Full House Reading Challenge – Troubles by J. G. Farrell

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Genre: Irish Fiction, Historical Fiction

Narrative Style: Third personmfoudi1m_jcgjux-pirkv2w

Rating: 3/5

Published: 1970

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: The Major Brendan Archer arrives at the Majestic Hotel after fighting in the Great War. He may be engaged to the owner’s daughter,  Angela, but the details are hazy. This is not helped when Angela is evasive and the Major is too polite to force the issue. The hotel itself is starting to fall apart and its inhabitants too have seen better days. The hotel is a metaphor for the Irish question and the privilege of the Anglo-Irish. 

Reading Challenges: The Full House Reading Challenge – Prize Winner – The Lost Booker Prize 2010

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book. Maybe more action. Or perhaps being more directly involved with the ‘troubles’. Anyway, it did not grab me. It was a slog to get through it. Don’t get me wrong, it was very well written, but nothing happened.

At first, I thought that it was just the fact that the book was older and so didn’t have the modern tendancy to start the story immediately. I kept thinking, it’ll start soon but it never did. There are a lot of clever set pieces but they don’t really lead anywhere. There is no narrative arc as such. More just a straight line.

The shambolic hotel and its owner, Edward Spencer are clearly meant to represent the English position in Ireland at this time. By the end, the hotel is falling apart and Spencer appears to be going mad. There is Padraig with his love of dressing up in women’s clothes who is humiliated by the British soldiers. There are run ins with Sinn Feiners and hints at the violence of the colonial world but again, it doesn’t quite add up to a story. Everytime, it seemed that an interesting plot line was going to get going, it instead disappeared.

It took me nearly a month to read this book. At times, I didn’t even want to pick it up. I’ve rated it 3/5 because it was well written and it was clever but it just wasn’t to my taste.

Full House Reading Challenge – The Falls – Ian Rankin

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Genre: Detective

Narrative Style: Third person from a variety of points of view

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2001unknown-1

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: A student disappears and the obvious target is her boyfriend. But isn’t that a bit too obvious? Rebus thinks so. The mystery deepens when it appears that she was playing an online game which lead her to the place where she died. When a strange doll in a coffin shows up near the home of the missing girl, Rebus becomes obsessed with finding other coffins that have appeared in the past. Is this case linked to other disappearances some 20 years ago? 

Reading Challenges: The Full House Reading Challenge: Genre Page Turner

This was a bit of a catch up read. The first Rebus book I read was right in the middle of the series and at first I just read whichever books I could get my hands on. Although I have read the first six in order, I have also read the last three. So rather than read the whole lot in order again, I am now in the process of plugging gaps. Of which this is one. I rationed myself a bit – I read the previous book – Set in Darkness  – before Christmas and deliberately did not let myself read this straightaway. As a result I was excited about reading it.

It did not disappoint. John Rebus is an interesting character who never tires in his efforts of self-sabotage. He becomes so obsessed with an old case where strange coffins containing dolls appeared shortly after the disappearance of a young woman that he misses more obvious clues to who the murderer was in his current case.

Siobhan was also playing lone wolf this time, showing that it may be true that she spends to much time with Rebus. It is interesting that there seem to be few options for her – she can either play the male game like Gill Templar and gain promotion or she can be an outsider like Rebus. As with Rebus, her keeping her information to herself could have gone badly wrong. However, it is not like things work out all that much better for characters who do toe the line such as Grant Hood.

The history of Edinburgh is one again used to good effect. The discussion of Burke and Hare and the strange Arthor’s Seat dolls gave the novel a macabre aspect which was very enjoyable. It is this element, as well as Rankin’s clear love for the geoegraphy of Scotland, that raises this series above the usual.

In the end, there were some cliches. The last minute rescue of Rebus’ girlfriend, the evil pathologist and the revelation of the murderer were all overused tropes. Having said that, this book was first published in 2001 and it is quite feasible that they weren’t so tired then. There is a proliferation of detective stories these days, both in print and on TV so it is bound to feel as if some stories have been told before. And even if they were already cliches at the time, I am willing to let Rankin off the hook because the writing was exceptional.

Full House Reading Challenge – Gateway to Fourline – Pam Brondos

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Genre: Fantasy, 

Narrative Style: Third person, chronological

Rating: 3/5

Published: 2015unknown

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: Natalie is studying at university while her family are in financial difficulty. She starts a job at a costume shop but soon discovers that there is more to the shop than meets the eye. Soon she finds herself in an alternative world, trying to help save it from disaster.

Reading Challenges: Full House Reading Challenge: Genre – Not for me

This was a Kindle First book. It’s not a genre I normally read but it was the most interesting out of that month’s choices. As such, it has sat on my Kindle for quite a long time. I knew it was not really going to suit me.

As I don’t really get on with this genre, it has to be something special if I am going to enjoy it. Unfortunately, this is really quite ordinary and I didn’t feel compelled to read on in the series.

The first problem was the plot. The opening chapter is set entirely in Fourline and it did grab me. I was interested in how the politics were going to be set up. There were hints at problems to come, people to save and so on. I thought maybe I’d been wrong. However, the book then swings into this world and the life of Natalie and it is a while before we get back into what is going on in Fourline. By then, I had lost interest.

Although written in the third person, the book is written from Natalie’s point of view. Because she doesn’t understand what is going on, the reader doesn’t get much of a picture of the situation in Fourline. I can see why this might be done but for me, I would have liked more information about the situation there and the terrible things that were happening. It all felt as if it was at one remove and I was detached from it all.

There were lots of hints at interesting stories and characters but because of the focus on Natalie they were underdeveloped. I was unconvinced that Natalie would have been so keen to risk her life for a world she knew nothing about. I think I might have liked it more if I could have learned more about Fourline and maybe this will happen in the next books but I haven’t got the patience to find out. I have to conclude that this was not for me.

Full House Reading Challenge – So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson

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Genre: Non-Fiction, Psychology, Culture

Narrative Style; First person, journalistic

Rating: 4/5

Format: Paperbackunknown

Published: 2015

Synopsis: The story starts with Ronson discovering a Spambot posting as himself on twitter. He uses the righteous indignation of the Internet to get it taken down. He then begins to look at the phenomenon of online shaming. This leads him to talk to some of the people who have suffered badly at the hands of the Internet – Justine Sacco, Adria Richards and Lindsey Stone, for example – and discusses the best ways to survive shame. 

Reading Challenge – Full House Reading Challenge – Genre Non-Fiction

I was interested in this book for two reasons – the first was Ronson himself, an always enjoyable writer who tackles interesting subjects, the second was the subject matter. It has been with increasing distaste and disappointment I have watched such shaming unfold online. Unlike Ronson, I have never taken part. It is particularly disgusting to see the way the comments go when women are the object in question. No one deserves to be told they should be raped and abused. It is horrific.

Ronson first gets involved in the subject of online shaming when he uses the power of the Internet to get some researchers to take down the spambot they had made in his name. The comments turned nasty and Ronson won. They took down the spambot. Ronson cites early examples of the shaming of corporations into treating their customers better or newspapers being slapped on the wrist for printing homophobic or sexist stories. This was a new phenomenon and Ronson decided to investigate.

There is a difference between shaming corporations and shaming individuals although the basic impulse may be the same. (Ronson suggests that people think they are doing good in both situations.) This is what unfolds in the rest of the book as Ronson speaks to Justine Sacco (she of the I can’t get AIDS, I’m white tweet), Jonah Lehrer (who made up quotes in his books), Lindsey Stone (who mocked the sign for silence and respect at Arlington National Cemetry, to name but a few. Most of them were guilty of stupidity at most. Lehrer was more difficult to sympathise with but even then, you couldn’t help feeling that no one should have to read what people posted on the live twitter feed while he was trying to apologise. It is certainly true that a stupid tweet or photo should not still be impacting your life a year later.

Ronson also looks for solutions and ways to survive. He discusses the role of shame in a prison environment, visits a workshop for Radical Honesty and discusses the historical origins of shaming. All of which is very interesting and told in Ronson’s trademark style. However, what he can’t offer is any sort of solution or ways to avoid being shamed. And it certainly seems like this is something that is here to stay. In the Afterword, Ronson describes being accused of being racist for supporting Justine Sacco and of being a misogynist because of a misjudged comment about rape. His final advice is to the reader is to make sure that they don’t stay silent if they think that someone is being shamed, get involved and stand up for them. Empathy is the solution to shame. And it is true that we can’t leave the Internet to the trolls and lowlifes who would say that they would see someone raped or murdered because they made an ill-judged decision.

Reading and Writing Goals 2017

Reading Goals 2017

Last year, I read 60 books and although I didn’t meet my Goodreads target, I was still pleased as some of them were very long and some of them were very bad. Some of them were both of these things (The Power of Beauty by Nancy Friday for example).  So this year I have set my goal a bit lower at 50 books. There a couple of reasons for this. I plan to read War and Peace this year. This will undoubtedly take a while. Also, I am going to be starting a new job which will see me traveling less so I will be reading less on my Kindle.

I’m taking on one reading challenge this year. The Full House Reading Challenge has 25 categories which should be manageable. The categories are an interesting mix – some are genres (Western, Cozy Mystery), some are author based (European author, North American author) and some are circumstance based (borrowed, attractive cover) so it should make for a good mix of books over the year.  I am just starting the first of these books So You’ve Been Publically Shamed by Jon Ronson which I got for my birthday last year.

Writing Goals 2017

Obviously, the main goal is to get Choose Yr Future published. I’m currently re-working it based on feedback I have been given and am hoping that process won’t take too long to finish. I should have more free time now that I have a new job so here’s hoping. I’m also working on my next novel which is currently called The Meaning of Sickness but this may very well change.

I also want to blog more this year. I was very neglectful of my blog last year. I was very lazy. I could have made the time but I didn’t. This year, I am going to make myself write more. It used to be second nature to blog at least once a week but I have lost the habit. I need to get back into it.

As a sidebar to this, I am also resolving to tweet and post to my Facebook page more often. These two things have also been woefully neglected. I’m really looking forward to all the new connections I will make.

Full House Reading Challenge Sign Up Post

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I wasn’t sure whether I was going to do any reading challenges this year. I certainly felt like I wanted a change from the ones I have done for the last few years. With this in mind, I have decided to do the Full House Challenge which is hosted by The Book Date. There are twenty-five categories and I have an idea what I’m going to read for about half of them.

Instructions are as follows:

Challenge will run from Jan 1st to December 31st 2017
Write and publish a post stating your intention to participate. In the post please include the Challenge graphic and a link back to this post. Then link your intention post at the bottom of this post. Make sure it is the actual post and not just a generic link to your blog.
Add your reviews back here on the link in this post. At the end of every three months, there will be a U.S. $12 prize with a book of your choice from the Book Depository or U.S. Amazon voucher, for the entries. There will be a new linky then for the next quarter and so on to the end of December.

Here is the grid with the categories….

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Here are the ideas I have so far:

Non-Fiction – So You’ve Been Publically Shamed – Jon Ronson

On TBR for more than 2 years – The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCuthers

More than 500 pages – War and Peace – Tolstoy

Page Turner – The Falls – Ian Rankin

Published Pre-2000 – Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

European Author – The Immoralist – Andre Gide

Award Winner – Troubles – J. G. Farrell (Lost Booker Prize Winner)

Size word in the title – Big Brother – Lionel Shriver

Two worded title – American Gods – Neil Gaiman

Book from childhood – Kidnapped – Robert Louis Stevenson

USA / Canadian – Towards the end of Time – John Updike

Not For Me – Gateway to Fourline – Pam Brondos

Debut Book – The Short Drop – Matthew Fitzsimmons

Aussie / NZ author Breath -Tim Winton

Recommendations for the other categories are gratefully received.

Non-Fiction Challenge – The Hell Of It All – Charlie Brooker

2016 Nonfiction Challenge

Genre: Cultural Comment, Journalism, Humour

Narrative Style: First person opinion pieces

Rating: 5/5

Format: Kindle51i2ihfnmml-_sx315_bo1204203200_

Published: 2009

Synopsis: A collection of Brooker’s columns for The Guardian. Subject matter ranges from Celebrity Big Brother to The State of Gordon Brown to Holidays to The Apprentice. Filled with Brooker’s trademark snarky ire. 

Reading Challenges: Non-fiction Challenge

I probably ought to admit that I bought this book because it was cheap for Kindle and I didn’t investigate any further than that. I’m rather fond of Brooker’s grumpy brand of pessimism so I was quite excited by its cheap price. However, it transpires that it was from 2008-9 so it was a little weird to be reading about things from that long ago. Still, it didn’t stop it from being enjoyable although I did sometimes wonder if I’d been asleep throughout that time as I couldn’t remember everything that he was talking about.

It also felt a little surreal. There are columns here on the vacuity of celebrity culture, on the horribleness of politicians, on the racism of the BNP, the global financial meltdown, and the way people over-react to everything. Reading it from the vantage point of 2016, it felt like these were our halcyon days. If Brooker was this angry then, his head must explode every time he switches on the news these days.

There are many laugh out loud moments such as when he suggests that breathing is the only hobby he is likely to be able to cope with or when he describes the woeful attempts of crisp manufacturers to delight us with new flavours or his opinion on nightclubs (he doesn’t like them much, in case you wondered).Or when he describes his lazy attitude to household tasks which leads him to have to live by the light of his fridge when he fails to buy lightbulbs. As my husband and I are currently down to two out of four lights in the kitchen and are involved in a protracted game of lightbulb chicken, this definitely resonated.

Like reading Owen Jones’ Chavs, it is always good to remember that there are journalists who I can agree with and who give voice to the things that trouble me. Especially at times like these.