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SandDune Reads in 2017 - Part 2

This is a continuation of the topic SandDune Reads in 2017 - Part 1.

This topic was continued by SandDune Reads in 2017 - Part 3.

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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Edited: Feb 3, 2017, 4:27pm Top

Welcome everyone to my second thread of 2017, and to my sixth year doing the 75 Book Challenge. I'm a 55 year old accountant and, after spending most of my career in the City of London, I'm now the Finance Manager of a local charity which provides support to children and adults with learning disabilities. I've recently returned to full-time work after a number of years working part-time, so unfortunately I don't have as much time for LT as I used to. I live about thirty miles north of London with my husband (aka Mr SandDune), who is Assistant Principal at a local secondary school, and our 16 year old son (aka J), who attends the same school. There's also our 4 year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Daisy, and 13 year old cat Sweep, who have an uneasy relationship in which Sweep permanently has the upper hand. I'm originally from Wales rather than England, so I do have an interest in all things Welsh (although I can't speak the language - at least only a few words) and I tend to get huffy if people call me English rather than Welsh! I read mainly literary fiction, classics, science-fiction and fantasy and tend to avoid horror, detective fiction, chick-lit and thrillers. I belong to a RL book group which has been going since 2000, and I also try to keep up with some of the challenges going on on LT, with varying degrees of success.

All my family are avid readers, although Mr SandDune doesn't get time to read as much as he would like. J has inherited a love of reading science-fiction and fantasy from me and a love of reading history from Mr SandDune so our books are increasingly shared. I read hardbacks, paperbacks, on kindle and listen to audio books particularly when driving or walking the dog. Apart from reading I love travelling, eating out, and going to the theatre. Over the last few years I've been doing a part-time English Literature degree with the Open University, and this year I'm on my final course: English Literature from Shakespeare to Austen.

For this year's illustrations I've gone back to a general theme of dogs in art. This month's picture is by Frans Floris the Elder (1519/20 - 1570) 'Portrait of an Elderly Lady'.

Edited: Feb 19, 2017, 3:15pm Top

Reading Plans for 2017:

Real Life Reading Group:
I usually do read most of my RL Reading Group choices unless I can't make the meeting date.

February: My Struggle: A Death in the FamilyKarl Ove Knausgard
March: All of these People: A Memoir Fergal Keane
April: The House by the Dvina Eugenie Fraser
May: The Miniaturist Jessie Burton
June: Nutshell: A Novel Ian McEwan
August: no meeting

Open University Reading:
These are for my OU course English Literature from Shakespeare to Austen. There's some poetry as well but that's provided in the course text books:

Persausion Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen
Gullivers Travels Jonathan Swift
The Confessions Jean-Jaques Rousseau
Tartuffe Moliere
TheTurkish Embassy Letters Lady Montagu Wortley
The Country Wife William Wycherley
Arabian Nights Entertainments

British Author Challenge:
Last year I managed four books out of a total of twelve. I hope to do better this year.

January: Elizabeth Bowen The Last September
February: Mary Stewart The Crystal Cave
March: Nell Dunn Up the Junction
April: Bruce Chatwin
May: Maria Edgeworth Castle Rackrent
June: Georgette Heyer
July: D.E. Stevenson
August: Winifred Holtby
September: Cynan Jones The Dig
October: Jo Walton
November: Carol Ann Duffy
December: Neil Gaiman

Booker Prize Shortlist:
My RL Reading Group is meeting to discuss the 2016 Booker Shortlist in March. I've already read Hot Milk so five more to go:

The Sellout Paul Beatty
All that Man Is David Szalay
Eileen Ottessa Moshfegh
Do not Say We Have Nothing Madeleine Thien
His Bloody Project Graeme MacRae Burnet

ANZAC Bingo 2x12
I doubt very much if I'll get around to reading more than a handful of these but I've enjoyed planning out titles to meet the challenge:

1: Read a book about conflict or war The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan
2: Read a book with more than 500 pgs The Luminaries Eleanor Catton
3: Read an Aussie crime novel True History of the Kelly Gang Peter Carey
4: Read a book using word play in the title Tirra Lirra by the River Jessica Anderson
5: Read a book about exploration or a journey The Hut Builder Laurence Fearnley
6: Read a book that's been longlisted for the International DUBLIN Literary Award The World Without Us Mireille Juchau
7: Read a book that's part of a series Plumb Maurice Gee
8: Read a memoir/biography (can be fiction) To the Island Janet Frame
9: Read a book written under a pen name The Getting of Wisdom Henry Handel Richardson
10: Read a book with a musical plot The Chimes Anna Smaill
11: Read a book with water featured in title/cover Mister Pip Loyd Jones
12: Read a book with an immigrant protagonist The Secret River Kate Grenville

Edited: Feb 3, 2017, 4:38pm Top

Books Bought in 2017:
1. His Bloody Project Graeme Macrae Burnet (Audible £3.49)
2. Eileen Ottessa Moshfegh (Audible £3.99)
3. Do not Say We Have Nothing Madeleine Thien (Audible £4.49)
4. Talking to the Dead Harry Bingham (Audible 1 credit)

Edited: Feb 3, 2017, 4:14pm Top

Happy new thread, Rhian. Glad to hear that he is a good eater. Wishing you a lovely weekend.

Feb 3, 2017, 4:54pm Top

Happy New Thread, Rhian. You've gotten a good start to your year, and have some great reading planned. Good luck!

Edited: Feb 3, 2017, 4:55pm Top

Hi Rhian and happy new thread. That is a very interesting picture in your thread topper!

Feb 3, 2017, 5:18pm Top

Oooh, shiny and new!

Have a great weekend, Rhian.

Feb 3, 2017, 5:26pm Top

I'm so glad he was a good eater. I bet it made it much easier on you. How was he otherwise?

Feb 3, 2017, 6:15pm Top

Hi Rhian - wishing you a happy weekend with lots of reading time.

Feb 3, 2017, 7:39pm Top

Happy new thread, Rhian! Wishing for you a weekend filled with fabulous!

Feb 4, 2017, 6:46am Top

Happy new thread, Rhian!
Looks like a kind of sighthound in the topper, a small Deerhound?

Feb 4, 2017, 7:59am Top

happy new thread!

Feb 4, 2017, 11:07am Top

Happy New Thread, Rhian!

I'm another fan of Gilead, and Wild: From Lost to Found. And I'm glad you had a good time with Talking to the Dead!

Feb 4, 2017, 12:39pm Top

Happy new thread, Rhian!

Feb 4, 2017, 2:03pm Top

happy new thread! I hope your weekend is relaxing and spring-like.

Feb 4, 2017, 3:07pm Top

Happy new thread as well :)

Edited: Feb 4, 2017, 4:41pm Top

>6 Ameise1: >10 Morphidae: How was he otherwise? He was a nice boy: quite polite and helpful, and his English was pretty good. Apparently he was nervous about what his English would be like as he hadn't been to the UK before and his English is apparently much worse than his French! His French must be pretty good is all I can say. I'm fairly confident that J will have a more varied diet than last time he went to Germany. He seems to be looking forward to the trip, but it will be strange to have the house to ourselves for a week.

>13 FAMeulstee: I think it is some sort of deerhound or wolfhound. I liked the picture as at that period you usually see lapdogs as pets and bigger dogs doing useful things, but that is clearly a much loved pet! I'm quite fascinated with deerhounds. I was sitting in the vets one day when a woman bought a Scottish deerhound puppy in. I didn't realise it was a puppy at first, as it was so big, but it struck me how very quiet it was. And a man in the next door office has one which he frequently takes to work with him, and that seems exactly the same. Very calm, very quiet.

>7 BLBera: >8 karenmarie: >9 katiekrug: >11 avatiakh: >12 Crazymamie: >14 ChelleBearss: >15 jnwelch: >16 scaifea: >17 nittnut: >18 Kassilem:
Hi Everyone! Thanks for dropping by.

Feb 4, 2017, 4:34pm Top

Happy New Thread, Rhian!

Feb 4, 2017, 4:47pm Top

>19 SandDune: What was his diet last time?

Feb 4, 2017, 4:57pm Top

>19 SandDune: I had a deerhound, named Parcival, for a few weeks when I was in college. I got him from a breeder, who wanted to replace the dog. Sadly my Belgian Shepherd got very jealous and protective, so I had to return the deerhound :-(
Parcival was big, calm and sooo sweet! He needed one long run a day to be happy all day, great dog!

Feb 4, 2017, 5:12pm Top

>21 Morphidae: Bread, salami, cheese, jam (aka jelly for US readers) for breakfast, lunch and dinner from what I can make out!

Feb 4, 2017, 7:04pm Top

>23 SandDune: Might I say, "Ew?"

Feb 7, 2017, 2:45am Top

We have my book club here tonight My Struggle: A Death in the Family. Mr SandDune though, has gone off to Leeds with J and isn't expected back until 9.00pm.

Feb 7, 2017, 2:51am Top

Happy new thread, Rhian. It is a shame that I couldn't have met up with Mr SandDune today.

Feb 7, 2017, 5:38pm Top

>26 PaulCranswick: It was a work trip. J was attending an Extended Essay conference at Leeds University - at one point it looked like it was not going ahead as there was no one to drive the minibus so Mr SandDune stepped in. They left at 6.15am this morning and got back home at 10.00pm, so it was a long day but it sounds like it was very useful.

Feb 8, 2017, 12:40am Top

I like your dogs in art theme. I do like wolfhounds. After reading The Poet's Dog, I wanted one.

Edited: Feb 8, 2017, 7:04am Top

>27 SandDune: Kudos to MrSandDune for stepping up to save the day!

Like Ellen, I love the dogs-in-art theme. I miss having a dog. How's Daisy doing these days (hint hint). :-)

Feb 8, 2017, 9:48am Top

I hope your book club meeting went well. How many are in your group?

Feb 8, 2017, 10:45am Top

Great new thread, Rhian, love the topper.

Feb 8, 2017, 11:15am Top

>29 rosalita: Yeah, speaking of dogs in art. How about a photo portrait of Daisy?

Feb 9, 2017, 10:14am Top

I love the portrait at the top.

Feb 9, 2017, 12:03pm Top

I'm stopping by to say hello. I hope to visit here more often this year. All the best for a 2017 filled with wonderful books!

Feb 9, 2017, 12:19pm Top

Happy new thread! And Hooray!!! for exchange programs! The more we come to know and experience those who are different, the better! Sounds like a great kid.

Ditto the request for a Daisy pic @>29 rosalita: >32 Morphidae:

Feb 10, 2017, 6:26am Top

Stopping by to say hi! Happy New Thread. :D

Feb 10, 2017, 3:01pm Top

>28 EBT1002: >29 rosalita: >30 karenmarie: >31 lit_chick: >32 Morphidae: >33 sibyx: >34 Whisper1: >35 michigantrumpet: >36 ASplashOfMusic09: Hi everyone, sorry for taking so long to get back to you. I don't have any nice new photos of Daisy at the moment, I'm afraid. What I have on my phone at the moment are lots of pictures of a broken bathroom, which isn't half so interesting. For some reason I've acquired the job at work of project managing what started out as a leak in one of our properties at work, but has now turned into some major plumbing renovations. I'm not sure this is really my forte!

I'd had some other frustrations as well. Yesterday I was on the phone for three-quarters of an hour to the Carphone Warehouse with them insisting that the direct debit on my phone insurance hadn't been paid, and me insisting that this was because they hadn't actually claimed the money. After half an hour the penny dropped. The direct debit for the phone insurance has come out of my sole current account for the last eighteen months, but when we'd bought J a new phone for Christmas I'd given the Carphone Warehouse details of my joint current account for payment of that contract, and for some reason they'd changed their records of the original direct debit to come out of the same bank account. But of course my bank had no direct debit authority to debit that account so they wouldn't pay it. All sorted out in the end and I got one month's payment credited for the hassle.

And then yesterday I went for my dental appointment for my filling. That had been cancelled once because of the dentist's illness, and I'd written down 9.45 as new time. When I got there they said it was 9.15 and I'd missed the appointment. As I walked there from the car park they'd sent me a text reminder for my general check-up next Monday which I thought was strange as they hadn't sent me a reminder for the one yesterday. When I asked why they hadn't texted a reminder for yesterday's appointment, they said they hadn't got my number, which made no sense as they had just texted me. And then they also told me I owed £53.90 for my last appointment. I said that the dentist had said that that appointment would be free as she was just fixing something under guarantee as the previous filling had broken after a week. They said that I had had my first appointment privately and then transferred to the NHS so the private guarantee didn't apply and I had to pay the NHS charge. I said I wasn't paying it and they had no business trying to charge me for something that they'd previously assured me would be free. So eventually the dentist said that they would waive the charge if that "was what I believed had been said". So I got in a huff and saying it wasn't what "I believed" had been said, it was what had actually been said, and ended up cancelling all my future appointments. So back to the old dentist it is!

Feb 10, 2017, 3:11pm Top

Nice things going on as well as it was J's seventeenth birthday yesterday. We had a fairly quiet celebration as J has gone to Germany today for his work experience, but we went out for a meal, which was nice. His main present will be driving lessons but he was pleased with Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities by Bettany Hughes which we got him to open on the day. True to form he's only gone away for a week but he's taken five books.

Feb 10, 2017, 6:41pm Top

>37 SandDune: *shudder* You should get an award for just dealing with them.

Feb 11, 2017, 2:57am Top

>37 SandDune: Oh dear, what a day. There can only be better times heading your way, Rhian. Belated hapoy birthday to J. My younger daughter had her 18th at the same date.
Happy relaxed weekend, Rhian.

Feb 11, 2017, 11:20am Top

Grr, sounds like a very frustrating day on the telephone with one thing or another, Rhian. I've had those days, too ... ready to tear my hair out by the time all is said and done. Here's to a MUCH quieter weekend.

Feb 11, 2017, 11:28am Top

Hi Rhian - Good call on changing dentists. Life is too short.

Happy birthday to J. He sounds like a remarkable young man. Good job.

Feb 12, 2017, 9:35am Top

Oh dear, what a frustrating time for you! I'd have cancelled everything with the dentist as well, sometimes things are just not worth the hassle. I hope this week turns out better and less stressful than the last.

Feb 12, 2017, 2:08pm Top

We've had a couple of phone calls from J. He seems to be having a good time. Food seems to be a step up from his last exchange in Germany apart from an unfortunate experience with salmon on his first night (salmon is the one thing that he really does not like). Today they are having a trip to Cologne.

>39 karenmarie: >40 Ameise1: >41 lit_chick: >42 BLBera: >43 lunacat: I've been having equally frustrating conversations at work with the various benefits agencies on behalf of some of the people we support. I'd sent five separate letters to one agency about five different people (I decided to post them separately as I thought they had more chance of being individually dealt with) and the agency concerned seems to have lost ALL of them!

Feb 12, 2017, 2:30pm Top

I *LOVE* that J. took FIVE books with him for his week-long trip to Germany. A boy after my own heart! You clearly raised him right!

Happy Sunday. Hope you have a little more time to relax before the week starts again!

Edited: Feb 13, 2017, 4:56pm Top

7. All That Man Is: A Novel David Szalzay***

Well the first thing to say about this is despite the title this is not a novel, in fact I would even argue about calling it a set of linked short stories, the linking between the nine short stories that make up this collection bring mostly non-existent. The second thing to say this that if this is all that man is then it doesn't say a lot for 50% of the human race: the men that are at the heart of these stories are almost without exception a very shallow collection:

* April: Two seventeen year olds inter-rail through Europe prior to their A levels and a university career at Oxford.
* May: A lack-lustre young Frenchman is seduced by an extremely overweight mother and daughter on holiday in Cyprus.
* June: A part-time Hungarian fitness coach provides the security for a dubious trip to London.
* July: A Belgian academic travels to Poland to deliver a car to his girlfriend's father.
* August: A Danish journalist pursues a politician to Spain to get the story that will ruin his career.
* September: A British estate agent considers his career options while trying to sell holiday apartments in the French Alps.
* October: A semi-retired Scot returns from his mother's funeral to confront the realities of his life in Croatia.
* November: A Russian Oligarch contemplates the ruin of his fortune from his multi-million pound super yacht in the Mediterranean.
* A retired British diplomat looks back on his life from his retirement home in Italy.

This is a (pre-Brexit) Europe where people travel all the time (mainly via Ryanair from Stansted). As each month advances, so does the stage of life which is under consideration. Some stories have more of a ring of truth than others. I'm pretty sure that David Szalay doesn't have any seventeen year olds of his own about to do A levels, for instance: weeks spent inter-railing in the Easter holidays seems a sure fire way to lose any prospective Oxford place to me. Some of the stories certainly work well, but overall I'm not sure it adds up to any very meaningful whole.

Edited: Feb 13, 2017, 5:04pm Top

8. Just William Richmal Crompton *****

After a week in which I was getting despondent about Brexit and Trump and everything else that is going on in the world I wanted something cheerful to read, and it suddenly occurred to me to read Just William (or rather to listen to Martin Jarvis's wonderful narration on audio). I hadn't listened to this since J was about six years old when Mr SandDune had to pull the car over and stop driving because it really wasn't safe for him to continue while laughing so much. And it had the desired effect this time too - this is one of the very few books that will make me laugh out loud!

For those that aren't familiar with the book, this is a series of stories about the incorrigible William Brown, an eleven year old schoolboy in nineteen twenties Britain, whose behaviour, scruffiness and sheer eloquence are a huge trial to his long suffering and very respectable middle-class family. While the stories themselves are very funny, what makes me love this book is the faintly subversive undertones. William is frequently rewarded for doing some pretty dreadful things, because what the adults say they want and what they actually want are two very different things. The language is certainly difficult at times for a children's book, but I'm pretty sure that most children in the 1920's (Just William was published in 1922) wouldn't have understood all the vocabulary either. But I do hate the modern idea that children have to read books with such simplified language. (When we were looking at primary schools for J I was completely put me off one particular school when they explained that their policy in children choosing a reading book was that they should read the first page and if they came across three words they didn't know on that page they should put it back and choose something easier instead.)

Here is a piece of the first story, recounting the plot of a silent movie that William has just seen at the cinema:

'Lastly came the pathetic story of a drunkard's downward path. He began as a wild young man in evening clothes drinking intoxicants and playing cards, he ended as a wild old man in rags still drinking intoxicants and playing cards. He had a small child with a pious and superior expression, who spent her time weeping over him and exhorting him to a better life, till in a moment of justifiable exasperation, he threw a beer bottle at her head. He then bedewed her bed in hospital with penitent tears, tore out his hair, flung up his arms towards Heaven, beat his waistcoat, and clasped her to his breast, so that it was not to be wondered at that, after all that excitement, the child had a relapse and with the words 'Goodbye, Father. Do not think of what you have done. I forgive you' passed peacefully away.'

There's just something very funny about that beer bottle: it never pays to be pious in Just William.

Feb 12, 2017, 4:30pm Top

>45 michigantrumpet: J is the type who will take time to choose a book to take with him on the car journey into town, a journey that takes less than five minutes door to door. I don't think I can remember him going a day without reading something, usually lots of something.

Feb 12, 2017, 4:47pm Top

>46 SandDune: hmm, you are about the third person that has been disappointed in this one Rhian. I do have it on Kindle, but I hate novels that aren't novels. It's the one predictable thing I want from my reading. It should be what it says on the tin. For example Tolstoy never said War and Peace was a novel, and I could live with that. It isn't. It's an amalgamation of fiction and historical disquisition.

Feb 12, 2017, 5:09pm Top

>37 SandDune: Oh, dear. Having to deal with both the telephone company and the dentist is enough to try anyone's patience! I'd say you made a good call on giving the dentist the heave-ho; they sound a bit shifty or at the least careless, with such a slapdash approach to both billing and reminding patients of their appointments.

>47 SandDune: I can't tell you how happy I am that you reviewed this! I have read numerous British books that make passing reference to the "Just William" stories but I've never quite known what they meant. At last I will have the context for those references. It sounds like the sort of book I would have loved as a kid, too.

Feb 12, 2017, 5:29pm Top

>50 rosalita: There are numerous books in the series after this one, and several TV adaptations as well. In my opinion the audio version narrated by Martin Jarvis is pretty nigh perfect. I remember my father saying that he had loved Just William as a child (which would have been only a few years after the publication of the earliest books - my father was born in 1920) and J still found them very funny eighty years later.

Feb 12, 2017, 5:30pm Top

>48 SandDune: A boy after my own heart...

Feb 13, 2017, 10:48am Top

What a Friday you had! Good for you for persisting with the Carphone Warehouse and the dentist! I'm kind of glad you are going back to the former dentist if only because I wouldn't want you letting someone dig around in your mouth whom you didn't trust.

>46 SandDune: Thanks for that excellent review. It sounds like a book I would hate. I can rule at least that one off the infinite wish list.

Feb 13, 2017, 10:55am Top

Just passing through, groaning over Carphone and dentist, and hoping you had a relaxing weekend.

Feb 13, 2017, 2:22pm Top

>49 Caroline_McElwee: I don't read a lot of short stories to be honest, although sometimes I find some that really work for me.

>52 Morphidae: It would be too easy just to take his kindle of course! He has to take all the papaerbacks.

>53 EBT1002: I wasn't altogether happy with my previous dentist either, which was why I was thinking about changing, and this one had been recommended... I used to have a lovely dentist but he changed practices and is now working in a town that's half an hour away. If I wasn't working full-time I'd consider following him to his new practice but it just wouldn't work logistically.

>54 nittnut: The weekend was fairly relaxing, but quiet without J. Saturday myself and Mr SandDune went to a lunch at a local rugby club where one of the supporters of the charity where I work had arranged for us to do a collection at half time. And then we came home and watched more rugby with England unfortunately beating Wales 21-16: very annoying as Wales had been winning until five minutes before the end.

Feb 13, 2017, 2:34pm Top

>55 SandDune: Ugh. Sounds a little like our Super Bowl. It's awful when you think you've got the win and then you don't.

Feb 13, 2017, 2:43pm Top

>48 SandDune: and >52 Morphidae: A boy after all our hearts!

Edited: Feb 13, 2017, 5:04pm Top

9. My Struggle: A Death in the Family Karl Ove Knausgaard ****

Apparently this is a controversial book, which I had not appreciated until after I chose it for my RL Book Club. The title "My Struggle" echoes Hitler's Mein Kampf a fact that completely passed me by, as firstly, I have never studied any German, and secondly I had never heard Hitler's book being referred to by its English title. In its original Norwegian the connection is obvious. To be honest though, the title seems appropriate: certainly Knausgaard's early upbringing seemed enough to cause anyone's life to be more of a struggle than was necessary. Controversy has also been caused by the warts and all approach that Knausgaard takes to exposing the inner workings of his family, which exposes all the somewhat sordid details of his father's descent into the alcoholism that eventually killed him. Family gatherings must be difficult, if not non-existent, although to be fair Knausgaard is equally as scathing about his own shortcomings as those of his relatives.

So in the first part of the book the adult Knausgaard, at the time of his father's death, looks back on his childhood with his emotionally distant father, and loving but frequently absent mother. In its second half the book returns to the few days between the father's death and the funeral, as Knausgaard and his brother attempt to deal with the squalour and filth that their father has left behind in their grandmother's house. This isn't the type of autobiography where the author succinctly summarises the key moments of their life: pages and pages are spent at times detailing some minor event. And yet overall, I think it's the detail that draws the reader in, that makes Knausgaard's family so very real. There are periodic philosophical musings on various points, some of which are fascinating, others less so. Overall, I'm not sure I can see in this book the masterpiece that many other people can, but certainly it's well worth reading and I'll be following it up with the next in the series in the not too distant future.

Edited: Feb 13, 2017, 5:04pm Top

10. The Crystal Cave Mary Stewart ***

The Arthurian legend told from the point of view of Merlin, with this first book in the series taking the legend as far as the conception of Arthur. Retellings of the Arthurian legend seem to fall into two main camps: ones that try to set the events into some historical concept of post-Roman but pre-Saxon Britain, and those that set the legend in some mythical (and magical) time-period that bears very little resemblance to any actual history. Mary Stewart's book follows the first course, and at first is quite successful. As king of a minor South Wales kingdom, for instance, Merlin's grandfather has his palace in the decaying remains of a once splendid Roman villa. But as the book progressed I felt I believed less and less in this Romano-British world that was being presented to me. I wanted it to seem more Celtic somehow - I was going to say Welsh, but I don't think the concept of Wales would really have existed then. Wales was just the bit left over when the Saxons had finished invading everywhere else. If we're going to have the quasi-historical approach then I think I wanted a little more realism, certainly more mud, and a lot of rain (it is largely set in Wales after all). But I did feel myself yearning for a rather more traditional Merlin who could actually do some magic on demand, rather than the more prosaic character that is presented here.

So, an OK read. It wasn't bad, but it just didn't tie into my idea of the Arthurian legend.

Feb 14, 2017, 11:03am Top

Hi Rhian!

After a week in which I was getting despondent about Brexit and Trump and everything else that is going on in the world I wanted something cheerful to read,

I know the feeling. I should try to find something to lighten the mood, but right now I'm in the year-long Bible read and we're in the Angry God portion of the OT and I'm the leader of the group read of Bleak House by Charles Dickens. No joy in either - although I'm enjoying BH it's not very lighthearted. And, stupe that I am, for my 'free' reading I've chosen My Dark Places by James Ellroy about the murder of his mother. Maybe I need to pull out some Calvin & Hobbes, just to get the laughter going again.

I've never read the Stewart Arthurian legend books, but have enjoyed her other books over the years.

Feb 14, 2017, 1:34pm Top

>60 karenmarie: Your Reading certainly doesn't sound cheerful either!

I think the problem with Arthurian legend books is that I've got several quite preconceived notions about how it ought to be dealt with, and it takes a very good book indeed to get around that!

Feb 14, 2017, 2:09pm Top

>58 SandDune: Rhian, I was having a conversation with a male friend about whether the series attracts more male readers, he thought it might, but felt women would enjoy it, if not necessarily rave as much, and from the few comments I've read by female readers, that might be true. I do have the first volume in the tbr mountain.

Feb 14, 2017, 5:31pm Top

>62 Caroline_McElwee: It was my choice for my RL book club. There were five people apart from me, all women. Two hated it, and had stopped reading half way through. The other three thought it was pretty good and thought they would go on to reading the next book in the series but didn't rave about it. Unfortunately Mr SandDune had had to go to Leeds that day and so hadn't read it as he knew he wasn't getting back until late, so we didn't get a male perspective. Interesting what you say about differing reactions from male and female: I'm not quite sure what there would be about the book that would attract more male readers but it is unusual.

I'm currently reading Eileen, which seems to feature equally squalid living conditions. Next book I read, I want all the main characters to have nice clean and tidy houses: all the grime is getting to me and making me want to scrub things!

Feb 14, 2017, 6:20pm Top

>58 SandDune: Interesting review. I have had that one on the shelves for a while and keep meaning to get to it. I know Darryl loved it and one of my former students also warbled quite enthusiastically about it.

>59 SandDune: I remember when the Mary Stewart novels were popular among my friends in high school. I don't think I ever gave her a try.

>63 SandDune: Ha, cracked me up. I will be interested in how Eileen lands on you. I thought it was quite good (if not cheerful) but I know it left others cold.

Feb 15, 2017, 4:09pm Top

J seems to have be enjoying his time in Germany, although he seems genuinely shocked at the amount of time that the children spend playing. He is with a class of 9 and 10 year olds and for the first two days spent most of his time playing football, basketball, dodgeball and climbing on the climbing apparatus, interspersed with the odd lesson here and there. Today they went to a forest farm and had about half an hour of organised activity, and then spent time climbing trees. According to J "The teachers just had cups of tea in the hut and just left the children go off and climb trees in the forest and didn't watch them or anything". Obviously a much more laissez-faire approach than in British schools!

Feb 15, 2017, 4:44pm Top

>96 How old is J?

Feb 15, 2017, 4:52pm Top

>66 Morphidae: 17 last week. I think he is having quite a pleasant week regressing to an earlier life stage. It is supposed to be work experience but at least he is practising his German!

Feb 15, 2017, 4:55pm Top

I have just discovered that my next Book Club book All of these People: A Memoir by Fergal Keane also features an alcoholic father. That will be three alcoholic fathers in a row!

Feb 15, 2017, 5:36pm Top

>68 SandDune: Whew! That's a little heavy going. How do the books get picked?

Feb 15, 2017, 6:06pm Top

Love your comments about Eileen and My Struggle - all the grime is getting to me and making me want to scrub things!

You need a nice, clean, cheerful read.

Feb 16, 2017, 4:58am Top

Three alcoholic fathers in a row? It sounds like a soap opera! I hope you make it out alive, or at least not turning to alcohol to cope. At least The Miniaturist should be slightly less weighed towards that theme :).

Feb 16, 2017, 1:52pm Top

>69 michigantrumpet: >72 lunacat: I've realised what I'd written wasn't 100% clear. I didn't mean that the last three of my Book Group books had alcoholic fathers. Just my books in general! Maybe I need more Just William!

Feb 16, 2017, 2:14pm Top

>73 SandDune: More Just William is always required :).

Feb 17, 2017, 12:56pm Top

>65 SandDune: And they always tell us that other schools have many more hours and much more rigorous academics than here! But I can see some advantages to that. Our middle school now has gym class as a single trimester class, and some of the kids can't handle 6 hours of school without some physical activity to burn off some steam. Sounds like a pretty easy teaching job, unless the kids go all lord-of-the-flies when they are running about.

Feb 17, 2017, 2:05pm Top

>74 lunacat: Definitely

>75 cammykitty: Our school system is getting completely over obsessed with testing and teaching complicated grammar to ten year olds. At one of my OU tutorials last year there were 10 people in the room all doing a degree in English Literature and none of us could work out what the grammar rules that ten year olds were supposed to know actually meant. Hadn't stopped us from writing pretty good assessments though.

Feb 17, 2017, 5:44pm Top

>75 cammykitty: "...unless the kids go all lord-of-the-flies when they are running about."


Feb 17, 2017, 6:40pm Top

>75 cammykitty: As someone who has worked in schools for 10+ years, I can attest that pretty much all kids do indeed go "all lord-of-the-flies" when they're running about. It's quite frightening at time just how bad it can be.

Feb 18, 2017, 9:34am Top

Collected J from the airport this morning: he seems to have had a pretty good time and not be too tired which is good as he will be back to school on Monday. He certainly seems to have had much better food than on his last German exchange: the father in the family was of Moroccan extraction, and the mother was Polish (I'd thought she was Moroccan as well but apparently not) so the food was much more varied than when he'd been there before. And they seemed a fairly foodie family as well, from what I can gather.

Sounded like he had a great time with the Primary School children: he's always been very good with younger children and I can see him enjoying that a lot. As I said, he was very enamoured of the more relaxed style of supervision in the school that he was in. He's come back slightly scratched from rescuing one of the children from the tree climbing, but otherwise unscathed!

Feb 18, 2017, 1:08pm Top

>79 SandDune: I'm so glad he had a better time this week!

Edited: Feb 18, 2017, 4:47pm Top

J was requesting something a little less meaty for our main meals over the next couple of days, as he has had a lot of meat in Germany, so I went into town to buy a couple of aubergines to make aubergine parmigiana. There seem to be no aubergines to be had for love nor money anywhere in town. I knew there was a courgette shortage (snow in Spain apparently, where it doesn't usually snow) but apparently there is an aubergine shortage as well, which I hadn't realised. And I discovered that lettuces are still being rationed in Sainsbury's, to a maximum of three per customer. To be honest, I can't think of any scenarios in which I would want more than three lettuces, unless I had a very large family, but still ...

When I was out I bought Mr SandDune a belated Valentine's Day present (Hannah Kent's new novel The Good People), and China Mieville's new one for me (The Last Days of New Paris).

Feb 18, 2017, 2:53pm Top

Hi Rhian!

>71 SandDune: I always like hearing how other book clubs work. Our book club of twelve picks books once a year, all at once, so we can see the whole year laid out (with the picking meeting, our reading year is staggered by one month each year). If it seems too much one genre or another, or too many with a similar plot, there are always those who were considering from a stack of books and they offer a different book to balance it out. And, whoever has chosen the book is not the host for that meeting. This just happens to work very well for the twelve of us, and we're in our 20th year.

Feb 18, 2017, 3:25pm Top

Hi Rhian - I'm smiling at the rationing of three lettuces...I think one would be sufficient.

Great that J is back safe. It sounds like he had a great time.

Ooh, Hannah Kent has a new book. Off to check that out.

Edited: Feb 18, 2017, 5:06pm Top

Leaning across Rhian >82 karenmarie: wow, twenty years for a book group is pretty good Karen, mine has been running for twelve, and I attending 8 years. We meet in a local cafe/community centre, ten months of the year, we choose our books in July, we each put in suggestions, and whoever attends that meeting gets to vote. Three ticks and they are in, unless we have more with three ticks, which doesn't often happen.

Glad J had a good experience in Germany Rhian.

Edited: Feb 18, 2017, 5:11pm Top

>82 karenmarie: >83 BLBera: Our book group has been going for 17 years. It was originally an offshoot of our local NCT (National Childbirth Trust) group, so all the original members were women with pretty young children. There are six original members left (counting myself - although I did miss the first meeting) and Mr SandDune is the token man. We usually only plan a few months ahead these days, although we did do things a bit more in advance when we started. It generally works well, although one member has a reputation for choosing very long books. From time to time we get the odd members who are only really interested in hosting their own books or those of their particular friends, but they never seem to last too long. We actually do spend a fair bit of time discussing the books ...

We've lost members to people moving house, one person left because of a major falling out with one of the other members (never really did find out what it was about), and a couple of the less enthusiastic ones drifted away when it was suggested that perhaps it would be good if they attended more than once it twice a year.

Feb 18, 2017, 5:36pm Top

>76 SandDune: OMG, we over-test here too. Not so much on the grammar, but just everything. There's two major tests for math & language arts, one of which is given twice a year. One test for science every few years, nothing for social studies yet. The kids freak out about them and I feel like, math especially, the classes are rushed because they are trying to cover the "standards" so they don't build a good foundation before they are learning the next thing.

>78 PawsforThought: I've been a para in a middle school for a little over 10 years, so, yup I've seen the Lord-of-the-flies thing. And the girls do something different, some kind of twisted popularity contest. But they seem to be able to do that in any type of situation. The key to keeping them civilized seems to be to not let them have any down time. Easier said than done!

Jealous of J's food situation, but can certainly see thinking there was too much meat in Germany. My image of German food is all meat, beer and chocolate. Too bad about the aubergine shortage! We call them eggplant on this side of the pond, and I'm sure if I went to Asian Noodle right now I could get you the typical purple-black kind or the green and white Japanese kind. Sorry I can't just teleport them to you!

Edited: Feb 18, 2017, 6:13pm Top

>81 SandDune: I'm tempted to pick up the Miéville myself.

Your dentist anecdote reminds me I need to make an appointment. Not keen. I have been putting it off.

I like the sound of J's time in Germany. I imagine that would be a great way to learn about getting on with different people and families as well as the language.

I agree re the grammar. I have been scouting cheap books for people learning English, and the amount of content in the study at home books for 9 year olds, that goes over my head is a bit worrying.

Feb 19, 2017, 3:27am Top

Great to hear that J had a wonderful time in Germany.
Happy Sunday, Rhian.

Feb 19, 2017, 8:00am Top

>85 SandDune: Thanks for sharing. Each book club is unique, for sure. I'm one of 4 original members in ours. We have an interesting personality dynamic and there have been power struggles and several people have definite genres they always choose from. We've had as few as 6, and we've decided no more than 12.

Feb 19, 2017, 12:01pm Top

Glad to read J had a good time in Germany.
I asked Frank, it seems there is a courgette, aubergine and spinach shortage here as well. Frank does all the shopping and cooking, so I wasn't aware of it ;-)

Feb 19, 2017, 4:16pm Top

11. The Last September Elizabeth Bowen ****1/2

This is a beautifully written book which poignantly captures the end of an era, and the beginning of a life. Just out of school, the orphaned Lois lives at Danielstown, the 'big house' belonging to her uncle, Sir Richard Naylor. The Naylors are part of the old Irish Protestant ascendency, but their time is coming to an end: it is the September of 1920, and although the social round of tennis and dances and visits goes on as it always has, it does so against a background of insurrection. The British army is in occupation, and while its officers provide useful partners for the unmarried daughters of the protestant landowners, the Naylors try to ignore the reality of the situation around them as much as possible. Better not to ask too many questions, when your dinner guest may have just arrested a neighbour with whom you have been on speaking terms all your life, for their support for the IRA. But Lois is waiting for her life to begin, and seems trapped in the familiar surroundings: she wants more than Danielstown can offer:

She had never come out through a pass and looked down on little distinct white cities with no smoke. She had never been in a tunnel for more than five minutes — she had heard there were tunnels in which you could nearly suffocate? She had never seen anything larger than she could imagine. She wanted, she said, to see backgrounds without bits taken out of them by Holy Families; small black trees running up and down white hills. ... She wanted to go where the war hadn't. She wanted to go somewhere nonchalant where politics bored them, where bands played out of doors in the hot nights and nobody wished to sleep.

Altogether, a very good read, one to be savoured. I'll be looking out for some more Elizabeth Bowen.

Feb 19, 2017, 8:34pm Top

Ugh, your dental experience sounds beyond belief!

The Last September is one of my favourite Bowen novels.

Edited: Feb 20, 2017, 3:16pm Top

>86 cammykitty: >87 charl08: I did an online test with sample questions and got seven out of ten, which is a little worrying as I have nearly finished an English Literature degree (and have been getting pretty good marks with it, to boot). The question that really stumped me was this one:

The insect-eating Venus fly trap is a carnivorous plant.

Are the underlined words used:
a) a main clause
b) as a fronted adverbial
c) as a subordinate clause
d) as a noun phrase.

I have absolutely no idea what either a fronted adverbial or a noun phrase is, and I can't for the life of me see why teaching 10 year olds the names of esoteric parts of grammar will improve their writing!

>88 Ameise1: Hi Barbara!

>83 BLBera: >90 FAMeulstee: The courgette shortage had passed me by as we don't eat a lot of them, but aubergines are something that I do buy on a fairly regular basis, so I hope the issue is dealt with soon.

Feb 20, 2017, 3:25pm Top

>93 SandDune: The answer is a noun phrase. All the words in that phrase modify the noun "fly trap".

We did a lot of dissecting sentences and phrases when I was at uni (English linguistics and literature).

Feb 20, 2017, 3:43pm Top

>94 PawsforThought: Thanks! I'd expect to do it at uni - it's just for 10 year olds that I have issues.

Feb 20, 2017, 3:50pm Top

>93 SandDune: I've never even heard of a fronted adverbial? Which disturbs me, because like you, I've got a degree in writing and was such a whiz at grammar that I tested out of most formal teaching in school, but got a second dose of it learning Latin and Spanish. I'd say it's a noun phrase, but yes, why on earth do the kids need to know that. Especially since a lot of grammar can be learned by seeing it used correctly. That's just going to make it deathly dull to them.

Feb 20, 2017, 4:30pm Top

It's absolutely way too much for 10-year-olds. I don't think we even went past the "what is a verb?" phase at that age.

A fronted adverbial is an adverbial that is placed at the start (front) of the sentence instead of after the verb (which is the normal way of doing it) and they're generally followed by a comma. Fronted adverbials make the sentences a bit poetic/pretentious (depending on your taste).

We danced by the light of the moon.


By the light of the moon, we danced.

Edited: Feb 21, 2017, 2:46am Top

>97 PawsforThought: I see now that part of my problem was I didn't know what an adverbial was, never mind whether it was fronted or not. So from what you're saying 'by the light of the moon' is the adverbial as it's a phrase that stands in for an adverb? And then it becomes fronted when it's in front?

So in the title By Grand Central Station I sat down and wept is 'by Grand Central Station' a fronted adverbial too?

Feb 21, 2017, 2:42am Top

>98 SandDune: Yes, that's exactly it. It's less complicateed than it sounds - like most linguistical things they have incredibly complicated-sounding names that are near impossible to remember and keep from mixing up but it generally makes sense.

And yes, again. That's the fronted adverbial.

I really need to dig out my uni textbook on grammar because so much of this has flown right out of my head.

Edited: Feb 21, 2017, 2:50am Top

>99 PawsforThought: Yay!

Although to be honest, if my child left primary school knowing what nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and conjunctions were, I'd be happy!

Feb 21, 2017, 3:07am Top

>100 SandDune: Yeah, that's pretty much what you need to know at that age.
(And to be honest, you get pretty far in life ONLY knowing that.) The important part isn't knowing the names of different types of words but knowing how to use them - which is often (and preferably) intuitive. The knowing-names thing can help if you're learning a foreign language as an adult because it helps explain why things work differently - and in a new-to-you-language you don't have your intuition to trust. But other than that, not terribly important information.

Feb 21, 2017, 10:37am Top

Grammatical categories such as those are ridiculous and unnecessary. And I say this even though I love diagramming sentences with all of my heart.

Feb 21, 2017, 12:58pm Top

>101 PawsforThought: Hear, hear! (Me too.)

Feb 22, 2017, 2:51am Top

>101 PawsforThought: >102 scaifea: Couldn't agree more. There was a lot of opposition when the testing standards were changed here, particularly from some prominent children's authors who felt strongly that it would stifle creativity.

Feb 22, 2017, 8:32pm Top

As an English teacher, I can tell you that I am happy if my students can write complete sentences. I try to keep the grammar terms to a minimum, mostly because I take it personally when students sleep in class.

The Bowen book sounds good.

Feb 23, 2017, 2:54am Top

We're back to two people in the house again for the next few days as Mr SandDune has gone to Prague. One of the advantages (or disadvantages I suppose, depending on your point of view) of teaching the International Baccalaureate is the training courses aren't necessarily in the UK, so he had a choice between Prague or Dubai! He'll be back on Sunday: the course finishes Saturday lunchtime but he's staying on an extra day to have a look around as he's never been before.

I've been booking driving lessons for J, now he's turned 17. Quite scary really! I have to say, I spend a lot of time moaning about inefficient processes, but the application for his provisional driving licence was one of the most efficient I have come across. As long as you had the National Insurance number and Passport Number of the applicant, the system links to the details held online for the passport records and automatically gets the photo from the one held digitally for the passport. So no need for trips to the photo booth or paper applications!

Feb 24, 2017, 12:41pm Top

Storm Doris yesterday, which meant very, very high winds, unusually so for this part of the world. Coming from a much windier part of the country I tend to take warnings of high winds in this area with a pinch of salt, as it so rarely gets properly stormy, but yesterday was the exception. I had a pretty convoluted journey into work: I went on the main road rather than the quicker back roads (less chance of fallen trees) but I could feel the car getting blown from side to side even when the road was fairly sheltered. I decided I really did not want to drive over the long overpass where there are always cross winds, so I ended up having to almost double back on myself to avoid it. Coming home I left work at 7.40, and didn't get home for an hour and a half, a journey that should have taken about 35 minutes at that time of the evening. Gridlocked traffic, and then the dual carriageway that I take was completely closed, so another very convoluted journey home, sticking to the main roads that were open!

When I got back in to work this morning my work colleague showed me a photo she had taken when she left work at about 3.30pm the day before. The roof of a building just around the corner from our office had blown off completely, and had landed on a car parked outside! And getting home this evening I discovered that our fence hadn't escaped unscathed as I had thought, a couple of panels are at an almost 45 degree angle, but it is around the corner of the house and not really obvious unless you are going to the dustbins. Luckily our next door neighbour is going to fix it tomorrow, fence fixing not being on the list of things that I am good at!

Feb 24, 2017, 12:42pm Top

I quite agree about the squalor in the Knausgaard Vol. I and in Eileen--very cringe-inducing. I continued with the series and will start Vol. IV soon. My favorite so far is Vol. III, which concentrates on his younger boyhood--quite magical.

I was wondering what you thought of your book club read from last year Headlong by Michael Frayn? His book Spies was one of my favorites when I read it. Maybe I just like books about boys with very active imaginations.

Feb 24, 2017, 12:48pm Top

>108 arubabookwoman: I have to confess that Headlong was one I didn't read (which was really bad of me as it Mr SandDune's choice) as it clashed with having to submit an essay for my university course and I ran out of time. That said I did go to the discussion, and to be honest I didn't get the impression that many people had enjoyed it. Certainly Mr SandDune didn't, which was a shame as he had chosen it. He had selected it as he had just read Skios and found it very funny and was hoping Headlong would be similar. I can't quite remember what his objections were, but I do remember he said that he really didn't like the main character.

Edited: Feb 24, 2017, 3:49pm Top

12. Eileen Otessa Moshfegh ***

Eileen lives with her alcoholic ex-policeman father in a small town in New England where her life is going nowhere. Her job at a correctional facility for delinquent boys is both boring and dehumanising, and her life outside her work seems to consist of placating her father's rages, while the house in which they live falls into decrepitude about them. She longs to escape to New York, but lacks the courage to do so. Eileen rejects her own physicality, denying the fact that she is now a grown woman by hardly eating, existing largely off peanuts supplemented by alcohol. At the same time she denies her youth by insisting on wearing only the clothes of her dead mother, clothes designed for a middle-aged woman.

Despite the unpromising beginnings, we know that Eileen does escape, as she herself is telling the story as a woman in her seventies looking back on her early adulthood at the beginnning of the 1960's. It is clear from what the older Eileen lets slip that her life eventually took a very different turn, and it also becomes clear as the book proceeds that her escape from her hometown was both sudden and unplanned. And when a new and glamorous employee arrives at the prison, in charge of developing an educational programme for the boys, Eileen's life starts to change...

This was an OK book, although not very uplifting: Eileen is not a particularly pleasant character to spend time with. It was well written, but I didn't find the ending plausible, and it earns a lower rating than it would otherwise do because of that.

Feb 25, 2017, 9:52am Top

Sounds like you had really big winds! Sorry about the commute. I hope your weekend is relaxing. :) Other than driving with the kiddo. lol

Feb 25, 2017, 12:41pm Top

>111 nittnut: Other than driving with the kiddo I'm not doing that yet - he doesn't have his first driving lesson with the instructor until 23rd March (my fault - I didn't realise how much in advance you needed to book them). And the instructor recommended that he get to a certain standard with him before we took him out to practise. I've heard horror stories from friends about how much it costs to insure a car for a seventeen year old driver, so I'm putting off the evil day as long as possible!

Feb 25, 2017, 6:08pm Top

I'm glad you survived Storm Doris with relatively minor damage; as with the roof blown off that business, it could have been so much worse.

Feb 25, 2017, 6:13pm Top

>113 karenmarie: In a way, I'm glad I only found out about it the next day, when my colleague was showing the picture she had taken. If I'd realised that it was windy enough to blow roofs off when it was still windy, I think I would have worried about that a fair bit!

Feb 25, 2017, 6:18pm Top

>114 SandDune: When we had Hurricane Matthew last October, it was almost more worrisome looking at the news than just 'reading' what was going on at our house. Sometimes ignorance is bliss?

Feb 26, 2017, 7:01am Top

I admit I didn't read all the missed posts, but want to say that I'm happy your German exchange student was nice and a good eater and that J enjoyed his stay and got nice food there as well. 3 times bread/cheese/ cold cuts can happen easily in Germany, for breakfast and dinner it's totally normal and when the mum works.... Yes, it's dull. My ex's daughter (an Italian) went to Bonn for an exchange, and her first night, after one slice of bread, put the cutlery to the side, waiting for the next course, as in Italy they often have bread and cold cuts for antipasto, to be followed by a pasta dish/risotto/ soup and often a meat or fish dish. Well, she was in for a delusion.

Oh, and before even coming to the end of this thread I already bought Just William on audio, untested, it's downloading right now.
Happy Sunday!

Feb 26, 2017, 8:49am Top

>115 karenmarie: At least we don't have proper hurricanes here!

>117 SandDune: I would hate to have experienced the girl's disappointment when she realised that that was all there was! J certainly struggled with the diet for more than a day or two. Not that we will have the two (or three) course meals that you will get in Italy, but we will always have a cooked meal (or a very substantial salad) in the evening, followed by fruit.

I hope you enjoy Just William. It was one of my father's favourite books as well, and I think it's strange to think that he must have read it when it was quite new (he was born in 1920).

Feb 26, 2017, 10:49am Top

I have to agree that those definitions are a bit esoteric for 10 year olds! But I expect it is a good idea for the teacher to know these things?

>108 arubabookwoman: Oh I'm glad to hear 3 is magical! I am starting it just now!

Feb 26, 2017, 12:58pm Top

Just had a text from Mr SandDune. His flight home from Prague, which was due to get in at 7.15pm our time, is now not leaving Prague until 7.40pm our time. Hopefully there will be no further delays.

Edited: Feb 26, 2017, 1:56pm Top

>118 sibyx: Trouble is, it is the 10-11 year olds who are supposed to know it. Here is the whole paper from 2016:


Feb 26, 2017, 3:30pm Top

Well the flight didn't take off at 7.40pm after all. And I have just looked at the Stansted Live arrivals board and it is not showing any more flights from Prague this evening!

Feb 26, 2017, 4:06pm Top

Yikes! I hope Mr. SandDune makes it home tonight!

Feb 26, 2017, 5:29pm Top

>110 SandDune: I didn't like Eileen as much as you did, Rhian and that is not saying too much!

I hope that MrSandDune gets back at a reasonable hour. xx

Feb 26, 2017, 5:49pm Top

>123 PaulCranswick: Latest news is that his plane is due at ten past midnight. I am dosing myself up with coffee as I am feeling quite sleepy and I have to go and get him.

Feb 26, 2017, 6:00pm Top

>125 FAMeulstee: I hope you won't have to wait any longer than that...

Feb 26, 2017, 8:13pm Top

I hope Mr. SandDune is not too late; I imagine you have to work tomorrow.

Driving with teens! Yikes. That was my least favorite part of parenting, but I survived, as did my kids, who both told me I was a terrible coach. I suspect they are right.

I'm glad you made it through the storm relatively unscathed.

Feb 26, 2017, 9:36pm Top

>120 SandDune: I went through 10 - 12 of the questions and did fine. I can't imagine 10 year olds doing them though.

Edited: Feb 27, 2017, 2:43am Top

>125 FAMeulstee: >126 BLBera: Well, his flight eventually landed at 12.07 and he got through to arrivals at 12.37. So we got back home about 1.00am, and are both feeling slightly sleepily this morning. Mr SandDune did have a 7.30am meeting but he decided to give it a miss this morning, as that would have meant getting up even earlier than normal.

Feb 27, 2017, 2:46am Top

>127 Morphidae: Exactly! The main problem for me is that schools here are very much judged on their SATS results. So if that's what in the test that's what they're going to teach, and that doesn't leave much room for any more creative writing.

Feb 27, 2017, 3:04am Top

>128 SandDune: I just looked at the first 30 questions, and honestly some of the questions is the same level as we did university. Not kidding.
Most of this is stuff we tackled in 4th through 6th grade, or even 7th through 9th, and I didn't even know what semi-colon was used for until my late teens!
Possessive pronouns, relative clauses, active and passive voices? For 10-year-olds?
If a ten year old kid can write legible sentences (not mixing people or times) with capital letters at the start of sentences and the correct punctuation mark at the end, that's pretty much good enough. And knowing what the different (basic) word groups are.

Feb 27, 2017, 3:17am Top

>128 SandDune: Glad to hear that Mr SandDune made is safely back home. Do you know the reason of this delay?
Wishing you a good start into the new week.

Feb 27, 2017, 3:17pm Top

>131 Ameise1: A lot of flight arrivals seemed to be delayed yesterday - not really sure why but it was fairly windy so maybe that had something to do with it. At least he wasn't supposed to be on the EasyJet flight from Prague - when we left the airport that was showing an estimated arrival time of 02.50 rather than 10.55pm. The good thing is that we live very close to the airport, so at that time of night when there's no traffic you can pretty much get from our front door to the terminal building in twenty minutes.

Mar 1, 2017, 6:32pm Top

Just a quick hello, Rhian. Glad MrSandDune made it safe and sound, even if a bit late.

Mar 4, 2017, 4:15am Top

>133 karenmarie: At least he had a really good time in Prague, even if he was delayed.

We're back to two people again this weekend as J has gone to Bath for a MUN (Model United Nations) conference. He went on Friday morning and he'll be back tomorrow evening. I think they've got some time for some sightseeing as well so I hope they had time to go to the Roman Baths which are well worth seeing.

Mar 4, 2017, 4:36am Top

Happy weekend, Rhian. Seeing the Roman Baths is still on my bucket list.

Mar 4, 2017, 11:35am Top

I'm getting behind in my reviews. I've read The Sellout, Sourcery and All of these People: A Memoir. I'm not sure I'm going to read the Booker Shortlist next year: the five books I've read so far have been unremittingly miserable in the main. I think I have to put The Sellout down as the most uplifting one so far, which given as it is about the reintroduction of segregation in the US, gives you some idea about the general tone!

Mar 4, 2017, 1:32pm Top

Hello, Rhian!

Mar 5, 2017, 3:49pm Top

>135 Ameise1: Hi Barbara, the Roman baths are well worth seeing. I've been there several times, although not for years and years. J had a good time at the conference, although felt a bit outgunned by some of the big private schools who had had a lot more practice. Still he did get his resolution chosen as one to be debated and came out overall with a commendation.

>137 alcottacre: Hi Stasia. Nice to see you doing the rounds again.

Mar 6, 2017, 7:23am Top

>136 SandDune: I agree Rhian last year's Booker shortlist and longlists were not great. I actually liked North Water from the Longlist the most but I do think Madeleine Thien's Do Not Say We Have Nothing was the best novel left standing. I thought Beatty's satire was way too heavy handed.

Mar 8, 2017, 12:18am Top

>134 SandDune: Is J going into International Relations or some type of Politics.

Mar 8, 2017, 2:29am Top

>140 Morphidae: He's very interested in politics and world events but I don't think he's got the right sort of personality to go into it as a politician. But I could se him working for the sort of organisation that gets involved in world events or human rights, maybe some sort of developmental organisation. But even if he does something completely different it's good experience in public speaking, negotiation, persuasion etc.

Mar 9, 2017, 3:09pm Top

>141 SandDune: Discovered today that J's debating club and some other things at his school are being filmed by CNN next week. I'm not 100% sure why. Mr SandDune seemed to think that it was something to do with World Freedom Day but I've looked that up and it doesn't seem to be until November, so I'm not sure.

Mar 10, 2017, 5:49pm Top

>142 SandDune: That's so cool! Keep us posted if there's a way for us to view it online at some point.

Mar 11, 2017, 8:27am Top

>141 SandDune: I remember J from a few years ago in Kuala Lumpur and admittedly in the confines of a Vietnamese restaurant with a bunch of locals (me and tribe) intent on proving how much we could eat. From observation he was somewhat shy, polite and not in the least conceited. So yes those are attributes not ideally suited to our politicians.

Whatever he does decide to do, I am sure that he'll do well.

Mar 12, 2017, 1:58am Top

Just catching up with your thread, Rhian. Looks like a lot of good reading happening in spite of RL being very busy. Hope you had some down time this weekend to relax.

Mar 14, 2017, 11:02am Top

I've fallen a bit behind here. It's great that J is interested in current events. One thing I find puzzling about my own child is her total lack of interest in anything except one or two chosen areas -- she votes, but otherwise . . . she's even terrible and blasé about recycling and composting (about which we are both, yeh, a bit on the nutter side). I'm hoping when she has her own household it will all kick in!

Mar 15, 2017, 3:46am Top

>142 SandDune: >143 rosalita: Well J had his moment of fame on CNN, although I didn't see it due to a total lack of information from Mr SandDune as to where it would be available. It was all for MyFreedomDay which as far as I can work out is a CNN project to highlight modern day slavery. Unfortunately for the theme of the day, in J's debate the motion to ban modern day slavery was defeated, with the defeat spearheaded by J as Uzbekistan, aided and abetted by North Korea and the Democratic Republic of Congo! J said it was a very badly worded motion and he did request that the wording be changed but CNN weren't prepared to do that. He said he didn't think they realised that the students took their debating really seriously and they weren't just about to pass the motion because it was the 'nice' thing to do, if it was a badly worded motion. I should point out that J is usually Iceland in MUN which can be relied on to pretty much always be on the 'nice' side of any particular question.

Mar 15, 2017, 3:24pm Top

>144 PaulCranswick: J is quiet, but he's fine in fairly structured situations - hence the debating. He's really interested in politics, but he wouldn't like the constant social mingling that that would entail.

>146 sibyx: You couldn't accuse J of not being interested in current affairs. He's a member of the MUN society, Amnesty International (I had to sign an Amnesty International petition about not selling arms to Saudi Arabia as soon as I got home tonight), and we rarely get an opportunity to read the news section of the newspaper before it disappears into J's bedroom!

Edited: Mar 15, 2017, 4:50pm Top

>145 Familyhistorian: We had a very nice weekend as it happens. It was my sister's 70th birthday on Sunday and the family went down to Chewton Glen (where we went last year for my brother-in-law's 70th birthday). So a very nice time was had by all, and huge amounts of food were consumed. Of course I worked it all off by swimming a few lengths of the pool - maybe not.

My sister was carrying on her birthday celebrations this week with a trip to Iran with my niece, so we were teasing her that she won't get back into the US anytime soon. Apparently, if you've got an Iranian stamp on your passport you can't get a visa waiver any more but need to go for an interview. I very much doubt if my niece would get into the US ever again in the current climate, as she has got both Iran and North Korea on her passport. I should point out that my family doesn't make a habit of touring all the political hotspots of the world. My sister is very interested in antiquities, and my niece has been pretty much everywhere!

Mar 15, 2017, 5:32pm Top

>149 SandDune: Oh, I would love to visit Iran if it wasn't for the political situation. So much history and culture - that's what I love to explore during holidays.

Edited: Mar 16, 2017, 8:15pm Top

I agree that last years Booker Shortlist was not that great, Rhian. I only read one book from it, and that was Do Not Say We Have Nothing, which I did find to be fairly dense and I had to take notes to follow the story. I took The Sellout out from the library, but after dipping into it, I dropped it. I may yet read His Bloody Project, but I'm not sure. Too bad, touchstones are not working right now! Anyway, although I follow the Booker Prizes, I never feel obligated to read what does not interest me. You son sounds like a young man to be very proud of!

Mar 16, 2017, 9:43pm Top

>151 vancouverdeb: I haven't read that many of them yet, but His Bloody Project is my favorite so far.

Mar 16, 2017, 9:50pm Top

>149 SandDune: OMG! Well good for your niece! The US needs a few people who aren't afraid to see the world and think for themselves. And I can hear what the 6th graders I work with would be saying right now. "Freedom of movement is a human right!" And sadly, if your sister is interested in antiquities, it sounds like she might need to hurry up and see some of them before they get destroyed. :(

Mar 17, 2017, 6:26pm Top

>153 cammykitty: My niece is an inveterate traveller. She once made me quite depressed (well for about 10 minutes) one Christmas when I discovered that she'd been to more countries that year than I'd been to in my entire life: she'd travelled round virtually all of South America, as well as fitting a few other places as well. And I've been to around 25-26 countries so I thought I was fairly well travelled! My sister actually seems to make a habit of visiting countries just before all hell breaks loose. So far on her list have been Syria and Libya and look what happened to them!

Mar 17, 2017, 10:11pm Top

Happy weekend, Rhian :)

Mar 18, 2017, 3:58am Top

>151 vancouverdeb: >152 thornton37814: I'm now reading my last Booker shortlist book (we've got a book club meeting to discuss the shortlist at our house next week). Do not Say We Have Nothing seems to be one that a lot of people regarded favourably but this one's not grabbing me either. Part of the problem is that music is a key element of the book and I'm really not very musical. Secondly, I don't really think that I've got a feeling for any of the characters.

Mar 18, 2017, 6:52am Top

>156 SandDune: I liked it better than you do Rhian but I think the flitting around between Canada and China was off-putting and de-railed the book from being more excellent than it turned out to be.

Edited: Mar 18, 2017, 4:35pm Top

>156 SandDune: I put Do Not Say We Have Nothing down when I was a 75 Books Challenge for 2016 : The 2016 Nonfiction Reading Challenge Part V: The Arts in May 5 unread / 157 Chatterbox, Today 3:46pm
short way in. I will probably pick it up again but it is a very slow read for me. I hope you are having a relaxing weekend, Rhian.

Edited: Mar 19, 2017, 4:25pm Top

>158 Familyhistorian: Well I have finished the Booker Shortlist and my final opinion is as follows:

His Bloody Project ****1/2
Eileen: A Novel***1/2
Do Not Say We Have Nothing ***
The Sellout ***
All That Man Is ***
Hot Milk **1/2

Altogether I think I very disappointing list. I can't believe that these were the best books published last year. The only one I can say I really enjoyed was His Bloody Project - with most of the others, although I could recognise that they were well written, it was a definite slog at times.

Mar 19, 2017, 10:45am Top

Rhian, I admire you for reading the entire shortlist! I have Eileen collecting dust on my coffee table, I read a bit of The Sellout and tossed it aside. The only one from the Booker Shortlist that I read was Do Not Say We Have Nothing. I read a couple of other books from the 2016 Booker Longlist that I enjoyed - Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, which I loved, and Work Like Any Other by Virginia Reeves. I enjoyed Work Like Any Other, but I did not see it as anything special.

Prize lists are always a mixed bag, I think . I just try to read the ones that hold some appeal to me.

Mar 19, 2017, 4:16pm Top

>160 vancouverdeb: We have a special Book Group meeting this week to discuss the Shortlist, and it's at our house, so I feel obliged to put on a good show! We've done this for about four previous Booker prize shortlists, although I don't always read all of them, but this is the most disappointing list I can remember. The only one I really enjoyed was His Bloody Project but I don't think that it was the best book of 2016 by any means.

I think next year I'm going to suggest that we do some other prize, either the Bailey's or the Costa.

Mar 19, 2017, 4:17pm Top

>159 SandDune: I have not read a single one of those titles. I will have to look for His Bloody Project for sure though.

Mar 19, 2017, 4:24pm Top

>155 alcottacre: Hi Stasia. I hope you had a good weekend too. We went to a charity quiz last night (came third) and today's been fairly quiet. We took the dog for a nice walk this morning and then spent the afternoon catching up with stuff around the house.

>157 PaulCranswick: I just found that because of the framing story in Canada the reader seemed to be one step removed from the characters all the time, and just didn't seem to get inside them. The section on Tiananmen Square at the end worked a lot better I felt. I wonder if I would have appreciated it more if I had been more musical.

Edited: Mar 19, 2017, 6:58pm Top

13.The Sellout David Beatty ***

I'm not going to write a proper review of this, just put some thoughts together. The winner of last year's Booker Prize, this is a satire on the state of race relations in the current day US which describes the narrator's efforts to restore segregation and cityhood to the Los Angeles district of Dickins. My problem with the book was my lack of familiarity with what was being satirised. While there is racism in every country in the world, it is clearly the US brand that is being satirised here, and that seems to work very differently to how it works in the U.K. I just don't have a good enough background knowledge to understand the nuances of what is being commented on.

Mar 20, 2017, 5:47am Top

>159 SandDune: congratulations on completing the list Rhian. Glad I only read the first on your list. I'm not sure the shortlists are as solid as they used to be. The lists in the 1980s have what are still some memorable books on. I couldn't tell you who was on the list three years ago for example.

Edited: Mar 22, 2017, 3:42am Top

>165 Caroline_McElwee: I didn't read any of last year's Booker Prize and I wasn't overly impressed by 2014's list (although I did really like How to be Both and I didn't read the winner A Narrow Road to the Deep North which MrSandDune loved. In 2013 I loved The Testament of Mary and The Lowland. 2012 was the best year recently I think, Bring Up the Bodies, The Garden of Evening Mist, The Lighthouse and Umbrella were all very good - ifn fact there was only one book on the Shortlist that year that I don't enjoy.

Mar 20, 2017, 4:33pm Top

>161 SandDune: Oh I'm jealous of your book group discussing the booker. I am tempted to jack in the one at work - the woman who runs it has chosen Ian McEwan. This is the third book since I joined I am not so keen on, and I don't get how the picks are made (but I suspect a dictatorship!)

Edited: Mar 22, 2017, 3:05pm Top

>159 SandDune: I plan on reading Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Rhian. I'm happy to see the high rating for His Bloody Project. Like you, I really enjoyed that one.

Mar 20, 2017, 5:47pm Top

> 58 SandDune - I've read all of the Knausgaard books published in English - mostly, they propel you to keep reading even though at times you aren't quite certain why.

With this first one, it seemed really strange that Karl and his brother did not help their Grandmother with her major hygiene and health problems rather than simply smoking and observing them. If they could not figure out how to approach her, at the least they could have called in a caring Woman!

Mar 21, 2017, 10:19pm Top

Rhian - I am adding my congratulations on completing an uninspiring short list. We can hope for better this year? Generally, I prefer the Bailey's, which reminds me I have to look at the long list and see which books I can find.

Mar 22, 2017, 1:52am Top

I'll add my voice to Beth's congratulating you on a reading the entire short list. That takes discipline and perseverance.

Mar 22, 2017, 3:28am Top

>159 SandDune: Congrats on completing the shortlist, just feel for you that it was so uninspiring. After reading Suzanne's comments on The Sellout I've decided to go and hear Beatty speak at our Writers Festival in May, and then if I'm inspired enough I'll add the book to my tbr list.
I will read His Bloody Project but none of the others appeal.
As far as switching to another award, I think the International Dublin Literary Award would have some merit, at least the books are nominated by librarians.

Mar 22, 2017, 3:52am Top

>167 charl08: I went through a period of doubt with my own book group a couple of years ago when we went months and months with everyone choosing books I'd already read. And they weren't books I had any intention of re-reading. I suppose it is slightly inevitable that it will happen sometimes as I think I probably read more books than anyone else. But at least we have an open policy on book choice, with everyone taking it in turns.

Mar 22, 2017, 3:03pm Top

Sad news about the terroist attack at Westminster. The death of Martin McGuinness this week has had me thinking about the IRA terrorist attacks in London of the 1980's and 90's. I remember walking through broken glass to work on more than one occasion, after the Baltic exchange and Bishopsgate bombings I think. At least that one source of terrorism that we don't have to worry about so much any more.

Mar 22, 2017, 7:03pm Top

>159 SandDune: I admire your tenacity in reading all the Booker short list books. I don't care for most literary fiction in general, so you get double points.

Mar 23, 2017, 8:14pm Top

Happy Birthday, Rhian. xx

Mar 24, 2017, 2:23am Top

Happy Birthday, Rhian!

Mar 24, 2017, 6:40am Top

Happy Birthday!!

Mar 24, 2017, 8:42am Top

Happy birthday!

Mar 24, 2017, 10:21am Top

Have a fabulous birthday!

Mar 24, 2017, 12:20pm Top

Have a great birthday, Rhian!

Mar 24, 2017, 5:35pm Top

Another birthday celebration, of course, I remember now that you and Darryl share a birthday. I hope you are doing something nice to celebrate.

Mar 24, 2017, 6:55pm Top

Happy Birthday, Rhian!
I hope you had a wonderful day :-)

Mar 25, 2017, 5:45pm Top

>182 Caroline_McElwee: Yes; Rhian and I share the same birth year as well.

Mar 26, 2017, 8:24am Top

Transatlantic twins!

Mar 26, 2017, 9:10am Top

Happy birthday! Lovely weather for it.

Read the book group- I skipped the McEwan meeting. Hoping the next one is more interesting, otherwise I'll give it a miss.

Mar 26, 2017, 10:11am Top

And now I must also stop by and wish you a Happy Mothering Sunday. Malaysia follows the date it is celebrated in the US. I spoke to my mother earlier by telephone and she is giving me considerable grief about fixing a day for when I can come back.

Mar 26, 2017, 10:19am Top

Happy Birthday a bit belatedly.

Impressed you read the short list. Too bad none of them impressed you as belonging on it.

Love the travel stories about your niece and sister.

Mar 26, 2017, 9:38pm Top

Happy Birthday, Rhian. Many happy returns.

Mar 27, 2017, 2:48am Top

>176 PaulCranswick: >177 kidzdoc: >178 scaifea: >179 drneutron: >180 Morphidae: >181 jnwelch: >182 Caroline_McElwee: >183 FAMeulstee: >184 kidzdoc: >188 sibyx: >189 BLBera: Many thanks for the birthday wishes! I've had a sociable couple of days. We had our Book Club Booker Prize Short List discussion on Thursday (more to come on this), and then we had dinner out on Friday. Saturday was a friend's 50th birthday party. Then, as Paul says, yesterday was Mother's Day here. We didn't do much, but J did make me lunch.

Mar 27, 2017, 3:11pm Top

Well as I said Thursday night was our RL Book Group Booker Prize Shortlist discussion evening. There were eight of us in all, including myself and Mr SandDune. Not everyone had read all the books but everyone had made a decent attempt at the shortlist. We were surprisingly unanimous in our thoughts (doesn't happen that often) - here is a summary:

His Bloody Project - unanimously voted the best book. Everyone enjoyed this one.

Eileen - runner-up. Everyone acknowledged the quality of the writing and appreciated this one to a greater or lesser extent, but felt the ending lacked plausibility.

Do Not Say We Have Nothing - a pale imitation of Wild Swans. Why do books about China in the twentieth century always have to begin or end in the US or Canada? Why can't they just be about China?

All That Man Is: A Novel and Hot Milk - OK, but the first one is definitely not a novel and neither of them struck anyone as anything special.

The Sellout - I was the only person who got beyond page 40!

Mar 27, 2017, 3:24pm Top

>188 sibyx: Well my sister got back from Iran on Friday, luckily after all the events at Westminster, which is within walking distance of her flat. She was very taken with Iran, very interesting apparently, and the food very good. The only thing she struggled with was the drinks, apparently Iranians have a very sweet tooth, and virtually all the drinks are very very sweet indeed. There was some non-alcoholic beer available, but usually with unusual flavourings.

Mar 27, 2017, 3:37pm Top

Eileen? Oh no. I would have been an unruly dissenter on that decision!!

Glad your sister missed the Westminster craziness.

Mar 27, 2017, 5:15pm Top

>193 charl08: Nobody had any intention of reading anything else by the same author as Eileen, so I don't want you to get the impression that it was that popular! Overall, we thought that if those were the best six novels of the year, then the judges must have a very different idea of what constituted a good novel!

My initial thoughts on hearing about Westminster was to wonder where my sister was, as they used to have a flat (until about five months ago) just behind the old County Hall building, so pretty much leading straight onto Westminster Bridge. But then I remembered she was in Iran. And after that I remembered that they've now moved to a flat further over towards the Festival Hall, so not quite as near to Westminster Bridge but still walking distance.

Mar 27, 2017, 5:21pm Top

Finished reading Pride and Prejudice for the gazillionth time. Still in my top ten books of all time.

Mar 27, 2017, 5:30pm Top

Interesting analysis of last year's mediocre Booker Prize shortlist, Rhian! I read all six novels, and I agree with your group: His Bloody Project was easily the best of them. Do Not Say We Have Nothing was arguably worthy of Booker Prize consideration, although it looks considerably worse than just after I read it. None of the others had any business being shortlisted, nonetheless longlisted, and I don't understand why a book of most unconnected short stories, All That Man Is, merited consideration. I did grit my teeth and finish The Sellout, which I read in 2015, but it was easily the least deserving winner since I started following the prize in 2007.

As I mentioned in my thread earlier today I'm considering not wasting my time with this year's upcoming Booker Prize longlist, as most of the titles in the past 5+ years have been a waste of time to read.

Mar 27, 2017, 7:21pm Top

>191 SandDune: Have to agree with the choice too. Best of a pretty bad bunch. I quite liked parts of Do Not Say We have Nothing but also my thoughts coincided that the Canada sections spoiled rather than improved the tale. I thought Hot Milk was in rather common modern parlance; meh.

I absolutely hated both Eileen and The Sellout. I thought the structure and some of the writing of the former was quite juvenile and the latter winning was a Copout on the sellout. Satire with a spatula or trowel becomes pastiche or worse. Dreadful book and my least favourite winner. Ever.

I have to say that I am not in favour of including books by writers from the USA as I think that there are more than enough awards ONLY open to them already and I believe that Commonwealth and Ireland gives a better chance for younger writers to get recognised. I honestly believe that Beatty won because the judges felt that, including the States already for a couple of years, they should let one of their number win. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against American authors but I do feel that they get a leg up enough already.

Mar 28, 2017, 2:46am Top

>196 kidzdoc: We have come to pretty much the same conclusion Darryl, and have decided to choose a diffferent prize next year if we decide to read a shortlist at all. My preference would be to choose the Costa prize, and to read the winner of each category (novel, first novel, poetry, children's, biography). Looking at last year's prize so many more of the shortlisted books appeal when compared to the Booker shortlist. J bought me the winner Days Without End for Mother's Day and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Mar 28, 2017, 2:59am Top

>198 SandDune: I think that its prior qualification of British, Irish and Commonwealth authors gave the Booker an unique flavour, which has rather been lost. I agree that there are plenty of prizes for US books alone and the sheer size of the US books market means that it can't help
but dominate now that it is allowed to participate in the Booker. I can't say that I enjoyed the winner but I suppose I'm prepared to give it the of the doubt because of my utter lack of knowledge of what it's satirising. I can't really imagine any of these books, even His Bloody Project which I enjoyed, still being read in twenty to thirty years time.

Mar 28, 2017, 3:33pm Top

Happy Belated Birthday, Rhian! I hope you had a wonderful day.

Mar 28, 2017, 3:41pm Top

Belated happy birthday wishes, Rhian!

Mar 28, 2017, 5:58pm Top

>200 karenmarie: >201 ronincats: Thanks for the birthday greetings.

We have been planning our holiday to Cyprus where we are going in a couple of weeks, week on Friday to be precise. We are staying with my sister who has a villa in southern Cyprus, near Pafos, but we have booked a couple of nights at a hotel in Northern Cyprus, in Kyrenia. It should be interesting to see the difference between the two sides. Last time we went to Cyprus I think was in 2008, and the crossing points between North and South Cyprus were very limited then. I seem to have been so busy since Christmas that I am really looking forward to a few days away.

Mar 29, 2017, 2:58am Top

I managed to have a fairly heated with Brexit argument with an acquaintance last night. I didn't quite say that it was old people like him that had imposed a worse future that they wouldn't live to see on their children and grandchildren, but very nearly. Mr SandDune says there is no point even getting into the discussion but I don't feel I just stand by while people spout rubbish which I profoundly disagree with.

Mar 29, 2017, 5:31am Top

I have not read a single book on the Booker list, but the only one in which I am even remotely interested is His Bloody Project. My local library has that one and I hope to get to it soon.

Mar 29, 2017, 6:35pm Top

>203 SandDune: - Something similar happened between me and a colleague on my recent trip, only about Trump. I refuse to not call out rubbish when I hear it...

Mar 30, 2017, 8:53am Top

>205 katiekrug: yep, I got into it with a guy on our recent cruise. I just can't sit there when someone is spouting utter nonsense.

Edited: Mar 30, 2017, 9:14am Top

>197 PaulCranswick: I agree completely, Paul! Do Not Say We Have Nothing was superb in parts, but taken as a whole it was uneven and forgettable. I hated reading Eileen and Hot Milk, and The Sellout for me was an uncomfortable and unenjoyable experience; I'm still surprised that I didn't give up on it. Two or three of the stories in All That Man Is were very good, but it was also a book that will leave no lasting impression. His Bloody Project was the only truly Booker worthy shortlisted title, IMO.

When I think of the best Commonwealth novels I've read the past few years, I can't help but notice that the vast majority of them weren't chosen as Booker Prize finalists: Bodies of Light by Sarah Moss (and I'll probably add her latest novel The Tidal Zone after I finish reading it tomorrow), Gillespie and I by Jane Harris, Life After Life and A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (although it's conceivable that it wasn't eligible for last year's longlist), The Memory of Love and The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna, Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie, The Axeman's Jazz by Ray Celestin, The Last Brother by Natacha Appanah, Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson, Hearts and Minds by Amanda Craig, The Boy Next Door by Irene Sabatini, God's Own Country by Ross Raisin, Chinaman by Shehan Karunatilaka, The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam, and Harare North by Brian Chikwava. Any of these books are profoundly better than Eileen, The Testament of Jessie Lamb, or To Rise Again at a Decent Hour!

FWIW, I can't help noticing that the majority of my favorite Commonwealth books were written by women and authors of color. Is that my bias, or conversely the publishers or the judges?

I thought that the decision to allow novels written by American authors to be eligible for the Booker Prize was a terrible one when I first heard about it, and I feel the same way now. Offhand I can think of only one American book, Virginia Reeves' Work Like Any Other, that was clearly worthy of Booker Prize consideration. I also think that the decision to allow the publishers who have produced more Booker longlisted titles more automatic submissions than ones who haven't unfairly tilts the scale more towards larger publishing houses and, arguably, popular and highly paid authors, many of whom will be white American and British males, and puts books by women, authors of color, less popular authors, and ones published by smaller houses at a competitive disadvantage. I'm left to conclude that the Booker Prize has devolved from arguably the world's leading literary prize into a popularity contest for privileged authors and publishers, and after reading most of the books from the mediocre 2011, 2014 and 2016 longlists I feel that doing the same this year will be a waste of money and time that would be better spent reading books that are far better written and more appealing to me.

As I've mentoned on my thread I have been continually impressed by the books chosen as finalists for the Wellcome Book Prize, and last year's Man Booker International Prize was outstanding as well. I'd propose those literacy prizes as worthy replacements for the Booker Prize for those looking for one to focus on.

/end of rant

Edited: Mar 30, 2017, 5:04pm Top

>205 katiekrug: >206 lauralkeet: I was trying very hard today not to have an argument with anyone. After the Brexit one on Tuesday I had a long drawn out argument with the bank at work yesterday after being on the phone to them for an hour and a half. This is an ongoing saga that has me hitting my head on my desk from time to time.

Mar 30, 2017, 5:14pm Top

We've been to a author event this evening: Toby Clements who has written the historical novels Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims, Broken Faith, and Divided Souls. I've not read them, but Mr SandDune is a fan. He is clearly incredibly enthusiastic about his subject (the Wars of the Roses) and gave an interesting talk.

Mar 31, 2017, 4:40pm Top

>207 kidzdoc: I think I appreciated Eileen rather more than you Darryl, (I wouldn't say enjoyed is really the right word), but otherwise I think our thoughts on the Booker Shortlist are quite similar. I haven't read any of the books that you suggest as potential Shortlist contenders apart from Gillespie and I but several of them are on my WL and in the main I would be much more interested in reading them than the works on this year's Shortlist. I'm pretty sure that I won't be reading the Shortlist next year unless there are some books on it that are much more immediately apppealing.

I don't think that adding US authors has really added anything to the prize at all.

Apr 1, 2017, 8:44am Top

A little bit of cat rescuing required this week. Sweep managed to fall out of J's bedroom window and landed on the conservatory roof. (At least we assume she fell, I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have jumped of her own free will.) And then of course the conservatory roof was too high for her to jump down from and Mr SandDune and J had to get the ladder and try and persuade her to come over to where they were so that she could be rescued. But cats being cats, despite clearly not being happy about being stuck on the conservatory she wasn't going to make it easy for her rescuers was she ...

Apr 1, 2017, 1:20pm Top

Aw, poor Sweep made it hard for her rescuers. I hope she is okay now.
Happy weekend, Rhian!

Apr 1, 2017, 2:17pm Top

>211 SandDune: Poor Sweep! Poor, poor rescuers.

Have a great weekend, Rhian!

Apr 1, 2017, 2:34pm Top

>212 FAMeulstee: >213 alcottacre: Oh she was fine. When she was down she just wandered off. No thanks or anything ...

Apr 1, 2017, 4:55pm Top

As you said cats have their own head. Happy weekend, Rhian.

Apr 1, 2017, 7:31pm Top

Oh no, poor silly Sweep! I'm glad she's okay although perhaps her ego is a bit bruised.

Apr 1, 2017, 7:42pm Top

>207 kidzdoc: With reference to the Booker Prize now allowing US entrants and diluting the pool for Commonwealth entries. In 2011 the excellent Commonwealth Writers Prize was also disbanded and is now just a short story competition. Back before it had three sections, the short story, the Best First Book and Fiction prizes. The shortlist came from regional winners and exposed many unknown writers to the spotlight. In 2010 I came across the debut writer Uwem Akpan and his Say You‘re One of Them at Auckland Writers Festival thanks to this prize which sadly is no longer.

Apr 2, 2017, 4:01am Top

>215 Ameise1: >216 lauralkeet: She is definitely getting less agile than previously! We have cut back a lot of shrubs in our garden and she has now found a spot where she can get up onto a garden fence which is about 5ft high (previously there were bushes in the way). But there's not a lot of grace and an awful lot of scrabbling when she's climbing up there! And when she's managed to get to the top and is walking along she constantly looks as if she is about to fall off! Anyway, I think she is happy to have control of the fence: it used to be 'owned' by next door's cat, who died a little while ago, so Sweep probably sees it as a position of power. The fall doesn't seem to have taught her a lesson though: she had to be removed from our bedroom window yesterday as she was perching on the window frame in a fairly precarious manner.

At least she didn't fall as far as our previous cat Ruby, who also fell out of J's bedroom window. But J's bedroom was at the front of the house then and there was no conservatory to catch her!

Apr 2, 2017, 4:05am Top

>217 avatiakh: I think the Booker Prize was previously such a good showcase for writing from smaller countries who don't have such a large home market for literary fiction. I know they can still participate but they can't help be swamped by the US. And personally, we see so much from the US, not only books but film and TV, that I prefer to read about a wider range of experiences.

Apr 2, 2017, 10:38am Top

For our older cat, we had to go through the house child-proofing everything.

The hardest is standing guard at the door when contractors come - they often
just leave doors swinging open and she would be easy prey alone outside.

Keeping nails trimmed is the latest challenge - she gets caught at the end of the couch
and on curtains.

I do them gradually, but hope for a Start-up Invention to arrive where one
could gently place paws into a gently locking glove...

Apr 2, 2017, 12:46pm Top

>220 m.belljackson: Sweep is an inside /outside cat, so it's not that she can't go outside. It's just that I'd rather she got there in a more orthodox fashion. To be honest she doesn't go very far at all: she goes into our back garden but has never gone any further into our neighbours' gardens since her first few weeks with us. Occasionally she will go into our front garden, but not as far as the road, and usually miaows to come back in again immediately.

Whether cats are allowed out seems to be a huge division between cat owning fraternities in the UK and the US. Virtually all the large rescue centres in the U.K. won't let you adopt a cat unless you intend to let it out (unless there is some reason such as illness that makes it inappropriate), whereas my understanding is that in the US it is exactly the other way around.

Apr 2, 2017, 12:57pm Top

>221 SandDune: in a more orthodox fashion Bahaha!

This conversation reminded me of when my cat decided he wanted to go on a little walk outdoors, but rather than meowing at the door and be let outside, he thought it'd be a better idea to sneak out on the balcony, jump up on the rail and walk over to the wall, jump from there down to the roof and then wander out over the tiles. What he was planning on doing out there I don't know. The roof is over 5 meters at its lowest point, there are no trees nearly to climb over to (nor any ladder to climb down on) and nothing to actually DO out there. Was a nightmare getting him back indoors.

Apr 2, 2017, 12:59pm Top

Happy Sunday, Rhian!

Apr 2, 2017, 1:39pm Top

>203 SandDune: I'm afraid you will have a few more of those ahead Rhian. At the moment I pick my battles, and proceed with questions. Almost all my older (and mostly immigrant) friends voted to leave, which I find very exasperating. One did tell me that after now being here forty years and perceiving herself a Brit, she has suddenly become an immigrant again, and she doesn't like it.

I can understand that, but I pointed out that the things most people are suggesting were the reasons for leaving were in fact often nothing to do with Europe, but mostly to do with successive governments scapegoating Europe, and so they will see little improvement or change in those areas.

Edited: Apr 2, 2017, 1:52pm Top

> 221 SandDune - not sure about latest US cat adoption rules since it's been nearly 15 years.

I've read that the Feral Cats newly trained to be indoors are not supposed to be outside cats because of the huge draw to run wild again.

My cat, Victoria, goes slightly willingly on a harness for a daily walk. I let her run free when
it snows which she enjoys after it stops coming down.

She has 2 tricks: at night, she will come tearing into the living room carrying one of her huge sparkly balls which she drops in front of me (then refuses to chase)...but only at night.
When she hasn't appeared, I call out "Vic, bring us a ball!" and she dashes in with it.

Her 2nd trick she has done only once. After sitting with me at the computer, she frequently
then climbs beneath the table to the printer which she treats like a piano.
Last week, about a quarter hour after her musical performance, she had gone to her bed while I was lying on the couch across the room from the printer.

Suddenly, the printer started up, making a bunch of noises, then printed out a single sheet of
paper - on it was written "Fax Transmission Complete."

When I told my daughter, she said
"Great, now all your bank information has been shipped out!"

Apr 2, 2017, 2:13pm Top

>224 Caroline_McElwee: I think if people have genuine reasons why they feel that Leave was the best answer then I am not so judgemental as you can have a genuine conversation about that, and agree to differ. I think I got so annoyed on Tuesday because the person, while being very adamant that Leave was the right option, wouldn't engage with me on a serious level.

Apr 2, 2017, 2:19pm Top

I am laughing about the Sweep story. I'm glad rescuee and rescuers are both fine.

It is hard for me to converse about Trump because I cannot see why anyone would support him. I need to do more reading from the opposite viewpoint perhaps. Very frustrating.

Apr 4, 2017, 2:35pm Top

We have a slightly poorly dog. She seems to have hurt her leg or her foot somehow and is reluctant to move. The best thing to do in that situation is always to sit on someone:

Apr 4, 2017, 2:45pm Top

>228 SandDune: I hope it's nothing serious. Lovely photos. Happy Tuesday, Rhian.

Apr 4, 2017, 4:13pm Top

Hope she gets well soon, though she may prefer a slow recovery!

Apr 4, 2017, 4:25pm Top

You really are having all the pet drama! I hope all begins to settle down soon, and they stop getting into trouble............ah, wait, they're pets........of course they won't stop!

Apr 4, 2017, 5:46pm Top

>228 SandDune: Aww... she needs lots of TLC! I hope it isn't anything serious and back on four feet soon!

Apr 4, 2017, 5:52pm Top

>229 Ameise1: >230 Caroline_McElwee: >231 lunacat: >232 FAMeulstee: She seems a bit better now. She's back to trotting around again, whereas before she was clearly trying to not move, although she's still limping on her back paw. I think she's probably just sprained something and hopefully she'll be fine in the morning.

Apr 4, 2017, 6:10pm Top

>227 BLBera: I think I cope with Brexit slightly better than I would have coped with Trump in the US, perhaps because the racial element is less clear cut. While a lot of people voted for Brexit because of EU immigration it wasn't anything like as clear cut as white Britons predominantly voting for Brexit, and everyone else voting Remain. There were many areas where people of different ethnicities voted for Brexit too, for instance people of Indian or Pakistani descent. But with Trump it's very difficult to avoid the assumptions of sexism and racism, expecially when you see his cabinet of mainly old white men

Apr 5, 2017, 3:58am Top

I'm currently immersing myself in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century for the Jane Austen section of my course. Finished Pride and Prejudice and Persausion and now reading Fanny Burney's Evelina as part of the background reading on the sort of novels that Jane Austen herself would have read.

Apr 5, 2017, 6:43am Top

>228 SandDune: Aw, what a sweetheart!

Apr 5, 2017, 8:34am Top

>228 SandDune: Poor sweet Daisy. I'm glad she appears to be recovering.

Apr 5, 2017, 3:07pm Top

>235 SandDune: That sounds wonderful. I've just been reading about a Russian lit course at the British Library. I think I'd quite like to do a course, nothing as serious as the OU though, just light reading and discussion. Essays don't appeal.

Apr 5, 2017, 4:48pm Top

Poor Sweep and poor Daisy — it's been a (relatively) tough time around SandDune Manor for the four-legged family members, but I'm glad they are both getting back to themselves. Daisy is such a sweet-looking doggy. She looks smaller in those photos with J(?), though perhaps it's just that J has grown up!

Edited: Apr 7, 2017, 2:32am Top

>236 scaifea: >237 lauralkeet: >239 rosalita: She's much better now and running around happily! Daisy isn't a particularly large dog - her shoulder only comes up to my knee (and I am pretty short). She's reasonably tall for a pure bred Staffordshire Bull Terrier though, which are smaller than people generally think, as there's a lot of cross-breeds around.

We were packing to go on holiday yesterday and Sweep was having a whale of a time investigating our suitcases. And then she got bored with that and managed to jump on top of the wardrobe and had to be rescued again. As she's virtually blind in one eye she seems to have difficulty judging distance when jumping down off things. She manages to get herself on top of things but struggles to get herself down again. She's got a very different character from our old cat, Ruby. Whenever she saw that we had cases out she hid under the bed and refused to come out.

Apr 7, 2017, 7:48pm Top

We did a group read of Evelina a while back, Rhian; you may find some of the discussion useful - thread.

Poor Daisy! I'm glad she's okay again. I had a similar scare with my Kara recently, found her hunched up and unhappy, and limping as she walked, but she was fine a day or two later.

Apr 7, 2017, 9:14pm Top

Just got caught up, Rhian.

Excellent discourse on the Booker and other prizes. I agree with Darryl that many of the books that I liked over the past number of years didn't win. A Fine Balance and Half of a Yellow Sun would be particular favourites of mine that failed to win. I think that ladies clearly write at least as well as gentlemen do and, given proper exposure I enjoy their work equally, I think. I still read (somewhat unconsciously) more male than female authors but I think that is mainly because of the disparity in the amount of books published by each than any preconceived bias. Darryl is also right that the issues that flavour our own existence will be of more interest to us.

I am pleased that Kerry mentioned the Commonwealth Writers prize and she is correct that its loss is a blow to the discovery of new authors.

On Brexit, Euro-skepticism has nothing to do with racism per se but it is unfortunate that it is certainly true that it has been an issue where intolerance has been grasped by those who would. I am a little Euro-skeptic myself but would have voted on balance to remain - Tony Benn - my political idol was firmly Euro-Skeptic. I think the European Union is a complete mess and we never signed up for full union and taking us there was always going to lead to its eventual breakup, but based on its original conception, it was worth keeping hold of. I believe that we should have stayed and fought for its proper root and branch reform.

Finally I am pleased to see that your Pup is doing better and that it will augur a lovely weekend.

Edited: Apr 10, 2017, 5:42am Top

>241 lyzard: That has been very helpful Liz as it has cleared up in my mind the nationality of Mme Duval. I'd assumed that she was English when she was spoken of by other characters but then my audiobook had her speaking in a strong French accent. i just couldn't work out how she could actually be French and still be related to the Branghtons!

Apr 10, 2017, 8:35am Top

>242 PaulCranswick: I am definitely going to go through a period of reading what I want to read now Paul, and luckily my course has got as far as Jane Austen and I can read anything by Jane Austen over and over again.

With Brexit I think I would feel a great deal happier if we had been clear what arrangements we were. Outing for when we voted to leave. People's ideas of what Brexit means are so widely different that people weren't really voting for the same thing at all.

This topic was continued by SandDune Reads in 2017 - Part 3.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2017

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