Friday, 17 June 2016

What I've been reading

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by Brian Aldiss

narrated by David Thorpe
"Curiosity was discouraged in the Greene tribe. Its members lived out their lives in cramped Quarters, hacking away at the encroaching ponics. As to where they were - that was forgotten. Roy Complain decides to find out."
The first book by Brian Aldiss, and it does a good job of describing the unfamiliar world where humans live among outsiders, giants and other tribes as well as intelligent rats, mind-reading moths and other creatures. Perhaps a few too many strands to the tale, and the rats are never fully explained, but the final chapter solves most of the conundrums. The story ends without letting on what finally happens, which in this case isn't frustrating but allowed me to think on about the different possibilities.

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Invitation to the Waltz
by Rosamond Lehmann

narrated by Joanna Lumley
"Olivia Curtis wakes to her seventeenth birthday and her presents: a roll of flame-coloured silk for her first evening dress, a diary for her innermost thoughts, a china ornament, and a ten shilling note."
This is a calm, reflective and descriptive book that takes us from Olivia's birthday up to her attendance at her first ball, plus a tiny bit of the aftermath. It contained some memorable scenes: the dress had to be made, and it wasn't made all that well. The scene between Olivia and the itinerant lace saleswoman was excruciating in its reality. Olivia's older sister and younger brother were beautifully brought to life. The characters at the ball were all so different, and so nicely described. It wasn't a thrilling read, but I did enjoy living the early twentieth century life for a little while.

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The Disappearing Spoon
by Sam Kean
"The fascinating tales in The Disappearing Spoon follow carbon, neon, silicon, gold and every single element on the table as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, conflict, the arts, medicine and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them."
At last, back to the type of book I once used to read for pleasure. I discovered I had a lot of money tied up in book tokens so I treated myself to a trip to a real world high street bookshop. Such indulgence! And it's a good book, no doubt of that - I read it all and enjoyed it, but none of it was memorable. I only finished reading it yesterday but if you were to ask me for a nugget of information I wouldn't be able to remember anything worth telling.

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The Return
by Victoria Hislop

narrated by Jane Wymark
"Beneath the majestic towers of the Alhambra, Granada's cobbled streets resonate with music and secrets. Sonia Cameron knows nothing of the city's shocking past; she is here to dance. But in a quiet café, a chance conversation and an intriguing collection of old photographs draw her into the extraordinary tale of Spain's devastating civil war."
I've read two others by this author, and I liked the first one best, and this one least. The use of a story within a story was clunky, but it did provide a flavour of the Spanish Civil War in the context of one family's experience. The resolution was obvious a mile off. The very worst thing about it was the narrator's Spanish accent, which was about as good as mine.

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News of Paul Temple
by Francis Durbridge
"Leading lady Iris Archer pulls out shortly before the play is due to open and declares that she is heading for France. However, shortly after her disappearance Paul Temple receives a guest at his Scottish holiday home – none other than Iris Archer."
The last of the Paul Temple books I lifted from the 'free books' basket, and just as bad as the other two, except in this one absolutely all the bad guys are murdered or meet some other sticky end along with several innocent bystanders. The headcount is ridiculous for a 200-page book; there must have been at least ten deaths.

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