Read Scotland 2018 discussion

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message 1: by John (new)

John R Signing up for Mary Queen of Scots, and hoping to not lose my head....


message 2: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
Haha! Be brave John!


message 3: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 103 comments Well done John, I shall join you. We may discuss what our last meal would be.


message 4: by John (new)

John R Excellent Melanie - now there's a challenge within the challenge - "What was the last meal of Mary Queen of Scots?"


message 5: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 103 comments John wrote: "Excellent Melanie - now there's a challenge within the challenge - "What was the last meal of Mary Queen of Scots?""

Haha, I only know that she was eating well while waiting for the execution. She had something like 10 chefs, eating 16 course meals.


message 6: by John (new)

John R I've just finished a couple of books which I'd started right at the end of last year -

The Swirling Tide by Josephine Newman is about the few years in the 80s she and her husband lived in a remote part of Knoydart - so remote it was only accessible by boat, and not easily even then. It was an interesting and pleasant read; I'm sure I heard that the author still lives in Ardnamurchan/Morvern and is involved with a local writers group there.

There are lots of books about St Kilda, but books by native St Kildans are rare. From Cleits to Castles by Calum Macdonald is one such book. Its short, but gives an interesting account of his life in St Kilda before his family left when he was a teenager. Its published by the Islands Book Trust, who publish books about the history of Scottish islands and their communities.

The Happier Life by Douglas Dunn is one of his early poetry collections, but the quality was high even then. (I read a couple of his books last year, and as a separate challenge to myself I'm aiming to complete all his books this year).


message 7: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
I can't imagine living in a place like St Kilda, kind of magical but tough and scary at the same time. Reading from first hand must have been fascinating. There's stories here of little mailboats washing up on Orkney's shores sent from St Kilda: http://www.kilda.org.uk/facts.htm#mai...
I just googled it, they look fantastic, I guess there wasn't any other way!


message 8: by John (new)

John R I've just finished Robbing the Dead, by Tana Collins, a police procedural novel from an author who is new to me.

I enjoyed the novelty of reading a novel set in St Andrews and while I might not normally have read more from the author, it was a good enough debut to make it worth following how the series, and the author, develops. So I've bought the follow up - Care To Die.


message 9: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 103 comments Sounds good, I always love finding books in "new" locations.


message 10: by John (new)

John R Just finished Night Falls on Ardnamurchan: The Twilight of a Crofting Family by Alasdair Maclean.

Written in the 80s, its about the end of traditional crofting in Sanna, one of the most westerly points on the UK mainlaind, but its also about the author's father, and the author himself.

Its an unsentimental, at times critical, and sometimes funny account of crofting and Highland life and its beautifully written. The author worked in a number of mundane jobs, but only ever wanted to be a writer. Apart from this book - and some articles and poems published in newspapers and magazines - he published only two collections of poetry, and I hope to read at least one of those this year.


message 11: by John (new)

John R Finished reading Care To Die by Tana Collins. This is the second of her police procedural series set in St Andrews. Most people appear to rate it higher than her first novel, but while I thought it was OK, it felt a bit pedestrian, and I very much doubt if I'd bother to read any further books in the series.


message 12: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 103 comments I often have that with mysteries. The corpses of abandoned series are all over my goodreads :)


message 13: by John (new)

John R Melanie wrote: "I often have that with mysteries. The corpses of abandoned series are all over my goodreads :)"

Terrific imagery Melanie!


message 14: by John (new)

John R I've just finished reading But n Ben A-Go-Go by Matthew Fitt, and loved it.

The storyline was excellent, as were the main characters, and the setting (a future Scotland following global flooding). But best of all is the language - its written entirely in Scots, including some made-up cyberpunk Scots, and it zings with life and energy.

Scots will have no difficulty at all in understanding it, and I'm sure it could be read and understood by anyone in this group (and the author includes a helpful section on "How to read But n Ben a-go-go".)

I'd love to read more from this author, although he seems to focus more on writing books in Scots for children.

Highly recommended.


message 15: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 103 comments John wrote: "I've just finished reading But n Ben A-Go-Go by Matthew Fitt, and loved it.

The storyline was excellent, as were the main characters, and the setting (a future Scotl..."


That sounds really good.


message 16: by Tarissa (new)

Tarissa (inthebookcase) | 52 comments You've been busy! I'll have to see if I can find 'Ardnamurchan' for myself.


message 17: by John (new)

John R I've finished the group read In My End is My Beginning: A Life of Mary Queen of Scots, and Errant Blood by C.F. Peterson. The latter is a debut novel, and its one I really enjoyed. From the sub-title "(Duncul Mysteries)" it looks as if its intended to be the first of a series, so I look forward to reading more from this author, and reading more about the main characters in the book.


message 18: by Lorna (new)

Lorna (rogue_librarian) | 27 comments John wrote: "I've just finished a couple of books which I'd started right at the end of last year -

The Swirling Tide by Josephine Newman is about the few years in the 80s she ..."


From Cleits to Castles sounds interesting! Where did you find it? Do you live in Scotland yourself?


message 19: by Lorna (new)

Lorna (rogue_librarian) | 27 comments John wrote: "I've just finished reading But n Ben A-Go-Go by Matthew Fitt, and loved it.

The storyline was excellent, as were the main characters, and the setting (a future Scotl..."


Another one for my summer shopping list. I might have to get another suitcase.


message 20: by John (new)

John R Lorna wrote: "John wrote: "I've just finished reading But n Ben A-Go-Go by Matthew Fitt, and loved it.

The storyline was excellent, as were the main characters, and the setting (a..."


I know the feeling Lorna. Before the arrive of the Kindle I always went on holiday with an extra backpack that contained nothing but books (and some space for those new ones I would inevitably buy while on holiday).


message 21: by John (new)

John R Lorna wrote: "John wrote: "I've just finished a couple of books which I'd started right at the end of last year -

The Swirling Tide by Josephine Newman is about the few years in..."


I live in Glasgow. I can't actually remember where I bought From Cleits to Castles; my wife is fascinated by St Kilda, so any time I visit a bookshop I look out for any St Kilda books that she doesn't have. (Another great use of technology is that apps on your phone help you avoid buying copies of books you already own!)


message 22: by Lorna (new)

Lorna (rogue_librarian) | 27 comments John wrote: "Lorna wrote: "John wrote: "I've just finished a couple of books which I'd started right at the end of last year -

The Swirling Tide by Josephine Newman is about th..."


I share her fascination. I was lucky enough to visit St. Kilda a couple of years ago. It can really capture your imagination.


message 23: by John (new)

John R Lorna wrote: "John wrote: "Lorna wrote: "John wrote: "I've just finished a couple of books which I'd started right at the end of last year -

The Swirling Tide by [author:Josephine Newman|4392903..."


We did the same about 4 years ago; the trip out was a bit rough - but worth it. Its an awe-inspiring place and we'd love to visit again. We're also looking forward to the new St Kilda visitor centre opening in Mangersta on the west coast of Lewis in 2020. Their website provides a free kindle version of Martin Martin's "A voyage to St Kilda" (from 1698!) if you don't already have it. The link is -
http://www.ionadhiort.org/st-kilda-ebook


message 24: by Lorna (new)

Lorna (rogue_librarian) | 27 comments John wrote: "Lorna wrote: "John wrote: "Lorna wrote: "John wrote: "I've just finished a couple of books which I'd started right at the end of last year -

The Swirling Tide by [author:Josephine ..."


Thank you for the tip! I just downloaded the book from the site and look forward to reading it. We visit Lewis every couple of years, and this visitor center will give us something new to do there in 2020.


message 25: by John (new)

John R Finished reading Ragtime in Unfamiliar Bars, an earlier poetry collection from poet and authorRon Butlin. Enjoyable, but probably not one I'll go back to.

Also finished No Dominion by Louise Welsh, the third part of her post-apocalyptic "Plague Times" trilogy. I'd enjoyed the first two books and was looking forward to this one which is set on Orkney and in Glasgow. However I felt it was the weakest book of the trilogy; it felt rushed and as if it was just something the author had to get finished and out of the way. Too many things were just implausible and the two main characters, whose stories formed books one and two, were more irritating than interesting. I've enjoyed other books from Louise Welsh and I look forward to reading more - but for me this one wasn't up to her normal standard.


message 26: by John (new)

John R I've just completed Island of Dreams: A Personal History of a Remarkable Place by Dan Boothby, and warmly recommend it. Its basically a memoir of the couple of years he spent as a volunteer caretaker on Kyleakin Lighthouse Island - the last home of Gavin Maxwell (whom he'd been fascinated by since reading Maxwell's books as a teenager.)
Its very readable and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm sure I've got a couple of Maxwell's books somewhere on my bookshelves - I'm off to search!


message 27: by John (new)

John R Another author who was new to me as part of this challenge is Barry J. Hutchison, whose Song of the Space Siren I've just finished. Sci-fi comedy written by an author who lives in Fort William - and I really enjoyed it. Its number 4 of what looks like a series of eight "Space Team" books - jumping in on the middle of the series wasn't a problem, although I think I might now start reading the rest of the series in sequence.


message 28: by John (new)

John R Read Space Team by Barry J. Hutchison, which is the first of his Space Team series. While you don't absolutely have to read them in sequence, reading this one helped me better understand the one I'd previously read. They are easy, undemanding reads and I'm sure I'll read a few more of them, but I'm taking a break from them at the moment to read the so-far fabulous Goblin, the debut novel of young Scottish author Ever Dundas.


message 29: by John (new)

John R Finished books 15 and 16 - The Singer strike Clydebank, 1911 by Glasgow Labour History Workshop, and Goblin the excellent debut novel from Ever Dundas. I can highly recommend these two (very different!) books.


message 30: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 103 comments I have added Goblin to my wishlist, that one sounds intriguing.


message 31: by John (new)

John R It is unusual, and very assured for a debut novel. I believe the author is working on her second novel at the moment - I'm looking forward to that one. She's also had some short stories published, so I might try to track them down. Its encouraging that so much of the great new writing coming out of Scotland at the moment is from female authors - Ever Dundas, Jenni Fagan, Amy Liptrot and Helen McClory all spring to mind.


message 32: by John (new)

John R As a teen - many years ago - I adored ghost stories and went through a phase where I read little else. So House of Spines, a Gothic ghost story by Scottish author Michael J. Malone, set just outside Glasgow and featuring a library/book collection, sounded ideal. And I did enjoy it - just not quite as much as I'd hoped to. Aspects of the book, such as the descriptive writing about the creepy old house, were well done, but the characters were all a bit two-dimensional. It wouldn't put me off reading more from this author, but neither does it send me off to immediately buy another of his books.


message 33: by John (new)

John R I've just finished reading Militant Workers: Labour And Class Conflict On The Clyde, 1900 1950: Essays In Honour Of Harry Mc Shane, a collection of essays edited by Robert Duncan and Arthur McIvor. Its my experience that a collection of essays will typically contain one or two less interesting essays - but not this one. Every essay was interesting and informative, and the standard of writing was high - a fitting tribute to a great man. The only downside is that the notes contained details of so many related books that I now want to read!


message 34: by Melanie (new)

Melanie | 103 comments You just read the most amazing sounding books


message 35: by John (new)

John R Finished reading Singing About The Dark Times by Greg Michaelson, a sci-fi novel set in the north of Scotland, and a follow-up to his successful The Wave Singer. I liked the book, but think I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the original book first. The ending of the book suggests that there will be more to come, so I think I'll now go back and read the first book in the series.


message 36: by John (new)

John R Finished reading Natural Causes, the first book I've read from James Oswald. I thoroughly enjoyed it and imagine I will definitely read some more from this author in the future, as the mixture of crime and supernatural is something I love in the books of John Connolly for example.


message 37: by John (new)

John R Finished Return of the Dead Guy by Barry J. Hutchison - the third I've read of his "Space Team" comedy sci-fi series. And it won't be the last! Slightly different from the other two I'd read, but very funny. I particularly liked the "Scottish" dwarves.


message 38: by John (new)

John R Finished reading Dial D for Deadman, another book by Barry J. Hutchison. An enjoyable enough read, but not as funny or as good as his "Space Team" books.

I also finished A Tide That Sings: The Story Of A Vocation by Agnes Soli. Another pleasant read without being amazing. It was just interesting enough for me to (probably) read one of her subsequent books.


message 39: by John (new)

John R Latest two books are A Garden in the Hills by Katharine Stewart and Witness The Dead by Craig Robertson.

Garden in the Hills was a pleasant read, and would be enjoyed by any gardeners, but it wasn't quite up to the standard of the author's other ".....in the Hills" books.

Witness the Dead - a police procedural set in Glasgow - was the first of Craig Robertson's books that I've read, but it won't be the last.


message 40: by John (new)

John R It's been a while since I posted, but since my last posting I've read the following books as part of the challenge -

The Photographer by Craig Robertson
High Noon On High Street: The Story Of A Daring Ambush By The Ira In Glasgow In 1921 by Stephen Coyle
The Wrath of Vajazzle, The Search for Splurt, and The Guns of Nana Joan - all by Barry J. Hutchison
The Accident on the A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnet
Why Scots Should Rule Scotland by Alasdair Gray

I'll need to double-check, but I think these bring my total to 33 for the year so far.


message 41: by Katrina (new)

Katrina | 50 comments Well done, John. Couple of these I'll be adding to my tr list.


message 42: by John (new)

John R I've just finished When the Clyde Ran Red: A Social History of Red Clydeside by Maggie Craig.

It's a very readable, and sympathetic, social history of Glasgow and the Clydeside that covers the period from approximately 1911 until the Second World War.

She deals with all the major players like John MacLean, Davie Kirkwood, James Maxton, Mary Barbour, Arthur MacManus, Helen Crawfurd and Willie Gallacher.

The author's writing style make it an easy read, although at times I found her coverage of stirring and exciting events slightly bland. But I enjoyed it enough that I intend to read at least one of her other non-fiction books.


message 43: by John (new)

John R Finished Revolt on the Clyde, the first volume of autobiography from William Gallacher, which has just been re-published.

I can't recommend it highly enough - its a highly readable account of some of the most exciting political events in Scotland in the 20th century. Gallacher was involved in most of them and was friends with most of the key figures such as MacLean, Maxton, McManus, and Kirkwood. He even met Lenin in Russia just a few years after the revolution.

A great man and a great read.


message 44: by John (new)

John R The Tale of Quisquis: Reading the Rule of St Benedict as Story by Osb Hugh Gilbert isn't at first glance an obvious one for this list (its reflections on the monastic Rule of St Benedict). But Father Gilbert was for many years the Abbot of Pluscarden Monastery in Scotland - where he wrote this book for the novice monks there - and is now the Bishop of Aberdeen in Scotland.
Not the paciest of reads obviously, but a worthwhile one in the end.


message 45: by John (last edited Aug 16, 2018 02:55PM) (new)

John R The sub-title of John S.Clarke by Raymond Challinor is "Parliamentarian, Poet, Lion-Tamer" - which gives an indication of why this very readable biography of one of the Red Clydesiders is so enjoyable. Clarke was a colourful and original character, who was involved during the red Clydeside period just after the first world war, including travelling to Russia and meeting Lenin. He lived in Scotland for much of his life, and died in Glasgow having served as both an MP and Councillor.


message 47: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Forkin (ellen_forkin) | 350 comments Mod
John wrote: "Since my last update I've read -

Strange Bamboo by Hugh McMillan
Keepers of the House by George Mackay Brown
[book:The Lady with Carna..."


Wow, John, that is incredible! Round of applause for you :)


message 48: by John (new)

John R Finished Planet of the Japes by Barry J. Hutchison, the seventh of his Space Team series that I've read this year. This has been the least enjoyable of the series so far, but it was at least OK and I still intend to read the whole series this year (only books 8 and 9 to go).


message 49: by John (new)

John R Just finished The Poor Had No Lawyers: Who Owns Scotland by Andy Wightman. It was well worth reading, and I'd recommend it - with a warning that the early parts of the book, where he discusses the technicalities of land law in Scotland, are quite heavy going.


message 50: by John (new)

John R I enjoyed reading The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry (who is actually the husband and wife team of author Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman, a consultant anaesthetist.) Great story, interesting detail, and writing that makes you feel that it was written in the 19th Century. This is planned as the first in a series featuring the main characters, and on this showing it looks like a promising collaboration.


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