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My Dark Places by James Ellroy. It's partly an autobiography of his earlier years and also his investigation into his mother's unsolved homicide. It's as dark and violent as you could imagine but there's an unusual (for Ellroy at least) sentimentality towards the end that I thought was quite affecting. I know Ellroy has his demon dog persona but he's so brutally honest about how he was feeling at the time, and his scuzzy ways a he entered his teens and twenties, and how his mindset towards his mother changed over the course of his life and this investigation. I have a weird idea that this is actually quite a feminist book in some ways - the violence of these old cases is so brutal and misogynistic, presented as matter of fact, the compulsions of violent and sleazy men deconstructed into the petty power trips that they were. It's almost about Ellroy coming round from his initial victim blaming thoughts as a misguided youth to understanding the real motivations and attitudes behind these types of murders.

 

I may be off the mark there but those were the thoughts swimming around my head after I finished it. Even if you just take it as a true crime book looking into a very old cold case, the police work on display and following new leads is really compelling. It's a really good companion piece to the LA Quartet, and goes a long way towards explaining why James Ellroy is who he is.

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On 03/11/2018 at 14:02, Darren said:

And now for something completely different: Paradise Lost. I’ve only read the first part (of about 12 I think) but I’m enjoying it so far, although it takes a while to decipher sometimes.

 

Shakespeare is held in high esteem (and quite rightly) and always has been and always will be but Milton should be number two for English Lit GCSE and upwards. Paradise Lost is a staggering work. I am a poetry reader (I've dabbled writing it myself too so I realise how difficult it is to write a solid poem) and it's possibly the greatest poem written in the English language. I don't know many people who've read it and that's an injustice as it should be forever in the national curriculum. Luckily, I studied this as an A-Level text and I've read it several times since. It's just brilliant. 

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Yep. I'm now on book nine (of ten - the freebie kindle version I'm reading is apparently taken from the first edition before it was recut into twelve parts) and absolutely loving it.

 

The unintended comedy highlight so far came in the conversation between Adam and the angel Raphael, which I would paraphrase thus:

 

Adam: And I thought this was paradise with all the fruits and friendly animals etc, but then Eve came along. It turns out I didn't really know what pleasure was until I got stuck in there. I could happily do her all day, every day. And I plan to. Tell God thanks from me when you see him!

 

Raphael: Ah, but don't get so obsessed with carnal delight. It can't be that good or God wouldn't have let the animals do it too. He has given you rational thought and emotions, and it is the pleasures that come with this higher contemplation that are the true pinnacle of your human existence.

 

Adam: Have you seen her though? Phwooaarr!!!

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I read a couple of books over the weekend - first one was East of Hounslow by Khurrum Rahman. This was a pretty decent thriller. It's about a young Muslim lad who does a bit of drug-dealing but gets picked up by MI5 and forced to go undercover in the local Mosque to try and track down a terror planner. 


I quite enjoyed this. The lead character, Qasim, is well written - he's a street kid who gets dropped into a World he doesn't really understand. But he's able to survive on his wits and his street smarts even when he finds himself in Kabul or Islamabad. It flies along and there's a couple of decent twists and the final 20 pages are very tense. 
This is a first novel and the first in a series. I'll definitely buy the next one when it's released next month.

 

I'm most of the way through Killers of The Flower Moon by David Grann. I read that Martin Scorsese is making this into a film so I thought I'd check it out. It's the true story of the Osage Nation who were a Native American tribe who got run of their land and dumped onto a reservation in the middle of nowhere. But it turns out this reservation was sitting on the biggest oil deposits in America. Soon the Osage are the richest people on the planet but their newly found wealth brings trouble with it. Then the murders start. Over the course of several years 20 or more Osage are killed. 


This is a great read about a piece of history I knew nothing about. It's full of characters that feel like they've stepped of a cinema screen - oilmen, Pinkerton detective,  cowboys, sheriffs, prospectors. At times it's like reading about a real life There Will Be Blood. 


The heart of the story is how these events lead to the birth of the modern FBI. J. Edgar Hoover has just taken over the organisation that will become the FBI but he's worried that these killings will cause problems for him and his plans. So he sends men and resources out to try and solve this string of murders. Most of the Feds are incompetent or corrupt but one guy does his job eventually solves the murders. 


This was a sad but fascinating book about how cheap life was back in this time. And how some people didn't see the native tribes as human. For example newspapers at the time wrote articles on how they should deal with the 'Osage Problem' after they got rich. Suggesting an 'Indian' wouldn't know how to use money. The scale of the theft and fraud from the Natives is staggering.  


Definitely recommended. 


 

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I finished Paradise Lost last night, and while it's hard to recommend, because it's not an easy read, I must say for me it was worth the effort. I only read it on a whim in the first place because I read Frankenstein a few months ago, and in that it's one of the books the creature finds and learns from, and later talks about, comparing his own sad state with Adam's, both separated from their creators, but realises he is even worse off as, unlike him, Adam is never truly alone, having Eve to keep him company (which Adam thoroughly enjoys, as per my post above).

 

You can tell it's all I've been reading for the last couple of weeks - look how many commas are in that last sentence. Just be grateful I'm not posting this in iambic pentameter.

 

The word masterpiece is often misused but I think it definitely applies here. I read it as a work of fiction but that's not how it was written at all. It's really an attempt by John Milton not just to tell in expanded form the biblical story of creation, the fall of Satan and the temptation of Man (which are the central events of the narrative) but also to summarise the rest of the bible (both testaments - although this drags and makes the last chapter a bit dull), as well as touching on some of the major events from the whole of recorded human history up to the time of its writing in the mid-17th century (Columbus discovering America gets a mention), and including an account of the structure and motion of the earth, the major bodies of the solar system and the wider cosmos, throwing in speculation about the existence of life on other planets orbiting distant stars. It is, in other words, a description and explanation of Life, the Universe, and Everything, or as Milton himself put it in the first part of the text, an attempt to "justify the ways of God to men."

 

Of course you have to read classics bearing in mind the prevailing culture in which they were written, and that's absolutely the case here. Apart from Milton writing this not as a fantasy but as divinely revealed history, the thing that jumps out the most is how unbelievably sexist it is. Eve is not just blamed entirely for innocently falling into temptation and then leading Adam astray, but is presented as the archetype for women in general: incapable of the higher thoughts of men, fit only for domestic chores, and, unless kept in line by a male superior, prone to be a danger to herself and everyone else around her. At times it comes across like a Restoration era version of the Harry Enfield "Women: Know Your Place" sketches. But this is only a reflection of the beliefs of the time.

 

So I'm very glad I decided to read this thanks to an oblique recommendation from Mary Shelley. And next I'm going to re-read His Dark Materials while this is fresh in my mind, and see how familiarity with the source that inspired it changes my appreciation of it.

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4 hours ago, Darren said:

I finished Paradise Lost last night, and while it's hard to recommend, because it's not an easy read, I must say for me it was worth the effort. I only read it on a whim in the first place because I read Frankenstein a few months ago, and in that it's one of the books the creature finds and learns from, and later talks about, comparing his own sad state with Adam's, both separated from their creators, but realises he is even worse off as, unlike him, Adam is never truly alone, having Eve to keep him company (which Adam thoroughly enjoys, as per my post above).

 

You can tell it's all I've been reading for the last couple of weeks - look how many commas are in that last sentence. Just be grateful I'm not posting this in iambic pentameter.

 

The word masterpiece is often misused but I think it definitely applies here. I read it as a work of fiction but that's not how it was written at all. It's really an attempt by John Milton not just to tell in expanded form the biblical story of creation, the fall of Satan and the temptation of Man (which are the central events of the narrative) but also to summarise the rest of the bible (both testaments - although this drags and makes the last chapter a bit dull), as well as touching on some of the major events from the whole of recorded human history up to the time of its writing in the mid-17th century (Columbus discovering America gets a mention), and including an account of the structure and motion of the earth, the major bodies of the solar system and the wider cosmos, throwing in speculation about the existence of life on other planets orbiting distant stars. It is, in other words, a description and explanation of Life, the Universe, and Everything, or as Milton himself put it in the first part of the text, an attempt to "justify the ways of God to men."

 

Of course you have to read classics bearing in mind the prevailing culture in which they were written, and that's absolutely the case here. Apart from Milton writing this not as a fantasy but as divinely revealed history, the thing that jumps out the most is how unbelievably sexist it is. Eve is not just blamed entirely for innocently falling into temptation and then leading Adam astray, but is presented as the archetype for women in general: incapable of the higher thoughts of men, fit only for domestic chores, and, unless kept in line by a male superior, prone to be a danger to herself and everyone else around her. At times it comes across like a Restoration era version of the Harry Enfield "Women: Know Your Place" sketches. But this is only a reflection of the beliefs of the time.

 

So I'm very glad I decided to read this thanks to an oblique recommendation from Mary Shelley. And next I'm going to re-read His Dark Materials while this is fresh in my mind, and see how familiarity with the source that inspired it changes my appreciation of it.

 

I expect you know but Milton was blind when he wrote most of Paradise Lost - he dictated the entire thing to other people.  I bet they enjoyed that as Milton was known as a genius who was more than aware of his own genius and was largely regarded as puritanical misery guts :lol:

 

It was written during the English Civil War so there are a lot of allusions to that and also, Milton's wife and one of his children died during its composition.

 

I'm glad you finished it. I doubt you'll want to read another epic poem but I'd recommend some Andrew Marvell as he was around when Milton was and he's a bit more fun. 

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I genuinely loved it. As I said, I thought the last book was easily the worst as it was mainly increasingly sketchy summaries of the later bible stories, as if Milton himself was getting sick of it all by then but having committed to covering absolutely everything he had to keep ploughing on. After the story of Noah I think Michael even says (paraphrasing) "we'll be here all day if I keep going into this much detail, so from now on I'm just going to give you the headlines." And then the final expulsion from Eden comes very suddenly and without much of the richness of all the earlier exchanges between Adam and the angels. Although even that last book includes some fantastic passages, such as Adam being appalled by the vision of people dying of illness, and asking if there's no alternative, and Michael telling him "the rule of not too much" as the key to a long life.

 

But everything in the preceding nine books was brilliant. I might not read another epic poem, at least not for a while, but I will probably read this again, although next time maybe with a commentary - but I'm glad I did this first read through entirely under my own steam, as it were, making my own interpretations as I went along. No doubt I'll have missed loads of nuance (and I admit that I often skipped a page or two when he got into yet another list of similarities between the present narrative and that time HERCULES went across th'AGEAN to retrieve the ROD OF WOTNOT etc. etc.) but I made sense of it and found it totally rewarding.

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On 10/11/2018 at 16:05, Miner Willy said:

I'm speeding through Burnt Shadows, having previously really enjoyed Home Fire. Kamila Shamsie is a fantastic writer. 

 

Just about to finish this. I think Home Fire is slightly better, but really enjoyed it.

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1 hour ago, Fargo said:

For my next book I want to try something by Neil Gaiman. Any suggestions? I’ve never read any of his books before. 

 

Probably Neverwhere.

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This weekend I finished Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It’s the story of a regular woman who doesn’t have a lot going on in her life - she works, goes home, eats, drinks and does the same thing every day. But one day something happens and her predictable life starts to change.

 

It’s hard to describe this but it’s kind of Adrian Mole crossed with The Wasp Factory. Eleanor is a great character - she lacks a bit of self-awareness but at the same time can be very insightful. The story starts out quite light and humorous but slowly gets darker and we learn how Eleanor came to be so isolated and alone.

 

I absolutely loved this book. It’s so well written - the characters, the pacing, the jokes are all wonderful. One of the best I've read this year. It’s going to be a film and I’m very curious to see how it turns out.

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On 25/11/2018 at 10:33, Fargo said:

For my next book I want to try something by Neil Gaiman. Any suggestions? I’ve never read any of his books before. 

I’d say either «American Gods» or «The Ocean At The End of The Lane»

Both very different in genre and in style, but both great books. I’ve read the last one several times, it’s so goddamn beautiful and is also up for winning «Best of the Best” choice award at Goodreads as one of the best books to have been published in the last 10(!) years.

Go, get;)

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My favourite F. Scott Fitzgerald! Have you read Wonderful Clouds by Francoise Sagan? They are sort of similar, you may enjoy that too.

 

Everything she writes is amazing, mind you. But not everyone will agree.

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On 25/11/2018 at 20:53, Silent Runner said:

This weekend I finished Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It’s the story of a regular woman who doesn’t have a lot going on in her life - she works, goes home, eats, drinks and does the same thing every day. But one day something happens and her predictable life starts to change.

 

It’s hard to describe this but it’s kind of Adrian Mole crossed with The Wasp Factory. Eleanor is a great character - she lacks a bit of self-awareness but at the same time can be very insightful. The story starts out quite light and humorous but slowly gets darker and we learn how Eleanor came to be so isolated and alone.

 

I absolutely loved this book. It’s so well written - the characters, the pacing, the jokes are all wonderful. One of the best I've read this year. It’s going to be a film and I’m very curious to see how it turns out.

 

Fuck, might pick this up if only because it sounds like my life, lol.

 

i'm so depressed.

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2 hours ago, ZOK said:

My favourite F. Scott Fitzgerald! Have you read Wonderful Clouds by Francoise Sagan? They are sort of similar, you may enjoy that too.

 

Everything she writes is amazing, mind you. But not everyone will agree.

 

I only just started it, so about 1/3 in, but I am enjoying this book so much. Might end up my favourite Fitzgerald too. (And I’ve always been such a fan of Gatsby)

-I absolutely love these modernist writers. 

 

Putting “Wonderful Clouds” on my readinglist too, as it sounds like something I’d might enjoy. Thanks for the heads up! 

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1473498._UY475_SS475_.jpg

 

I found this in my parents' book case a few weeks back and decided to give it a try.

 

Does anyone else remember the Lebanon hostage crisis of the 1980's?  I can just about remember it, though I was only a child.  I can remember watching the news and seeing John McCarthy - and then Terry Waite - returning to the UK after half a decade in captivity.

 

Well this is the story of John McCarthy's captivity - 50% of which is told by the man himself, the other 50% told by his then-girlfriend Jill Morrell who helped to campaign for his release.  The formula works really well, despite the extremes of the ordeals that both authors had to endure during those long years.

 

The strength of character both of them had to possess is remarkable.  McCarthy's captivity just sounds unimaginably grim, and the way he struggled to adjust to everyday life following his release comes as no great shock after 500-odd pages.  It's a long book but never once feels like it's dragging - I found both experiences absolutely gripping.

 

In Beirut - McCarthy's coping mechanisms fascinated me.  His close friendships with Brian Keenan and Terry Anderson (an American hostage) shine through in such a difficult environment.  In London - how Morrell had to adapt to get her fiance's name into the public to raise awareness and how it consumed her entire life.

 

So we have 2 accounts that are intertwined to read through before it converges into 1 at the end - it's a very interesting read, full of emotion and full of situations and circumstances that I couldn't possibly begin to comprehend.

 

This is a very good book that will take you on one hell of a roller coaster of emotions and I would highly recommend it.  So much so that I'm very tempted to read the publications of McCarthy's fellow hostages to get their take on it - I'm pretty sure Brian Keenan, Terry Anderson and Terry Waite all wrote best selling accounts of their time as hostages.

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On 25/11/2018 at 09:33, Fargo said:

For my next book I want to try something by Neil Gaiman. Any suggestions? I’ve never read any of his books before. 

 

My favourite of his is Stardust - but the other recommendations above are also good!

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I'm reading Altered Carbon as the book seems a lot better regarded than the TV series. 200 pages in. 

 

1) It's fantastic

2) Damn it's dark. DAMN

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I finished the new one from Jason Starr tonight called Too Far. It's a nice and bleak little thriller about a man tempted to have an affair after meeting a woman on an Ashley Madison type website. They arrange to meet in person but things don't go according to plan.

 

I'm a big fan of Jason Starr. He normally writes low stakes thrillers about regular people who make one mistake and then have their lives spin out of control. His stuff reminds me of the Coen Brothers in a lot of ways. 

 

This was really good. Gripping from the start and some nice twists along the way. Definitely worth reading if you like things like Gone Girl or Fargo. 

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On 25/11/2018 at 20:53, Silent Runner said:

This weekend I finished Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. It’s the story of a regular woman who doesn’t have a lot going on in her life - she works, goes home, eats, drinks and does the same thing every day. But one day something happens and her predictable life starts to change.

 

It’s hard to describe this but it’s kind of Adrian Mole crossed with The Wasp Factory. Eleanor is a great character - she lacks a bit of self-awareness but at the same time can be very insightful. The story starts out quite light and humorous but slowly gets darker and we learn how Eleanor came to be so isolated and alone.

 

I absolutely loved this book. It’s so well written - the characters, the pacing, the jokes are all wonderful. One of the best I've read this year. It’s going to be a film and I’m very curious to see how it turns out.

Can second this. One of the best easy reads I've read this past year.  Although she appears overly curmudgeonly at first, Eleanor grows into a sympathetic and wonderful character.  I remember, upon finishing it that my first thought was that I would love to read more about her Eleanor's life. 

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I'm reading Touching the Void, which is currently 99p on Kindle. It's really well written; I'm a quarter of the way in and have had my buttocks clenched almost since the start. He really brings home the precarious nature of climbing (a topic I'm clueless about, and didn't know I was interested in till now). 

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On 07/11/2018 at 22:19, Miner Willy said:

Just finished Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The first Le Carre I've ever read (and the only film or TV I've seen is The Night Manager, which I thought was awful)... So it's entirely possible I'm missing the point, but I found the first half confusing and the second half less confusing but not especially enjoyable. I thought it was well written, but did nothing for me. Given the excellent reviews it sounds like I'm missing out here...

 

Give The Spy Who Came in from the Cold a try. Like you I struggled to get into Tinker Tailor... In my case it was because I struggled to remember so many names of men in subtly different positions within Circus bureaucracy! I should probably give the book another try, now I've seen both the TV series and the movie and can put faces to some of the characters.

 

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, on the other hand, is a lot more focused on a small set of characters.

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8 hours ago, Nick R said:

 

Give The Spy Who Came in from the Cold a try. Like you I struggled to get into Tinker Tailor... In my case it was because I struggled to remember so many names of men in subtly different positions within Circus bureaucracy! I should probably give the book another try, now I've seen both the TV series and the movie and can put faces to some of the characters.

 

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, on the other hand, is a lot more focused on a small set of characters.

 

Will do, thanks.

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On 29/11/2018 at 22:34, Miner Willy said:

I'm reading Touching the Void, which is currently 99p on Kindle. It's really well written; I'm a quarter of the way in and have had my buttocks clenched almost since the start. He really brings home the precarious nature of climbing (a topic I'm clueless about, and didn't know I was interested in till now). 

If you like this I’d highly recommend you read Into The Air next. Those two books made me somewhat obsessed with mountaineering tales.

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5 hours ago, Bazjam said:

If you like this I’d highly recommend you read Into The Air next. Those two books made me somewhat obsessed with mountaineering tales.

 

Added to the list! I finished Touching the Void last night; ripped through it in a few days - couldn't put it down. Really great. 

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I'm about 60% of the way through the new Anthony Horowitz book The Sentence Is Death, the second in the Hawthorne series. 


I really enjoyed the first in this series. It was a super-meta police procedural with a great mystery at the heart of it. This new book is more of the same. A divorce lawyer has been murdered and there's a long list of suspects. Consulting Detective Hawthorne is called in by The Met to try and solve this case. And he brings along the writer Anthony Horowitz to document the case and turn it into a book.

 

This is as good and possibly better than the first in the series. It introduces some new characters and puts Hawthorne and Horowitz into some tricky situations. I think anyone who read the first one will pick this up. Highly recommended.  

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4 hours ago, Silent Runner said:

Finished The Sentence is Death last night and I loved it. It’s as good as the first in the series and had a couple of nice twists I didn’t see coming. I hope this series runs for years.

 

Brilliant aren't they?  I thought this was slightly less good than the first but not by much - his red herrings are very high quality.  I can't help picturing Hawthorne as the David Thewlis character in Fargo S3 - all charm when he wants to be but with a lot of menace too (and obviously something going on from Yorkshire too).  There's clearly at least one more book to come (the paragraph is....?) in this series and I'll be there.

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