JAMES & MARY KENNY – Happy Parenting!

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Acquired via BookCrossing 14 Dec 2008 – snared from Gill at the KGC

A good little book written by Catholic parents with 12 biological and adopted children, which takes questions from their newspaper column, grouped into age ranges, and answers them sensibly and with a liberal attituge which is refreshing.  The more religious advice comes near the end, but not in a pushy way, just in a way helping people to accept their older children for who they are etc.

GRETCHEN GERZINA – Frances Hodgson Burnett

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Bought 12 Dec 2008 – The Works

Biography of the author.  At pains to explain she was not just a children’s writer (I have The Shuttle on my TBR although I’m worrying that it’s much darker than I’d realised now I’ve read the biog), this also goes to great pains to record every year of the subject’s life.  There are a few clunky passages and while workmanlike, it didn’t really set me alight and looking to gallop through it, like a good biography can for me (cf Cecil Beaton or any of the Holroyds)

But a well researched and put together book with a lot of information and great photographs.

ROOPA FAROOKI – Bitter Sweets

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Acquired via BookCrossing 18 Nov 2008 – RABCK from Caroley

I really enjoyed this multi-generational tale, set mainly in South London.  A mix of Buddha of Suburbia, White Teeth and Brick Lane, we examine the consequences of a family addicted to lying and concealment.  As a first novel, there are a few forgiveable issues – some of the characters could do with fleshing out a bit.  The story was fantastic, in more ways than one, but ultimately it worked and this was an enjoyable and, at the end, unputdownable read.  

Reserved for Ali, who saw I was reading it a couple of days ago…

MARY ANN SHAFFER & ANNIE BARROWS – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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Acquired via BookCrossing 14 Dec 2008 – from Bridget at a KGC get-together

Hm.  I picked this up because it has been so very popular and indeed beloved.  There was a lot to like – the setting was done nicely (reminiscent of the Isle of Wight in Wendy K. Harris’ novels, I think, in the influence the island has on the islanders’ lives). The author had obviously done a lot of research and it is important to tell people about what happened in the Occupation of the Channel Islands in WW2.  The voice of the main character was done nicely in a Helene Hanff kind of way.

But.

There was concentration camp and animal cruelty content, which I normally avoid but which was not gratuitous, even if it did seem to jar slightly.  And that was the problem for me – I found the juxtaposition of a rather unoriginal love story with the privations and experiences of the wartorn people of the island a bit grating and awkward, and in fact inappropriate at times (not to give away any spoilers, but the central character’s thoughts about another character and her need to stay on the island were really quite crass and too blundering to fit into the story line). I also felt that the voices of the characters were not so well delineated as they might have been.  A Linda Gillard or indeed a Wendy K Harris can craft different voices so you know who is talking/writing without checking back.

I also felt that I was maybe not the intended audience; although I didn’t know some of the details, I did know about the Occupation and what went on in Concentration Camps and being told this felt a tiny bit patronising at times.

These are picky criticisms. The average person on the street will enjoy this and learn about something they may not have known about before, while enjoying a light read.  It would be a good read for young adults exploring war themes.  I don’t want to put myself as above this book, but I don’t think I’m its intended audience.

GARRISON KEILLOR – Pontoon – DNF

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Acquired via BookCrossing 28 Nov 2008 – from the Red Cross donation bags

Evelyn has decided, to the horror of her daughter, that she wants her ashes to be put in a bowling ball and dropped in Lake Wobegon.  Her daughter, stunned by her death and the discovery of Eveyln’s secret lover, finds this the last straw. Meanwhile, bad girl Debbie, veterinary aromatherapist, plans a wedding on the lake…

I was thrilled to find a new Lake Wobegon story, however even though Keillor usually has a slightly dark twist, this was almost cruel and when I got to a totally unnecessary bit of animal cruelty part way through, I gave up.

DEBBIE MACOMBER – Changing Habits

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Acquired via BookCrossing 10 Dec 2008 – RABCK from Laura0141

I enjoyed this gentle story of three women who become nuns for different reasons and then face different challenges in their spiritual and personal lives.  While it was well-researched, I think Macomber then felt she needed to get everything she’d researched into the book, which made it a tiny bit clumsy at times and meant it wasn’t quite such compulsive reading as other DM’s I’ve read. Having said that, a slightly less compulsive Debbie Macomber is still a stomping good read!

Although a couple of pages are loose, this can take one or two more careful readers before it falls apart, so will offer it around. Any takers?

LOUISE SHAFFER – The Ladies of Garrison Gardens

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Acquired via BookCrossing 27 Jan 2009 – BookRing

I enjoyed this although I feel I read The Three Miss Margarets a little too long ago and with too many other books in between, as I’d forgotten the main details of the plot. But that didn’t matter too much, as this was a very separate book, and could be read as a stand-alone.

Laurel, former wild-child and still sometimes hankering for her old ways, has come into a powerfully challenging legacy. Worse still, her childhood friend’s younger brother, The Wiener, is still pestering her. But the legacy gives her power to do good, and the Wiener might just have grown up a bit too… In the meantime, an elderly lady sits in her bed clutching Laurel’s local newspaper and mulling over the past. What is their connection and what will happen if they get in touch?

A well done and intriguing book. I liked the twist which I think is the one blundery refers to, and the author interview at the end is helpful in explaining that, although it worked for me anyway.

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