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Past TBR lists > Book Worm's 2019 TBR Challenge

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
✔ 1) The Bell Iris Murdoch
2) Fear of Flying Erica Jong Replaced as this is Aug BOTM
2) Alberto Angelo B S Johnson
✔ 3) The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
✔ 4) The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy Gentleman Laurence Sterne
✔ 5) Possession A S Byatt
6) She H Rider Haggard
✔ 7) Look Homeward Angel Thomas Wolf
✔ 8) Jacob's Room Virginia Woolf
9) Where Angels Fear to Tread E M Forster
✔ 10) Riddle of the Sands Erskine Childers
11) Siddhartha Herman Hesse
12) The Absentee Maria Edgeworth
13) Glimpses of the Moon Edith Wharton
✔ 14) Breakfast of Champions Kurt Vonnegut
✔ 15) Castle Richmond Anthony Trollope
16) The Man of Feeling Henry Mackenzie
17) Lord Jim Joseph Conrad
✔ 18) On the Eve Turnegev
✔ 19) Vicar of Wakefield Oliver Goldsmith
20) The Ambassadors Henry James
21) Therese Raquin Emile Zola
22) Daniel Deronda George Eliot
23) Our Mutual Friend Charles Dickens
✔ 24) The World According to Garp John Irving

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Tracy (tstan) | 557 comments Ooh! You’ve got some good ones!

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
January #7

Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe
Published in: 1929
Rating: [★★★]

Boy am I glad not to be related to Thomas Wolfe while he has fictionalised the names and place settings of this book it has been classed as an autobiography and honestly no-one in it comes out smelling or roses.

The stonemason father is a drunk with little direction in life, the boarding house running mother is even tighter than the proverbial with money, the sister is long suffering while making sure everyone knows she is long suffering and the brothers are a bunch of losers to varying degrees and with varying issues.

Our narrator Eugene is the baby of the family and shows a high level of intelligence that means he gets more support from mummy and daddy than the other siblings but does he make the most of this advantage? No, he really doesn't instead he spends his time chasing after unsuitable women, trying to martyr himself and generally acting obnoxiously.

Despite the fact that I hated every character including the narrator I still managed to enjoy this family saga and the glimpse it provided into one specific family and their way of life. My favourite chapter was the last one and not just because it was the end of the book but because it managed to incorporate the magical realism/ spirituality that had been hinted at throughout the rest of the novel.

If you like long rambling passages that often lead nowhere, if you don't mind hating every character in a book and if you have an interest in getting a snap shot of Southern life in the early 1900s go for it. If none of the above appeal to you I would probably avoid this one.

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
February # 15

Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope
Rating: [★★★]

This was a 3 star read for me while the story itself was interesting the way the narrative was told made it feel dull and stilted I am not sure if this was due to me as a reader or the book.

The backdrop of the Irish famine was interesting however the effects of this catastrophe are not felt personally by our central characters. Despite the Desmond's claiming to be poor they still have their own property complete with enough food so they are spared the suffering of the truly poor. The famine is used to highlight the good qualities of Herbert Fitzgerald he is building a soup kitchen, his sisters are actively involved in preparing and serving the Yellow Meal which is the only food available to the starving masses, he supports sending the poor to work houses where they can earn food for themselves and their families believing that just handing out food or money want stop the crisis. He also sees first hand how starvation is killing the children of the poor and he is powerless to stop it.

The romance side of the story pitches the passionate love of youth against the love of equals with shared values and visions and strong family support but which will win?

For me the characters felt stereotypical we have Owen the poor playboy whose main asset is his dashing good looks pitched against his cousin Herbert who is a good, kind and caring gentleman with money. On the female side we have Clara the pure, sweet, innocent virgin who has to chose between the two suitors and her mercenary mother the Countess who married for a title and is now determined to see her daughter married for money. The blackmailers are would you believe it poor Irish men who enjoy their drink too much and spare no thought for the harm they are doing with their get rich quick scheme.

Overall I did enjoy the book but it dragged and I had to force myself to pick it up.

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
March #4

Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

2 Stars

This was the most boring book ever I have no idea why the title was Tristram Shandy as really he barely featured apart from telling the random stories that made up this mess of a novel.

Truly glad to be putting this behind me.

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
April #18

On the Eve by Ivan Turgenev
3 Stars

This is probably the most accessible work of Russian literature I have read in a long time, the plot is fast paced and the characters are relatable and for a while it appears to escape the doom and gloom that infects most other Russian works I have read. Unfortunately that escape is only a brief reprieve before the typical doom and gloom rush back in.

In this book Elena the daughter of a gambling father and a rich mother falls in love with a humble Bulgarian. In typical girl in love fashion Elena decides to abandon her family and other suitors as well as her native Russia to join her lover in his home of Bulgaria. All sounds good? Not really Bulgaria is engaged in a war with the Turks and her lover's health is not the best. Still Elena knows better than anyone what to do with her life.

I liked the secondary characters in this story, the rejected Russian lovers who are friends with each other and find their own methods of consolation, the mother who knows how to control the father for the benefit of their daughter and the hypocritical father who knows how to get what he wants.

I also liked Elena she is headstrong, determined, a fighter and she never quits and never asks her family for help.

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
May #1
The Bell by Iris Murdoch
3 Stars

Once again I seem to be the odd one out when it comes to this book I liked it I just didn't love it and the characters annoyed me personally there wasn't one of them I actually liked.

I enjoyed the story about the commune and the relationship with the nuns who they share borders with, I liked the legend of the bell and the plot to restore the bell.

There was a throw away comment about midway through the book that really soured the whole experience for me

"She clutched her discovery as an Arab boy might clutch a papyrus"

Why was this comment necessary? am I being overly sensitive?

I also hated the way the male characters referred to a female character as a "bitch" without knowing her or her situation.

While I enjoyed the story of the bell the above things really put me off the writing and the characters.

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
June #3

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
4 stars for enjoyment 5 stars for message

I must mention that until reading the afterword I didn't realise that Kingsolver had actually spent part of her childhood living in the Congo and that this book was written to highlight the devastation caused by the interference of America on this fledgling democracy.

I loved the early part of the novel where the family have first arrived in the Congo and are settling into their new roles as tourist attractions (due to being white) and missionaries (the whole reason they are there). I loved the switching narratives which reveal how all the female characters are adapting to their new lives. I liked the way the mothers section were largely reflexions looking back on what has happened and dropping hints about what was coming up, while each daughter was writing in the current time about their own experiences.

I loved the explorations of the native language, culture and superstition and how religion could be changed according to which God seemed to have the most influence on nature. I liked the way the family had to learn how to adapt and live like the native people and how they learned from them how to survive.

The later parts of the novel I found harder as they dealt with life after the mission had quite clearly fallen apart, the family are scattered and the relationship between the girls is strained. Instead of dealing with daily survival the focus now shifts to politics and outside interference. The Congo becomes a place of danger and outsiders are not welcome. While the political message is important it was not as compelling as watching the family survive together.

One thing that really struck me from the political side of the book was the idea of democracy, in the Congo a leader has to get everyone on board and this is done in successive debates until finally one leader emerges who everyone can support. This seems a much fairer system than 49 out of 100 people being unhappy with the choice and far more democratic.

There are so many great quotes in this book so I will just share a few here:

"We aimed for nothing more than to have dominion over every creature that moved upon the earth"

"Leba, the gods you do not pay are the ones that can curse you best"

"They understand that white people make very troublesome ghosts"

"If you look hard enough you can always see reasons, but you'll go crazy if you think it's all punishment for your sins"

"The death of something living is the price of our own survival, and we pay it again and again. We have no choice. It is the one solemn promise every life on earth is born and bound to keep."

"To an outsider it looks like chaos. It isn't. Its negotiation, infinitely ordered and endless."

I think this book would make an amazing BOTM and I would love to discuss with other readers.

Jada 📚☕️ I just finished the Poisonwood Bible, and I agree with you the later half of the book dragged but I enjoyed reading about their day to day life before they left Kilanga.

One of my favorite quotes "They say you thatched your roof and now you must not run out of your house if it rains".

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
Jada 📚☕️ wrote: "I just finished the Poisonwood Bible, and I agree with you the later half of the book dragged but I enjoyed reading about their day to day life before they left Kilanga.

One of my favorite quotes..."

I think this a book that would be great to discuss as a group

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
July #24
The World According to Garp by John Irving
4 Stars for clever narrative technique 3 stars for enjoyment

I was really looking forward to reading this having already read and loved Owen Meany & Cider House. While the narrative technique in this book is very cleverly used the story itself lacks the heart and soul of my previous Irving reads.

This is a clever narrative where we have several stories within stories. First of we have Irving telling the story of Garp and his family, then we have extracts from Garp's mother's own book and finally we have extracts from several books that Garp himself writes.

Garp's mother (Jenny) is writing a factual autobiography about her decision to be asexual yet still have a child this book becomes a feminist masterpiece and leads to Jenny becoming an influential figure in the woman's movement despite her insistence that she doesn't want to be labelled a feminist.

Garp writes books that allow him to process and deal with real life in a fictional way, part of the appeal of his stories to his family is working out which bits are actually true and which are made up.

Central themes in the novel are feminism, the treatment of women, love, the worries of parents about children, the dangers of extreme behaviour (the Ellen Jamesians), the problems faced by writers - to be serious or to be popular and of course sex and sexuality.

I appreciated the diverse cast of characters (especially Roberta) but I never actually warmed to any of them. There are several tragic events in the book but I never felt anywhere close to tears because the characters were too remote.

I think this would make a great book for discussion and I appreciate the important themes that Irving has chosen to pursue however I can't honestly say that I enjoyed the reading experience as a whole.

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
August #10
The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
3 Stars

I read this book on the Kindle and I really think this book would have been better in print. The narrative refers to several maps none of which were present in my Kindle edition which made following the story line and the secret plot hard as I had to rely on the narrators descriptions to image the channels they were talking about.

I can see why this book would have been scary at the time it was published as the possibilities it discussed would have been believable and the level of detail made it even more so.

I enjoyed the adventure side of the story but felt the narrative got a bit bogged down in all the descriptions.

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
September #5
Possession by A S Byatt
3 stars

This is a really difficult book for me to rate when I started reading it I was caught up in the magic of Byatt's writing and I was sure it was going to be a 5 star read and then we hit the middle and everything got bogged down in detail and become a slog to read.

Once we moved away from the "love letters" the booked picked up again and I became intrigued with where it was going. The outcome of the mystery tied things up a little too neatly for my liking by I really appreciated the last few pages of the book which put a new spin on things.

I have had to balance the magic of the beginning and end of the book with the dull slog that was the middle and this has come out as a 3 star rating.

I think this would be a great book for discussion and one of the questions I would love to discuss is the meaning of the title as seen in the story.

Some of my favourite quotes

"That was eleven fifteen. The clock ticked, motes of dust danced in the sunlight, Roland meditated on the tiresome and bewitching endlessness of the quest for knowledge."

"Letters, Roland discovered, are a form of narrative that envisages no outcome, no closure. His time was a time of the dominance of narrative theories. Letters tell no story, because they do not know, from line to line, where they are going."

"a grey hound poured along the ground like smoke"

"Nothing endures for certain, but good art endures for a time, and I have wanted to be understood by those not yet born."

"At the time I write this I know I am absurd. And when I write that, I know that I am not."

"We are defined by the lines we choose to cross or to be confined by."

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
October #19
The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
3 Stars

For the most part I enjoyed this story told by the Vicar Mr Primrose. The Vicar is a steadfast and honest man he believes wholly in matrimony and in helping his fellow man and while in some narratives this tendency can come of as preachy and unbelievable for me this narrative managed to avoid this trap. In fact there was only really one point when I wanted to slap the vicar and that was when he had fallen into despair and was turning his back on the positives he still had left.

One of the problems with being a good man and raising a good family is that you fail to see the bad in other people and it is this trusting nature that leads the family into hard times.

This book felt familiar for several reasons despite having never read it before. There is a Jack and the Beanstalk story without the magic beans, then there is a Shakespearean confusion of characters who are not who/or what they claim to be, we have kidnappings and plottings, unjustified jail sentences and finally we get our happily ever after moment (for most of the characters anyway).

It also has several political/social messages about how to treat your fellow human being.

I did enjoy reading this but at points it did feel like the bad luck was overdone and then likewise with the ending the good luck was overdone.

Favourite quotes:

"The two sexes seem placed as spies upon each other, and are furnished with different abilities, adapted for mutual inspection."

"I found that riches in general were in every country another name for freedom; and that no man is so fond of liberty himself as not to be desirous of subjecting the will of some individuals in society to his own."

"I armed her against the censures of the world, shewed her that books were sweet unreproaching companions to the miserable, and that if they could not bring us to enjoy life, they would at least teach us to endure it."

"It is among the citizens of a refined community that penal laws, which are in the hands of the rich, are laid upon the poor."

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
November #8
Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
3 stars for poetic writing 2 stars for enjoyment

This was a tough book to read as there is not a central character instead we are given various views of Jacob by those who know him, there is also little in terms of plot - time moves forward but in what increments and what are we missing the reader never knows.

"So of course,' wrote Betty Flanders, pressing her heels rather deeper in the sand, 'there was nothing for it but to leave.'" Great opening line

"The voice had an extraordinary sadness. Pure from all boy, pure from all passion, going out into the world, solitary, unanswered, breaking against rocks - so it sounded."

"The Scilly Isles now appeared as if directly pointed at by a golden finger issuing from a cloud" Beautiful

"The stream crept along by the road unseen by any one." Love it

"But colour returns; runs up the stalks of the grass; blows out into tulips and crocuses; solidly stripes the tree trunks; and fills the gauze of the air and the grasses and pools." Gotta love spring

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Book Wormy | 1922 comments Mod
December #14
Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
3 Stars

This was a mixed book for me some of it was hilariously funny and then other bits were just completely confusing.

Overall I enjoyed the read but suspect I am missing a lot of the irony.

"This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which way dying fast."

"There were one quadrillion nations in the Universe, but the nation that Dwayne Hoover and Kilgore Trout belonged to was the only one with a national anthem which was gibberish sprinkled with question marks."

"It had given him a life not worth living, but I had also given him an iron will to live. This was a common combination on planet Earth."

"The slaves were simply turned loose without any property. they were easily recognizable. They were black."

"I guess God made women, so men could relax and be treated like little babies from time to time."

"They were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. This was the reason Americans shot each other so often:"

"At the core of each person who reads this book is a band of unwavering light."

"There were enough flowers in Trout's room for a Catholic gangster's funeral."

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