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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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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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'Old tales in new skins.' A clever and charming cycle of fairy tales retold from various female perspectives, haunting and beautiful and not a little creepy. I loved the way the tales folded into each other; it felt a little bit forced at times, but for the most part worked very well. My favourite was 'The Tale of the Rose', despite - or perhaps because of - the fact that I could see what was coming all the way through.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10289116
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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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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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A waterproof book for reading in the bath - so I did. It was a fairly average tale of a woman discontented with her life and unable to leave an unsatisfactory man. Shocking proofreading, I may say. Rather fun, though.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7685703/
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I went into the library for something else entirely, and came away with this. Doesn't it always happen that way?

Something of a curiosity, this - a collection of stories by the great and the good of British literature today, plus a cartoon by Posy Simmonds, all commissioned to celebrate Glyndebourne's 75th anniversary. Each story takes an opera (or, sometimes, more than one) as a starting point and sees where it takes it. Here is Winterson:

"Opera has always needed a story. Some inspirations are direct - like Britten's Turn of the Screw, or Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, and others, like Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, or Verdi's Rigoletto, take a story and shift it. Why not take an opera and shift it?"

And this results in some very striking stories. From the fantastical ("First Lady of Song", riffing on The Makropoulos Affair) to the serious ("Freedom", drawing on ideas of race and identity and the life of John McCormack), the slyly self-referential ("To Die For"), the elegiac ("La Fille de Mélisande") - it's a lovely collection. What they all conveyed, though, was the sheer attraction of narrative, of story, whether translated into music or not.

I like this way of writing; I even thought about writing one myself. Largely, one didn't need to know the opera to 'get' the story, though there a few that I want to seek out now.
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.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A freebie collection (from the front of My Weekly originally, apparently) of five stories, unconnected but for the underlying atmosphere of unease. 'Walter's Leg', in which an old man revisits an incident in his childhood. 'Computer Séance' - a terrible pun, and a nice twist. Miss Climpson would be amused, though she wouldn't let it show. 'Fair Exchange' - very good, an old story but a new way of telling it. 'Catamount' - fantastic, atmospheric tale about a cougar. And 'The Professional', which I felt was the least successful, about a lad who sees and doesn't say.

A quick read, and a good way to pass half an hour.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9862140
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This is an anthology of folk tales from around the world that concern witches. They're mostly not more than a couple of pages long, and I've been reading a few every day for the past couple of weeks. They're arranged loosely by theme, and it's interesting to see how the various archetypes show up across all sorts of cultures. Nice, too, to find good witches as well as bad witches, and clever women generally. I enjoyed this - one can always rely on Virago for charismatic women.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/7685152
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A single short story in a little Bloomsbury Quid edition. I picked up a fair handful of these recently and failed to review most of the ones I'd read. This is a one-act melodrama with epilogue, concerning the adventures of Marilyn and his pimp, the narrator, and the impossibility of escaping one's past. Neatly done.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10095352/
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I thought I had read everything that Norman Hunter ever wrote by the time I was 10. But no! Here is some more! It's set in the same 'verse as The Dribblesome Teapots (and, apparently, as Professor Branestawm, since he is referenced as living in England) and is more of the same comedy Ruritanian shenanigans. One rather cringes, now, at the procession of 'oriental potentates' with silly names. (Everybody has a silly name, of course, but...) Apart from that, good fun.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9948222
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Given to me by Anne to read on a slow train from York to Leeds - which I did, and then never reviewed it. It served the purpose well enough, but isn't something I'm terribly bothered about hanging on to. 'Heavenly Date' is the last story; 'Bulawayo' the longest, and 'Far North' is probably the best. A few quiet tragedies, a couple of stories that made me cringe - cruel, childish humour. Good for a train journey, yes.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9896924
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This is an absolutely fantastic collection of stories, impressive in the skill displayed across a mighty range of tone, time, and genre. Parts of it are the most depressing things I've read all year; parts are savagely funny; parts break your heart. The irony of the title (because there is very little that Proulx shows us in here that is fine just the way it is); the wicked twists; the realism and the surrealism. This is how you do it.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9950584
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Not, sadly, a story where James Bond visits New York with an octopus, and high jinks ensue; rather, two separate stories. One is Octopussy, which, as I had heard elsewhere, is not very like the film (or rather the film's not very like the book... you know what I mean). Diverting enough, but nothing special. Actually contains very little James Bond, which was something of a relief, as (shameful confession!) I find book!Bond rather tedious and liable to pontificate in his head. Keeping the point of view with Major Smythe works very well, and keeps the suspense going well.

If, however, you like Bond pontificating about the best way to spend an evening, prepare a martini, cook scrambled eggs (no, really) you will not be deprived, for in 007 in New York this is all he does, to the detriment of the mission. It seems to have been a vehicle for Fleming to express unpopular opinions about New York without everybody knowing it was him, or something like that. An interesting curiosity, I guess.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9948214
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A little too complete, I fear. Taken one at a time, these are very creepy, but collected all together they are too similar in structure and atmosphere to impress continuously. For this reason, I think, the first few stories feel like the best. I think that's because one comes to them fresh. Once one gets the hang of how they work, they're less impressive.

Apparently James used to read them to his friends on winter evenings by the light of a single candle, and I can see that working very well. Individually excellent; collectively, a bit same-y.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9950603
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These stories are very good, and I cannot put my finger on precisely why. Partly the realism, I think, and the vivid description, and the courage to put things as they are. (Having read the first story, 'A Party in the Square', I now know what was missing from 'The Help'.) Ellison combines a very specific time-place-and-people with universal human experience - a small boy is a small boy, and Ellison's Buster and Riley have an awful lot in common with, for example, William Brown. I wish I'd read this when I was studying the Civil Rights movement, because it would have made an awful lot of things a lot clearer.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9950609
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A freebie off the front of some car magazine, picked up in a charity shop to go in the Short and Sweet bookbox. Short, yes; sweet, no. It was quite funny in places, I suppose, and at its best had the kind of sick compulsiveness that you get with Roald Dahl's adult fiction, but I wasn't convinced. Mostly it was just blokey and unpleasant.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9950478
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Retellings of Andersen's fairy stories for the teen market. Readable enough, though I was never really that sort of teen (I used to read Jacqueline Wilson, and that was as trendy as I got) and it's a book that I'm not breaking my heart over parting with.

I had forgotten how depressing Andersen can get - or, rather, I always applauded his miserably ever after endings, but it's somehow different when it's human kids and not mermaids or tin soldiers or whatever. I think, though, having read the Snow Queen-inspired story in this, I probably could now go back and read the original. I have been too scared to for years. (Not entirely true - I was scared for some years, and then I forgot about its existence for the rest of them.)

Quite fun, wouldn't go out of my way to re-read.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9948291
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An abridged version. I'm not sure whether this means that only three stories have been chosen as opposed to all twelve, or however many there were in the original, or whether the three have been abridged themselves. Anyway, they were a harmless enough way of passing half an hour. I know it's irrational of me to get fed up with het romances for containing het romance, but perhaps I've been around fandom too long, or just long enough. Anyway, I kept wishing that the heroines would just get together with their loyal best friends, rather than pining over uninteresting and sketchily-drawn men. For this reason, the last story pleased me the most.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9948227

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