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Vestafan tries to be systematic!

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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Jan 26, 2017, 12:06pm Top

A rather belated joining of this group, but it seems to be about right for me. I shall probably read over 75 books this year, but 100 would be rather a stretch.

So far this month I have read:

Children of War by Martin Walker
Saturday Requiem by Nicci French
We Shall Never Surrender edited by Middleboe et al.
The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall
Thirteen Guests by J Jefferson Farjeon

The Walker and French books are parts of crime series which I really enjoy. The Martin Walker book is part of the Bruno Chief of Police series which I enjoy as much for its portrayal of French rural life as for the crime elements. Which is probably a good thing as Bruno spends so much time cooking, drinking local wines, hunting, eating and getting to know an unfeasibly large number of attractive, mature, unattached women that there's not a lot of time left for investigation.

The Nicci French is the sixth in a planned seven book series about psychotherapist Frieda Klein and her involvement in one long running case and individual cases in each book. I find this series gripping and compulsive and look forward to the final book which is due to be published later this year.

We Shall Never Surrender is a selection of World War II diaries, giving an insight into life on both home and military fronts. This is part of my project to read as any of my collection of WWII fiction and non-fiction during the year as possible. I like the contemporary nature of diaries with the writers genuinely not knowing how the conflict would conclude.

The Book of Summers is my reading group book for this month. I found it quite disappointing and do not think I would have persisted without the commitment to the group.

Thirteen Guests is one of another of my projects for the year. I have accumulated a collection of British Library Crime Classics, which I would like to read this year. I enjoyed the vintage feel of this.

Jan 26, 2017, 12:35pm Top

Welcome back! Looks like a good start to the year.

Jan 29, 2017, 6:37am Top

Thanks for the welcome. This will be the first full year I've belonged to my book group so that will change my reading habits a bit, I think. For instance, next month's read is Game of Thrones, which at 780pp. might curtail my other reading somewhat!

I've finished one more book since my last post - The Hidden Child by Camilla Lackberg. Coincidentally, this fits in with my WWII theme for the year as it is partly set in Scandinavia during the war years. This is the fifth in a series that combines somewhat gory cases with the domestic lives of the main characters.

Feb 23, 2017, 11:59am Top

As I predicted last month, my reading group book Game of Thrones has occupied much of the month. Apart from that I've read Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty, The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and Night School by Lee Child.

Game of Thrones was very enjoyable, particularly as I've already seen the series and wondered if that would ruin the suspense factor. Descriptively very vivid, but bad characters extremely one-dimensional.

I read Apple Tree Yard with the aim of watching the TV series afterwards. In fact, I found I didn't particularly warm to any of the characters, so gave the series a miss.

The Couple Next Door was gripping, but once again, there were no sympathetic characters.

Night School was entertaining enough, but I think the author is running out of plots.

Mar 1, 2017, 11:45am Top

Two more read before the end of February - The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny and Murder of a Lady by Anthony Wynne.

The Louise Penny is one of her Inspector Gamache series. I enjoyed it, but did find myself muttering 'get on with it' under my breath occasionally.

The Anthony Wynne is one the British Library Crime Classics series, a 'locked room mystery' which I really enjoyed even though occasionally it showed its age (written in the early 1930s) in unintentionally amusing ways.

Apr 1, 2017, 9:31am Top

My March reading was:

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
The Z Murders by J Jefferson Farjeon
The Drowning by Camilla Lackberg
The Lost Boy by Camilla Lackberg
The Secret Life of Bletchley Park by Sinclair McKay
The Dying Season by Martin Walker

You Will Know Me is a crime novel set in the overheated world of competitive female gymnastics in the USA. It was certainly gripping, but I found myself feeling relieved that I was never in the position of having to devote all my time to moving in these obsessed, bitchy circles. Surely not all parents of sporting children are as bad as this!

The Z Murders is another vintage crime novel in the British Library Crime Classics series, enjoyable as a period piece, although even more contrived than most of this style of story.

The Drowning and The Lost Boy are both enjoyable reads in the Erica Falck series, with its distinctive combination of homely detail and gruesomeness.

The Secret Life of Bletchley Park was my reading group book for March. This is a fascinating, thought provoking account of code breaking work during WWII.

The Dying Season is another in the Bruno Courreges series. This is always an enjoyable series with the portrayal of rural French life as important as the crime element.

May 1, 2017, 8:05am Top

I've just been looking at what I've read during April:

The Cinderella Killer by Simon Brett
A Decent Interval also by Simon Brett
House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
Dead Tomorrow by Peter James
The Methods of Sergeant Cluff by Gil North
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Fatal Pursuit by Martin Walker

In uncertain times, the Charles Paris novels of Simon Brett are a comforting retreat. It's impossible now to read them without imagining Bill Nighy who plays the role on the radio series, but that's not such a bad thing. House of Silk was my book group read for the month - a second read for me which I found entertaining without being outstanding. The Peter James book is one of his Roy Grace series set in Brighton - another reliably entertaining series. The Methods of Sergeant Cluff surprised me - it was a Simenon-style crime novel set in Yorkshire - quite unexpected. Men Explain Things to Me was a stimulating set of essays on feminist and political themes. Missing, Presumed was a very good crime novel by an author new to me. The Elizabeth Strout was a short, rather melancholy novel about family relationships, particularly the mother-daughter bond, which I found very thought provoking. With Fatal Pursuit I am now up to date with Martin Walker's Bruno series and am looking forward to a holiday in the area later this year.

Jun 4, 2017, 11:24am Top

My May reads were:

The Doll's House by M J Arlidge
The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude
Jeremy Hutchinson's Case Histories by Thomas Grant
The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Tastes Like Fear by Sarah Hilary
Wolf of the Plains by Conn Iggulden
This Boy by Alan Johnson
Buried Angels by Camilla Lackberg
The Hanging Club by Tony Parsons

Almost all of these are crime novels apart from Jeremy Hutchinson's Case Histories, a social history of Britain in the 1950s and 1960s told through accounts of cases defended by Jeremy Hutchinson such as the Lady Chatterley trial and the trial of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. Wolf of the Plains is the first of a series about the life of Genghis Khan which I read for my book group. While I like reading things I wouldn't have picked up myself, this one wasn't gripping enough to draw me into reading further volumes of the tale. This Boy is the first volume of the memoirs of the British politician Alan Johnson; rarely for present day MPs he comes from a very deprived background in which he was brought up by his mother and amazing sister.

Jul 1, 2017, 12:51pm Top

My June reads were:

Liar Liar by M J Arlidge - the fourth in the series of Helen Grace novels which have compulsively short chapters, but I think an undercurrent of nastiness.
Diary of a Wartime Affair by Doreen Bates - this is a fascinating book, the diary of a single woman who, in the 1930s-1940s has an affair with a married man, and despite the fact that he won't leave his wife, decides to have a child as a single woman. This is franker than you would expect for the period it was written in, and you can't help but admire the diarist's single-mindedness and determination.
The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly - the latest in his Harry Bosch series and the best for a while I think.
Post-Truth by Matthew D'Ancona - a short work discussing the reasons why 'fake news' has so much currency and how those concerned can fight against it.
A Stricken Field by Martha Gellhorn - a novel set just before the outbreak of WWII in what was then Czechoslovakia, which concerns refugees. Sadly political attitudes don't seem to have changed since then.
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver - this was my reading group book for June and I'm very pleased to have read it. The author takes the theme of an unexpected migration of Monarch butterflies to Tennessee and uses it to examine climate change, family and religious ties, women's lives and opportunities and life in a neglected rural area. All the characters are treated with compassion and generosity, and although there is some optimism in the conclusion, the problem of global warming is not glossed over.
The Ice Child by Camilla Lackberg - the most recent in the Erica Falck and Patrik Hedstrom series - well up to standard.
Sidney Chambers and the Dangers of Temptation by James Runcie - now confusingly different from the TV series (but there's never been a cleric as ripped as James Norton, surely?), but still looking at ideals and real life intruding upon them in 1960s Cambridgeshire.

Aug 4, 2017, 12:15pm Top

Life is pretty frantic at the moment and I'm only just getting round to listing what I read last month:

Arlidge, M J - Little Boy Blue - warning: the Empire Strikes Back in crime novel form in that it ends half way through the story! Very frustrating.
Barclay, L - No Safe House - my reading group read for July; an enjoyable but not particularly memorable crime novel
Bennett, A - Untold Stories - an enjoyable and worthwhile read - it consists of edited diaries and some essays and articles by the author. He writes clearly and accessibly, but doesn't spare himself or his actions which I admire
Crofts, F W - The 12.30 from Croydon - a golden age crime novel which opens with the death of the victim, then goes back in time to examine the motivation and actions of the murderer
Hay, M D -Death on the Cherwell - another vintage crime story set in a women's college in Oxford. This was enjoyable but seemed rather like a school story set in a university

Aug 4, 2017, 5:25pm Top

Continued from my previous post -

I also read : Robinson, P - When the Music's Over - another in the Banks series
Runcie, J - Sidney Chambers and the Persistence of Love - again, the latest in a series that is getting better with each book and is further evidence that the worst role to have in a long running crime series is friend or family member of the main character
Smith, P - M Train - the second book of memoirs of Patti Smith. I'm really struck by her singular take on life and the artist's path
Vance, J D - Hillbilly Elegy - a fascinating memoir with a little social analysis attached

Sep 2, 2017, 7:55am Top

August has been one of those months - you know, when you can't settle to any particular book - there's one or two every year. My modest reading for last month is -

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook - a compelling novel set in Germany post WWII, looking at a man who shares his requisitioned house with its German owner and the ramifications of this decision.
Hide and Seek by M J Arlidge - another in the Helen Grace series - compulsive if nasty and I am racing towards the latest book to see how situations are resolved.
Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion - a collection of essays written in the 1960s and 70s, fascinating to read with retrospective insight.
The No Spend Year by Michelle McGagh - an account of a year spent without unnecessary spending. Some of it is mildly interesting but there are unexpected plugs for types of investments which don't seem to fit with the subject matter of the book and perhaps fits more with the author's financial background.
Guiltless by Viveca Sten - another in a Scandi crime series I enjoy.

Oct 16, 2017, 10:40am Top

For assorted reasons, I'm only now getting round to listing what I read in September:

Die of Shame by Mark Billingham
The Lake District Murder by John Bude
Sunday Morning Coming Down by Nicci French
In the Woods by Tana French
Sister by Rosamund Lupton
Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith
Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin

This is very crime-heavy - I think for whatever reason I didn't feel up to anything more demanding. I had been looking forward to the Nicci French book anticipating the conclusion to the Frieda Klein series, but having raced through Sunday Morning Coming Down I felt quite frustrated. If this is the final one I feel that an anticipated confrontation did not take place, and if another book is planned I can't see the reasoning behind giving titles including days of the week. I await more information!

Nov 2, 2017, 11:42am Top

I've only just got round to listing what I read in October - we've been away on holiday, the house is in uproar because we're about to have new flooring put down and we're about to go away for another week (masterpiece of planning!). Anyway, the reading was:

Murder Ring by Leigh Russell
Deadly Alibi by Leigh Russell
Killer Plan by Leigh Russell
Jacob's Room Is Full of Books by Susan Hill
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid
The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz
Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton
He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly
Play All by Clive James

Dec 3, 2017, 1:01pm Top

My November reading was:

Love Me Not by M J Arlidge
Tell No Tales by Eva Dolan
The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths
A Delicate Truth by John Le Carre
The Return by Hakan Nesser
Autumn by Ali Smith
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
The Angry Chef by Anthony Warner

Jan 2, 7:30am Top

My reading for the last month of 2017 was:

The Notting Hill Mystery by Charles Warren Adams
Mystery in White by J Jefferson Farjeon
An English Murder by Cyril Hare
Ulysses by James Joyce
Heartbreak Hotel by Jonathan Kellerman
Insidious Intent by Val McDermid
Citadel by Kate Mosse
The Templar's Last Secret by Martin Walker

Yes, tucked in among the vintage crime and infernally lengthy Citadel for my reading group I finally finished James Joyce's 700 page epic! Although I don't think I grasped the half of it, I did find some of the writing effective and parts quite funny. To get the most out of it, I think rereading is required, but maybe not in 2018!

Jan 2, 7:41am Top

I see that this year I read 92 books - on the whole I think 100 is too large a number to aim for. My favourites of the year Have been Untold Stories by Alan Bennett, Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver, and the essays by Rebecca Solnit and Joan Didion.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2017

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