john257hopper's 100 books of 2020 (including at least 12 previously unread from 1001 books list
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Happy new year to all. I am again going for the 100 books challenge, having read 110 in 2019. I'm also aiming once again to read at least one book a month from the 1001 books everyone should read list. Last year I managed 14 from that list, with three months where I read two from the list (and one month when I didn't read any).
1. Northern Lights - Philip Pullman
This is a re-read, after watching the excellent BBC TV adaptation at the end of last year. It's a real, multi-layered plot full of interesting concepts and characters, that a reader of any age can get a lot from. I love the notion of personal daemons and wish I had one! The only issue now is whether I wait a year until the second TV series to re-read A Subtle Knife.
2. Caging the Lyon - H A Culley
This is the third book in the author's Normans series, featuring his fictional ancestors the de Cuillys, a Norman family. The action here takes place during a time of bitter conflict between England and Scotland in the 12th century (the title refers to William, called the Lion, the Scottish king), with branches of the family on different sides. I am very interested in the history of this period, which keeps me reading, though I find these as novels to be somewhat unsatisfactory. The author has done his research impressively and clearly wants to make his novels well grounded in historical fact, but this periodically spills over into rather excessive information dumps, as though he wanted to write a non-fiction book as much as, if not more than, a novel. The dialogue also sometimes comes across as too modern and/or stilted. A family tree of the various de Cuilly branches would also be helpful, not least because the list of characters at the start of the book is unhelpfully listed in order of appearance, not in family or other linked groupings. Despite these shortcomings, there was enough action to keep me reading and a few memorable scenes.
I had thought this series was a trilogy but have just found out having finished this that there is a fourth one available (and I see online there is a fifth one albeit set earlier on between the first two books).
3. The Irish Princess - Elizabeth Chadwick
This is another of the author's colourful slices of Medieval historical fiction, a genre of which she one of the most prolific contemporary authors. While some may dismiss these as lighter, even romantic fiction, they have well rounded characters and interesting set pieces, plus a sound chronological narrative structure that gives a good feel for the ebb and flow of the passing years and the background political situation. This novel is set mostly in Ireland in the 1160s and 70s, the time when the English king Henry II was first sniffing round the country, and setting in train so many of the historical forces and events there over the following eight centuries and more. The central (real historical) characters are the titular Aoife, her father an Irish king Diarmait MacMurchada, and Richard de Clare, a Norman knight, whom Aoife marries at her father's decision for political reasons (though it turns out happily). Other characters around then are also often real historical characters. A very good read, though not quite one of her very best (which for me is represented by the trilogy about William Marshal).
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