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Young man with plague comes to abbey for medical assistance, gets bashed on head. A medieval murder mystery in the Cadfael tradition, though not nearly so convincing as Peters' work. I never quite felt that Clare had really got into the medieval mindset. There was nothing that I could put my finger on as being factually wrong (though I have serious doubts about monks and nuns living practically together under the rule of an Abbess, but I'm willing to be corrected on that), and it seems excessively nitpicky to criticise the modern use of modern words ('preview'; 'coma', etc) when nobody would be speaking English as we know it anyway, but it just didn't gel.

Another, more personal (by which I mean that other readers may not care at all), issue was the mixing of genres, or, rather, the way that the supernatural is unquestioningly accepted by the omniscient narrator. This was something I always thought Peters did rather well, finding room for faith and doubt to dwell together, without denigrating the one or demolishing the other. While the supernatural plot doesn't have much to do with the mystery, it sat ill with me.

The mystery itself was reasonably interesting, though the reader was never allowed to do any work.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/6860565
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More of the same, really, with some dodgy physics and some dodgy sexist stuff. I enjoyed the local colour, but overall this failed to thrill.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/11193579
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I wish I'd read this when I was sixteen. I was very much into tragic love triangles and courtly passions at that age. Even now, I could appreciate this as a lyrical retelling of an old, old story.
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Needs a Britpicker, badly. I am not convinced that the author had ever been to England, let alone Oxford; the only way I could suspend my disbelief long enough to finish the book was to pretend that the landlubbing part of the story was set in some USAian theme park called 'Oxford' and abandoned in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean for cruise liners to travel to and from. Apart from the more glaring howlers (car numberplate bearing six figures and no letters; travelling from Oxford to Southampton on the M5; schoolgirls of 21 wearing blazers) the dialogue and internal monologues of the British characters were completely off.

Apart from that, the mystery was reasonably diverting, but this was a real struggle to finish.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10013527/
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A collection of short stories, the latest in the 'Favourites of 2011' roundabout. I've lost count of where I am in this, but we must be nearing the end, I think. Anyway, I could see the attraction in this; the stories are very rich, dense and evocative, with a twist of ironic humour, and the best of them stay with you. Precisely because of this richness, however, I found that this wasn't a book to be rushed - in fact, I might have been happier reading one story every week for a couple of months, or something like that, but I have no self-control, and anyway this book needs to go on to the next reader. Consequently, I came away feeling that some of these stories were a bit same-y (particularly the ones about young white American men who are wasting their lives on drink and drugs) and that I'd have enjoyed them much more in isolation. Which is not to say I didn't enjoy them. Chicxulub was my favourite, for what that's worth.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10364136
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As the title suggests, a variation on the Cinderella story from the point of view of one of the stepsisters. As it happens, I'm not actually convinced by the title, which sets the wrong tone - one expects something with more of a 'chicklit' flavour, I think... it does make more sense as you approach the end, but I'm not sure that's worth the cognitive dissonance through the rest of the book.

I did like the early modern Dutch setting (very skilfully evoked) and the emphasis on art. I was not so happy about the increasing vilification of the stepmother - if one has to redistribute the villainy in Cinderella, why does it have to be among the women? I'd have liked to see some more interrogation of the systems that put them in this situation in the first place; Maguire does make an effort, but it feels very half-hearted.

Nice try, but always felt it could have been done better.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9981161
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A rather charming collection of very short pieces, fact, fiction, and somewhere in between. Largely sitting technically within the sci-fi genre, this is a particularly accessible bunch. My favourites were probably 'F is for Fairies', 'Neptune', and 'The Mask'. I'd like to read the wider story around the latter.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8152038
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'And "proliferation" became the word of the day...'

Very different from the film. This is not such a bad thing; I am finding the oeuvre of Roger Moore rather slow going. (No quibbles about his performance, but the actual films are terrible.) There is a villain called Hugo Drax, and that is about the only similarity.

Ian Fleming's tedious style aside (a series of info-dumps linked by occasional bursts of action), book!Bond is much less slappable than film!Bond.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/11193534
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'B' in the alphabet roundabout... only four more to go. I didn't really get on with this, which I think is partly due to the very boring style of the translation (can't comment on the original, obviously) and partly to coming in late in a series I'd never read before, and not finding the characters very sympathetic. I did start to get interested towards the end as the plot came together, but were it not for the fact that this is a ring book I'd probably have given up a long time ago. The animal violence scenes, while effective, weren't tied in well to the rest of it, and seemed to have been put in only to shock; similarly, I wasn't convinced by the cult aspect. Not inclined to find the rest of the Wallander series, I have to say.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7728233
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An author I'd never heard of, a book bought on impulse from an 'ALL IN THIS BOX £1' box, an intriguing and pleasantly creepy story. Set in what was contemporary Cambridge (this was published in the mid eighties), this has a vaguely old-school M R James 'academic ghost story' vibe, with a side of Turn of the Screw, but with rather more sex. Subtext becoming text, if you see what I mean. Stays this side of the overtly paranormal, though, which is very effective. Gorgeously atmospheric, with a real sense of time passing. And so refreshing to find a happily bisexual character.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/11195234
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The book of the blog. Hilarious pictures, and a plentiful dose of snark. An enjoyable half hour. More, if you then go back to the blog, as I may be doing at this very moment...

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10008237
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I have heard a lot about this author; she seems to divide opinions. I came away from this book without much of one - I didn't hate this, but it wasn't exactly gripping. The basic concept - a big-city attorney defending an Amish girl accused of infanticide - could have been very interesting, but Picoult never seemed to develop any of the themes as much as they deserved. There was some sloppy writing in there - plot elements introduced a little too early and then presented as a big surprise - and I never quite saw the point in switching between first and third person narratives.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9730440
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A collection of short comedy pieces by the US talk show host. I think I'd probably have enjoyed this more if I'd been a particular fan (rather than just knowing the name from afterellen.com, I mean). This was a fun read, but felt very shallow - mostly a series of very obvious jokes.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10440050
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Picked up on a whim from the library's 'recently returned' shelf. I have read about three of Heyer's Regency novels, and the last two were some years ago. This was rather fun; nobody I wanted to slap too hard, anyway, except for Perry, but I think that's deliberate. There are a couple of Heyers in the Relate shop; might pick them up.
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A creepy and depressing novel about childhood trauma and gender roles. While it was cleverly done and kept me reading to the end, and while I didn't get the secret of the First Audrina (feel like I should have done, though...) I feel somehow unsatisfied.

Clever, but not going to stay with me.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9697475
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A charmingly naive (or, if I were in a bad mood, 'painfully earnest') little story set in a future where the USA's first gay Jewish president has just been elected. If all books are really about their own times, however, this one is about the Bush years, the gap between the Florida recount and Obama. The plot is centred around a very similar recount, and a teenager's involvement in same.

I appreciated the idealism, but it seemed very polarised. Thinking from a political system where (for example) all three main parties have come out loudly in favour of same-sex marriage, the 'us and them' mentality feels very contrived. Politics: always more complicated.
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I'm sure I've read one of the alphabet series before, but it was a long time ago. Anyway, I like Kinsey Millhone and the way she does things. This was a clever plot, too, with a genuinely surprising ending. Perhaps I'll look out for A, B, C, D etc.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7469428
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I can't believe I'd never read this. I knew the basic gist of the plot, and most people I've spoken to did it at school. I'm rather glad I didn't, for I don't think I'd have enjoyed it nearly as much. I've been putting off reviewing it, because I honestly can't think of what to say. However, it's a book club choice, so I will eventually have to pick a single word to describe it -

which is -

- gripping

Not the first few chapters; it did take me a while to get into it, though I can see that the slow start is essential background-painting - but once the plot really kicked off I was very reluctant to put the book down. Unreliable narrators again: telling an adults' story through a child's eyes is a very effective trick if you can pull it off, and here it really works, trading off the different levels of cynicism. Favourite book of the year so far.
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Unusually for a Howatch, I let this lie for several months after I'd read the first section. This is the first of her super-epic-historical-romans-à-clef, and it seems she hasn't quite got into the swing of things yet. The historical period in question is the reign of Henry II and his two sons; Howatch has translated them to turn-of-the-century Cornwall, and made the realm of England a mouldering folly of a country house. Helpfully, she has included quotations from actual history books so you know who she's really talking about - it would have been useful if she'd kept that up in later books which would have made me feel less stupid. As the beauty of this particular style is how she translates the people, places and incidents, I don't want to give too much away, but I was particularly struck by how she manages Philip, the Richard I character, which is very bold but yet makes perfect sense in context.

Having been thinking a lot recently about unreliable narrators, it struck me how efficiently Howatch leads one up the garden path. One is inclined to trust the narrator; one does tend to identify the narrator, and the way she closes the door at the end of each section and lets an antagonist loose on the person who's just spoken can be quite a shock. She is good at characterisation, but bad at distinguishing voices (if I had a quid for every character in this book who says 'of course I realise that...' I could buy a couple of pints at least, and if I included her entire oeuvre it would be a couple of rounds).

But that's not news. What has struck - and disappointed - me in this particular book is the lack of resolution. A couple of times I have caught myself thinking 'oh, I must finish Penmarric...' before realising - I have. Perhaps finishing with King John was not a good idea.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10056864
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An utterly unmemorable book. I didn't exactly dislike it, but it didn't grab me, and it was a bit of a struggle to plough through to the end. The plot was unconvincing, the characters less so, but difficult to relate to, and OK, I admit it, I'm not a dog person.

The author obviously has a very defined sense of place, but, not knowing the Cotswolds, I was unable to plug into this, and it all rather passed me by. Perhaps if I knew the area I'd have enjoyed this more. As it was, it all felt very flat.

I did pick up the next one in the series to try to work out what I felt about this book, and discovered within a few pages that my prevailing emotion was boredom.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8101473/

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