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What books did you read in 2019?


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Shaman - KS Robinson

 

 Story of a trainee Shaman and his various trial and tribulations  approximately 32,000 years ago in Southern France.  I'm not going to give away too much of the plot because there's not really that much there and this only runs to about 450 pages.   If you've read the Mars trilogy ( all 4 books...) you might be slightly disappointed by this- it's not up to the quality of those books  and feels very slight in comparison. There were also sections that dragged after a pretty strong start and I felt like I might be in for a bit of a slog  but the last 1/2  is reasonably decent  and  was entertaining enough   , also ties in with  real life locations etc. I read Aurora last year  also by KSR and it wasn't fantastic but readable  up until the final chapter which( for me) was utterly exhilarating whereas this is  somewhat the opposite - the ending feels  like a fairly low key affair and not as  satisfying  as what went before.

 

Worth a read if you're interested in some early man shenanigans  but not a classic by any means.

 

3/5

 

 

 

 

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Previous:

 

Spoiler

 

1. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

2. Sea of Thieves: Athena's Fortune by Chris Allcock

3. How To Be Right in a World Gone Wrong by James O'Brien

4. Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late by Kieron Dyer with Oliver Holt

 

 

5. Our Story by Ron and Reg Kray with Fred Dineage

 

original_400_600.jpg

 

Picked this up for 99p on Kindle - thought it was worth a go as I've always been interested in the subject.

 

It's pretty good - though it's impossible to shake the feeling that it's not ever going to be the honest truth!  I found the parts about their life after their arrest to be the most interesting.  I also read the whole thing with a Cockney accent.

 

Anyway, for a quid it was a good purchase and it's an interesting story.  Worth a look if you've any interest in the story of the Krays.

 

3/5

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Jane harpers The lost man.  Set in the outback, the story of one of three brothers who is inexplicably found dead after leaving his car.  This is the third novel of Harpers and the best yet by some margin.  The description of the outback is vivid and terrifying in its size and harshness.  I completely recommend this book, it's one of those that I'll be sorry to leave. 

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6 hours ago, little che said:

Jane harperThe Dry.  Set in the outback, the story of one of three brothers who is inexplicably found dead after leaving his car.  This is the third novel of Harpers and the best yet by some margin.  The description of the outback is vivid and terrifying in its size and harshness.  I completely recommend this book, it's one of those that I'll be sorry to leave. 

 

Loved The Dry, such a gripping story. I thought The Dry was her debut book? Then she published Force of Nature and then most recently The Lost Man.

Maybe I have my order mixed up.

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11 hours ago, grounded_dreams said:

 

Loved The Dry, such a gripping story. I thought The Dry was her debut book? Then she published Force of Nature and then most recently The Lost Man.

Maybe I have my order mixed up.

Apologies, thats what you get for writing in the middle of a night shift. I meant the lost man and have amended my post. 

Anyhow, it's fabulous and her best yet. 

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19 hours ago, Stopharage said:

That’s 6. Roadside Picnic done. I’ll add more later but I’m not sure where I thought it was great or not. Going to sleep on it. Certainly unique and a worthwhile read, if a bit befuddled at times. No idea what to read next in my backlog. 

 

I'm reading this right now, about 40% through. On the fence so far. 

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12 hours ago, grounded_dreams said:

 

Loved The Dry, such a gripping story. I thought The Dry was her debut book? Then she published Force of Nature and then most recently The Lost Man.

Maybe I have my order mixed up.

 

I read The Dry last year and seem to be the only person in the world who thought it was pretty poor. 

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6. Ready Player One, Ernest Cline

 

Ready-Player-One-Paperback-Cover.jpg

 

This was very enjoyable - a fun page-turner from start to finish that keeps its pace and energy all the way through. I thought the juxtaposition between the virtual paradise that the protagonist escapes into and the dytstopian real world he actually exists in was especially well done. The nerd in me enjoyed spotting the different pop culture and gaming references, too (although, being a child of the 90s, quite a few of them were lost on me).

 

I will say that the third act seems a bit rushed and arbitrary in places, lacking the nuance and tension of the rest of the novel, but overall I'd definitely recommend this to anyone with a passing interest in light sci-fi, videogames and/or the 80s.

 

Next up I'm going to give American Gods by Neil Gaiman another go; I got about two thirds of the way through it before giving up about 8 years ago, but it sounds, on paper at least, like it should be right up my street, so hopefully it'll click properly for me this time.

 

Previous:

Spoiler

1. Life, the Universe and Everything, Douglas Adams.

2. The Spy Who Came In From the Cold, John Lewis Carre

3. The Fishermen, Chigozie Obioma

4. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson

5. The Black Echo, Michael Connelly

 

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1. The Panama Papers by Frederik Obermaier and Bastian Obermayer

Part explainer on tax havens and tax evasion, part story of how the Panama Papers investigation developed from a single email to over 100 journalists sifting through over 2TB of data. I feel it got the balance right, was accessible and gripping in its own way. I was particularly impressed at how well they managed to get over some really complex information about shell companies and nominated directors etc. This really needs a follow-up book that looks at the impact, or lack of impact, this lead had. The book ends not long after the story broke and covers some of the revelations.

 

2. Broken Skin by Stuart McBride

The third in the DS Logan McRae books is just as entertaining, funny and gruesome as the first two. It's one of those series where it's just nice to spend some time in that world, in this case Aberdeen. Some of this made me laugh out loud, and DI Steel is always great. I want to read the next one right now!

 

3. Can't Stand Up For Falling Down by Allan Jones

Allan Jones wrote for and eventually edited Melody Maker from 1974 to 1996, and this is a collection of anecdotes about his various encounters with musicians, most of them from the 1970s. There were a couple of threads running through this, like his meeting with Lou Reed down the years, but they're mainly standalone tales. Jones doesn't hide his contempt for certain people (Mike Oldfield, Kenny Everett), and is lavish in his praise of those he admires (Lou Reed, Bowie). I whipped though this in no time, an easy read and thoroughly entertaining, even poignant in places.

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7. The Stand by Stephen King

 

Oh man, why did I wait so long to read any Stephen King? OK, I know the reason is that I'm a bit of a wuss and was put off by thinking of him as a horror author. As everyone but me knew, The Stand is brilliant, and King is such a good writer. I listened to it on Audible and thought the voice artist did a great job. Now I need to go and read a load more King...

 

Next: The Retreat of Western Liberalism. Recommended by a chap I know. Sounds interesting - plus it's not 48 hours long.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

 

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I'm reading really slowly this year compared to last when I averaged about a book a week. Must do better! Anyway.

 

3. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice

 

I first read this about 30 years ago, but apart from one or two moments I'd forgotten pretty much all of it. This is the foundation on which Anne Rice eventually went on to build an entire interconnected mythology with vampires, witches, demons and mummies getting up to all sorts and bumping into each other along the way. But long before she started to turn it into a "franchise," this was a completely self-contained and stand-alone novel. I think I enjoyed it even more this time round, perhaps because I was noticing things I previously missed, or that I'd previously noticed but forgotten maybe. It's interesting that this was published six months after Salem's Lot, and both would have been written at about the same time in the early 70s, as they both do the same thing: bring the vampires of folklore, Bram Stoker, Universal and Hammer into the "real world" of contemporary America. Whereas in Salem's Lot the vampire is still very much the baddie, Rice's take is very different. Her vampires are still merciless killers, but some of them, the protagonist of this book at least, are tormented with guilt at what they have become and what they are driven to do. It's a take that's been done to death since, of course, but it's not fair to criticise the creator of an archetype because others turn it into a cliché. On its own merits this works almost perfectly. The only thing I didn't like was the ending which was a real anti-climax and just kind of fizzled out. I'll never criticise Stephen King's endings ever again! (I will.)

 



1. The Long Walk - Richard Bachman (Stephen King)
2. The Martian Chronicles - Ray Bradbury

3. Interview with the Vampire - Anne Rice

 

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1. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

2. Sea of Thieves: Athena's Fortune by Chris Allcock

3. How To Be Right in a World Gone Wrong by James O'Brien

4. Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late by Kieron Dyer with Oliver Holt

5. Our Story by Ron and Reg Kray with Fred Dineage

 

 

6. Step By Step - The Life in My Journeys by Simon Reeve

 

51jEqFO2FNL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

I'm a really big fan of Simon Reeve's travel programmes.  He has an almost Palin-esque likeability to him and I've followed his shows since around the time he did The Equator.  This is his autobiography, which is far more dramatic than I would have expected.  And his own journey pre-fame is the reason why I wanted to read this.

 

Because of his persona, he always struck me as a well educated, middle class English gent who isn't afraid to get stuck in and enjoy an adventure, but his difficult childhood and battle with mental illness wasn't something I expected to read.  It's very humbling to see how he managed to make something of himself by finding something he's so passionate about.  His career started working at The Times, he then found himself writing one of the very first books about Al Qaeda called The New Jackals (about the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center) before his move to TV.

 

The final third of the book is about some of his earlier TV journeys - mainly Meet The Stans (which annoyingly I've never seen) and Places That Don't Exist.  Whilst it was enjoyable to read about these early shows in his TV career, it doesn't scan as well with the majority of his life story.  I felt he should have either stopped the book at the point where he finished his first TV journey or mentioned more on the others - for instance the excellent Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn.  The latter part of the book does feel a bit shoehorned in, interesting though it absolutely is.  It's my only real gripe with it.

 

A really interesting individual, and great to see what he's made of himself after a tricky adolescence.  He comes across as a man who always wants to learn more about this planet, be inspired by others and to pass those messages on.

 

Now I really must try to find Meet The Stans from somewhere!!

 

4/5

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8. Roadside Picnic

 

I don't really know what to say about this. I wasn't sure how much I enjoyed the first half, though I could appreciate it, but I much preferred the second half. I feel like it's a book I should read again now that I know where it's going - I'm sure I'd take more from it on a second reading.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

7. The Stand

 

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9. The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce

 

Feel like I've read a lot of these 'Trump is a symptom not a cause' type books recently, though I still thought this was a good read. I thought the historical context was interesting, and he does a good job of explaining the US/China trade situation, which I confess wasn't particularly clear to me until now.

 

I've now moved on to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I've no idea how it ended up in my Audible library - doesn't sound like the kind of book I'd go for, but anyway.

 

Previously:


 

Spoiler

 

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

7. The Stand

8. Roadside Picnic

 

 

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This year is weird. I’m reading books I bought five years ago and didn’t get anywhere with. I’m reading books on kindle I bought in hardback, and didn’t realise I’d bought in hardback till I’d finished them...

 

1. Skyward - Brandon Sanderson

 

By the numbers.

 

2. Rotherweird - Andrew Caldicott

3. Wyntertyde - Andrew Calidcott

 

Simultaneously interesting and novel, but too detached a viewpoint to be great. Also not quite a mystery - you never have enough information to guess what’s going on.

 

4. Good Omens - Terry Pritchett and Neil Gaiman

 

In prep for the tv show. Was surprised how little Crowley is actually in it during a reread.

 

5. The Calculating Stars - Mary Robinette Kowal

6. The Fated Sky - Mary Robinette Kowal

 

Really good, though the first is much more interesting than the second.

 

7. Dancers Lament - Ian C Esslemont

8. Deadhouse Landing - Ian C Esslemont

 

No idea why I started reading these. I read the book of the fallen a decade ago. These are much more immediate.

 

9. Night of Knives - Ian C Esslemont

 

You can tell this was his first published novel. The denouement still doesn’t really make sense. (And isn’t much of a surprise if you’ve read the book of the fallen)

 

10. Return of the Crimson Guard - Ian C Esslemont (I have a hardback copy. I don’t know why)

 

trundles along, then kicks off in the final third.

 

11. Kellanved’s Reach - Ian C Esslemont (you might get the impression I’m on a binge - it’s odd, but this is by far the worst of these books: it just feels like a “and here’s a character who’ll you’ll see later in other books do more interesting things - can you guess which one is which? And it’s utterly simplistic compared to RotCG or Stonewielder)

 

12. stonewielder - Ian C Esslemont

 

Bought this years ago, despite never opening that hardback of RotCG. Works well, and comes to a nice climax.

 

Next up, I need to escape the Malazan empire. The Hod King, then perhaps a book I got in a two for one deal?

 

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There's a Devil in the Drum - J.F. Lucy

 

Compelling and thoughtful, Lucy's account of his service during WW1 .  Some of it has been disputed as his memory is obviously quite patchy of some events but that doesn't distract from the account.There's no glory here and the impact the prolonged exposure to conflict has on him becomes more apparent as the book progresses. A recommended read for anyone with an interest in the conflict or war in general.

 

I need to polish of Day of the Triffids next.

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10. Things Fall Apart. Short but powerful, and at times quite moving, novel set in Nigeria during the period when Europeans started to arrive.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

7. The Stand

8. Roadside Picnic

9. The Retreat of Western Liberalism

 

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11. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I thought this didn't sound like my kind of book and couldn't work out why it was in my library. In reality that proved true to some degree, though I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I thought the central premise of writing a book entirely through letters sent between characters was inspired, and worked far better than I'd have expected.

 

Previously:

 

Spoiler

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

7. The Stand

8. Roadside Picnic

9. The Retreat of Western Liberalism

10. Things Fall Apart

 

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Previous

 

Spoiler

 

1. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

2. Sea of Thieves: Athena's Fortune by Chris Allcock

3. How To Be Right in a World Gone Wrong by James O'Brien

4. Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late by Kieron Dyer with Oliver Holt

5. Our Story by Ron and Reg Kray with Fred Dineage

6. Step By Step - The Life in My Journeys by Simon Reeve

 

 

7. How Not To Be A Boy by Robert Webb

 

9781786890115.jpg

 

Well this is absolutely superb from start to finish.  Unlike so many autobiographies that chart the author's rise to fame, this is a highly personal account primarily of Webb's childhood and adolescence.  He asks questions of gender stereotyping, misogyny, feminism throughout and intertwined with the individuals who helped to bring him up, it works superbly.

 

It's also fucking hilarious at times.  His description of playing football at school (which he hated) had me laughing out loud on the train which is very unusual for me!  

 

However, it's not just a comedic look at his childhood because it also pulls at the heartstrings in places.  A hefty chunk of this is bittersweet and poignant.

 

I honestly couldn't recommend this enough.  Even if you're not familiar with Robert Webb's TV work, even if you've never seen Peep Show (which TBH you should rectify immediately...) it doesn't matter - this book will still appeal as it's so well written.

 

Loved it - easily the highlight of the books I've read so far in 2019.

 

5/5

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I recently re-read all of the Harry Potter books for the first time since they were first released. 

 

And you you know what, they’re absolutely brilliant. She has created an amazing world and set of characters here, and drawn them into a full story arc across the books. 

 

I cant wait for my daughter to reach an age where we can read them together. 

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21 hours ago, Boothjan said:

Previous

 

  Reveal hidden contents

 

1. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

2. Sea of Thieves: Athena's Fortune by Chris Allcock

3. How To Be Right in a World Gone Wrong by James O'Brien

4. Old Too Soon, Smart Too Late by Kieron Dyer with Oliver Holt

5. Our Story by Ron and Reg Kray with Fred Dineage

6. Step By Step - The Life in My Journeys by Simon Reeve

 

 

7. How Not To Be A Boy by Robert Webb

 

9781786890115.jpg

 

Well this is absolutely superb from start to finish.  Unlike so many autobiographies that chart the author's rise to fame, this is a highly personal account primarily of Webb's childhood and adolescence.  He asks questions of gender stereotyping, misogyny, feminism throughout and intertwined with the individuals who helped to bring him up, it works superbly.

 

It's also fucking hilarious at times.  His description of playing football at school (which he hated) had me laughing out loud on the train which is very unusual for me!  

 

However, it's not just a comedic look at his childhood because it also pulls at the heartstrings in places.  A hefty chunk of this is bittersweet and poignant.

 

I honestly couldn't recommend this enough.  Even if you're not familiar with Robert Webb's TV work, even if you've never seen Peep Show (which TBH you should rectify immediately...) it doesn't matter - this book will still appeal as it's so well written.

 

Loved it - easily the highlight of the books I've read so far in 2019.

 

5/5

 

Does any of it explain why he’s such a right wing anti-Corbyn fuck?

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48 minutes ago, ZOK said:

 

Does any of it explain why he’s such a right wing anti-Corbyn fuck?

 

Right wing?  No - he comes across distinctly anti-Tory TBH but I don't know anything whatsoever about his political allegiances aside from what he put in this book.  I'm assuming I've missed something? 

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8 down. 

 

Finished 84k by Clare North, who also wrote The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. It's a fairly bleak view of a worryingly plausible future Britain. A massive corporation governs the government; dead end jobs for dead end people abound; communities crumble and become lawless. The 84k relates to the fact that crimes can now be paid off. Killed someone? Well, their role in society dictates how much you'll need to pay to avoid being imprisoned. As much as I enjoyed the plot, the shifting timeline and strange prose became too distracting and ineffective for my sensibilities. A decent plot let down by some strange stylistic choices.

 

Then The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor. I only bought this as it was talked up by quite a few book reviews last year. It's another book with a fluctuating timeline and is more coherent that in 84k. It's a crime novel with a few macabre elements to it. You can tell it's written by a first-time author as there are some baffling and totally ridiculous plotting issues. There is a revelation towards the end to do with something that has been missing which is so utterly ridiculous that I can't believe it wasn't included for any other reason than for the writer to show how much they can get away with.

 

If you're into dystopian narratives with an air of plausibility to them, then give 84K a go. Some interesting ideas in there. Same can't be said for The Chalk Man. 

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Day of the Triffids- John Wyndham

 

More like Day of the Terrifics, amirite people!?!  Post  apocalyptic in the immediate aftermath of an event that effectively wipes out - or  facilitates the death of -90% of the population. If you've seen the series on BBC years ago that had a different focus where the book is more about trying to deal with and survive in the immediate aftermath. It's not particularly long and details the isolation quite well , ticks over at a fair pace  but I found a few minor issues. Firstly it seems to have female characters there to almost solely validate the main character and secondly it wraps up a bit quickly where it could have been drawn out and some additional tension wrung from the plot. Still though, it's a fantastic read and definitely recommended.

 

Given that I think most of the action occurs in and around the same area as Riddley Walker? (my English geography isn't fantastic) it almost feels like a spiritual prequel to that book.

 

 

 

 

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12. Hello World by Hannah Fry. Interesting, accessible discussion of the modern algorithm-based world. Enjoyable enough, though I feel like I've read quite a lot of similar stuff before.

 

Previously:
 

Spoiler

 

1. The Body Library by Jeff Noon

2. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

3. Enlightenment Now

4. The book of Humans

5. Little Fires Everywhere

6. Everything Under

7. The Stand

8. Roadside Picnic

9. The Retreat of Western Liberalism

10. Things Fall Apart

11. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

 

 

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