Sunday, 14 May 2017

Round up for Bout of Books



Whew, made it to the end! So, I didn't manage the challenges on most days :( Disappointed by that. BUT I did manage to read quite a few galleys from NetGalley and some reviews, which is what I really needed/wanted to do. It was a good kick up the butt - I need to keep on top of them!

So, the weekend was my no wi-fi away time at a really nice Safari Tent from Canopy and Stars in Devon. (That's not an affiliate link by the way.) I've never done 'Glamping' before and rather scorned people who do, but this weekend it was pretty necessary - FREEZING. We had a gorgeous log burner (and oven) which heated the tent up, but it rained a lot, so we spent most of the time in playing board games and reading. Which was nice. Pretty views. But it really isn't camping. So, sort of disappointing, but it wasn't my choice, it was a consensus. And camping in the weather we had would've been GRIM, so I guess it worked out.


Anyway, that's not what you're here for - it's books! So, while I was away I read: Ink by Alice Broadway, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertelli and Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan (which was a Galley my sister in law picked up from me - but a paper one. BLISS.) Haven't had time to write any more reviews which is a shame...

So, half of Friday, Saturday and Sunday:
Books read: 3
Galleys read: 1
Reviews written: 0 :(
Pages read: 1052

Today is a free challenge, so I thought I'd do a collage of all the books everyone in the tent was reading over the weekend for a bit of fun. There were five of us, and I'm sure I missed some books, but this'll do :)



Anyway here comes the GRAND ROUND UP:
Books read: 8 (one I'd already started - War and Peace)
Reviews written: 5
Pages read: 2056

Pretty pleased with that. I would've liked to have seen 7 reviews, but with being away for the weekend it wasn't that likely. And 5 galleys is good progress :) Overall, not a bad week for reading! I have no idea how many pages I'd read in an 'average' week; that sounds like quite a lot, so probably not that much!

I hope everyone else has enjoyed themselves, and thank you to BOUT OF BOOKS for hosting! I may be back in August, depending what's going on that week.

In the meantime, happy reading!


Friday, 12 May 2017

Bout of Books: Day Five



Well, I didn't think I'd manage to do a post today but I'll do a half post as there's still most of the day to come. After finishing Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,' I immediately started on the next of my NetGalley reads: 'A Tragic Kind of Wonderful' by Eric Lindstrom. And I finished it by accidentally staying up half the night, AND I've managed two reviews (well, a review and a mini review)! All before lunch! Not too shabby, if I say so myself.

I jumped on 'A Tragic Kind of Wonderful' because I'd read Lindstrom's debut novel 'Not If I See You First' which I found suprisingly moving. Her second book is... something else. It's very, very well written but for younger readers, I would perhaps approach it with caution. Or readers with mental health problems. It may hit a little too close to home.

Once I'd started it, I just couldn't stop, and I wish I had actually. I wish I'd drawn it out a little more because it deserved that rather than being swallowed in one gulp. There's just so much packed into this book (it comes out later this month I think) and I feel I, as a reader, did not do it justice. To see my full review click here.




Today, so far:
Books read: one
Galleys read: one
Reviews: two
Pages read: 288

I've decided not to bring my Kindle at all to our wifi free weekend, so no gadgets at all (apart from my camera.) So, back to lovely lovely pages. Although it means I won't have read that many Galley books as I intended to. It just fell on the wrong week. Still, I'm not disappointed in myself and that's what's important.

AND I've managed to squeeze in the challenge for today! Wow, I surprise myself. But I really need to get going now - leaving very soon and there's a small chance I haven't packed...

Rainbow Spine


All Brilliant books you should read (well, the blue one isn't brilliant, but it's still a laugh):
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
Finding Cassie Crazy by Jaclyn Moriarty
One by Sarah Crossan
The Archon by Catherine Fisher
The Extraordinary Journal of the Fakir who got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe by Roman Puerolas
Bloomability by Sharon Creech
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green



I'll be back Sunday! Happy reading everyone!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Bout of Books: Day Four



Well, I knew I wouldn't have much reading time today and so it's come to past. The first day I've only been reading one book! And no review :( Not doing well...

'Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine' was an enjoyable read. Well, enjoying is always a funny word when it comes to hard books. The first half was plain old enjoyable, but knowing there was a very nasty undercurrent. When everything comes out it's visceral in pain and sheer boldness. And a twist I didn't see coming. It's a brave debut novel. I'll be looking out for more on Gail Honeyman.

So...
Books read: 1
Galleys read: 1
Reviews written: NONE
Pages read: 228

Now, I'm going away from Friday to Sunday to on off-grid, no wi-fi place. So, no more updates and I'll probably be able to read one (short) galley book before my iPad will run out of juice. So, this is my last post until Sunday with the wrap-up! I've enjoyed taking part, although I wish I'd had more time to catch up on what everyone else is reading. I'll probably spend some time reading through what other people have been reading next week, so expect some late comments!

Too late to do today's challenge - and it was a pretty hard one too! I'm sure I'll spend the sleepless parts of tonight thinking about it, but it's certainly an interesting one.

And I'll write a review of 'EO is Completely Fine' when I find the time. Looking forward to being off-grid, reading by candle-light etc, just wish it hadn't coincided with this week. Maybe I won't bring my iPad at all... Just read real paper books. After reading 3 e-books in a row, I'm rather desperate for the feel of pages.

So, I'll do my round-up post on Sunday! Happy reading everyone.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Bout of Books: Day Three





Books read: 1 (One of us is Lying)
Galley books read: 1
Reviews written: 2 :)
Pages Read: 367


Quite a full day's reading today, which is good because I know I'll have hardly any time tomorrow. I finished 'One of Us is Lying' which comes out soon. Right. Put it on order. It's that good. Loved it. You can read my review here or see for yourselves... (Don't worry, no proper spoilers, only things you find out in the first 50-60 pages)

And I wrote another review for a NetGalley book I read a while ago: 'Flight of a Starling.' Review here. So pretty pleased with myself today. Started on 'Eleanor Elephant is Not Fine' which comes out later this month; when I requested it from NetGalley, I didn't realise what a big release this was going to be! So far, very intriguing, but I'm annoyed I won't be able to have much time tomorrow.

How's everyone else doing? Remember, it's not a competition - I'm more proud of actually catching up on reviews than the reading!




Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Bout of Books: Day Two

How are all you other readers doing? Come drop me a call if you like - it'd be nice to know I'm not alone (although I can see you all, it's nice to have some interaction.)

So, today's challenge is 'Not a Font.' I thought this would be a fun one, and fairly easy too, but it was really hard to find something that couldn't be considered a font for the title page! Lots of weird and wacky fonts, but at the end of the day, they're still fonts. Here's what I managed to come up with - not great!



Books read: 1 (New Girl by Tracey Chevallier, absolutely amazing)
Galleys read: 1
Reviews written: 1
Pages read: 299

Hope everyone's still going strong!


New Boy by Tracey Chevallier


Everyone knows Othello, right? If you haven’t, go away and read a summary online somewhere.

Are you back?

Okay. Picture this. All the characters are eleven and it’s America in the seventies. Othello’s the new boy on the playground and, worse for him, he’s black. Desdemona is one of the popular girls and generally considered to be the prettiest girl, and she’s ace at holding the ropes for ‘jump-rope.’ Cassio’s the popular guy, the jock, and Emilia is the best at jumping rope in the school. Iago’s not that popular, but he sure has a lot of power. He gets other kids’ lunch money off them, and his sidekick, Rod, who’s not the sharpest tool in the box, is at his beck and call. Brebantio is one of the teachers. Add in a few extras. Oh, and the handkerchief is a pink pencil case with strawberries on it.

You picturing it? Sounds mad, right?

But. It. Works.

Click here to read the full review on GoodReads.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Bout of Books: Day One



Now, I've been perusing around to see how people format this, and it's so variable that I'll have to go with the flow... a tall order for me! I quite like things being planned out.

So, there's a challenge each day, and today is introduce yourself in six words:

Book-lover-library-wanderer-word-hoarder

Or, a more literal one:

I am twenty six years old. 

Take your pick!

Today was finishing off The Grand Novel: War and Peace. Did you know that the working title was 'All's Well That Ends Well'? I think I like Tolstoy's final choice!
Well, it was easier than I expected until I reached the epilogue, which wasn't a story; it was Tolstoy's opinions on the way that history 'works' and the roles that individuals actually play in it. I have to admit to skimming some of that, but the rest of the book was great and I wasn't too challenged, which was a pleasant surprise. I did struggle somewhat with remembering all the names and who was who, but I made myself a bit of a list and it got easier and easier as the book went on.

So, I conquered Tolstoy! I know that most real readers will have read War and Peace much earlier in their lives, but I feel a sort of sense of achievement.

Tolstoy's own notes!


On the subject of my goals... well, no Galleys read OR reviewed. But hopefully I'll be able to get started on that tomorrow.

Books read: one
Pages read: 352 (although I'm not really worried about pages read)
Galleys read: none
Galleys reviewed: none

See you tomorrow! Off to look at some more blogs! Well done for getting this far :)

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Bout of Books 19

Wow! Is this really the first post of 2017? I believe it is! Well, this little blog never really had much of a life anyway, and it's just slowing wasting away... never mind!





I've decided to take part in 'Bout of Books' this time round. It's something I've thought about before, but never really got round to it/committed to it. I'm still not entirely sure about how it works, but there you go!

It's a week where you push yourself to read a little more than you usually do, and share it with other bloggers and Network it as much as you can! There's no competition between readers, everyone works at their own pace. It's just for fun. (Slightly wondering why I'm doing this, as I read every week anyway, but I think it'll be fun to link up with other people as well.)

There's a schedule for the week, which I don't quite understand, but here it is (it starts on 8th May) -

MONDAY - Introduce yourself insixwords
TUESDAY - Not a Font (??)
WEDNESDAY - Share your selfie
THURSDAY - Character dating profile (?)
FRIDAY - Rainbow book spine
SATURDAY - Seasons of Books
SUNDAY - FREE DAY!

I suppose I will find out in due course what some of these means.

People tend to set their own goals, and my key one is to READ MY GALLEY COPIES. I keep getting galleys from NetGalley and then I get distracted and read something else instead. So this means reading AND reviewing them, which means I'll get slightly less reading time, but it's something I desperately need to catch up on. So, there we are! See what happens!

Slight problem is I'll be away Friday-Saturday-Sunday, so I suppose I'll do scheduled posts for those, and then a round-up post when I get back (I think that's how it works!).

Wish me luck, to anyone who might stumble across this!

Oh, and thank you to the hosts for arranging this, it should be fun. (I think...)

UPDATED TO ADD: things have gone a little awry with a few much busier days than I expected so I'm still left with my last book to finish before reading all the Galleys... and it's War and Peace. I'm about 1000 pages in, but I still think it'll take me 2 days to read that, as you really need to concentrate! So, I'll get less of my galleys read but still up for the challenge!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Secret Santa!

The Broke and the Bookish


So, this year I decided to take part in an online secret santa - for book lovers!



I like Christmas in some ways, but I can also be a bit of a scrooge. I love to give presents, but receiving them is a little more difficult; I expect a lot of people feel the same way. My way of tackling this is to give lots to charity to make up - it really does make you feel good!

I do love planning presents for Christmas, and the idea of doing one for a fellow book-lover somewhere out there really appealed, so I signed up for The Broke and The Bookish’s Secret Santa which has kindly been organised by the amazing Jamie. It's been going for quite a long time and is pretty popular so I was quite lucky to be involved.  We just answer a few questions about our bookish preferences and a bit about ourselves, and then it all goes off into the depths of the internet. So, if all goes well, I'll be getting a present from some stranger come Christmas.

I have sent mine and I really hope that he/she (no letting anything go!) likes my presents - it was great fun to put together. I forget to take a picture of the individual presents but here it is as a
conglomerate of things I was about to send.

I've really enjoyed the book exchange and the mystical nature of TBTBSanta, and I've never done anything like it. I might have gone a bit overboard (I took out three other books before I finished), but I really really hope I haven't underdone it. It's so nerve-wracking when you haven't done something before; I just hope that my receiver is happy. It's his/her first time too so they probably don't know what to expect either. 

Anyway, hello to my Secret Santa Person if you manage to find my blog! I really hope you enjoyed your pressies :)

Thank you so much to Jamie and TBTB :D


Sunday, 6 November 2016

Summing Up Sunday: 6th November

Well, it's seemed like a pretty busy week at 2CC!

J went away with a friend for a couple of days to London, which sounded like great fun. There's a new part to the Tate Modern (the New Tate Modern - imaginative).



Looks amazing outside, huh?

A box of mirrors - you can see J's phone straight opposite. Really cool!

Sam facing Shelob?

The old turbine hall with some sort of sound installation

And inside!



Great food, fancy hotel, good company and kind enough weather. Nice treat for this time of the season. J went to two shows: one about cancer which was a combination of hard and a little cringy/OTT; and Amadeus at the National Theatre. We all love the film, and the actors were amazing. Just found they're doing a live cinema version in February - maybe A and E will get to see it too?



Then, it was A's time for fun and she flew up to see M and wee S in Edinburgh. She's still there 'til Monday, but having a good time in spite of the weather. (She almost lost her watch but miraculously found it - hooray!) They went to 'The Slug' or dynamic earth (we've all been countless times, but it's forever amazing).

See why it's called The Slug?


Unfortunately Edinburgh's high winds meant no fireworks for A&co, but E and J went to Puxton Park at the last minute for a fantastic display. No photos, as it takes away from watching them and, unless you're a professional photographer, they never come out very well anyway. Brilliant display. And a huge bonfire.



Today, J went off to do some apple-juicing at a friend's farmhouse. We still have a lot of apple juice from last year...



And we had our first frost.


How were all your weekends?





Thursday, 3 November 2016

26 Books: A Book that Everyone Else Has Read

(finally another 26 books! Enjoy)


This would have been number 20 in Bringing Up Burns 2015


Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
(read April 2015)

Well I probably missed the point. I chose Catch 22 as one of my '26 books to read in 2015' and it was the ' book from my shelves that I haven't read' until I realised I don't have it (where did it go; whose shelves am I familiar with seeing it on?) so I got a very cheap Kindle edition (notable for its typos). I read about a hundred pages, and then decided that my life's too short to waste on something I just didn't want to come back to. Reading is for fun (in some sense, it can be gruelling, but if I don't want to know what happened
next or am annoyed and after a good chunk of the book this hasn't worn off, then STOP!).

A little rant.

Back to the book.

I think I understood that it is highly ironic. Every sentence is tortuous and contradictory. It illustrates the life of members of a USAF bomber group in 1944/5 Italy, and the essential conundrum of their lives, which is that they all don't want to be there, they don't want to continue to risk their lives, they are waiting to serve their time and go home, and the central character is trying to get out of further bombing missions by pretending to be 'crazy' but this doesn't work: If you are willing to fly missions, you are crazy. If you don't want to fly missions you are not crazy because that's common sense. You would get signed off having to fly if you are crazy but to declare yourself crazy is self cancelling (see beginning of sentence). This is Catch 22.

Last year I read Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy. It's about the same period, it has a similarly cynical attitude to war and to WW2 in particular, which is especially interesting because this is the war that is generally given as being sainted, almost a holy war because the Nazis were so evil, and because of the holocaust. What we all miss in that long after the event interpretation, is that this was accidental. WW2 was actually just like most other European wars, about territory and alliances. Yes the Nazis were spectacularly horrible in a way that Western civilIsation needs to continue to learn from, but that wasn't why Britain and the US fought them. So it's interesting to read contemporary accounts that weren't pro-establishment. I found Evelyn Waugh much more interesting (if a little turgid) than Heller's really dated comedy method. It was just tedious!
Sorry!

J

'The Other Boleyn Girl' by Phillipa Gregory (E):
(read January 2015)

** spoiler alert **
 Now, I really really enjoyed 'The Other Boleyn Girl,' but I feel curiously guilty for doing so.

Let's examine this. I feel like I shouldn't enjoy Gregory's books because you often hear about the plethora of historical inaccuracies that she has, and that she writes the 'worst type of historical fiction.' Almost like soaps or something, but just set in a different era. I have mostly steered clear of her books after reading 'A Respectable Trade,' which I thought was abysmally written, and I really didn't enjoy.

This? Loved it.

There was, as others have criticised, a tendency towards one dimensional characters - but not entirely. Many characters had a singular predominant trait - Anne was ruthless and ambitious, Henry was arrogant and hedonistic, singularly fixated on producing a male heir - but they had other traits too, and their prevailing traits were very understandable. Mary Boleyn herself was not, as others have suggested, presented as an innocent amongst the debauched immorality of the court; she was fickle and inconstant from the start.

It was very compelling. Strange to read a book where you know the outcome, and yet can't put it down because you want to know what happens!

In the interests of looking at this fairly, I decided to try and discover what the actual historical inaccuracies were. This is what I have managed to find by trawling the internet.

1) There is no proof of incest between George and Anne Boleyn, where it is heavily implied in the novel.
There is no proof of George Boleyn's homosexuality. There is no proof as to the paternity of Mary Boleyn's children, although it is speculated that one or more may have been fathered by the king. These, to me, are not an inaccuracies - it is building on something that may have been truth. At the end of the day, this is a novel, not a history book.

Philippa Gregory herself!
2) Mary Boleyn was generally thought to be the eldest of the three siblings. I'm curious as to why Gregory decided to change this, because the dynamic between the three of them would have been significantly different if she had been the elder. This inaccuracy is the most curious to me - why? And the plot does hinge rather on Mary being the youngest. Maybe Gregory should have stuck to the generally perceived facts and we would have had a very different novel.

3) Anne Boleyn takes Henry (Mary's son) on as a ward when his father William Carey dies of sweating sickness, rather than much later as in the novel.

4) Mary Boleyn in the novel is sexually inexperienced before she beds Henry VIII, but it is thought that her time in the French court had her reputation sealed as very promiscuous. This is argued between scholars, so who knows?

5) And, of course, the characterisation of Anne Boleyn herself. She is portrayed as pretty ruthless and cruel in the novel, although not wholly so, whereas many historians believe her to have been a sweet girl. Who knows? This is an alternative perspective, and, truthfully, we will never know what she was like.

To me, these inaccuracies are not enough to take away from the enjoyment of the book. If some say it is trashy historical fiction - so what? I enjoyed it, and would recommend it to anyone who likes historical books. I'd like to read more of Phillipa Gregory, now that I can forgive her for 'A Respectable Trade.'

E

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Summing Up Sunday 30th October 2016

Beautiful, calm, quiet, relatively Autumn weather.

The trees are as colourful as  they have ever been, and  there's not been anywhere near a frost yet, so that particular belief about what causes leaf colour intensity seems to be wrong.

J went to the Pudding Club in Mickleton,  N Cotswold's,  with good friend Huw,





and on the way back, met A and E at Westonbirt Aboretum. It was probably the most busy day of its year, but the trees were splendid, marvellous, magnificent.



Friday, 28 October 2016

26 Books: A Book By An Author You Love

This would have ben number 7 for Bringing up Burns.


'Flight Behaviour' by Barbara Kingsolver (J):
(read February 2015)
I'm writing this review some time after I read Flight Behaviour, and I am a little surprised that I gave it full marks, as I think it is less good than The Poisonwood Bible. And that may be, as I find often the case with an author that I love, that if they are consistent, what is exciting and wonderful about the way they write the first time, is less exciting with repetition.


That said, I read Flight Behaviour twice, once several years ago, and more recently when it came up in our book club, and I found myself defending it against those who saw it as mainly for the purpose

of proselytising Kingsolver's ecological message. So what? (unless one doesn't agree with that message about the danger of climate change, or unless her story doesn't work because she bends it to this purpose).

It's a VERY good story, with well drawn characters, living out their believable lives with real human families and their impossible difficulties, and at the same time living through a small scale environmental catastrophe (or is it: read to find out).


Once again, some of Kingsolver's characters are strongly motivated by Bible Christianity, and some of the others find this behaviour objectionable. Some of these Christians are rigid and mean, and others aren't. Does Kingsolver herself have these issues in her immediate family, or is modern America so full of this type of Christianity that it's always relevant?
The only thing missing from this book that I appreciated about The Poisonwood Bible is that element of understanding a piece of history. There is nothing about fairly recent West Virginia (or wherever it's set, somewhere near there I think) that I now feel enriched for understanding.



War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (E):
 I really love Michael Morpurgo; he was such a beloved author of mine as a child. I lapped up his books, particularly the ones set in the Scilly Isles that are so familiar to me. Since War Horse is now his most famous book and I hadn't read it (it came out after I was a bit older) I really felt I needed to read it. I'd love to see the stage production (I think it's still on, though not at the National anymore), as the feedback from that has been phenomenal. 

Anyway, onto the book.

Actually, I was really disappointed. It's hard to say this because: 1) I love Michael Morpurgo; and 2) it's difficult to go against public opinion. Everyone loves War Horse (well, I'm sure it's not everyone), but it just didn't work for me. There were too many fast changing characters, so as each one was passed by (or had passed on), there hadn't been enough time to become emotionally attached to them. I felt like: 'oh, that's another one.' It was a stream of drudgery through WWI with each character (apart from Joey) making a brief exit and entrance. There weren't really any other main characters, except from Albert but he didn't have all that much 'screen time' because the middle of the book was centred elsewhere.

I'm disappointed. I wonder if this is something that has come with age; maybe Morpurgo's other books are like this as well, but it didn't feel so when I was younger? Maybe I've read so much in the intervening time that this style just isn't emotionally engaging enough anymore. I don't dare to read my old favourites. I'd still like to see the stage play, but not in such a burning desire sort of way anymore.

It's sad, but maybe, Michael, I've just grown out of you. I miss you.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Man Booker Shortlist




So, today's the day! Tonight at 9:30 (I think?) on BBC 4 there is the Man Booker Prize Giving and we will found out which book won. Tense! Will we get our preferred winner? We will see.

First, let's see who all the judges are this year:


Amanda Foreman (Chair): is ab award-winning historian and bestselling author 
Jon Day: works at King's College as a critic and lecturer, specialising in modern fiction
Abdulrazak Gurnah: previously shortlisted for theBooker Prize-shortlisted, professor at Kent uni 
David Harsent: University of Roehampton creative writing producer, poet, won 2014 T.S. Eliot prize 
Olivia Williams: starring in a National Theatre’s production of Harley Granville-Barker's Waste, actor.



I searched for a long time and none of the photos
of all the judges together load properly, so here is the chair: author and
historian Amanda Foreman.


So, an author, a critic and lecturer, another author and previous Man Booker nominee, poet and an actor. Good well rounded bunch; but I wonder what they're looking for - it always seems to be something different to us!

Onto the books, in no particular order:


A: Wild stuff! It took me a couple of graunchy starts to get into this but it is clever, witty and very American. The protagonist is black and has a bizarre upbringing and early experience which brings him to the conclusion that returning to slavery would be good for the black race in America, and this is then challenged in the Supreme Court. Great idea with some funny descriptions of early psychological experiments but not a book that gave me much pleasure to actually read because of the density of the writing. I can see how as a book in English it is really unusual so for that reason can see why its nominated. I'd be interested in talking about the humour...

J: probably witty, certainly informative on what it may feel like to be an African American, but too full of references I couldn't understand to be enjoyable, so ultimately boring. See full review here.

E: definitely witty, although quite difficult to read! The premise is completely insane and I'm not sure how the characters measure up in terms of reality. Another reason it was hard to read was the sheer amount of slang, specifically American ghetto slang. I gave up looking things after a while, but here are a few examples: druthers, bottle of bumpy-face, skrilla, pendajo, tchotchke, bromide... In the end it was better just to keep reading and sort of work out from the context of the word. The central protagonist is black and decides to bring back racism to his small (not) town. Dark, witty humour. I can see why it made the shortlist as there is such a lot to potential talk about the writing. Not really my sort of book, but still a contender and a good one. 




A: The setting and the language of north of Scotland was wonderfully evocative of the sounds and sense of the tradition of my childhood and holidays but the story was brutal and ultimately very very sad.  The other interesting thing was that it was surprisingly un suspenseful and didn't really draw me in with the discussion about the jury verdict. However a clever device to have a set of found documents about a distant ancestor to tell the story. I'd be interested in whether other people found it the compelling read I thought it was meant to be or did I miss the point? 

E: Not my kind of read normally, but it's great to branch out. What really didn't draw me to it was the fact that it was a memoir written by the accused, but then there was so much legalese and other things at the beginning, which mildly bored me. The account itself was more interesting. The fact that Macrae committed the murders in indisputable, but was he in sound mind? This seems like a much more modern concern. He's brought up in terrible circumstances but does that excuse him? ('He then brought my sister's head down towards the table and struck it repeatedly against the surface.') It interested me to a point, but it wasn't compelling despite the competent writing.

J: I haven't finished this one, but so far I find the main character unconvincing, and the whole situation too painful. Straightforward competent writing, not particularly interesting.


AA pretty good book although very bleak. It's the story of a young woman living with an alcoholic and bullying father in a state of complete torpidity and boredom. In to this comes Rebecca, who becomes a beacon of some kind of change to Eileen and she follows her on a macabre and ultimately untruthful and disordered set of actions which bring  the story to a conclusion. The striking thing about it was the clever way the past and future of the main character were revealed just through the telling of their story set in the present of a week. No fancy flash backs or parallel stories. It has a huge sense of foreboding and disaster and tension but until the final thrilling event happened I hadn't any idea of what it was actually going to be. Very clever writing although some of the descriptive writing was clunky at times. Is it good enough to win - not sure what everyone would think? 

E:  Well, this doesn't tick the normal Man booker boxes! - it's easy to read, it's not in some other language, you don't need to have a dictionary to read it, it's not 800 pages long ... It is pretty dark, but not what I would considerate be 'literary.' and it's a very quick read! It's nice to have some shorter books amidst the huge tomes. Eileen, set in the 1960s, is the central protagonist (Eileen Dunlop) is in a dire life position; but she is writing from far on in the future, seemingly as an elderly woman. We know she survives the novel: 'This is the story of how I disappeared.' The story unfolds, pretty grimly. My problem with this book, I suppose, is what makes it stand out? It's one of the fast-expanding genre of women thrillers. It's a good, quick, enjoyable and easy read, but I don't see what makes it stand out. I think what made it was the writing: Moshfegh writes very well indeed but I don't see it as a winner. See full review here.

J: Well written, very atmospheric, not finally convincing or important enough.



A: Also interesting. It's the story of nine different men, away from home and its security and satisfaction with self and life, at different ages of their life. Although it's a different man and situation in each story I didn't feel cheated that the story didn't go on with them. However I'm overwhelmed by its sad and dismal portrayal of man or human-hood, despite being well written and clever in its language and structure. Not sure it's really polished or crafted enough to win. So does everyone feel the same or am I just overly swayed by the dismalness.?

E: I was really interested to read this from a female perspective because this is definitely all man is, not as in humankind. It doesn't paint a pretty picture; if this is what man is, then the key components are pettiness, huge egos, and need for sex. 't is comprised as nine short stories, each with entirely different protagonists, which immediately rang bells with me as being 'not a novel.' But who am I to judge that? The characters get gradually older, starting at the tender age of 17 (makes me feel very old!) right up to the ninth man who is in his sixties. They're from all over Europe: France, Budapest, briefly Oxford, Germany, Poland Geneva... I definitely enjoyed reading about the differing cultures. But, what does make it a novel? I suppose it's the connections between their stories. They're all men, and not particularly attractive characters: the first seven are absolutely obsessed with sex and have numerous affairs. As I said before, a pleasant picture is not created. Perhaps Szaly is commenting on the fact that nothing ever really gets better?

J: Well written, clever in the way the chapters linked but not quite clever enough to fully carry it off. Trivial.


E: As A said, this is mesmeric. The heat and the alcohol make the book feel like a sort of haze. Sofia and her 'disabled' mother go to Spain to seek out another quack cure for this mysterious ailment. No one sees through the complete fraud of this except the medic's daughter, Elena Ferrante, and, to some extent, Sofia herself: 'How was my Mother to drive with no feeling in her legs?' I really enjoyed this odd novel actually: skilfully written, chaos of the plot with the exploration of Elena's sex life and friendship with a girl she meets, and the clearly hypochondriac Mother. A potential winner? Not sure. Don't know which parts are real and which aren't.

J: Good fun, dreamy in a way that worked, very atmospheric, no pace, no direction, and very well written in an unconventional way that I enjoyed.

A: Interesting. Mesmeric and definitely hot with a feeling of waves of heat in the setting, the chaos of the plot and the exhausting and incomprehensible heat of the emotions. It is the story of a daughter accompanying her mysteriously ill mother to a Greek island clinic and doctor... Not a waste of trees for me, as (AJ) declared, but a clever and sketchily spare emotional drama played out in maddening heat. Not a winner for me either but I can see that it might grab others. I wonder whether it seems unreal to other people? I'm  not sure it's very believable but does that matter? 


E: There are a number of stories going on here: Ai-Ming in present day Canada, getting used to her cousin Li-Ming who has come directly from the Tianneman Square protests. What different lives they have lived. It is a story of fathers and daughters very much I would say. Ai-Ming has to learn to forgive her father, and Li-Ming has to learn to understand hers. What Thien has done is weave this complicated and very political plot with seminal Chinese moments, and yet brought it down to a personal level.It has inspired me to learn a lot more about China during the cultural revolution and beyond; it leaves me just gagging for more.Similarly, the amount of music there is in this book: a lot of Bach, some Shostakovich, some Profekiev. The writing was superb; horrific when needed, but not over the top. Thien's dialogue is particularly well crafted. I could've kept reading and reading. As a non-linear story, it was confusing at times, but it's worth working through it. I feel privileged to have read it. Superb. My Booker for 2016. See full review here.

A: And the best was last and I won't finish it before the Booker announcement but for me this gets the prize. I was absolute memorised by this book from its very start. The confidence and wonderful imagery of the writing just held me securely as I set out on the journey and I'm enjoying the meandering story telling. The flash back type structure seems to work well although I'm  writing down the names of the people and all their different incarnations and relationships to keep track. I love the multiple descriptive Chinese names of the characters, the evocation of music and the clever descriptions that juxtapose images in the way poetry does to help you grasp a new way of seeing things. I'm not sure where the story leads although it's already hinted at the future and I feel very held in the prospect of the journey.  Did everyone else find it lived up to its promise? It's a  complex of tales so I wonder if that distracts? 

J: Beautiful, clever, moving, informative, gripping. Clearly the winner!

So there we have it: we have a winner - but will the judges agree? We'll find out tonight on BBC4 at 9:30 tonight, hope to see you there!