Top Ten Tuesday – Books I’ve Struggled With

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This weeks theme is Ten Books I Struggled to Get Into But Ended Up Loving or Ten Books That Were A Chore To Get Through or Ten Books I’ve Most Recently Put Down.

I don’t often finish a book because I really hate abandoning something that has already taken up some of my time but I do struggle sometimes especially when it comes to classics. This list is a mix of books that I have struggled with – some I thought I would love but didn’t, some I didn’t finish and some that I’m glad I persevered with.

  1. Lorna Doone – R. D. Blackmore. I thought this was going to be an exciting adventure. I’d seen an adaptation and that was very good. They must have just taken the best bits and avoided all the filler. Far too slow. I’d recommend the 2000 BBC adaptation with Richard Coyle and Aiden Gillen. Much more fun.
  2. Gateway to Fourline – Pam Brondos. The pace was too slow with this one. It is the start of a series so I think the author wanted to include a lot of background and information. The characters were a bit flat too. I won’t be reading on.
  3. The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Agatha Christie. I love a good detective story so I thought I’d give Christie a go. This wasn’t much fun though. The characters were unlikeable, the plot was cheesy and Poirot was so annoying I wanted to reach into the text and throttle him.
  4. The Short Drop – Matthew Fitzsimmons. This is a more modern text. It has a lot of five-star reviews on Goodreads but I have no idea why. It was obvious what was going to happen next and the plot was cliched. I finished it but it was not very satisfying.
  5. The Last Girl – Joe Hart. This was a struggle to finish. It was full of tortured metaphors and overblown language which distracted from the plot. Another series I won’t be continuing.
  6. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne. I didn’t even get halfway through this one. I found the style impossible to get on with. A shame because it is an interesting idea.
  7. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemmingway. It was a good job this was so short otherwise I’d never have finished it. I just didn’t see the point.
  8. The Thorn Birds – Colleen McCullough. There were a number of reasons that this was hard work. The plot was cliched and unrealistic. The conversations read as if written by someone who had never spoken to anyone before. It was melodramatic and Meggie was too much a martyr to inspire much empathy.
  9. Rob Roy – Sir Walter Scott. I did finish it and some of it was exciting and interesting but Scott’s habit of describing every single meal and conversation really made the pace drag.
  10. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy. This was quite a recent read. It took me five months and some days I could barely even look at it, never mind read it. However, I am glad that I finished it. Not just for the prestige of saying I’ve read it either. There are a lot of interesting characters and the relationships were well drawn. I was less keen on the war elements and the epic battles.
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Top Ten Tuesday – Books that should be required reading

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Given the time of year, this weeks topic is Back To School Freebie: anything “back to school” related like 10 favorite books I read in school, books I think should be required reading, etc. I have decided to pick ten books that I think should be required reading.

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood – I know that everyone is saying this but given the current political climate, this really is the most apt dystopian novel. Not only that, it makes you think about reproduction and women’s body’s in a new way.
  2. The History of the World in 10 and a 1/2 Chapters – Julian Barnes – This really explores the idea of what the novel can be. There are stories, histories and discussions about art, as well as the story of Noah’s Ark from the point of view of a woodworm.
  3. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle – Doyle successfully captures the thought process and speech of a young boy perfectly. A joy to read.
  4. If This is a Man – Primo Levi – Levi describes his time in the concentration camp in unflinching detail and without once ever showing any hatred or anger.
  5. The Life of Pi – Yann Martel – At the beginning of this text, Pi Patel claims that his story will make you believe in God. The following novel explores spirituality and psychology as he tells about his journey with the Bengal Tiger, Richard Parker.
  6. Like People in History – Felice Picano – A history of the gay movement from the 70s to the present day, told through the relationships of the narrator, Roger.
  7. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath – A feminist classic which shows the difficulties of depression.
  8. Jingo – Terry Pratchett. This is one of my favourite Pratchetts. A very clever satire about political assassinations and cleverly pointing the finger at who you would like to be to blame.
  9. His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman – A much better series than Harry Potter. This explores spirituality and science as well as being a superb adventure story.
  10. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak – The narrator of this novel is death. He offers a different perspective on the second world war. It is about fascism and the difficulties ordinary citizens faced during that time. It might be aimed at children but it never once feels like it.

Top Ten Tuesday – Spring TBR list.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This weeks topic is Ten books on your Spring TBR list. So here is what I plan to read over the next few months. Although to be honest, it may take me the entire spring just to read War and Peace.

  1. The Noise of Time – Julian Barnes – I don’t actually possess this book yet but I love Barnes and I do intend to buy it as soon as possible.
  2. Room – Emma Donahue (Full House Reading Challenge – Borrowed book) I didn’t really fancy this book when it first came out but since then I have seen the film and I am keen to see how it would work as a book.
  3. Middlesex – Jeffrey Eugenides (Full House Reading Challenge – Diversity). I really enjoyed The Virgin Suicides so I’m looking forward to this one.
  4. The Immoralist – Andre Gide (Full House Reading Challenge – European Author) This has been one my TBR list for a long time although I have only just come into possession of a copy.
  5. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller (Full House Reading Challenge – published Pre 2000) I recently inherited a copy of this book which has also been on the list for a long time.
  6. After Alice – Gregory Maguire – I got this for Christmas a couple of years ago and really ought to have read it by now.
  7. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers (Full House Reading Challenge – On TBR Shelf for more than 2 years.) There was a lot of competition for this category. I chose this because it is a classic and I feel I should have read it by now.
  8. Even Dogs in the Wild – Ian Rankin – After reading a couple of this series that I’d missed from the middle, I am now going to read one from near the end. Who says you have to read them in the correct order!
  9. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy  (Full House Reading Challenge – More than 500 Pages.) This is next on the list once I’ve finished reading Big Brother by Lionel Shriver. I must admit, I’m a bit daunted but now that I’ve said I’m going to read it, I have to read it so that’s good.
  10. Fingersmith – Sarah Waters – This has been recommended to me a couple of times lately so I bought it for my kindle.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books I loved more or less than I expected.

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s list is books that you loved more or less than expected. I’ve decided to do five of each.

Books I Loved More Than I expected:

  1. American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis I wouldn’t actually say I love this book. It’s not that sort of story. But it is compelling and it isn’t merely misogynistic violence towards women. Patrick Bateman is a tragic character who sums up the vacuity of modern life.
  2. Looking for Alaska – John Green I had previously read The Fault in our Stars and while I didn’t hate it, I did find it a bit annoying. I expected that Looking for Alaska would be the same. Instead, I found a sweet and tragic story with a lot fewer of the tics that makes Green so hard for me to read.
  3. The Song of Fire and Ice series – George R.R. Martin – Back before the TV series started, the first Game of Thrones book was reccommended to me by a pupil in one of my year 11 classes. I wasn’t really convinced- it was not the sort of genre I usually read – but she thrust the book into my hand and it seemed rude not to read it. I was immediately hooked.
  4. Some of Your Blood – Theodore Sturgeon – I had no idea what this was about or who Sturgeon was. I was expecting a trashy horror story. Instead, this is a psychological tale with many layers of horror.
  5. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh – I don’t really do classics but I’m glad I picked this one up. It is beautifully written and was compelling all the way through.

Books that I loved less than I expected:

  1. The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood Atwood is usually a given love for me especially her dystopian works. This isn’t a bad story and if it had been written by someone else, I probably wouldn’t have been so harsh. But it just didn’t live up to her other works.
  2. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins I often don’t love what everyone else loves and that was certainly the case here. It was too obvious what was happening and none of the characters were convincing. Over-rated.
  3. Divergent Series – Veronica Roth While this is an interesting idea, it didn’t grab me like The Hunger Games did. I just couldn’t see how the world could have come about.
  4. The Secret History – Donna Tartt I read this relatively recently although it had been on my to be read list for a long time. It was a case of not knowing what all the fuss was about. There is nothing exceptional about the plot or the writing.
  5. Porno – Irvine Welsh I must admit that I haven’t really enjoyed an Irvine Welsh book for a while now. None of them live up to the early books and this certainly didn’t compare to Trainspotting.

Top Ten Tuesday – All About the Villains

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is villains which is pleasing in a number of ways. We may all wish for the hero to survive but it is villains that really stick in the mind. A poor villain ruins a book much more readily than a poor hero.

Here is my ten – in alphabetical order because I couldn’t decide who was the most villainous.

  1. Joffrey Baratheon – Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin – There are many potential possibilities for the most villainous GofT character. Joffrey gets my vote because he is unequivocally bad. There is no ambiguity. And his death was perhaps the most satisfying in the whole series.
  2. Patrick Bateman – American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. This is not an easy read and is probably the most brutal book I have ever read. In the end, it may be that the killings are a desperate attempt by Bateman to create some sort of identity for himself in a world of designer labels and meaningless fashion trends.
  3. Big Ger Cafferty – The Rebus novels – Ian Rankin – Cafferty is Rebus’ nemesis in a number of the novels. Rebus has a suitably morally ambiguous relationship with the ageing gangster.
  4. Count Dracula – Dracula by Bram Stoker – Dracula is the archetypal vampire and upper-class villain. He has a mask of respectability that often slips when his plans are frustrated.
  5. Mr. Hyde – Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – Mr. Hyde represents that part of all of us that would wish harm on people. Here the bestiality of man is given a free range with suitably horrible results.
  6. Hannibal Lecter – Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. I’ve read the third book in the series but I didn’t like it so much. Lecter is fascinating in a way that makes you question your own morals. It’s hard not to imagine Anthony Hopkins but the books stand up well against the movie versions.
  7. Long John Silver – Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Another morally ambiguous character, Silver constantly tries to judge which side is going to win and then place himself on that side.
  8. President Snow – The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins – It is hard to imagine Snow in the books without thinking of Donald Sutherland in the films. He manages to show exactly how creepy and controlling Snow was. A ruthless tyrant responsible for many deaths.
  9. Voldemort – Harry Potter novels by J. K. Rowling. There are other Potter bad guys but ultimately Voldemort is relentlessly evil throughout all  of the books.
  10. Annie Wilkes – Misery by Stephen King. Who will ever forget Paul Sheldon’s misfortune at being rescued by his number one fan, Annie Wilkes? I’m glad I had read this before I saw the film as Kathy Bates was even more frightening than the character in the book.

Top Ten Tuesday – All time favourite books from a chosen genre

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.  Every week a new topic is chosen. Today’s topic is  September 13: Top Ten ALL TIME Favorite Books Of X Genre.

There was an immediate problem with this. Not picking all time favourites although I know some people find that hard but picking a genre. I don’t tend to think of myself as a reader of a particular genre. I try to vary my reading experience as much as I can. However, once I started to think about it, I realised that there was one genre that I came back to more than any other and that genre was crime or detective novels. I haven’t ranked the books as I love them all.

Top Ten Crime Fiction Novels

  1. Jackson Brodie series – Kate Atkinson – Although part of me thinks that Jackson Brodie is just a low-rent John Rebus, these novels are very enjoyable and well-written.
  2. Philip Marlowe series – Raymond Chandler – I haven’t read all of these books but it was impossible to pick a favourite from the ones I have read. Easily the best hard-boiled detective.
  3. LA Confidential – James Ellroy – I really wish I had read this before I had seen the film. It was hard to remember all the double crossing though so it was still a very enjoyable read.
  4. Resentment: A Comedy – Gary Indiana – A dark, satirical novel about the trial of two privileged brothers who murder their parents. Indiana spares no one in this dark look at the public’s obsession with murder.
  5. Adrien English series – Josh Lanyon – Adrien English is gay and owns a bookshop. He couldn’t be much further from the traditional American hard-boiled detective if he tried. The way Lanyon plays with the rules of the genre is what makes this series so enjoyable.
  6. Millenium Series – Stieg Larson – Although The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is undoubtedly the best of these three books, I enjoyed the whole series enough to include the other two as well.
  7. Shutter Island – Dennis Lehane – Another wish I’d read first. However, even reading it with the knowledge of the twist, it was suspenseful and exciting. I couldn’t put it down.
  8. A Kiss Before Dying – Ira Levin – This is a taut psychological thriller. Levin has the audacity to reveal who the bad guy is but the reader is still on the edge of their seat in order to find out if he will get caught.
  9. A Distant Echo – Val McDermid – An excellent thriller. A murder from the past is reopened causing problems for those who were involved at the time. I’ve just realised that this is the start of a series. I’ll definitely be reading on.
  10. Rebus series – Ian Rankin – I’ve mentioned before how much I love the Rebus books. John Rebus is the perfect antihero, the stories twist and turn and they are set in Edinburgh and Fife. What more could you ask for?

 

Top Ten Tuesday – Books set in Scotland

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Top ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week they have given a little bit of a free rein with the choice of a Top Ten set wherever you choose. After what was probably excess consideration, I decided on a Top Ten set in Scotland.

  1. Emotionally Weird – Kate Atkinson. It’s a while since I read this one. Effie is desperate to know who her father is but her mother isn’t about to give her the details straightaway. What follows are typical Atkinson characters and strange tales.
  2. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks. Perhaps the ultimate Scottish novel. Frank, the narrator is disturbed, describing the strange rituals and killings he has carried out.
  3. White Nights – Anne Cleeves – I’ve only read two of this series so far and I preferred this one to the first because it the main characters seemed more fully drawn. The Shetland setting is important to the story with the constant light of the summer months affecting people’s mental stability.
  4. The Trick is to Keep Breathing – Janice Galloway. Joy, the narrator, is depressed and struggling with her job, her boyfriend and life in general. The narrative reflects her fractured thought processes.
  5. A Disaffection – James Kelman – This is one of my favourite books of all time. Patrick, a teacher, becomes sickened by his job, his life – everything really – and slowly goes about destroying everything he has.
  6. The Distant Echo – Val McDermid – This was the first McDermid I read and it was compelling from start to finish. Four friends are suspected of a murder but there is no evidence. Now, twenty five years later, the case is reopened and a stranger is out for revenge.
  7. Rebus series – Ian Rankin. It is impossible for me to pick a favourite from these books. They are all superb and definitely could not be set anywhere else. Rankin’s descriptions of Edinburgh and the surrounding area are one of the main reasons I keep returning to this series.
  8. The Devil’s Carousel – Jeff Torrington. A series of stories set in a car plant in Renfrewshire, this is as funny as it is depressing.
  9. Morvern Caller – Alan Warner – Okay, so this is only partly set in Scotland but it is still Scottish through and through. Morvern wakes up to find her boyfriend has committed suicide but her reaction to this is not what you would expect. Superbly disturbing.
  10. Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh – The first and still the best of Welsh’s novels. This completely blew me away the first time I read it and every time I have re-read it since. There is still nothing like it.