E. LYNN HARRIS – If This World Were Mine

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Acquired via BookCrossing 13 Jul 2008 – snaffled from Gill at the KGC

I only recently read another of Harris’ books and it took a little while for this one to stop feeling samey. Another group of Black professionals in Chicago and New York, this time a set of friends from University, who get together a few years after graduating to form a Journal Group, where they all share their writings. Into their midst comes an ex-athlete who will force them all to examine their lives and their friendships. As usual there’s an excellent and unforced range of ages, sexualities and attitudes among the characters, and a good storyline, some of which I guessed. A good read.

CATHY KELLY – Lessons in Heartbreak

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Acquired via BookCrossing 31 Aug 2008 – NSS gift

An easy to read addition to Kelly’s stable. I’m not sure about the flashbacks, although in the interview at the back it says she had wanted to do this for a while; I think I prefer her contemporary scenes. A clever interweaving of stories, and I liked the incomers to the small Irish town who provide extra dimensions to life there. A good staycation read!


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Acquired via BookCrossing 26 Jul 2008 – at the Birmingham meetup

We all wanted to read these after seeing the author talk at the Convention in April, but she didn’t have copies of this, the first Caper Court novel. So I was pleased to pick it up at a meetup!

Against my better judgement (I really don’t need *another* series to get into!) I really enjoyed this fast-paced tale set among the solicitors, barristers and pupils of the London legal world. We meet Anthony, impoverished pupil of the title with a wiffly mum and a hippy dad, his kind pupil-master Michael and the infinitely fascinating Leo. But there’s spanners in the works as Anthony gets in with a posh, rich crowd, including a girl he really can’t afford, and his fellow pupil and rival for the one place in Caper Court at the end of the year!

Great stuff, I have book 3 and have put the others on my wishlist (though I don’t need to read them all at once!)

DANNY WALLACE – Friends Like These

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Bought 18 Aug 2008 – Amazon

Another from the Amazon batch. In this one, Wallace, who I have always thought not quite as nice as Gorman (although a friend has told me he’s great at book festivals etc and redeemed him quite a bit – maybe he has odd scriptwriters on the telly) realises he’s hitting 30 and possibly needs to be a bit more of a Man, and instead of playing Xbox with strangers and staring out of the window, ends up doing a fair bit of DIY and hunting down his 12 best friends from his childhood. The stuff about growing up is funny *and* realistic, there is a great cameo from dear old Hanne, now his ex but still just as outspoken and acerbic, and a lovely feel to the book as he reconnects with old friends and finds out all sorts of things, both good and bad, about them and himself. Compulsive reading and I do hope he’s still in touch with all the people he did manage to track down.

DAVE GORMAN – America Unchained; A Freewheeling Roadtrip in Search of Non-Corporate America

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Bought 18 Aug 2008 – Amazon

This was one of a chunk of books bought on Amazon with one of my vouchers (I ask for Amazon vouchers for Christmas/Birthday as they are close together and I can then buy books throughout the year)

This is a slightly bittersweet story of Gorman’s drive across America in an old-style station wagon. He is disillusioned from his last tour through corporate America, and decides to try to get from coast to coast without paying “the man” anything. A film crew get involved and a lot of the story is about his interactions with his camera-wielding companions; however there is a nice amount of proper travel narrative and some good pictures, with more available on the website. You do get the impression that Gorman is a bit fragile and there’s a graphic bit where he feels compelled to eat meat for the first time in years (not for the squeamish although I did manage!) and worry about him a bit. But a good book and I can’t wait for the next one.

ISABELLA DUSI – Vanilla Beans and Brodo: Real Life in the Hills of Tuscany

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Acquired via BookCrossing 08 Aug 2008 – from the University OBCZ

An excellent read. Although it looks like a hefty tome, this dissection of village life in hill-top Italy reads easily, as Dusi varies the tone and content, from personal information about her life in the village, to historical discursions, descriptions of festivals, vignettes of village life… Very evocative and a fascinating book.

MONICA FERRIS – Framed In Lace

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Acquired via BookCrossing 06 Oct 2008 – Twin Cities Book Box

Second in the Crewel World series and we see Betsy settling into life at the needlework shop and firming up her friendships, especially with the delightful Godwin and police officer Jill. When a skeleton is found on a boat raised from the lake, Betsy tries not to get involved, even though she is there at the find. But when she finds that the story involves members of her Monday Club, what’s she to do but roll up her sleeves and start sleuthing. Another compulsive but gentle read.


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Acquired via BookCrossing 15 Nov 2008 – bookring

I do like Delinsky’s books, and this was a good one. It starts off (not a spoiler; it’s on the back of the book) with a surprise – two WASPs rushing to hospital to have their baby, who turns out to look decidedly Black. How could this be? All sorts of accusations fly around and the seams of the marriage start to be gently picked apart…

Like other readers, I did guess what was going to happen, but that didn’t spoil the story, as I raced through it to find out how Delinsky got there. Quite the compulsive read because of that.

LAUREL ZUCKERMAN – Sorbonne Confidential

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Acquired via LibraryThing 12 Nov 2008 – Early Reviewers Programme

I really was pretty shocked by this expose of the French teacher-training programme, compelling people to take extremely difficult exams which don’t seem suited to the subject, with only 1 in 11 passing it, the others having wasted a year.

Zuckerman examines the system from the inside, first by trying to take the courses themselves, then by follow-ups with her classmates and other students, and some of the people behind the administration. Could it really be that native speakers of English are positively discouraged from teaching their own language? That the system exists to keep professors’ books being published and sold?

Zuckerman’s experience is mirrored in that of her daughters, who “discover” that they don’t speak English “properly”. While accepting her horrendous findings as truth, Zuckerman is fair-minded, not blaming the French themselves for, really, being the only people who could be “French enough”. She draws interesting and well-presented parallels with both French thought and models of logistics and supply; the personal and the researched are presented in a good balance so that you are drawn to the book’s characters and content and not preached at or bored.

Fascinating stuff and not by any means your usual run-of-the-mill “immigrant experience” stuff. It reminded me a bit of recent read “The Piano Shop on the Left Bank” with its respect for the French culture and point of view, however alien it seems.

I’m off now to investigate what on EARTH the French authorities thought of this pubication!

IRIS MURDOCH – The Nice And The Good

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Bought ? 1990s?

Next up in the IM a Month project, this is an excellent read, part mystery and part musing on love. There’s a great dog and a peculiar cat, demonic twins, ever-so-sophisticated communal livers and the usual A loves B loves C loves A business. A classic Murdoch and one I’ve enjoyed several times over the years.

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