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2020 50 Book Challenge

LonerMatt

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1. The Tangled Land
2. The Test
3. Grace of Kings
4. Wall of Storms
5. Where there was Still Love
6. The Secret Commonwealth
7. Children of Ruins
8. Hunger
9. Legacy of Ash
10. When we were Vikings
11. The Yellow Notebook
12. A Couple of Things Before the End
13. Agency
14. Sword of Fire
15. How to Fix the Future
16. The Topeka School
17. Beijing Payback
18. The Lucky Country
19. A horse walks into a bar
20. The Hidden Girl and Other Stories
21. The Secret Scripture
22. Stone Sky Gold Mountain
23. The Return

23. The Return


A libyan in exile (the author) recounts details of his own and his fathers' life during a return to Libya following the deposing of Qaddafi. Fascinating and well written, informative of Libya's recent history without dwelling on details that would qualify this as particularly text book esque in style, much more about an attempt to learn how his father died rather than document the Libyan situation accurately.
 

California Dreamer

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in terms of how dysfunctional conservative/ right wing politics are
One good indicator of that is how insulting descriptions of them that stick are ones that came from their own side. "Mr Harbourside Mansion" came from Credlin, and "the lying rodent" came from Brandis.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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One good indicator of that is how insulting descriptions of them that stick are ones that came from their own side. "Mr Harbourside Mansion" came from Credlin, and "the lying rodent" came from Brandis.
That’s interesting Malcolm praises Brandis “Et tu, Brute?” some of the harshest criticism aside from the Mad Monk is heaped upon Cormann who Malcolm said he wouldn’t even have a beer with him. In Australian terms that is a harsh curse.
 

California Dreamer

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That’s interesting Malcolm praises Brandis “Et tu, Brute?” some of the harshest criticism aside from the Mad Monk is heaped upon Cormann who Malcolm said he wouldn’t even have a beer with him. In Australian terms that is a harsh curse.
Particularly given that Cormann is Belgian, and would be right into beer.
 

Fueco

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44. Dead or Alive, by Tom Clancy w/ Grant Blackwood

In post September 11th America, a new enemy known as The Emir has come to the attention of the good guys. Plenty of action in this one. This is my latest in the Jack Ryan series. Yeah, I'm a long ways behind. This book came out almost ten years ago...
 

California Dreamer

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1. Damascus, by Christos Tsiolkas
2. Dr Knox, by Peter Spiegelman
3. The Hills Reply, by Tarjei Vesaas
4. Cold Fear, by Mads Peter Nordo
5. The Drover's Wife, by Leah Purcell
6. The Silent Death, by Volker Kutscher
7. Darkness for Light, by Emma Viskic
8. The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
9. Recursion, by Blake Crouch
10. When All is Said and Done, by Neale Daniher
11. How the Dead Speak, by Val McDermid
12. Goldstein, by Volker Kutscher
13. Saving Missy, by Beth Morrey
14. Hi Five, by Joe Ide
15. Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki
16. The Real Peaky Blinders, by Carl Chinn
17. Agent Running in the Field, by John le Carré
18. The Good Turn, by Dervla McTiernan
19. Amnesty, by Aranid Adiga
20. Downfall, by Inio Asano
21. Sheerwater, by Leah Swann
22. In a House of Lies, by Ian Rankin
23. The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel
24. Pollock Confidential, by Onofrio Catacchio
25. The Brothers York, by Thomas Penn
26. Double Blind, by Sara Winokur
27. The Transaction, by Guglielmo D'Izzia
28. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk
29 Journey Under the Midnight Sun, by Keigo Higashino
30 Impostures, by al-Hariri, transl. Michael Cooperson
31 A Walk Through Hell, by Garth Ennis et al
32 The English Civil Wars, by Blair Worden
33 Something Fresh, by PG Wodehouse
34 Killing Eve: Die For Me, by Luke Jennings
35 The Sculptor, by Scott McCloud
36 Puckoon by Spike Milligan
37 Murder in the Garment District by David Witwer and Catherine Rios
38 Unflattening by Nick Sousanios
39 Normal People by Sally Rooney
40 Nightmare Abbey by Thomas Love Peacock
41 Instructions for the British People During the Emergency by Jason Hazeley
42 Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs

43 Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar


A local fisherman washes up dead on the shores of a small Galician fishing village. It is assumed to be suicide, but Inspector Leo Caldas is not convinced; the strap binding his hands could not have been tightened by the dead man. A look into his past links him to a shipwreck and the loss of the experienced Captain Sousa many years before. There are rumours in the village of sightings of Sousa, but that is impossible. Caldas digs into the story of the shipwreck with the two remaining survivors, both of whom are reluctant to talk.

The plot and pace of this story are fairly pedestrian, although Villar manages to rev things up a bit and throw a few plot twists in towards the end. The unfamiliar setting adds interest, but Caldas is not really that engaging a central character, and the book overall was just OK.
 

FlyingMonkey

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I still haven't caught up to where I was, but anyway, more recently I've been reading the reissues of Kim Newman's extremely clever Anno Dracula novels. Kim Newman, as well as being a novelist, is a film critic, and expert on monsters in popular culture, so it's no surprise that these novels are packed full of pop culture references, characters from other novels and films (and not just vampire lore) as well as many real historical figures.

The novels constitute a kind of alternative history of the world beginning with Dracula's arrival in Britain*. Instead of being killed by the intrepid vampire hunters as he is in Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula wins. In fact his victory is so total that, by the start of the first novel, 40. Anno Dracula, he has taken the throne by marrying (and turning) Queen Victoria, turning Britain into a haven for vampires, who come out of the shadows from all over, and make vampirism popular and increasingly normal. A sort of uneasy truce exists between 'warmbloods' or just 'warms' (as non-vampires are known) and vampires, with Britain's empire at stake. Of course not all vampires are of Dracula's Carpathian lineage, nor do they all approve of him and his brutal methods. One is the brilliant, Geneviève Dieudonné, another 'elder', over 400 years-old but permanently 16 in appearance, from mediaeval France. She falls for a warm man, Charles Beauregard, a rising force in Mycroft Holmes' Diogenes Club, which is effectively British Intelligence at this time, but he is a traditionalist and will not be turned. Together with a younger vampire, the intrepid Irish radical reporter, Kate Reed, they embark on unmasking the killer of vampire prostitutes known as 'Silver Knife'.

By 41. The Bloody Red Baron, set in WW1, Dracula, long banished from Britain, is a key figure in the court of the Kaiser, waging war across Europe. Genevieve has left for America and Beauregard is pretty much running the Diogenes Club, although he now has competition from more formal British intelligence services. He sends his young prodidgy, Winthrop, to the front to investigate strange goings-on at a French chateau which houses the elite undead flying squadron led by undefeated air ace, Baron Manfred von Richthoffen. Along the way Winthrop encounters Kate Reed who is after the same story for her newspaper. You might think that WW1 would be paradise for vampires, but this is far from the case with silvered bullets and bayonets, they are being destroyed as much as warmbloods are being killed on the western front. The novel is surprisingly effective as a war novel, even with all the pop-culture references (we get Drs Moreau and Caligari working for the Germans, British air ace, Bigglesworth and many others). As a bonus in this new edition, there's a substantial novella appended, dealing with Genevieve's return to Britain and another recurring character in the various novels and stories of Newman's sprawling mythos, the Japanese girl-assassin, Nezumi, and idiot proto-Nazi, Spode, in a classic country house murder mystery, except it's vampires killing vampires).

In 42. Dracula Cha Cha Cha, we've moved on to Rome in the late 1950s. It's the Rome of 'La Dolce Morte', rather than 'La Dolce Vita', as vampires and warmbloods are enjoying the decadent lifestyle, and there are writers, film starlets, priests, fashionistas, spies and chancers aplenty. The main event is that our old friend Dracula is getting married, again to a vicious Moldavian princess, and no-one is quite sure what he is up to, apart from the fact that he's definitely up to something. He's commandeered the Otranto Palace, which has become a centre of intrigue. However, he's in danger of being upstaged by a mysterious costumed killer of elder vampires, who seems to operate with impunity across The Eternal City. Into this cauldron comes Genevieve, who is looking after Charles Beauregard, finally dying at the age of 105 (her attentions have kept him alive, but without him actually turning, he cannot live forever), Kate Reed who's after the big story as usual, and a self-confident but also rather destructive Scottish agent of the Diogenes Club called Bond, Hamish Bond! Finally, Dracula's entourage also includes Beauregard's ex-fiancee, Penelope, who has seduced (or been seduced by) an enigmatic American warmblood by the name of Tom (Ripley, obviously). It's a heady cocktail, a bit like the bloody aperatives enjoyed by fashionable nightclubbing vampires in the story, and just like the taste of blood itself (so we are told), strangely addictive.

*Ironically, in the third book, there is a brief discussion of Bram Stoker's book (which despite being banned for many years in Britain, still very much exists). It is credited with inventing the genre of 'alternative history'...
 
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Geoffrey Firmin

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@FlyingMonkey What a great sounding series I don’t think I would read them all but the second is on my radar.

I recently picked up Hinton by Mark Blacklock a 19th century figure. I heard an interview with him on BBC arts & culture which promoted my interest. Its at the back as I appear to on something of realist fiction kick at present.
 
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Fueco

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47. Walking With Spring: The First Solo Thru-Hike Of The Legendary Appalachian Trail, by Earl V. Shaffer

The account of Shaffer’s 1948 thru-hike, which he did as a way to shake off the cobwebs acquired in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

I actually bought this book in 1998, when I was pondering a thru-hike in 1999, which never happened. I can only dream about it now.
 

FlyingMonkey

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That sounds really good.
It really is. I think some people miss the point and complain that there are too many characters and references. But if you don't want to check who all the people are in the novels are, you don't have to. I'm happy recognising characters I already know and discovering who else was who in Newman's afterwords. In the meantime, the books are brilliantly written.

It's also worth noting that although anchored by core characters, each book is deliberately different in tone, in homage to the era and the style(s) of popular culture that represents it. So the first book is very Victorian - Stoker, Conan-Doyle, Stevenson. The Bloody Red Baron is All Quiet on the Western Front and Wilfred Owen with early Black and White horror movies (like the Cabinet of Dr Caligari); Dracula Cha Cha Cha is kitsch Italian myth, murder and monster movies with La Dolce Vita and The Talented Mr Ripley. In the hands of a less well-talented writer-researcher, they would be a mess or a gimmick (like the more recent and lesser 'Pride and Prejudice with Zombies' sub-genre).
 

LonerMatt

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1. The Tangled Land
2. The Test
3. Grace of Kings
4. Wall of Storms
5. Where there was Still Love
6. The Secret Commonwealth
7. Children of Ruins
8. Hunger
9. Legacy of Ash
10. When we were Vikings
11. The Yellow Notebook
12. A Couple of Things Before the End
13. Agency
14. Sword of Fire
15. How to Fix the Future
16. The Topeka School
17. Beijing Payback
18. The Lucky Country
19. A horse walks into a bar
20. The Hidden Girl and Other Stories
21. The Secret Scripture
22. Stone Sky Gold Mountain
23. The Return
24. The Lost Decade

24. The Lost Decade


This is a long form piece of journalism published in a book, which is how I like my non-fiction. It traces the story of Climate Change in the decade from 1979-1989 and the author argues that this decade had huge potential to respond to climate change - the item was on the agenda in the States, there was massive pressure from the public on the government, even gas and oil companies expected to have to do something and wanted to act to avoid potential lawsuits and yet it all comes apart.

A little bit of false finger pointing (acknowledged by the author in a totally mature and open manner) simplfies the story, yet it's a profoundly depressing read. One can't help but think how much better we'd be off if some international agreements had been led and enforced by the USA instead of the continuing disinformation campaigns by big companies and their bought and paid for political actors, 31 years of mired international progress and a total lack of action that's making any difference at all.

I read this morning that carbon dioxide is the highest it's ever been, one can't help but be scared at the future we've built.
 

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