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Just let me finish this chapter...

  • 09-01-2023 7:15am
    Registered Users Posts: 6,537 ✭✭✭ HalloweenJack

    I've always liked reading but got back into it in a big way in lockdown and have kept it up since. In 2020, I read 31 books; 55 in 2021 and 46 last year. I try to average a book a week so we'll see how this year goes.

    So far in 2023, I've finished The Midden by Tom Sharpe. This was a gift from my brother-in-law as it is one of my father-in-law's favourite authors. The story is a complicated farce and it just wasn't the kind of humour I'd be looking for (lots of silly names and Carry On-type antics). There was a hint of satire but the whole plot was quite muddled and it was a slog at times. It just wasn't for me.

    Currently reading Returning Light by Robert Harris, a memoir from someone who worked on Skellig Michael for thirty years. Its a mix of bird-watching, journalling, poetry and appreciation for nature so far. It can be quite slow at times but then I found I was flying through it in other parts.


  • Registered Users Posts: 6,537 ✭✭✭ HalloweenJack

    Finished Returning Light. It wasn't really what I expected and felt a bit disjointed as if the author was pulling together random threads and making some uneven chapters that didn't always blend well.

    This is a good book if you are a fan of nature and he does reach some interesting ideas towards the end with his reflections on nature. The writing is very good, quite a literary style and he adds in some poems of his own. I was looking for a bit more about the history of the place and maybe more stories about visitors but it was still a decent read.

    Have also read Last Exit to Brooklyn. This was a book that I've had my eye on for some time and it didn't disappoint. Its very gritty and stream of conscious at times but he does a good job at eliciting sympathy for unsavoury characters. It paints a bleak picture of life but also brings to life memorable characters and ones that we probably all know of to some extent. I'd highly recommend it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,537 ✭✭✭ HalloweenJack

    Harlem Shuffle - Pickes this up having enjoyed the Nickel Boys, though not really knowong what to expect. Its a mish-mash if genres but the writing is exquisite. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

    Eleven Kinds of Loneliness - A collection of short stories from 1950s New York. Some are chillingly insightful while the writing is perfect. Several different stories and scenarios to get into, all about the same theme. Definitely recommend it.

    Memoirs by John McGahern - I'm a big McGahern fan so I was interested in finding out more about him. It's mostly about his childhood and his differing relationships with both parents. Having read several of his books, you can see how events from his early years crop up in his own stories. Some lovely writing too and it made me want to experience the country life of that era. As ever, he provides vivid depictions of the nature, so much as to make it a supporting character.

    Autobibliography by Rob Doyle - I read his novel Threshold before Christmas and was captivated by it. He has a great ability to get you thinking about ideas beyond the simple words on the page. This is a collection of book reviews from the Irish Times with some additional comments from lockdown. There are several books he's mentioned that I'm going to look into, though his taste might not appeal to all.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,537 ✭✭✭ HalloweenJack

    The Trouble with Being Born by Emil Cioran. Short paragraphs of philosophical insight, mostly revolving around the idea of being born being unfair. Fairly easy to get through given the format. There are some nice quotes along the way but not much substance to them beyond that. Not exactly cheerful reading.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,537 ✭✭✭ HalloweenJack

    White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

    There is some excellent writing and she gets into a great rhythm at certain points. The characters are varied and fairly well-developed (for the most part). Some of her insights are fascinating and there's a lot of interesting concepts that she tackles and she displays a great level of understanding.

    However, some of the plot points are too conveniently resolved. Not so much deus ex machina but just too neat. Its a 500+ page book but the characters' stories are hastily tied up in the space of two pages after a lot of build-up to the climax. There are some moments that are just too perfect for me, e.g. a guy who flips a coin while sitting at a table, it flies across the room and lands perfectly in a pinball machine. The suspension of disbelief is hard at times.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,537 ✭✭✭ HalloweenJack

    Champagne Football. A straightforward read about John Delaney's tenure at the FAI. The story is absurd, hilarious, enfuriating and jaw-dropping. Glad to see the back of that prick.

    Portnoy's Complaint. At times, the prose verges on poetry. There is a lot packed into this book: the mother-son relationship, the father-son relationship and the place of Jews in America and Americna Jews in the wider world. Its a very enjoyable read and there are some hilarious moments as well.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 6,537 ✭✭✭ HalloweenJack

    The Outsider by Albert Camus. A book that several people had recommended to me. I enjoyed it as the pages moved quickly and it was fairly focused on what it was about. The writing was concise, though the final part was a bit more dense. There's an interesting topoc in there but, frankly, it didn't feel like I was reading anything ground-breaking (maybe it was in the 1940s). A lot of my own ideas about life were reflected in it so, on that front, I enjoyed it.

    Homo Deus. I really enjoyed Sapiens and plenty of people had told me that thid was even better. There's a lot of interesting information and ideas but I found it a bit of a struggle compared to Sapiens. Worth a read, though.

    Drown by Junot Diaz. A book of short stories about inter-related Dominican immigrants in New York and the Dominican Republic from the 60s to the 90s. It gives a good insight their lives and experiences and it's written in an easy-to-read style.

    14 bookd so far for 2023. Up next is April in Spain by John Banville. I enjoyed the first book in the series so I have high hopes for it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 6,537 ✭✭✭ HalloweenJack

    April in Spain. Quite similar to Snow but the focus was shifted to a different character (can't remember now if that character had such a prominent role in the first one).

    This isn't really a detective book as much as the first one was. Iirc, the first one was told exclusively by (the detectice doing the investigating while this one has multiple POV and the pieces start falling into place a lot quicker. There are some red herrings but the final act felt rushed considering how long it took to get there and how many stories there were to resolve.

    The main character from the first book is massively sidelined which I find odd as he was given prominence in the blurb and its billed as the next chapter in the 'Detective Strafford' series.

    A lot of the same topics from the first one are re-hashed and reading the blurb for the next one (The Lock-Up, supposed to be out next month), I've a feeling it'll pick up some of the ones touched upon in this one.

    I like Banville a lot and there's some good writing here but I didn't enjoy this as much as the first one. It is a page-turner, though.