My Alphabet Reading Challenge - I

Posted: Oct 14th 2018, 3:04pm By: Anne


“The Illumination” by Kevin Brockmeier is a series of linked short stories. It is set in our world but something has changed so that physical pain is shown as light. The book doesn’t explore this in any depth but the actual story takes place in this changed world which is elegantly described. The short stories link a number of people with a diary which keeps getting passed on. Some of the characters interact with the diary and others don’t.

I found this book incredibly difficult to get in to even though it is very short. I was hooked at the beginning but gradually became separated possibly because the narrative was very detached and descriptive. The description was excellent but all the people were uninteresting and the whole atmosphere of the book was sad and dismal. I wished that the idea o ...

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My Alphabet Reading Challenge - H

Posted: Oct 7th 2018, 7:52pm By: Anne


For H in my alphabet sequence I have chosen “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It is a novel set in Nigeria at the time of the Biafran War in the 1960s. This is not a country or a time period I know well so the history and political aspects of the book were enlightening. It is, however, primarily a book about people in a culture which is changing.

The book focusses on a number of people; a young boy employed as a houseboy, a professor, twin daughters from the elite of the tribe and a rather naïve English author. As the story develops a number of themes emerged for me. One was the adoption of Western ideas by some characters and the predominance of more traditional customs by others and the conflict that arose. There is also conflict between the educated young people who want to ...

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My September Reading - a look into the past

Posted: Sep 30th 2018, 8:31pm By: Anne


As September draws to a close I can truthfully assert that Winter Is Coming ! I have had to scrape ice of my windscreen in the morning twice already this month. I don’t particularly enjoy the evenings closing in and the decreasing temperature and maybe I need to read some cheerful books to add a bit of sunshine to my days.

I am pleased to say that unlike my fellow blogger Sara I have not hit a reading slump although I sympathise with her situation – sometimes you just cannot find the right book whatever you try. It’s not often that I don’t finish a book, although I could name a few that I wish that I’d abandoned rather than struggle through. I try to give them 50 to 100 pages but there are so many good books out there I think that it is bonkers to continue to read something that you aren’ ...

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Reading slump :(

Posted: Sep 26th 2018, 11:43am By: Sara Eames


I seem to have hit a bit of a reading slump this year - I have given up on more books than in any other previous years (12 so far this year - mind you, I have read 141, so maybe it''s not too bad). I can't decide whether I have become less tolerant of ploughing through books that I am not enjoying or if I have just had a run of "bad" books. In my youth, I felt that I should finish any and every book I started, but nowadays I guess I am more likely to stop if I'm not enjoying it for whatever reason.

What do other people think? Do you plough on regardless or give up?

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My Alphabet Reading Challenge - G

Posted: Sep 17th 2018, 10:55pm By: Anne


All four of the novels I have read so far for this challenge (“American Wife”, “Cutting for Stone”, “Epitaph” and “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café”) have been set all or mostly in the past. For G my novel is “The Girl with all the Gifts” which is set in the future, or a possible future. This book can best be described as dystopian in that it features a world, particularly the USA, where the social order as we know it has collapsed because of a great catastrophe and the survivors have to keep going in whatever way possible. It’s a popular genre and there are plenty of similar books to read each of which has a slightly different catastrophe. Many of these books are written for young adult readers. I would recommend the following if you want to read further : “Station El ...

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SMRC - an update (and a confession)

Posted: Sep 5th 2018, 1:07pm By: Sara Eames


When I originally started my summer mini reading challenge, I set an end date of Aug 31st as my end date. Well, here we are on 5th September and I have just finished reading my Q book in this challenge. So, in terms of time, I have spectacularly failed to reach my target. However, I am no quitter - so I shall simply extend the finish date and continue with my alphabet reading.

The main problem I encountered (and the reason I missed my deadline) was that I hit a patch whereby I wasn't enjoying the books in the alphabet challenge - so I quickly got distracted by other books in my tbr pile. I hit a serious block with Q - I really wasn't enjoying the book at all (yet didn't think I had an alternative). Fortunately, a quick scan of my shelves provided me with an alternative and I am now back ...

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My August Reading - what people do for a living in books

Posted: Sep 1st 2018, 5:20pm By: Anne


The person with whom I share my life was away for three weeks this month which I think enabled me to do more reading. I finished 38 books in August (a monthly record for the year) and five were on audiobook possibly because I had more opportunity to listen to the spoken word in a house which only had me in it.

One book I read was a new novel by William Boyd called “Love is Blind” in which the main character is a piano tuner. I confess that I cannot remember ever reading a book before which featured this occupation and where piano tuning was a major driving force in the plot. I thought I’d have a look at what other occupations main characters had in this month’s reading. Excluding detectives, investigators and similar here are a few interesting ones from August’s reading :

• Domestic ...

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My Alphabet Reading Challenge - F

Posted: Aug 29th 2018, 1:50pm By: Anne


“Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café” by Fannie Flagg is a life affirming, glorious read. It is set in the Southern states of the USA and is in two time periods; the present and the period between the wars. In the present day Evelyn meets an old lady at the home where her mother in law is a resident. She spends time with Ninnie and in turn Ninnie tells her the tales of her life in Whistle Stop and the characters who lived there and who ran the café. It’s an easy to read book but it touches on lots of issues such as feminism, lesbianism and racism in the course of the story. As Evelyn learns about her sisters in the past she comes to a realisation that she has to change her own present and transform her life.

I really enjoyed this book as I have most of the novels by this author whic ...

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smrc - books 13 & 14 (m & n)

Posted: Aug 17th 2018, 1:10pm By: Sara Eames


M - Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

This was an enjoyable book with a twist - a story within a story. It is interesting to note that the twist did not come as a shock to me but did to my daughter Heather. I think the reason for this was the media we chose to experience this book. I read a hard copy, and Heather listened to an audio book. Thus, for her, the twist was delivered with emotion and emphasis that I hadn't placed on the book I was reading. It was interesting to note the difference in our reactions - I won't say too much as I hate spoiling books for potential readers. I would, however, recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good thriller.

N - North & South by Elizabeth Gaskill

This was meant to be my N book, but I just couldn't get on with it. I ...

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Bill - Blog 2

Posted: Aug 13th 2018, 4:37pm By: Debra Found


In this blog Bill talks about his Book Project and why he decided to embark upon it.

"

My Book Project About six months ago, after reading, and being bored and/or annoyed with, yet another book by an author I had never previously heard of, and whose book I did not enjoy, I decided that I should really try to increase the quality of the books which I read. The obvious(?) choice seemed to be the books which are generally referred to as the “Classics”. Like most people I had some idea of which books would fall into this category so I started compiling a list. At this point I passed on my idea and the provisional list to Debra for comment. As you will see from her blog she had joined a local book club and also had contact with other “readers” via the internet. The result of this ...

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In Memory of Bill - Blog 1

Posted: Aug 13th 2018, 4:34pm By: Debra Found


Following on from Anne's blog in memory of our reviewer (and Dad), Bill, I thought it would be nice to revisit some of his blogs. I am very pleased that he has left behind some of his opinions and comments on books in these blogs.

This first blog was published in January 2011.

"An Introduction If you are reading this posting for the first time, it might be useful to have answers to the following questions: Who am I? My name is Bill, and the reviewers Debra and Anne are my daughters. What am I? I am a retired pensioner who spent most of his working life as a computer professional. Why am I reviewing books? Because Debra asked me to and, as my wife and I have always tried to support and encourage our daughters in what they embark upon, I could hardly refuse! Being an avid reader throughou ...

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My Alphabet Reading Challenge - E

Posted: Aug 12th 2018, 8:06pm By: Anne


I first read “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell some time ago because it was recommended by a podcast I was listening to. The concept of that novel is mad but the execution is incredible leading to a unique and harrowing tale. I thought that the sequel was less successful. In my usual obsessive fashion I then obtained copies of all this author’s other novels and was blown away again by “Doc” which is a Western, a genre I don’t usually read. My E book is “Epitaph”, the sequel to “Doc”.

This book is set in and around the events of the gunfight at the OK Corral. It follows on from “Doc” but you don’t have to have read the first book. The author concentrates on the Earp brothers and particularly on the women who are associated with them. I am assuming that this is accurate his ...

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My Alphabet Reading Challenge - D

Posted: Aug 3rd 2018, 6:54pm By: Anne


For “D” in my alphabet challenge I am reading “Daddy, We Hardly Knew You” by Germaine Greer. This is a memoir/family history. The author decides following the death of her father to trace his background and family. The only clues she has to go on are some family stories he told. The book explores the actual journey of discovery and touches on some aspects of social history as well as revealing much about the author’s family life and childhood.

I like this sort of a book and this was fascinating as it turns out that the family really did not know Germaine’s father. Everything he has told them in the past turns out to be untrue, including his real name, and there is a lot of unravelling to do. This part of the book is fascinating and the social history which creeps in about Australia and Ma ...

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My July Reading - remembering a fellow reader

Posted: Aug 1st 2018, 6:12pm By: Anne


During the month of July our reviewer Bill Stilling died. Bill hadn’t reviewed for a while because of ill health but there are 66 of his reviews on the site. Bill particularly enjoyed thrillers, science fiction and adventure stories and he liked his books without gratuitous violence and with very little or no sex. He also had a tendency to prefer books by male writers. Favourite authors include Isaac Asimov, Alistair McLean, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke, Frederick Forsyth and Jack Higgins.

What Bill did in his later years, however, was to try and read some great classics because he felt that he might have missed out. His reviews include “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, “Gone with the Wind”, “Dracula”, “Vanity Fair” and “Moll Flanders” which are very different from his usual reading ...

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smrc - books 11 & 12 (K & L)

Posted: Aug 1st 2018, 9:30am By: Sara Eames


Book K was The Killing in the Café by Simon Brett. As a fan of cosy mysteries - a fact of which I am sure you are aware - I enjoy the Fethering Mysteries penned by Mr Brett. They feature a couple of mismatched sleuths - Jude and Carole - who are dragged into a number of events in their little village - the majority of which end in murder. Our two intrepid heroines bravely seek to solve each case they come across and, despite risks to their personal safety, are successful in their endeavours. The only problem is that I think Fethering is becoming as dangerous a place to live as Midsomer, due to the high body count in a small area - I don't think I'll be moving there any time soon. The Killing in the Café follows the traditional cosy mystery formula. However, my problem with this one is that ii gets ...

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smrc - books 9 & 10 (I & J)

Posted: Jul 30th 2018, 8:29am By: Sara Eames


Both of these books are part of a couple of series that I enjoy reading. They both have a strong female protagonist/detective and both are mysteries - although Book J had darker subject matter. As a fan of mysteries, I had deliberately chosen both of these books as I knew I would enjoy reading them.

Book I was "In This Grave Hour" by Jacqueline Winspear. I do enjoy the Maisie Dobbs series - and this was another good one in this series. As I read it as part of my mini summer alphabet reading challenge, I have missed some of the prequels to this book. For the mystery part, this did not matter as the story works as a stand-alone within the series. However, in terms of events in Maisie's life, some things had happened in previous books that I was unaware of until they were mentioned in this ...

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My Alphabet Reading Challenge - C

Posted: Jul 29th 2018, 4:16pm By: Anne


We have reached “C” in my reading alphabet and my book is “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese.

This book is set in Ethiopia and follows twin boys who are orphaned and brought up by doctors in a missionary hospital. It explores their relationship with the local people and with the medical staff, their sexual awakening, their relationship with each other, issues around their absent parents and the situation when they were born, civil unrest and their careers. It is quite a wide-ranging book and I sometimes found it difficult to work out exactly what message the author was trying to put across.

This was one of those books that I could only read in short bursts (partly because the book was thick and the print was small). I didn’t find it particularly easy to get into and I didn’t en ...

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smrc - Books 7 & 8 (G & H)

Posted: Jul 23rd 2018, 9:07am By: Sara Eames


My G book was Ghosts by Adrian Plass. In many ways, unfortunately, this book was a disappointment. I think the main trouble was that I came to it with expectations of what it would contain. Let me say that I am an Adrian Plass fan - I grew up reading his Sacred Diary series - and was expecting a lot of humour in this book. This was not the case. Usually with an Adrian Plass book, I read it very quickly and spend a lot of it laughing out loud - this book was so different from what I was anticipating that it took the edge off the whole reading experience for me. I admit that it was probably my fault, due to my expectations but that doesn't diminish my experience in reading this book.

The premise for the book is that a man, David, who is mourning the death of his wife goes to a reunion of C ...

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My Alphabet Reading Challenge - B

Posted: Jul 19th 2018, 11:46am By: Anne


The second book in my new alphabet challenge is “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” by Oscar Wilde. It is a long poem and I read it in a version illustrated by Peter Hay and as the illustrations are very much part of the reading experience I am reviewing them as well.

The author obviously had experience of the prison system having been jailed for sodomy following a disastrous attempt to sue the Marquis of Queensberry for libel. It is a difficult time in the author’s life and I advise you to read a good biography to unpick it and understand all the issues. We do know, however, that this poem is written from first-hand experience.

The poem is written in a simple rhyming style and metre but that hides the fact that it deals with an incredibly difficult subject matter. The poem is actually quite des ...

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smrc - books 5 & 6 (E & F)

Posted: Jul 16th 2018, 9:28am By: Sara Eames


The fifth book in my reading challenge - letter E - was going to be The End of the World Running Club by Adrian J Walker. This was another author that I had not tried before and, for a change, a different genre to those I have read thus far in this reading challenge. Unfortunately, I could not finish the book. After 100 pages or so of depression and awful characters with whom I have little or no sympathy, I had to give up. I no longer force myself to finish a book that I am not enjoying.

So, as I wanted to continue with my alphabet challenge, I returned to my bookshelves in search of another book beginning with the letter E. Once there, I quickly located Emma by Alexander McCall Smith - The Austen Project #3 - and decided to give this a try - chiefly because if suited the challenge I was pursui ...

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