DIANE FREUND – Four Corners

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29 Jan 2007 – from friends for my birthday

This was on my wishlist and is a typical small-town-America-coming-of-age-novel. Although it had some good lyrical moments and striking images, well, maybe I’ve read too many of these recently. Mad mother leaves kids to fend for themselves – check. Glam but dodgy aunt and her glam but dodgy daughter turn up to help – check. Local characters add menace – check. Icky details here and there – check. So it seemed a bit That Kind Of Book By Numbers, whereas I’m sure someone who had not read so many of them would find it fresher.

ANNIE HAWES – Extra Virgin

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02 Feb 2007 – Barnardos in Kings Heath

This is the first of her Italian adventures and I’ve actually read the 3rd one already – as that is set in a different area, it didn’t spoil the surprise too much, and it was quite jolly knowing that when she mentions a certain guy, he will be her boyfriend by the book after next! It is a jolly book, all told – full of Interesting Capitalisations, which is often how I write, and lots of nice detail. Also, because she and her sister spent years at the place before she wrote (finished?) the book, there is a wealth of ongoing information, backstory and forays into the future, which make it rich and satisfying.

I have the 2nd book on loan from Beckydore and will read that quite soon.

R. C. SHERRIFF – The Fortnight In September

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Bought 25 Apr 2007 (LUCIA charity table at work) for BookCrossing purposes

I bought this because I could use it for Never Judge A Book By Its Cover then realised that it’s a battered copy of a book that’s been recently reissued by Persephone and, I seem to remember, read by Ali.

This is lovely. The deceptively simple tale of a South London family off for their annual holiday in Bognor, the detail is beautifully done and we get an interior portrait of the members of the family, their hopes, fears and thoughts. Terribly touching in places, very English, and a completely pleasurable and lovely read.

I will let this rather shabby copy go into an OBCZ so someone can get a read or two out of it, and will put the Persephone version on my wishlist!

LOLLY WINSTON – Sophie’s Bakery For The Broken-Hearted

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Acquired via BookCrossing 17 Feb 2007 – picked up at Kitchen Garden Cafe mini-meet

Hm. Subtitled “A Novel of Love, Grief and Baking”, this was more a novel of grief, grief and grief. Sophie’s husband is a few months dead when we meet her, and we follow her up to and past the anniversary. I was expecting a Debbie Macombery light read (not to say DM doesn’t talk about issues, but she has a lightness of touch). This was pretty unremitting and the descriptions of the heroine’s depression harrowing. Maybe this wasn’t the right time for me to read this, as there were light and amusing touches, I just couldn’t see them through the gloom.

Oh well – back into the BookCrossing pot it goes…

CHRIS ENGLAND – No More Buddha Only Football

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27 Jan 2007 – Bookends

I picked this travel narrative about the 2002 World Cup up because I liked the author’s “From Balham To Bollywood” about playing cricket in the film “Lagaan” and I like books about Japan. I liked the bits about Japan, but I really couldn’t follow the football narratives and there were a lot of these.

I’m going to register it on BookCrossing to allow someone else to enjoy it!

WILLIAM SHAW – Superhero for Hire: True Stories from the Small Ads

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27 Jan 2007 – Bookends

An odd little book made up of items from a column in The Observer in which Shaw phones numbers on adverts and finds out the stories behind them. Some are sad, some funny, some a bit on the rude side. He has a way of writing which brings out the actual language of the people involved while keeping himself more in the background – a bit like Hunter Davies in his books about lottery winners and other compilations.

While this is a fun, light read, it’s not really a re-read, so I will register it on BookCrossing and see where it ends up!

A.A. GILL – The Angry Island: Hunting The English

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27 Jan 2007 – Bookends

Well, it’s Gill that’s angry here. Frothing at the gills, even (ha ha). He doesn’t like the English; he’s not one of them, see, being born and having spent a year in Scotland, and he always felt apart from them (read: better than them). He doesn’t like Vita Sackville-West, the Cotswolds, oooh, lots of things. It’s quite amusing as heaps of bile and vitriol go, and I’m going to offer it on a bookray to see what other people think of it!

BALI RAI – Jugglin’ (Tales From Devana High)

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27 Jan 2007 – Bookends

Another fresh, funny and well-done YA novel. This one centres on Suky, resourceful and athletic but saddled with a foul-mouthed Grandma and two boyfriends. Jit, the “boyfriend”, is Sikh like her; Imtiaz, her real love is Muslim. They’re pretty sure their parents will mind this, so they spin a web of deceit which is hilariously unravelled by the parents themselves. I loved Suky’s family and the way the parents are shown in a realistic but positive light. I’m definitely going to look out for the other books in this series.

TEMPLE GRANDIN / SEAN BARRON – Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships

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21 Jan 2007 – birthday present from Matthew

Written for people on the Autistic Spectrum, their families/teachers, and interested parties, this is a fascinating look at how Grandin (one of my all-time heroes) and Barron (whose autobiographical work I have also read) have coped in their very different ways with the obligations, catches and downfalls of human relationships. The sections of direct experience are linked smoothly by the editor (Veronica Zysk) and the whole is fascinating and very well done.

BALI RAI – Sold As Seen (Tales from Devana High)

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27 Jan 2007 – Bookends

An excellent teen novel – we meet a loose collection of friends of different ethnicities who are in a few linked books. This one features Dean, trying to deal with his incomprehensible granddad, his friend Jit’s family problems, and the issues of trying to sell dodgy CDs and phones at school for his big brother. Well done, funny and fresh.

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