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The advantage of having a degree in Eng. Lit. and a reputation for reading more in a week than the rest of the office does in a year is that you can sit in the staff kitchen at lunchtime and read teen fiction and nobody dares to mock you. Actually I think everybody should read these. They are absolutely wonderful and make me feel a whole lot better about the world; they are funny and touching and have just enough of everybody's family in to be recognisable; they have so many layers and so many voices. I have been inhaling them this week and going on epic missions to find the ones I haven't read yet. Gorgeous.
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Now, this takes me back. This is another one in the Favourites roundabout (and if it looks like I'm only reading things from BookCrossing, that's because they're the only ones I've got the brain to write up at the moment).

I first read this at school - sixth form, it must have been, from the shape of the library in my mind's eye - and enjoyed it then. It was interesting to revisit it, and to find that on the whole it's very much as I remember it.

This is set in one of those dystopian societies that look very neat and tidy on the surface, and then turn out to be a little too neat and tidy when you dig a little. The titular Giver holds all the world's memories - because the world has decided it's easier without remembering things like love and war, but somebody has to have them - and is passing them on to Jonas, the new Receiver. As before, I found this concept intriguing, and was hooked on the gradual deconstruction of the society. As before, I found myself getting rather bored with the end of the story. It was quite late at night, I will admit, but it did feel as if it finished two chapters too late - though this time I picked up on the ambiguous nature of the ending.

Interesting to revisit a book I'd enjoyed before, and to see how my relationship to it has changed over the past ten years (very little, as it happens).

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10359233
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Re-read - frustratingly, I remembered whodunnit half way through, which made it less fun. It's interesting the things you pick up on as an adult that you didn't as a child - the coding of Mr Ellsworthy, for example - and how it can make you cringe...

I'll be releasing this at the BookCrossing convention in Dublin.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9857288
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This story opens with the heroine, the titular Melanie, resolving to make the most of her new single life, her ex-husband having married someone else, and the rest of the book charts her battle to do so. Lightweight but enjoyable.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10542945
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Re-read, so as to be able to write Eugénie/Louise fic as a Yuletide treat. Neither of them shows up until page 600, but who cares?

On this read, I was mostly struck by how very Romantic it is. Vampires (well, almost). Orientalism. Sex and drugs. Nature. The sea. And also how it is really not a children's book.

It took me most of December to read, which was reading time well spent, if you ask me. This will always be one of my favourites.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
First Among Sequels - Jasper Fforde

Re-read. I had forgotten quite how much fun this series is. As ever, I found the BookWorld parts much more interesting than the AU!Swindon, but it's all very enjoyable.


The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C S Lewis

Re-read of an old friend. This isn't my favourite of the Narnia books (that accolade goes to Dawn Treader) but it has some wonderful moments and is a joy to revisit.


61 Hours - Lee Child

Trying this to see what all the fuss is about. It took me a while to get into, for all that the first thirty hours take up a lot less page space than the remainder. Once I did, it was harder to put down, but I still don't quite get all the Jack Reacher-mania.


Deadheads - Reginald Hill

As ever, I am hopping around all over the place within the series. I started off quite well with Dalziel and Pascoe (that is, with A Clubbable Woman) but I've skipped about ten years, I think. I liked this one - the use of rose varieties for the chapter headings was interesting, characterisation fantastic, lovely twist in the tail. Poor Sergeant Wield, though!


While the Light Lasts - Agatha Christie

A collection of not recently republished short stories. Something of a disappointment, as I found that I'd read most or all of these before, even if not necessarily in this particular form. A number of them are in The Hound of Death. Quite interesting as a curiosity, anyway, and it's good to have re-read them.


Vampirates: Demons of the Ocean - Justin Somper

Shipwrecked twins, each fearing the other dead (so far, so Twelfth Night) get picked up by pirates. The boy ends up with normal pirates (in so far as this is possible, it being the 26th century); the girl with the titular Vampirates. They spend the book trying to find each other. Blood and guts and gore, usual piratey stuff. Unimpressed that Grace spends most of the time stuck in a cabin while Connor gets to do sword-fighting and such; maybe the balance is redressed in later books?


The Mind-Readers - Margery Allingham

Couldn't get into this; gave up.


More William - Richmal Crompton

More William? Absolutely. Vastly improves a day in bed with the flu. My favourites in this one: A Busy Day, William's Burglar, The Ghost, The May King, and William and the Smuggler.


The Morning Gift - Eva Ibbotson

Another Ibbotson romance featuring refugees and desirable Englishmen. While still fairly formulaic, this is a departure from Ibbotson's usual form in that the protagonists get married in chapter 2 and then spend the rest of the book working out that actually they might want to stay married. Though of course it's considerably more complicated than it needs to be, and at times I was wishing to smack both of them round the head. I love the backgrounds, though, and in this case particularly intellectual Vienna.
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Two households, both alike in dignity... This book is a real breath of fresh air. Set in an alternative universe where magic is part of everyday life, and where history has happened a little differently (so Italy, for example, is still divided into city states well into the twentieth century) it's beautifully written and has a superb sense of place. The characters are well defined, and the atmosphere remained with me through lesser, more adult, books. Perhaps my favourite of the Chrestomanci series.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10125880/
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Something of a potboiler - reading between the lines of the author bio, this was written to keep the wolf from the door until she finished Penmarric. As such, it's rather dull, with the old Howatch combination of Sinister Pasts, Skeletons in Cupboards, moody seascapes, the religious life, and Mysterious Heroes. (I really don't see much in her Mysterious Heroes; generally they creep me out.) The twist is unexpected, certainly; it's also unconvincing.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10200632/
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Re-read. I don't think I'll be able to read this one again, because I remember too well Who and How, though it's very interesting to follow the plot through with that knowledge. Nobody does misdirection like Christie, and this has one of the many 'accusing parlour' scenes that had me hooked the first time round. It's fascinating now to see how she does it. Questions hidden in plain sight, and all that.

The last sentence still annoys me, though. In the past I'd have given Christie a pass for something like that, because The Past Is Another Country, and all that, but given what she achieved herself, that won't wash.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9880680
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I've had a soft spot for Bleak House ever since I read it in my second year of university and discovered that Dickens was not all dire school productions of Oliver! and interminable dramatic readings of A Christmas Carol. That said, reading it now I find it more problematic than I did then. Particularly as I've become more involved in activism (of various stripes, but especially feminist) the portrayal of Mrs Jellyby and her friends has become increasingly infuriating. It's very sad that Dickens, who did so much for the poor, dismisses the efforts of many remarkable women as caricatures. Also more obvious as I get older is my sense that Mr Jarndyce is, in some ways, a rather creepy old man, though thank goodness he does the decent thing. (I remember debating this one in seminars: did Dickens mean him to be creepy?)

Generally enjoyed the re-read, though.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10120410/
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This has been on my conscience for years - I got it as a review copy from Penguin when they were doing a giveaway to bloggers, and failed to review it. Here I make some attempt, however belatedly, to do so.

This is part of the Penguin Epics series, a modern prose version by R. K. Narayan, and only a fraction of the whole story of Rama and Sita. Prose or no prose, the epic mood is very strong, the sense that here is a story that has been told for generations and generations, and, indeed, as the afterword points out, is still being told. The characters are engaging and larger than life; the settings vividly described. Here is a single episode of a long, long story, embellished with digressions and decoration, picked out and presented in 200 odd pages.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8042359
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This is the Egerton Hall trilogy stuck together in one volume. Reading before sending on to a bookcrosser who is, according to her profile, very fond of fairy tales and fairy tales retold. These ones I loved when I was in my teens, though it was a while before I managed to track down Pictures of the Night. Still love them, though find the men a little feeble these days - not too much of a problem though, seeing as how most of the focus is on Megan, Alice and Bella, as it should be.

The stories are essentially played straight, but with such swinging sixties fervour and vibe, and so cleverly done, that they're a real joy to read. I don't mind parting with this volume, though; I think I prefer them separate.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10056772
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
Re-read, for fanfic purposes. I love the way Woolf never explains anything; this is such a lighthearted - one almost wants to say 'romp' - adventure in the middle of all the SRS BSNS. And yet Orlando does deal with srs bsns; it's just done so delicately and skilfully that one needn't notice if one doesn't want to. Gender is fluid and has fluidity, yay.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/8138552
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Re-read prior to bookcrossing.

A wide range of Sayers stories proving once again that she can do pretty much anything except write a lower-class character without using a stupid accent to do it. A couple of Lord Peter Wimsey stories, including the gruesome title story, and a few Montague Egg stories, mainly focussing on technical points.

This time around I was actually more interested in the one-offs than in the returning detectives. They range from humorous and psychologically believable to terrifying and psychologically believable. My favourites are probably "The Inspiration of Mr Budd" - even though I know how it ends - "Dilemma" - a philosophical problem with a satisfying twist - and "Nebuchadnezzar" - which combines the inanities of a parlour game with a compelling examination of a spectator's frame of mind. This time, too, I was brave enough to finish "The Cyprian Cat", and this time I will probably remember that "Blood Sacrifice" is by Sayers, not Ngaio Marsh (the theatre setting threw me off the scent). Ah, yes, and "Suspicion" is a beautifully crafted little story.

Fantastic selection, in short.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9946149
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Re-read prior to bookcrossing. I first came across Larkin in general, and this volume in particular, at A-level, and have been a fan ever since. For all that he's a grumpy old sod, he's a perceptive observer and is very competent at conveying the sights, sounds, and moods of his time. It's as if he's distilled the Britain of the sixties, and here it is. Of its time in the best sense of the phrase.
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Re-read, because it's awesome - though, as always, I am thrown by the narrator not being Rudolf Rassendyll (not that I have anything against Fritz; it's just confusing). And I blush to admit it, but the end still makes me cry. A bit. Next up: The Heart of Princess Osra. I wonder whether anyone's reprinted that recently?
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Re-read, trying to determine whether it's set pre- or post-war (it was published 1946), for fanfic purposes. It's very difficult to tell; there's no rationing, and there definitely isn't any war going on, but... I don't know. It feels later, actually - I would have bought 1956.

As usual, identity of murderer and associated twist very clear in my memory, with the surrounding complexities less so. Much more aware of the snobberies and anti-semitism than I was the first/last time I read this.

I wonder how much Lady Angkatell owes to Sayers' Dowager Duchess? Quite a lot, I wouldn't be surprised.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
The only crime in Ibbotson's world is to be nouveau riche. Or nouveau riche and female.

Re-read, prior to bookcrossing. I do enjoy these, though they are all exactly the same. Here's what I wrote about it last time round:

I approached this with some trepidation, due to the frankly diabetic coma-inducing candy-floss pink cover, but remembered that a) I was very keen on her children's books (Which Witch?, etc) when I was little, and b) some people on LJ had recommended her adult stuff. It was a sweet and fluffy book and reminded me more of Lorna Hill's Sadler's Wells series than anything else, being very difficult to put down, but displaying some horrendous snobbery that I didn't dare prod too much. Despite covering some of the same ground (post-war, though different war, setting, estate Going To Dogs for lack of money, ill-advised engagements) as The Little Stranger, totally different. Fun, if you didn't think too much about it. Won't send to charity shop just yet.

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