50 Book Challenge 2018 Part Six
southeastdweller · 05/06/2018 08:12
Welcome to the sixth thread of the 50 Book Challenge for this year.
The challenge is to read fifty books (or more!) in 2018, though reading fifty isn't mandatory. Any type of book can count, it’s not too late to join, and please try to let us all know your thoughts on what you've read.
The first thread of the year is here, the second one here, the third one here, the fourth one here, and the fifth one here.
How're you getting on so far?
CoteDAzur · 31/07/2018 21:35
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John le Carré
I really enjoyed this which was surprising because I hated Le Carré's later books Absolute Friends and A Most Wanted Man.
As most of you probably know, this is the story of an elaborate spy game played by British Intelligence on the top-level officers of what was then East Germany (GDR). Intelligent, analytical yet human. I loved it.
RemusLupinsBiggestGroupie · 31/07/2018 21:38
Yay! ANOTHER one we both like.
Sadik · 31/07/2018 21:43
Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher
Enjoyable popular linguistics book, exploring the extent to which the languages we speak affect our experiences of the world. The author does a good job I think of making clear what is his view, vs what is commonly accepted at present, and doesn't over-egg his case.
CoteDAzur · 31/07/2018 22:34
Remus - Let's not make a habit of it
Terpsichore · 01/08/2018 09:17
51: Love like Blood - Mark Billingham
A fast, uncomplicated read after the very dense, fact-heavy (but in a good way) The Italian Boy. One in the long-running Tom Thorne detective series by Billingham, stand-up-comedian-turned-crime-novelist. I've read quite a few and they're fine. Actually this one tackled the difficult and interesting subject of 'honour' killings, which perhaps makes it a bit of an outlier in terms of standard 'tec fiction. Anyway, it was a good page-turner and I finished it in just over a day.
bibliomania · 01/08/2018 09:54
Finished Who we are and how we got here, by David Reich
Non-fiction book about cutting-edge genetic research into ancient DNA. The author is a scientist rather than a science journalist, so he dials back the jokey footnotes and personal anecdotes that you usual find in the genre (I'm a sucker for a jokey footnote). Turns out that ancient humans are like modern humans, on the move and intermingling. We're not really branches of a tree, as traditional models have it, unless branches start mating with each other. He touches on the political and ethical implications of the findings, but his heart is in refined lab techniques and fancy statistical models.
CoteDAzur · 01/08/2018 10:25
Just checking back to let you all know that The Jackal 's author Frederick Forsyth's brilliant autobiography/non-fiction book about politics around the world The Outsider: My Life in Intrigue is £1.99 on the Kindle.
RemusLupinsBiggestGroupie · 01/08/2018 10:35
75: La Belle Sauvage – Philip Pullman
This goes back in time from ‘His Dark Materials’, with Lyra as a baby, who is rescued from a flood by a young boy and girl – but it’s not just the flood she needs protecting from.
This was a bit of a weird one. It’s really not clear who Pullman thinks his audience is – the main character is an 11 year old boy, but some of the ‘Dust stuff’ is pretty complicated, and there’s also quite a few sexual references. Another thing that really grated was reference to real life, contemporary books, in an Oxford that is clearly not the real life Oxford. And I get that it’s the beginning of a series, but too much was left hanging at the end.
Overall it just didn’t feel fully satisfying. I’d read the next one, but I won’t be rushing to buy it immediately, as I did with his others.
Piggywaspushed · 01/08/2018 12:46
I didn't like it either remus and nor did DS2. It was the -fairly frequent- bad language that jarred for me.
MuseumOfHam · 01/08/2018 13:55
Three good ones in a row, I'm on a roll.
37. For Faughie's Sake by Laura Marney Follow up to No Wonder I Take a Drink and a similar fun romp. Glaswegian Trixie decides to make a go of it in the West Highland village of Inverfaughie where she's inherited a house, and where coincidentally a Hollywood blockbuster is about to be filmed. It's just until she's made enough money to move back to Glasgow, but things don't go quite to plan. Sharp characters, very funny dialogue, and cringe worthy situations abound. This was just the cheerer upper I needed.
38. The Life Project by Helen Pearson A comprehensive and fascinating trawl through the history of British birth cohort studies from 1946 to the present. This had a bit of everything, and in just the right proportions to make it a real page turner. There was the history of how the studies came into being, were led and conducted, plus a high level overview of the findings themselves, showing, for example, how gaps in attainment, health and equality have opened and closed over the decades. Fascinating stuff.
39. A Room Full of Bones by Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway #4. This series is great fun, and the characters are developing nicely. She manages to shoehorn a dizzying array of themes into this one: snakes, racehorses, Australian aborigines, repatriation of cultural remains, drugs, a nice juxtaposition of a trans person in the middle ages and one today, to name but a few. Some rather improbable action sequences and plot twists, but all is forgiven, as I definitely want to spend more time with these characters. Luckily I think she's on about book 10 now, so still have lots of lovely reading ahead of me.
CheerfulMuddler · 01/08/2018 14:22
Ooh, The Life Project sounds interesting, Museum. I'm a sucker for a good cohort study.
Piggywaspushed · 01/08/2018 15:25
I think my A level class had me down as some kind of rampaging feminist ! I was recommended A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray by a girl in my class who had seen it in a bookshop and thought it would be 'my kind of book' .
Some may quibble over Murray's inclusions (and exclusions) but the 21 pen portraits , whilst lacking depth (it's not the point of the book) herald and laud the achievements of remarkable women, some of whom I was unfamiliar. I preferred Diana Atkinson's rendition of Emmeline Pankhurst but I still think all teenage girls should have this book gifted to them. And boys, too : why not? It's a quick read, too!
I read Fanny Burney's Evelina at university but knew nothing about Burney herself (despite my course being divided into periods, the university approach was definitley not context driven. New historicist hadn't really achieved pre eminence at that point) and I found the chapter on her particularly fascinating. She endured a length mastectomy, without anaesthetic. Poor woman. She wrote a gruesomely detailed description which is nonethless fascinating.
I recommend this for a quick and inspiring read.
RemusLupinsBiggestGroupie · 01/08/2018 16:09
Yes to the swearing as well, Piggy. Seemed out of fitting with the style of the rest of the dialogue too.
Dottierichardson · 01/08/2018 18:30
How Democracy Ends by David Runciman – published 2018. David Runiciman is a politics professor at Cambridge and I’ve been following his discussion podcast Talking Politics for a while. In his latest book Runciman’s writing for the general reader. His topic is the current state of democracy - which he characterises as a ‘mid-life crisis’ - a system growing old along with the majority of its voting populations. Runciman’s interest is primarily in Europe and the U.S. but he draws on a range of global examples. The book’s divided into three sections, each of which deals with a range of real and perceived threats to democracy: coups, catastrophes and rising forms of technology. He surveys each of these areas providing a brief historical overview as well as contemporary examples of their disruptive potential. Along the way he takes in Trump and populism; the growth of mega-corporations such as Facebook and Google; Erdogan’s slow erosion of Turkish democracy; the possible rise of AI. Although he tends towards the pessimistic he doesn’t believe that the world is on the brink of an authoritarianism to rival the 1930s (unlike Snyder et al). Instead he looks at symptoms of democracy’s slow decline and considers both its future and what a post-democratic world might look like. It’s a very lucid, at times compelling, work, but the scope of the book and the fact that it’s barely over 200 pages means that the analytical dimension is quite restricted and so tends to point towards areas for further study and consideration. Runciman has clearly anticipated this and provides an extensive list of further reading. Although I did find a number of points illuminating, I didn’t always agree with his stance, and I would have preferred a much more detailed account and accompanying analysis: a more sustained critique of left accelerationism for example. However, it’s clear that the book is intended to provoke discussion rather than offer solutions. Runciman discusses his work in this interview, which provides a more nuanced overview of his intentions and preoccupations www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-05-22/democracy-s-death-narrated-by-david-runciman
- The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – Published 2014. I decided after the Runciman I could have a small treat, so I suppose this is the literary equivalent of chocolate. The adventures in space of the diverse crew of The Wayfarer tunnelling ship. Deliciously diverting and fairly good-natured, although a little awkwardly written in places. I won’t go into more detail as I’m sure this one’s been covered before but I’ve already ordered the sequel.
PepeLePew · 01/08/2018 18:52
I loved The Life Project, museum. I found the story of the studies as interesting as some of the actual findings. They are such rich sources of information, and should be better funded. So often in research you think "I wish I'd asked that" and if you ask - well, almost everything - you get such interesting findings.
ShakeItOff2000 · 01/08/2018 21:01
Audible edited all the swears out Michael Sheen’s narration of La Belle Sauvage.
Sadik · 01/08/2018 21:24
Yes, agree The Life Project was fascinating.
Ellisisland · 01/08/2018 21:32
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
A retelling of Pride and Prejudice and one I did not enjoy. The plot is really weak and I didn’t warm to any of the characters. There is absolutely no reason to understand why Darcy and Lizzie end up together. The update of Darcy saving her sister is that he chats to her Mum for a bit. The update of Catherine De Burgh is Kathy De Burgh who is a feminist writer and doesn’t have much to do with anything. Definitely not recommended.
59 . My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh
A young depressed woman who seems to have it all (looks, money, rich New Yorker lifestyle) decides to take a year out and spend it in a medicated sleep. She has an incredibly inept doctor who constantly gives her prescriptions and she is only visited by a friend she doesn’t like that much and her awful on-off boyfriend.
This is a dark book with flashes of grim humor. There are bits that flash back to her parents and what caused her depression and her life up until that point. I absolutely loved this book, it’s not for everyone but it has really stayed with me and the final page is like a punch in the gut.
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
After reading the above I went to this book by the same author. This is another dark tale of a young woman, this time set in the 60s and she is working at a young male prison and living with her drunken father in a small New England town. It’s set over the Christmas period and it’s the woman in her old age telling the events that cause her to leave for good. It’s not perfect as there are some characters that are not fully fleshed out, with motivations that are unclear. Overall though it’s again a dark book, with some funny passages. The main character is incredibly self loathing and there are bits about her bodily habits which made me feel like taking a shower. The same as above in that it is not a book I would recommend to everyone but I enjoyed it.
Matilda2013 · 02/08/2018 00:08
44. Open Your Eyes - Paula Daly
We all like to pretend everything is fine in our life and focus on the good. But when Jane’s husband, Leon, is attacked in their driveway in front of their two children and left in a coma she must uncover the secrets that have been hidden for her to discover the identity of the attacker and the reasons behind it.
The latest of Paula Daly’s books. I did find I struggled to get into this one as much as I have the others but i can’t tell if this was down to lack of interest or just lack of time. I didn’t particularly bond with the characters which may also have affected this and overall it was an okay read but with a twist I didn’t see until the end and it all felt a little rushed with not as much tension as there could have been.
Cedar03 · 02/08/2018 09:09
39 Orlando by Virginia Woolf
This book follows Orlando through a life which starts in Elizabethan times and moves through the centuries. The character starts as a man but later becomes a woman. Other characters also switch genders. There are some lovely descriptions in this book particularly of England during the Frost fairs and of Orlando's house. It is funny, too, which I wasn't expecting. I got a bit bored in the middle when there was a long meditation on poetry but my interest picked up again in the next part of the book.
40 A Spoonful of Murder by Robin Stevens
This is a children's book so it feels cheating slightly to include it but DD challenged me to read it so I did. Hazel's grandfather in Hong Kong dies and Hazel and her friend Daisy travel from England to be with her family. There is a surprise awaiting them in Hong Kong and later on a kidnapping and murder. Hazel and Daisy - veterans of several earlier murder mysteries - have to solve the crime. There are a couple of good twists and it kept me reading.
41 The Parasites by Daphne Du Maurier
The parasites are three siblings who, one wet afternoon, are accused of being parasites by the husband of one of them. Together, the three of them look back on their lives so far and wonder whether he is right or wrong. The three are half/step siblings and their parents both worked in the theatre. The father is a larger than life character who is the life and soul of the party. Their mother is a dancer and is demanding. The children are ill disciplined. The story follows them as they grow up. This book is cleverly written - it moves back and forward from the first person to the third person all the time but you are never clear who the first person is but it doesn't matter. It has some very funny parts - particularly a weekend visit to the in laws of one of the daughters. Very much enjoyed this one.
HoundOfTheBasketballs · 02/08/2018 10:32
*25. The Tudor Crown - Joanna Hickson
The story of Henry VII, his escape into exile as a teenager, his life in Brittany as a young man and his eventual return to England to take the crown by force from Richard III.
The story is told in alternate chapters by Henry and by his mother, Margaret Beaufort. I was already somewhat familiar with the story, it seems to be covered quite often in popular historical fiction.
I did enjoy this re-telling, it was well written and well researched. The author has written other novels about the Plantagenets and the Tudors, which I will look out for.
TimeforaGandT · 02/08/2018 11:51
30. Painter to the King - Amy Sackville
Set in the Spanish court of Felipe/Philip IV and told from the viewpoint of the court artist, Velazquez.
I am a bit conflicted about this. I enjoyed the historical aspect and learning more about the Spanish court of that period. Some of the descriptions were very good but...the punctuation annoyed me with lots of dashes. I also feel that my lack of familiarity with the work of Velazquez meant I probably missed out a bit. Quite relieved to finish it and it would not encourage me to read any of her other books. Has anybody else read this?
Next up World without End - Ken Follett
SatsukiKusakabe · 02/08/2018 13:04
timeforagandt I had the sample of this because I was intrigued by the subject but found the style offputting and decided it would annoy me so didn’t buy the book. Your review has reassured me I was right to sidestep
SatsukiKusakabe · 02/08/2018 13:06
ellis I couldn’t get on with Eligible at all and mostly usually enjoy Sittenfeld’s writing.
Really enjoying reading all the reviews.
TimeforaGandT · 02/08/2018 13:34
satsuki you made the right call as the style is consistent throughout and whilst occasionally the storyline was sufficient for me to ignore the style, most of the time it wasn’t!
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