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Project Read My Own Books: The Reviews (Part Four)

As with the first instalment of this little series, each of the books I write about will, of course, have a corresponding star rating, and will be reviewed in the order in which I read them.

31. Death by Gaslight by Michael Kurland ***
Plot: The third novel in a series which features Professor James Moriarty of Sherlock Holmes fame as super-sleuth.
Thoughts: The best so far in the series, but I am not enamoured enough with it to contemplate reading another; this is occasionally what happens when one buys sets from The Book People…

32. Under Wildwood by Colin Meloy **** 9780857863270
Plot: The second book in The Decemberist vocalist’s Wildwood series, with further adventures in the Impassable Wilderness.
Thoughts: There are some gorgeously written sections here, but as with the first book, some of the story was very drawn out, and it didn’t really go anywhere in places.

33. Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves ***
Plot: One of the most important First World War memoirs, which charts Graves’ experience as an Officer, as well as his earlier schooldays, and his later self-exile abroad.
Thoughts: This was sadly nowhere near as good as I thought it would be, but I did enjoy the school sections.

34. The Lost World and Other Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle ***
Plot: Dinosaurs, and lots of ’em.
Thoughts: I love the premise of this, but felt that the subsequent novellas were rather too repetitive of the title story.

978024195420135. House of Exile by Evelyn Juers ***
Plot: A non-fiction which deals with Heinrich Mann’s fleeing from the Nazis.
Thoughts: The historical detail here was strong, and Juers had an awful lot to work with, but it jumped around far too much, and the experience of reading it was jarring.

36. Greengates by R.C. Sherriff ****
Plot: A man retires from his job in the city, and he and his wife decide to leave their home and move to a newly-built estate.
Thoughts: Charming in places and perceptive in others, this would have been a five-star read for me if the final chapter had been omitted.

37. Passchendaele by Nigel Steel and Peter Hart ***
Plot: A far-reaching account of the Battle of Passchendaele in the First World War, based upon sources in the Imperial War Museum.
Thoughts: I thought I would be utterly captivated with this, but even with the addition of personal testimonials, I do not feel that I learnt anything.

38. Scone with the Wind by Mrs. Victoria Sponge ****
Plot: A lovely baking book, in which recipes have been adapted with literary names and twists on ingredients.
Thoughts: Easy to follow and very inventive; what I have baked so far has been delicious!

 

 

Have you read any of these books?  Are there any which you are intrigued enough about to pick up?  What do you think about the two-line format of these reviews?

Purchase from The Book Depository

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Project Read My Own Books: The Reviews (Part Three)

As with the first instalment of this little series, each of the books I write about will, of course, have a corresponding star rating, and will be reviewed in the order in which I read them.

21. A Woman’s Place by Ruth Adam ***
Plot: The social history of women between 1910 and 1975 is presented here, through such lenses as education and sex.
Thoughts: I would have found this far more compelling if I had little knowledge of the topic; consequently, I do not feel as though I learnt much at all.

22. Hitler’s Savage Canary by David Lampe ****
Plot: Charts the Danish Resistance Movement during the Second World War through a series of true stories.
Thoughts: A compelling read, filled with a wealth of fascinating formation in a strong narrative voice.

23. Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson ***** 9780007181506
Plot: A young orphaned girl is taken to live in a lighthouse with rather a mysterious man, whom she grows to love.
Thoughts: Beautiful, striking and stunning, I knew that I would love this almost from the first page.

24. The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden ***
Plot: A Scottish doctor practicing in Uganda is made the personal physician of tyrant Idi Amin.
Thoughts: I don’t usually say this, but the film is better…

25. Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel Hay ****
Plot: A woman is found, strangled with a dog lead, on the steps of Belsize Park Station in London, and it is largely up to those in the boarding house in which she lives to find out what happened.
Thoughts: Whilst this novel is well paced and written, it does not quite stand up to Hay’s wonderful Death on the Cherwell.

26. The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles **
Plot: A Victorian man falls in love with a shamed woman; usual plot hooks ensue.
Thoughts: I honestly found this a little stale, and seem to be the only person in the world who didn’t enjoy it.

978026110273627. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien (did not finish)
Plot: The account of the Elder Days, the first stage of Tolkien’s Middle Earth world.
Thoughts: A little too fantastical for my tastes.

28. The Gentlewomen by Laura Talbot ****
Plot: A fascinating fictional portrait of two self-confessed gentlewomen in service at the same grand house.
Thoughts: Well-worked conversation and realistic (if not likeable) characters made this green-spined Virago a joy to read.

29. London War Notes by Mollie Panter-Downes ****
Plot: A woman’s account of life on the Home Front during the Second World War, all with her beloved capital city as focus.
Thoughts: Far less personal and more political than I thought it would be, but it is all the more interesting for it.

30. The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman by Louis de Bernieres (did not finish)
Plot: A search for sexual fulfilment for the President of a South American country, whose economy has collapsed.
Thoughts: Not at all up to the standard of Notwithstanding or Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, and it simply did not interest me enough to complete it.

Have you read any of these books?  Are there any which you are intrigued enough about to pick up?  What do you think about the two-line format of these reviews?

Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of the series!

Purchase from The Book Depository

4

Project Read My Own Books: The Reviews (Part Two)

As with the first instalment of this little series, each of the books I write about will, of course, have a corresponding star rating, and will be reviewed in the order in which I read them.

11. Hyde Park Gate News by Virginia, Vanessa and Thoby Stephen ****
Plot: The childhood newspaper of Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, and Thoby Stephen.
Thoughts: Utterly charming and acerbic in equal measure, but the footnotes tend to be rather confusing at times.

12. My Katherine Mansfield Project by Kirsty Gunn **** 9781910749043
Plot: An extended essay in which a writer goes back to her native New Zealand town, where Katherine Mansfield was also from, and discusses her impact.
Thoughts: Exquisite writing, and a tribute that Mansfield herself would probably have been thrilled with.

13. The Bear by Claire Cameron ***
Plot: The parents of two very young children are mauled by a bear on a camping trip; said children then have to commandeer a boat to reach the mainland, without understanding a whit of what has happened.
Thoughts: Clever and interesting, with a well-developed narrative voice, but overall it was too drawn out, repetitive, and far-fetched.

14. Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks ***
Plot: A collection of essays about deafness by an incredibly revered physician.
Thoughts: The second essay was fascinating, but I did not gel well with Sacks’ writing, and I was familiar with a lot of the ideas already, from Lennard J. Davis’ Enforcing Normalcy (which, incidentally, seems to be a complete rehash of Sacks’ book).

15. Gertrude by Herman Hesse ***
Plot: Translated German novel about a composer who tragically falls in love.
Thoughts: Not immediately captivating, and it did take rather a while to go anywhere; a lack of substance, perhaps?

16. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy **** 9780060569662
Plot: Non-fiction following a woman who is diagnosed as a child with cancer of the jaw, and who charts her various – and often brutal – surgeries to rebuild her face.
Thoughts: Compulsively readable, and very honest, but after studying it in class, there are quite a few problems with it from a moralist perspective.

17. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh ***
Plot: The protagonist is kicked out of University in his final year, and finds a decent teaching position in a boarding school.
Thoughts: A little too farcical for my liking, so much so that it was difficult to empathise with any of the characters.

18. Holy Disorders by Edmund Crispin ****
Plot: A cathedral organist is murdered in Oxford, and it is up to academic sleuth Gervase Fen to solve the mystery.
Thoughts: An entertaining romp of a murder mystery, which does not quite reach the heady heights of The Moving Toyshop.

978190315568419. A Very Great Profession by Nicola Beauman ****
Plot: Beauman, the founder of Persephone Books, presents portraits of a wealth of forgotten twentieth-century women writers.
Thoughts: So inspiring that I based a whole month’s worth of blog posts around it in April!

20. On Sight and Insight by John M. Hull **
Plot: A blind man’s often peculiar insights into his life and work.
Thoughts: Quite difficult to read, and to get on board with Hull’s beliefs, many of which I found incredibly odd.

 

Have you read any of these books?  Are there any which you are intrigued enough about to pick up?  What do you think about the two-line format of these reviews?

Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of the series!

Purchase from The Book Depository

4

Project Read My Own Books: The Reviews (Part One)

I haven’t had anywhere near enough time to comprehensively review my reads, so I thought I would create a post where I blog about each work I’ve read using just two lines – one for the plot, and one for my thoughts.  Each will, of course, have a corresponding star rating, and will be reviewed in the order in which I read them.

1. Still Missing by Beth Gutcheon ***
Plot: Mother’s only son goes missing, and she refuses to give up hope for his return, as all others do.
Thoughts: There were problems with dialogue and characterisation, and it feels to me rather an odd choice for a Persephone book, but a memorable read nonetheless.

2. The Book Collector by Alice Thompson **** 9781784630430
Plot: Edwardian mystery about a newly-married woman who becomes obsessed with one of her husband’s books.
Thoughts: An utterly compelling read, which gets creepier as it goes on.

3. Love’s Work by Gillian Rose ***
Plot: Philosophical musings about an academic’s diagnosis with breast cancer, and how it affects her life.
Thoughts: The first half is entirely different to the second, in almost a jarring manner, but it is certainly an interesting illness narrative.

4. The Young Man Who Discovered the Secret of Life and Other Stories by Muriel Spark ***
Plot: A collection of very short stories in a handy foldable format.
Thoughts: Includes just the right balance of Spark’s wit and quirkiness.

97800994551585. The Atom Station by Halldor Laxness ****
Plot: Two parallel stories: America want to purchase a portion of uninhabited land in Iceland for testing, and concurrently a young girl moves to become the maid for the Icelandic Prime Minister.
Thoughts: The elements of magical realism fascinated me in this well-translated novel, and my high hopes after reading Laxness’ Fish Can Sing were reached.

6. Love, Sex, Death and Words by John Sutherland and Stephen Fender ***
Plot: One entry for every day of the year, which focuses on something which has happened in literary history, or in dated literature.
Thoughts: A very clever idea, but perhaps not executed as well as it could have been, as many of the entries were quite similar.

7. Moments of Truth by Lorna Sage ****
Plot: Presents portraits of twelve twentieth-century women writers, ranging from Djuna Barnes to Edith Wharton.
Thoughts: Compelling and beautifully written anecdotes, and I feel I learnt a lot.

8. Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller **** 9780241003947
Plot: A young girl is told that the world has ended, and is taken to live deep in the German forest with her father.
Thoughts: Evocative descriptions bring Peggy’s world – and her character – to life.

9. Until Further Notice I Am Alive by Tom Lubbock ****
Plot: An art critic is diagnosed with a Grade 4 terminal brain tumour, and charts how his speech and skills decline over time.
Thoughts: Beautifully honest and heartrending, this is an exquisite illness narrative, and the parallel to Coutts’ wonderful The Iceberg.

10. Rasputin: A Very Short Life by Frances Welch ****
Plot: This conversational biography presents a short but comprehensive life of Rasputin.
Thoughts: It does not take itself too seriously, but still manages to teach an awful lot.

 

 

Have you read any of these books?  Are there any which you are intrigued enough about to pick up?  What do you think about the two-line format of these reviews?

Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of the series!

Purchase from The Book Depository