Happy New Year Everyone!!!!

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For the first time in literally YEARS I have managed to stay awake till midnight!

Happy New Year everyone – hope 2009 brings you health and happiness

Liz xx

Books of the year!!!

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Books read this year: 227 (last year 228)
Fiction : 121 (last year 133)
Non-fiction: 106 (last year 95)
Did Not Finish: 4

Top 10s in order of reading (* = top ten of year fic and non-fic)

Top 10 fiction:
J & G Dryansky – Fatima’s Good Fortune
Lorna Landvik – Tall Pine Polka
*Dorothy Whipple – The Priory
*Catherine O’Flynn – What Was Lost
Ernest Callenbach – Ecotopia
Sinclair Lewis – Main Street
*John Galsworthy – The Forsyte Saga
*Gautam Makani – Londonstani
*Margaret Mitchell – Gone With The Wind
Jon Hassler – Rookery Blues
Honorable mention: Linda Gillard’s House of Shadows (read in MSS, 1st chapter available on her website)

Top 10 non-fiction:
*Mary S Lovell – The Mitford Girls
Michael Young – Family and Kinship in East London
*Bruce Feilden – Learning to Bow
Jenna Bailey – Can Any Mother Help Me?
*Hugo Vickers – Cecil Beaton
John Bingham – No Need for Speed
Isabella Dusi – Vanilla Beans and Brodo
*Stuart Maconie – Pies and Prejudice
Andrew Collins – That’s Me In the Corner
*Andrew Marr – A History of Modern Britain
Honorable mention: Michael Holroyd’s Basil Street Blues and Mosaic, but they couldn’t both go in and I couldn’t choose between them

Top read of 2008 – Andrew Marr – A History of Modern Britain

A.M. ROSENTHAL (ed.) – Winter: Love it or Leave it

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Acquired via BookCrossing 17 Sep 2008 – Red Cross donations

A collection of travel pieces from the New Yorker – first on winter destinations which are wintery, then I suppose what you would call winter sun. Likeable writing and a quick read as there is a lot of hotel etc info at the end of lots of the articles which didn’t need reading in detail. I actually read this one while on the exercise bike, and have another similar volume up there now!

ANDREW MARR – A History of Modern Britain

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Bought 12 Sep 2008

This was absolutely brilliant and will be in my top 10 of the year, all books as well as non-fic. Approachable and understandable, covering British history and politics 1945-2007, a time I’ve never studied and didn’t really have a grasp of. I was OK on just post-war stuff but the 60s were a mystery, and the 70s and 80s I remember but obviously didn’t have the context. Marr is strictly non-partisan and presents all the leaders’ successes and failures clearly. His writing style is confident and slightly informal, and he does show his opinions at times.

I realise how much I hark back in my politics and methods to the pre-60s society – careful, prudent, socialist, which I find interesting. Marr’s central premise is that we have turned from a political into a shopping society, and that the cult of possessions and celebrity, forged in the 1960s, is partly what got us into the mess we’re in now (I said partly, don’t all spring at me!). But also he ends on an optimistic note – we have got through recessions, post-war poverty, the nuclear threat etc etc and can get through this one too.

Fascinating stuff and I’m really glad I read it.

YASMIN CROWTHER – The Saffron Kitchen

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Acquired via BookCrossing 25 Oct 2008 – BC Birmingham meetup

The enigmatic Maryam returns to Iran after a shocking incident involving her daughter, Sara, and nephew, Saeed. Sara feels so English, with an English father and husband, but does she need to see her mother in Iran to really feel who she is. And what in Maryam’s past haunts her so and makes her unable to engage truly with her London family? Will she fit in with the people back home?

An engaging and beautifully written book, the shifting viewpoints done subtly and the characters alive and enthralling.

MONICA FERRIS – A Stitch In Time

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Acquired via BookCrossing 06 Oct 2008 – Minnesota book box exchange parcel

Third in the Betsy Devonshire series and it starts off innocently enough, with the discovery of a beautiful tapestry when the local church is being renovated. A Minnesota winter deepens (this was fortuitously set at Christmastime, as was my next read!) and so does the mystery…

SUSIE DENT – Words of the Year

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25 Dec 2008 – from Matthew

OK – it’s tradition that I read my Susie Dent on my birthday/Christmas – whenever it comes to me! They’ve changed the format a bit – it’s a paperback and in alphabetical order by word, but with side issues and expansions, so still a list of new and interesting words that have come into the language or bubbled back up in the past year. So, lots of extreme sports, American politics and credit crunch words and phrases, then. Good stuff, as always.

MARY ROCHFORD – Gilded Shadows

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Bought 13 Dec 2008 – author’s signing table in WHSmiths

The winner of the Book For Birmingham competition (and also a finalist in the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Awards) and the lovely author I met quite by accident down the High Street last week.

I enjoyed this collection of intriguing tales. The voices were differentiated, whether a set of sisters bound together by guilt and secrecy in the first three, linked, stories, or lads, lonely wives or older women. The stories are intriguing because often they show the path leading up to a big decision, but not the outcome of the decision itself; I don’t like ends to be tied up too tightly so I liked this aspect a lot. Of course, it was marvellous to see my city lovingly described in print. Much like in Astonishing Splashes of Colour, the normal urban landscape – the Bristol Road, Broad Street, is paid as much attention as the wild seascapes of rural Ireland or the bright prettiness of the South of France.

I liked this a lot and I’m glad we’re going to invite the author to visit the Birmingham BookCrossers next year. I’d like to see a full-length novel by this author next!

IAN HARRISON – Britain From Above

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Bought 12 Sep 2008 – Amazon

With a foreword by Andrew Marr, this is the book of the TV series he presented a few months ago. It’s quite different from the TV programme though, with a fascinating section comparing archive photos of places with their current incarnations, and it provides a brilliant overview (ha ha) of the country, its transport, geology and other patterns. Although there wasn’t a huge amount of text and I read it quite quickly, it had been saved up as a “treat” read, and treat it certainly was.


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Acquired via BookCrossing 17 Sep 2008 – Red Cross donation bags

A set of deceptively simple stories about marriage and family in Dubai in the 1990s. Slightly reminiscent of R.K. Narayan, these are absorbing and well-structured; I am not always keen on short stories but these, although the characters were not linked through the stories, seemed to show facets of the same experiences, seen from different angles and through different eyes.

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