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  1. Yesterday
  2. When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut, Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs? When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it? O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite, That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does house He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo, He comes to brood and sit. Gerard Manley Hopkins - 'Peace'
  3. Just pre-ordered it for my tablet. It will arrive a few days after I get home from what I am hoping is a very relaxing vacation. I will just have to read other things.
  4. I have got to about p.250 in this but have admitted defeat. It just seems to be lots of stuff happening and people talking, with little of interest. It feels too whimsical and flippant, like a John le Carré rewritten by Alan Bennett. I do like Kate Atkinson but this has been deeply annoying.
  5. Amy Whey hosts a book group at her house on behalf of her friend Char, who founded the group and gets to pick each month’s very safe title. But one month, a rather extroverted visitor shows up - she’s staying at the Airbnb and nobody seems to know who invited her. And when the uninvited guest - Roux - starts to offer Amy’s wine around and proposes a drinking game of Never Have I Ever, Amy and Char realise that they are no longer in control. Some of the participants readily give up their secrets, but Amy has a secret she is determined to keep. Over the next few days (weeks?) Amy and Roux play a twisty game of cat and mouse. Never Have I Ever is a long book - and there are parts that do feel like repetition - and it gets off to quite a slow start. The initial book group meeting (shades of the Great Gatsby’s cocktail party but for yummy mummies) introduces many characters and it’s difficult to keep a handle on who is who. For the first 10%, the story is slow and confusing - threatening to become a bed-hopping saga. But when the main narrative line - the Amy/Roux line - starts to emerge, the story settles down. The intensity builds and by the halfway point - when strange things start to happen - it is impossible to put the book down. Amy is particularly well drawn - complex with multiple hidden dimensions. Most strikingly, despite her battle with Roux, she seems terribly concerned about what Roux might think of her., In fact, much of Amy’s predicament stems from her anxiety over how she will be perceived by her friends, her family and even her enemies. Amy used to be large and lost weight - and maintained the weight loss - through restricting her daily calorie intake to 500 coupled with bulimic tendencies. So Amy’s whole life seems to be about suffering for the sake of maintaining her appearance. The other characters feel less fully rounded and Roux does verge on improbability,. Perhaps an exception would be made for Tig, a character who appears quite briefly but is both memorable and sophisticated. Overall, Never Have I Ever is an enjoyable psychological intrigue, probably aimed at women rather than men (although this man enjoyed it too). It’s not going to win literary awards, but it would make a great holiday read. ****0
  6. Last week
  7. She Walks in Beauty She walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that’s best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes; Thus mellowed to that tender light Which heaven to gaudy day denies. One shade the more, one ray the less, Had half impaired the nameless grace Which waves in every raven tress, Or softly lightens o’er her face; Where thoughts serenely sweet express, How pure, how dear their dwelling-place. And on that cheek, and o’er that brow, So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, The smiles that win, the tints that glow, But tell of days in goodness spent, A mind at peace with all below, A heart whose love is innocent! By Lord Byron (George Gordon)
  8. I have now finished this third part of what is a series of 13 of what Richardson herself called chapters of one work called Pilgrimage. I regret leaving this so long as I enjoyed it just as much as the first two parts and already have the second book of the three next parts. I can't summarise it better than Dan, so I won't. It does need to be worked at so it depends on the individual reader and how much effort s/he is willing to make for what is a leisure occupation. But, DR is the first to write stream of consciousness and her prose is absolutely marvellous so it is, without doubt, more than worth the effort, imho.
  9. No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine; Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine; Make not your rosary of yew-berries, Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl A partner in your sorrow's mysteries; For shade to shade will come too drowsily, And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul. But when the melancholy fit shall fall Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud, That fosters the droop-headed flowers all, And hides the green hill in an April shroud; Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose, Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave, Or on the wealth of globed peonies; Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows, Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave, And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes. She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips: Ay, in the very temple of Delight Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine, Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine; His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might, And be among her cloudy trophies hung. John Keats - 'Ode to Melancholy'
  10. Hi Iris, Sorry, I pasted that URL into my browser and it didn't work. Can you paste it as a hyperlink? Click the link icon in the posting box.
  11. Fellow book lovers, I need your help! I am currently writing my dissertation and need some help with my research. If you love YA, NA, and romance books (and have 5 to 10 minutes to spare) I would be so grateful if you could fill out my survey: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1AFegH5GzbD_A_FOntBupVgMAu3XjLfVadYBEibYC958/viewform?fbclid=IwAR1yIVUkcXtdNCEPbeexFbMyU7khO6NCF7fIYrzua_s93BDBRlqQuSo-yOg&edit_requested=true
  12. Older Brother is an interesting study of what it is to be a Muslim in modern day France. The two brothers have Syrian heritage but moved to France many years before the current Syrian conflict. Their father is an atheist communist, and they have French Breton ancestry on their mother's side. So in fact, the two brothers are only Muslim through people's assumptions rather than their own upbringing. However, this is enough to create a distance between them and their French neighbours. The older brother drives for Uber. His father has invested his pension fund into an official taxi licence and has to sit watching helplessly as the Uber wave washes away the value of the official licences. The younger brother is a trained nurse who has volunteered with a shadowy NGO to offer healthcare to embattled Muslim populations around the world. Perhaps he is in Syria. The story foll0ws the brothers as they reunite in Paris - the younger brother having fled from Raqqa after finding the Islamic dream was really a nightmare. But France does not welcome returning jihadists, suspecting that many are sleeper agents pursuing a suicide-terror agenda. The novel explores themes of conflicted loyalties - the loyalty to a brother or to a state; loyalty to a heritage or to a future. There are questions of trust; how far can you trust someone when their story keeps changing? Is this someone gradually coming clean or someone further obfuscating? And as older brother is expected to side with the state and the law, he finds that the state and the law do not reciprocate. The story is compelling and complex. The pacing, however, starts off quite slowly. There are parts of the older brother's voice that feel quite clunky and it isn't clear whether this is supposed to reflect a narrator who is not completely comfortable speaking French or whether it is a sign of poor translation from French to English. Overall, though, these are minor considerations in a novel that is readable, suspenseful and addresses important and current social issues. ****0
  13. The Lost Children Archive is not quite what the blurb would lead you to expect. I had imagined a road novel featuring twin road trips - a middle class family heading south to the Mexican border and refugee children heading north away from the border. I imagined a compare and contrast with the two narratives intersecting. But this was not what I got. Instead there was a single narrative of the middle class family, narrating mostly through philosophy and editorial. This might have worked in an essay but it doesn't make a novel., The plot is an afterthought - there are built in quirks like boxes full of books (which turns out to be a bibliography of texts used to inform the Lost Children Archive), various polaroid photographs, and excerpts from a text on migrants. The father is chasing the ghosts of Geronimo and the Apaches, the mother is trying to sound record the plight of unseen illegal migrants. The children - boy and girl - mostly provide a useful audience for the parents' narration. There are occasional glimpses of life along the way - rednecks running grocery stores and filling stations, motels and railway lines - but mostly it is page after page of political observation. Oh, and the parents are going to separate and the kids run away. Not sure why - you'd think the huge volume of words might have found space for this kind of explanation. **000
  14. I read War and Peace, on Kindle, a couple of years ago - including appendices. I read it in conjunction with the BBC serialization at the time, this helped get through the book. Currently reading The Crimson Petal and the White, finding it a bit of a bore, but will persevere.
  15. Bryan Gallagher is a retired headmaster who has spent his whole life living in the county of Fermanagh, Ireland, near the beautiful shores of Lough Erne. He used to be a regular contributor to the Radio Four show Home Truths presented by the late John Peel. Barefoot in Mullyneeny is a collection of short reminiscences from his time growing up in the 40’s and 50’s. On the face of it these are simple stories of a simpler time but like all stories of people’s lives there are truths that we all share. The pains of growing up, misunderstanding the world around us. Imbibing wisdom from the local characters of country life. Stories about hob nail boots for sale, swimming to Rabbit Island, playing in a dance band, learning about “coping the lea” and the philosophical cobbler who would recite poetry while he worked and who as age started to take its toll he would answer the enquiry of “How are you, Jimmy?” with “If I felt any better I’d have to see a doctor.” Or “Movin’ up in the queue.” “Between the two big ones,” And asked what are the two big ones he would reply “Birth and Death. A short book that made this reader smile and laugh more than once. If you need something to brighten your day take a dip into this book.
  16. I've been looking at this since it came out and wondered if I'd like it. I enjoy the Jem Flockhart series by E M Thomson which seems to be a similar kind of thing but set in London during roughly the same time period. Then again I wonder if it would be too similar. I shall ponder further.
  17. I have been looking forward to this for ages: Chris Brookmyre has teamed up with his wife, Marisa Haetzmann, who is an anaesthologist and medical historian, and they have written a historical medical crime novel: sort of gothic tartan noir. I'm always suspicious of novels written by more than one person, but I didn't feel that the narrative voice wavered; maybe they work well together or maybe they have a good editor. The novel is set in Edinburgh in 1847. Will Raven has just started work for Dr James Young Simpson as he begins to use early anaesthetics. Young women are beginning to turn up dead and Raven is drawn into investigating through a combination of personal connections, along with Sarah Miller, the housemaid. These two are set up as a crime fighting duo for a subsequent series of novels. You could roll your eyes at Sarah's proto-feminism if you were so inclined, but I found it fun and credible; she is frustrated by the limitations put in her and also on Dr Simpson's spinster sister in law, and she pushes at the boundaries of what she can do, both personally and professionally. Raven, for me, was less well drawn and less likeable, but I think he can develop in later books. There's a good amount of humour and a lot of grim medical detail: don't read this if you'll be distressed by the reality of childbirth in poverty stricken 19th C Edinburgh. At times, the medical detail could dominate the storytelling. The scene is set very vividly and unsentimentally. Overall, I think it is a clever departure for one of my favourite writers. (He buys his baked beans in the same place I do, so I might get to tell him!)
  18. Thanks very much everybody, just wanted to know
  19. I usually aim for around 50, think I'm about halfway there now.
  20. I don't set myself targets or have a plan, just read what takes my fancy when I can. Noticed that half way through the year I've only read 10 books which is a kind of record for me. Reading the door stopper Les Misérables took up a big chunk of my year and then there's the weather. I suffer from hayfever when the pollen count gets very high and this year so far has been horrible. When you want to read outside when the sun is shining but your eyes are sore and watering it gets a little frustrating. Having said that I've got a lot of books on the tbr pile to look forward to in the second half of the year and winter is coming
  21. My goodreads target is 60 books. I've read 37 so far, 62% of my plan.
  22. Thanks very much for this review Viccie I found it very interesting. Never heard of the Bechdel test so had to look that up and I've never heard of head hopping so had to look that up too. Love how I get to learn stuff on this board! It sounds like a good book too.
  23. Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father’s too kind-hearted to collect his debts. They face poverty, until Miryem hardens her own heart and takes up his work in their village. Her success creates rumours she can turn silver into gold, which attract the fairy king of winter himself. He sets her an impossible challenge – and if she fails, she’ll die. Yet if she triumphs, it may mean a fate worse than death. And in her desperate efforts to succeed, Miryem unwittingly spins a web that draws in the unhappy daughter of a lord. Irina’s father schemes to wed her to the tsar – he will pay any price to achieve this goal. However, the dashing tsar is not what he seems. And the secret he hides threatens to consume the lands of mortals and winter alike. Torn between deadly choices, Miryem and Irina embark on a quest that will take them to the limits of sacrifice, power and love. Loosely based on Rumplestiltskin with a hefty dose of Jewish folklaw, a powerful imagination and some very strong female characters, this is a wonderful book. It passes the Bechdel test hands down, the main characters are all strong women, three of them not two, and when they do talk about men it's not about attracting them - won't say what for risk of spoliers, and the plot twists and turns in some unexpected and satisfying directions. So there's a bit of happy-ever-afterness at the end, this is a traditional tale after all, but it's on the women's terms, not anyone else's so isn't too cloying. Theonly minor quibble I'd have is the amount of head hopping - it didn't worry me but I know that lots of people hate that, however I'd recommend this to anyone who likes fantasy.
  24. Sonnet VI Then let not winter's ragged hand deface In thee thy summer, ere thou be distill'd: Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place With beauty's treasure, ere it be self-kill'd. That use is not forbidden usury, Which happies those that pay the willing loan; That's for thyself to breed another thee, Or ten times happier, be it ten for one; Ten times thyself were happier than thou art, If ten of thine ten times refigured thee: Then what could death do, if thou shouldst depart, Leaving thee living in posterity? Be not self-will'd, for thou art much too fair To be death's conquest and make worms thine heir. William Shakespeare
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