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Avid reader and history nerd.

Currently reading

Cavalier: A Tale of Chivalry, Passion, and Great Houses
Lucy Worsley

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Jemidar has read 64 books toward a goal of 78 books.

quotes Jemidar likes

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway

Possibly 4.5 stars.

I originally read this in the late eighties after seeing the TV mini-series of it starring Jane Seymour. Figured the book had to be better than said mini series (which it was) but I'm afraid I didn't remember much else about it other than I had liked it.

What struck me this time around though, more than anything else was the writing style. Hemingway's stripped back prose is wonderfully evocative and a joy to read. I marveled how something so outwardly simple could be so rich. And after having finished the book it's the writing that's sticking with me most.

In some ways I feel like Hemingway should be a guilty pleasure as his reputation for macho themes, blood sports, antisemitism and misogyny make me feel like I shouldn't like him, but I do. I just can't help myself. I mean, I hate bull fighting. I absolutely loathe and detest it. No two ways about it. But despite this, Hemingway brought those scenes alive for me and I felt like I was part of the crowd. Did I enjoy it? Yes and no, for I felt like I was right there on the spot and curiosity got the better of me, although I cowered a bit and shut one eye while I was reading.

I just wish he wrote more books about stuff I'm interested in. War and blood sports aren't right up there on my reading agenda but for Hemingway, I might have to try. In the meantime, while I work up to another of his testosterone driven novels, I might read his memoir about his days in Paris, A Movable Feast, so I can experience this novel again but in a slightly different form and context.

Another excellent buddy read with my good friend Kim :-).

Within the Hollow Crown: A Valiant King's Struggle to Save His Country, His Dynasty, and His Love - Margaret Campbell Barnes

More like 3.5 stars.

Good solid, old school historical fiction about Richard II of England and his tragic reign which avoids getting overly bogged down in the politics of the time. The pluses of this are obvious but can lead to a little confusion why everyone is so against poor Richard and it also tends to romanticize his reign somewhat, although not in a sickly sweet and syrupy way. Recommended but you may need to reference Wikipedia occasionally if you are more interested in the nitty gritty history than the romance.

Buddy read with Anna :-).


1984 - George Orwell

Last read this in 1984 :-).

Isabeau: A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer - N. Gemini Sasson

Closer to 2.5 stars.

Meh. I've read worse but have definitely read better. Full of cliches & caricature, and as shallow as a summer puddle. Nothing new or interesting to be seen here. Next!

Buddy read with Anna :-).

Animal Farm - George Orwell

Short, easy to read allegorical tale based on the Russian Revolution and the following Stalinist regime but it could easily be a tale about any popular revolution turned totalitarian regime. The real surprise for me was Orwell's writing style which was clear and crisp without any unnecessary words.

I should really give this five stars but haven't because it's not really my kind of book. It's definitely one worth reading though even if it's only to experience Orwell's wonderful prose.

Big thanks to my good friend Kim who was at the ready to hold my hand should I have needed it. After a bad experience with this book as a set text in high school, I wasn't all that confident going in. Thankfully, my older self could appreciate what makes this book an enduring classic even if my 13 year old self couldn't.

Started Early, Took My Dog - Kate Atkinson

I think this is my favourite Jackson Brodie novel yet. Scrap that, it's my favourite Kate Atkinson novel full stop. It has everything I've come to love about and expect from her novels; wonderful prose, great characterization, intelligence, humour, humanity and poignancy but this one seems to have an added lump in the throat. And it really got me. These characters, especially the kid, the dog and poor old Tilly, will stay with me for a very long time.

Thanks to Kim for another excellent buddy read :-).

The Phantom of the Opera - Gaston Leroux

Hmmm...maybe 3.5 stars.

Even though I've not seen the musical version of this and came to it with no real preconceived expectations, it was still totally not what I expected. For me the love story was secondary to the fascinating story of the opera house and it's inhabitants.

Buddy read with Anna :-).

To Let: The Forsyte Saga

To Let: The Forsyte Saga - John Galsworthy

Really 4.5 stars.

Moonraker - Ian Fleming

Really 3.5 stars.

The Wheel of Fortune - Susan Howatch

More like 4.5 stars.

Very clever and detailed 'modern' interpretation of the lives of the English historical figures Edward (AKA The Black Prince), Joan (AKA The Fair Maid of Kent), John of Gaunt, Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V. The cast come alive in this multi-generational saga that encompasses everything from scandal, lust, murder, sodomy, drunkenness, abuse, illegitimacy, jealously, madness and extortion spanning the years 1913 to 1966.

I seriously loved how the author wove the historical facts into a riveting story which gave a great psychological and sympathetic insight into the characters. There were no heros or villains just people doing the best they could as the actions of earlier generations echoed down the years. Wonderfully salacious, and satisfyingly dark & dysfunctional.

Another great chunkster buddy read with my good friend Anna :-).

In Chancery: The Forsyte Saga

In Chancery: The Forsyte Saga - John Galsworthy

Nearly 4.5 stars.

The Angel's Game

The Angel's Game - Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Having previously read Zafon's The Shadow of the Wind I was really looking forward to this, the second installment of his trilogy about 'The Cemetery of Forgotten Books' but unfortunately it was a bit of a disappointment. While I loved the wonderfully Gothic & nightmarish atmosphere created within it's pages, I found the characters a little flat and the plot confusing. By the time I got halfway through, I found I didn't really care about either and only kept reading in the hope that in the end all would be revealed.

It wasn't.

That's not to say it's a bad book. It isn't. The prose in places is quite wonderful. It just isn't as good as the first one. However, I will definitely be reading the next installment even if only to find out if it answers some of the questions that this one left unanswered.

Thanks to my good friend Kim who buddy read this with me. It was reassuring to know it wasn't just me :-).

Riders - Jilly Cooper

Really 3.5 stars.

Totally trashy but fun 1980s bonkbuster. Horses, sex, scandal and 80s fashion; what more could you possibly want?

And many thanks to my reading buddy Anna who set such a cracking pace that I achieved a personal best for the least amount of days it's ever taken me to read a 900+ page book. I feel like I've run a marathon and dropped exhausted but grateful over the finish line in the early hours of this morning :-).

The Hitler Diaries

The Hitler Diaries - Jim     Williams
Closer to 3.5 stars.

Entertaining political thriller which is very much a product of it's time. Loved the feel of the early 1980s. Fast paced and quite filmic in places. The subject matter was well researched, although not being overly familiar with the history of Hitler and the war in Europe, I have no ideas which parts are true and which are fiction so an author's note explaining would've been much appreciated. Either way, the plot detail was plausible and altogether added up to a fun and enjoyable read.

ARC courtesy of LibraryThing: Early Reviewers and Marble City Publishing.
Wuthering Heights - Lucasta Miller, Pauline Nestor, Emily Brontë
"Let's see if I'll still like it as much as I used to... Somehow I doubt it."

And with that, I started reading Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights again after a gap of over thirty years.

First reaction on finishing for the second time: "Thanks God that's over!"

But this reaction wasn't because I now hated it as I had suspected I might, but because I found the emotional impact I'd experienced as a teenager had been dulled to indifference. I understood perfectly how the drama and overwrought emotions had gladdened my silly teenaged heart but this time around it left me strangely unmoved. I didn't even flinch at the abuse and violence which was one of the reasons why I had resisted rereading it for so long. Sadly, it also left me strangely unmoved.

So how did I go from loving this Gothic melodrama to feeling total indifference? Not really sure... Maybe I just got too old. It certainly made me feel old and tired while I was reading it.

Definitely part of it was that I don't think I've ever met such an unlikeable group of characters in a single novel. Or met a bunch that I've cared less about. Now I love a good villain or a flawed character but this lot just made me roll my eyes and sigh. I also disliked the fact that none of the characters developed or changed during the narrative so I often had a hard time understanding their motivations, and while I could appreciate Bronte's theme of revenge I didn't feel like this had been anywhere near fully explored.

However, I did like the landscape and atmosphere of the novel and some of Bronte's descriptions were wonderful. I also appreciated themes such as the powerlessness of women. It also piqued my interest in Emily herself as I'm now curious how a young Victorian woman who lived and died quietly in an English backwater with a limited social milieu came to write such a novel.

But for the more mature me, the good stuff just didn't carry it so unfortunately, I've had to downgrade my enthusiastic 5 stars to a meh 3--didn't love it but then didn't hate it either.

A big thanks goes out to my good friend Kim for holding my hand while rereading this. I don't think I would've made it to the end without you!
The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace - Lucy Worsley
Really 4.5 stars.