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AlisonY: 2019 - Rash and Random Reading

Club Read 2019

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Edited: Jan 2, 4:36pm Top

Hi there,

For those who haven't visited my thread before, I live in Northern Ireland with my husband and 2 kids, now 11 and 9. I enjoy reading mainly literary fiction - classic and modern - with the odd thriller and non-fictional title thrown in every now and again.

Outside of reading, I enjoy a bit of Iyengar yoga, and am a little bit obsessed with oggling great interior design.

Last year I read 41 books, the best of which were:

The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt
The Sea House by Esther Freud
My Struggle: Book 4 by Karl Ove Knausgaard
Beloved by Toni Morrison

My 2018 thread can be found here: https://www.librarything.com/topic/294081

This year's reading aims? Lots of random titles. Going where the prevailing reading winds take me.

Edited: Yesterday, 3:43am Top

2019 Reading Track

1. We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates - read (4 stars)
2. Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood - read (5 stars)
3. Back to Basics: The Education You Wish You'd Had by Caroline Taggart - read (3 stars)
4. Unnatural Causes by Dr Richard Shepherd - currently reading

Jan 2, 2:50pm Top

I love the painting! Is it of the Giant’s Causeway? I see a hint of that in the geometric shapes on the shore.
I enjoyed The Children’s Book last year too, and I’ve started Book 5 of Knausgaard’s series.

Jan 2, 2:55pm Top

Happy 2019 Alison!

Edited: Jan 2, 4:39pm Top

>3 arubabookwoman: the picture is by Scott Naismith and it's of the Isle of Skye in Scotland. I randomly came across him on Pinterest - I love the colours and vibe of the seascapes he does.

Here's another gorgeous one:

Look forward to hearing what you think of Book 5. I'd love to read that some time this year too.

>4 dchaikin: thanks Dan - and to you too. Hope this is a great year for you and the family.

Jan 2, 4:43pm Top

Happy new year Alison! Looking forward to another year of following your bookish thoughts!

Edited: Jan 5, 9:07am Top

>3 arubabookwoman:, >5 AlisonY: Thank you, I was going to ask about the painting, too.

I also love the title of your thread. :)

Jan 5, 1:34pm Top

>7 ELiz_M: thanks! I wasn't sure about the 'rash' (although to be fair it's quite true), but by the time I got around to trying to change it my 10 minute title editing window had expired so rash it is for 2019.

Jan 6, 7:11am Top

I’ve starred your thread, Alison. The paintings are beautiful.

Jan 6, 11:05am Top

>9 NanaCC: thanks Colleen. They're really gorgeous seascapes, aren't they?

Jan 6, 1:34pm Top

Hi Alison, moving my cushion in, I lost track of several threads last year.

Loving the Naismith art.

I made my first trip to Northern Ireland last year. My father was raised in a Limavady, but we never got there. He died last year so we took a pilgrimage, staying in Belfast, stopping off at The Giants Causeway, and visiting Limavady.

Happy 2019 reading.

Jan 7, 4:02am Top

>11 Caroline_McElwee: Hi Caroline, welcome! Sorry to hear about your fairly recent loss. I hope the weather was kind to you on your trip to NI. It's changed a lot in the last 10 years, and we're finally starting to get our act together on tourism. I notice a lot more visitors in the city now when I'm in Belfast for work.

Jan 7, 6:32am Top

I like your concept of the prevailing reading winds... that's about what I subscribe to as well. Feels like reading is one of the few major aspects of my life where having a no-plan plan works, so I'm all in for that.

Also love the paintings! I'm really attracted to bold use of color when it's done well, and not just color for color's sake, and those two are great.

Jan 7, 9:07am Top

>13 lisapeet: Hi Lisa, we're all loving these paintings. It's funny how some artists just do something that works.

Yes, I'm quite enjoying random reading these last few years. It's nice just coming across a book unplanned and being pleasantly surprised. My first year on CR I did stick to a plan of 50 books I wanted to read, and it was good ticking off a lot of titles that had been passing me by for years, but my head has to be in the right place for that kind of reading.

Edited: Jan 7, 10:15am Top

Love the paintings, and the thread title (hard to resist). Interesting you have started the year (or a crossover from last year?) with a JCO novel. I have read about 40 of her books now, but have not read this one, nor Blonde (considered her masterpiece). I'm finding her hard to read in the current political climate here (although I did read her latest novel, and wasn't too excited about it).

Edited: Jan 7, 11:29am Top

>15 avaland: thank you! Yes, I started We Were the Mulvaneys at the end of last year, and I'm about halfway through. This is only my second JCO book - 40 is a significant read from one author! So far I'm enjoying it - I find a good family saga hard to resist.

Blonde seems fairly hard to get hold of these days, as I remember looking for it myself a while back.

Will post a review soon when I'm done with this one.

Jan 8, 7:32am Top

Blonde was wonderful...just saying....

Jan 8, 11:00am Top

Echoing avaland here: love your title and art.

Someday I will try JCO again. I can't even remember which book I read, but it left such an impression I have never read another. Then again, if I pick one up now, I amy be hooked. Waiting to hear what you say.

Jan 9, 9:24am Top

>17 NanaCC: it seems to get good reviews. Interestingly it seems to have been reprinted in 2018 in the UK - I definitely remember it only being available as old, expensive copies a few years ago. I'll be tempted to pick it up if it pops up in the Oxfam book shop.

>18 SassyLassy: thanks Sassy. I'll reserve my judgement until the last page, but so far so good. Probably not going to be my book of the year, but it's good enough from an enjoyment factor.

Edited: Jan 11, 9:15am Top

1. Review - We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

I'm a sucker for a good old family saga, and I'm glad to say that JCO didn't disappoint with this one.

Set in the 1970s, the Mulvaneys are the epitome of the perfect all American family. Michael Snr. runs a successful roofing company and is a stalwart of the business associations and circles of Mt. Emphraim, a small country town. His wife Corinne, a farmer's daughter, runs a hobby antique business from their picture postcard farmhouse, but is at her happiest when gathered around a noisy dinner table with their four children. The four children are all achievers in their own right and popular at school. In short, they are a happy family.

JCO takes her time allowing us to settle in with this rambunctious, close family, before an event happens which shatters the Mulvaney family harmony. I won't spoil it for anyone who might read it in the future, but it's one of those sad unravellings which as a reader you can see doesn't have to be that way.

I enjoyed this novel, as I think it portrayed well the potential frailty of even the strongest of family relationships, and how they can be turned on their head in a way that could never have been foreseen.

I doubt it will be my book of the year, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

4 stars - an enjoyable, page-turning read.

Jan 11, 8:02am Top

>20 AlisonY: I think this was one of the first audiobooks I ever listened to many years ago when I was still working. I remember enjoying it, but don’t remember too much about it. I’m glad you enjoyed it too.

Jan 11, 9:15am Top

>21 NanaCC: I did enjoy it, Colleen. I'm not sure it's special enough to be on the 1001 books list, but I enjoyed it.

Jan 11, 9:37am Top

>21 NanaCC: That’s exactly what I was going to say. I remember really enjoying it, but can’t remember much about it (and I’m now racking my brain to recall what the event which shatters the family’s happiness might have been...) Glad you liked it too, Alison.

Jan 11, 10:36am Top

>20 AlisonY: Another that's been on my pile forever. I like JCO on family dynamics, so I'll have to bump that up.

Jan 11, 11:05am Top

>23 rachbxl: I'm a sucker for a saga!

>24 lisapeet: This was really good on family dynamics. I think she really realistically portrayed how the closest family relationships can fall apart as a result of something from left field. I enjoy that kind of relationship psychology in fiction.

Jan 11, 11:56am Top

>25 AlisonY: me too!

Jan 13, 5:44pm Top

2. Review - Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood

I've had this book on my 'to read' list for three years now since I read a storming review about it when it was first published. At last I came across a copy of it last week in my local secondhand shop, and it lived up to the hype.

In this novel Naomi Wood creates a fictionalised account of the four marriages of Ernest Hemingway, portraying a man who loved his wives deeply yet who loved women in general too much to ever commit to monogamy. Four sections are narrated by each of the four wives, and it's an interesting angle through which to explore the hay day of that era and the personal life of one of the literary greats. The book takes us from Hemingway on the cusp of success in Paris to his final marriage when he begins to feel washed up as an author and ends up taking his own life.

The dramas of a third person in each marriage are played out amidst a fabulous social backdrop that includes the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. Wood portrays him as a good looking man with incredible charisma, whose wives are (mostly) so infatuated with him they're desperate to overlook his indiscretions if he'll only stay with them.

This book works on so many levels. The crowded marriages are made up of complex relationships between the philandering author, the wives and the mistresses, who all become inevitably, reluctantly intertwined with each other. The affairs never stay secret for long in the wild, arty social circles in which Hemingway moves, and the famous Lost Generation are every bit as fascinating as the Bloomsbury Group were in London. It's also a fly on the wall account of the making and downfall of a darling of the literary world, and of the immense challenges of being married to a genius and dealing with the emotional swings that such temperament brings.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and flew through it over the weekend. There's something about those arty social sets from the early 20th century that's so absorbing, and it's prompted me to push some of Hemingway's work up on my to read list.

5 stars - a fabulous page-turner. Don't be put off by the chic lit-esque cover.

Jan 14, 12:47pm Top

I’m curious about the truth behind all this. Reminds me I should read A Movable Feast.

Jan 14, 1:45pm Top

>27 AlisonY: I would call this a novel of fiction based on a true story. I did a bit of reading up on it online whilst I was reading it and the key base facts all tie up about the marriages and mistresses and his writing. For sure she has then created a fictional narrative to portray what was going on behind closed doors.

It's great as a piece of pure fiction, and good enough research to bring real life events to life.

Jan 14, 9:09pm Top

You've got me with Mrs. Hemingway.

Yesterday, 3:17am Top

>31 AlisonY: hope you enjoy it if you get your hands on a copy.

Yesterday, 3:35am Top

3. Review - Back to Basics: The Education You Wish You'd Had by Caroline Taggart

I've had my eye on Caroline Taggart's work for a little while, as I was interested in her books on the likes of grammar and the classics. Back to Basics: The Education You Wish You'd Had is a book that aims to cover the basics and key facts across a number of subjects, covering English, Maths, Science, History, Geography, French and Religious Studies (the Bible). It's supposed to be a little bit tongue and cheek, and an aid for brushing up on stuff you learnt x years ago at school and can no longer remember anything about.

It's a quick read, and was a bit of a mixed bag for me. Some subjects, such as geography, history and the sciences, I enjoyed as Taggart pulled out a number of interesting different subject areas within each. The history chapter was a (very) short chronicle of the most important things that have happened in history (AD), and I found that an interesting refresher as I always struggle to remember that stuff.

The Maths chapter seemed to quickly jump in and out of a few different areas which I didn't feel worked too well (maybe just me - I'm more of an Arts person), and the English and French sections felt mostly far too simplistic if you'd studied these for any length of time at all at school.

Interesting enough for a quick read on my commute, but I won't be rushing back to Taggart.

3 stars - interesting snippets of info to jump in and out of.

Today, 2:12pm Top

>27 AlisonY: Mrs Hemingway sounds really interesting. Thanks for reviewing it!

Group: Club Read 2019

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