ANNIE HAWES – A Handful of Honey

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Bought 12 Sep 2008 (Amazon?)

Another installment in Hawes’ eventful life as she goes off to Morocco and Algeria with two French friends. This book made me long for Tunisia – the landscape, people and food are very similar. Hawes is not afraid to face up to sexism, militant religion and the myriad ways an Englishwoman travelling with two French men can confuse and offend, but she is also warm, full of love for the countryside and the people, and a great conjurer-up of atmosphere.

JEAN DEVANNY – Cindie

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Acquired Sep 2008 – sent to me by a fellow LibraryThinger

A Virago I’d not previously come across, this was the excellent, absorbing story of Blanche Biddow, wife of an Australian pioneer trying to make it good in the very north of the country, and her servant Cindie, who gains power, experience, knowledge and self-worth as she engages with the countryside, work and, not least, with the south sea islander and native australian workers. There’s a satisfying amount of detail on how exactly they set up the farms and homesteads, an exciting story and lots of information on how Australia was, politically and socially, at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries. Marvellous stuff and into the Permanent Collection.

LEN HOLDER – A Light-Hearted Look at Seafaring and Other Stories

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Acquired via BookCrossing 10 Dec 2008 – on a BookRing

Len Holder is the father of Katweeble and Weebly and that’s how I got to know about the book. It’s a charming set of anecdotes covering a long and varied career, starting with amateur sailing and reaching great heights, but all the while the author keeps his sense of humour and a sense of balance. I liked the seafaring and teaching stories, but my favourites were the family stories at the end. I won’t be able to look at Katweeble now without imagining her falling in the water while feeding the ducks, and it was great to learn along with Weebly about how potatoes grow!

Seriously – a sweet and interesting book. I will be buying a copy from Katweeble, hopefully she will bring some (signed?) copies along to the next Birmingham meetup.

The Adventures of |Gusto The Dragon

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Read at Unity FM radio station 11 Dec 2008

I think this counts as a book read – it had chapters and an amount of text, and what I didn’t read out loud I listened to Gill reading out loud… so that counts, right?

We were recording it for local community radio station Unity FM (the station whose book show I guested on a few months ago). It was interesting to read a book out without reading it through first and there were a few typos along the way; it was a very moral tale about eating your fruit and veg, which is not a bad thing where a young audience is concerned.

CHARLES ALLEN (ed.) – Plain Tales From the Raj

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Acquired via BookCrossing 06 Sep 2008 – at the Shrewsbury meetup

An excellent book which was written to accompany a BBC radio series. People who had grown up in or worked in 20th Century colonial India were interviewed, and their memories and experiences grouped into themed sections – soldiers, children, leaving India etc. The people are allowed space to speak for themselves, issues of racism and snobbery are not ignored, and there are some great reproductions of documents and pictures. This is a book I wish I could keep – I will make sure it goes on to someone who will appreciate it.

ANDREW COLLINS – That’s Me In the Corner

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Bought 10 Sep 2008 – Amazon

The third installment in the hugely likeable autobiography of Andrew Collins, you know, that chap off the radio. And more.

There is so much synchronicity going on in this book that I suspect I might be its target audience! As well as being about his times working at or freelancing for the NME (OK, so I preferred Melody Maker but there was a long time when I bought both), Select, Vox, Q, 6Music, all publications or stations I love or have loved, he also has a drink in the Stamford Arms, where I’ve whiled away many a happy BookCrossing London afternoon, he opens chapter 8 in Centenary Square, Birmingham, he worries about starting to like different music genres as he gets older (OK, that one is probably very common); also I’ve just finished reading books by Stuart Maconie (featured throughout – but is he REALLY not in as many “talking head” shows as we think he is?), Danny Wallace and Dave Gorman (both thanked in the acknowledgements); and of course I’m loving Collins’ work in Word Magazine.

So I don’t know what that makes me, but I really enjoyed this book, even though I’m a bit younger than Collins it speaks to me as a contemporary, I feel I know the man (a bit) and I heartily recommend it to any of my generation as a document of the background to a lot of our lives.

Oh, and Mr Collins, if you come across this review a) thank you for writing such excellent books and b) I keep trying to comment on your blog (nicely and politely) but it always seems to crash.

CHRISTOPHER TIMOTHY – Vet Behind the Ears

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Bought 05 Sep 2008 – LUCIA charity bookstall

Back to the gentle world of the actor behind the James Herriot All Creatures Great and Small TV Series. We get his life up to the series and then a lot of lovely behind-the-scenes stuff. And he DID have it off with Carol Drinkwater!!!

MICHAEL MUHAMMED KNIGHT – The Taqwacores

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Bought 18 Aug 2008 – Amazon

Not quite sure what to say about this one. I’m going to leave it open for a day, then put it into friends-only because I am a coward and I don’t want to draw attention to myself and this blog.

This is a cult novel centering on a group of young, American-based Muslims. Punks, riotgirrls, StraightEdge, gay, homeless; they are all self-declared as Muslims and engage in a "lively" confrontation with Islam as they negotiate their way through life in a double (or even triple) culture.  Noteworthy for introducing the term and some invented bands into the world, which then took life of their own and became an Islamic Punk movement, this is a challenging book in many ways.  As befits both a cult novel and one working within a punk ethos, there are some shocking scenes and sets of dialogue.  Also some concepts which are not exactly common parlance when discussing Islam.  

This is a UK published book and the publishers here censored some of the more – well, blasphemous I’m afraid, passages.  These are marked in the text and it is quite easy to find the "offending" passages on the internet. They are quite shocking, although when viewed within the context of the novel, hm, is appropriate the right word to use, not sure.  Given what happened to the Danish cartoonists and the publishers of the wife of Mohammed book, I can see why these passages were excised. NOT that I am keen on censorship in any form, of course.

It is an enthralling and well-written book, and even includes a spot of BookCrossing, when the protagonists hide a Muslim Sci-Fi novel in a Mosque bookshelf, but I can see that a lot of people (Muslim and non-) would be offended by the content and ideology expressed in it.  I couldn’t put it down, but felt a bit uneasy reading it.

ELAINE DUNDY – The Old Man And Me

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Acquired via BookCrossing 07 Sep 2008 – passed along by Brumbie

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, given the blurb on the back and Bridget’s comments. In its slightly naive and disconnected tone it reminded me a bit of Stevie Smith’s work, as well as Dundy’s slightly better known “The Dud Avocado” and, in the setting, “The L-Shaped Room”. The plot was a bit silly and the drugs references a bit shoe-horned in, but it was a fairly convincing picture of a young girl’s descent into chaos, and a fun read.

I am going to offer this to the Virago group people on LibraryThing…

STUART MACONIE – Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North

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Acquired via BookCrossing 30 Aug 2008 – at a BCBirmingham meetup

An excellent, engrossing read, both laugh-out-loud funny and perceptive and sweet. Maconie brings his sociologist’s training to good use on the various tribes of the North, unpicking local rivalries neatly and showing both (or all) sides to each argument. He loves the North, truly, and this shows, but he has an uncompromisingly realistic eye as well, so this never gets sappy or (too) sentimental.

I have visited Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and York but haven’t spent much time north of the Midlands – but like the previous reader, I did become aware of the London-centricity of news and other media once I moved to Birmingham. Oh – the bits on a Northerner’s perceptions of the South were hilarious although no mention of my home county, Kent…

I am going to pass this to a North-dweller who will be pleased with the positive description of their town.

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