BRITISH AUTHOR THEME CHALLENGE - GENERAL THREAD
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JANUARY - DEBUT NOVELS - https://www.librarything.com/topic/275745#6259410
FEBRUARY - THE 1970s - https://www.librarything.com/topic/276329#6262597
MARCH - CLASSIC THRILLERS - http://www.librarything.com/topic/276329#6266669
APRIL - FOLKLORE, FABLES AND LEGENDS - https://www.librarything.com/topic/276329#6264065
MAY - QUEENS OF CRIME - https://www.librarything.com/topic/275745#6260378
JUNE - TRAVEL WRITING - http://www.librarything.com/topic/276329#6266685
JULY - THE ANGRY YOUNG MEN - http://www.librarything.com/topic/276329#6266706
AUGUST - BRITISH SCIENCE FICTION - http://www.librarything.com/topic/276329#6265570
SEPTEMBER - HISTORICAL FICTION - http://www.librarything.com/topic/276329#6266539
OCTOBER - COMEDIC NOVELS - https://www.librarything.com/topic/276329#6266707
NOVEMBER - WORLD WAR ONE - https://www.librarything.com/topic/275745#6258461
DECEMBER - BRITISH SERIES - https://www.librarything.com/topic/276796#6268684
WILDCARD - THE ROMANTICS - https://www.librarything.com/topic/276796#6271176
I'm in again this year! I love the way you've structured this year's challenge.i think I'll be able to read books from my TBR stash almost every month. :-)
Nice change for the new year with British Author Themes Challenge 2018! I like cbl_tn's idea of reading off the TBR stash each month! Thanks!
An interesting re-do of the BAC, Paul. I may actually participate in a few of these this year.
I haven't taken time yet to figure out something that is a debut novel by a British author, but I'll find something from Mt TBR.
Same as fuzzi >11 fuzzi:. I read so many British authors and was always out of sync with the challenge in prior years. I'm going to try hard to plan my reading! May, September and December should be relatively easy for me!
Started the much dreaded Trainspotting. Not too happy with it (read that bathroom scene last night), but it's been on my shelf for years and this is a good occasion to finally check it off.
Great to see some enthusiasm for the challenge this year. I think it was in need of a facelift!
I am definitely doing:
The Debt to Pleasure this month and may manage another if I am able.
I finished my first BAC read of the year, Lolly Willowes, early this morning. It wasn't bad, but there was a lot of setup for not quite enough payoff.
I will be reading A High Wind in Jamaica. I've been meaning to read this for some time, so this is a great opportunity.
I've wanted to read I Capture the Castle for years, so that will be my selection this month.
So...question...Bill Bryson was born in the US but has lived in Britain most of is life and is an OBE. I purchased Notes from a Small Island last year and was thinking that it might qualify for June's Travel Writing. I'm not totally sure about Bill's nationality for challenge purposes - what do you think?
I'm not spotting a separate thread for January. If I'm missing it, please post the link. I just finished Funeral Music by Morag Joss for the January Debut Novels theme.
I only just looked at the links for the months in the British Author Challenge and was delighted to the the Romantics as a wildcard challenge. I haven't read that much by them, but what I have encountered I've loed so I'm definitely going to make time for some more this year.
Love the theme based Challenge, Paul.
This year I've decided to reread some of H. G. Wells' big hits. I've just finished listening to The Invisible Man and next up will be his debut novel The Time Machine. So count me in with that one. It's a classic, it's a debut, it's imaginative, it's short. Whats not to like?
I've read several of the books on the list, and don't have any of the others on hand, but I may try to fit in Adam Bede, which is here somewhere, and which I've been meaning to get to for some time.
Well, I'm going to have to save this thread, but I might not jump in until the latter half of the year.
I must say that this month's theme has been good for whittling down my TBR stack.
Liza of Lambeth by W. Somerset Maugham: Not bad, despite the predictable Victorian ending.
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson: Funny and sad and very well-written.
Highland Fling by Nancy Mitford: Light and charming. It doesn't have the sophistication of her later novels, but it's enjoyable.
Fun fact: Highland Fling is my 200th BAC read.
>30 PaulCranswick: Thanks, Paul. Since citizenship is a little different than nationality, I didn't know if he would actually qualify, but I was hoping he would! I'm probably not going to get all the months, but I think at this point with what I'm planning to read, I'll get at least half!
I’ve read two first novels: A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes (on Paul’s list), and The House at the Edge of the World by Julia Rochester (not on Paul’s list). Both were decent reads but A High Wind in Jamaica was exceptional and highly recommended.
Reviews on my thread here:
I am almost at the end of Tipping the Velvet but won't finish it in time for the end of January. It has taken me a long time to read because of all the foreshadowing of dire things happening to the main character. Fast reads for me are books that may have happy endings and mysteries where I want to find out who done it.
Taking up John Berger's G. A Novel again which I started last summer and put on hold at around 15%. It was published in 1972 and won the Booker, Berger is British, so I guess it fits?
I have The Road to Lichfield by Penelope Lively on my bookshelves so I'm going to try to read that for February's challenge.
>42 thornton37814: I've enjoyed all the Brother Cadfael mysteries that I've read. :)
Oh! I hadn't realized it had been that long since I posted here!
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro
I love Ishiguro's style, but this one went nowhere.
The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing
Not my cup of tea.
1970: The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield and Edward Blishen
Very engaging novel based on Greek Myths. Highly recommended.
1971: Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor
1974: The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge
1975: High-Rise by J.G. Ballard, read by Tom Hiddleston
Not the strangest Ballard book I've read, but that's only because I've read Crash. Hiddleston did an excellent job reading it.
1976: The Dark Side of the Sun by Terry Pratchett
A very early novel from Pratchett that doesn't quite work. It's got a lot going for it, but that's not surprising since it seems to have everything but the kitchen sink in it.
1978: The Praise Singer by Mary Renault
A bit slow, but a rewarding read.
I read The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge.
Freda and Brenda spend their days working in an Italian-run wine- bottling factory. A work outing offers promise for Freda, and terror for Brenda, passions run high on that chilly day of freedom, and life after the outing never returns to normal.
Hard to review, I liked it. Although toe-curlingly awful sometimes. I don't think it can really be called comedy. It's too sharp for that. And saying that life after the outing doesn't return to normal is a definite understatement.
I decided to read the one and only Beryl Bainbridge novel in my possession, The Dressmaker, which I believe was published in 1973, so it qualifies. I can't say I'm loving it, but it's short, so I will read on and reserve final judgment.
>50 Familyhistorian: Yes, the end was pretty weird wasn't it? I think I have read similar stuff as well, Fawlty Towers comes to mind, making it into a play might work.
>51 amanda4242: now you've tickled my interest in that Ballard novel Amanda. The 1970s was an odd time, but then I was a teenager, so my perceptions may have been different.
I just finished John Berger's G. a novel. It was unlike anything else I've ever read, which up to 70% was good, but then it really lost me. Certainly a courageous choice for a Booker winner.
>54 Caroline_McElwee: The 70s were an odd time not just from a teenage point of view.
1972: An Alien Heat by Michael Moorcock
Weird and funny and wildly imaginative. I definitely want to read the sequels.
1973: Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
Amazing! Go read this book now!
1977: Sun Horse, Moon Horse by Rosemary Sutcliff
Clearly written for children, but a decent read for an adult.
And I've completed the 70s!
It was a bit of a challenge coming up with a classic thriller book for March. I am not a big thriller reader but have read The Eye of the Needle and The Guns of Navarone. It was hard to get info on thrillers as they are often lumped together with crime novels. The classic requirement was a bit of a problem too, as was the fact that I wanted to read something that I owned. So what I decided on was to read a Barbara Vine novel, as they are written by Ruth Rendell the "pioneer of psychological thrillers". Now I just have to decided whether to read The Blood Doctor or The Chimney Sweeper's Boy.
>60 Familyhistorian: I'm not a big thriller reader either. I haven't decided what my March book will be yet.
Not my genre either, but I found one that's also a 1001, Eric Ambler's Cause for Alarm. Will testread and then decide.
Edit: test-read and bought. :)
I finished Catherine Aird's Slight Mourning as a second entry for February.
>63 Deern: Thanks for that, Nathalie, thrillers are not my favourite, but I looked up some reviews for this one, and it looks like a good one. Might try this if I can find it.
Well, a bit behind as usual. Today I finished my January "début novel" selection: Elizabeth Taylor's At Mrs Lippincote's (1945).
Really enjoyed Cause for Alarm, almost too much action for my nerves, and set in pre-war fascist Italy it also has some depth.
I finished Ambler's one year older novel Epitaph for a spy. It's set in the south of France. I think there is less action, the first part reminded me a bit of Agatha Christie. One of the guests of a tourist hotel has to be a spy, but who? An exciting action scene near the end.
I thought it was well written. I had feared that Ambler wrote hard-boiled crime novels, but this one was not like that at all.
>70 amanda4242: Yes, there was nothing very deep in The Thirty Nine Steps (I read it last year). This was a world where one can tell a man is innocent because he is a decent chap and where the only people in the whole country seem to be the people you are running away from or the one or two decent chaps who help you out. However there is something interesting in there.
There is some interesting (historical) politics in the book, with the author, a conservative MP, constructing a kindly but misguided liberal character who lacks true conviction but talks the must "unutterable rot" about free trade (conservatives of the time being dead set against free trade). Its all a bit transparent, even if the issues are not very current.
I did find it interesting though because this shows the flip-flopping of the conservative party on issues. They were anti free trade then, but with Ted Heath, and especially Margaret Thatcher (and the realisation that protectionism caused the Great Depression) they became strongly pro free trade, inventing the EU single market, only now to be turning their back on it again.
The other funny thing I noticed about the book was that the protagonist apparently speaks German, but all through the book we just read things like "I wrote something in German". It turns out that this is because the author is not very good with the language. When we finally get some spoken German it is this line:
"Schnell Franz," cried a voice, "der Boot, der Boot!"
So three words of German, and it's wrong. Boot (boat) is neuter. It should be "das Boot, das Boot!"
>71 sirfurboy: Thanks for the info on the politics! As an American, most of that passes right over my head.
I've just finished Geoffrey Household's Watcher in the Shadows, another one with a gentleman dashing around the British countryside while someone's out to get him; however, this one does feature a thrilling climax.
I took a break from thrillers and read one of the wildcard selections: William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience. Beautiful stuff, although I found some of the "Innocence" poems a little too sentimental. A favorite:
The Garden of Love
I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.
And the gates of this Chapel were shut
And 'Thou shalt not,' writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.
And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.
Already planning April, and I have no idea what to read for the BAC. Any ideas for something short and easy?
I might read more than one Beckett for the IAC, and I've already read the whole T.H. White series, Sir Gawain in the Armitage version and The Buried Giant (of which I can recommend the last two, the series is very long).
Forgot to mention that I also read Beowulf, but I'll look into the Sutcliff books, thank you!! :)
I've managed to read another thriller, Somerset Maugham's Ashenden, or, the British Agent. It's a series of loosely connected short stories inspired by Maugham's time in the Intelligence Service during WWI. Not a rip-roaring James Bond-style thriller, but a good tale well told.
I've also gotten a head start on April with a few books:
The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkien
An unfinished poem, which, as it stands, is more interesting as an example of alliterative verse in Modern English than it is as a work of art. The extensive notes included are interesting and hint that it might have been a great poem if Tolkien had ever finished it, as shown by this heartrending fragment from an unfinished canto of Arthur mourning Gawain:
Then gloom fell grey on the good king’s heart
and he groans amid gliding tears
looking upon his eyes now closed for ever
and his lips like lead and [? lily faded].
Then his [? crown] he cast down crying aloud
‘Dear kinsman in care am I left
now my glory is gone and my grace [written above: good]
Here lies my hope and my help and my helm and my sword
my heart and my hardihood and my ..... of strength
my counsel and comfort
of all knights the [?? noblest].
of all [?kings] the ............. Christ lived
To be king .............. I the crown bore.
I am ...... [?utterly ruined] in mine own lands.
Ah, dread death thou dwellest too long,
thou drownest my heart ere I die.
Beowulf: A New Telling by Robert Nye
Nye's take on the legend is a really good read. He fleshes out characters and situations, and made Beowulf an intelligent man--he reminded me a bit of Odysseus--rather than the braggart he sometimes seems in the original.
Tristan and Iseult by Rosemary Sutcliff
Sutcliff removed the love potion from her telling of the legend, making the doomed lovers far more human. A sad, but good read.
I just read Armitage's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, not thinking about the fact that it would fit into April's category. Hmmmm...
At the moment, I plan to read Seamus Heaney's version of Beowulf for the April BAC.
I knocked out a couple of Wildcard reads recently.
Lyrical Ballads by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Pretty forgettable apart from the hallucinatory Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Careless Rambles by John Clare
Each of these nature poems is a little gem. Some lines from "A Morning Walk":
O who can shun the lovely morning,
The calms, the crowds of beauteous things?
O where's the soul that treats with scorning
The beauty morning brings
With dew-drops braided round her hair
And opening flowers her breast adorning?
O where's the soul that cannot share
The loveliness of morning?
By hedgerow side and field and brook
I love to be its partner still,
To turn each leaf of nature's book
Where all may read as will
And he who loves it not destroys
His quiet and makes life a slave.
His soul is dead to loves and joys,
His own heart is their grave.
Ruth Rendell is known as the pioneer of the psychological thriller which she brought to the fore, particularly in the books which she wrote as Barbara Vine. I read Vine's The Chimney Sweeper's Boy for as this month's thriller.
It was the story of a man who was a successful writer who dies suddenly. His publisher talks the writer's daughter into writing a memoir about growing up with such a wonderful father. But was he wonderful or a cruel manipulative man who lived his life and gained his success by using the people in his life?
>86 laytonwoman3rd: I had a hard time finding a British thriller that I could count, Linda. It took some research but I found something that I was on my shelf to use for the challenge. It was the "classic" bit that made it really hard to find something that would work. Enjoy your Barbara Vine!
Since April is National Poetry Month, I’m planning to read Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.
>88 cbl_tn: That one almost did me in last year. Hope you enjoy it more than I did!
Two more April books and another January selection.
Beowulf: Dragonslayer by Rosemary Sutcliff
Beowulf by Michael Morpurgo
Reading these back to back really highlighted the differences between the two retellings; they both stick close to the original legend, but have very different flavors. Sutcliff's version starts in the Geats' court, with a traveler telling of the horrors at Heorot, and then follows Beowulf on his quest. Interestingly, she doesn't include the Christian gloss of the original, and makes numerous references to wyrd--fate--throughout.
Morpurgo's take is styled like a bard recounting the tale. He's at his best when describing the action sequences, which seemed a bit gruesome to me for a book being marketed for children. He also makes Beowulf and co. explicitly Christian.
The Twelfth Hour by Ada Leverson
A lovely little story of the lives and loves of three siblings. Leverson has something of Oscar Wilde's wit, but fortunately lacks his incessant need to be epigrammatic.
Another debut novel:
The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett
It's a bit rough around the edges, but still delightful.
And for this month's theme:
Y Gododdin by Aneirin, translated by John Williams Ab Ithel
This medieval Welsh poem is a series of heartrending elegies for the warriors who died at the Battle of Catraeth. A lot of it went over my head, but it's breathtakingly beautiful in places.
It's based on actual events, but it carries more than a hint of the legendary to it so I'm totally counting it for this month.
From the feast of wine and the banquet of mead, they marched
To the strife of mail-clad warriors;
I know no tale of slaughter which records
So complete a destruction.
Before Cattraeth loquacious was the host;
But of the retinue of Mynyddawg, greatly to be deplored,
Out of three hundred men, only one returned.
From the feast of wine and the banquet of mead, with speed they marched,
Men renowned in difficulty, prodigal of their lives;
In fairest order round the viands they together feasted;
Wine and mead and tribute they enjoyed.
From the retinue of Mynyddawg ruin has come to me;
And I have lost my general and my true friends.
Of the regal army of three hundred men that hastened to Cattraeth,
Alas! none have returned, save one alone.
I just finished The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. I liked it, though there was some plodding needed as well. Especially in the beginning of the book it was a bit slow.
Here it first reminded me of Tolkien and his hobbits, but then strongly of Kafka. There is so much hidden, and incomprehensible at first.
But everything slowly gets clearer, and more interesting.
The melancholy ending was heart-rending.
It's a book to think about after the story is finished.
>92 amanda4242: The theme of war and the damage it does makes for a link with your poems, Amanda!
>94 Familyhistorian: It is a melancholy book, but I thought the first half the slowest. Later on things start to happen, and even a very old Sir Gawain turns up, I don't know if that helps?
>94 Familyhistorian: War and loss seem to feature heavily in this month's theme.
I've finally gotten around to reading The Sword in the Stone. I've fallen in love with it to the point where I want to just hand a copy to everyone I know and tell them to read it right now so we can marvel at the wonder of it together.
>93 EllaTim: The melancholy ending was heart-rending. That's where the book earned a full extra star from me, and after 1.5 years the book is still on my mind a lot. I had my difficulties earlier though.
>95 EllaTim: Thanks for that but what really got me reading the book was the fact that people started putting holds on it at the library so I had to finish it to be able to return it in time.
The Buried Giant was melancholy, a quite obvious allegory and not really my cuppa but I finished it!
>96 amanda4242: Arthurian books seem to be about war and loss by definition.
For April's folklore, I read The Book of Merlyn by TH White - I've been very slowly reading The Once and Future King (nearly done listening, but decided to go back and actually READ it) and I just realized that both my copies end with The Candle in the Wind without The Book of Merlyn. I figured I was okay to read The Book of Merlyn since I had read and enjoyed A Sword in the Stone several times. I'm so glad I read The Book of Merlyn - what a fantastic piece of literature. It really makes one think and it brings The Sword in the Stone full circle. I think White could have really cut out a substantial amount of stuff about Lancelot, Elaine, etc in The Once and Future King and it would be a more enjoyable experience focusing more on just Arthur.
I'm a big fan of everything I've read so far by Ishiguru, so I first read The Buried Giant when it came out and quite enjoyed it. It certainly does leave one with a lot to think about, and I find myself wondering if I could have possibly understood it all. I think it will be worth a reread in a year or so.
My May read, P.D. James' Death comes to Pemberley was quite a desaster, I should have looked at reviews first. But I'll try another one soon, maybe within the month, as I understand her other mysteries are much better.
My first entry for the BAC this month was The Seven Dials Mystery an Agatha Christie that is a spoof of a thriller. It was a fun and quick read. I am sure that I will be able to fit in more Queens of Crime this month.
I haven't posted here for a while, but I certainly haven't stopped reading!
The Cartographer's Daughter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Hargrave's debut novel is a magnificent adventure story. Scary and sad at times, but ultimately a hopeful tale.
The Quest of Julian Day by Dennis Wheatley
I think this one contains about every single pulp novel trope there is. Herein you will find: an intrepid hero, exotic locations, an international cabal, lost treasure, drug smuggling, human trafficking, villainous foreigners, and a femme fatale. Unfortunately it also contains period-typical attitudes about, well, everything. Not a bad read, but some parts really did not age well.
Vendetta by Derek Lambert
Lambert's tale of two snipers hunting each other during the Battle of Stalingrad is a hell of a page turner. His lean, unadorned prose perfectly captures the feeling of the beleaguered city.
Received via NetGalley.
The Yermakov Transfer by Derek Lambert
In this Cold War thriller a group of Russian-born radical Zionists plot to kidnap the Russian Premier and ransom him in exchange for exit visas for ten Jewish scientists.
Lambert style is crisp and direct, and he builds tension with both the constant presence of the KGB and the reminders that the train route takes them through the land of the gulag. He also does an excellent job at showing his characters as human beings with complex motivations.
Received via NetGalley.
Queens of Crime
Cover Her Face by P.D. James
A little uneven at times, but good enough that I want to pick up the next book in the series.
Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers
There were times when Lord Peter came across as a Bertie Wooster clone, but overall it was good. I was especially impressed that Sayers had her hero suffer from shell shock/PTSD.
The Case of the Late Pig by Margery Allingham
Did not impress me.
The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey
I enjoyed this one, although I thought the ending was a bit contrived. I really liked that Tey made her detective actually *work* at solving the crime, rather than deduce the killer's identity from a scrap of blank paper and some cigarette ash.
The 75 Book Challenge 2018 has been going well on the reading side although at my usual sub 75 book pace. A big plus, so far, I have been able to read a book each month thru May in the British Author Challenge which if I keep it up for the year will be a first! On the downside I have neglected to update BAC or my own 75 page since the start of 2018, hence just noting Book 1 The End We Start From by Megan Hunter on May 16, 2018 instead of January 15, 2018 when I actually finished reading it! I will quickly recap all my BAC titles through mid-May 2018.
Anyhow I found the book more like a long prose poem than an actual novel. Hunter's language is quite lovely and it becomes apparent that she is taking her inspiration from end of the world mythologies, such as Ragnarok from Norse mythology, which are as much about rebirth as they are about death and destruction. I think if one takes it in with this understanding it is quite refreshing and certainly more positive than many dystopian end of the world novels. I came to read the book due to the British Author Theme Challenge 2018 organized by Paul Cranswick and his MONTHLY THEMES of JANUARY - DEBUT NOVELS! Thanks! This book is a lovely debut by a talented newcomer Megan Hunter.
Snow In April by Rosamunde Pilcher was Book 6 courtesy of BAC FEBRUARY - THE 1970s. As someone not prone to reading the Romance, capital R, genre it was a fun title by an author who was a giant in that segment of publishing. It was an engaging read and I liked how it focused on the relationship of a young brother and his older sister as much as her romantic travails. If you want to see a dramatic view of the evolution of Romance marketing in publishing compare the rather plain grey cover & simple illustration on the original 1973 edition with the explosion of color on the refreshed cover image of more recent reprints. I can't say this converted me to being a fan, however it was an enjoyable read on its own terms.
The Heights of Zervos by Colin Forbes was Book 8 courtesy of BAC MARCH - CLASSIC THRILLERS and it could have qualified as THE 1970s as well. This was a vintage WWII men on a mission title that was as enjoyable as it was increasingly preposterous. This might be some kind record for my personal TBR pile as while I owned this edition for only a few years, I am quite certain, I owned a copy when I read Colin Forbes other thrillers as a teen in the late 1970s Year of the Golden Ape and The Stone Leopard. A contemporary of Alistair MacLean as an author of British thrillers I would recommend these straightforward old school adventures by Colin Forbes!
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Anonymous and given a new verse translation by Simon Armitage about 10 years ago was Book 14 via BAC APRIL - FOLKLORE, FABLES AND LEGENDS. Probably the most famous take was penned and widely published by J.R.R. Tolkien, however Armitage's version has been justly acclaimed for translating the multiple poetic forms from this classic of Middle English poetry. It is also a cracking good Arthurian legend which has multiple layers of Christian and Celtic imagery. In addition to highly recommending this work for both its poetry and mythology I strongly advise people to seek out a BBC documentary where Simon Armitage traverses the actual English countryside where the tale is set while sharing his interpretation of the work and its history.
The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths was Book 15 via BAC MAY - QUEENS OF CRIME. Celtic imagery is central to this murder mystery which was the first in the Ruth Holloway series. It is a bit reminiscent of the Dr. Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs which inspired the television program Bones as the central character Ruth Holloway is also an archaeologist who specializes in bones. I really liked the atmosphere of the desolate bird sanctuary across a peat bog by the sea and the details of the archaeology and the echoes of the Celtic past up to the present day. Also, I enjoyed the way Ruth is gradually pulled into the case as it progresses from misidentified ancient bones of girl sacrifice to the present day disappearances of 2 girls 10 years apart. On the down-side the author strains a bit in setting the table for what was clearly planned to be an ongoing series from the start and the plot involves far too many coincidences by the time it reaches its exciting, if improbable, conclusion. I would still recommend this as a good read for mystery and non-mystery fans alike.
For BAC JUNE - TRAVEL WRITING I am expecting to read Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West.
Unfortunately, Google seems to have made changes to their image service that do not allow me to link to the cover image jpegs and other interesting images as I did before. If anyone can point me to a work around for this please let me know.
Thanks again to Paul for the BAC 2018 monthly themes as they have lead me to an enjoyable run of books and authors.
I'm a huge fan of Christie, Marsh, Sayers, Allingham, James, Tey, etc. This is probably my favorite month in the British Author Challenge.
>105 Deern: Don't give up on PD James - her Adam Dalgleish series is very good. The Pemberly book was, I believe, the last book she published before her death, and IMO left a lot to be desired, but I very much enjoyed her Dalgleish series and her Cordelia Gray series.
>110 ralphcoviello: I've been enjoying the Ruth Galloway series, but I must admit that her most recent book The Dark Angel didn't impress me as much as some of the others. For what it's worth, I just take my cover images from LT or Amazon.
For May, I read A Shilling for Candles by Josephine Tey which was made into the movie Young and Innocent by Alfred Hitchcock in 1937. It was enjoyable, but I didn't like it as much as some of the others in the Alan Grant series. I was a little disappointed in Grant this time out
I've also read a few Wildcards - The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Ode to a Nightingale and La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats. I've always loved the Coleridge which was introduced to me by my 8th grade English teacher, who was also my neighbor and a good friend of my family while I was growing up. She helped teach me to read when I was three and was one of the best English teachers I've ever had - introducing my class to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Macbeth, the play 12 Angry Men, and lots of other great literature and poetry. She wasn't afraid to challenge us. Unfortunately, there were not many like her, especially for the content she taught at an 8th-grade level. I know my kids don't get near the quality of literature today (even in HS) that I was exposed to through her in 8th grade.
>110 ralphcoviello: Hi Ralph, I enjoyed your summing up here!
I agree with you about The Crossing Places, good atmosphere, improbable story.
For the images, I think you can't link to the google page, you have to click through to the website the image is coming from. Lots of sites that have good photographs disable the copying of their stuff now. For book covers you can use Amazon, or LT itself.
I've just finished The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves. I was a bit disappointed, for some mysterious reason it just didn't hold my attention. A pity, I had read some good reviews here.
>111 rretzler: Hi Robin, so which one of the Alan Grant series would you recommend? Start out with the first one?
I'd like to read 12 Angry Men, it is the play that inspired the movie, I think?
>112 EllaTim: Ella, I think The Daughter of Time is probably the best Alan Grant. It is considered by some to be one of the best mysteries written - I wouldn't go that far, but it is a great book. The Franchise Affair is supposed to be pretty good, but its one that I have not read yet. They don't seem to build on each other a lot, so I feel that you can read them out of order.
12 Angry Men is the same as the movie - I believe it was actually a made for TV play in the US before it was rewritten as a play for the stage (in both the US and UK) and then finally became the well-known movie. The movie is one of my favorites!
I find I don't like Ann Cleeves' Vera Stanhope as much as I like the Shetland series, or even the Inspector Ramsay or George Palmer-Jones series. The Vera Stanhope series is not bad, it just doesn't seem as good as the others for some reason - Vera is perhaps just a little too prickly for my tastes.
Book 9 was The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Macmillan Collector's Library) by Samuel Taylor Coleridge which until rretzler mentioned it I forgot I picked up because of the BAC WILDCARD - THE ROMANTICS! I recall reading this in school, however sadly, like Shakespeare at that time, I was not ready for the experience of this heady, rule-breaking masterpiece of romantic poetry! I was fortunate enough to read a jewel like copy from the Macmillan Collector's Library which includes the masterful iconic wood-engraved illustrations by Gustave Doré! I encourage anyone who has not revisited this marvelous work since High School to read it again and all the better if you get a copy with those moody images by Doré which perfectly reflect and amplify the feelings generated by Coleridge work of poetic genius!
>113 rretzler: I would like to like the Vera Stanhope series but I can't watch the TV show. Can't handle the voice.
I read another Agatha Christie The Man in the Brown Suit. It was a really good mystery and quite an adventure for her young heroine. I wanted to read this one for a while, ever since reading Grand Tour, the story about Archie and Agatha Christie's world voyage. I could see that Christie used her experiences on her voyage in writing the mystery.
>116 Familyhistorian: I think that's my favorite of her non-series books. (Although Colonel Race does appear in a handful of other novels, I don't really consider the Race books a series in the way that the Poirot, Miss Marple, and Tommy & Tuppence books are series.)
I have been an absent landlord for way too long!
I'll go back and comment on the May posts:
>102 rretzler: I had my best month so far reading 6 books in the challenge for April's folklore and legends.
Rosemary Sutcliff's Arthurian trilogy and Bernard Cornwell's very different version of the same.
>108 amanda4242: Some good reading there as always Amanda. I have all but finished a Margery Allingham my own self.
>110 ralphcoviello: The Rebecca West is quite a tome, Ralph, good luck with that and thanks for your kind comments.
>117 cbl_tn: It seems a more substantial story than many of her later books so I can see why it is your favourite, Carrie. I remember Colonel Race from other books, never the hero, always a supporting character.
This time I switched to another queen of crime, Josephine Tey. In To Love and Be Wise Inspector Grant was once again on the scene tracking down a young American photographer who disappeared from a well-to-do family home where he was visiting.
The Saint Peter's Plot by Derek Lambert
This is the third book by Lambert I've read and is the first I don't find wholly satisfying. The Saint Peter's Plot takes place in Germany and the Vatican during WWII and splits its attention between a group of Nazis planning an escape route for Hitler should defeat become inevitable, a motley group of Italian partisans, a Roman Jewish woman working with a priest to help Jews escape Europe, and Fascist-sympathizers within the Church. With all the different threads he has going it's perhaps not surprising that Lambert never manages to really develop most of them or tie them together in any meaningful way.
Received via NetGalley.
Queens of Crime
Still Midnight by Denise Mina
When this book began with a detailed description of a plastic bag going down the street "sashaying like a Victorian gentleman on a Sunday stroll" I had a sinking feeling I was not going to like it. When the same bag was described as "stunned" a few pages later I *knew* I wasn't going to like it but decided to keep reading to see how bad it could get. Fortunately it improved slightly but not enough to make me really enjoy it.
I was very surprised to see this is the first in a series featuring Alex Morrow, as literally every other character in the book had more depth and personality than DS Morrow.
Passenger to Teheran by Vita Sackville-West
I enjoyed Sackville-West's style, but this read (unsurprisingly) very much like an upper-class Englishwoman's tour of the Empire.
Blue Thirst by Lawrence Durrell
Transcripts of two lectures Durrell gave, one on his time in Greece before WWII and one on his time in the diplomatic service. Nothing deep here, but Durrell's reminiscences are entertaining and it was lovely to see him praise his "insect-mad" brother Gerald and his writing.
>123 fuzzi: I believe Peters' Cadfael books are part of the December selections, so even if she doesn't count for MAy she'll count for December.
Hand in Hand We'll Go by Robert Burns, illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian
Ten of Burns's poems as an illustrated children's book. I would have thought Burns a bad choice for children, but read aloud the poems are actually pretty clear and there's a very helpful glossary at the back of the book for the tough words. Hogrogian's illustrations are those limited-color block prints that seem to have been really popular in the 60s and 70s; not to my taste, but they don't clash with the poems.
A Song About Myself by John Keats, illustrated by Chris Raschka
I'm not sure why this one got published. The poem is a bit of doggerel from a letter Keats wrote to his sister and was never meant for publication, and Raschka's watercolor illustrations bounce between boring and muddy.
Riding to the Tigris by Freya Stark
Not bad, but not very exciting. Stark's style is clear and undramatic; I'll probably remember her mini rant about Turkish hotels better than any of her descriptions of people or landscape.
Going through a bad reading funk, but trying to read Eric Newby's A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush this month. I originally had a Dalrymple lined up, but I might need something lighter.
Golden Bats and Pink Pigeons by Gerald Durrell
Fillets of Plaice by Gerald Durrell
Gerald Durrell wrote such charming books. Golden Bats covers a trip to Mauritius and is full of the wonderful descriptions and wit I love about his writing. Fillets of Plaice is a collection of odds and ends that didn't quite fit in any of his other books; slight, but fun.
Selected Papers on Anthropology, Travel and Exploration by Richard Francis Burton
There earliest selections are really great reads, written with a great sense of adventure. Burton's discourses on geography, religion, language, and culture show a keen intelligence and staggering eye for detail.
Sadly the later selections, written after Burton's greatest exploits were behind him, seem bitter and stereotypically Victorian.
I chose Travels with a donkey in the Cevennes by Robert Louis Stevenson as I had read good things about it here. And I needed something light. Found an annotated version on the internet, very handy, links to maps, explanations of background, so nice.
>127 amanda4242: Oh, Yes, Gerald Durrell, I hadn't thought of him, but good choice.
I would like to read the book by Rebecca West on Paul's list, Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, but at over 1000 pages I don't know how long it will take me to read it.
I have a copy of Station to Station: Searching for Stories on the Great Western Line by James Attlee. Someone mentioned Rain: Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison which sounded intriguing. If it arrives from the UK before the end of the month, I will try to get to it as well.
Kind of quite here this month.
The Whispering Land by Gerald Durrell
The Bafut Beagles by Gerald Durrell
Durrell in Russia by Gerald Durrell and Lee Durrell
A Zoo in My Luggage by Gerald Durrell
Can you tell I enjoy Durrell?
The man who was Saturday by Derek Lambert
Another enjoyable Cold War thriller from Lambert.
Queens of Crime
Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
A very readable mystery, although I think the ending is a bit flat.
The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid
So many things annoyed me here! The leads are bland, there are a bunch of tedious torture scenes, the female journalist gets her tips by sleeping with sources, unpleasant stereotypes of gay men abound, and there's the horrid
McDermid makes a number of references to The Silence of the Lambs, which is really unfortunate because they only reminded me how much better Silence is.
>132 amanda4242: I've not found anything on my shelves that fits this month's challenge, and I'm determined to use that source primarily.
It was my intention to get to Patrick Leigh Fermor this month, and I still may, but the days are speeding by.
>133 fuzzi: I've been using this year's challenge to read books off of my shelf, too. My shelves are scarce on books for July's theme, so I hope the library will provide.
>135 amanda4242: oh, I see what you are saying. I don't think I have anything by those authors on my shelves.
I've finished another Wildcard selection, Robert Southey's Thalaba the Destroyer, which was surprisingly good. The verse isn't anything to write home about, but there's an enjoyable story in there; kind of an Arabian Nights thing with a splash of Conan the Barbarian.
My book for this month's BAC was about Scotland. Scottish Field calls it 'a seductive travelogue' which, to my mind, fits the travel theme for this month. In Scotland's Last Frontier: A Journey Along the Highland Line, Alistair Moffat looks at the history between the Highlanders, Lowlanders and other interested parties (ie the English). It was all tied to a sense of place which culminated in the events at Culloden and the aftermath. It was an interesting history, well told.
Well Paul Cranswick turned out to be prophetic as I had to retreat from my original plan for BAC JUNE - TRAVEL WRITING of reading Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West as one look at that massive tome and I knew it was not the right time for it. Instead I read the rather slight Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere by Jan Morris as June BAC and Book 21 for the 75 Book Challenge 2018. Famed travel writer Jan Morris's final book is as melancholy as the city of the title described by the author. The mix of personal and historical impressions had some engaging moments, still overall I found this as disappointing as some visitors apparently find Trieste itself. Maybe you just had to be there as a traveler or at least as a previous reader of Morris to appreciate it more.
I've started in on July's Angry Young Men, although my local library is surprisingly light on the most famous names of the movement.
So far I've read:
Hurry on Down by John Wain
An amusing picaresque tale.
Look Back in Anger by John Osborne
Is Angry Young Men British English for unbearable assholes?
Roots by Arnold Wesker
I like this play far more than I thought I would. I'm not big on social realism, but Beatie Bryant's struggle to articulate her desire for a more fulfilling life is actually very affecting.
>142 amanda4242: You make me very glad I decided to skip this category!
>143 laytonwoman3rd: I've enjoyed a couple, but mostly I think the Angry Young Men were annoying jerks.
I'm still in my travel book A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush (which I find very boring), but I managed to read one for this month's challenge - Lucky Jim by Kinglsey Amis which is also a 1,001. I don't know... it's not the first "angry young man" I read from that period and I found them all quite ... looking for a word. It's a humor that doesn't work with me. It's so class-conscious and snobbish and at the same time not, self-derogatory and self-centered, and then liberated and repressed at the same time. Basically a humor similar to the Hindu Kush book which is why I make no progress there. But at least I haven't fallen off the BAC train yet completely. British sci-fi next month should be easier for me I hope.
The angry young men category was a bit of a stretch for me. It took me a while to read Lucky Jim, most of the month, in fact. I found Jim a bit annoying, actually. In the end he wasn't as annoying as his main enemy, Bertrand, so I found myself, somewhat surprisingly, on Jim's side.
I read 2001 too early this year to count it for the August BAC. I had a couple of other sci-fis on my tbr, but found they're all by American authors. I guess I'll now buy and read the Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham as it's also on the 1,001 list.
>151 amanda4242: You're right and I count it should I not get to the Wyndham book.
I read 2001 days after having seen the movie for the first time.
I liked it, but the comparison was so strange, as it's a movie almost without dialogue, with such strong images and music, and then you read a book that in very many words describes what you've seen. I never noticed that for other books turned into film.
In the end, I thought they go well hand in hand. The book explained the plot gaps in the movie, the movie has the atmosphere of space the book lacks.
Angry Young Men
I Like It Here by Kingsley Amis
Story of a British guy who doesn't mind the idea of going abroad, but isn't so sure about having to be around foreigners. Amusing, but not a favorite.
Queens of Crime
A Dark-Adapted Eye by Ruth Rendell
The first half was so freaking slow I almost quite reading. It got really good in the second half, but getting there was a major effort.
Ironclads by Adrian Tchaikovsky
A not very original military story, but some nifty world building.
Proof of Concept by Gwyneth Jones
I really wanted to like this one more than I do. There are so many interesting things here: a society trying to live on an Earth that is unequivocally dying; a girl with an AI implanted in her brain; and a long-term experiment that is supposed to be in support of inter-stellar travel. Unfortunately, there is too much going on for a novella so nothing is given the attention it deserves. I really wish Jones had expanded this into a novel.
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
I was surprised how blatantly political it is.
Time Was by Ian McDonald
Lovers Ben and Tom have become unstuck in time for wibbily wobbly reasons, and communicate with each other via letters left in books at certain book shops. The story's really more about the book dealer who stumbles across the correspondence, but it's still an oddly touching book.
After skipping BAC JULY - THE ANGRY YOUNG MEN I read books 28 & 29 The Six Directions of Space & Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds read for both the 75 Book Challenge 2018 and the British Author Challenge 2018.
These are three novellas of hard science fiction with the latter two combined into a single volume set in the Revelation Space universe where the author has set several of his novels. For those unfamiliar the term 'hard science fiction' generally denotes that author has attempted to adhere to know science and the limits it imposes while imagining how our current technology might advance in the future which makes sense as Alastair Reynolds studied physics and astronomy, earned a PhD and worked for the European Space Research and Technology Centre.
I was pointed to Alastair Reynolds by the British Author Challenge 2018 August and when I saw the scale of his novels I decided to read a slim novella "The Six Directions of Space". By coincidence I had just been reading and watching videos about Genghis Khan and the Mongol Empire which in Reynolds imaginative leap had successfully gone on to build a global empire that continued for centuries ultimately expanding beyond earth to become a galactic empire. Yellow Dog is a female spy and the central character whose assignment entangles her with Qilian, a sort of warlord running a far off section of the empire as a tyrant who is both brutal and inquisitive. My only real complaint is that this brief book is so overwhelmingly crammed with imaginative detail, speculative concepts and engaging characters that it cries out for the breathing space of a full novel!
I was so enthralled by my first experience of Alastair Reynolds fiction that I immediately took the plunge with the two novellas that comprise "Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days" and found them a decidedly mixed experience. It is fortunate that I first read "The Six Directions of Space" because I ended up deeply disliking "Diamond Dogs" which is cynical, extremely violent, filled with thin poorly motivated characters and worst of all dull being only elevated by the larger concepts the author introduces. Fortunately the second story "Turquoise Days" is the best of the three focusing on two sisters Naqi and Mina and it opens as they are on their own on an airship studying the mysterious microscopic alien Pattern Jugglers. Turquoise is an isolated planet covered by a vast ocean settled centuries past by colonists who built a world of cities floating on its surface. The ocean is filled with floating nodes of Pattern Jugglers and though seemingly benign when a person swims with them they are transformed to one degree or another. I found this story brought together the best elements of speculative imagination present in the previous stories and elevated above them by being far more focused in its telling with its very human characters.
I am glad to have experienced his work, thanks to BAC August, in these novellas and look forward to tackling his novels especially those set in Revelation Space one day. You can learn about the author and his works at Alastair Reynolds.
I just started William Golding's Rites of Passage and noticed it fits the September challenge. :)
Still haven't finished my June book...
Some more science fiction reads:
The Hollow Lands by Michael Moorcock
The second book in The Dancers at the End of Time series is possibly more enjoyable than the first.
Torchwood: Into the Silence by Sarah Pinborough
The alien threat in this tie-in novel is interesting and the ending, while tragic, is appropriate to the story and in keeping with the tone of the show. Unfortunately, the pacing isn't great and the dialogue is pretty bad, especially the banter between the Torchwood team.
Planetfall by Emma Newman
An interesting look at colony on a distant planet. I would have rated it higher but the narrator is about as exciting as a glass of distilled water and the end makes that last couple of Alien movies look like exemplars of logic.
After Atlas by Emma Newman
This stand-alone sequel to Planetfall is so much better than its predecessor. I really hope Newman revisits this part of the Planetfall universe soon.
Just One Damned Thing After Another and A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor
Compulsively readable series about time-traveling historians. It has superficial similarities to Connie Willis's Doomsday Book, but it's more action packed and much lighter in tone.
>157 amanda4242: Thanks for that lineup! I had skipped this month of the challenge, as I thought I had already read so many SF. But you have given me some options again. I think I'll be trying Jodi Taylor, compulsively readable sounds good.
I went with a classic for this month's BAC and read The War of the Worlds. It has held up very well over time from the human point of view. The Martians, maybe not so much. It was a good read though.
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