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A charming, if rather paint-by-numbers, lesbian romance story between a Palestinian Christian and a British Muslim. The plot was terribly predictable, so there was very little suspense to it, and the characters were rather puppet-like - one felt they'd been pushed into the appropriate positions and instructed, 'now, advance the plot'. The author is a screenwriter by trade, and it shows: in the formulaic plot, the cardboard characters, the frequent point-of-view changes - and the absolutely luscious scene-setting. Seriously, I would like to see the film of this, because it sounds gorgeous: Jordan, London, Oxford, all evoked with a masterly touch; and I shouldn't be surprised if the film works a lot better than the book in putting the three dimensions across. Frustrating in parts - I would have loved it to have gone a little deeper into the clash of culture - but a nice enough read on the whole.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10402240
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I disliked this book. It presented the way that I experience and think of the Divine in such an irritating manner that it half convinced me that my hard-won understanding of God is New Age woowoo. Some of this book was New Age woowoo. Some of it was potentially very useful, but I am not sure that I care to wade back in to sort out the wheat from the chaff. The author is addicted to exclamation marks and gender essentialism, and, while projecting a (probably genuine) aura of love and tolerance, conveys the idea that anyone who disagrees with him is unenlightened.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8017707/
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A rather transparent attempt at being the Great Anglican Novel of the Twenty-First Century (Trollope, Howatch, Arditti...?) What did I just say about the present tense? Breathy and irritating, that was it - and also there were too many characters, and the good ones were good, and the bad ones were bad, and it was painfully earnest in places - and I still devoured it.

It takes the form of a triptych, the centre being a modern Passion narrative, and either side being a running commentary on the services and other events of a London Holy Week. I rather think that Arditti is trying to be a bit too clever, and that he pushes his symbolism and his Message at the expense of his characters. I did find it interesting, in that it deals with one of my perennial hobby-horses, namely, being LGBT and Christian - but really, Rev. did it better.

I know that I will want to re-read this in time, but it's not one of the real greats.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
This, I think, is the last bookring that I have coming to me. I will think quite hard before I enter any more, at least for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, I sort of liked this book, but felt that I could have liked it more; it was an engaging story that fell short of 'delightful'. I found the constant use of the present tense breathy and irritating, and never really engaged with any of the characters. It felt a little bit superficial and clumsy. The villains kicked puppies (well, they didn't, but they would have done had there been any puppies around); the protagonist wasn't terribly interesting; the love interest's background was spectacularly unconvincing. I did like the background and the setting; Gruen had clearly done her research. Overall, though, it never quite won me over.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10382124
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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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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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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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Exhibit C(i) in the Great Warnings Debate - proof that a sugary pink cover doesn't guarantee that the book is free of violence, rape, misogynistic slurs, etc. Although this does become apparent in the first few lines of the prologue, so one would be reasonably likely to work this out before buying. It's not like you're suddenly getting slapped round the face with it in chapter fifty-three, or whatever. And actually Koomson deals with the whole lot in a refreshingly sensible way, gives her heroine supportive friends, has no patience with apologists, etc.

Having got past the prologue, the main challenge was ploughing through the first few chapters, which were sunk in a quicksand of detailed and ineffective description. (If, for example, someone is snatching up a scarf to run out of the door in a panic, she won't stop to talk about how the scarf is stripy, will she?) This slowed the whole thing down, and it wasn't even funny over-description. Not a cerulean orb in sight. (There was a cerulean sky later in the book, though, so I wasn't too deprived.)

Overall, a sensitive look at a difficult issue, but could really have done with better editing.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/6021939
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One of the best thrillers I've read in a while - three strong female characters, holding their own against ridiculous odds, a horrific yet plausible set-up, glorious technobabble, and a vividly described setting.

I was vaguely surprised to find that 'P. J. Tracy' is actually a mother-daughter team. I'd half-expected that the initials would conceal a female writer (it seems to be the only way to sell to men, these days; see also Rowling, J. K.) - well, they do. P. J. is the mother and Traci is the daughter. I couldn't have told from the writing; the only blooper, so far as I could see, was that a minor character's unseen wife was called 'Paula' in one chapter and 'Cheryl' in the next.

It took me a depressingly long time to work out that the villains weren't who they claimed to be. I have become very cynical about authority figures with guns, evidently.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8338429
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A ghost story: the ghost comes in the heart-shaped box, along with a suit, via an internet auction site that is Not EBay. We are not told what it is. I think that selling ghosts on the internet may not be as novel as the author thinks it is, but let that pass. The story of a faux-gothy rock star hoist with his own petard is quite interesting, and so is the plausible psychological background to the whole thing, but I felt that the story did lose focus when it went away from the heart-shaped box.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/6846241
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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)
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/
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
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
'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
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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
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

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