JENNIFER CHIAVERINI – The Christmas Quilt

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Acquired via BookCrossing 27 Feb 2008 – Rabck from Anglersrest

An Elm Creek Quilts book, this is a Christmas special and could be read as a stand alone book as well as part of the series. As an ECQ fan, it was nice to read about these favourite characters again. A bittersweet tale of families and love, this had plenty of detail of times past, and more revealed of Sylvia’s character and her relationship with her sister.

Very enjoyable. I’m going to keep hold of this till next Christmas, and send it out with a Debbie Macomber!

The Hay purchases

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Split into their fates, and then listed by bookshop purchased (where I can remember) and reason for purchase (in case people are interested – not a justification!):

For BookCrossing purposes:
The Faber Book of Parodies (Bookends) – to share a v funny Iris Murdoch one with the Murdoch A Monthers
Andrea Levy – Small Island (Castle Bookshop outside shelves) – a favourite to put in an OBCZ
Vineeta Vijayaraghavan – Motherland (Bookends) – to save a lost bookring of mine

To read then BookCross:
Elizabeth Buchan – The Second Wife (Cinema Bookshop) – sequel to Revenge of the Middle Aged Woman – will ring it after reading
Kathleen Dayus – Where There’s Life (Sensible Bookshop) – to go in the Birmingham authors bookbox swap with the US
Magnus Mills – All Quiet on the Orient Express (Sensible Bookshop) – an author I like but don’t need to keep

To read and keep:
Balancing Acts: Women Talk About Motherhood – Katharine Gieve (ed.) – for my parenting and child development collection
Edward Blishen – This Right Soft Lot (Sensible Bookshop) – for my education collection
Ivy Compton Burnett – Two Worlds And Their Ways (Castle Bookshop) – A Virago Modern Classic for the collection
Dr Fitzhugh Dobson – How To Parent (Castle Bookshop) – for my parenting and child development (inc. history of) collection
Lisa Gee – Friends (Sensible Bookshop) – for my psychology/relationships/gender studies collection
John Hillaby – Journey Through Britain (Cinema Bookshop Outside) – for my travel collection, partic travel through the UK section
Marian Giles Jones – Le Grand Meaulnes (French critical thinking) (Castle Bookshop outside) – I would collect books on this favourite French novel if there were any!
Sam Juneau – A Chateau of One’s Own (Sensible Bookshop) – for my architecture and immigrant experience interests
Lytton Strachey By Himself (ed. Michael Holroyd) – for my Bloomsbury/mid-C20th collection
Paul Magrs – All the Rage – I collect his books (he mentions BC in one of them!)
Hugh & Pauline Massingham – The Englishman Abroad (Cinema Bookshop Outside) – to go in the travel collection/ immigrant experience interest group
Ved Mehta – Walking the Indian Streets (Cinema Bookshop)
Ved Mehta – The Red Letters (Cinema Bookshop) – I am collecting the volumes of his autobiography
Tim Moore – Nul Points (Sensible Bookshop) – I collect his humourous travel books
Iris Murdoch – Something Special (Booth’s Bookshop) – I collect her fiction and this was the only one I didn’t have!
R.K. Narayan – A Tiger for Malgudi (Sensible Bookshop) – a favourite author – had never seen this one before
Frances Spalding – Stevie Smith (Cinema Bookshop) – I have her novels in Virago
Richard Todd – Iris Murdoch: The Shakespearian Interest (Cinema Bookshop) – for my IM collection (I didn’t even know this existed!)
Hugo Vickers – Cecil Beaton (Cinema Bookshop) – he photographed all the mid-C20th figures I collect around!

For the Permanent Collection (not immediate reading)
Olive Ann Burns – Cold Sassy Tree (Castle Bookshop) – I loved it when I read it on a ring
Iris Murdoch – Jackson’s Dilemma (Sensible Bookshop) – 1st edition for my collection

As well as these, there were 4 for presents, which I’m not going to spell out here…

Four Go Mad In Hay

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What a lovely weekend.

Huge thanks to Gill for the driving – you know how much we appreciate it!

So – Saturday – up early, into town, releasing my 5,000th book (in total, not wildies) as I went. We drove to Hay via the Frankley services, where Gill and I freaked each other out, we released some books and there was a fire alarm (may or may not have been related). Got to Hay before lunch, checked in at the lovely The First guesthouse – Ali having a posh time in the main house, Gill, Jen and I in the very sweet annexe. A quick pop into the Cinema Bookshop outside, where I made the first purchases of the weekend, then lunch in Shepherds. Then book buying madly, including a good haul at the Sensible Bookshop which has a pound section downstairs. Gill went off to see her son’s choir and have a (n innocent) conjugal visit, Jen tried to steal a book from the Crime bookshop (of all places!), we had a lovely icecream each back at Shepherds (and released some books; Ali got a catch!) and Ali went a bit doolally in the Bookends that is still there (hooray!)

The Blue Boar for a lovely fish and chip (and lentil and cider) dinner, drinks on Jen thanks to a small bit of luck (don’t all write begging letters at once). I introduced Gill to the delights of Blue Sapphire Gin, and she reciprocated by trying her best to make peculiar faces at my camera. I caught her in the end though!

Jen and I were up early for a run in the countryside on Sunday morning; we managed to find the river and had a lovely time pounding along the paths and under a little tunnel. Lovely cooked breakfast and a bit of bird watching then off to more bookshops – lots of wandering in the Castle outside shelves, another go at Bookends and then we met Starry-Starry Jen (I still can’t work out how she can live so near and not actually burst her house with books!) and had a lovely time looking in various shops.

The Granary for lunch and a natter about how authors don’t look how you expect them (shallow? us?), *another* ice cream, then one last go at the Cinema Bookshop (where I made my last purchases – but good’uns!), said goodbye to Jen (the Welsh, we took our one back with us even though she also broke a till and knocked all the books in Bookends off the shelf, then again, Ali bought them all…), I stood on tiptoes in the car park to phone Matt and we set off.

A ridiculous game of iSpy on the motorway “car!” “motorway!” in which I did, indeed, nearly laugh myself sick, and all too soon we were home and, if unlucky enough to live with people, frantically smuggling huge bags of books up the stairs!

Photo of my haul here:

 
http://www.flickr.com/photos/9247360@N04/2504231585/

(this also takes you to my other Flickr pics of the weekend)

Only 30, one down on last time, but some crackers in there! I will post a list later. Please ignore the ones that aren’t strictly horizontal; they are the ones that were already on my TBR, looming behind this layer. Oh, and the ones on the right don’t count – they are for rings, rays and pressies!

WARWICK COLLINS – Gents

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Acquired 14 May 2008 – from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers’ Programme

A short novel, more of a novella, set almost exclusively in a public toilet somewhere in London, with brief forays into the houses and relationships of some of the protagonists.

Ez, encouraged by his wife and concerned about his son, starts a new job as a toilet attendant, working alongside manager Reynolds and laid-back Rasta, Jason. He soon discovers the main problem they have to face; cottaging activities amongst the mainly white, businessman, clientele. But when the cottagers leave, so do their takings…

A maybe unprepossessing setting belies a charming and engaging tale. Ez’s family is skillfully outlined, and Jason’s resourcefulness and pragmatic approach can surprise us. There is a little violence; the whole is reminiscent of Magnus Mills and his down to earth characters; if Magnus Mills set his works among Carribbean migrants trying to do the best for their various families. In the end, interesting, suprising, and it brought a smile to this reviewer’s face.

JAMES CRACKNELL/BEN FOGLE – The Crossing

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Bought 04 Feb 2008 – Bookends

Account of their epic cross-Atlantic row. Fascinating stuff, half written by each, so we get both sides of all of the important episodes, with perhaps more considered writing and less swearing than Charley’n’Ewan in Africa! I do enjoy a sea adventure book and there was loads to savour here – although not the poorly bottoms! Interesting to see how they both coped in their different ways, and what they learned about themselves and each other.

BALI RAI – The Last Taboo

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Acquired via BookCrossing 12 Mar 2008 – from the Red Cross donation bags

Another page-turner from this excellent YA writer. Simran’s liberal Sikh parents aren’t worried when they find out she’s dating a black guy – how could they, when their own best friends are black? But the community as a whole *does* mind, and when the minding becomes concrete, things escalate horrifically.

I loved the writing of Simran, very believeable, and as usual, black, white and asian characters are woven together, giving something of interest for everyone. The plotting is tight and you care about the characters, which makes the ending even more shocking.

As I was given this for BC, I will ring it in the next load of rings’n’rays…

DUFF COOPER – The Duff Cooper Diaries, ed John Julius Norwich

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Bought 26 Jan 2008 – Bookends (R.I.P.)

I had high hopes for this lovely big volume, covering 1915-1951 in European arty/diplomatic circles. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t very interesting, maybe because Duff himself did not come across as very appealing as a character! It’s all affairs of state and affairs of the heart, with nothing in between. He was having affairs through his engagement and right through the marriage; poor Diana came across all neurotic, and rightly so!! So – a bit of a struggle. I will keep it, as it does fit into my period of interest neatly and mention people/writers I collect, but it really wasn’t that engaging!

ARMISTEAD MAUPIN – Michael Tolliver Lives

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Borrowed from Bridget March 2008

A delightful read in which we catch up with the characters from the Tales Of The City series, now going on valiantly into the twenty-first century, and their sixties (or more). I found this, slightly graphic and very varied sex scenes notwithstanding, a tender and gentle book, full of nuance and careful description; even though the situation of a gay couple returning “home” at the illness of a parent is one I’ve come across in a few novels in recent years, this is fresh, funny and well thought out.

I think I actually enjoyed this more than the original series of books, as it seems more thoughtful and balanced, and less frenetic. But it was lovely to revisit these old friends, even though I read the original books years ago.

BRUCE FEILDEN – Learning To Bow

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Acquired via BookCrossing 02 May 2008 – BookRing

I really enjoyed this account of a teacher’s year in Japan. He seemed to stand back from the action, while still recounting his tales, and takes a really deep and careful look at the way Japanese society operates, particularly in regard to schooling/education, and how that early experience really informs the whole of Japanese society.

It’s not a dry academic text, though – far from it – we go dating with Bruce, and see him experiencing the newer, as well as the older ways.

A thoughtful and mature, insightful book which I heartily recommend.

LEILA ABOULELA – The Translator

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Acquired via BookCrossing 27 Feb 2008 – RABCK from Laura0141

The story of a Muslim woman, bereaved not so recently now, her young son back in Khartoum with relatives, who gradually thaws out as her frienship with an agnostic professor of Islamic Studies deepens.

I really enjoyed this novel – thank you again for sending it to me, Laura0141. A previous reader thought the issues around conversion to Islam weren’t explored deeply enough. I thought that issues of religion were done subtly, but I think that if one hadn’t read a lot of books about Muslims, and was not familiar with Islam, it would be a bit lacking. It’s difficult to find a middle ground between not enough information and those endless glossaries telling you about things you already know!

I really enjoyed the musings on translation and the differences between Arabic and English ways of saying things – this added an interesting dimension to the novel.

I loved the Scottish setting and really enjoyed this gentle read.

I’m going to make this available on a BookRing in due course, as I can think of a few people I know who will be keen to read it!

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