawing on the personalities who have made and used paper.

Bryson's work was intriguing, as he related the rooms of his residence - a former rectory- to the social history of houses before and since. As for the Stark biography, I have wanted to know more about her since I read a reference to her in one of Eric Newby's works many years ago.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

Just finished reading Unmentionable, an arch and rather snotty summary of Victorian private practices. Not very interesting.
I greatly enjoyed reading Wives and Daughters and also Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell over the holidays. These are grand books that you can really get your teeth into. A friend has described the latter as a Victorian Lake Wobegon, and she's right. I instantly went on to Gaskell's Ruth, which is somewhat more heavy-handed in moralizing (but that comes with the territory, in Victorian novels). And with any luck I will get to her North And South this year as well.

Posted by Huia (# 3473) on :

I like Elizabeth Gaskell, but I never really got into Ruth - I suspect it was the moralising.

I've just read just read A Mind to Murder by P.D James. I wanted to read it as I had seen the DVD over Christmas but hadn't really heard it. For some reason the phrase S/He said without rancour leapt out at me 3 or 4 times, so I found myself both waiting for and being irritated by it. I don't really know why I keep reading PD James as Adam Dalgliesh (her detective) annoys me.

I am now reading The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu and their race to save the world's most precious manuscripts by Joshua Hammer. This is a true story and I'm finding it riveting - the library will only get it back because I have a strong conscience about returning books, besides which I couldn't deprive others of the pleasure of reading it.

A fascinating glimpse of the history of the area too.

Huia

[ 10. January 2017, 05:11: Message edited by: Huia ]

Posted by Chorister (# 473) on :

I knew I had to read it when the opening paragraph read: "'The Lord be with you', chanted Minor Canon Twist on B flat, unaccompanied and perfectly pitched. He allowed the last vowel to linger, then to dissolve in a refined diminuendo. The effect was nearly as pleasing to his hearers - and possibly even to God - as it was to Minor Canon Twist himself."

Personally, I suspect the Organist...

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

I saw the movie "Hidden Figures" last night (about the little-known history of African-American women who worked on the US space program in th 1960s) and immediately came home and downloaded the book on which it was based. I often do that with movies based on a book if I haven't already read it, because I'm curious to know (if it's a true story) how much was real and how much dramatized for the movie.

Also still finishing up "How the Scots Invented the Modern World," which I discovered over Christmas. I say "discovered" because I'd known the book existed for years and thought it sounded interesting but never actually (to my knowledge) picked up a copy. Then when moving a rarely-used bookcase to do some pre-holiday painting, lo and behold, a virgin copy of that very book fell out of the back of the bookcase. Obviously I either purchased or was given it at some point in the past, and promptly forgot I had it. It's quite good though.

Posted by no prophet's flag is set so... (# 15560) on :

"Marianne in Chains", which is about the occupation of France by Germany during WW2. It paints a picture of a much more cooperative relationship between the occupiers and the occupied, particularly in the free zone controlled by France in the south. It made me reflect on the 'new normal' and ways of adapting to absurd and atrocious things, where values and ideals morph and change. The French were far more congenial and affiliative with the Germans than is commonly held, with fewer heroically resisting and more cooperating. I reflected on the normalization of incoming administration for our American neighbours as an ethics and psychological parallel.

Posted by Sipech (# 16870) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Huia:
I've just read just read A Mind to Murder by P.D James. I wanted to read it as I had seen the DVD over Christmas but hadn't really heard it. For some reason the phrase S/He said without rancour leapt out at me 3 or 4 times, so I found myself both waiting for and being irritated by it. I don't really know why I keep reading PD James as Adam Dalgliesh (her detective) annoys me.

On a recommendation, I tried the first of the Adam Dalgliesh novels a year or two ago, but really didn't like it. The solution was rather like a deus ex machina, with no clues given in the book that would allow the reader to possibly deduce it. I remember feeling quite cheated and angry at the end of it. It put me right off reading another P.D. James book.

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :

Jeremy Thorpe by Michael Bloch How a lightweight can manipulate himself into power and out of scrapes.

Posted by betjemaniac (# 17618) on :

Currently The Deceivers by John Masters - I read book 2 of the trilogy (Nightrunners of Bengal) a couple of years ago and was by turns exhilarated and traumatised. He knew what he was doing as a storyteller did Mr Masters.

Over Christmas I demolished Orley Farm, which I quite enjoyed but have read better Trollopes.

Slwoly more Francis Brett Young is making it onto Kindle, which is not good for my bank balance but he deserves a new audience.

Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :

quote:
Originally posted by betjemaniac:
Currently The Deceivers by John Masters - I read book 2 of the trilogy (Nightrunners of Bengal) a couple of years ago and was by turns exhilarated and traumatised. He knew what he was doing as a storyteller did Mr Masters.

That's a name I haven't seen in years, John Masters. I read his Bhowani Junction at school while we were studying EM Forster's Passage to India, and found Masters' Anglo-Indian (as it was then termed) railway culture gritty and authentic, no romanticising of the last of the Raj.

Later when I read Paul Scott's Jewel in the Crown quartet, I wondered if Paul Scott had based the character of Rodney Merrick on Masters' Rodney Savage in Bhowani Junction.

Posted by Huia (# 3473) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Sipech:
On a recommendation, I tried the first of the Adam Dalgliesh novels a year or two ago, but really didn't like it. The solution was rather like a deus ex machina, with no clues given in the book that would allow the reader to possibly deduce it. I remember feeling quite cheated and angry at the end of it. It put me right off reading another P.D. James book.

Thanks for that comment. I couldn't put my finger on why else PD James style annoyed me - and you've hit it fair and square. I feel cheated too.

Huia

Posted by georgiaboy (# 11294) on :

quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
"Marianne in Chains", which is about the occupation of France by Germany during WW2. ...

I've not seen this book, but have recently finished 'When Paris Went Dark,' which covers the entire German occupation of Paris. I thought i knew quite a bit about this era, but learned a LOT here. Well-written, with a lot of vignettes of individuals, both famous and not-famous-at-all.
Highly recommend.

Posted by Curiosity killed ... (# 11770) on :

The Kate Charles Book of Psalms series has been reissued (we tried to read one as a Book Club book a couple of years ago and struggled to get our hands on them), and they are currently very cheap on Kindle (£0.99, £1.49 or £1.99). I am pretty sure I never read the first one, A Drink of Deadly Wine, when it was first released 25 plus years ago, and really enjoyed the story set in an Anglo-Catholic London parish, which still had many relevant issues underlying the story - the Church of England attitude to homosexuality. I have the next two on Kindle, which is almost certainly going to distract me from the current book club book.

I also found and read Unseen Things Above the next book following Acts and Omissions by Catherine Fox over Christmas, months after the rest of you. (I know the third is being serialised on her blog, but I've missed most of it.)

This is mixed in with Eva Dolan's DI Zigic and DS Ferreira series - set in Peterborough, detective stories from the hate crimes unit. I can't read more than one of these at a time, but find them fascinating, the Ann Cleeves Jimmy Perez series after getting as far north as Orkney last year and discovering Georgette Heyer on Kindle.

Posted by Pigwidgeon (# 10192) on :

I love Kate Charles and have read each book as soon as it comes out! I've also had the pleasure of meeting her at book signing parties at our local mystery bookstore, which is now also her publisher in the U.S. (Poisoned Pen Press). I just wish she'd write more books!

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

I just finished Fate of the Tearling, which is the third in a trilogy, all excellent. Very anti-organized religion though. I have been simultaniously reading Breakdown by Jonathan Kellerman, an Alex Delaware book. I love that series.

Posted by Curiosity killed ... (# 11770) on :

Ooh I'd forgotten about the Jonathan Kellerman books. I liked both his hero Alex Delaware and Faye Kellerman's Pete Decker series. But I stopped finding them in the library.

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

CK, the third of the Catherine Fox Lindchester books, Realms of Glory, is finished on her blog now and will be out as a book sometime this year. I may or may not have cried a bit reading the final chapter.

Posted by Huia (# 3473) on :

Thanks for that Trudy. After Catherine Fox was mentioned on here I downloaded all that were available onto my kindle. This time I may be more frugal and borrow the latest from the library when it comes out.

I finally bought a tablet so I can borrow ebooks from the library. The first one I borrowed to read (rather than as an exercise in discovering how to borrow*) was The House at the End of hope St by Menna van Praag which I have just finished. The house is a refuge for women who have run out of hope. "It may not give you what you want, but it gives you what you need".

A light read with a touch of magic., quotes from famous women, - I loved it.

*The exercises weren't that successful - I somehow borrowed this book without it showing on my tablet in the obvious place. Not only am I a technopeasant, I am a creative one.

Huia

[ 14. January 2017, 20:16: Message edited by: Huia ]

Posted by Twilight (# 2832) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:

I greatly enjoyed reading Wives and Daughters and also Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell over the holidays. These are grand books that you can really get your teeth into. A friend has described the latter as a Victorian Lake Wobegon, and she's right. I instantly went on to Gaskell's Ruth, which is somewhat more heavy-handed in moralizing (but that comes with the territory, in Victorian novels). And with any luck I will get to her North And South this year as well.

Brenda, I would recommend watching
North and South on YouTube, rather than reading it, because words could not describe how handsome this actor is.

Re: PD James. It irritates me that she is so often compared to Ruth Rendell, who I think can right circles around her.

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
Brenda, I would recommend watching
North and South on YouTube, rather than reading it, because words could not describe how handsome this actor is.

Although two words that might help describe it are "Richard Armitage," or, if that doesn't ring a bell, "Thorin Oakenshield" (or as I called him throughout The Hobbit movies, "Unexpectedly Hot Dwarf").

Posted by Tubbs (# 440) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Trudy Scrumptious:
quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
Brenda, I would recommend watching
North and South on YouTube, rather than reading it, because words could not describe how handsome this actor is.

Although two words that might help describe it are "Richard Armitage," or, if that doesn't ring a bell, "Thorin Oakenshield" (or as I called him throughout The Hobbit movies, "Unexpectedly Hot Dwarf").
One of the few redeeming features of the most recent TV series on Robin Hood.

Tubbs

Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :

I'm currently reading "Lingo" by Gaston Dorren, which is a whistlestop tour of 60 European languages. I'm alternately loving it and finding it a bit frustrating. I really like that he introduces a particular feature or quirk of a language to discuss (as obviously one short chapter isn't going to do an entire language any justice), and also how he often relates them to other languages that wouldn't at a first glance be related - I was really interested for example in his take on grammar which meant that all languages in the Balkans, not just the Slavic ones, but also the outliers like Albanian and Romanian, have particular grammatical similarities which the outliers don't necessarily share with their more related languages (for example, Romanian using a suffix to denote the definite article rather than having any words for 'the', unlike the other latin languages). But I've found some chapters a bit frustrating in that whilst he talks about the languages, he doesn't always give lots of examples. The chapter on Scottish gaelic spelling was good, because it had lots of examples, but other chapters hardly featured any words or examples at all. I like to see how a language looks, as well as what it means.

I'm also planning on starting E. Nesbit's "The Railway Children". I think I must be about the only Brit in the world who has never seen the film (although I've caught the odd clip, so at the relevant points I will no doubt be imagining Bernard Cribbins and Jenny Agutter in my head as I read).

Posted by Penny S (# 14768) on :

I needed something to read on the us while going to collect my car from its MOT, and grabbed the nearest thing to hand, which was Michael Innes' "The Secret Vanguard". I suspect its echoes of "The Thirty-nine Steps" are deliberate. (Possibly "The Riddle of the Sands" is in there, too.) Nice to have a female protagonist. Published in 1940, but set a year before, before the war started. I have read it before, as a ripping yarn, but am seeing more in it this time.

I like the way the protagonist, as a child, had expected the train to go over the Forth Bridge up and down the curves, like a scenic railway she had seen at a fair (?) - roller coaster, and had been disappointed.

[ 20. January 2017, 15:07: Message edited by: Penny S ]

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Trudy Scrumptious:
quote:
Originally posted by Twilight:
Brenda, I would recommend watching
North and South on YouTube, rather than reading it, because words could not describe how handsome this actor is.

Although two words that might help describe it are "Richard Armitage," or, if that doesn't ring a bell, "Thorin Oakenshield" (or as I called him throughout The Hobbit movies, "Unexpectedly Hot Dwarf").
Oooh, definitely!! Many a Victorian triple-decker goes down better via BBC dramatizations. I adored Trollope's The Way We Live Now on the screen.

Posted by Caissa (# 16710) on :

I am just finishing up Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier. A good piece on the eve of WWII.

Posted by Curiosity killed ... (# 11770) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Huia:
I was eagerly awaiting Ben Aaronovich's latest book in The Rivers of London series last time I posted. I was bitterly disappointed when I read it. I remembered someone posting that they liked his books that were set in London best. This one is set in London, but I didn't really enjoy it.

I won't post any spoilers because I know others may be reading it, but all I will say is that, for me, it lacked some of the lightness that the others have.

The best part was the dedication to librarians, and it went downhill after that

Huia

I've just read The Hanging Tree and enjoyed the settings as being very familiar. I know these places and they ring true.

I think those books are going to have to have a dark edge because this magic does have the same problem.

Posted by Sarasa (# 12271) on :

I still enjoy Ben Aaronovich's writing but I thought The Hanging Tree didn't really go anywhere. It seemed like a series of scenes building up to soemthing that is going to happen a book or two down the line. I'll keep reading the series but I do wish he'd think about plot as well as characters and action.

Posted by Jemima the 9th (# 15106) on :

Love for the Lost by Catherine Fox. It's the only one of her books I haven't read so far, and I'm thrilled to hear there'll be a new book out later this year. I do so wish she'd write faster...

The books are getting passed round at church like Judy Blume books did when I was at school!

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

The Hanging Tree was finally released in America and I'm reading it now. I'll post my opinion when I'm done, but so far I'm loving it.

Posted by Huia (# 3473) on :

A new Catherine Fox coming out? I must find out the title so I can request that the library buy it. They will of course, with or without my request, but the action of putting in the request means going to the top of the reserves list

(Mind you I did that with The Hanging Tree so it doesn't guarantee enjoyment )

Speaking of books to come - I read a hint that a new book in CJ Sansom's Matthew Shardlake
series may be coming out this year. Has anyone heard or read this?

Huia

Posted by Doone (# 18470) on :

No, but a new Shardlake would be awesome!
Has anyone read The Essex Serpent? I was going to buy it but the reviews on Amazon were not as good as I expected.

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

OK, so I finished The Hanging tree and I have too say, yes, it was darker than the others but I don't see that as a flaw, I see that as a necessary development from the overall design of the series. I do agree that it seemed to have less of a single book coherent plot than the others, it was more obviously part of an arc in a series, but I enjoyed it enough overall to ignore that. I am looking forward to the next one.

Posted by jedijudy (# 333) on :

I just read Doesn't She Look Natural? by Angela Hunt. When I started reading it, I wasn't sure I wanted to finish. So, following my general "give it a chance and finish three chapters" habit, the book ended up being pretty enjoyable. There are two other books in the series, and I may buy them later. (This was a free Nook Book.)

This is definitely a Christian novel, which I didn't know when I ordered it, and most of the story takes place in a small Florida town funeral parlor housed in an old Victorian home. Surprise!

Here is a review if you're interested.

Posted by M. (# 3291) on :

I came across a time travel romp called One damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor, who I'd never heard of. It seems there's a whole series, all written or at least published very very quickly (there seem to be 8 or 9, with short stories in between, all published since about 2013). It is a fun enough premise - an offshoot of a university history department which travels in time to check out what really happened - and fun enough to read one, but I won't bother with any more. I found the story a bit all over the place and there were too many characters, I found it difficult to remember who was who. It was meant to be funny but I thought it was a very self conscious humour- you know, 'look at me, I'm crazy!', which put me off.

But she seems to have quite a following. Has anyone come across her?

M.

Posted by Sarasa (# 12271) on :

I've read One Damn Thing After Another on the recommnedation of a friend. There were bits that I thought were really good, but it was in desperate need of a lot of severe editing. Like you, M., I don't think I'll bother to read another.

Posted by Curiosity killed ... (# 11770) on :

That premise of the history department going back in time to investigate a period is the subject of one of those Connie Willis short stories, Fire Watch, in Time is the Fire.

Posted by georgiaboy (# 11294) on :

Just finished Jill Paton Walsh's 'The Attenbury Emeralds,' her latest addition to the Peter Wimsey canon.

I had put it off, as some Sayers' fans dislike her treatments, and supposed variance from the canonical character set, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. A good twist at the end, too.

A major segment of the book covers the fire that destroys the Wimsey ancestral home, and the death of the Duke. This results, of course, in Lord Peter ascending to the dukedom, with all the twists and turns relevant to that. While I am no expert of these things, I could spot no inaccuracies.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

It is that section of the book, solely, that IMO comes to life. The rest of it, meh.

Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :

Started Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora over the weekend.The quality of the writing makes every line a pleasure to read. I should read more sci fi this year.

Posted by Twilight (# 2832) on :

To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowen Ivey. A military man's exploratory trip through Alaska in the late 19th century, spliced by letters from his wife whose difficult pregnancy kept her behind, connected by a crow who flies between them.

Ivey is a very talented writer who is wonderful at creating atmosphere, but I just didn't fall into this one the way I did her The Snow Child. I think maybe I just didn't love the characters quite as much. It's hard to say what the problem was. Maybe just with me, because they both get rave reviews from many sources.

Posted by mousethief (# 953) on :

Just finished Watership Down for the third or fourth time. Was struck by the parallels to Lord of the Rings -- especially in the detailed descriptions of the flora. If you hated LotR because he told you all about the trees and shrubs, you won't like WD, which tells you all about the sort of plants that rabbits eat, and don't eat, and avoid, and don't notice.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

JRRT's worldbuilding did not, mostly, extend down to the plant and vegetation level. The characters eat potatoes, cut oaks, and so on. Adams also worked completely with the flora and fauna of central England. The real creativity and worldbuilding in both cases was all cultural -- the construction of language and culture and legend. In this I would argue that Adams is JRRT's equal.

Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :

I'm glad Tolkien mostly didn't mess with flora and fauna etc. (though there is elanor, of course, and things like kingsfoil--and huge giant spiders). But by keeping most of this stuff familiar, he gave his worlds a kind of homeyness and believability that IMHO they would not have had if everything had been strange and not just the language and culture.

Posted by mousethief (# 953) on :

He didn't mess with it, but he described it in such detail that most of the people who don't like Tolkien, in my hearing at least, cite as their #1 reason the dreary cataloguing (as they will have it) of all the various flora in the places the characters pass through. "Page after page of what trees there were" is how I've heard it described. I think it adds some realism and context to the story, but then again I'm a multi-multi-multi reader so clearly I'm not put off by it.

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

This isn't exactly in the "What I'm Reading" but "What I'm Buying Because I've Read Before and Will Surely Read Again" category, but I'm sharing here because I'm excited about it. I just realized last night that there's a relatively recent re-issue of all the Sayers Lord Peter novels in good-quality trade paperback from Hodder & Stoughton. Looking online, it looks like these have been out for awhile already, probably in the UK, but here in Canada the first couple are available and the rest are being released a few at a time over the next few months.

My Sayers collection is a ragtag assemblage of cheap mass-market paperbacks bought at secondhand stores, with some books missing altogether because I either borrowed them from the library or downloaded them as e-books. None of the physical books match each other and the favourites have pages falling out. My excitement at the realization that I will be able to buy a whole set of fresh, matching Lord Peter books, all the same size and with harmonious covers, is probably way out of proportion to what normal people might feel, but it's there and I felt I had to share it.

I got "Whose Body?" and "Clouds of Witness" last night, as those were the two currently available in my local branch of Chapters. Tingling with excitement to get the rest as they're available.

Posted by Hugal (# 2734) on :

I am working my way through the Jason Bourne books. Nearly finished book five. The series has more reboots than a broken PC but am enjoying them.

Posted by ArachnidinElmet (# 17346) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Trudy Scrumptious:
My Sayers collection is a ragtag assemblage of cheap mass-market paperbacks bought at secondhand stores, with some books missing altogether because I either borrowed them from the library or downloaded them as e-books. None of the physical books match each other and the favourites have pages falling out. My excitement at the realization that I will be able to buy a whole set of fresh, matching Lord Peter books, all the same size and with harmonious covers, is probably way out of proportion to what normal people might feel, but it's there and I felt I had to share it.

Perfectly understandable. I hate, hate, hate it when series are different editions and especially sizes, and have bought replacements (second-hand) when necessary.

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

I just finished rereading The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs. Lovely whimsical fantasy book, with shivery, horror-filled sections, and a satisfying happy ending.

Posted by venbede (# 16669) on :

I’ve just finished and enjoyed Nancy Mitford’s Don’t Tell Allfred. There’s mild fun poked at the French, British and Americans and Nancy’s love of Paris and France is delightfully conveyed.

The book uses many of the characters from her earlier books, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. But although those two masterpieces have a depth and potential tragedy completely lacking here yet they are far, far funnier.

Posted by Jemima the 9th (# 15106) on :

Finished Love to the Lost (really good and made me cry twice).

Next - on to Archbishop by Michele Guinness. A novel about the first female ABC. It's a hardback tome - feels like I'm reading Jeffrey Archer!

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

After a long tough stint on a book jury, I am now reading Razor Girl by Carl Hiassen. He has a winning formula so all his books are exactly similar.

Posted by Dafyd (# 5549) on :

quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Just finished Watership Down for the third or fourth time. Was struck by the parallels to Lord of the Rings -- especially in the detailed descriptions of the flora. If you hated LotR because he told you all about the trees and shrubs, you won't like WD, which tells you all about the sort of plants that rabbits eat, and don't eat, and avoid, and don't notice.

I don't remember flora descriptions much in LotR. Speculating, rather than opening LotR to look: Maybe it's because the landscape is largely English or British, so when he specifies a tree the native English reader thinks, ok, that kind of landscape, whereas to foreign readers the trees stick out in themselves and have less representative value for landscape?

Watership Down is a book about what rabbits would be like if they could talk and had a culture. So of course they're going to talk about plants because if you're a rabbit plants are important. One of the things Adams pulls off is he tells you about a clever rabbit who figures out that wood floats and you can cross rivers on it, and you think admiringly that, yes, that is a rabbit being clever for a rabbit.

Posted by Albertus (# 13356) on :

quote:
Originally posted by venbede:
I’ve just finished and enjoyed Nancy Mitford’s Don’t Tell Allfred. There’s mild fun poked at the French, British and Americans and Nancy’s love of Paris and France is delightfully conveyed.

The book uses many of the characters from her earlier books, The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. But although those two masterpieces have a depth and potential tragedy completely lacking here yet they are far, far funnier.

Yes, the earlier two are funnier. But DTA has a line which has stuck with me, to the effect that it is only in middle age that you realise what ageing does, because that is when you see people you have known in their prime become old. I think that's very true and very wise: it reflects exactly my experience (I'm 50 next birthday).
The Blessing is her other Anglo-French one: I must read it again soon.

Posted by L'organist (# 17338) on :

I've just about finished reading Beha Ed-Din's Life of Saladin. A fascinating account of the fighting in modern day Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, plus earlier battles in Egypt.

Very good on the diplomatic contacts between Crusader knights and kings and the arab commanders.

Not an easy read but well worth the effort IMV.

Posted by mousethief (# 953) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
Just finished Watership Down for the third or fourth time. Was struck by the parallels to Lord of the Rings -- especially in the detailed descriptions of the flora. If you hated LotR because he told you all about the trees and shrubs, you won't like WD, which tells you all about the sort of plants that rabbits eat, and don't eat, and avoid, and don't notice.

I don't remember flora descriptions much in LotR. Speculating, rather than opening LotR to look: Maybe it's because the landscape is largely English or British, so when he specifies a tree the native English reader thinks, ok, that kind of landscape, whereas to foreign readers the trees stick out in themselves and have less representative value for landscape?
"Beyond it were slopes covered with sombre trees like dark clouds, but all about them lay a tumbled heathland, grown with ling and broom and cornel, and other shrubs that they did not know. Here and there they saw knots of tall pine-trees."

"All about them were small woods of resinous trees, fir and cedar and cypress, and other kinds unknown in the Shire,... and everywhere was a wealth of sweet-smelling herbs and shrubs.... Here Spring was already busy about them: fronds pierced moss and mould, larches were green-fingered, small flowers were opening in the turf, birds were singing."

These are the kind of passages that drive LotR detractors absolutely nuts.

quote:
Watership Down is a book about what rabbits would be like if they could talk and had a culture. So of course they're going to talk about plants because if you're a rabbit plants are important.
It's not the rabbits that talk about the plants but the narrator.

One of the things that I think Adams does extremely well is the language. I'm not sure anybody has done it better outwith Tolkien. You are learning "lapine" so well and so painlessly that when you get to a point where a rabbit curses blasphemously, you recognize it as such (and as both cursing and blasphemy).

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

And he does it slowly and subtly, over the course of the book. No glossaries, no footnotes, no appendices at the back. That's skill.

Posted by Golden Key (# 1468) on :

L'organist--

quote:
Originally posted by L'organist:
I've just about finished reading Beha Ed-Din's Life of Saladin. A fascinating account of the fighting in modern day Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, plus earlier battles in Egypt.

Very good on the diplomatic contacts between Crusader knights and kings and the arab commanders.

Not an easy read but well worth the effort IMV.

Does the author take a particular view of Saladin, or simply try to tell the story of his life well?

Thanks.

Posted by Huia (# 3473) on :

I am re-reading "the Hitch-Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy" and really enjoying it. I have also discovered that the Library has a copy of the original radio play but I need to learn to play audio downloads on my Tablet first. Thank goodness the Library run free classes for technopeasants.

Huia

Posted by Dafyd (# 5549) on :

quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
[QUOTE][qb]Watership Down is a book about what rabbits would be like if they could talk and had a culture. So of course they're going to talk about plants because if you're a rabbit plants are important.

It's not the rabbits that talk about the plants but the narrator.
It is two hundred years since the death of Jane Austen, who invented the free indirect style. (The French and pretentious blokes who think women's writing doesn't matter like to credit Flaubert who wasn't even born.)
The free indirect style is when the narrator writes looking through the eyes of the characters and as far as possible using the characters' thoughts. Hence, the narrator writes about the plants in the landscape because that's what the viewpoint characters notice.

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

I'm just finishing Madeleine Thein's Do Not Say We Having Nothing, about three generations of a Chinese family whose story stretches from the Second World War up to (and beyond) the Tienanmen Square protests of 1989. The bulk of it (and the most emotionally difficult parts to read) takes place during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. It's always so interesting to read really brilliantly written fiction set in a place and time that I know about, but don't know MUCH about -- it really is like time-travel to imagine what it might have been like for those who lived under that regime. Just a chilling depiction of that particular slice of 20th century totalitarian madness, and depicted with such detail and feeling.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing won BOTH of Canada's two major literary prizes in 2016 and was shortlisted for the Man Booker. I can't always say this about all the books that win or get nominated for big literary awards but any accolades this book gets are SO well-deserved. Completely captivating and heart-wrenching as well as beautifully written.

Posted by L'organist (# 17338) on :

Golden Key
Beha Ed-Din was a noted Islamic jurist and scholar (some of his books on sharia are still used in madrassas and universities) who achieved such fame that he was sought out by Saladin when he was in his early 40s and asked to take on a role as the equivalent of our Judge Advocate General and Saladin's personal chronicler of events. His writings about Saladin have never been out of publication and are still one of the primary sources recommended to students today, particularly in relation to the third crusade.

Rather than taking a 'view' of Saladin, Beha Ed-Din records things like the siege of Acre and diplomatic contacts between Saladin and Richard I of England ("lionheart") as a contemporaneous eye-witness/participant so it is very much from his own point of view as someone who was an admirer of Saladin. But it is remarkably even-handed (once you have got through some of the flowery verbiage) and of all the arabic accounts is widely regarded as the best; it has to be said that the only equivalent writers on the crusader 'side' are William Tyre a few of the templar knights.

Posted by Huia (# 3473) on :

I finished Mostly Harmless the final book in the Hitch-Hikers' Guide to the Galaxy Series . I thought I'd read it before, but I hadn't - loved it.

Huia

[ 13. February 2017, 08:26: Message edited by: Huia ]

Posted by Not Too Bad (# 8770) on :

Really enjoying peoples reading matter here. Have challenged myself to read 52 books this year (with a teacher's workload so no mean feat!) so I like to see recommendations.
I'm currently reading The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro and I'm really enjoying the slow sense of mystery that is building. I can see however that it may be a bit ponderous for some.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I began Hiassen's Razor Girl but his patent schtick is wearing a little thin. So many people of amazing stupidity that you cannot give two straws for! Also it is nearly due at the library.
So I switched over to
Freud's Couch, Scott's Buttocks, Brontë's Grave by Simon Goldhill, which is digressive but intelligent and at least discusses things I need to read about.

Posted by Sarasa (# 12271) on :

News today that Philip Pullman is bringing out an 'equal' series to His Dark Materials, which will be called The Book of Dust . I really loved Northern Lights (The Golden Compass) and The Subtle Knife, but I very nearly threw The Amber Spyglass across the room as to my mind, it seemed more like a New Atheist tract than a novel. I'll give the new series a whirl though.
At the moment I'm reading The Essex Serpent. it's odd how authors alight on similar themes for novels at the same time. it appears to have a lot in common with Frances Hardinge's The Lie Tree which I read last year.

Posted by venbede (# 16669) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Sarasa:
I really loved Northern Lights (The Golden Compass) and The Subtle Knife, but I very nearly threw The Amber Spyglass across the room as to my mind, it seemed more like a New Atheist tract than a novel.

I more or less agree. He just doesn't understand the concept of God - if God (the Authority) dies, then surely all existence ceases to be?

And for Christians with a strong view of the Incarnation, God is not primarily the Authority.

Mind you the idea that we are only fully human if we accept our mortality (dust) seems profound to me and not obviously in line with Resurrection hope.

Posted by Not Too Bad (# 8770) on :

Sarasa, what did you think of The Lie Tree? I thought it was superbly written although lacking something at the end.
I agree about the Amber Spy Glass although felt it was poorly written and plotted too which after the sheer perfection of Northern Lights was a bitter disappointment. My daughter loved the Mulafa but I just thought they were a clumsy plot device.

Posted by Doone (# 18470) on :

Sarasa, how are you finding The Essex Serpent, please?

Posted by Sarasa (# 12271) on :

Doone - After a false start, I'm about a third of the way through The Essex Serpent. The false start was because I knew nothing about it when I started reading and was confused if it was set in the present day, the dark ages or Victorian Britain. When I read up about it and discovered it was a latter I managed to get going with it. As I said it has a lot of similar themes to The Lie Tree, the impact of Darwin, the role of women and how do you treat chidlren that don't quite fit into societies perceived ideas of what a child should be. However, unlike The Lie Tree which was beautifully written and had some great characters, the writting in The Essex Serpent is clunky in places and the characters a bit overdrawn. Still it really hasn't got going yet, so I can't decide if it will be worth it in the end yet.
Not Too Bad - I agree about the plot of The Lie Tree. I really wanetd to love it, but felt I was being hit over the head with a history book at times,.

Posted by ArachnidinElmet (# 17346) on :

I'm reading Naomi Mitchison's The Corn King and the Spring Queen at the moment. It's a huge brick of a book, but pretty quick reading. Loosely fantasy, but more historical fiction, it's set in prehistoric Scythia, inspired by some artefacts in the Hermitage Museum contemporary with ancient greece, but entirely different culturally. There's a genuine feeling of a different time and place; immersive not explanatory. Fascinating stuff.

I read Mitchison's Memoirs of a Spacewoman a couple of years ago after it was mentioned at a SF conference session about solid science writing in Science Fiction books. It's about the life of a xenolinguist (decades before Arrival), where the alien lifeforms aren't just Star Trek-style humans with pointy ears.

It's well worth the effort (and it is an effort) of finding her stuff.

Posted by Doone (# 18470) on :

Thank you, Sarasa. That bears out most of the, less than glowing, reviews I've read, so I will probably give it a miss.

Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :

I have just finished "Hurrah For Gin" by Katie Kirby, based on her blog of the same name about the trials and tribulations (and joys) of parenting young kids (for people who spot these things on facebook, where there is also a page of the same name, it's the sweary one with all the stick figure drawings). I think it's hilarious and would recommend it to any parents of babies/toddlers/early school age kids. A much better (and infinitely more realistic) read than the perfect little snowflake and fluffy perfection views of many parenting blogs out there.

The only problem has been that I've been reading it whilst enduring a horrible viral cough which has meant that I don't actually dare laugh out loud in case it provokes a coughing fit.

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

Ooh, I read Memoirs of a Space Woman years ago, when I was a teen, and I LOVED it.

Posted by ArachnidinElmet (# 17346) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Nicolemr:
Ooh, I read Memoirs of a Space Woman years ago, when I was a teen, and I LOVED it.

I only came across it a couple of years ago, but seem to be recommending it to a lot of people. Mitchison can fit so much in such a small number of pages. There are no wasted words at all.

After 'The Corn King' I'm going to try and track down a biography. She seems like an interesting person in her own right.

Posted by Jemima the 9th (# 15106) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Jack the Lass:
I have just finished "Hurrah For Gin" by Katie Kirby, based on her blog of the same name about the trials and tribulations (and joys) of parenting young kids (for people who spot these things on facebook, where there is also a page of the same name, it's the sweary one with all the stick figure drawings).

Ooh, I might get that! I see the HFG cartoons on Facebook every so often, and they very often make me laugh and/or wince in recognition.

(Peter & Jane is another good one on the old facebook - it's also sweary and always has a picture of a glass of wine....)

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I may have made an error. I began In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love by Joseph Luzzi, and was enthralled. He is a college professor of Italian, and when his pregnant wife dies in an accident leaving him with a newborn daughter his life goes into a tailspin. All very literary and moving.
Then foolishly i went over to Goodreads and had a look at the reviews. Oh dear. Neglecting the newborn, bad. Parking the child with his mother and sisters while he starts dating again, hmm. The reviewers complain that he is something of a louse. (sigh) Do I want to read about this? I should have just discovered this myself.

Posted by Cottontail (# 12234) on :

I started His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet at midnight on Sunday night. This was a mistake, because I read till 2.30am. Then on Monday, I finished it by the afternoon. It came from nowhere to be shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and I can see why. Odd and disturbing and deceptively simple.

Posted by Hilda of Whitby (# 7341) on :

I just bought "Lincoln in the Bardo" by George Saunders. Amazing. It's a novel about the death of Abraham Lincoln's 11 year old son in 1862 and the Greek chorus of dead people in the cemetery who have not yet passed to the other side (this transitional state is the "bardo" in Tibetan Buddhism). From the cover: "Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices--living and dead, historical and invented--to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?" It is just wonderful--profoundly moving and at times quite funny. This isn't really "a thrilling new form", as Edgar Lee Masters' "A Spoon River Anthology" has a similar structure. But it is a really imaginative historical novel and a tour de force. I'm really glad I bought it.

I also bought "Dorothy Day: the world will be saved by beauty" by Kate Hennessy. Kate is Dorothy Day's granddaughter. It's a joint biography of Dorothy and Dorothy's only daughter Tamar (Kate's mother). It's really compassionate and well-written. I was especially interested in it because of Tamar. The only information I had about Tamar until this book is what Dorothy wrote about her in diaries and letters, and Dorothy's views were not always accurate or fair. I was very glad to learn more about Tamar and what a strong person she was and about her many talents. It was not easy being the daughter of a famous social reformer, as Kate makes clear.

I so rarely buy books anymore that buying two new books is a Big Deal. But these I knew would be ones I would want to keep and re-read.

Posted by Helen-Eva (# 15025) on :

I'm reading All Out War by Tim Shipman which is the story of the UK EU Exit Referendum campaign last year. It's interesting because it's really close detailed insight into events that are still really recent. Very well written for the speed it must have been done too. Sheds a better light on George Osborne than I've previously encountered but mainly its an impartial-ish account of a truly weird set of events in UK politics.

Posted by Adeodatus (# 4992) on :

I'm reading Wuthering Heights for the first time since school (well, I gave it a go a few years ago and didn't make it past chapter 2, but I don't count that). I swear it's a completely different book to the one we read back then. It's good.

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

I'm not reading anything highbrow, I'm reading the Books Ex Libris series of fantasies by Jim C Hines. He invented a type of magic that comes from books, users who are able to pull fictional items out of the books they are written in. It's a lot of fun, and he lists the books he uses as a bibliography in the back of each one. I'm up to the fourth in the series, Revisionary.

Posted by Golden Key (# 1468) on :

Nicole--

Sounds intriguing! Going on my list.

Posted by Doone (# 18470) on :

Mm, ditto!

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I know Hines and will tell him of your approbation! (Authors are fragile of spirit and need encouragement.)
I just finished reading Into A Dark Wood, which was meh. Broke its back, IMO, by trying to do two things at once that didn't want to blend. Am now picking up Abode of Love, a memoir about the Agapemone sect.

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

I've just been reading Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson - about a generation ship attempting to colonise a distant star system. As with all KSR stories, the details of how the ship works is scientifically based, but it also has Brexit in Space! At least, it has a crucial decision taken by all the population of the ship in which the voting is very close, and the two sides come to blows. I enjoyed it - and I appreciate the scientific details, but it did take pages and pages to basically say "The ship slowed down".

Now I've just started on The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. The first part is the set up - how the daughter of a university physicist came to join a secret weapons base in the middle of the Cultural Revolution. The second part jumps forwards a few years, and I'm about to start that. It's very good so far, and Ye Wenjie is a good viewpoint character.

Posted by Jane R (# 331) on :

Brenda:
quote:
I know Hines and will tell him of your approbation! (Authors are fragile of spirit and need encouragement.)
Tell him of mine as well - I think I posted about the Magic Ex Libris series on the 2016 book thread. I'd love to read more in that series/alternate reality, but the end of the fourth book felt like The End for those characters...

Very refreshing to read a book about a librarian by someone who has obviously worked in a library himself (or is married to/partnered with a librarian?). Yes, we CAN tell the difference.

Posted by Sarasa (# 12271) on :

One of the advantages oif working in a charity bookshop is that lots of lovely out of print childrens books come my way (I do pay for them!).
Just read Eustacia at the Chalet School and am now on Antonia Forest's The End of Term. Forest is a much better writer but I do have a soft spot for the Chalet School series.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

A friend of mine decided that the Chalet School needed a campus on Mars. He's nearly done with the book.

Posted by georgiaboy (# 11294) on :

About halfway through James Shapiro's 'The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606'. Absolutely crammed with the history of the Gunpowder Plot and the subsequent trials, executions, etc. (I thought I knew most of this but am finding that I don't!)

Lots of info about the Jesuit campaigns in England; much about King James VI/I fascination with witchcraft.

Ties all the history to specific references and allusions in the 3 WS plays of 1606: King Lear, Macbeth and Antony & Cleopatra.

Two negatives: a) grammatical style is a bit informal for the subject matter IMO and b) the print's too bl**dy small! Am I being forced into the Large-Print section?

Ties nicely to 'Witches and Jesuits' by Gary Wills, which I reread in December.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I am having increasing difficulty with the printed page, and am transitioning over to e-books.

Posted by Moo (# 107) on :

I enjoyed The Year of Lear very much.

The thing that most startled me was that many of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators lived in or near Stratford. Shakespeare himself had nothing to do with the plot, but some of his neighbors and people he had done business with were involved.

Moo

Posted by Jane R (# 331) on :

Finally got to read Golden Hill by Francis Spufford which was January's book group choice. Far too late to join in the discussion, of course, but I did enjoy it (although I skipped over some of the waffly bits, excessively verbose eighteenth-century novels not really being my thing).

Several things I liked:

1. Meticulous research - all of it rang true, and it's so difficult to get the language right in historical books even if you have the period details correct. Not a false note anywhere.

Yes, I did begin to suspect the hero was an abolitionist about two-thirds of the way through, so the twist at the end wasn't too much of a surprise. His backstory sounded plausible too.

3. I liked - perhaps liked is the wrong word, approved of - the way Tabitha's story was resolved. Yes, maybe she would have had a better life if she'd trusted Mr Smith and gone off with him - but maybe when she found out his grandfather was black she'd have turned around and gone straight home again. Or married him and made his life a misery. It made sense that she would have chosen the life she knew, even though she hated it.

And I did briefly wonder - when reading the scene where he meets the three young women for the first time - whether he would end up going off with the slave...

4. It would be nice in a way to know what happened next to the group of freed slaves; but maybe it's better to have that last picture of them bravely setting off into the unknown to claim their freedom, without ever finding out exactly what they made of it.

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

Brenda C, thanks for passing on my enjoyment to Mr Hines. I just finished the 4th book and am very happy with the outcome.

I also just finished the fourth in the Lois McMaster Bujold series of Penric and Desdemona novellas, Mira's last dance, that just came out. A worth addition to the series for anyone who's been following them.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I am hoping Bujold will orchestrate all the Penrics into one volume which I can devour at once.
And I trust you have delved into her many other works, some of which are as addictive as crystal meth.

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

Oh yes, of course. I've read all the fiction she's published. (Not the essays though.) I have been to two readings/book signings with her.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

She is one of those authors (Diana Wynn Jones was another) who I hope will live forever, and keep on writing.

Posted by Jane R (# 331) on :

Thanks for the heads-up re Mira's Last Dance, Nicole.

<to Brenda> Yeah, I still miss Diana Wynne Jones I wanted another book about Conrad.

On the other hand, I wouldn't want to force my favourite writers to go on working after they are ready to retire, or to continue writing a series they have run out of ideas for... I'd rather have half-a-dozen really good books than three really good ones and seventeen mediocre ones. And the danger of writing a long-running series is that you DO get tired of it, especially if your fans force you to keep going after you've run out of things to say. I don't think Bujold is anywhere near that yet and Diana Wynne Jones never got there, partly because she never really did any long-running series (there were a lot of Chrestomanci books but all of them had different protagonists; the only thing that tied them together was Chrestomanci appearing in them somewhere).

Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :

I've a couple of books on the go at the moment, both of which I'm really enjoying.

First up, Jan Carson's "Malcolm Orange Disappears", which is a debut novel from a couple of years ago, although you'd never know it was a debut from the quality of the writing, which is excellent. A cast of wacky and disfunctional yet likeable characters, an element of magic realism (which normally isn't something I like in a book, but the whole scenario is just silly enough and the magic realism elements are sparse enough that it works), combined with assured writing, means I'm happy to recommend it so far (I'm just over half way through), and I'll look out for other books by this author (I think her next book is due fairly soon).

Secondly, I've finally got round to reading "From my Sisters' Lips" by Na'ima B. Robert, a book about Muslim women (mainly converts, like the author) covering both finding Islam and then living it. I won this book in a radio phone in when the book first came out and I heard an interview with the author on BBC Radio London - it was published in 2004 and I left London in 2005 so I'd say I've had it a good 12 years without getting round to it. I'm only a couple of chapters in so so far I've only read the author's testimony of how she converted, and am now reading about other women's stories, but it's fascinating so far, and it has turned out to be a pretty good book for me to be reading in Lent, as it is really making me stop and think about my own faith and where I'm at with it.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

There is a story of a British mystery writers' function after WW2, at which Dorothy L. Sayers bellowed across the room to Agatha Christie, "I'm so sick of Wimsey! Aren't you sick of Poirot, Agatha?"

Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :

I've always felt that Conan Doyle sounded invigorated and gleeful in the scene where he has Moriarty 'kill' Sherlock Holmes. But Holmes wouldn't stay dead.

And AA Milne came to detest Winnie the Poo, as I recall.

"I've come to hate my own creation. Now I know how God feels."
— Homer Simpson

Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :

Winnie the Pooh. Time for more coffee.

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :

Alan Bennett writing about his parents.

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

I sat up late last night to finish To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.
It's a time travel story, in which Our Hero is on a mission to find a hideous vase known as the bishop's bird stump, which was last seen in 1940 just before Coventry Cathedral was destroyed in a bombing raid. Along the way, he goes on a boating trip down the Thames in 1888 (meeting the Three Men in a Boat briefly as they head upstream). The story also involves cats, penwipers, jumble sales, the hero and heroine quoting Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane at each other, fancy goldfish, how servants were treated in 1888, and the problems of keeping the timeline on track.
It's the most tremendous fun, and I wholeheartedly recommend it!

Posted by Doone (# 18470) on :

Sounds good, Eigon!

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Eigon:
I sat up late last night to finish To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis.
It's a time travel story, in which Our Hero is on a mission to find a hideous vase known as the bishop's bird stump, which was last seen in 1940 just before Coventry Cathedral was destroyed in a bombing raid. Along the way, he goes on a boating trip down the Thames in 1888 (meeting the Three Men in a Boat briefly as they head upstream). The story also involves cats, penwipers, jumble sales, the hero and heroine quoting Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane at each other, fancy goldfish, how servants were treated in 1888, and the problems of keeping the timeline on track.
It's the most tremendous fun, and I wholeheartedly recommend it!

That is such a fun book. I want to reread it now. If I remember correctly they don't just quote Wimsey and Vane, they try to recreate the seance scene from Strong Poison and find that it doesn't work out nearly as neatly in practice as it does in the novel. Am I remembering that correctly?

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

I just started The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe, which is obviously connected with H P Lovecraft's The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath. It is set in Lovecraft's Dreamlands, and so far is pretty enjoyable.

Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :

I've just finished nature writer Jim Crumley's "The Great Wood", about the fabled Great Wood of Caledon which is said to have covered large swathes of Highland Scotland thousands of years ago. He walks through various remnants of that once-great forest, and as well as describing the trees, landscape and wildlife, he also talks about modern forestry, and how the various remnants might link up (or not). It's beautifully written, very poetic - I loved it.

Now I've started a YA book which I last read at school [ahem] years ago, which I remember being absolutely captivated by at the time, Jill Paton Walsh's "Fireweed", about two runaways hiding in London during WW2. I'm enjoying it so far, and glad I decided to take the risk of revisiting it.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I was on a jury this year, and in that post learned to quickly determine whether a book was worth reading or not. (If it doesn't hook me in the first three pages I am out.) Now that my stint is done I am applying this newly-acquired skill to my TBR pile, winnowing it ruthlessly. And I am thrilled to discover one book that is clearly worth finishing. I fell into it the way you would fall off a cliff: Uprooted, by Naomi Novik. She is a popular writer of fantasy fiction and this one is equipped with many of the standard features: a castle, a wizard, etc. It is like Beauty & the Beast, only different and great fun.

Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :

Her Temeraire series is even better.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

The last volume in that series is recently out; I haven't read it yet. The first few books in the series were superb, and the middle several kind of sagged a bit. (IMO she should've shortened the series, made it 5 or 7 vols and not 9.) But I am tell that the last volume is grand.

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

There's certainly a seance scene in To Say Nothing of the Dog, Trudy - and it is hilarious, with several characters being taken to be from the Other Side when they arrive in the middle of it.
And later there is another seance scene in which our hero and heroine try to persuade the other characters to adopt a particular course of action by faking communication with the Other Side. It hadn't occurred to me that this was inspired by Strong Poison, though it could have been.

Posted by Pomona (# 17175) on :

I recently finished The Persian Boy by Mary Renault - there's still the final book in the Alexander trilogy to go, but after reading a lot of books set in classical times recently I feel like something different.

I have either The Handmaid's Tale to reread (prophetic in these current times but may be a bit depressing) or A Place Of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, which I picked up for a bargain £2.50 in Aylesbury's Oxfam bookshop. I could also reread Bring Up The Bodies, also by Mantel. Shippies, which do you recommend?

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

I finished The Dream-Quest of Vellit Boe, and I liked it quite a bit, but it didn't have the dream-like quality that a novel set in the dream-lands should have. But it was a very good read.

Posted by Doone (# 18470) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
I recently finished The Persian Boy by Mary Renault - there's still the final book in the Alexander trilogy to go, but after reading a lot of books set in classical times recently I feel like something different.

I have either The Handmaid's Tale to reread (prophetic in these current times but may be a bit depressing) or A Place Of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, which I picked up for a bargain £2.50 in Aylesbury's Oxfam bookshop. I could also reread Bring Up The Bodies, also by Mantel. Shippies, which do you recommend?

Mm, a difficult choice, I love all these, but I think I would go with Attwood myself.

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Doone:
quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
I recently finished The Persian Boy by Mary Renault - there's still the final book in the Alexander trilogy to go, but after reading a lot of books set in classical times recently I feel like something different.

I have either The Handmaid's Tale to reread (prophetic in these current times but may be a bit depressing) or A Place Of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel, which I picked up for a bargain £2.50 in Aylesbury's Oxfam bookshop. I could also reread Bring Up The Bodies, also by Mantel. Shippies, which do you recommend?

Mm, a difficult choice, I love all these, but I think I would go with Attwood myself.
Bring Up the Bodies is only good if you've already read and enjoyed Wolf Hall. I personally would go for either of the Mantel books, although Handmaid's Tale is my favourite Margaret Atwood (though, as you say, a bit depressing).

Posted by Dafyd (# 5549) on :

I think Atwood's non-sf novels are better than The Handmaid's Tale myself, though I admit there's not a lot in it. (I haven't read any of her other sf/fantasy if you don't count The Blind Assassin.) Why not read all three? A Place of Greater Safety first if you haven't read it, then the Atwood so for variety.

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :

The Evenings: A Winter's Tale - Gerard Reve about boredom - a best seller in Holland

Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :

I've started reading "The Outrun" by Amy Liptrot, which is a memoir of her return to Orkney (her childhood home) after several years of alcoholism and drifting in London. It doesn't pull any punches, but is also beautiful as well as stark. I'm not surprised it is an award-winner, it's a stunning book.

Posted by venbede (# 16669) on :

Following recommendations of the TV series, I am reading Jennifer Worth's Call the Midwife. It is wonderful.

I'm also reading Theologica Germinica. It occurred to me it didn't have the charm of other medieval mystical treatises (eg Julian of Norwich or The Cloud) and then I thought of course it wouldn't. It's German.

Posted by Jemima the 9th (# 15106) on :

Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney. Story of twins (one of whom has cerebral palsy) growing up in Morecambe in the 1940s & 1950s, and their whole family. Told from the point of view of one of the twins looking back as an older woman.

It's tremendously moving & very instructive on the prevailing attitudes towards people with disability at the time. That makes it sound terribly hard work, but it's not.

Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :

Rereading Colm Tóibín's novel Nora Webster about a widow in small-town Ireland working out what to do with the rest of her life now that her beloved husband has died.

I'd read this before and liked it, but didn't pay enough attention to the extraordinary character of the elderly nun Sr Thomas.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

Happily perusing Reading Dante by Prue Shaw, a guide to the great poem for the general reader. I have a stack of Dante works a foot high (research) but not this one.

Posted by Sarasa (# 12271) on :

I loved Nora Webster, Mary Louise. I admired the way Toibin managed to give us a story that was seen just through the eyes of the main character, so that even when she did things I disagreed with I could understand her motivation.
I've just read Angela Brazil's The Youngest Girl in the Fifth, a Mother's Day present. I love her plotting, I got quite worried about the heroine even though I knew it would all end up fine, and I liked Brazil's gentle breaking down of assumptions as to what women can achieve. I need to read more.

Posted by mark_in_manchester (# 15978) on :

Having had a rather violent shift of 'career'not so long ago, I picked up an introductory popular-science book I found lying around in the engineering lab I now help out in - "Structures - or why things don't fall down" by J E Gordon (1913-1998).

It's a mostly non-maths intro to elasticity, strength, fatigue, crack formation, bridge building etc, delivered with humour and style (believe it or not) with lots of architectural examples from ancient Greece (a hobby of the author) and various aircraft of WW2, where he worked on wooden gliders and novel aircraft materials.

I mention this here, as his chapter headings include quotes from Greek philosophy, the Psalms - and the tower of Siloam also gets a look in. And then this, towards the end:

"It is rather fashionable at present (1978) to assume that error is one of those things for which it is not really fair to blame people, who, after all, were 'doing their best' or are the victims of their upbringing and environment, or the social system - and so on and so on. But error shades off into what it is now very unpopular to call 'sin'...nine out of ten accidents are caused, not by more or less abstruse technical effects, but by old-fashioned human sin - often verging on plain wickedness.

Of course I do not mean the more gilded and juicy sins like deliberate murder, large-scale fraud or Sex [authors caps!]. It is squalid sins like carelessness, idleness, won't-learn-and-don't-need-to-ask, you-can't-tell-me-anything-about-my-job, pride, jealousy and greed that kill people."

I've been in engineering for more than 25 years, and that's the first time I've read anything like that in a (what turns out to be major, still in print) engineering textbook! Sounds like quite a man.

Posted by Lamb Chopped (# 5528) on :

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

Have any of the other historical-fiction afficiandos here read anything by Cecelia Holland? I picked up her book Great Maria on whim, having found it on the sale table at the bookstore and knowing nothing about her. It's the sort of sweeping historical saga I'd normally love, and I don't NOT like it, but ... I don't know.

A chunky historical novel like that would normally keep me going for a week or so, but I've been picking away at this one for a month -- never bored enough to put it down, but also never really engaged enough to keep the pages turning. It might just be her writing style.

Just wondering if anyone else here has read anything by her, and what you thought?

Posted by venbede (# 16669) on :

Thank you, Mark. That is a wonderful quote about sin.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I too have had difficulty getting 'into' Holland's work, and I don't know why. Also Sharon Kay Penman.
You have read Dorothy Dunnett? Her Lymond books are like needle drugs.

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

Yes, I read the Lymond books about a year ago on the recommendation of several people here and loved them. I do love Sharon Kay Penman, although I believe her earlier books are better than her more recent ones. But Cecilia Holland is just not quite doing it for me.

Posted by M. (# 3291) on :

mark-in-manchester, I read that when I did my MSc in Construction law! I loved it, still have it in the office.

I admit I don't remember that quotation, though.

M.

Posted by Piglet (# 11803) on :

I'm currently part-way through O Sing unto the Lord: A History of English Church Music by Andrew Gant.

While it sounds as if it ought to be geeky in the extreme*, it's actually a very good read, with plenty of amusing anecdotes about the characters who made English church music what it is, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

* OK, perhaps it is ...

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

I just finished The Call by Peadar O'Guilin. Although technically a Young Adult (ie teenage) novel, it's pretty a intense and rather grim fantasy. Very compelling and hard to put down.

Posted by georgiaboy (# 11294) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
I recently finished The Persian Boy by Mary Renault - there's still the final book in the Alexander trilogy to go, but after reading a lot of books set in classical times recently I feel like something different.

Just my opinion of course, but 'Funeral Games' is MUCH less a book than either The Persian Boy or Fire From Heaven. Somehow after the death of Alexander the magic is gone. It's equally well researched, as one would expect, but still ...

There is also 'The Praise Singer,' classical era but not connected to Alexander. I found it disappointing.

Have you read 'The KIng Must Die' and 'The Bull from the Sea'? TKMD inspired me to travel to Greece and Crete!

Posted by Doone (# 18470) on :

Oh, yes, two fine books georgiaboy!

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

Renault is the dean among historical novelists, because she had marinated herself in ancient history to the point where she actually didn't have to research. She had solved the problem of many authors, the data dump issue -- when you clog the story with all the information you have so painfully dug up. The way she did this was by writing the novel first, and only then doing the research. This kept the plot moving right along.

Unfortunately with Funeral Games she didn't have a good plot engine, the way she did for the earlier two. And without a good strong story to keep the pores clear the thing is slowed down by its history. There's too much stuff going on at a chaotic time period, and to keep the broad scope she did not select a single viewpoint character to focus our interest. And so the work is a ragbag, wandering around, historically accurate and sound in its history, but failing as fiction.

What she should have done (and what she might have been trying to do) was to sit on the ms for a while, and rewrite. She cannot have been under deadline pressure -- as I recall the third book came out many years after the first two. But she may have been under financial pressure, anxious to get a ms out and earning some money instead of eating its head off in the stable at home. So she went to press with a less-than-satisfactory work.

Have a look at her nonfiction book about Alexander, The Nature of Alexander for a different usage of what clearly was a mountain of material.

[ 06. April 2017, 19:57: Message edited by: Brenda Clough ]

Posted by Golden Key (# 1468) on :

Brenda--

quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
Happily perusing Reading Dante by Prue Shaw, a guide to the great poem for the general reader. I have a stack of Dante works a foot high (research) but not this one.

In case you don't already know, I think novelist Dorothy Sayers did a translation of Dante.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

Oh yes! I have it downstairs. What I would love to get is a copy of Sandro Boticelli's volume of illustrations for the Comedy. Alas, even used they're expensive.

Posted by venbede (# 16669) on :

I have read twice this Lent Rowan William’s Being Disciples, a short book of 70 pages which I cannot recommend too highly. This is about the attitude of a disciple – acceptance of our own muddle, contemplative trust in God and boundless patience with our neighbour.

He deals briefly but profoundly analytically with limitations of the modern mindset (individualism, consumerism and the misplace identification of choice and free dome) but gently without appeal to Authority (which is why conservatives criticise him as a liberal) but against this he does not set human love but an overwhelming sense of the otherness and reality of God (which is why liberals criticise him as a conservative).

I’m convinced.

Posted by Doone (# 18470) on :

quote:
Originally posted by venbede:
I have read twice this Lent Rowan William’s Being Disciples, a short book of 70 pages which I cannot recommend too highly. This is about the attitude of a disciple – acceptance of our own muddle, contemplative trust in God and boundless patience with our neighbour.

He deals briefly but profoundly analytically with limitations of the modern mindset (individualism, consumerism and the misplace identification of choice and free dome) but gently without appeal to Authority (which is why conservatives criticise him as a liberal) but against this he does not set human love but an overwhelming sense of the otherness and reality of God (which is why liberals criticise him as a conservative).

I’m convinced.

Oh, yes! We used the book for our Home Group recently and found it excellent. Not too scholarly, but plenty to get one's teeth into; great for a mixed group of people.

Posted by venbede (# 16669) on :

"Wears his scholarship lightly" I think is the phrase.

There is an immense amount of scholarship behind the book (a detail from John of the Cross here, an analysis of post-modernism there) but never showing off.

A wonderful book.

Posted by Tukai (# 12960) on :

"The course of love" by Alain de Botton. A [fictional] story of a supposedly representative romance and subsequent marriage, with the author's "lessons from this" interspersed. Perhaps the truest of the "asides" for me was:

"The Romantic view of marriage stresses the importance of finding the 'right' person,- someone in sympathy with all our interests and values. But there is no such person over the long term...the partner best suited to us is rather the one who can negotiate differences in taste with intelligence and good grace."

Having found such a person, I am still married to her after 40+ years!

Perhaps this quote could be the start of a thread in Heaven!

Posted by Sparrow (# 2458) on :

quote:
Originally posted by georgiaboy:
quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
I recently finished The Persian Boy by Mary Renault - there's still the final book in the Alexander trilogy to go, but after reading a lot of books set in classical times recently I feel like something different.

Just my opinion of course, but 'Funeral Games' is MUCH less a book than either The Persian Boy or Fire From Heaven. Somehow after the death of Alexander the magic is gone. It's equally well researched, as one would expect, but still ...

There is also 'The Praise Singer,' classical era but not connected to Alexander. I found it disappointing.

Have you read 'The KIng Must Die' and 'The Bull from the Sea'? TKMD inspired me to travel to Greece and Crete!

I agree - I fell in love with Alexander after reading "The Persian Boy", and the follow up without him seemed meaningless.

And "The King Must Die" - I think my favourite of all her novels. I read it every couple of years, simply magical.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Sparrow:

And "The King Must Die" - I think my favourite of all her novels. I read it every couple of years, simply magical.

So very true. That was a tour de force, a standing broad jump of worldbuilding that got you actually into the mind of a pagan man who was absolutely true in his faith in his pagan gods.

Posted by Golden Key (# 1468) on :

Brenda--

quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
Oh yes! I have it downstairs. What I would love to get is a copy of Sandro Boticelli's volume of illustrations for the Comedy. Alas, even used they're expensive.

Just out of curiosity, I checked to see if it's available online. The pictures are, in various forms, at places like World of Dante. You can also buy the Botticelli "Inferno" on iTunes for $1.99. (Link is about 2/3 of the way down that linked search page.) FWIW, YMMV. Posted by Welease Woderwick (# 10424) on : I am thoroughly enjoying a reread [however many times I have no idea] of Stella Gibbons Cold Comfort Farm - very funny in a dated sort of way and the protagonist is just so completely unbearable! Lovely writing. Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on : As part of my Lent reading I am reading a chapter a day from "The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew: Three Women Search for Understanding" by Ranya Idliby, Suzanne Oliver and Priscilla Warner. After some initial scepticism, I am thoroughly enjoying their debates and wrestling with the similarities and differences between their three faiths. For something lighter, I've just started L.M. Montgomery's "Anne of Green Gables", which I've never read before, despite being (or at least approaching) ancient. I'm very grateful to Project Gutenberg for giving me the chance to catch up with classics that I probably should have read years ago. Posted by Sarasa (# 12271) on : I love 'Anne of Green Gables', one of my all time favourites. I've always wanted to go to Prince Edward Island to see if it was ever really like it is described in the books. I donwloaded the Rowan Williams book and am reading it in small chunks. Lots to reflect on, which I geuss is a good idea for Holy Week. Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on : There is a vast huge tourism industry related to Anne on PEI. The novels are very popular in Japan, and Japanese tour groups throng the place. Posted by Adeodatus (# 4992) on : I've just started reading Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. It was recommended to me here ages ago - I think by Doc Tor - but I've only just got a copy. And it is fantastic. A gorgeous, rich, tumbling poem of a story that in the first 30 pages or so has already made me laugh and cry. Thank you, Doc Tor! Posted by leo (# 1458) on : The Evenings: A Winter’s Tale – Gerard Reve a Dutch best-seller about the boredom of a 23-year-old office worker. Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on : I just finished a teenage fantasy called Three Dark Crowns. It is indeed rather dark. The idea is that on the island where it takes place, a queen always gives birth to triplet girls, who are raised apart, based on their magical attribute. Then at 16 they enter competition with each other, to the death. The survivor will become the new queen, and rule until she fulfills her destiny of birthing triplets. It was excellent, and I'm looking forward to the sequel. [ 27. April 2017, 17:45: Message edited by: Nicolemr ] Posted by no prophet's flag is set so... (# 15560) on : quote: Originally posted by Brenda Clough: There is a vast huge tourism industry related to Anne on PEI. The novels are very popular in Japan, and Japanese tour groups throng the place. It's right near PEI National Park. Only one of the many things to see. There's a longstanding musical in Charlottetown. CBC is doing a new series, which I thought was questionable after the wonderful 1980s mini-series. But this one, while faithful to the Anne stories, also paints a much more realistic picture of the times, being adopted as an almost teen. I am reading "The Bombers and the Bombed" (Richard Overy) which discusses the Allied air war over Germany. Balanced account. The Allies did some pretty bad things, e.g., targetting civilians, which is carefully documented to have preceded The Blitz, i.e., the British bombed civilians first, not the Germans. My interest is because one of four families of my cousins only survived the area bombing of the Rhineland. Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on : I'm in the midst (well, not quite the midst ... I'm in the first third) of a re-read of Robin Hobb's fifteen fantasy novels known as the Realm of the Elderlings books -- all set in the same world, though she tells several different stories through four trilogies and one tetralogy. The final volume of the latest (and possibly last?) trilogy is coming out next month, and having read the original books over a span of several years I wanted to reread them all in close proximity so I'd have everything fresh in my mind before opening the latest volume. It's quite an epic saga. I don't know why Robin Hobb's work isn't more widely known; I think she's the best author of epic fantasy in the world (though that is clearly JMHO). Anyway, I'm four books into the fifteen-book reread and very much enjoying re-immersing myself in this incredibly complex and thoroughly worked-out fantasy world. Posted by Jane R (# 331) on : I've just bought the final volume in Marie Brennan's 'Memoirs of Lady Trent' series, which began with 'A Natural History of Dragons'. If anyone wants me, I will be 'Within the Sanctuary of Wings.' Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on : Ooh, report back. I read the first volume but was somehow not inspired to go on. Posted by ArachnidinElmet (# 17346) on : quote: Originally posted by Jane R: I've just bought the final volume in Marie Brennan's 'Memoirs of Lady Trent' series, which began with 'A Natural History of Dragons'. If anyone wants me, I will be 'Within the Sanctuary of Wings.' I keep eyeing up the first volume on bookshop visits. Sooner or later the temptation will be too much; I'm a sucker for a dragon. Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on : I felt (from the first volume) that she was more interested in the anthropology/biology than the plot. But perhaps this totally changed the next few books in? Posted by Piglet (# 11803) on : Having been battling my way through Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman, a very large (and uncomfortably heavy) tome based on the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and rather given up, I decided on something a bit lighter. So I started re-reading (for the umpteenth time) the Rutshire books by Jilly Cooper. And I've just found out that her latest is now available in paperback ... We all need our little peccadilloes. Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on : quote: Originally posted by Piglet: Having been battling my way through Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman, a very large (and uncomfortably heavy) tome based on the story of Eleanor of Aquitaine, and rather given up, I decided on something a bit lighter. I love Sharon Kay Penman, but I like her earlier works -- The Sunne in Splendour, about Richard III, and the Welsh trilogy that starts with Here Be Dragons, more than her more recent books. She's obviously loved writing about Henry I and Eleanor and their screwed-up offspring, but I've found some of those books to be heavy going too. Posted by Curiosity killed ... (# 11770) on : The latest Jilly Cooper Rutshire novel has caught my eye on the book shop shelves. It would fit into the light reading on the tube I'm currently enjoying, alternating reading the few Heyer books I haven't discovered, rereading those I have and various murder mysteries. I prefer to sublimate my murderous tendencies when frustrated by work. Currently I'm revisiting Val McDermid after stopping reading her books a few books into the Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series as too harrowing to read, although I want to reread The Wire in the Blood now I know she was inspired to create Jacko Vance after meeting Jimmy Savile. I enjoyed her Kate Brannigan series when I first read them and reading them in order have realised I hadn't read them all the first time. Kate Brannigan is a private eye in Manchester in the 1990s and it is interesting how technology has moved even since then - all films have to be developed in a dark room, mobile phones are new, computer technology is archaic, lots of humour and wise cracking. Her Karen Pirie series has an equally sassy heroine, a police officer who runs the historic cases unit for Police Scotland. The settings, characters and scenarios are fascinating: Skeleton Road (2014) looks back on the Bosnian War, Out of Bounds (2016) has a lot of current and interesting themes. (This is partly because I'm rationing Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope series after devouring the Jimmy Perez books and am enjoying those settings along the Northumbrian coast.) I have a long commute - 75-90 minutes each way, but it's broken up with changes, so I find anything I have to concentrate too hard on is a bad idea. Posted by Huia (# 3473) on : Thanks for your post CK, you have reminded me of some authors I have enjoyed and want to re-read. Our library system sometimes clears out older works of print books, but is now buying them as ebooks, so I have bought a tablet to keep up. My difficulty is that I forget authors names and am not brilliant at using the filters for searching. *Your comment re Jacko Vance/Jimmy Saville - I didn't know that, but I have been aware of Val Mc Dermid books having more of a nightmare quality because of the reality behind them. I've found them more difficult to read in the last few years, due in part to the real life stresses of the ongoing quakes, which have meant that my reading has been more comfort or escapist, than previously*. *It was only as I was writing that last paragraph that I became more fully aware of connection between the real life uncertainty and fear, and my current reading habits. It's amazing what pops up in relation to reading. Huia Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on : When Diana Princess of Wales died my first impulse was to write a letter to Peter Dickinson, and demand another sequel to King and Joker. That was his mystery set in an alternate-England with a slightly different but no less troubled royal family. I felt an overwhelming yearning to read about royals where although there would be angst and misery it would all turn out right in the end. Posted by ArachnidinElmet (# 17346) on : CK, I don't know if you also follow the Jimmy Perez TV series, but the Shetland Library twitter feed mentions filming is starting on a new series. Top of my to-read next pile is Val McDermaid's non-fiction book on forensics. I studied a bit of forensic archaeology at University so it's an area of interest. I think there's some history of the science in there as well as more contemporary stuff. Posted by Tukai (# 12960) on : Inspired by the antics of Trump and King Jong Un, I have just re-read "On the Beach" by Nevil Shute. The story is about some people in Melbourne (Australia) and how they react to the deadly cloud of radioactive dust as it spreads slowly southward in the aftermath of an all-out nuclear war, which has wiped out all human life in the northern hemisphere. Not the most cheerful of books but well written. Hollywood made it into a film, mostly filmed on location in Melbourne. Ava Gardner, one of the stars of the film found Melbourne in the late 1950s to be too dull for her, describing it as "just the right place to make a film about the end of the world"! Posted by leo (# 1458) on : The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis - a boy growing up in extreme poverty near the Somme. Graphic accounts of bullying - autobiographical, written when he was aged 21 Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on : Just finished Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Excellent, and very like her other work: great worldbuilding, lots of angst and conflict. I also read A London Home in the 1890s by M. V. Hughes, notable for how hard it is to get a copy in the US. I found it at the big used bookstore in Atlanta, and some day may luck onto the third volume. (Bought the first at Powells in Portland, OR, and lent it to a friend who has vanished with it.) Posted by Scots lass (# 2699) on : I've just been on holiday with long haul flights, so lots of reading time! The Brother Cadfael books were all 99p each on Kindle so I read the first six of those (I should have bought them all) - I've read them before, but when I was in my teens, so very much enjoyed revisiting them. I also read Caraval, which reminded me of The Night Circus - a fantasy adventure in a game/performance which lasts 5 nights. Rather predictable romance, but very enjoyable. Started on the plane but not yet finished due to time and jet lag was Rotherweird, which is rather hard to describe. It's fantasy set in a self-governing town, which was cut off in Elizabethan times. There's a mystery aspect, a crime aspect, and some rather weird/entertaining traditions - with a fairly sizeable cast of characters. It's a little confusing, but that might be the jet lag... Posted by Jane R (# 331) on : Brenda, re the Memoirs of Lady Trent series: quote: I felt (from the first volume) that she was more interested in the anthropology/biology than the plot. But perhaps this totally changed the next few books in? I think the anthropology/biology IS the plot. I read it for the world-building, mostly; I liked it, but not as much as her Onyx Court series. The ending was quite satisfying, but I can see why you gave up on it... the style is a bit dry, perhaps because she is trying to pastiche genuine Victorian/Edwardian memoirists. Posted by lily pad (# 11456) on : quote: Originally posted by Sarasa: I love 'Anne of Green Gables', one of my all time favourites. I've always wanted to go to Prince Edward Island to see if it was ever really like it is described in the books. Come visit anytime. I think it is even better than what is described in the books. I'm listening to the podcast of "One Brother Shy", the latest book by Canadian author, Terry Fallis. Love his work! Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on : quote: Originally posted by Jane R: I think the anthropology/biology IS the plot. I read it for the world-building, mostly; I liked it, but not as much as her Onyx Court series. The ending was quite satisfying, but I can see why you gave up on it... the style is a bit dry, perhaps because she is trying to pastiche genuine Victorian/Edwardian memoirists. [/QB] Mmm, you gotta do what you gotta do. But the Victorian memoirists are not who I would steal from... Posted by ArachnidinElmet (# 17346) on : quote: Originally posted by Brenda Clough: Just finished Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Excellent, and very like her other work: great worldbuilding, lots of angst and conflict. Must be something in the air. I'm just reading Tremeraire (aka His Majesty's Dragon) my first Naomi Novik. Greatly enjoying it. She has a lovely lyrical voice; I was sucked in from the first page and just want to keep reading. Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on : The first book is dynamite, excellent. Horatio Hornblower meets the Dragonriders of Pern. The series itself is IMO too long -- at least a couple of the volumes seem to be just wheel-spinning. The last volume however was out last year and I have heard good things of it. Posted by Zappa (# 8433) on : I've delighted in a rush on reading of late ... some advantages to being unemployed. The two Rosie novels (Simsion ... 5/5 and 4/5) Curious Incident ... Dog ... Night Time (Haddon, 3/5) Beck (Peet/Rossof, 5/5) All the Light We Cannot See (Doerr, 6/5) Women in Love (Lawrence, 3.5/10) Just started Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow It's wondrously rewarding to lose myself in others' worlds for a while, far away from Facebook and the horrors of a Trumpian world of hate. I'm also trying to write a novel, which I'm sure will never be published, but it's kinda fun. Posted by Albertus (# 13356) on : quote: Originally posted by Curiosity killed ...: The latest Jilly Cooper Rutshire novel has caught my eye on the book shop shelves. I liked the story about her intro when she was out & about promoting it: 'Now I'm going to have to disappoint you. On the poster it says Mount Jilly Cooper but I'm far too old to satisfy you all like that, so you'll just have to be content with forming an orderly queue for me to shake your hands'. Posted by Jane R (# 331) on : Just been checking Adrian Tchaikovsky's blog and he is having a competition/giveaway of free audiobooks of Children of Time - which some of you may remember me suggesting for the Ship's book group. SF about an attempt to terraform a planet and create a new intelligent species that does not go according to plan... I've already got the ebook, so I won't be entering. [eta] Almost forgot the location of the blog: http://shadowsoftheapt.com/ [ 09. May 2017, 21:37: Message edited by: Jane R ] Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on : Slow autumn reading in the evenings, going on with Henry James. So far, I've read The Aspern Papers, Wings of a Dove and now I'm doing my nth reread of Portrait of a Lady. I don't mind the late James with his labyrinthine sentences, but it is really hard to work out what actually happens (I gave up on that in The Golden Bowl last year). Contemporary fiction is usually so explicit on the what, how and why, but James' oblique hints, evasions and silences is really much more like real life. Posted by Garasu (# 17152) on : Just finished Benjamin Alire Saenz's The inexplicable logic of my life Not life changing, but certainly life-affirming. And I found myself really appreciating a young adult novel where a (straight) boy and a (straight) girl didn't fall in love... Posted by Hedgehog (# 14125) on : I just finished the most recent Chief Inspector Chen novel by Qiu Xiaolong, Shanghai Redemption. In it, Chen has received a "lateral promotion" away from his Chief Inspector duties to a job with a nice title but little actual power. Chen begins to suspect that this was a deliberate move by somebody in authority to prevent him from investigating a politically sensitive matter. Thank God that could never happen here. Anyway, Chen's suspicions become certainties when he narrowly avoids being dragged into a scandal. Most of the mystery is spent trying to decide which of the politically sensitive cases that were on his desk before his "promotion" is the one so bad that somebody would go through such measures to take him out. As usual, his investigation makes use of his large circle of friends rather than official channels. I like the Chen mysteries, although they do tend to be of uneven quality. This is one of the better ones--although the body count is also higher than usual, with at least one person killed simply for helping Chen. The basic story line is based on a real-life scandal in China, although the author has stated that he toned it down for the book because...well, because nobody would accept in a work of fiction the sort of things that really happened. It would come across as "unrealistically" contrived. Posted by Twilight (# 2832) on : quote: Originally posted by MaryLouise: Slow autumn reading in the evenings, going on with Henry James. So far, I've read The Aspern Papers, Wings of a Dove and now I'm doing my nth reread of Portrait of a Lady. I don't mind the late James with his labyrinthine sentences, but it is really hard to work out what actually happens (I gave up on that in The Golden Bowl last year). Contemporary fiction is usually so explicit on the what, how and why, but James' oblique hints, evasions and silences is really much more like real life. I love Henry James's books, but I think I love the film adaptations even more. I thought the The Golden Bowl version with Nick Nolte and Uma Thurman was fabulous. My book club just read The Last Bus to Wisdom and The Boston Girl. The other women, much nicer than I, loved both, and they were fun, but I found both books rather choppy with a this happened, then this happened, sort of structure. Posted by venbede (# 16669) on : I've just finished re-reading Alessandro Manzoni’s wonderful novel, The Betrothed (I promessi sposi). I believe Italian school children are put off it due to it reputation as the Great Italian Novel. For me who does not know its reputation, I love it. It is an historical novel set in the 1620s near Milan. Despite the terrible events as part of the background, (famine, riots, war, plague) there is a strong sense of the human potential to survive and love. They are almost all described as fallible and compromised, but Manzoni gentle irony gives a very endearing glow. In the contemporary novels of Walter Scott the main characters are gentry or noble and the lower orders provide comic relief. For Manzoni, the principal characters, the betrothed of the title, are prosperous peasants, prevented from marrying at the beginning by the pusillanimity of the parish priest giving into menaces by the thugs of the local nobleman, who has designs of the bride. The nobles and gentry do not come well out of the book. I found overwhelmingly emotional a scene when another nobleman, who runs a major criminal organisation with his thugs, is disturbed at his guilt and visits the saintly Archbishop of Milan, who welcomes him. Under the bishop’s influence the sinister nobleman repents. This book deserves to be much better known in the English speaking world. Posted by Lothlorien (# 4927) on : A couple of months agoi, I bought the Kindle edition of Mark Colvi's book, Light and Shadows, Memoirs of a Spy's Son. I iften read Kindle books as I eat lunch but had not strted this. He died last week after many years of ill health which started as he reported the Rwanda atrocities. He was a journalist for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and although brought up in England, he worked for them for many years all over the world. There is a contrast between the light his reporting shed on world events and the more shadowy existence of his father. His father worked in many embassies around the world but it took years before his son realised that the titles of positions did not seem to have much to do with what his father appeared to do. He was employed by SIS for many years and the tales of that are interesting, although I imagine they have been vetted as his father's memoirs also were. I promised myself I would read a chapter before bed. Ninety minutes later, I was still reading. [ 16. May 2017, 02:37: Message edited by: Lothlorien ] Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on : I've been going for short stories to read in bed before I go to sleep (just one - well, maybe just one more...) I started with Charles de Lint's Moonlight and Vines, magical stories set in his city of Newford, with ghosts and crow girls and vampires and women who turn into unicorns, all with a wide cast who show up in a variety of stories across the book, and in his novels. Now I've moved on to Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warning, which has some stories that have been published before, like Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains and The Sleeper and the Spindle, as well as a story about Shadow Moon from American Gods, set in a country pub in the UK, and a lot more which are new to this collection, mostly slightly disturbing (maybe not the best choice for bedtime reading, but still....) Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on : Having fallen off the sled with this month's SoF book, I have resorted to Dante In Love by A.N. Wilson. Also I have here Option B by Sheryl Sandberg, a book about grieving and loss. Posted by Sarasa (# 12271) on : Lily Pad said: quote: quote: Originally posted by Sarasa: I love 'Anne of Green Gables', one of my all time favourites. I've always wanted to go to Prince Edward Island to see if it was ever really like it is described in the books. Come visit anytime. I think it is even better than what is described in the books. [Smile] With both the weather and politics being so gloomy here at present I'm very tempted to do just that. I've just read Kate 'The Suspicions of Mr Whicher' Summerscale's The Wicked Boy . I do like her investigations into Victorian crime. What made this particularly interesting for me was that my grandmother must have been about the same age as the 'wicked boy' and lived about a mile away at the time. The house the deed was done in is a typical Victoran workers cottage, of which hundred of thousands were being built at the time. I live in a very similar one in a different part of London, so I found the way people actually lived in them interesting too. Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on : I just checked out Heartbreak Hotel, the latest Jonathan Kellerman Alex Delaware mystery. I love them, and I can't wait to start this one tonight. Posted by basso (# 4228) on : Just finished that one. I like them too. When I stumbled across a link for the ebook, I couldn't resist. (I finally joined the smartphone brigade a couple of months ago. No early adopter here.) Posted by Twilight (# 2832) on : A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towels. I'm about half way into this and, like the thread title says, I am lost in it. Our protagonist is a Russian Count who begins the novel in 1922, in a court room where he is on trial for having written some poetry that just might be slightly pro aristocrat. No one is quite sure. So the powers that be don't send him to prison, but sentence him to stay inside his hotel for the rest of his life. It's an elegant, lavish, pre-revolutionary hotel so it's not bad at all and it gives Count Rostov a uniquely observational place in the world, where he watches the society around him through his lens of youth and wit. Last year, I read his Rules of Civility and loved it. This is lighter in tone, but similar in that the author is still very interested in just what refinements of behavior make us better people. Posted by mousethief (# 953) on : The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Anything I could say that would even come close to doing it justice would be hackneyed and cliché. Tour de force. Breaks new ground. Like nothing I've ever read. It definitely has relevance to the SOF since it's about a missionary family, and their experience in the country they go to evangelize (Congo). And then some. There's plenty of Scripture and personal relationships with God and baptisms (or lack thereof) to make it a book of religious interest. But it's far more than that. Her ability to weave five voices, and age them appropriately as the story goes on, is amazing. And the story arcs themselves are compelling in their own right. Two thumbs up. Posted by Twilight (# 2832) on : It's hard to believe, The Poisonwood Bible is almost 20 years old. I'm surprised how well I remember it -- a sign of a very good book, I think. I read it with a book club I belonged to in Georgia. We were all just blown away by it. I remember that lots of people just hated the shallow, teen age girl of the family, but I thought she was a great character, showing just how heartless and disinterested a missionary's child might be. Ultimately, she did less harm than her dedicated father. Posted by Palimpsest (# 16772) on : The end of Eddy. A memoir of a French Gay man growing up in poverty in Northern France in a dysfunctional family in a dysfunctional town. It's well written and interesting with a large sense of grievance. Posted by leo (# 1458) on : quote: Originally posted by Palimpsest: The end of Eddy. A memoir of a French Gay man growing up in poverty in Northern France in a dysfunctional family in a dysfunctional town. It's well written and interesting with a large sense of grievance. Just read this and my book group is due to discuss it tonight. Very well-written but full of misery - was famine and homophobia really so widespread in 1990s France? - it reads moere like the 1950s. Posted by Welease Woderwick (# 10424) on : Courtesy of my kindle I have just reread, for the first time in a while, C S Forester's The African Queen - I had more memories of the Bogart/Hepburn film than of the book but the book was definitely worth the revisit and it is so much more poignant than the film. Having said that the film, which I shall probably see again next week, is pretty darned good. Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on : Forester is a grand writer, and his influence upon genre fiction is not as well-known as it ought to be. (Star Trek was originally conceived as Horacio Hornblower in space.) Posted by no prophet's flag is set so... (# 15560) on : quote: Originally posted by Brenda Clough: Forester is a grand writer, and his influence upon genre fiction is not as well-known as it ought to be. (Star Trek was originally conceived as Horacio Hornblower in space.) The other inspirations were Gulliver's Travels (Jonathon Swift) - Gene Roddenberry wanted a morality tale as another layer - and he publicly said it was a western based on Wagon Trails. Wagon Trails probably because of the 1960s interest in westerns. Back in the days of Newsnet, here in Canada on Netnorth a precursor of the internet (Bitnet elsewhere), rec.arts.startrek had debates about things like this extensively. Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on : I'm really enjoying Pete Brown's The Apple Orchard, which encompasses history, mythology and science, as he visits orchards around the UK. He started off as a beer writer (and his books like Hops and Glory and Three Sheets in the Wind are very good too). Having started researching cider and apples, though, he says he's now obsessed! I went to see him speak about the book at last year's Hay Winter Festival, so was lucky enough to get the hardback signed. Posted by Welease Woderwick (# 10424) on : I spotted Charles Allen's The Buddha and the Sahibs in my Kindle recommendations and bought it, being a fan of his writing. I started it yesterday and it is excellent! It is about the Orientalists who worked for the East India Company, their "discovery" of Buddhism and the upsurge of interest their work created in both East and West. So far I am about 40% of the way through and may well finish it in the next couple of days. This has led me to finding another book by the same author so I think my VISA card might take a bit of a battering this weekend. Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on : I read a review of Charles Allen's Buddha and the Sahibs years ago by William Dalrymple (I think) and it was so sympathetic I wanted to rush out and buy a copy. It's back on my order list. Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on : Just got my limited edition copy of Ben Aaronovitch's new Rivers of London novella, The Furthest Station. Can't wait to start reading it! Posted by Scots lass (# 2699) on : Bah! We don't get it until September. Let us know if it's good... Posted by Huia (# 3473) on : quote: Originally posted by Nicolemr: Just got my limited edition copy of Ben Aaronovitch's new Rivers of London novella, The Furthest Station. Can't wait to start reading it! Thank you so much for posting this. I hot footed it to the library and asked them to order it (knowing that Ben Aaronovitch is on their buying list anyway). This means I am head of the reserves queue when it arrives at Christchurch Public Libraries and it will cost me all of$3 to read. It does help knowing how to use the system, but a heads up for what is coming makes it possible.

Another book I have on hold is about crafting with cat fur. From the picture on the cover it looks like felting, and as Georgie-Porgy has fur in abundance it could be a possibility. Maybe she could even earn her keep.

Huia

Posted by lily pad (# 11456) on :

I am about to begin the first book of the Outlander series. I don't really know what I am in for but I will give it a try.

Posted by Caissa (# 16710) on :

I read this book earlier this year. It is long and could have used an edit down to about half its length. The plot twists are rather cliche.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I was unable to get into it, but this often happens. There is a ginormous and absolutely rabid fandom out there, vast chat boards and newsgroups, an entire universe of Outlander which (if you like the books) you could delve into. It also has been dramatized on STARZ, quite faithfully to the books. I forget how many volumes there are -- nine? thirteen? It's three or four separate groupings of novels. So the TV series will be able to go on for yonks.

Posted by Welease Woderwick (# 10424) on :

quote:
Originally posted by MaryLouise:
I read a review of Charles Allen's Buddha and the Sahibs years ago by William Dalrymple (I think) and it was so sympathetic I wanted to rush out and buy a copy. It's back on my order list.

Book finished and I thought it was well done, very informative. Please let me know what you think if you manage to give it a go.

I am now reading something a bit lighter [The Bertie Project by Alexander McCall Smith] before I start the next Charles Allen about Ashoka.

Posted by Curiosity killed ... (# 11770) on :

I've read some of the Outlander books, some years ago. I enjoyed the first few, but reckoned they jumped the shark part way through and haven't kept up with where they went.

Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :

I bought the first of the Outlander books as it was on special offer in the kobo store - I didn't want to pay full price in case I hated it. On another forum I frequent there are a couple of diehard Outlander fans, and their reviews have made me curious. But I'm not going to commit till I've had a go at reading the first one (it's still on the TBR pile, along with *mumbletymumblehundreds* others, so I don't know when I'll eventually get to it).

I'm currently reading Margot Lee Shetterly's "Hidden Figures" about the African-American women who were employed as mathematicians and who made a huge contribution to the computing that enabled the American participation in the space race. I'm enjoying it so far, although I remain shocked when I think about how recently segregation was still the norm (I know I shouldn't be shocked, and the UK hardly has the most stellar history of race relations either). It's been made into a film, I'd like to see that too.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

The film is widely hailed as superb.

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

I'm now reading a Jonathan Kellerman Alex Delaware mystery. An old one I got second hand, it's from, I think 1992. It's called Private Eyes, and as all the Alex Delaware books, I'm loving it.

Posted by Welease Woderwick (# 10424) on :

I have tried and failed at reading Jonathan Kellerman in the past despite several people encouraging me to give him a go - there is just something in his writing style that I don't seem to get.

Oh well, nobody is perfect and certainly not me. when I am devoid of other reading material I'll give him another go.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

A friend of mine has recommended the St. Cyr mysteries; they're about a Regency viscount turned detective. Anyone read them?

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Jack the Lass:

I'm currently reading Margot Lee Shetterly's "Hidden Figures" about the African-American women who were employed as mathematicians and who made a huge contribution to the computing that enabled the American participation in the space race. I'm enjoying it so far, although I remain shocked when I think about how recently segregation was still the norm (I know I shouldn't be shocked, and the UK hardly has the most stellar history of race relations either). It's been made into a film, I'd like to see that too.

I saw the movie first; it was quite good, and then, as often happens, I picked up the book because I wanted to know more. In the usual way of feature films, the movie condenses, dramatizes, and simplifies a lot of the very complex experiences that these women had over more than two decades. I think the movie is a good way of introducing the story to people who don't know anything about these women and their contribution, but the book offers so much more background.

Posted by mark_in_manchester (# 15978) on :

I'm having another go at 'The Brothers Karamazov', and this time I'm really enjoying it.
This quote (from 1880) jumped out at me as something ship readers might find pertinent:

quote:
They maintain that the world is getting more and more united, more and more bound together in brotherly community, as it overcomes distance and sets thoughts flying through the air.

Alas, put no faith in such a bond of union.

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry about the American Civil War - carnage but also love of comrades.

Posted by Huia (# 3473) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
A friend of mine has recommended the St. Cyr mysteries; they're about a Regency viscount turned detective. Anyone read them?

The name sounds familiar, so I've probably read one or two in the past, but not to the point of hunting them out as a "must read".

My latest "must read the next one" series is by Becky Masterman, and feature Brigid Quinn, a retired FBI agent. There are only 3 so far, and unusually for me,I started with the first one,
Rage Against The Dying, and I was hooked. The Boston Globe reviewer sums up the hero as powerful, and flawed, needy and tough. Her relationship with her husband is interesting too and develops over the course of the books. I have just begun the third book, A Twist of the Knife and it promises to be as well written and exciting as the others. As it was published this year I will have to wait for the next one

Huia

[ 22. June 2017, 22:07: Message edited by: Huia ]

Posted by Welease Woderwick (# 10424) on :

This afternoon I finished re-reading Joshua Slocum's Sailing Alone Around the World.

Still excellent after all these years.

Posted by Welease Woderwick (# 10424) on :

Today I re-read Little Lord Fauntleroy and then was wondering what to read next when my eye fell upon Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and decided to give it a go as it is a while since I read it and I grew up just the other side of Ringway and spent a fair bit of time on Alderley Edge way back then.

Posted by wild haggis (# 15555) on :

"The Essex Serpent" is a good novel. It catches the whole atmosphere of the Essex coastline and mud flats (we used to live near there).

I certainly enjoyed it Give it a go.

Just finished the latest in the series of the "Detective's Daughter" set in the Hammersmith/Kew/Chiswick area of London. Tremendously accurate in description and a wee bit creepy. Good bedtime reading.

An now reading Jamina Ramerez's "Anglo Saxon Saints." I know she's a brilliant historian but could do without the non-historical comments e.g. aligning Saint Alban's sacrifice to ISIS - suicide bombers - totally wrong and inaproprate. Still a good read though.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

Oh look, we have the same picture.

Perhaps we could do one of the Edwardian classics. Frances Hodgson Burnett is readily available.

Posted by lily pad (# 11456) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Jack the Lass:
I bought the first of the Outlander books as it was on special offer in the kobo store - I didn't want to pay full price in case I hated it. On another forum I frequent there are a couple of diehard Outlander fans, and their reviews have made me curious. But I'm not going to commit till I've had a go at reading the first one (it's still on the TBR pile, along with *mumbletymumblehundreds* others, so I don't know when I'll eventually get to it).

I'm currently reading Margot Lee Shetterly's "Hidden Figures" about the African-American women who were employed as mathematicians and who made a huge contribution to the computing that enabled the American participation in the space race. I'm enjoying it so far, although I remain shocked when I think about how recently segregation was still the norm (I know I shouldn't be shocked, and the UK hardly has the most stellar history of race relations either). It's been made into a film, I'd like to see that too.

I wish you lived closer, I am all out of books! There is a huge following of the Outlander series here and the author was visiting a month or so ago. I found the story to be quite interesting but there was too much brutality and I was surprised by the sex scenes! In any case, I don't think I will read any of the others.

Huia, I am not sure if you can get them there, but my latest favourite mystery writers are Louise Penny, who writes about Inspector Gamache, and Peggy Blair, who writes about Inspector Ramirez. Both write well and the stories are compelling without being terribly graphic.

I've just tried to log on to our library site to order a few of the books people have mentioned here but it appears to be down. Oh no! What's a person to do!?!

Back to the Maeve Binchy books for me.

Posted by M. (# 3291) on :

I'm deep in a Robert Goddard phase at the moment. I love them but can only read a few before I need a break. I'm on my third in this phase, and I think it's enough for now.

Perhaps a few more later in the year.

M.

Posted by lily pad (# 11456) on :

Library website is back up and a bunch from this list have been ordered in. Huia, I got all three of those books that you mentioned - they look a little intense for me but I will give them a try. Thanks, everyone, for the recommendations.

Posted by Huia (# 3473) on :

Lily pad I agree those books are intense in places and I'm not sure I would always feel comfortable reading them.

Some authors, like Nicci French I wouldn't read when I was feeling stressed out after the quakes because I couldn't bear the uncertainty. Alexander McCall Smith, especially his
Number One Ladies Detective Agency series are great when I need something warm and life affirming.

What a relief that the library computer was fixed - I suffer withdrawal symptoms when our goes down.

Huia

Posted by Zappa (# 8433) on :

Currently, Thomas Pynchon. And I have not a friggin' clue what he's on or on about.

Posted by ArachnidinElmet (# 17346) on :

The only thing I know about Thomas Pynchon and his novels is that no one knows what he is going on about.

Posted by Hedgehog (# 14125) on :

I have been slowly (VERY slowly) reading Pynchon's Mason & Dixon. I am still uncertain whether it is better to read it sober or drunk: When reading it drunk, I have no hope of understanding what is going on, but when I read it sober I only get a page or so in before thinking "Oh, G-d, I need a drink."

Still, I gather there are those who delight in his obscurity and have websites explaining the esoteric allusions he is making.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

Does anyone ever pick up a book and say, "Oh, I hope it's obscure and unclear. I have no desire to understand it"? For years now in writing classes I have been urging my students to pursue clarity. Unclearness of writing indicates unclearness of thought, is the theory.

Posted by Hedgehog (# 14125) on :

I believe some see it as a challenge or a puzzle. Like this commentator:
quote:
I also quickly discovered how much my poor cerebral synapses had missed Pynchon's patented mix of highjinks, metaphysics, and penumbras; I could feel all kinds of unused parts of my brain firing up again as paradoxes were posed and allusions and analogies multiplied on every page.
Personally, I don't like to have to work that hard in understanding a book, but I suppose it is sort of the point where fiction and poetry intermingle. We are so used to poetry, in its tight construction, to require a little more thought and pondering to uncover its meaning; to figure out what old Prufrock is really up to. If poets can get away with it, why can't writers of literary fiction do much the same? It is not my personal cup of tea (I'd prefer a challenging fair-play mystery), but I can understand how a certain literary set may enjoy it.

Posted by basso (# 4228) on :

quote:
Originally posted by wild haggis:
"The Essex Serpent" is a good novel. It catches the whole atmosphere of the Essex coastline and mud flats (we used to live near there).

I certainly enjoyed it Give it a go.

Just placed a hold. ("30 holds on the first copy returned of 6 copies." -- there are more ordered, but it may be a while.)

Posted by Curiosity killed ... (# 11770) on :

I tried reading one of the Val McDermid Tony Hill and Carol Jordan books on my commute and have given up as I really can't read torture scenes on the tube (and I read enough real life horror for work*) so have retreated back to escapism. Kindle is/has been offering Mary Stewart books at 99p, many of which I haven't read. And digging around on Kindle there look to be new editions of Elizabeth Goudge books.

So far I've enjoyed Mary Stewart's Thunder on the Right which was new to me and have added a couple more to my collection to read. I'm also working my way through Stuart Pawson's Charlie Priest books, which are set in Heckley, Yorkshire, somewhere around Halifax and Huddersfield. I'm enjoying them far more with more familiarity with the area.

* the files of the children I work with

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I'm halfway through Pretty Jane and the Viper of Kidbrooke Lane by Paul Thomas Murphy. There is a subgenrelet, of true crime accounts from history, and this is one of them -- The Wicked Boy was another. I am certain, two centuries from now, that there will be best-sellers about, say, the O.J. Simpson case.

Posted by Welease Woderwick (# 10424) on :

I finished [i]Weirdstone] yesterday and found it quite unsatisfying, every chapter, almost there was aan introduction of a new weird group of characters, positive and negative alternating such that it seemed incomplete in its entirety.

I shall now go on to Charles Allen's book on Ashoka.

Posted by Welease Woderwick (# 10424) on :

Duh! Sorry for both the bad coding above and for the misinformation - I'd forgotten that I started a re-read of The Color Purple last night so Ashoka will have to wait a day or two.

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :

In Love and War – Alex Preston about a young men who works for Mussolini and then the resistance. The author's ignrance of church shows uo just as it did in his previous book about the Alpha Course as cult.

Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :

Not in my hands yet, but on the strength of James Wood's review in the New Yorker, I ordered a copy of Emmanuel Carrère's The Kingdom. The 'strangeness' of a sudden adult conversion has always interested me, as does the idea of conversion after conversion, or converting back to what was believed or not-believed before. It sounds like a challenging read but intriguing. I did biblical studies in my 30s and having certain scenes and verses become unfamiliar and new to me gave my sleepy faith a lively jolt.

Link is to the New Yorker which allows for limited access.

The Kingdom of God reviewed by James Wood

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I forget who recommended it or where, but I am reading Nightingale Wood. The author Stella Gibbons is far better known for her Cold Comfort Farm. This book is more subtly funny, a 20th century take on Cinderella. It is interesting to compare it to the thematically similar Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson.

Posted by Welease Woderwick (# 10424) on :

I finished the Alice Walker last night and I wondered, as I often do at that stage, if she is an organist - the sudden move into the major key and the Full Organ is a kind of a giveaway.

Posted by la vie en rouge (# 10688) on :

The summer holidays approach apace. My amazon wish list is getting longer by the day

I am planning to leave in the company of George Smiley, Simon Sebag Montefiore’s big chunky history of the Romanovs, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and a book about life in North Korea.

What’s coming to the beach with everyone else?

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

I've just finished The Clan Corporate, by Charlie Stross - about a group of linked families of "world walkers" who can move between parallel worlds. The heroine is one of the family who was brought up in our USA, and it's a bit of a shock to the system when she finds that the rest of her family live a medieval, semi-feudal lifestyle in their own world - and there's a third world she learns to access, which is roughly at the Victorian (and Steampunk) level of development. This is the third in the series, and the plot is thickening with a vengeance - the Family hobby seems to be blackmail, and there are several groups of plotters with different aims.
One of the things I like about the series is the explanation of economics - when I see what the characters are doing, economic theories just about make sense to me!

In the absence of book 4 at the moment, I've moved on to the third Shadow Police book by Paul Cornell, Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? His knowledge of Holmesian lore is impressive, and the plot involves a magical plot, and criminals who can walk through walls by outlining a door on them with a magical piece of chalk. Also, one of the characters is being blackmailed, and is trying to recover some important memories that have been wiped from her mind, and all the characters are suffering from one sort of trauma or another as a result of their previous cases (except Kevin, who is still bouncily optimistic and rather sweet). So it's a bit grim, but the Sherlock Holmes bits are interesting.

Posted by Albertus (# 13356) on :

I've just re-read The Handmaid's Tale- 'a delightful utopian fairy tale', according to a review by the Bishop of Maidstone (is that right? )

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

"delightful," hehehe.
What did you make of the ending?

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

Been debating if I should admit to this, but what the heck. I finished reading the first of five collected volumes of the short stories of Seabury Quinn featuring his occult detective Jules de Grandin, called Horror on the Links. Classic "Weird Stories" pulp fiction. Racist? Of course. Sexist? Certainly. But a whole lot of eerie pulpy trashy fun. And, when they are released, four more volumes to go!

Posted by Huia (# 3473) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Albertus:
I've just re-read The Handmaid's Tale- 'a delightful utopian fairy tale', according to a review by the Bishop of Maidstone (is that right? )

Hmmm, an interesting point of view.

I have just discovered Frederik Backman. I borrowed My Grandmother Sends her Regards & Apologises from the library and I loved it. I am now hunting out the other books. Usually it's easier to reserve them from the various branches, but as most copies are available from branches close to me, I think I'll visit. I like the different 'flavours' that the different branches offer, especially in the school holidays, when a kind of organised chaos reigns.

Huia

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

My sister-in-law runs a vintage/retail shop (not exalted enough to be an antique store) and has sent me Margaret Sangster (yes, the BC lady!)'s LIFE ON HIGH LEVELS (1897) and LIGHT ON DARK CORNERS: A Complete Sexual Science. A Guide to Purity and Physical Manhood. Advice to Maiden, Wife and Mother, Love Courtship and Marriage (1900).

I have immediately plunged into the latter volume, which is nearly unreadably formatted in numbered paragraphs so that you can refer back to the text, chapter and verse. The inconsistencies inherent in the work from page to page are dazzling. No, beauty in woman is meaningless! It is her inner soul that should be lovely! Here are some complexion tips and ideas on how to improve your hair! No, one should only marry for love, but here is a long numbered list of things to choose when you look to marry, including the height of the guy, his income, his teeth, and his hip width!

Truly an amazing book, but I cannot recommend it.

Posted by lily pad (# 11456) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Huia:
...My latest "must read the next one" series is by Becky Masterman, and feature Brigid Quinn, a retired FBI agent. There are only 3 so far, and unusually for me,I started with the first one,
Rage Against The Dying, and I was hooked. The Boston Globe reviewer sums up the hero as powerful, and flawed, needy and tough. Her relationship with her husband is interesting too and develops over the course of the books. I have just begun the third book, A Twist of the Knife and it promises to be as well written and exciting as the others. As it was published this year I will have to wait for the next one

Huia

I've just finished reading all three of these - the third one didn't last 24 hours. I did find them quite intense and a little bit gruesome in parts but they were an enjoyable read. I really liked reading a book with a capable strong main character who is my age.

Thanks, Huia, for the recommendation.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

Picked up DIARY OF A PROVINCIAL LADY, the first novel of R.F. Delafield. Charming!

Posted by Doone (# 18470) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
Picked up DIARY OF A PROVINCIAL LADY, the first novel of R.F. Delafield. Charming!

Oh yes, a lovely book!

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

It has completely diverted me from MY BROTHER MICHAEL, a very different kind of book. I have only read Delafield's later novels (TO SERVE THEM ALL MY DAYS) and this early work is great.

Posted by Doone (# 18470) on :

I am reading The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth. It is his take on Hereward the Wake, an English rebel in the Fens fighting against William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings. I'm really enjoying it, though it's hard work having been written in pseudo-medieval/Anglo Saxon language. Being a bit geeky, I really get a buzz from working out the more obscure words!

[ 27. July 2017, 18:22: Message edited by: Doone ]

Posted by Jemima the 9th (# 15106) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Albertus:
I've just re-read The Handmaid's Tale- 'a delightful utopian fairy tale', according to a review by the Bishop of Maidstone (is that right? )

Oh that made me chuckle. I've just re-read it too. I read it as a teenager, and was distinctly underwhelmed, in fact, I don't remember even finishing it! But I loved it this time - fascinating to read whilst also watching the series on telly.

I do rather like a happy ending to my stories, so I have chosen to believe that Offred / June got out, which is sort of implied by the Epilogue, but not clearly. I found the whole epilogue a bit odd, actually.

Now reading The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd. Wouldn't be my natural choice, but it was a birthday present from a friend, and I'm quite enjoying it. It's the story of 2 young women - one from a wealthy family in Charleston, and the girl who is given to her as her own slave on her 11th birthday.

Posted by lily pad (# 11456) on :

Just finished reading a new book by Anne Fortier, called, "The Lost Sisterhood". I'm not sure how you would classify it but I found I didn't want to put it down!

It's a story set in two times, the ancient days of Troy and present day. There are lots of literary references but it is a very light read. The theme is around amazons. It is an adventure or quest something like the Da Vinci Code or Indiana Jones.

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

I've been spending some time in Arabian Nights territory, firstly with Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon. The characters in this one are fun - an old ghul-hunter, his dervish apprentice, a nomadic girl who can turn into a lion, and the ghul-hunter's alchemist neighbours, trying to stop the most powerful evil sorcerer they have ever encountered. And there's a swashbuckling bandit called the Falcon Prince bounding about the city like Douglas Fairbanks Sr, as well. It all leads up to an exciting climax in the throne room.

I followed that up with Alif the Unseen, by G Willow Wilson (who writes for Ms Marvel). Here we're in a modern day repressive Arabic regime, with a computer hacker who goes by the handle Alif, on the run from the authorities - which sends him sprawling headlong into the hidden world of the djinn who also live in and around the city. He has a sensible girlfriend who he drags along with him, and I liked the old sheik from the mosque, too. They're also trying to keep an ancient book out of the hands of the authorities - and the computer expert who is hunting them, who would use it to formulate magical computer code. Highly recommended.

And now I'm in the middle of The City of Silk and Steel, by Mike, Linda and Louise Carey, about a mythical city of women somewhere out in the desert, and how it was founded by the fleeing members of a Sultan's seraglio, as a new ruler took over their city in revolution. This one is even structured like the Arabian Nights, with stories within stories. There's also a librarian who can see the future, and cries tears of ink.

Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :

This.

Posted by georgiaboy (# 11294) on :

Just about to finish 'The Four Princes,' John Julius Norwich's latest, I believe. The four are Henry VIII, Francis I, Charles V and Suleiman the Magnificent. All (roughly) contemporary, all ruling at the same time. The first three related by blood and by marriage(s). Wolsey, Cromwell, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn (and the other wives) have their turns upon the stage.
Some of the cutting from one court to the others, and some of the flashbacks are a bit confusing, but it spotlights one of the most critical eras in Western history. (Also perceptive insights into the medical implications, such as Catherine's false pregnancies.

Enjoying it greatly and learning a lot, though it is not, IMHO, Norwich's best work.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

Just finished the most delightful novel, The Murdstone Trilogy by the late Mal Pete. Absolutely hysterical. I took it with me on a four-hour bus trip to New York City, and the other passengers were much taxed by my guffaws.
It's a straight Faustian tale, of a desperate literary writer who is coerced into undertaking to write an epic fantasy trilogy. This rapidly go to pieces. The author clearly knew all the grubbinesses of the publishing industry, and skewers them all. He's not all that kind to rural England, either.

Posted by anoesis (# 14189) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
It has completely diverted me from MY BROTHER MICHAEL, a very different kind of book. I have only read Delafield's later novels (TO SERVE THEM ALL MY DAYS) and this early work is great.

I love 'To Serve Them All My Days', but that is R. F. Delderfield.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

Only recently did I realize I have been confusing the two authors -all my life.-

Posted by LutheranChik (# 9826) on :

Bruce Springsteen's autobiography " Born To Run"; " Black
Widow" by Dan Silva -- escapist spy fiction.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I am reading The Hare with Amber Eyes, a historical memoir about a guy's family collection of netsuke.

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :

Just finished the latest Catherine Fox.

[ 23. August 2017, 18:14: Message edited by: leo ]

Posted by Moo (# 107) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
I am reading The Hare with Amber Eyes, a historical memoir about a guy's family collection of netsuke.

I love netsuke. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has a wonderful collection, but it wasn't on display from about 1983 until I moved away from New Hampshire in 1998. I asked a guard about it, and he said many other people missed them also. Howeve the PTB refused to return them to display.

Moo

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I actually have a few, modern imitations of the classic forms. This book is written by a guy who's crazy about them. Fascinating, to climb into a different mind-set.

Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :

The Hare with Amber Eyes is a keeper. I know the ceramics collections of Edmund de Waal from his website and found out while reading the book that his mother is Esther de Waal who has written several books on Benedictine spirituality from an ecumenical perspective.

Edmund de Waal website

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I would just love to see and touch his netsuke. (Gosh, that would be a very different sentence with some word changes...)

Posted by Sipech (# 16870) on :

As always, I have a few books on the go. Am still trudging through Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. On my commutes, though, I'm part way through Primo Levi's The Periodic Table and finding it wonderful. Not at all what I was expecting, but it's such rich writing.

Also made a start on Sara Maitland's Gossip From The Forest which is very promising. It's a look at the tangled interplay between forests and fairytales.

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

I picked up Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, on the grounds that I'd heard his name mentioned in connection with the Black Panther comics, and I wanted to know more about him. It's in the form of a letter to his fifteen year old son, and it's about the experience of being black in America. Powerful stuff, and highly recommended.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

He's also a contributor to the Atlantic magazine, and you can read many of his columns there.

Posted by Twilight (# 2832) on :

I'm in the middle of, "The Stars are Fire," by Anita Shreve, centered around the Maine fire of 1947 that almost burnt up the whole state. Shreve is a good writer who just gets better all the time. Her scenes that are set the night of the fire are truly gripping.

She wrote a mountain climbing scene in "A Change in Altitude," that was so real I almost got sick from it.

How do some writers manage to put you right inside a scene like that? I don't know, but I'm grateful to all good novelists for the pleasure and escape they've given me.

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

I've been rereading the Garth Nix Old Kingdom books, excellent fantasies in a really unusual world setting.

Posted by Jane R (# 331) on :

Oh, I love those! Have you read any of his others? I bought 'Frogkisser!' on spec and it's really funny (it's for younger readers but I Do Not Care).

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

No, I haven't tried his other books, I've been meaning to though.

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :

The The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince – Ridley, Jane Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince – Ridley, Jane I may be anti-monarrchist but I find the foibles of royalty fascinating.

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

As NK Jemison won a Hugo this year, and I had the first book in her Fifth Season series on my waiting-to-be-read shelf, I've plunged into the world of the Stillness, and characters who can control earthquakes. So far I'm still at the stage of meeting the main characters - an older woman who's child has just been killed, an ambitious young woman at The Fulcrum, the place where the people who have the earthquake power are trained, and a young girl at the beginning of her training (which is brutal, and seriously messed up). Oh, and the world is ending....

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :

The Farm by Tom Rob Smith a 'Scandi' crime novel.

Posted by RooK (# 1852) on :

The Punch Escrow a science fiction novel about a conditional deal with a surprising impact.

Posted by RooK (# 1852) on :

quote:
Originally posted by RooK:
The Punch Escrow a science fiction novel about a conditional deal with a surprising impact.

Seriously, though, it's a hilariously-written romp that dances around the central difficulty of teleportation being solved with... marketing.

Posted by RuthW (# 13) on :

I just wolfed down Ernest Cline's Ready Player One -- it's a super-fun page-turner. Spielberg is making it into a movie due out next March, and I can see why, as it reads like classic Spielberg. The not very distant future is a dystopia in which most people spend as much time as possible immersed in a worldwide online virtual reality. Inside the VR there is a grand quest, and geeks now in their mid 40s will love the references to games, comics, etc. Reading this book is as close to being inside a video game as I've ever felt.

Posted by Tukai (# 12960) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
I am reading The Hare with Amber Eyes, a historical memoir about a guy's family collection of netsuke.

Personally I found the netsuke (little Japanese ornaments) much less interesting than the saga of how his family went from rich [Jewish] merchants and bankers in pre-WW1 Vienna to losing all their money in the hyperinflation after the war. Apparently the family patriarch was so keen to show the doubters that he was "a true Austrian" that he kept all his money in Austrian currency while the shrewdies around the city hedged into "safer" currencies. Then they lost even their palatial mansion when Austria went fascist before WW2. When the author returned to Vienna, as an interpreter for the Americans, no-one believed that the regimental headquarters had been his childhood home.

Posted by Tukai (# 12960) on :

Meanwhile I myself have been reading "Star Fall", another one of the "Smiler" series of the London police procedurals by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. You would think that a name like that would be either a pseudonym or that of a writer like Barbara Cartland, but in fact she writes quite good detective stories, with good characterisation and some niceturns of phrase.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Tukai:
quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
I am reading The Hare with Amber Eyes, a historical memoir about a guy's family collection of netsuke.

Personally I found the netsuke (little Japanese ornaments) much less interesting than the saga of how his family went from rich [Jewish] merchants and bankers in pre-WW1 Vienna to losing all their money in the hyperinflation after the war. Apparently the family patriarch was so keen to show the doubters that he was "a true Austrian" that he kept all his money in Austrian currency while the shrewdies around the city hedged into "safer" currencies. Then they lost even their palatial mansion when Austria went fascist before WW2. When the author returned to Vienna, as an interpreter for the Americans, no-one believed that the regimental headquarters had been his childhood home.
Yes, the hairpin left turn from opulent Viennese society to the Gestapo kicking down the door was shocking -- exactly as it must have been for the family. I also note that there is probably only one son left to carry on the family name; every other sprig on the extensive family tree at the front of the book was daughters.

Posted by Paul. (# 37) on :

Just finished Odds On by John Lange (aka Michael Crichton). It's a cheesey 60s heist caper set in a hotel in Spain. I can imagine it as a movie with David Niven or someone like that. Rather more sex, which was quite explicit, than I was expecting from a book of that era but it was escapist fun.

I've got another John Lange book, Easy Go, from the library which I plan to read after The Essex Serpent for the book club.

Posted by Zappa (# 8433) on :

Now reading Bangladeshi author Tahmima Anam's The Bones of Grace. Wow. Just wow.

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :

Falconer by John Cheever Being in prison, self-knowledge and redemption. The author based it on his experiences when he taught creative wrting in Sing Sing gaol.

Posted by Ethne Alba (# 5804) on :

Our Lady of the Potatoes by Duncan Sprott was a swift read but enjoyable enough for me to want to locate his other three novels.

Turning to Prayer (1978) by Richard Harries is intriguing but i'm finding that the biography of R Harries by John S Peart-Binns might need to be read alongside....

Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :

Amongst other books, I am currently reading an early reviewer copy, that I got via LibraryThing, of an anthology edited by Mindy Klasky, "Nevertheless, She Persisted". Featuring, amongst others, a short story by one Brenda Clough (whoever she is ) (I've not read Brenda's story yet). I'm not a big fan of the short story in general, but it's holding my interest so far.

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

I'm rather enjoying Ammonite by Nicola Griffith at the moment. It's SF, set on a planet where all the men of the colony were killed by a virus. An anthropologist is sent to test a vaccine for the virus, study the cultures which have developed while the colony was cut off - and find out how the women there manage to reproduce. Ursula le Guin likes it, and it is somewhat reminiscent of her work.

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

I'm really struggling with The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. Not that I'm not enjoying it, but it is a hard read for me. The combination of it being set in a culture I'm not familiar with, which not only adds a whole lot of new detail but means that names are harder to keep track of, with the fact that it's fairly postmodern in style and structure (definitely not a single, linear storyline with a clear main character, by any means), has me reading it in very small doses and wondering if I'll get it finished before the library due date.

One big disadvantage to borrowing e-books as opposed to paper books from the library: you can choose to keep the paper book a few days longer and pay the fine, but the e-book gets magically sucked back into the ether and disappears off your device if you go past the due date. So it's a race against time with this book. I don't want to give up on it because it is both interesting and well-written.

Posted by la vie en rouge (# 10688) on :

I’ve just finished ploughing through Simon Sebag Montefiore’s history of the Romanovs. It’s a rather weighty tome, but highly readable in style. I’m now off to read something a bit lighter, but after that I think I’m going to come back for his biography of Stalin.

Posted by ArachnidinElmet (# 17346) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Trudy Scrumptious:
I'm really struggling with The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. Not that I'm not enjoying it, but it is a hard read for me. The combination of it being set in a culture I'm not familiar with, which not only adds a whole lot of new detail but means that names are harder to keep track of, with the fact that it's fairly postmodern in style and structure (definitely not a single, linear storyline with a clear main character, by any means), has me reading it in very small doses and wondering if I'll get it finished before the library due date.

I had the same problem with The God of Small Things. I didn't not enjoy it, but it took years to finish half a dozen pages at a time. A strange phenomenon.

Posted by Jane R (# 331) on :

<seizes tone of conversation and drags it by main force down to a less rarefied level>

I've just read 'The Empty Grave', the last book in the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud. Well up to the standard of the previous volumes and a satisfying conclusion to the series.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

Ooh! Strou's Bartimaeus trilogy was the literary equivalent of crack cocaine. Is this new one also fantasy, for the YA reader?

Posted by ArachnidinElmet (# 17346) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
<seizes tone of conversation and drags it by main force down to a less rarefied level>

Well, if we're doing that, I have to admit enjoying 50 Shades of Mr Darcy by William Codpiece Thwackery (actually by the people that brought us Bored of the Rings). I bought it for a friend (no, really) but got sucked in, as it were. Supremely silly, with mentions of Catherine de Burgh's late husband, Chris and the Reverend Collins former career as lead singer of Genesis. Not likely to win any awards, but it passed the time pleasantly.

Posted by Jane R (# 331) on :

@ Brenda: It's the last volume in a five-book series about an alternate Britain where ghosts are real, common and deadly and the only people (relatively) safe at night are children, who can see and/or hear them clearly and are therefore able to fight them. The first book in the series is 'The Screaming Staircase'. And yes, YA urban fantasy.

Very well-written and quite gripping. Only now I want to reread the entire series and Other Half has gone off with my Kindle...

[ 14. September 2017, 22:07: Message edited by: Jane R ]

Posted by Scots lass (# 2699) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
<seizes tone of conversation and drags it by main force down to a less rarefied level>

I've just read 'The Empty Grave', the last book in the Lockwood & Co series by Jonathan Stroud. Well up to the standard of the previous volumes and a satisfying conclusion to the series.

I did a re-read of the previous four last month, in preparation for this one! I'm first in line for the library copy and impatiently drumming my fingers on the desk waiting for it to arrive. Very pleased to hear it's up to scratch. *checks library account yet again*

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

quote:
Originally posted by ArachnidinElmet:
quote:
Originally posted by Trudy Scrumptious:
I'm really struggling with The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. Not that I'm not enjoying it, but it is a hard read for me. The combination of it being set in a culture I'm not familiar with, which not only adds a whole lot of new detail but means that names are harder to keep track of, with the fact that it's fairly postmodern in style and structure (definitely not a single, linear storyline with a clear main character, by any means), has me reading it in very small doses and wondering if I'll get it finished before the library due date.

I had the same problem with The God of Small Things. I didn't not enjoy it, but it took years to finish half a dozen pages at a time. A strange phenomenon.
I finished. It was beautiful, although I still feel like I didn't understand more than about 1/4 of it. Some of the scenes at the end were surprisingly moving for a novel in which I couldn't keep track of who the characters were half the time. I did learn a lot about the subculture of hijras (m-to-f trans people) in India, which I knew nothing about before reading this novel. I should have learned a lot about the politics of Kasmir, but was too confused a lot of the time to take it in.

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :

Saints, Sacrilege and Sedition: Religion and Conflict in the Tudor Reformations – Eamon Duffy I am bored with all this 500 years since the Reformation stuff. I don’t see schism as something to celebrate.

This book shows how indoctrinated many protestants have been.

Posted by LutheranChik (# 9826) on :

Two new books from the library. Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen is the well regarded chef's memoir of getting into the restaurant business in NYC but longing to return to her Upper Midwestern roots. ( Spoiler alert: She does go back.) My other book, The Dawn of Christianity By Robert Knapp, comes highly recommended.

Posted by Chorister (# 473) on :

A quick, enjoyable read: 'The Drowned Boy' by Karin Fossum. I wouldn't normally want to read a tragedy about a drowned boy, but this book promised an investigation into the psychological state of the mother, which did interest me. And the unexpected (to me at any rate) ending made me laugh out loud - a delight at the end of a book with such a gloomy title.

There was even a short foray into theological views about God and life after death, which should please shipmates: 'I've never really been the type for absolute certainty. And anyway, doubt makes us human'.

Posted by MaryLouise (# 18697) on :

Gobsmacked. I'm reading Patricia Lockwood's memoir Priestdaddy about life at home with her father who is a Roman Catholic priest in St Louis, MO.

Greg Lockwood found religion while serving as a Naval seaman on a nuclear submarine in the Cold War where he watched endless repeats of The Exorcist. His conversion first led him to the Lutheran Church, then to its ministry, and finally to Roman Catholicism. In 1984, he asked ordination as a married Catholic priest from then St Louis Archbishop John May under a special pastoral provision issued by Pope John Paul II in 1980. This was approved by then-Cardinal Ratzinger.

To say that Fr Lockwood comes across as batshit crazy is an understatement. Very funny and a real shocker of a family memoir.

Posted by Egeria (# 4517) on :

Lutheranchik mentioned this one:
quote:
My other book, The Dawn of Christianity By Robert Knapp, comes highly recommended.
That's *our* Robert Knapp! You might also check out his Invisible Romans as well. Excellent!

Posted by Piglet (# 11803) on :

I've just finished The Trouble with Keeping Mum by Rosie Wallace (whose husband was MP for Orkney and Shetland from 1983 to 2001) about a (fictitious) member of the Scottish Parliament and her trials as a cabinet minister, mother of a complicated teenager and daughter of an increasingly dotty mother. It's light-hearted (and warm-hearted), with one or two genuinely laugh-out-loud moments.

I think it's the first time I've read a book by an author who I know in person; I think I'd probably read another of Rosie's books if she writes any more.

Posted by leo (# 1458) on :

Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt - supposedluy a children's book it asks big questions such as would iot be good to live for ever.

Posted by Leorning Cniht (# 17564) on :

quote:
Originally posted by leo:
Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt - supposedluy a children's book it asks big questions such as would iot be good to live for ever.

My eldest read that in her book club. She was profoundly unsatisfied with it - the "would you want to live for ever" question was interesting, but she found the supporting plot completely contrived and unconvincing.

Posted by Martin60 (# 368) on :

Just finished Death In Bordeaux - can't wait to finish the quartet, so I must. The week before, Heresy. Not bad. Massie is even better. This week Ian Banks' Whit. His with an 'M' The Hydrogen Sonata left me desperately wanting more, alas! I like to have multiple cycles on the go. So need more Banks! There's a row in the charity shop. Started The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the third week of August, after Alan Furst's (an American who "has adopted a European sensibility.") Dark Voyage, mid-way through his Night Soldiers series. Need one-offs in between as well, like Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang.

I find Toni Morrison and Karl Ove Knausgård challenging. Om just not cerebral enough. He's oddly compelling. But I'm more likely to continue with her. She's ... very lightly deep indeed.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I plowed through the first volume of Thomas Covenant and then gave up. There are characters who really need pharmacological help. A little Xanax...

Posted by lily pad (# 11456) on :

I just finished reading Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterley.

I had heard about the movie but not seen it and decided to wait for my turn to read it at the library. It was not at all what I expected. I had thought that it would be a story but it is actually more like a collective biography of the black women who worked as human computers for flight and spacecraft at NASA. It was a bit difficult to switch my head over from the expectation of an easy to read story to something more technical. I did enjoy it and learned a lot.

Posted by Jane R (# 331) on :

Brenda:
quote:
I plowed through the first volume of Thomas Covenant and then gave up.
I got a bit further but gave up after the first three volumes. I quite liked the Giants, but I hated Thomas Covenant. I found him an extremely unsympathetic character, and not just because he was a rapist. Didn't like the author's style well enough to put up with the horrible main character.

Posted by LutheranChik (# 9826) on :

I didn't actually read the book in toto, just gave it a power skim while my spouse was researching something at our local library, but I was intrigued by a book entitled " Blitzed," can't recall the author, about drug abuse, especially methamphetamine abuse, among the German leadership during the Nazi era. It's not a well written book, frankly -- it reads like a supermarket tabloid -- but the information is very thought provoking. Especially while listening to people like Bannon, Conway and "The Mooch."

[ 28. September 2017, 12:35: Message edited by: LutheranChik ]

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
Brenda:
quote:
I plowed through the first volume of Thomas Covenant and then gave up.
I got a bit further but gave up after the first three volumes. I quite liked the Giants, but I hated Thomas Covenant. I found him an extremely unsympathetic character, and not just because he was a rapist. Didn't like the author's style well enough to put up with the horrible main character.
Precisely. I can find vile people by opening the daily paper. I don't need them as protagonists in fantasy fiction.

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
quote:
Originally posted by Jane R:
Brenda:
quote:
I plowed through the first volume of Thomas Covenant and then gave up.
I got a bit further but gave up after the first three volumes. I quite liked the Giants, but I hated Thomas Covenant. I found him an extremely unsympathetic character, and not just because he was a rapist. Didn't like the author's style well enough to put up with the horrible main character.
Precisely. I can find vile people by opening the daily paper. I don't need them as protagonists in fantasy fiction.
I don't know which is worse, the fact that Thomas Covenant's a rapist or the fact that he's such a pathetic whiner. I mean, I know which is worse in real life, but in a book I might be able to get past a character committing a horrific crime if it weren't for the fact of having to put up with his whiny, self-pitying point of view for hundreds and hundreds of pages. Also, you're IN a fantasy world -- what is the point of not believing in it?? You're there, accept it, do something with it.

It's been years but I really had issues with those books. And yet for some reason I read them all. I'm not sure why.

Posted by Paul. (# 37) on :

I liked the Thomas Covenant books back when I read them as a student. That was despite the prose which I found unnecessarily dense*. I didn't dislike the character but I was frustrated by him at times. The second book of the second trilogy was my favourite in which Covenant spends most of it in paralysis. I felt it was like a grown-up Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Always meant to start on the third set but after so much time I would want to re-read the first 6 but that's a lot so...

I did read the first in The Gap series when it came out and found it relentlessly grim (lot of rape in that too as I recall ). Someone told me they get better but I never continued.

On a happier note, I just finished How to Stop Time by Matt Haig, and really enjoyed it. It's a sort of fantasy about a man who was born in the late 16th century and is still kicking around in 21st century London. So it jumps around in different time periods and that's fun. There's a kind of thriller-y element that didn't really work for me but didn't detract either. The best bits are on his relationships with "mayflies", the nature of love, time, loss etc. It thinks it's a little more profound than it actually is but I still found it a good read.

(*brought up TC on one of the fore-runners of this thread once and ken (RIP!) teased me about 'clench racing')

Posted by Dafyd (# 5549) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Trudy Scrumptious:
Also, you're IN a fantasy world -- what is the point of not believing in it?? You're there, accept it, do something with it.

It's been years but I really had issues with those books. And yet for some reason I read them all. I'm not sure why.

I suppose the 'what if the protagonist doesn't believe he's in a fantasy world and thinks he's hallucinating' idea was one of the ideas that Donaldson started out with when he began to think about the series; and he never stopped to think whether it was actually a good idea.

I think we all read the books because when you're a teenager you think angst is the same as profundity. It was kind of transgressive but not very - I think we should call the genre, blandpunk. So everyone else was reading Thomas Covenant, and also because back then there just wasn't the range of epic fantasy. While Donaldson obviously has read Tolkien he's not quite as derivative as most of the stuff that was around just then.

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

I'm in the middle of Everfair, by Nisi Shawl. It's an alternate history of the Congo, with added Steampunk (nuclear powered aircanoes!), in which a utopian colony called Everfair is set up in the Belgian Congo, at the time when King Leopold's Belgians were being particularly ruthless in subjugating the local populace. Several characters have had their hands cut off, even if they are replaced by cool brass and steam powered artificial limbs.
It does take a while to get into, though - there's a very large cast of characters and the time scale covers about 40 years, so you get a chapter from one person's point of view, and then don't hear of them again for about 20 years!

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

In a valiant and belated attempt to hack back the TBR stack, I selected a random volume from the middle. It is a trade paper edition of A TIME OF GIFTS by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Superb! God alone knows where I got the book or why I kept it.

Posted by SvitlanaV2 (# 16967) on :

I'm currently reading 'Rebels and Traitors' by Lindsey Davis. It's about the English Civil War. For my tastes, there's far too much military strategy in there and not enough religion, but I'm tickled that it refers to my own dear city, and to districts that rarely appear in fiction.

It's a chunky book; the one I've just started is the much thinner 'On Chesil Beach' by Ian McEwan. Beautifully written, but I doubt I'll enjoy it much. I think I bought it because it was getting lots of great reviews, but I don't like reading about bad middle class marriages.

Posted by Bishops Finger (# 5430) on :

Not lost at the moment, coz I've just finished re-reading The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (one of my fave authors).

Hailed as the first modern 'detective story' by some, I'm not so sure. A fascinating mystery story, yes, but it's not the detective who solves it!

Beautifully written, with Collins' usual dry and perspicacious humour, and (for its time) not too prolix. Highly recommended.

IJ

Posted by Moo (# 107) on :

I like The Moonstone very much. One thing that I appreciate is that the story has various narrators, and each is a well-drawn character. You can understand why the characters interact the way they do.

Moo

Posted by Bishops Finger (# 5430) on :

Indeed. AIUI, Collins used the different narratives in order to sustain interest in the story, as it was originally published in serial form.

IJ

Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :

Today I finished "Red Rosa" by Kate Evans. It is a graphic biography of Rosa Luxemburg and was really excellent. I'm not particularly au fait with the graphic book as a genre (unless the Asterix books count), but this was done really well and has made me want to read more about her.

Posted by Paul. (# 37) on :

quote:
Originally posted by SvitlanaV2:
the one I've just started is the much thinner 'On Chesil Beach' by Ian McEwan. Beautifully written, but I doubt I'll enjoy it much. I think I bought it because it was getting lots of great reviews, but I don't like reading about bad middle class marriages.

I found it beautifully written and very depressing. Also it always sets me off singing, "...Chesil Beach, far away in time..."

Just finished The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West. I've had it in my TBR list for ages. Originally bought it because it's mentioned in "Y: The Last Man" but I digress. I would say it's worth a read but it's blunt about the underbelly of the American Dream that is Hollywood and being written in 1939 it has some old-fashioned ideas about women that make for uncomfortable reading. Also casual racism and cock-fighting. It's relatively short though and has a character called Homer Simpson.

Posted by Huia (# 3473) on :

After reading a review in The New Zealand Listener I bought How to Eat Better by James Wong. This is a highly readable book in which Wong, an Ethno-botanist, uses a scientific approach to storing and cooking food in ways that maximise it's nutritional value.

Anyone suffering from insomnia might benefit by reading his suggestions for using kiwifruit, (not because they're boring, but because of the effect kiwifruit can have on sleep).

Please note - kiwi fruit are also high fibre, and I personally would not eat two at once. Also some people are sensitive to calcium oxalate, found more in green, that gold kiwis. Ripening properly lessens this risk.

I'd like to know if anyone else has read this, and what their opinion of the book is.

Huia -I do not have shares in a kiwifruit orchard

Posted by Moo (# 107) on :

I've never seen gold kiwifruit. I think it hasn't made it to the US.

Moo

Posted by Paul. (# 37) on :

Just finished a weird book called The Radio by Jonathan M. Lee. It's about a middle-aged man who finds an old radio in the attic and the more he listens to it the more he retreats from his life.

The thing that makes it weird is that it includes this strand where it's a drama about a family coping with tragedy and how something like that can echo down years, and this part is written very movingly. That's about 10% of the book. The other 90% is this 70s sitcom style farce about a hen-pecked husband and his over-bearing wife and self-obsessed daughter. The thing is it changes tone with sudden lurches that jar you. And it does this up to the very last page.

Looking at reviews, it seems like a lot of people found it very funny. To be honest if it had just been the sitcom-esque stuff I would have found it cringey and tedious. I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened and whether the author was going to wrap it up in a satisfying way. Well without spoiling anything I thought in the final scene I was being invited to laugh at something horribly sad.

Posted by Jane R (# 331) on :

Paul.:
quote:
Well without spoiling anything I thought in the final scene I was being invited to laugh at something horribly sad.
<tangent> That's why I hate 'Finding Nemo' - film about a child being kidnapped, featuring a character who can't remember anything? Nope. Not funny. Not to anyone with a relative who has dementia, anyway.<\end tangent>

I've just read Ann Leckie's latest, 'Provenance', in which we get to see the Radchaai universe from the point of view of some different humans.

Posted by Tukai (# 12960) on :

The extraordinary journey of the fakir who got trapped in an IKEA wardrobe by Romain Puertolas.
As you might guess from the title this is a farce, worthy of the Marx Brothers, and similar in tone to the Swedish book about the 100-year old man who climbed out the window. It is in fact translated from a 2014 French original, and although it does in passing raise some serious issues about asylum seekers (or illegal immigrants) entering Europe from Africa, it is mainly just funny (in both senses). Recommended.

Posted by LutheranChik (# 9826) on :

Just checked out Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Astrophysics For Busy People .

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I'm reading a biography of Isabella Beeton (the cookbook author) with great profit.

Posted by Aravis (# 13824) on :

I found two recent novels based on classic literature in the library this week: "Hagseed" by Margaret Atwood, about a production of The Tempest in a prison, and "Longbourn" by Jo Baker, a below-stairs story based on Pride and Prejudice. Both are excellent, a good read in their own right, subtle and well researched.
I don't think Jo Baker has written much yet but she's definitely an author to watch.

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

When EasterCon was in Manchester, we came across a chap called David Wake, who spent the weekend wheeling a little lectern around with him to give impromptu readings of his books. He also gave readings as an event on the programme of the convention, way up on the 22nd floor of the hotel in the Ambassador's Suite, with a panoramic view across Manchester. He got several people up to play the different characters in his Steampunk comedy adventure, and it was a very funny evening.

So I've finally got round to reading the first in his series: The Derring-Do Club and the Empire of the Dead. It introduces the three Deering-Doolittle sisters, at a finishing school in Switzerland, and pretty soon there are airships, and an army of zombies, a Germanic prince disguised as a gardener, and a group of Englishmen "on holiday" (or are they spies?). Mostly, it's been rollicking good fun so far, but I did feel terribly sorry for the middle sister, who has to identify bodies after a zombie attack, and which is treated more seriously than the other adventures.
This isn't exactly a spoiler, by the way - the very first line of the book is "It was during Latin that the Austro-Hungarians arrived with their dogs and zombies to kill everyone at the Eden College for Young Ladies."

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I am thinking of going to Eastercon in 2019. I've just signed up to go to Worldcon in Dublin.

Posted by Sarasa (# 12271) on :

The Daring-Do club sounds fun. I might give that a go and mention it to my son who loves those sorts of stories.
I've just finsihed a Mooc on the life and times of Richard III and to find out more about him I'm reading Paul Murray Kendall's Richard the Third. it was first published in the 50s so no stuff about finding a king in a car park. Just come across a fabulous description of London in the 1480s, though I'm still rather confused by the politics of the times - not helped by msot of the leading players called either Richard, Edward or Henry.

Posted by lily pad (# 11456) on :

Spent the weekend with "Camino Island",the latest Grisham novel and "Origin", the latest Dan Brown one. Not much else got done.

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

I've signed up to go to Dublin for WorldCon, as well - it's actually easier to get to for me than Harrogate for the next EasterCon will be!

Posted by ArachnidinElmet (# 17346) on :

DublinCon is in the diary ready for booking, but I'll have to scrape together some cash. It's the same price until February, I think which will save money down the line.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

There may well be enough of us for a meetup! We can discuss, in 2019.

Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
In a valiant and belated attempt to hack back the TBR stack, I selected a random volume from the middle. It is a trade paper edition of A TIME OF GIFTS by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Superb! God alone knows where I got the book or why I kept it.

I am currently re-reading this same book, and enjoying it far more than I did the first time round. I bought it and the follow up volume, Between the Woods and the Water (which I don't recall ever getting round to), in the mid-90s after having lived in Romania and wanting to read anything at all about the place, but first time round I found the constant reference to history, classicism, art, etc (most of which I knew nothing about) to be quite distracting, dull even. This time I am revelling in his use of language, noticing much more the sense of impending doom (I am still in Germany in 1933/4 at present), and am much less bothered by my ignorance of the classics of literature, poetry and painting.

This book is the first in a trilogy, the final volume though was never finished in his lifetime. A few years back though a couple of established and eminent-in-their-own-right travel writers finished it off with the help of access to Patrick Leigh Fermor's diaries, and A Broken Road was finally published. I'm enjoying this reread so much I'm seriously thinking about reading all 3 in one go to get the full sense of the journey (he travels, mostly by foot, from Hook of Holland to Constantinople, through Holland, Germany, and eastern Europe, at the age of 18, setting off in 1933). After that I also have another book which was written by a guy who retraced Leigh Fermor's footsteps a few years ago. That would make an interesting contrast.

Posted by Jack the Lass (# 3415) on :

Also, apologies for the tangent, but I've been meaning to ask - I've seen both here and on another book site where I post that North American posters refer often to 'trade' books (as Brenda did in the quote referenced in my previous post), usually referring to 'trade paperbacks'. That's not a term I'm familiar with at all - what is a trade paperback? As opposed to what other sort of paperback? I always just consider books paperback, hardback or ebook, it wouldn't occur to me to differentiate types of paperback. Thanks for any enlightenment!

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

Sorry, it's writer-speak. Get out your ruler. A mass market paperback is the small format book. An old format these days, like this one. About 4 1/2 by 7 inches, they were originally designed to be carried in your pocket and were heavily marketed to the troops during WW2. In the day you could buy one for less than a dollar.
To a great extent the mass market PB has been superseded by the trade paper book. This is still paper backed but bigger, about 8 or 9 by 5 or 6. This is a more convenient paper trim for the printer, looks more impressive on the shelf, and is the favorite resort of literary fiction and self-publication. Because of the bigger size you can charge more, sometimes a lot more -- \$12-15 is not unusual.
The hardback book is of course in hard covers. The standard size (maybe 6 by 9) is close to that of the trade paper book (and is why the trade paper is cheaper to produce). This is the preferred edition for libraries, because they last longer, but they cost more and so it's harder to sell them to regular people.
Coffee-table books or other large formats are more rare and always expensive.

[ 17. October 2017, 13:38: Message edited by: Brenda Clough ]

Posted by Trudy Scrumptious (# 5647) on :

I have a strong preference for trade paperback as the best format to read a paper book in -- mass-market paperbacks feel too cheap and hardcovers are too bulky and heavy. Mass-market paperbacks, as well as being smaller, are usually also printed on cheaper quality paper. They are still the standard format for romance novels and a lot of other genre fiction.

This is standard North American publishing stuff ... of course it may be done differently in other countries. But over here the usual three formats are, as Brenda says, mass-market paperback, trade paperback, and hardcover. Very few books (classics mostly) would be available in all three formats. Most would appear first in hardcover and then in one of the two paperback formats, or, if it's a smaller press or a less-known author, the book might be released only in paperback -- again, either mass-market or trade, but never both.

Posted by Dafyd (# 5549) on :

I suspect from Brenda's description that the trade paperback format is much rarer in Britain. Most paperback books in Britain are smaller than hardbacks.
I do remember that in the late eighties a certain best-selling fantasy author (David Eddings) used to have his books come out in the UK first in hardback, then in what was called trade paperback, and then in normal paperback size. The trade paperback was about the size of a hardback, and looked ungainly compared to all the other paperbacks on the UK shelves (and was priced in between the two other formats). We assumed it was a device to make more money.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

Oh, the order and type of publication is famously convolute.
A further refinement, which is probably only American, is the concept of returns. Back when the MMPB first appeared, the publisher (Pocket Books, I believe) wanted them to be carried everywhere. Not just bookstores, but drugstores, grocery stores, everywhere. Because drugstores had never done this they were kind of shy. And so the concept of returns was born. Order in a load of mass market paperbacks; you are allowed to return the ones that don't sell. No risk to you! Naturally everyone piled on board and mass market paperbacks dominated the market for the latter half of the 20th century.
This was in many ways annoying for the publisher and the author; you didn't know whether the book would make any money for months, possibly years, as the returns came trickling back.
But trade paperbacks do not come under this rubric. You cannot return trade paper; if the store orders them in they have to pay for them and if they don't sell, tough. This is why, on the discount cart, you always see trade paperbacks and hardbacks but never MMPBs.
And this is why publishers would far rather print hardbacks or trade paperbacks. Not only can they charge more, but all the aggravation and bookkeeping revolving around returns is avoided.

Posted by Jane R (# 331) on :

Trade paperbacks are becoming more common in genre fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy. They're usually printed on the same size paper as the hardback (if any), so the whole thing doesn't have to be re-typeset. Some publishers issue books in trade paperback and e-book formats only, or release a trade paperback instead of a hardback and (some months later) follow it up with a smaller paperback (what the Americans call mass-market paperback).

I rather fancy the idea of being able to buy the ebook and a physical copy in one package, but nobody's offering that at the moment...

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

There was a golden moment at the beginning of the ebook revolution, when Baen Books published Lois McMaster Bujold's Cryoburn complete with a disc in the back that had all the previous Miles Vorkosigan novels on it. -Well- worth the money.

Posted by ArachnidinElmet (# 17346) on :

I prefer a smaller paperback myself for ease of use, but I'll take anything except trying to shelve mismatched sizes in a single series. Aargh, infuriating.

Posted by Sipech (# 16870) on :

If a certain internet-based book retailer named after a South American river fulfills their promise, I should take delivery tomorrow of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust (volume 1).

Been looking forward to this since it was announced. And I've timed the rest of my book reading such that I've just finished two other works in time.

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

I'd heard good things about the St Mary's series by Jodi Taylor - a group of time travelling historians sounded like just my cup of tea.
The first book is Just One Damned Thing After Another, and sets up the St Mary's Institute of Historical Research (which is just slightly in our future) with a group of new recruits, including the POV character Madeleine Maxwell.
The missions they go on are dangerous, and there are other time travellers, doing it for profit rather than research, as the villains of the piece.
It wasn't quite as light hearted as I'd expected from the reviews, but the characters are interesting, and I do like the relationship between Maxwell and the Chief Technician, Leon Farrell, so I'll probably look out for more - there are 7 in the series so far.

Posted by M. (# 3291) on :

I mentioned 'One DamnedThing After Another' a while back, in the summer, I think.

I liked the title and the premise but actually wasn't very impressed and wouldn't bother with the others. She has quite a following, though, it seems.

M.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

I'm reading Midnight in America, a book about the dreams that people dreamed during the American Civil War. The author mines journals and letters of the period. Fascinating, to dip into so many psyches, but also a bit dull. (A -lot- of people dreamed about their spouses.)

Posted by LutheranChik (# 9826) on :

If I thought Neil deGrasse Tyson was going to be a smooth read, like Carl Sagan's or Lewis Thomas' books for laypeople...nope; ten pages in and a few seconds after the Big Bang, and I'm drowning in a sea of photons and bossons and positrons. But I will not be daunted!

Meanwhile, just ordered Africa: A Biography from the library. My grasp of African history, especially precolonial, is almost nil, and the dearth of African histories out there gives me a clue why.

A question: Is anyone/has anyone here ever tried to follow a Great Books reading list? I know there are several variations floating about, some more multicultural thlan others. I start and stop with mine, and have given up the idea of reading the books in historical sequence.

Posted by Net Spinster (# 16058) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
There was a golden moment at the beginning of the ebook revolution, when Baen Books published Lois McMaster Bujold's Cryoburn complete with a disc in the back that had all the previous Miles Vorkosigan novels on it. -Well- worth the money.

Except Memory. BTW a new Penric novella should be coming out next month. That will shoot to the top of my reading list when it comes out.

I'm currently reading a Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

Posted by Eigon (# 4917) on :

M., looking at the reviews on Goodreads, the St Mary's series seems to be one of those love 'em or hate 'em ones - 5 stars or 2 with little in between. If I do stick with it, it'll be because I like Farrell, Max's love interest.

Posted by Brenda Clough (# 18061) on :

quote:
Originally posted by Net Spinster:
Except Memory. BTW a new Penric novella should be coming out next month. That will shoot to the top of my reading list when it comes out.

I'm currently reading a Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. [/QB]

I read the first Penric, but would rather have them all in a lump. However, ought I to complain of serialization? I have written a sequel to TWIW, and it's coming out, in serial naturally, next year.

Posted by LutheranChik (# 9826) on :

Just got Robert Knapp's Invisible Romans from the library.

Posted by Jane R (# 331) on :

Brenda:
quote:
I read the first Penric, but would rather have them all in a lump.
I don't care as long as she keeps them coming - I really like that series. I'd quite like some more about the characters from Curse of Chalion/Paladin of Souls, but I suppose she's said all she wants to say about them.

Just finished The Brightest Fell, latest in Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. I liked it, but anyone starting the series on book 11 would have been rather lost - it was a gallop through a lot of things that had been set up in previous books and you need to have read all of them first to understand what's going on.

Posted by TurquoiseTastic (# 8978) on :

Recently finished The Samurai by Endo, a book that had been on my shelf for years but which I had not summoned the initiative to tackle. Downbeat but interesting. It is apparently based on a true story (though filled in speculatively, of course).

Of the two central characters who narrate the story, the Franciscan missionary comes over as an extremely unattractive character, albeit with one or two partially redeeming features. The samurai himself is much more sympathetic if unrelentingly doleful. But then that is the point, I suppose. Endo sees Jesus as primarily the "man of sorrows" who identifies with the wretched. In this and, importantly, in no other way at all, the samurai forms a link with him.

Posted by Tukai (# 12960) on :

"trade books" means non-fiction aimed at the general reader - as distinct from textbooks or professional reference books.

I think they are called 'trade" because they are sold through general booksellers, i.e. the book trade, as distinct from through schools or specialist outlets.

Posted by Baptist Trainfan (# 15128) on :

Not a phrase used in the UK - we just call them "non-fiction". If there is such a term, it would be used to denote books aimed at people who ply a particular trade, e.g. for plumbers or electricians or gardeners.

Posted by SvitlanaV2 (# 16967) on :

quote:
Originally posted by LutheranChik:

A question: Is anyone/has anyone here ever tried to follow a Great Books reading list? I know there are several variations floating about, some more multicultural thlan others. I start and stop with mine, and have given up the idea of reading the books in historical sequence.

Quite a long time ago I tried to read through the Waterstones 100 books of the 20th c.

I did quite well, but had other things to read and do, so didn't get to the end. I didn't read the books in the order that they are in the list.

Of course, some books appealed to me more than others, but I wouldn't disagree with their inclusion. The main problem with the list is that, like many such lists, it's skewed towards Anglophone literature. The dominance of fiction over non-fiction is tolerable to me, but some people would complain about that.

Posted by venbede (# 16669) on :

I'm re-reading Colette's Claudine at School. Sapphic oh la la.

I've just finished Dostoevsky's Demons for the umpteenth time, this time in the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation.

Posted by Jemima the 9th (# 15106) on :

Just finished Finding God in the Waves by Mike McHargue (known as Science Mike to his podcast listeners). Southern Baptist deacon loses his faith, remains undercover in the church for a couple of years as an atheist, leaves the church, then has a mystical encounter with God on the beach, and puts together a new faith (with a far lower bar for belief, possibly one of the reasons I love the book so much). It's a lovely book, I want to buy a copy for everyone I know.

Now on to Sepulchre by Kate Mosse. I read Labyrinth on holiday a couple of years ago, and loved it. Big, slightly silly, much impending DOOM, and this time with the promise of ghosts, doomed love and duels. I cant wait.

Posted by Moo (# 107) on :

Thanks, Jemima. I have just ordered a copy to give one of my daughters for Christmas.

Moo

Posted by wild haggis (# 15555) on :

Just started reading Ali Smith's "Autumn." At the beginning I wondered where it was going. But it is fantastic. Her use of language and imagery is superb.

Posted by Jemima the 9th (# 15106) on :

You're welcome, Moo. I really hope your daughter enjoys the book.

Posted by Nicolemr (# 28) on :

I just finished reading a fantasy series by P C Hodgell, the Kencyrath books. They have a really interesting premise, and I love the main character, a young woman named Jame, who is a potential avatar of the Destruction aspect of her people's 3-faced God. There are eight books so far. The author writes very slowly, so although she is working on the next, I suspect I have a few years to wait.