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What I'm Reading What books did everyone get for Yuletide/Christmas/Whatever midwinter festival you celebrate?

Your book reviews, please!

RK Capps

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None for me :( I wasn't allowed this year. But my daughter got The Mistborn Trilogy, The Lunar Chronicles, Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy (twice), Red Queen, From Blood and Ash, and an anime. How about you?
 

Josephine

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A Branch From the Lightning Tree, by Martin Shaw, the first of his Mythteller trilogy (non fiction). He is so good and nourishing, especially, somehow, in midwinter (I got his Courting The Wild Twin last Christmas; also highly recommended). He's writing about myth, the outer wildness of the world and our own innate wildness. It's the sort of book where you read a chunk and then have to go and digest it quietly before you can read on. Lovely image-rich poetic style, always kind of nudging at something deeper than the words themselves.
 

RG Worsey

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A Branch From the Lightning Tree, by Martin Shaw, the first of his Mythteller trilogy (non fiction). He is so good and nourishing, especially, somehow, in midwinter (I got his Courting The Wild Twin last Christmas; also highly recommended). He's writing about myth, the outer wildness of the world and our own innate wildness. It's the sort of book where you read a chunk and then have to go and digest it quietly before you can read on. Lovely image-rich poetic style, always kind of nudging at something deeper than the words themselves.
Sounds like something I would love, I will check him out.
 

Hannah F

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A Branch From the Lightning Tree, by Martin Shaw, the first of his Mythteller trilogy (non fiction). He is so good and nourishing, especially, somehow, in midwinter (I got his Courting The Wild Twin last Christmas; also highly recommended). He's writing about myth, the outer wildness of the world and our own innate wildness. It's the sort of book where you read a chunk and then have to go and digest it quietly before you can read on. Lovely image-rich poetic style, always kind of nudging at something deeper than the words themselves.
Sounds good!
 

Andy D

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As well as the new Asterix (which I’m saving for now) I got two books shamelessly of classic films that I’m now reading at the same time: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - which is so far far more cerebral and features a lot more sheep that Blade Runner; and The Princess Bride - which is just hilarious and has the most fantastic narrative device (though I kinda ruined the magic of it a bit by looking it up on Wikipedia).
 

Robinne Weiss

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As well as the new Asterix (which I’m saving for now) I got two books shamelessly of classic films that I’m now reading at the same time: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - which is so far far more cerebral and features a lot more sheep that Blade Runner; and The Princess Bride - which is just hilarious and has the most fantastic narrative device (though I kinda ruined the magic of it a bit by looking it up on Wikipedia).
Oh, I love the book The Princess Bride!

I got A Short History of the World According to Sheep by Sally Coulthard. It's a light, easy read. As someone who spins, knits, weaves, and sews wool; and who until recently kept dairy and angora goats, the cultural stuff around fibre and dairy production is quite interesting to me. It is a bit amusing how she obviously views New Zealand as a quaint, sheep-infested nation of competitive shearers (and her statistics on sheep vs human numbers here are out of date), but it's an entertaining read.
 

RG Worsey

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As well as the new Asterix (which I’m saving for now) I got two books shamelessly of classic films that I’m now reading at the same time: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep - which is so far far more cerebral and features a lot more sheep that Blade Runner; and The Princess Bride - which is just hilarious and has the most fantastic narrative device (though I kinda ruined the magic of it a bit by looking it up on Wikipedia).
I read Electric Sheep before I saw Blade Runner, and was baffled by the film. No sheep! Odd ending.
 

RG Worsey

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I got books on growing microgreens and making falafels, plus:

Spicebox by Grace Regan (I had mentioned to a friend that I want to expand my curry expertise. This book looks good, as I ate at the author's restaurant in Walthamstow two years ago and loved it.)

High Magick by Damien Echols (I was intrigued by episode 3 of The Midnight Gospel, which featured excerpts from a podcast, with Damien talking about how practicing chaos magick in prison sustained him through a prison sentence on death row, for a crime that he didn't commit. He struck me as such a strong, inspiring person, that I wanted to know more about him, while renewing an old interest in the practice. My boyfriend found the book and gave it to me.)
 

Galadriel

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A Branch From the Lightning Tree, by Martin Shaw, the first of his Mythteller trilogy (non fiction). He is so good and nourishing, especially, somehow, in midwinter (I got his Courting The Wild Twin last Christmas; also highly recommended). He's writing about myth, the outer wildness of the world and our own innate wildness. It's the sort of book where you read a chunk and then have to go and digest it quietly before you can read on. Lovely image-rich poetic style, always kind of nudging at something deeper than the words themselves.
I like the sound of this; thanks for the recommendation. :)
 

Josephine

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I like the sound of this; thanks for the recommendation. :)
Am I right you're in Devon? He's a Devon boy himself although this book talks more about Snowdonia. But I think he lived in a tent on Dartmoor for a bit. He does stuff with the Westcountry School of Myth
 

E G Logan

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Just finished Steal You Away, by Niccolo Ammaniti. I liked it rather despite itself. (If you just want a good story, his second book, I'm Not Afraid, is a much more even read.)
It's a fascinating example of a well-written novel that drives a bus through much of the UK creative writing 'received wisdom'. It shows us what happens, for better or worse, when a writer doesn't follow the rules.

First, I was always told that three different plot/time lines were the maximum that was manageable. And, as a reader, I have found that to be the case. Here, Ammaniti has four main strands, plus a minor one, linked by location and time. I did find that difficult to get into, as each character had a lot of back story.

Also, with different plot lines, I was told: "You must establish, inside the first three sentences of a new section, what place and time your reader is in, and with which character..." Fortunately, Ammaniti establishes a strong sense of place for them all, but each chapter start requires slow reading.

His fifth strand is a minor character, who turns out to be a plot device. He decides to give her substantial background and 'character', probably for the best reasons, but this is misleading for the reader, who is disappointed when that character disappears after less than a third of the book. Just as the 'rules' for minor characters suggest they will be.

Ammaniti's taken on board the maxim that all characters should want something. His really do. Even if it's only out of the very small town in which they find themselves. This makes it hard to find someone to actually like (something novels are supposed to have) – here the best are peculiar and the worst horrible – again it discourages reading on.

Purists might carp at his omniscient narrator/close 3rd person POV to individuals. I was conscious it wasn't totally consistent but it was clear enough.

BTW, there was one point where I laughed out loud. I think some other scenes might have had comic intent, but for me they worked less well. So he mixes genres, too.

The way in which all four main strands/characters knot together at the end – which is completely unexpected – is clever. The 'inciting event' is very close to the start, and the resolution is a bang-ending, really. I found the bit of updating at the very end the weakest part of all.
Overall, it made me think, which was worth it.

--I'm struggling with The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett, finding it disappointing after her first, The Appeal. (Sunday Times Crime book of 2021)
Hallett has come up with an unusual way to put novels together (no spoilers); and though it worked once, it did have the feel of a parlour word game. (Consequences, anyone?)
The technique palls rather in the second book and I can't help stopping and asking myself whether this is really YA or not. Somewhere between Enid Blyton and 39 Steps. I also have to stop myself brooding over 'how the hell did she get this published – it's amazingly weak –– or is it really very tongue in cheek?'
I am confident, however, there is a massive twist to come... there must be.

--I was also disappointed in Dolphin Junction by Mick Herron. Short stories, mainly featuring characters from two of his published series. IMHO, the stories have the feel of discarded chapters. Two struck me (again very much IMHO) as weak and several seemed needlessly complicated. Twice I had to re-read the last two pages to be clear as to exactly what was happening/who did what.
That said, there is a moment in a standalone story – just one moment – that is as atmospheric and CREEPY as moments from Michelle Paver or Susan Hill, both of whom I admire greatly. Herron has not, to my knowledge, done this before. Pity the rest of the story isn't stronger – it's just a vehicle for this moment – but I enjoyed it.

--And a slim one I was pleased with:
How To Write A Novel In 6 Months: A published author's guide to writing a 50,000-word book in 24 weeks by Emson, Thomas.
What this does is help the reader focus, get organised, stop staring out of the window and actually put fingers to keys. For less than GBP5.00. (What it won't do, and makes no claims to, is describe how to put one word together with the following one. You're on your own with that.)
Emson is a conventionally published author of horror and fantasy – not my area, but hey! – though this one is self-published and is, I think, more aimed at the s-p author. He's obviously a very organised and determined writer, and although there was a lot I already knew, there were useful tips and prompts. His system clearly works for him.
 

Andy D

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It’s a great feeling when you’re reading a book and you think to yourself ‘This is just the best book’ (even though I’ve thought it before and there are many, and I’m a slow reader besides). But I really am loving The Princess Bride!

And, I’m only slightly ashamed to admit, I bought it as a Christmas present for myself (though I did then give it to my folks and got them to wrap it up. Cos, y’know, I’m a grown up like that.)
 

E G Logan

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TO BE FAIR
Back to The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett: there is indeed more to it than it seems up to about half-way through. For every one of my criticisms/reservations, not all spelled out here, there was eventually an explanation.

As with her first novel, The Appeal, there was a point where I was ready to scream out loud with frustration – probably the moment when I wrote the review above – before ALL began to be revealed. But the revelations were not so much of a one-off twist unveiling as a gradual unpeeling of the many, many layers.

Even the omni-present Blyton overtones – 'Six Go Larking About' – seem to have been a deliberate homage. And there was a reason for the irritating gimmick of the audio transcription in which the text is written, with all its mistakes and mishearings. All the mistakes were deliberate, too.

Very, very clever. IMHO, too clever by half.
 

KateESal

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the new Asterix
"Father Christmas" got this for my son. Good stuff, the new duo are getting into their stride now.

Another vote for The Princess Bride...works brilliantly in both formats (novel and film)

I got N or M? by Agatha Christie, which I'd already read decades ago, but it was great to submerge myself in the oh-so-very-British middle class world of Christie once more, with all its genteel skulduggery and ingenious plotting. I also love that I can read one in a couple of hours, unlike so many of today's tomes!!
 
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