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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
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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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Mark Dunn, "Ella Minnow Pea"

Well, my first reaction to this was 'But Thurber did this better in The Wonderful O!' Actually, this is not the case. The Wonderful O is better, but it's not doing what Dunn does here. What both authors do is portray the havoc wreaked in society by the outlawing of a letter or letters. What Dunn does, and Thurber doesn't, is inflict the same privation upon himself. Inevitably, it felt rather contrived.


Various, "Spinechillers: Ghost Stories"

One of those 'get kids reading for a quid' things. Not really very scary, it must be admitted.


Davey Moore, "Dark Planet: Decide Your Destiny No. 7" (Doctor Who tie-in)

I used to love 'Choose Your Own Adventure'. Granted, one usually ended up dying horribly for the simple reason that one opened the wrong door, but it was fun to have a bit of control over a book. This was a bit of a disappointment, in that there were only three possible endings, and the choices that were offered to the reader didn't seem to make much difference to the overall trajectory of the plot - whatever you chose, you ended up in more or less the same place, in more or less the same state. Not so much fun.


Amanda Addison, "Laura's Handmade Life"

This is 'L' in the ABC roundabout, and the first one that I've really been apathetic about. ('J' was really Not My Cup Of Tea, but had a certain trainwreck fascination about it - 'she's not going to go there... she's really not going to go there... she went there'.) This one was just... meh. I really didn't care about anybody in it, nor did I find any of them interesting. Some of it was plain bad writing (important plot points happening offscreen, for example, after there had been a big lead-up); some of it was annoying. (A sewing business that just happens? Dream on. Where on earth does she find the time? And I don't care if Kitkat is fair trade these days; I was very disappointed to see the narrative unquestioningly endorsing Nestlé.)


Sarah Rayner, "One Moment, One Morning"

This one I liked a lot. While the plot is built around the death of a man, it is centred upon three well-drawn women. Well-written, sympathetic but believable characters, a positive portrayal of a lesbian character, and the sort of book that keeps you reading. Recommended.


Cassandra Golds, "Clair-de-Lune"

A rather strange little fable about a mute girl and a dancing mouse. Missing a couple of pages, unfortunately, but happily they're early on in the book so I don't think I missed too much. I will admit to shedding a tear or two.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
To paraphrase Jonathan Coe's introduction, Rosamond Lehmann's last novel that's actually readable. Something of a disappointment, considering how much I enjoyed 'Dusty Answer'. I think I was slightly misled by the blurb, which implied that the novel was centred on two sisters, Madeleine and Dinah, following the death of Rickie, Madeleine's husband and Dinah's lover. Which it sort of is, but... An awful lot of the book deals directly with Rickie, who really felt like the least interesting character. I much preferred the tense scenes between Madeleine and Dinah, and there were several other characters I'd like to have seen privileged, particularly Dinah's husband Jo, who sounded absolutely fascinating and then just disappeared, and her lover Rob, who were the nearest Lehmann got to a lower-class voice. So, yes: less of Rickie, more of everyone else, please.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9968372/
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A rather saccharine Christmas story, lifted from obscurity by a decent sense of place and a mildly diverting supernatural element. Following the death of her workaholic husband in a car crash, Kay takes her eight year old daughter Evie to the Yorkshire Dales for six months, to escape Christmas with the in-laws. Sadly their presence is resented both by their landlady's son (who, in an attempt to anchor the story to reality, has lost all his stock to foot and mouth disease) and by one of the two resident ghosts.

Fleming ambles through three hundred years of family history with some surprisingly accurate details (her Stuarts, for example, dance a Christmas carol) and only mildly infuriating period dialogue. This livens up the novel considerably; without it, Winter's Children would be reduced to the usual tripe about the innocent child who wins over the gruff farmer with a heart of gold.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/10070631
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
She may write Aga sagas, but she writes them like an angel. This is a moving book, with sympathetic but realistic and consistent characterisation, honest and confident. It's a pity that one can't put a strong woman (or two) in a book without it immediately being written off as 'women's fiction'; also a pity that all the characters here are so white and straight and middle-class - actually, that last isn't entirely fair; there's quite a bit of questioning of class assumptions. Good read, anyhow.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9968441
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
A Quick Read edition, featuring about a dozen true life stories of life at work, written by the workers. I enjoyed this - by turns funny, sad and thought-provoking. The title story in particular was very skilfully written, with a devastating twist. Forword by Val McDermid, too, which is always good.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/9946170
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
I chose this book purely on the strength of its first line - it was part of a 'wrap it up' bookbox, so the first line was all I had to go on:

"The night before everything changes, an earthquake jolts me out of my sleep, and I instinctively reach over for Tamara, but it isn't Tamara, of course, it's Hope."

I was rather hoping that the narrator would turn out to be a woman, but it didn't. Oh well. It was a harmless enough read, though nothing special. Zack has possible cancer and an early mid-life crisis (the two facts not, obviously, unconnected). Also a huge chip on his shoulder in re his pater. He meets people, learns stuff, changes, all that jazz.

On Bookcrossing.

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