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This is very obviously a school textbook, and I found it interesting to see how my response adapted to fit this, how I read it in a different way. It took me back to the days when reading - any sort of reading, but fiction in particular - was by far the most interesting thing that I was ever 'supposed' to be doing. What I mean, I suppose, is that I set out to enjoy this.

And I did. My main gripe is that all the stories are so short - almost without exception, I wanted to know more. I can at least seek out Ice Candy Man, an excerpt of which is included here, but the rest - so tantalising! There's a real mix - from the cynical and satirical to the endearingly frivolous to the harrowingly realistic - a breakneck-speed, vivid, colourful tour of the literature of Pakistan.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10073713
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Another attempt at the Great American Novel. It was good, but other books have since taken its place in my heart. No, that's a lie: it never really got near my heart. It made me smile and laugh and cringe, and occasionally wince in recognition; technically, I think it was brilliant; it was certainly no hardship to finish it - but. But it never quite got there, for me.

It is the story of a family. It is the story of the varied and interesting ways in which a family can fall apart, on account of being composed of a varied and interesting collection of human beings. It punctures egos left, right and centre. It gets into the heads of most of the main characters, which is something I like in fiction. (Although Franzen didn't bother with Jessica, the daughter, and maybe I'd have been more interested if he had.)

3 out of 5, I think. It is a good book, but I didn't love it.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10198179
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I've had this sitting on my bookshelf for a while, but never seriously made an effort to read it until it turned up in the Favourite Book of 2011 roundabout. I'm wondering now why it took me so long to get to it! This is a fantastic novel that moves through the decades with a superb sense of time, place and character. While the title couple remark that theirs is an 'amateur' marriage among the many more professional ones around them, I got the impression that they represent a whole generation of hasty marriages and awkward, yet ultimately loving, relationships. Tyler has a very good grasp of how people work. Recommended.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10047102
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More in the 'creepy and disturbing' vein. The hero is a former construction magnate who becomes an artist after losing an arm in an accident. Doom and disaster result. This was compulsive reading, and kept me hooked most of the way to the end. Fantastic sense of place, though I detected a misogynistic undertone that I didn't much like.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9731584
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A collection of short stories. I'd read 'The Terrapin' before and enjoyed it, in a creepy twisted kind of way, and the collection contained some other gems. 'Creepy and twisted' covers most of them, though Highsmith also goes for more overt horror (giant man-eating snails!) and more subtle disturbance. I enjoyed this.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9933070/
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I never really got into this, unfortunately. It was partly the purple prose; partly the fact that 'The Girl' was never named so I never felt I could relate to her (this was possibly meant to be the point, but it made for a dull read). 'I don't care what happens to these people', indeed. Possibly I'm just not in the right mood at the moment.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10364638
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More of the same: theatrical murder told largely from the point of view of Nigel Bathgate. Trollerific prologue notwithstanding, I didn't guess the murderer, though wasn't particularly surprised by the revelation. I was rather intrigued by the tension between Inspector Alleyn and Stephanie Vaughan; I don't think I've seen him particularly interested by anyone other than Troy. I think I may need to give Marsh a rest for a few years; they do seem to be increasingly same-y.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9859687
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An informative and readable, if necessarily somewhat ghoulish, tour around the history of British executions, by a former Yeoman Warder. Geoffrey Abbot has an engaging style, and slotted the various case histories into their historical context neatly and efficiently.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7877305
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A proper old-fashioned time-travel book, sub-genre voluntary but limited, of the sort that I used to love, with a very du Maurier unreliable narrator. The local history was evidently researched very thoroughly, but the book wore its learning lightly. I found myself captivated not so much by the fourteenth century parts, as the narrator was, but by his obsession with the past and the way it slowly destroyed his marriage, his health, and perhaps his sanity. Wonderfully chilling last line.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7625667
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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
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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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'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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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
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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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