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04 Jul 2009 – from the Canongate stand at the Unconvention

I’ve liked Hardeep Singh Kohli when I’ve seen him on the TV and had been looking out for this memoir about travelling round India cooking British food. This is a sweet and engaging ramble through his earlier years, stories of his family, and the endearing attempt to source and cook British-style ingredients in India. He visits different people, relatives or contacts, and tries to learn something about himself and his identity. Fully aware of the irony of going (back) to India to find himself, and the fact that he looks more like a Sikh in the UK than he does in India, the book is funny, self-deprecating and filled with a love of his extended family and his countries of origin. Very good stuff.

MARK OLIVER EVERETT – Things The Grandchildren Should Know

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Borrowed from Becky

Matthew and I both read this over Christmas. Not the cheeriest of reads, as the frontman of the Eels has famously had a rather… loss-filled life, ending up with pretty well no family (even his cousin and her husband were killed in 9/11). It’s written in a very matter-of-fact, deadpan way, a style which reminded me of Douglas Coupland. I’m not that keen on knowing all the background to novels and songs (a harkback to my Death Of The Author thing at University, which at that time lead to “cleverly” not having to read any secondary texts but just reacting to the text itself) but it was interesting as a document of his career. A very fast read – I actually got through it in an evening. Everett himself says he’s not sure why he’s written it, which may be false modesty and may not. Actually, at the end of the book I didn’t find myself feeling I knew him at all, detailed descriptions of painful life events notwithstanding. Glad I’ve finally read it though.

ALAN CARR – Look Who It Is!

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26 July 2009 – The Works

My other camp buy on that fateful day. I enjoyed the self-deprecating humour and interesting descriptions of life at the Edinburgh Festival, although this was more of a bittersweet read, as Carr doesn’t feel he fits in with his peers or with the gay scene. Great descriptions of rather mad housing situations and interesting references to fellow comedians – another good holiday read.

JOHN BARROWMAN – Anything Goes

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26 July 2009 – The Works

After reading some other reviews of this I was prepared not to like it too much, but I was actually pleasantly surprised. Yes, there was bottom-baring and some fart jokes, but they were set within the context of a family that loves playing practical jokes, and the need to let off steam when working in a pressurised theatre or film environment. I did like the stuff about the importance of family, and his realisation that he needed to be honest about being gay and support charities and foundations that helped those less fortunate than themselves. Some lovely photos (inc David Tennant in two!) and, although I’m glad I paid a quarter of the cover price, I’m still glad I picked it up on that BC Birmingham meetup day when I embarassedly showed everyone my new highbrow purchases!

JOE MORAN – On Roads: A Hidden History

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From library

An interesting book on the technical and social history of (mostly) motorways – a bit of psychogeography and some excellent facts and snippets (did you know that the chap who invented the modern caravan also invented Little Chef?)

JUDITH M. BERRISFORD – Jackie and the Pony Boys

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Acquired via BookCrossing 27 Jun 2009 – from the Mozfest stall

I do like a pony book so grabbed this one at Mozfest. I can’t remember what the other Jackie books I’ve read were like, but this one, set on holiday where Jackie and her cousins meet three boys who are most unfriendly, was very “busy” indeed. Hardly a page goes by without incident or accident for a pony, dog or rider and this made it feel a bit hectic. Nice illustrations by Geoffrey Whittam set it firmly in the late 60s/early 70s. A quick read!

WILLIAM ARDEN – The Secret of the Crooked Cat

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05 Jun 2009 – Corner Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye

Another Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators read; this one is very atmospheric as it’s set in a carnival that’s been set up next to an old abandoned amusement park. There’s a brilliant chase through the crumbling old rides as well as excitement involving a lion. A really good one – high quality writing and plotting.

A.M. ROSENTHAL (ed.) – Great Tours and Detours

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Acquired via BookCrossing 17 Sep 2008 – in Red Cross charity shop donation bags

I’ve been reading this book little by little for ages as I’ve worked on the recumbent exercise bike – as it’s lots of little bits of travel writing it was ideal. Haven’t been on the bike for months and finished it off yesterday. Not much to say really – it’s a good collection of pieces on locations around the world, with some more specific information on hotels, restaurants etc at the end of each. Particularly enjoyed the bits about France and Tunisia.

DEBBIE MACOMBER – Buffalo Valley

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Acquired via BookCrossing 10 Dec 2009 – bookring

Buffalo Valley series no 4 – hooray! All the old favourites are back, with enough of their back story to remember them but not enough to make it slow – Macomber is so good at this. Vaughn Kyle thinks he knows what he wants out of life till a quick visit to the magical small town starts to work on him and his conscience. Happily, a Christmas story in part, which made this a nice time to read it. A very quick read but a good’un as always.

M.C. BEATON – Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener / Walkers of Dembley

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Borrowed from Ali

Two more installments of good old Agatha. This series is certainly growing on me.

In the Potted Gardener it’s interesting to see a new character criticised for making patronising or bitchy comments, including ones about race, as that was an early criticism of mine. Maybe this was the author’s way of making up for that. Anyway we meet a deliciously nasty incomer to the village – will she get her comeuppance?

A slight error of continuity – at the end of that book Agatha leaves her cats with her next door neighbour, then in Walkers of Dembley we find them being returned by her cleaning lady. But I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t chain-read them! In Walkers we meet a group of ramblers and the landowner they come up against. Agatha and James have to team up and, indeed, at one stage pretend to be husband and wife! I guessed whodunnit for this one but a jolly read.

Gill, these are 3 and 4, do I pass both of them to you or do you have one of them?

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