Sir Furboy's 75 books in 2021

Dette er en fortsættelse af tråden Sir Furboy's 75 books in 2001.

Snak75 Books Challenge for 2021

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Sir Furboy's 75 books in 2021

1sirfurboy
Redigeret: apr 3, 6:44am

Part 2...

Time for a new thread - and a chance to fix the error in the title of my old one.

If you missed my first thread, I am Stephen, or Sir Furboy. I live in Aberystwyth, on the west coast of Mid Wales. My hobbies include walking, cycling, kayaking and surfing (obviously), although these days I mostly just surf in my kayak. I also like languages and reading (of course), and thus also reading in other languages.

Oh yes, some of my favourite genres are Young Adult, Sci Fi, Coming of Age, Fantasy and Historical. I also try to read some classics each year, as well as some non fiction and other works out of those genres.

I have been making excellent progress on my TBR this year and it is now down to 98 books to read. Hoping to get it down further before I go out buying lots of books at random again!

2PaulCranswick
apr 3, 8:15am

Happy 2nd, Sir F!

Have a great weekend.

3scaifea
apr 3, 9:02am

Happy new thread, Stephen!

4richardderus
apr 3, 8:18pm

Happy new decade, Stephen, though I'll miss the chuckle I got seeing "2001" so often. Here's to hoping your Q2 reads are more peak than valley.

5drneutron
apr 3, 9:40pm

Happy new thread!

6SirThomas
apr 4, 3:56am

Happy new thread, Stephen - and Happy Easter!

7FAMeulstee
apr 4, 5:03am

Happy new thread, Stephen!

8PersephonesLibrary
apr 5, 4:01am

Happy new thread!

9sirfurboy
apr 6, 4:05am

Thanks all :)

>6 SirThomas: Happy Easter/fröhliche Ostern to you too.

>4 richardderus: Yes, I don't quite know how I manged to type it as 2001 in the first place and not notice! Oh well. Tupos happn as thay sey.

10sirfurboy
Redigeret: apr 6, 4:24am

47. The Stormkeeper's Island - Catherine Doyle



Fionn Boyle is off to the island of Arranmore for the summer with his sister Tara but withouth his mother. They will be visiting their grandfather. Finn does not like the sea, and is totally unaware that the island he is visiting is magical, and that his grandfather's candle making is more than it seems.

This was a very fine story, well told. The characters were just brilliant. The dynamic between Fionn and Tara is a perfectly antagonstic and often hilarious sibling relationship. Grandfather Malachy is also a very amusing character.

There was also a very strong sense of place in this story, aided by the fact the island of Arranmore does actually exist. Also some real historical events were included in this tale, including the rescue of sialors from the SS Stolwijk, a Dutch cargo ship. The description in the book tallied very closely with the wikipedia entry!

If I had to criticise anything, it might be that Malachy does appear to spend more time with Fionn than Tara - almost like he favours him. There may be a reason for that, but I guess it is still a fault with Malachy.

It will be a great tale for children. I would have no hesitation at all in recommending it to mid grades. However the writing, the characterisation and the sense of place makes this one of those books that older readers should love too. I was put in mind of Susan Cooper's "The Dark Is Rising" sequence here. Comparing this book with "Over Sea and Under Stone" would not be inappropriate. Not because one is in any way derivative of the other, but because they both have a spark of magic about them that should lead to greater things as the story progresses in following books.

So yes, I loved this book.

11richardderus
apr 6, 10:29pm

>9 sirfurboy: Heh.

>10 sirfurboy: I love the title! Sounds like a book I'd like as well.

12sirfurboy
apr 8, 10:29am

>11 richardderus: Thanks Richard. I hope you do.

13sirfurboy
apr 8, 10:30am

48. The Lantern Bearers - Rosemary Sutcliff



This is the second book of Rosemary Sutcliffe's classic "Eagle of the Ninth" trilogy, written in the twilight of the Roman occupation of Britain. Aquila, from the first story, is called away from Britain to the Saxon Shore by a Rome that is in retreat, but finds his loyalties lie with Britain, so he deserts and remains - only to have his farm seized by raiders, his father killed, his sister taken into slavery and he is left behind to die.

Of course, the book would be short and depressing if it ended there, so it doesn't and Aquila survives and through many hardships arrives at the side of characters from Arthurian legend, particularly one Ambrosius. Yet this is not classic Arthurian legend either, but an interpretation of the period within the confines of actual history (more or less).

The book is well researched, and well written. The style of writing feels a little stuffy and formal, but not overly so. It is just showing its age a little. The characterisations are well done, but I had a problem with it in that I found it hard to get behind the aloof and unapproachable Aquila. This is a problem as he is the protagonist. More of a problem when one starts to question his morality in places - but Sutcliff clearly intended to present him with a 5th century moral code, so maybe it would be unfair to get too stuck on those issues. All the same, I remained uninvested in the book through much of it, which is why it took me nearly 2 years to read it to the end!

Despite this, it is not a bad story. The ideas within it (particularly the reimagining of Arthurian legend withing this context) can be found in many other books I have read and enjoyed, and even though that made this *feel* unoriginal to me, it is worth bearing in mind that this book predates all the others. So it rightly deserves its reputation.

14sirfurboy
apr 9, 5:23am

49. Gangsta-Oma - David Walliams



This is the German translation of "Gangsta Granny," bought for me as a Christmas present to practice my German. The story is about an 11 year old boy, Ben, who has to stay over with his Granny who forces him to play scrabble and only seems to eat cabbage. His parents are very much into their dancing and don't seem to have time for their son, whose passion is plumbing.

Then Ben makes a discovery and Granny confesses to being an international jewel thief. They make a plan to rob the Crown Jewels and then put them back the next day.

The book is written in an engaging way. The humour is somewhat slapstick, but this must surely appeal to primary school children and perhaps beyond. There is a nice background message in the book too. Not especially recommended for adult readers, but definitely recommended to the intended age group.

15sirfurboy
apr 13, 1:38pm

50. Politics in Europe-M. Donald Hancock, Christopher J. Carman, Marjorie Castle, David P. Conradt, Raffaella Y. Nanetti, Robert Leonardi, William Safran, Stephen White



This book is an excellent text book on Politics in Europe, looking in particular at the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Russia and then the EU. For the countries covered it provides a very thorough description of their political systems, history, the shape of their politics and everything you need to understand their political situation.

My only criticism of this book is that I would have liked to have read something about all the other countries in Europe - but that would have made a large book enormous, so I see why the editors chose to look at a carefully curated selection instead.

The list price of this book is high. I got a bargain copy of an old edition in a book clearance, and would suggest getting a library copy if you can't find a cheap or second hand one. All the same, if this were your course text it would be worth the money as it has great reference value.

16sirfurboy
apr 14, 11:53am

51. Shipwreck Island - Struan Murray



Sequel to the excellent "Orphans of the Tide," this book picks up where the last left off. Ellie and Seth have left their island behind after defeating The Enemy and leaving the inquisition behind. But trouble follows them to the new island they reach. An island where all is not well. Crops are failing, fishing yields are down. People are growing hungry and discontent is brewing, ably helped by dark political machinations.

This is a very well constructed story, with great breadth of imagination and a wonderfully clever, dark and menacing plot, offset with a wonderful sense of humour. The characters are interesting and well created. The author writes well and this series is definitely one that is worth reading.

In term of my feelings about this book - it was not quite as captivating as the first. That is largely "secondbook syndrome". The resolution of book one was so good that it would have been hard to beat anyhow, but this is still a very finely done tale that I enjoyed very much.

17sirfurboy
apr 15, 5:24am

52. The Boy at the Top of the Mountain - John Boyne



Pierrot is the son of a German father and French mother who becomes orphaned in the 1930s. His father fought in the great war and his mother says "he did not die in the war but it was the war that killed him". His mother later dies of TB. As a result the boy is adopted by his aunt who brings him to Austria to the home of the man she works for. One Adolf Hitler.

For a while as I was reading this I thought that this was going to be some kind of re-run of "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" as Pierrot was sweet and innocent and caring as the world went to pot around him. I think that would have been unfortunate had it been that, but in fact Boyne takes this in quite a different direction. The book becomes uncomfortable, and towards the end I started to wonder whether it was even suitable for younger children. It would certainly set them thinking, which is true of all of Boyne's books that I have read.

It is well written. Boyne's characters are a little black-and-white (except Pierrot, who is much deeper). The historical context is well done, and the book has good educational value. It won't be a favourite of mine, but will still be one I remember.

18sirfurboy
apr 16, 9:34am

53. Orion Lost - Alastair Chisholm



I forget why I added this book to my list, but I am glad I did. Beth is travelling with her parents on a star ship to a new colony world, EOS. The ship has to make jumps through hyperspace to get there and for each jump the crew and passengers are put in protective sleep. Between jumps they have classes and stuff on board. But then something goes wrong and an emergency jump results in Beth and other children from her class waking up to find there has been an "event". Logs of the event were lost but the ship is damaged and the adults cannot be woken from sleep. Now Beth and her class must crew the ship, repair it, avoid the strange alien Videshi, and also the attentions of scrapers (space pirates). And even then, all is not as it seems.

This was a very well written and well executed book. I enjoyed it very much. There was one point where Beth's mother explains the concept of warped space and thus the need to jump through the folds of space (i.e. hyperspace) where I was thinking this was a touch to expository, but then I checked myself, reminded myself it is a children's book and not meant for people who have read a lot of sci fi, and so needed to be there. The fact that I needed to check myself shows how well the writer had done in creating a creative, imaginative and consistent setting that really worked. This is no space opera - it is proper sci fi but written in a very accessible way.

19richardderus
apr 16, 9:53am

>17 sirfurboy:, >18 sirfurboy: Not for me, perhaps, but they both sound very likely to succeed in their target markets.

Have a lovely weekend, Stephen!

20sirfurboy
apr 16, 3:49pm

>19 richardderus: Thanks Richard, you too.

21sirfurboy
apr 19, 9:50am

54. Shuggie Bain - Douglas Stuart



This book came with a big bright "Booker Prize" warning, and I should probably have heeded that and stayed clear. However a lot of friends were reading it, and several were recommending it. I see why they recommended it (we will get to that soon), but my own opinion was just "this was ok". I struggled to finish it, and would not re-read it. That is a personal view, and your mileage may vary. Please see below for some excellent reasons why you *may* like this.

But first the summary: Shuggie Bain's mother, Agnes, is an alcoholic. He himself is different, assumed to be gay, and although that is implicitly confirmed in the book, it is really the alcoholism and the dysfunctional environment he is growing up in that dominates this story. It is the story of a boy growing up in Glasgow and his love for his alcoholic mother.

So the good points: this was a deeply personal account that was gritty, realistic and I suspect was written out of the author's real experience. It is a powerful account, and there is an unvarnished truth to it.

Another good point was the author's writing. He wrote some witty descriptions, and well constructed prose. I noticed this more early on in the book, but in any case it was well written.

Yet I did not like it. The story was unremittingly dark, and I found it hard to really like any of the characters. I did not feel invested in them, and given the harrowing subject, I feel a better story would find some hook to draw the reader in. Perhaps make the alcoholism a part of the story, but make the story actually about something else.

I can't recommend this to people who like the books I like, but I am sure there are many readers who would like this book for its other merits, so on this one, your mileage may vary.

22richardderus
apr 19, 8:57pm

>21 sirfurboy: There is no perfect book that appeals to all and appalls none, so I'm not surprised the bleakness of the story was an overwhelming downside for you. To me, as I read it, the story's sheer musicality of language was my ray of hope...I'd decided that Shuggie was Dougie before I turned page three, so I was all about this being a very thinly veiled memoir. I think, knowing that as settled fact in my own mind, I was able to ride along and marvel at how perfect the composition was at its job.

Anyway, it's always useful to know what gives others their ideas about books! Have a great week ahead's reads.

23sirfurboy
Redigeret: apr 20, 5:14am

>22 richardderus: Thanks Richard. Yes, it reads better as a memoir. Had it been badged as such I still would not have liked it I expect - I have read some other memoirs a bit like this, and have one more on my list that will probably go the same way (The End of Eddy) - and I have never yet thought one of those was a five star book. But at least if I had known it was a memoir I would have known what I was getting into.

But as I say, I can see why many people love the book. It is, I think, a worthy Booker award winner.

24sirfurboy
apr 20, 5:30am

55. Destination Earth - Ali Sparkes



Ali Sparkes is a great writer of books for mid grades/tweens and young adults. I do not think I have disliked any of her books, and this is another winner for her. It won the Blue Peter award, and it is easy enough to see why.

Lucy is 14, and has been travelling in space for 10 years from her home world. She is coming to Earth as a refugee, but the alien that destroyed her world has, without her knowledge, hitched a ride. Meanwhile she is looking forward to living on the Isle of Wight and maybe even running into Mark King, bass player for one of her favourite bands, Level 42! When she gets there she meets fellow teens Jay and Emma, whose mother runs a holiday park. They find Lucy a bit odd but become good friends.

This is a good, wholesome action adventure. Some poignant moments, and a little bit of mystery. It is not perfect. Sci fi fans would find some lunar crater sized plot holes (like how Lucy's world managed to evolve mammals and biologically identical humans... but hey, Doctor Who and Star Trek have been doing that one for years). Nevertheless, with a little willing suspension of disbelief, this was a good fun tale.

The intended audience and young adult readers should enjoy this one. Nothing too deep and meaningful here for those who do not already enjoy the genre - although I thought the inclusion of dyspraxia as a plot element, and the author's notes on how to get help for dyspraxia and dyslexia were good.

I also found myself wondering if the author contacted Mark King about including him in the book.

25sirfurboy
apr 21, 7:54am

56. What is Europe - Open University



This is an excellent OpenLearn free course with plenty of reading and some multimedia content (available through the related OpenLearn course). It looks at the question of what Europe is, bit historically and what it will be in the future. It shows how the definition of Europe is fuzzy at the edges and has expanded somewhat, and it looks at the role of the EU too.

Plenty of interesting information, with various different voices in the readings showing quite different perspectives. As has been the case for a few courses I have looked at recently on OpenLearn, this is a touch dated now by recent events, but still very relevant and very informative.

26PaulCranswick
apr 24, 9:15am

>21 sirfurboy: Interesting and fair summation of Shuggie Bain, Sir F. I am more with Richard on it as overall I rated it very highly and both the prose and storytelling especially for the first three quarters of the book marked it out as a bit special for me. Still I get the unremitting criticism and have to admit that I read it over a drawn out period because I couldn't digest it quickly.

>17 sirfurboy: I haven't seen that Boyne book before but I will certainly go and look for it.

Have a splendid weekend.

27sirfurboy
apr 26, 7:26am

>26 PaulCranswick: Thanks Paul. I get why some people love Shuggie Bain, but interesting that you too took your time over it.

Hope you had a lovely weekend.

28sirfurboy
apr 26, 7:28am

57. The Mostly True Story of Jack - Kelly Barnhill



Kelly Barnhill writes good books and this is one of them. A modern day fairy story, although I suppose it fits into the "urban fantasy" genre. Think Neil Gaiman/Garth Nix though rather than Casandra Clare.

Jack's parents are getting a divorce, so he is sent to Iowa to be out of the way. But it is quickly obvious that Jack's family are a bit strange. At first his mom seems self absorbed but it becomes quickly clear that she does not seem to really notice that Jack is there. And the same is true for his dad and people in Jack's old home town. But here in Hazelwood, Iowa, he does get noticed. He also notices that the town itself is pretty strange.

Jack doesn't believe in fairy tales and magic. Which would be fair enough if he had not just moved into a house built on a magical eruption point.

Jack makes friends with Wendy, Anders, and Frankie - but something strange is going on in this strange place, and Jack is about to have all his assumptions about the world challenged.

This book had an original take on some well loved themes. It is written and paced well for mid grade readers.

29richardderus
apr 26, 2:10pm

>25 sirfurboy: I had a weird turn the other day when I read somewhere that Europe's largest country by land area is Ukraine. I'm still accustoming myself to dropping the definite article off THE Ukraine...realizing it's European now, well...this world, this world!

30sirfurboy
apr 27, 6:00am

>29 richardderus: Yes, it does seem strange, although I remember being taught at school that Russia was in Europe as far as the Urals... but that is all part of the fuzziness, yes.

31sirfurboy
apr 27, 7:27am

58. Bwystfilod a Bwganod - Manon Steffan Ros



Written in Welsh, this is the story of when the world suddenly changed and ghosts and mythical mosnsters started to appear. Specifically it is the story of Hilda, Tom and Hywel from the town of Tywyn who become heros because Hywel has an old book about monsters and ghosts that tells him how to deal with them. After their first success in dealing with a dangerous monster in Tywyn cinema they are enlisted by the First Minister of Wales, Teilo Siencyn, to catch monsters.

Many mid Wales locations and some cultural references in this book would provide some context for local readers. Beyond that there is really nothing much here. Character development is very patchy, the storyline is pretty straightforward and lacks surprises. It is all pretty preposterous, but the kids save the day in the end.

I read books in Welsh from time to time in the hope I might find some undiscovered gem. This is not one such.

32sirfurboy
apr 28, 9:56am

59. Democracy for Sale - Peter Geoghegan



Bang up to date, and with references and examples throughout, this book makes the case that British democracy has been deeply undermined by dark money, people playing fast and loose with the rules, and vested interests taking control of the political agenda. If course, much of that has been endemic for a long time, and one could say that it is only the actors that have changed (a little), but the book makes the case that changes in the social and technological landscape have also allowed a much deeper undermining of democracy. Targeted deceitful ads on Facebook are known to have affected the outcome of the EU referendum - and it is this ability to use much smaller amounts of dark money to influence political decisions that this book uncovers.

Well, except maybe it does not uncover all that much - because reading it I found I already knew much of what it was telling me. The information is already out there about dodgy donations, about how the Brexit party avoided scrutiny in the way it solicited donations, how Cambridge Analytica used Facebook to mobilise people on false premises etc. etc. It was, in fact, a depressing litany of the constituent parts that create the new British democratic deficit.

So in that sense I learned little that I had not already discovered. All the same it is important to place all this information in one place in an easily accessible format, and so this book does that nicely.

The author's politics may colour his choice of examples a little, but the message comes over loud and clear. If you disagree with the author's politics, please just concentrate on the message: dark money and circumvention of rules, as well as the lack of fitness of such rules in the first place, are damaging the British political process. That is something that needs fixing, and even if you happen to like the way that the agenda has been subverted, if you love the idea of democracy, you should worry about what is happening and has happened. If you prefer plutocracy - well that is what you are getting.

33SandDune
apr 28, 4:03pm

>32 sirfurboy: Looks a very timely book.

34sirfurboy
apr 29, 6:12am

>33 SandDune: Yes, it definitely is. Thanks.

35sirfurboy
apr 29, 6:14am

60. The boy who dreamt the World - Jethro Punter



This book attracted me with a great cover on a kindle unlimited trial. But that also means it carries the kindle unlimited warning. Pluses are that the author's prose is easy going and he aims for a jocular style that suited the character of Adam, the protagonist. The concept too, while not exactly novel, is a great one with huge potential. And yes, the cover art is professional.

Adam is a daydreamer, in trouble in school for that reason. He lives with his mother, but everything changes when his mother goes missing and he falls into the world of Reverie. There he meets dangers and needs to discover the answers to some secrets and find his mother.

So far so interesting. The author shows potential in this work, but sadly it did not quite come off. Firstly because, like so many kindle unlimited books that inevitably kick off a series, this story is incomplete. The end of the book is sudden and the big questions are unresolved.

But the other reason this fails is because this book needs what so many self published works need: a good editor. And by that, I don't mean a friend to check the spelling and grammar (although that would have helped in places). It needed someone to ask some serious questions and then demand a rewrite, showing what was lacking.

A few things I noticed:

The author made the perfectly good choice of using limited third person POV. We are only ever in Adam's head, which is great. But couldn't that head have been a bit more interesting? So much potential, but really we just had Adam moving from event to event with little development.

The antagonist is worse, with very little background or development or good motivation. In a world of dreams there was so much potential, but it did not come out here.

The dream world itself could have been better imagined.

The writing could be a little choppy.

The story itself was linear and simplistic.

And why didn't Adam seem to care very much about his missing mum?

So not recommended, but the author might be worth watching - and especially if he is ever traditionally published.

36sirfurboy
apr 29, 6:15am

61. Contemporary Wales - Open University



This book and related OpenLearn course is one of the longest and fullest I have read so far. It is a sociology text book on the subject of what makes contemporary Wales and looks, in depth at:

- Rugby: how the game of rugby is the major focus of national identification

- Why being Welsh is far more than a simple matter of geography – the culture, the language and other factors all play their part too

- How the Welsh economy has adapted and evolved as industries thrive, die and are replaced
how race and gender are important dimensions of difference in Wales, how policies have addressed them, and the limitations of these policies

- Some key ways in which the Welsh language both unites and divides

- How the Welsh nationalist movement has played a key role not just in relation to the language and Plaid Cymru politics, but in shaping the Labour Party

- How labour traditions are deeply ingrained in the politics and culture of Wales

-How people in Wales, and in the Labour Party, have seen Westminster in different ways, but devolution and the formation of the Welsh National Assembly and its government in 1999 was a major step on the path of a new and transforming relationship

- The growth in film and television production in Wales, with the S4/C television channel and programmes such as Doctor Who showing the nation in a new, modern light to viewers around the world.

Notable for its absence would be a discussion of non-conformist Christianity, a dsitinctive aspect still of contemporary Wales, but that is probably covered more deeply in a look at what has made Wales historically. Still, I think it was a major omission.

Despite that, this is an excellent resource, and completely free. It contains maps and tables and such like as well as materials written by subject experts. Text books like this can sell for very high prices, so to have one for free is a bargain.

Highly recommended to anyone who wants to understand modern Wales.

37SandDune
apr 29, 6:36am

>36 sirfurboy: I might have a look at this one. We are thinking of moving back to Wales when Mr SandDune retires. Well, I say back, it would only be back for me, as Mr SandDune is from Yorkshire.

It would be interesting to see what it says about identity. I have never felt so ‘not English’ while living in England as I have in the last 1 or 2 years.

38sirfurboy
apr 29, 11:23am

>37 SandDune: I know what you mean.

Retiring to Wales seems like a good thing to do. :)

39sirfurboy
Redigeret: apr 30, 5:54am

62. De gebroeders Beekman - Toon Kartooms

(No touchstone but this is book one of Beekman en Beekman, in which the whole trilogy is published).



I have been trying to read the trilogy this book comes from for years. I made better progress when I made the decision to break it down a book at a time as I could then feel like I was making better progress, but it was still slow going as the book is in Dutch and I am not aware of any English translations. According to the publishers, this book (written in 1946) has sold 2 millions copies - an exceptional number for a book written in Dutch. It is described as a "streekroman" which is a genre of Dutch novel where the action is set against the background of life in a particular region, especially in the countryside.

The Beekman Brothers are twins born into a rural location in Brabant (specifically the Dutch province of North Brabant, but close to the Limburg border). Their father has a flour mill and they have a rather stupid neighbour, a boy called Hendrik van Ham, who seems most stupid for trusting Matje and Heintje Beekman in my opinion! He tends to come off worst in their encounters as the twins play practical jokes and such like. Luckily he appears to be indestructible.

For me this was a hard read. It was recommended a long time ago by a Dutch friend who had enjoyed it, but at the time the language was too hard for me and even now I think I lost a lot of the subtlety of the humour because of the Brabant dialect and perhaps some local context I was missing. It had a "Just William" feel to it.

The book does describe the location very well though, and I picked up enough of the humour to understand why people like it. I expect a fluent Dutch reader would enjoy this more than me, but I did find it interesting.

I give it 3 stars here ("I liked it") based on my own impression. Fluent Dutch readers would almost certainly rate this higher, and please bear that in mind. There is no doubt good reason this sold 2 million copies.

40sirfurboy
Redigeret: apr 30, 6:14am

My April Summary:

16 books read. That is 4 up on last month.

Languages

13 - English
1 - Welsh
1 - Dutch
1 - German

Genres

11. Fiction
4. Non Fiction
1. Classic
2. Award winners

Totals this year

62 books read.

Languages

51 In English
1 in Dutch
2 in French
1 in Frisian (and English)
1. in German
1. in Welsh
1 in Old English (and Gothic, and middle English)
1 In French and English (text book/course)
1 In German and English (text book/course)
1 In Latin and English (text book/course)

Genres

40. Fiction
1. Poetry
19. Non Fiction
7. Classics

Progress on TBR List

TBR: Now down to 83 books, 23 of which are "on the go". That is 49 fewer this year. This month I have only been finishing books I had on the go.

41FAMeulstee
apr 30, 6:43pm

>39 sirfurboy: I think I have read Beekman en Beekman long, long ago, as I do recognise the cover from the touchstone. But I have no memory of the story at all. I might consider a re-read when I feel a bit nostalgic.

>40 sirfurboy: You are doing very well reading your TBRs!
I won't even start to count the remaining unread books in the house, and I have nearly 200 books at my library wishlist....

42SirThomas
maj 1, 3:45am

Congratulations on your stats, Stephen - have a wonderful weekend.

43sirfurboy
maj 1, 9:23am

>41 FAMeulstee: Thanks Anita. And good to hear you read de gebroeders Beekman (probably). I will be interested to see what you think if you re-read it.

>42 SirThomas: Thanks, and you too. :)

44sirfurboy
maj 1, 9:26am

63. The Little Ship’s Boy - Berlie Doherty

A short ghost story set in Cornwall. Jez is staying with his uncle Jack for the holidays, and hears a ghost story set at sea - but is it just a story?

Described as “terrifying” in the official synopsis, I think even younger children would only find it exciting. But it is a short and easy read for primary school children, with a story that is suitable for the age group.

45sirfurboy
maj 4, 5:31am

64. Plate Tectonics - Open University



This is an excellent free ebook accompaniment to a fantastic free OpenLearn course on what we know about Plate Tectonics, beginning with the history and development of the theory and then looking at how evidence is gathered and all the ways we can discover the historical movement of the continents, and then looking at the process itself, and finally looking at the engine of the process.

The subject is fascination and to have such a wealth of information available in a free book, written and curated by experts in the field, and with plenty of diagrams and exercises too, is too good an opportunity to pass up.

The subject is fascinating and this book (with its extensive list for further reading) is a great place to start.

46sirfurboy
maj 4, 8:04am

65. Der Rauber Hotzenplotz - Otfried Preußler



I forget who recommended this but it was a LibraryThing user (perhaps Amber?) who found the story amusing and a good book for precticing German. It is indeed both of those things, and no doubt a much loved story from the childhood of many a German. The story is clearly aimed at younger children.

The robber Hotzenplotz steals Grandma's coffee grinder and Kasperl, her grandson and his stupid but faithful friend, Seppel, go searching for the thief's hideout. Hotzenplotz captures them however and there are amusing adventures with an evil wizard and a fairy before all can be brought to a fitting conclusion.

A good fun story, just right for children.

47sirfurboy
maj 5, 5:29am

66. Les six compagnons de la Croix Rousse - Paul-Jacques Bonzon



Billed as "The Famous Five" for the French, this much loved children's book reminded me a little more of Emil and the Detectives than Julian, Dick, George, Ann and Timmy the dog (although it had the dog). Not that this is a bad thing necessarily, as Emil and the Detectives is also a good story.

Tidou must move with his family from Avignon to Lyon because of his father's work. The appartment in Lyon will be small and pets will not be allowed, so Tidou's dog, Kafi, must stay behind. Tidou is clearly upset about this, but when he goes to school, after an initial frosty reception, he makes friends and a plan is hatched to bring Tidou to Lyon. Only this plan is upset by thieves, and so a grand adventure begins for Tidou and his new friends.

It is a charming tale, just right for children. This is the start of a series of adventures for les six compagnons, and I may well read on in the series.

48sirfurboy
maj 6, 6:44am

67. Echec aux Ceinturons Noirs: Signe de Piste - Jenö Nagy



Signe de Piste is a massive collection of adventure books for children and young adults in France. Very popular from the 1950s to the 1970s, the series continues to enjoy high reader recognition. I came upon mention of it in another French novel about a man who laments his handicapped son will never read Signe de Piste.

I managed to get hold of this one of the series, more or less at random. Sadly I doubt this is the best of the work in the collection. The author is not one of the regulars, and I expect (and hope) that others in the series are better than this one. This book was ok, and expressed some good sentiments about standing up to bullies, as well as forgiveness and reconciliation, but it also pushed a "spartan education" a little, was often clunky and the title theme of a war between a gang that wears blue jeans with black belts and those who wear scout shorts was just a little odd!

Other things in the story were odd too. The protagonist, Hans, has weird dreams. The character of Gilles is antagonistic throughout but his final transformation is sudden and thoroughly unconvincing, but allows for some uplifting final words. All too trite for me I am afraid. As for the blue jeans with black belts...that gets resolved too early in the story, and again the resolution was somewhat trite - almost cringeworthy in places.

It may be the age of the book, it may be the fact I was reading a French edition of a story apparently first written in German, or maybe it was something else, but I expect this is not the place to start reading Signe de Piste.

49sirfurboy
maj 6, 6:53am

68. An Atlas of Extinct Countries - Gideon Defoe



This is an amusing account of many countries that you probably never heard of and a few that you probably did know about. All have one thing in common: they don't exist anymore. Each well researched and accessibly presented chapter will tell you the history of the country, and what its status is now (e.g. part of some other country).

I loved the writers tongue in cheek approach. It was never flippant, just a dry wit that made a potentially dry subject a pleasure to read. There are some interesting facts in there too, although perhaps largely of use to trivia fans.

50sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 7, 11:23am

69. Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count - Richard Nisbett



Excellent book, but not sure about the title! It is not the done thing to be seen reading a book on "how to get intelligent" is it? And yet that is not really what the book is about. In fact it is all about the debate regarding the question of heritability of intelligence. To what extent is our intelligence programmed in by our genes and to what extent is it mutable, something we can control.

It seems to me that people instinctively believe a bit of both propositions. Some people are more naturally intelligent, but we can also train our minds. And that is what this book says too, with emphasis on the training. Although it says it very well! Making use of a wealth of scientific evidence, studies, school programmes etc., it makes the point that what we measure as intelligence is hugely influenced by culture, expectation, education and other factors too.

Of course, measuring intelligence is infamously hard. IQ tests measure this thing called IQ, but that may not actually equate with intelligence, although it is thought to correlate with it at least. Nisbett categorises two types of test: Tests of fluid and crystallised intelligence. By this he means fluid intelligence is the innate ability and crystallised intelligence translates to things like good vocabulary or good general knowledge. A useful distinction because most people would agree that crystallised intelligence is definitely affected by education and fluid intelligence is not.

Except it is not so. Nisbett shows that on all measures of intelligence, scores are increasing over time for intelligence at a rate so rapid that genetics cannot be the explanation. He also shows this increase is faster in disadvantaged groups, and he has to take issue with the race debate too, because in the past it was found - particularly in America - that IQ scores for black people were much lower than for white. What Nisbett shows is that the acceleration in scores is much higher in black people, and he systematically and thoroughly debunks the hereditarian explanations for this difference. This is one of the best parts of the book - demolishing the arguments of hereditarians and thus also proving his thesis that the uplift in intelligence scores over time (particularly for fluid intelligence) shows that both measures of intelligence are very strongly affected by culture, education, economics etc.

The book also looks at what school programmes work, and points to resources of more information on that score. It discusses costs and benefits of programmes that could achieve better results across the board (in the American context, but applicable elsewhere too).

All in all a very good read.

51PersephonesLibrary
maj 9, 4:13pm

Hi Stephen! Wow, so many great books - I will have to come back to take a closer look at them! >15 sirfurboy:, >21 sirfurboy:, >28 sirfurboy:, >32 sirfurboy:, >49 sirfurboy:, >50 sirfurboy: look intriguing in particular!

52richardderus
maj 9, 5:14pm

>49 sirfurboy: What a *great* idea for a book! Onto my library list it goes.

Have a wonderful week's reads ahead, Stephen.

53sirfurboy
maj 10, 7:21am

70. The Midnight Library - Matt Haig



A lot of people are reading this book, so I read it too. It was good, and I liked it quite a lot and finished it quickly. However I think it is also being overhyped. I was not blown away by it, but I would happily recommend it.

Nora Seed is having a very bad day in what she feels is a dead end life. Her cat dies, she loses her job, she is also let go from giving music lessons, her brother is not speaking to her and even her neighbour does not seem to need her anymore. So she decides to end her regret filled life. She finds herself in the Midnight Library, and now she can discover all the many lives she could have had.

What I liked most about the book was the writing. Matt Haig writes very well. The prose is easy, and laced with humour and feeling. He sucks you into the story and makes you want to keep going.

The premise is also intriguing. It has a lot of potential, and Matt Haig makes good use of that. All the same, if you think about it, it is not actually totally original. Still, there are no new stories apparently, and this one does manage to add an original feel to it even if you can think of similar stories.

But the reason I was not blown away by the story was that the ending is just plain obvious from very early on in the book. There was only one way this could end, and there were no surprises on that score. There was no great plot twist.

All the same, Matt Haig does manage smaller twists as we travel through the story, and those definitely did add to the whole.

There is philosophy in here, and there is a very powerful message too. Definitely recommended, and indeed I preferred this to "The Life of Pi" and other supposed literary greats. It deserves its success, even if the obvious end and the occasional slow progress to that end made it less than perfect.

54sirfurboy
maj 10, 7:24am

>51 PersephonesLibrary: Thanks Käthe, and yes please do come back for a closer look or discuss any of those. I am glad they intrigued you.

>52 richardderus: Thanks Richard. That one was a Christmas present, and yes, I enjoyed it a lot.

55sirfurboy
maj 10, 12:19pm

71. l'etranger - Albert Camus



I read the first 17% of this in French, but gave up. It was taking too long so I finished it with an English translation. I might have persisted if I had been enjoying the story more.

The book is a classic, of course, and also very strange. Written in the first person, it follows the life of a man in Algeria called Meursault, beginning with an event where his mother dies, and he goes to her funeral but seems strangely unaffected by it. Meursault lives in the present. We don't really get any feel for his past, but just an impression of a man who drifts through a series of happenings with an almost amoral detached air. And then things take an unexpected turn.

The book, of course, is the canvas on which Camus sketches out his philosophy of the absurd. An atheistic philosophy that is not nihilism but something like it. So everything that happens to Meursault has deep meaning even though it is all so random and haphazard. The character himself learns and discovers as he goes along, and it is all very clever stuff.

Except I really did not like it. Stories need to be stories first, and Meursault's character makes no sense (yes, maybe that's the point. But still, he makes no sense!) So I was never very invested in this story. I was not moved by the events and I don't really care much about the ending, I was just glad it was over.

I would give this 3 out of 5 stars in places that have star reviews. I would give it a worse rating, except that there were some saving graces that showed why this book is still important today. Apart from being the product of a philosophy of the absurd, it also manages some humour (of sorts). It was dark humour, but there was a tongue in cheek feel to the whole thing that was echoed in certain absurd and comic events (like the one true mourner of his mother's funeral who cannot keep up with the procession and is forced to keep taking short cuts). Also there is a clever section of prose leading up to the big changing event that shows Camus was indeed an able writer.

Three stars says "I liked it". I am not sure that I did, really. Yet maybe it deserves three stars for not being just pretentious twaddle. There is something reminiscent of Kafka here. I think Kafka's stories are ultimately more meaningful and more powerful, but I think Camus is worth a look.

56sirfurboy
maj 11, 6:16am

72. Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse: And Other Lessons from Modern Life - David Mitchell



David Mitchell is a comedian who writes for the Observer and shows up on Radio 4, where he is frequently hilarious and yet incisive and politically astute too. I remember something he did on The Now Show some years ago that was brilliant because it unpicked in forensic detail and yet in a hilarious manner the way that the Conservative judicial reforms being proposed were a double wammy that worked against the interests of the innocent and in the interests of criminals. No one else had managed to show so clearly why the reforms were such a really terrible idea.

Since then the Conservatives government have had quite a run of terrible ideas, and David Mitchell is brilliant at showing why they are so bad.

But this book is not a party political piece, so Mitchell selects a range of articles he has written over the years. All the pieces show his brilliance, but they are necessarily not as current. Instead he chooses pieces that make broader points and also give a flavour of his satirical wit. I enjoyed them all.

57sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 11, 6:25am

73. Space Oddity - Christopher Edge.



A book for primary school children about a boy who finds out his dad is really an alien who crashed on Earth when he mistook David Bowie's "Ground control to Major Tom" for an actual distress call. Got this from the e-library, but would probably have passed it by on paper. It will be enjoyable enough by the intended audience, but doesn't work well for older readers.

58scaifea
maj 11, 7:56am

>55 sirfurboy: I felt much the same way about The Stranger; great review!

>72 I'll add this one to my list - I've enjoyed Mitchell when I've seen him on interview shows and QI.

59sirfurboy
maj 11, 9:10am

>58 scaifea: Glad to know I am not alone on that one! Thanks.

I hope you enjoy the David Mitchell book.

60sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 12, 5:24am

74. Prisonnier (Les Chroniques de Ren, #1) - Faith Kean



I got this as French language fantasy title - Ren, a young and sporty French man, is kidnapped from his home and taken to another world run by vampires. I am not sure if I knew this was about vampires when I bought it. I am not a great fan of the genre, and this book really did nothing to disabuse me of that.

This is a long winded story about how Ren falls in love with his captors (in a matter of days) and refuses to bow to them (with little repercussion) but turns out to be much wiser than them, teaching them military strategy (he is 18 and they are all living the extended lives of vampires). He also finds that the vampire who buys him - a prince - is gay, and is rather more surprised that the vampire is gay than that... he is a vampire! But that's okay because as I say, within 3 days Ren has fallen in love with said vampire, despite not knowing he was gay himself.

So basically this is a tale of an abusive relationship with almost no character depth, and a wholly unrealistic plot line. It took me forever to read (literally years) because it was in French and because I was so uninvested. It is as close to a DNF as I have come this year, when I took the decision to skip and skim read to get to the end. I put it down with relief and thought "at last that is off my shelf".

This book has had a lot of 5 star reviews which sadly fooled me into getting it. I cannot understand why. But then, Twilight gets good reviews too for some reason. Don't be fooled though; Twilight, for all its many faults, is leaps and bounds ahead of this book. To be clear, it is not the fact that there is gay romance that makes me hate it. The problem is that the whole romance is so absurdly imagined, the characters so flat, the scenes so overwritten, and the relationship so abusive, yet laced with cliched resistance. One to avoid.

61sirfurboy
maj 12, 5:38am

75. Politics in the European Union - Ian Bache, Stephen George, Simon Bulmer



This is one of two such books I bought on sale for a fraction of the cover price. At the price I paid it was a real bargain. A textbook on European politics, it covers the history of the European union, how the institutions evolved and developed, how they work, the political context in which they arose and how the policy areas of the union developed too.

If you are not interested in EU politics, it will not be for you, and yet having read it, I am aghast at how little of this information is ever taught or disseminated to the public. No wonder our EU debates are so uninformed and so easily hijacked by propagandists.

To be clear, this is not a blindly pro-EU textbook. The book describes EU successes and failures. It describes problems that had to be addressed. The chapter on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was the most enlightening read I can remember on the subject, explaining how and why the CAP was first created and why it caused food mountains, and how successive reforms were required to fix this, and how these were implemented over the last couple of decades. It is clear that the EU did engage in dumping of products, but also explains how this was stopped (and why).

That level of analysis is maintained throughout. This book describes the EU, warts and all, but would completely skewer and lay to rest so many ridiculous old canards from the Brexit debate.

A very interesting work that will sadly not get much attention because it is, after all, a text book on a subject that most people are not really very interested in.

62sirfurboy
maj 12, 5:39am

And with that, I reach my 75 books in 2021. But I will, of course, keep posting and see how many I reach.

63FAMeulstee
maj 12, 6:05am

>61 sirfurboy: Congratulations on reaching 75, Stephen!

64EllaTim
maj 12, 7:29am

Congratulations on reaching 75! Wow.

>21 sirfurboy: Interesting review. I still haven't managed to finish the book, finding it so depressing. Especially when it comes to Agnes's life. I did think the parts where he writes about Shuggie, the scenes that have him doing things on his owns are much livelier, I did enjoy those.

I read the Gebroeders Beekman and liked it. But kudos to you for finishing it, because I don't think it's easy reading when you are still learning Dutch!

>75 One of the problems of the EU, that so many people are not too interested in it. While at the same time lots of stuff gets decided there.

And Ukraine, now there's an interesting subject! I read a bit about the history of Eastern Europe, and realised I knew next to nothing. For instance that the Vikings have been important there? Really? And that Lithuania has been a very large country, stretching far to the south?

Happy reading, for your next 75 Stephen!

65SirThomas
maj 12, 8:04am

Congratulations on reaching 75, Stephen!

66drneutron
maj 12, 12:04pm

Congrats!

68sirfurboy
maj 13, 5:24am

>63 FAMeulstee: >65 SirThomas: >66 drneutron: >67 richardderus: Thanks all.

>64 EllaTim: Thanks. Yes, the humour of the Gebroeders Beekman was tricky for me but I think subtle humour is one of the hardest things to follow in language learning.

As for Ukraine, well yes - that is fascinating. Firstly because Ukraine was, I think, the original kingdom of the Nordic Rus and also because their larger Rus-land neighbour also owes its genesis to Ukraine and the Rus.

69sirfurboy
maj 13, 5:25am

76. Tijgereiland - Daan Remmerts de Vries



Daan Remmerts de Vries is an excellent Dutch writer. This is my third book of his that I have read, and they were all good. This one won an award in 2014, the "Gouden Lijst 2014", best Dutch book.
( https://www.ikvindlezennietleuk.nl/leestip/winnaars-gouden-lijst-2014/ ) and I think it also won other awards although I cannot find reference to those. That is for a good reason, that this is just good writing. I love the author's prose, which is accessibly written (important for those of us reading in a second language) but also has a kind of flowing beauty to it.

The story is about a boy whose parents are getting a divorce, describing (without telling) his loneliness and fears. He persuades his mother to take him on vacation to India over Christmas, so they can go and see a wild Tiger. His mother is a flighty kind of person, and I thought as I was reading that something terrible might happen in India because of this. And, of course, I should not say whether it does or not, to avoid spoilers!

This book, like the author's Groter dan de lucht, erger dan de zon has hidden depths, and the reason it stands out for me is that the book is not in your face or diactic. Instead it uses subtlety and metaphor to tell you something about loneliness. The tigers are a metaphor for that, and this is an author who reminds me in some ways of David Almond, in that the book is good for a younger reader who is going deeper with their reading, and it also speaks to adult readers. It is cleverly done.

I should add a warning that this is not a strong plot driven adventure story. This is a story about people. It is especially about Tijs and his mother, and their relationship. But it is a very good character based story, and I see why it won award(s) in 2014, when it was written.

70FAMeulstee
maj 13, 10:26am

>69 sirfurboy: Tijgereiland was a good read, I liked the other books by him a bit less.

71sirfurboy
maj 14, 5:31am

>70 FAMeulstee: Yes, I also liked Groter dan de lucht, erger dan de zon but recall you did not like it as much. I did not like Bernie King en de magische cirkels so much, although it was still a good read. His catalogue is large, with three or four more books added since I added Tijgereiland to my list, so maybe he is too prolific for his own good! I will read more from him in time I am sure, but I will never read all his work, I think.

72sirfurboy
maj 14, 5:33am

77. Introduction to active galaxies - The Open University



This is an absolutely fascinating course book for the free OpenLearn course of the same name, filled with information, diagrams and exercises, on the subject of active galaxies (radio galaxies, quasars, blazars etc.)

Starting off with the science (and mathematics) of how we can study the composition of galaxies and stars, this book then builds on the foundation by introducing the classes of active galaxy, how they were discovered and their characteristics. It then discusses what they are, and spends most time on the leading theory - that they are active because of the presence of an accreting supermassive black hole.

Finally the book shows how the distance of these galaxies tells us that the universe went through a more active phase which peaked a long time ago, and asks where are such galaxies now? Evidence is then presented to show that the majority of galaxies probably have a supermassive black hole in their nucleus (ours include), and the difference is just that these are no longer accreting.

If you are interested in astronomy, this free book is a gift from the Open University. You can read it in conjunction with the online course (also free) at the OpenLearn website or just on its own.

73sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 16, 9:57am

78. Death by Detention - Ali Sparkes



Ali Sparkes always writes interesting stories. This one is a bit if a departure in that it is written to encourage slightly older readers than her usual, but those who are reluctant readers. As such this one has a kind of video game feel. Action hits you on the very first page, when teens Elliot and Shania find themselves in detention (again) with the headmaster, who just begins to provide them with a "you are better than you think" lecture when he is abruptly shot through the head.

The teens, understandably, try to escape the school, but the entrance is in darkness (it is winter and dark already, but the lights are off). Then Elliot sees the red dot of a laser sight, and now the two witnesses to the murder must evade the gunmen too. Things get wackier when the head comes back to life. Elliot thinks he is a zombie, but this is not a zombie story.

Lots of action in this one. It is violent, but in the way a lot of books for the age group are violent. All the same the opening "head" shot (pardon the pun) is probably a little close to the bone, and may explain why the book now seems to be unavailable. Even the kindle ebook has vanished from the kindle store or any other ebook supplier I know of.

That is perhaps a pity, as this was a nice tale, but it was not the author's best work. No idea if it was any good at encouraging reluctant readers - I expect it did not find space in many school libraries.

74sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 17, 5:11am

79. The End of Eddy - Édouard Louis



This is an autobiographical account of a young gay man, growing up in a working class community in Picardy. The environment and attitudes he experiences, along with bullying and worse, make this a powerful but somewhat harrowing account. It has a ring of truth about it though, and that makes it eye opening.

The author published this at the age of 21 in French. It has been translated to English, and I found the prose somewhat clipped, the flow meandering. Probably more because it is the author's first book, rather than because of the translation. Although a more experienced writer might have written this a little differently, I actually found the style growing on me as I read, and it added an authenticity to the account somehow.

This work has quite a lot in common with Shuggie Bain which I also read recently. I preferred this one to Shuggie Bain though. Both describe difficult situations, and evoke similar feelings, but this one moved along at a clip. The writing was less clever, but for me it felt more authentic.

A difficult but worthwhile read.

75sirfurboy
maj 17, 5:24am

80. The Last Wild - Piers Torday



I borrowed this to test out a new e-library service launched here. The service looked good, but I couldn't find many books there that I knew I wanted to read so borrowed this more or less at random. A story for mid grade children (or maybe younger) about a boy (Kester) who is in a home for disturbed children, unable to speak. A virus has killed nearly all animal life on the planet and a mega corporation provides formula food, runs the school Kester is in and pretty much runs everything else.

Kester discovers, however, that he can talk to insects (apparently the only remaining animals), and so a cockroach tries to break him out of the school to meet and lead the Last Wild.

Kids will like this grand adventure, I am sure. It is well written, but not really for me.

76richardderus
maj 17, 2:37pm

>74 sirfurboy: I've got that one queued up for a June...Pride Month in the US...review. I'm braced for it.

77sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 18, 5:38am

>76 richardderus: Yes, I am not sure "enjoy it" is quite the right phrase here, but I am sure you will be glad you read it.

78sirfurboy
maj 18, 6:12am

81. I'll Steal You Away - Niccolo Ammaniti



Ammaniti is a great writer and he writes some great books. They are invariably a little weird while still being gritty and realistic. This book is no exception, although it is one of his earliest works and perhaps that shows a little. Every book of his powerfully evokes a feeling for the place it is set in.

So this story is about Pietro, living in a poor family, son of a shepherd, brother to a school dropout. He is friends with a girl from a rich family, but otherwise has no friends and is bullied.

Meanwhile playboy Graziano Biglia is having a midlife crisis and returns to his home in the same village. The stories of these characters slowly intertwine.

All the characters are well imagined in this story and many others find their way into it. Some are integral to the whole, and others escape quickly. The author writes them all well.

Some scenes were very funny. I think I even chuckled out loud at the scene where a feud between Pietro's father and a neighbour resulted in... well I won't spoil it for you, but a scene that was described in such a way that I was clearly amused.

Elsewhere things are painful. Ammaniti makes a powerful point in this book, and ultimately the ending is bittersweet. There is pain but there is hope.

I found this author when reading in Italian and I think I may have begun this story a few years ago in Italian too (as "Ti prendo e ti porto via") but I must have stopped reading it, perhaps when I had to return the library book, because I seem to have only read half of it. I finished it in English after finding the English library book.

My only real criticism of this work was the writing style. Ammaniti has developed a unique and clever writing style, but I would say that he had not quite developed it when he wrote this book. It felt a bit choppy. Things jumped around, and we kept getting an omniscient narrator viewpoint, which is not wrong but certainly a little unusual in a modern book, and I found it pulling me out of the story a little.

Despite any issues over writing style, this was a good story with a powerful underlying message.

79FAMeulstee
maj 19, 3:23am

>74 sirfurboy: That was a good read for me too, Stephen. I also read his book Who Killed My Father, that I found even better.
I haven't gotten to Shuggie Bain yet.

80sirfurboy
maj 19, 7:50am

>79 FAMeulstee: Oh then I should read that too. Thanks :)

81sirfurboy
maj 19, 7:51am

82. The Red Judge - Pauline Fisk



Pauline Fisk writes beautiful but also quite strange books. These are books for young people that are meant to stretch them and make them think. Like David Almond, she incorporates "Magical Realism" into her stories, and like Susan Cooper, she uses a sense of place and an associated mythology to add a depth to what she writes. But the result is still a little strange, and so she does get mixed reviews.

The Red Judge is one of a set of three books referred to as "The Children of Plynlimon," the second in the series that I have read, and I appear to be unintentionally reading the series backwards! I very much enjoyed "Mad Dog Moonlight," the third of the series, set in and around Aberystwyth. This book, set in Llangurig and Shrewsbury (the latter called Pengwern in the book), still revolves around legends of the mid Wales Plynlimon mountain, and one of the rivers that flows from it - the Wye.

But the book is primarily about Zed, and his relationship with his family. There is an accident and his sister is critically injured. Zed is the black sheep of the family and is blamed (and not entirely without cause). Can he appeal to the Red Judge of Plynlimon for mercy for his sister?

The book is about loneliness, guilt and recriminations, good and evil and much more.

Although there is some mythology about Plynlimon in this book, much of it appears to be the author's invention. The cwn y wbir (magical dogs of the red judge) are one such invention I think. The hint is in the name. Good welsh would be "cwn yr wbir" with an r, even if there were a feminine noun, "gwbir" that makes sense there (and there isn't!)

The geography is also adjusted for the book. Although Llangurig is accurately described, it is some 10 miles from the Plynlimon summit, and I am not aware of anywhere in the vicinity where the summit can be seen, even though the book suggests it can be.

But those are both fine. The story never says it is fact, and that is what good storytellers do, and this is a good story... but once again, it is a strange one too. Recommended to readers who are okay with some magical realism.

82sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 20, 6:29am

83. The Greek Slave Boy - Lillian Carroll



Picked this up in a second hand bookstore - a children's story published in 1968 of a 16 year old from Athens who accompanies his father on a trading trip for the first time in 79 AD. The ship is taken by pirates, and his father is killed. The boy, Pheidias, escapes as a slave and is sold to a Roman family with a cruel master and a kindly mistress. A spartan slave in the household dislikes Pheidias and there are various adventures before the inevitable conclusion occurs (considering this is 79 AD. Yes, they go to that place!)

Enjoyable, and designed to be educational, but perhaps shows its age in its style and in various errors that have since com to light, such as the dating of a certain spectacular event in 79 AD. Not just the dating though - there were other small errors, but really the biggest problem with the book is not those, but the way the book adds a modern moralising tone to the whole thing. It just doesn't feel that authentic.

All the same it was an enjoyable tale, and would still have educational merit. Caroline Lawrence's "The Roman Mysteries" would be a better bet for modern young readers though.

83richardderus
maj 20, 11:39am

>82 sirfurboy: Nothing ages less well than history...societal changes, research improvements, all need frequent updating. Historical fiction really can't do that.

Especially painful to me is revisiting childhood favorites and finding the moralizing hoo-hah I didn't notice at the time. *wince*

84sirfurboy
maj 21, 5:31am

>83 richardderus: Yes, sad but true. And like you, I notice the moralising much more now!

Thanks.

85sirfurboy
maj 21, 5:32am

84. Beginners' Italian: Food and drink - Open University



This is a very basic introduction to Italian. Little more than a taster (pardon the pun). It is well presented with good information about Italian culture as well as the language, but the language lessons would only really benefit someone who has no knowledge of Italian at all.

The book links to course materials at OpenLearn, including audio files. Those are always helpful, and once again it is all available for free.

86sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 23, 7:17am

85. Changer - Jane Lindskold



I think I added this one because Roni had read it. I added it a while ago though, so not entirely sure now.

Changer is an urban fantasy novel with similarities to American Gods, although it predates Gaiman's work by a decade, so it is definitely not derivative of that. O S Card also did something with similarities in the Mither Mages series, but Changer predates those too. Nor indeed is it the same basic story as either of those. In Changer the gods of various mythologies are living amongst us as the athanor. Not all of them in human form either, because Changer himself is living as a coyote until his family is attacked by an ancient enemy and he seeks the help of Arthur Pendragon and others.

The story is well imagined, and plenty of character depth here as we discover rivalries and flaws in these people who are also gods. Like Gaiman and Card, Lindskold mines multiple mythologies. She also goes off on some tangential storylines, and does a lot with the characters, which is good because her over-arching story is not particularly deep.

I did find the writing to be long winded, making the whole book rather long and slowing things down somewhat.

All in all an interesting example of the Urban Fantasy genre.

87richardderus
maj 22, 6:35pm

>86 sirfurboy: *Pretty* sure you didn't read Changer by "Rich Christiano": 'A philosopher and college professor is sent into the future to see the possible results of his actions in this mixture of sci-fi adventure and Christian drama.'

but rather Changer.

I could be wrong, of course...?

88sirfurboy
maj 23, 7:17am

Oops, thanks for pointing that out. Fixed now. :)

89sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 24, 5:32am

86 The Ickabog - J K Rowling



When I started the Ickabog, I thought this was all going to be just too young for me. We read about King Fred the fearless who chose the title of Fearless not only because it sounded fitting with Fred, but, also because he had once managed to catch and slay a wasp by himself, if you did not count the five footmen and the boot boy. He is surrounded by Lords Spittleworth and Flapoon and that seemed to set the tone for the book : funny but a little juvenile.

And then suddenly it wasn't just that. J.K. Rowling worked her old magic and this book morphed into something much more. Indeed at one point I thought this was a very clever allegorical tale - only to have that thought quashed somewhat by reading the author's specific denial that it is allegorical of anything happening now as she wrote it 10 years ago for her daughter.

So it is not allegory, but it is a very clever book with a powerful polemic and plenty of the author's trademark humour as well as danger and intrigue and lovable characters.

There were a few quotes from the book I was tempted to highlight, and allegorical or not, J K Rowling is really masterful at bringing out big themes of prejudice, the dangers of deceit, the way tyranny is born through tiny steps, and most of all, the power of good people to stand up to it.

So the last words of her book are the ones I will quote. I found them profound.

As they are the last words of the book, I will use spoiler tags.
"All I know is that countries, like Ickabogs, can be made gentle by kindness, which is why the kingdom of Cornucopia lived happily ever after."

90sirfurboy
maj 25, 5:54am

87. Politics, media and war: 9/11 and its aftermaths - Open University



A book looking at the events of 11 September 2001, the attack on the World Trade Centre and elsewhere, the wider context and the effects. The book is heavy on readings from other texts (some included in the free book but most are linked from it). There is a lot of reading on this one, but it is all interesting and placed in context. Attitudes, responses, the role of the media, perceptions and dealing with radicalisation are all considered here. All good stuff.

91sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 26, 5:40am

88. Geheimen van het Wilde Woud - Tonke Dragt



This is the sequel to De brief voor de koning/The letter for the King, a much loved classic Dutch children's novel that has now received a rather shaky Netflix adaption. I read the first book some time ago and although it was an impressive adventure, I found the plot to be somewhat linear and simplistic, and was rather distracted by all the "Black knight with a white shield" descriptions and the fact that the knights spent a lot of time walking around in full armour with visors down.

It thus took a long time for me to get to this follow up and even longer to get through it, but I am happy to report that this book is - in my opinion - much more mature as a story than the first, more interesting and less distracting.

Even in the first book the characters of Tiuri and especially Piak were great and there were some wonderful themes in there. The author develops that in this book though. Tiuri is a knight now and Piak his squire. Other characters come to the fore and they are much more nuanced. The story is intriguing, and the antagonist is better thought through too. Things are no longer black and white, and I enjoyed the story a great deal more. There were still descriptions of knights and their shields, but it seemed to me that this was less in my face than before. There were still knights going into inns or walking around at leisure in full armour and with visors down. It was a device the author uses to disguise identities, and that was still odd - but that aside, this was a thoroughly enjoyable tale and it is easy to see why it is so well loved.

Also available in English as "Secrets of the Wild Wood".

92FAMeulstee
maj 26, 6:37am

>89 sirfurboy: Added to mount TBR.

>91 sirfurboy: I am glad you enjoyed Geheimen van het Wilde Woud more, Stephen. I have always read the two books straight in a row.

93sirfurboy
maj 26, 7:25am

>92 FAMeulstee: Thanks Anita. I am definitely glad I persevered with the second book.

94sirfurboy
maj 27, 6:27am

89. Everlost - Neal Shusterman



Nick and Allie die in a car accident, but something goes wrong - they collide and stop each other going to the tunnel of light. Instead of getting to where they are going, they find themselves waking up on earth as ghosts. Initially guided by another lost boy who they call Leaf, they hear tell of the monstrous McGill and then come to meet a leader of other lost children (they are all children when they die, it never happens to adults) called Mary Hightower.

This half-way to the afterlife turns out to have problems. You have to be careful not to sink to the centre of the earth, and you keep forgetting things. You also are stuck wearing whatever you wore when you died, and for Nick this means he has chocolate permanently on his face. As things progress, this feels a little dystopian. Not a classic dystopian book of course, but clearly some things need to change and Nick and Allie are the people to bring change.

This was a good and enjoyable read by an excellent author. It kicks off a series and I will keep going with it. The biggest plot twist was predictable (and a touch unlikely... but this is a book about ghosts so that is not a problem!). There were many other twists and turns that kept things interesting though.

95richardderus
maj 27, 9:59am

>94 sirfurboy: I'm sure there's a theme in the jacket images of these reads...the fiction ones, anyway. Longing for the woods, Stephen?

Happy Thursday to you.

96sirfurboy
maj 27, 11:46am

>95 richardderus: LOL! Yes maybe! Thanks, and to you too.

97sirfurboy
maj 28, 3:43am

90. Discovering Ancient Latin and Greek - Open University



A free introduction to the study of Greek and Latin aimed at those who have no knowledge of the subject. Introduces noun cases, verb inflections, word order and some vocabulary. Good stuff for free but too basic for anyone who has done even a little of either language. It was also repetitive. Latin gets introduced first, and then the book moves on to Greek but the very same pints, sometimes with the same examples are used in the Greek section.

It looks like this was originally two taster sessions, one for Latin and another for Greek, written together and then sandwiched together in one book.

Still, if you know nothing of these languages, it is good information for free and you can't do better than that.

98sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 30, 10:51am

91. L'enfant Océan - Jean-Claude Mourlevat



This charming little French language tale is about a tiny boy called Yann, the youngest of 7 brothers, and the older 6 are all twins. Yann tells the brothers he has overheard that their father is going to kill them and they set off on a journey west to the ocean.

The chapters are then given like a series of witness statements after the fact, and the opening one is chilling, suggesting Yann will not survive the tale. Through these witness statements (including statements from the brothers) we follow the journey west. The first chapter drops you right into the action and it takes the whole book to slowly unravel the mystery of what is happening here and why.

It is a children's book, so it would be unfair to be overly critical of some fantastical elements (a boy so small he can hide in a shopping bag for instance, or that you would get 3 pairs of *identical* twins. Although twins run in families, that is not true of identical twins.) None of the fantastical elements distracted me from what was an enjoyable tale. The conclusion is a little open considering this is a children's book, but that need not be a bad thing.

99sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 30, 10:51am

Duplicate post.

100scaifea
maj 28, 8:21am

>97 sirfurboy: Not to defend this work sight unseen (and if I did look at it, I'd probably pick it apart), but I will say that repetition like what you mention can be a very good thing when teaching languages (especially these two in particular). Using the same examples for each language would help keep the reader/student on steady, familiar ground while introducing similar concepts in each language. In my Latin classes I generally introduce a new grammar point by reviewing it with the students in English, then using the same example sentence, but in Latin to introduce how the Romans did the same thing. So anyway, I suspect the repetition may be on purpose.

101sirfurboy
maj 28, 9:34am

>100 scaifea: Thanks Amber. I almost made the same point about repetition being good in language learning, but I don't think that was quite what was going on here. For instance, talking about the case system and word order, the Latin section took as its example of Homer's Iliad (yes, it is in Greek, but they still used it as an example). The first line then is:

Μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω ᾿Αχιλῆος

And the English translation is complicated. The natural sounding translation of:

Goddess, sing the rage of Pelias’ son Achilles,

Loses the point that the first word is "rage", grammatically correct because of the noun declension and more fluid word order, but emphasised by its placement at the start of the work.

All good stuff, but then, of course, in the Greek section we had the same information more or less word for word. It was like they wrote the Greek section and copy and pasted it into the relevant part of the Latin section. They did that a lot.

Repeating the point about fully declined languages having a fluid word order that can be exploited for emphasis is good. Using the same example in both (and a Greek example in the Latin part of the course) is not so good.

The Iliad is, of course, an excellent example. If you were only learning Latin, you might still use it to make the point. But if you are introducing both languages, then an actual example in Latin would have been much better.

So it was not the repetition of ideas that I thought was a problem here - it was the copy/paste nature of the description and examples.

Thanks again for your thoughts though.

102scaifea
maj 28, 12:40pm

Ah, I see! So they actually were just copying and pasting. Yoicks. You're right -that's just lazy. Ha!

Apologies for misunderstanding your review!

103sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 30, 10:53am

92. The Survival Game - Nicky Singer



Award winning author Nick Singer turns her attention to a young adult dystopian future, and she does it very well.

Mhairi Bain is trying to get home to her Grandmother on the isle of Aran. She is travelling in a Dystopian near future, just about 30 years from now in which the climate crisis is causing mass emigration, borders are being shut to immigrants and unions are being broken up - Scotland having left the union of the United Kingdom. At first is sounded like Mhairi was travelling through a post apocalyptic wasteland but as things went on, the setting became more plausible.

She meets a man travelling with a five year old boy. The man dies and the boy follows Mhairi, but is mute. The boy has no papers, and that is a problem because immigrants are not tolerated in this new world.

This is a very clever book, which has the frustration of powerlessness, a dark and angsty vision of the future, but also manages to find brightness in all that, and makes some very powerful statements. It is excellent young adult fiction that should set readers thinking.

The writing style makes clever use of terse language and short chapters. If you don't like it, some sections can be read "diagonally" without losing the story flow.

But there should be a warning: this story is desperately sad. That sadness will make it powerful, but that does not stop it being sad.

In terms of believability, this book did some things very well. Sense of place is amazing, as the author describes real places and makes you feel like you are there. On technology, she describes some very unlikely technology (nothing too out of this world though, so I'll let that pass). In terms of the greater scenario, I don' really buy the presumption that northern nations would all sign up to instituting population control by mandated euthanasia at age 74. Nor other aspects of the geo-political situation. But then, if we accept this is speculative fiction, and allow the "what if..." then everything else just begins to follow on with a dark inevitability. And that is why the story is so powerful.

Recommended... but not if you can't read sad stories.

104richardderus
maj 30, 4:38pm

>103 sirfurboy: Almost book-bulleted me, Stephen. Luckily it's not available in the US!

105sirfurboy
maj 31, 4:05am

>104 richardderus: :) ... not even the ebook?

Oh well. Thanks.

106sirfurboy
Redigeret: maj 31, 5:14pm

93. A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes - Adam Rutherford



Having read David Reich's "Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past" I was looking forward to reading this book and hoping for more great insights and perhaps a different slant on the science of ancient DNA, a highly productive, fast moving and fascinating area of intersection between genetics and anthropology.

I came away from the book a little disappointed though. On the plus side it did present a lot of interesting science, and tackled some thorny issues. However it left out some of the depth of explanation that Reich gives, and frequently gave over to the author's biases.

One chapter I thought was brilliant, however, was the one where the author discusses the plethora of consumer genetics tests you can now purchase which will tell you, for a small fee, that you are 10% Cherokee or whatever. (The author uses the example of the test that told him his ancestors came from Norway).

Using a good understanding of the science and of statistics, he shows why all these claims are pure bunk. That chapter (and perhaps the whole book) should be required reading for anyone who is going to take one of those tests. More than once people I know have taken such tests and said things like "it turns out I am 10% Welsh, I wonder where that comes from," and no matter how much I tell them that the genetic claims of these tests are silly, they still go hunting for lost ancestors. This book will explain exactly why that is futile. It also makes the excellent point that we are *all* descended from Vikings (although here, as elsewhere, it is unclear whether he means all people in the UK or all people in the world. He frequently seems to assume he is talking only to a British audience). He also makes the excellent point that for many people descended from some ethnic group, and despite being so descended, the ethnic group may have contributed absolutely nothing to their DNA.

His discussion of the "Marketing dressed up as science" claim that red hair will become extinct because of climate change was also good because I remember the BBC reporting that claim, and I thought it was bunk when I heard it, and glad to see that (a) I was right and (b) someone took them to task on it.

But despite these strong points, there were problems too. In some areas he made subtle mistakes (and if I noticed them, I wonder how many more there were that I missed). Elsewhere his explanations seemed to lack depth. Moreover he seemed to push certain world views without engaging with the wider context.

His writing was engaging and humorous but when discussing Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals meeting up, he suggested the sexual union was just what humans enjoy doing together, despite noting the evidence that primarily it was Neanderthal men mating with modern humans. David Reich was much stronger on that point. repeatedly there is a pattern in history where males from a dominant group will father children from females of the other group. He at least admits the possibility when talking about Iceland (Viking males, Irish women), but gives that scant attention.

Elsewhere he takes issue with creationists and occasionally with Christianity. Whilst there is a clear intersection of creationist arguments with subjects of evolution, the author appears to indulge in sloppy categorisation of arguments, and very hasty generalisation. For instance he talks about Christians and scientists, despite even managing to quote many scientists who were Christians (and in one case, apologising for the scientist's Christianity). And only belatedly does he remember to say that creationists are but a sub group of Christians. Hmmm.

On the subject of race, the author does a great job of showing why race as we understand it (through skin colour) is meaningless on a genetic scale - but I felt that my understanding of his explanation may have relied upon Reich's book. I think anyone inclined to find a concept of race validated by genetic differences would have their thinking more clearly devastated by Reich than by Rutherford. Rutherford does a good job, but Reich does a better one. When Rutherford looks at why, say, most world class sprinters are black, he (quite correctly) demolishes arguments that this is owing to old fashioned simplistic views of natural selection, but then he fails to draw out what Reich draws out (that because African genetics are far more varied than pretty much all genetics everywhere else put together, what you would get is a greater variability that gives you long tails on a distribution, which would be disproportionately represented at the extremes - which is what an Olympic sprinter is). Reich simply does this better.

I did like his dry wit and style, but all in all, this book is quite inferior to David Reich's approach to the same subject. If the other book did not exist, I might have liked this one more. It is a good book on an interesting subject, but flawed in places.

107sirfurboy
maj 31, 8:19am

My May Summary:

31 books read. That is 15 up on last month and constitutes a book a day in May.

Of course, this is not quite true. I finished rather a lot of books I had on the go, so although I finished 31 books in May, I did not actually read 31 books in their entirety.

Languages

21.5 - English
5 - French
2 - Dutch
1 - German
0.5 - Italian (Started in Italian, finished in English)

1- Latin/Greek (Course text)

Genres

21. Fiction
10. Non Fiction
3. Classic

Totals this year

93 books read.

Languages

51 In English
3 in Dutch
7 in French
1 in Frisian (and English)
2. in German
1. in Italian (rounding up!)
1. in Welsh
1 in Old English (and Gothic, and middle English)
1 In French and English (text book/course)
1 In German and English (text book/course)
2 In Latin and English (text book/course)
1 in Greek and English (text book/course)

Genres

61. Fiction
1. Poetry
29. Non Fiction
10. Classics

Progress on TBR List

TBR: Now down to 55 books, 8 of which are "on the go". That is 77 fewer this year. This month I have started to add a few books to my TBR but I am going to try to stop it exploding again.

108FAMeulstee
maj 31, 3:38pm

>107 sirfurboy: 31 books finished in a month is impressive, Stephen, even if you started some earlier. It is one third of your total readings this year!

109richardderus
maj 31, 3:52pm

>107 sirfurboy: Excellent resolve re: TBR, and I hope it sticks.

>106 sirfurboy: Being a firm anti-christian, I might like this one even more than Who We Are and How We Got Here. It's always agreeable to be in company that shares one's prejudices.

>105 sirfurboy: Not even in ebook. *nyah nyah missed me missed me*

110sirfurboy
jun 1, 6:28am

>108 FAMeulstee: Thanks. Yes it is. :)

>109 richardderus: That was not my only problem with that book though. It was just an example of where the author's prejudice was showing (the casual assumption that one could not be both Christian and a scientist). There were other examples too. It is not a bad book though.

Thanks :)

111sirfurboy
Redigeret: jun 2, 3:10am

94. The Return - Harry Sidebottom



Harry Sidebottom writes excellent books that bring Roman history alive. He writes with the authority of a scholar but creates a world that lives. He avoids cliches and the most fashionable periods and sets his stories in settings he knows well but his readers may be less familiar with. His characters are realistic and interesting, and often haunted. That is true of Paullus in this story.

But despite being a fan of this writer (indeed, I would say reading his other works are indispensable for readers of this genre), on this book I can only say that I liked it. That is because he has changed tack a little and presents a kind of Roman whodunnit, with a little bit of mystery about what happened to the character at the Sack of Corinth when two of his companions did not return.

Now murders and intrigues are not a modern thing, so a whodunnit is not totally unreasonable - but I was not convinced about this in a Roman setting where the principle means of interrogation appears to be torture.

Battles were all excellently described, as is customary of this author, and there was plenty more to say for this book, but if you have not read any of this author's books, I would say "don't start here." Instead, check out "Fire in the East". If you are already a fan of the author, you will read this anyway, and probably enjoy it too.

112richardderus
jun 1, 8:29pm

>111 sirfurboy: Duly wishlisted A Fire in the East. Those sound like delightful stories about people I don't already know a bit too well.

113sirfurboy
jun 2, 6:25am

>112 richardderus: Excellent. I very much enjoyed that book and the whole "Warrior of Rome" series. I am sure you will too.

114sirfurboy
Redigeret: jun 2, 6:27am

95. The Dead Fathers Club - Matt Haig



After 11 year old Philip Noble's father dies in a road accident, the boy is visited by the man's ghost to ask him to seek vengeance on his uncle who caused the tragedy. Meanwhile the same uncle is helping his mother put the pub business back on a firm footing and getting close to her.

So far, so "Hamlet", and many are suggesting this is a young adult retelling of Hamlet in a modern setting. I disagree though. This is more like those Hollywood "based on a true story" movies where the movie story has almost nothing in common with the original, but you can just about get away with saying it is an adaption.

What this book is, however, is a well written tale that touches on grief, mental illness, anger, loneliness, bullying and redemption. Matt Haig is a good writer and gets into the head of his young protagonist. His dialogue is cleverly done, and makes Philip feel young. The plot is often amusing, a counterpoint to a darker undercurrent in the book.

If you know Hamlet then I can reassure you, you do not know the ending, which is quite open.

I think this book is quite hard to classify. There is general agreement that it is a young adult book, but the protagonist is 11, which is a little younger than most young adult protagonists. Yet I would not think it is a book for children. Although the protagonist is interesting, there are mature themes in this book, and the ending might just annoy children. Adult readers will enjoy the underlying conflict and themes, appreciate the author's insights etc., but may perhaps not enjoy contending with the protagonists internal dialogue, which is frequently juvenile.

But despite not being easy to categorise, this is a book that many readers can enjoy, I certainly did.

115scaifea
jun 2, 8:14am

>114 sirfurboy: So far, so "Hamlet"
Ha! I love that!

This one sounds pretty great - adding it to my list!

116richardderus
jun 3, 10:26pm

>114 sirfurboy: Matt Haig books and I don't usually get on too well...Reasons to Stay Alive and The Humans were both DNFs for me...so, um, no.

117sirfurboy
jun 4, 8:52am

>116 richardderus: I haven't read either of those (yet) but I am sure he is not for everyone. I quite liked The Midnight Library though.

118sirfurboy
jun 4, 8:52am

>115 scaifea: I hope you enjoy it Amber. :)

119SirThomas
jun 5, 5:21am

>107 sirfurboy: Congratulations on your progress on TBR list, Stephen - and on your impressive statistic!

120PaulCranswick
jun 5, 7:08am

>114 sirfurboy: That one really caught my eye, Sir F.

One heck of a reading month last month finishing 31 books.

121sirfurboy
jun 7, 7:25am

>119 SirThomas: Thank you :)

>120 PaulCranswick: I hope you enjoy it. And thanks :)

122sirfurboy
Redigeret: jun 7, 7:27am

96 The Valley of Lost Secrets - Lesley Parr



Jimmy and Ronnie are evacuated in 1939, at the beginning of the Second World War, from their home in Islington to Llanbryn, a village somewhere in the South Wales Coalfield. The place is very different to what they are used to or even what they were expecting, and Jimmy takes a while to settle in.

This is a community where everyone knows everyone else, Welsh is used, and where there are chapel goers and church goers, a traditional Welsh distinction. The community is filled with lovely caring people as well as some nastier characters. There are also secrets that the community don't particularly want to share with the newcomers.

When Jimmy finds a human skull in a hollow in a tree, he at first panics and then starts to investigate. Meanwhile he realises that some people he was friends with were not so nice after all, and others he disliked manage to surprise him.

This is a lovely story for mid grade children written by someone who knows and understands life in a small Welsh town. There were maybe a couple of very minor historical errors (e.g. the "Keep Calm and Carry On" messaging was never actually used), but the account of how it felt to be evacuated was great too and had an authentic feel. It would feed nicely into the year 6 UK school curriculum when this is studied.

I like how the book evoked a wonderful sense of place that had good and bad in it, and had interesting characters who develop through the story. There are a couple of poignant moments, some nice adventure and Ronnie in particular added some humour too.

123sirfurboy
Redigeret: jun 8, 10:48am

97. Caedmon's Metrical Paraphrase of Parts of the Holy Scriptures: In Anglo-Saxon - Caedmon? and translation by Benjamin Thorpe



This is a poetic retelling in paraphrase of parts of the Bible, including much of Genesis, and parts of the gospels. The poem was written in Old English using the alliterative poetic style. Attributed to Caedmon, a Northumbrian monk and poet whom we only really know of through Bede, this poem is actually probably not his work. Caedmon was not recorded as the author at any point, but the poetic paraphrase of scripture is of the kind that Bede said he wrote. Nevertheless this appears to be a later work, perhaps after the style of Caedmon.

Like most such works, there are lacunae in this work, but still the material makes good sense despite that, and we can guess at how much is missing because of the way it follows Bible narratives.

It is a paraphrase though, and one thing I noticed is that there is material here about the doctrine of the fall of Satan that appears to owe as much to medieval theology as to the Bible account itself. I would suppose (but have not investigated) that this is the strongest internal evidence that this was later than Caedmon. I could be wrong though - it depends when those doctrines were actually formulated and whether Caedmon could have known of them.

All in all an interesting piece of Old English poetry. My copy was the one digitised by Google and with a parallel English translation by Benjamin Thorpe.

And random fact: I had always thought that the word "blond" in English came from French (thus spelling it blonde for a women and girls) but this poem uses blonden-feax more than once to refer to white haired people (e.g. Sarah, Abraham's wife, is referred to in this way to express her age). Surprised by this I found the word in French actually probably also comes from Germanic roots, probably via the Franks.

124richardderus
jun 8, 4:12pm

I had always thought that the word "blond" in English came from French (thus spelling it blonde for a women and girls) but this poem uses blonden-feax more than once to refer to white haired people (e.g. Sarah, Abraham's wife, is referred to in this way to express her age). Surprised by this I found the word in French actually probably also comes from Germanic roots, probably via the Franks.

...!!...

Amazing that reading an Early Medieval paraphrase of the Bible would lead to this fascinating tidbit...ain't reading grand!

125sirfurboy
jun 9, 6:04am

>124 richardderus: Yes, it is :) And I do love discovering snippets like that.

126sirfurboy
jun 9, 6:07am

98. Climate Change - The Open University
(Gave up looking for the touchstone. Too many books with that title!)



This is another excellent free ebook accompanying a free course by the Open University's OpenLearn site. This one covers the science of climate change, and does so very well. It is an introduction so it does not go into great detail about feedback loops or solar forcing (although this does get discussed) or some other such issues, but it does provide a thorough understanding of the inescapable logic of the greenhouse effect. As the author writes, scientists are not convinced about global warming because of the recent temperature record. They are convinced because of the the inescapable logic of the effects of greenhouse gases in reducing longwave radiation emission back into space.

The fact that the temperature record shows what is predicted, of course, is thoroughly explored in later chapters showing how the IPCC recognised the global consensus on the anthropogenic causes of climate change. But we also see all the causes for uncertainty, and how the IPCC took a very cautious approach until the conclusions were unassailable.

This is an excellent primer for anyone interested in the topic. The material is a few years old now, and does not include mention of some recent steep rises in global temperature, but it does not suffer for that, because the core science has not changed.