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TobyD

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#2075 Re: Books...
February 24, 2024, 05:41:43 pm
I received Any Human Heart (William Boyd) for Christmas and, judging by appearances, was not enthused. The cover, title, and blurb conjured a 500-page image of an effete aristocrat mooning over poetry and having a string of languorous affairs with glamorously disinterested prostitutes.

I trepidatiously made a start and was instantly hooked and remained enthralled to the very end.

Logan Mountstuart tells the story of his life through a series of intermittent journal entries spanning his final days of public school in the 1920s to his death in the final decade of the century. Along the way there are triumphs and there are tragedies. The mix of the incredible and the banal, combining in an always-compelling arc, are a testament to Boyd's skill.

I have read a lot of Boyd's novels and they have all been brilliant, although not that one yet, I'm looking forward to it now.

Damascus Station is a brilliant spy novel.

I very rarely (basically never) read spy/thriller novels but just really enjoyed Eric Ambler's class The Mask of Dimitrios, almost more of a shaggy dog story than a spy novel (but maybe all spy stories are also shaggy dog stories, to some extent?).

I rarely read spy novels either, but the one I mentioned was great.

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#2076 Re: Books...
February 24, 2024, 05:53:10 pm
I received Any Human Heart (William Boyd) for Christmas and, judging by appearances, was not enthused. The cover, title, and blurb conjured a 500-page image of an effete aristocrat mooning over poetry and having a string of languorous affairs with glamorously disinterested prostitutes.

I trepidatiously made a start and was instantly hooked and remained enthralled to the very end.

Logan Mountstuart tells the story of his life through a series of intermittent journal entries spanning his final days of public school in the 1920s to his death in the final decade of the century. Along the way there are triumphs and there are tragedies. The mix of the incredible and the banal, combining in an always-compelling arc, are a testament to Boyd's skill.
I have read a lot of Boyd's novels and they have all been brilliant, although not that one yet, I'm looking forward to it now. .

This was my first. Will definitely be back for more.

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#2077 Re: Books...
February 24, 2024, 07:55:32 pm
Anyone read Prophet Song by Paul Lynch yet? Flippin 'eck.

TobyD

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#2078 Re: Books...
February 25, 2024, 05:32:21 pm
I received Any Human Heart (William Boyd) for Christmas and, judging by appearances, was not enthused. The cover, title, and blurb conjured a 500-page image of an effete aristocrat mooning over poetry and having a string of languorous affairs with glamorously disinterested prostitutes.

I trepidatiously made a start and was instantly hooked and remained enthralled to the very end.

Logan Mountstuart tells the story of his life through a series of intermittent journal entries spanning his final days of public school in the 1920s to his death in the final decade of the century. Along the way there are triumphs and there are tragedies. The mix of the incredible and the banal, combining in an always-compelling arc, are a testament to Boyd's skill.
I have read a lot of Boyd's novels and they have all been brilliant, although not that one yet, I'm looking forward to it now. .

This was my first. Will definitely be back for more.

Restless and Brazzaville Beach I remember as being especially good, but I haven't been disappointed by any of them.

TobyD

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#2079 Re: Books...
March 01, 2024, 05:34:17 pm
Just finished reading Salvation of a Saint , by Keigo Higashino, the follow up to Suspect X. It's just as good as the first, if not possibly better. I can't recommend these enough as long as you like murder mystery/ police investigation novels.

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#2080 Re: Books...
March 06, 2024, 02:47:49 pm
Anyone read Prophet Song by Paul Lynch yet? Flippin 'eck.

Yes I've read it. Bleak!

Will Hunt

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#2081 Re: Books...
March 07, 2024, 01:53:32 pm
I'm afraid I was hugely disappointed by Babel. Considering the hype that surrounds it I can't believe how awful I thought it was. There’s a decent idea in there but it’s developed in such a blundersome way. Major spoilers contained in the following rant:

NSFW  spoilers:
There is absolutely no subtlety to this book whatsoever. I don't object to a book with themes of colonialism, racism, and inequality (off the top of my head, Blood Meridian and English Passengers are among my favourite books); I object to the reader being treated like an absolute idiot. It isn't enough for the author to present the awfulness of colonialism and let the reader figure out that it is awful, she repeatedly beats you around the head with it and explicitly tells you over and over and over again that it's awful in case you're too thick to figure that out. If the book were targeted at the young adult audience it might be fair enough but this is supposed to be a novel for adults.

The characters are one-dimensional. The baddies are all 100% evil. Even once they've been shown to be terrible the author invents even worse stuff for them to do until they are almost risibly bad, in particular Letty. She's talking about justice one moment and then she shoots a bloke who she was madly in love with a few pages ago because being rejected by an Indian man will apparently wipe away whatever emotions you have harboured for the last few years and replace them with murderous hatred. Really?

For about the first 30-40% of the book nothing really happens. We are on an inescapable merry-go-round of: linguistics; ooh-look-aren't-they-working-hard-at-Oxford; racial abuse; repeat. In the final 50% things start to happen. The things that ultimately happen are the things that Chekhov's Gun told you were going to happen in the first 100 pages. The author doesn't so much do foreshadowing as completely giving the game away.

It's also in this final 50% that she gives up on characterising the baddies by their racism, colonial attitudes, or British exceptionalism and just starts to call them white, as if it is their whiteness that is what makes them so evil. A lot of the discourse about race in this final half is done in the language of 2020s Twitter threads which makes it incongruous when our 1830s characters speak in the same way. Which begs the question, why set this book in Victorian England, which we know to be a racist and chauvinistic society, when you could just as easily set it in the present day, which is better but still flawed? You could still get into the issues you want to explore but you wouldn't let the reader use the excuse "ah well, the past is the past and we've moved on from that now".

The book's alternative title is "The Necessity of Violence" and Kuang argues that the oppressed can only be rid of their oppression through use of violence. In the final chapters of the book we see the protagonist (who until this point has had very little by way of personality) taking action that results in the deaths of dozens of civilians. At the finale he becomes a suicide bomber. Although the explosion they create doesn't directly kill anybody but the bombers, we are left in no doubt that it will indirectly kill thousands of people. Viewed through the narrow lens of this book you might think of this as a great victory; however I can't believe that this, a justification of violence to achieve political change, hasn't been challenged more broadly. It's not like people, under a variety of banners, aren't still going out and slaughtering civilians. How do people miss the obvious connection between the book’s call to action and modern day atrocities?


Happy World Book Day, everyone!

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#2082 Re: Books...
March 20, 2024, 02:16:31 pm
Hi folks,
 Hope you don't mind me promoting myself here.

I have just self-published my first book. A 200 page adventure novel for children set in Northwest Scotland called The Flitspace.

Here is the short blurb:
Ru-um and his younger brother Cali, on holiday in Northwest Scotland, go missing while on a walk to an ancient, ruined broch. Last seen with the mysterious girl, Amelia, they are eventually found several days later, unharmed, but with Cali now inexplicably older than Ru-um.

The story follows the boys and Amelia as they venture deep under the broch and through The Flitspace into another version of Scotland very different from the one they're familiar with.

It's listed on amazon for readers 9-11 but is a fine adventure story for any reader 8 and up (some great reviews from adult readers too). Of particular interest to anyone that has ever visited that beautiful coastline, and will certainly inspire those that haven't to do so. It even features a short climbing scene!

It can be ordered from Waterstones, Amazon etc but I would really appreciate it if anyone that did want a copy ordered from the publisher Troubador direct as then i can recover my costs a bit quicker. Thanks folks!

https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/young-children/the-flitspace
(and for the record I agree about Babel)


sxrxg

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#2083 Re: Books...
March 21, 2024, 12:58:35 pm
I have ordered a copy (off Amazon, sorry) for my 9 year old who is an avid reader... Will let you know what he thinks (probably in a couple of days once he has devoured it!)

JamieG

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#2084 Re: Books...
March 21, 2024, 02:32:39 pm
I recently tried to read (the highly critically acclaimed) 'A Little Life' by Hanya Yanagihara. It started off really well, but in a similar vein to the Goldfinch I bailed about half way through. I found it 'jumped the shark' and got too silly. But silly in a really grim way. I started to get uneasy with the way it was going and way things were portrayed,

(spoilers in here)
NSFW  :
mostly regarding mental health, the ability/inability to overcome trauma, enablers (doctors/friends etc), childhood abuse, portrayals of self-harm etc.


about a quarter of the way in but carried on to see how it would pan out. Unfortunately it turned out as I was fearing. A google search later and reading a bunch of reviews and threads it seems it is quite a controversial book and divides opinions strongly. It seems I am very much in one camp and interested to hear if anyone else has read it and what they thought.

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#2085 Re: Books...
March 21, 2024, 03:01:09 pm
A Little Life has been on my list for a while....
A couple of things I've read recently.
What Just Happened? Dispatches from turbulent times by Marina Hyde.
A compilation of her newspaper columns. Yeah, polemic is quite easy to do but Hyde does it very well. Funny and angry and a reminder (if you've managed to forget...) what a shit show this country is.A great bedside/bogside addition.

Hex by Jenni Fagan
A dark and disturbing tale, beautifully written.It would be easy to run out of superlatives for this book.A re-telling of the North Berwick witch-trials in the late 1500s.
Geillis Duncan is spending the last night of her young life in an Edinburgh dungeon, she has been convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to hang at dawn.She is 15 years old. She is visited by a woman from the present day, who reaches back through the ether to offer comfort in the teenager's darkest hours.
A short book, about 100pp but what a punch it packs.Highly recommended.
Fagan also wrote The Panoptican based on her own experience of growing up in care.Very good also.

Stewart

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#2086 Re: Books...
March 21, 2024, 03:31:36 pm
I have ordered a copy (off Amazon, sorry) for my 9 year old who is an avid reader... Will let you know what he thinks (probably in a couple of days once he has devoured it!)

Nice one. I hope he enjoys it! Don't worry about buying in amazon.  I'm as guilty of that as anyone and I'm just happy to see it being enjoyed. 


Just hope bezos enjoys his solid gold toothpicks from my royalties..  :wavecry:

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#2087 Re: Books...
March 22, 2024, 09:32:01 am
Hi folks,
 Hope you don't mind me promoting myself here.

I have just self-published my first book. A 200 page adventure novel for children set in Northwest Scotland called The Flitspace.

Here is the short blurb:
Ru-um and his younger brother Cali, on holiday in Northwest Scotland, go missing while on a walk to an ancient, ruined broch. Last seen with the mysterious girl, Amelia, they are eventually found several days later, unharmed, but with Cali now inexplicably older than Ru-um.

The story follows the boys and Amelia as they venture deep under the broch and through The Flitspace into another version of Scotland very different from the one they're familiar with.

It's listed on amazon for readers 9-11 but is a fine adventure story for any reader 8 and up (some great reviews from adult readers too). Of particular interest to anyone that has ever visited that beautiful coastline, and will certainly inspire those that haven't to do so. It even features a short climbing scene!

It can be ordered from Waterstones, Amazon etc but I would really appreciate it if anyone that did want a copy ordered from the publisher Troubador direct as then i can recover my costs a bit quicker. Thanks folks!

https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/young-children/the-flitspace
(and for the record I agree about Babel)


Just ordered a copy for my 9 year old grandson, sounds good. 👍

Stewart

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#2088 Re: Books...
March 23, 2024, 09:36:37 pm
Cheers Webbo!

TobyD

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#2089 Re: Books...
April 15, 2024, 05:40:46 pm
A couple of recent books of possible interest

The Whistleblower by Robert Peston
A readable, entertaining political/ conspiracy thriller. It's reasonably well written, but a lot of it gets a bit silly but not in a way I found annoying. Overall a good read, albeit something I'm unlikely to remember much about in a year's time. It was £1 in a charity shop when I wanted something to read, so pretty good value really.

Secret Service by Tom Bradbury
A spy thriller, I thought noticeably better written than the above and rather more convincing overall. Another random thing I picked up which actually turned out to be really good.

Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd
Just as good as every other thing I've read by him. Recommended.



 

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