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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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I do like Bill Bryson - he has such a vivid anecdotal style, such a keen eye for detail, and such unerring taste for the interesting. This, an account of a number of trips to Australia, is no exception, and is making me go, simultaneously, 'plan trip! now!' and 'twelve-foot earthworms?'. Scrupulously honest about how much he's missing out, endearingly enthusiastic about the wildlife and plantlife, at times downright inspirational (usually on geology), quietly furious about the plight of the Aborigines - this is a very good book, and now I want to go to Australia.

http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/11767935/
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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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- Sara Gruen, Water for Elephants
- Michael Arditti, Easter
- ed. Irene and Alan Taylor, The Assassin's Cloak
- Humphrey Carpenter, Benjamin Britten: A Biography
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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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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.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
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 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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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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'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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