“The Big Budget For Girls”

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27 Feb 2010 – Methodist Book Sale

Talis via LibraryThing gives this hardback Blackie selection of short stories a date of 1929, which certainly matches the "feel" of the book and the illustrations.  A bit battered and a few bits of colouring in on the b/w pictures, but this is a real treasure; proper old-fashioned Angela Brazil-style stories where some girls get into trouble but someone saves the day, usually Learning A Lesson or Revealing Her True Identity in the process.  Lovely stuff!

ELLIE MALET SPRADBERY – False Friends / Faux Amis

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05 Oct 2010 – LibraryThing Early Reviewers

I thought this was going to be a bit different, maybe a book about the "false friends" (ie words that seem similar in French and English but don’t in fact mean the same thing) that would discuss how they came about, draw amusing parallels, have a bit of background and context etc.  Maybe like "The Meaning of Tingo" or some such.  Instead it’s a list of words and translations, which is amusing enough, and then some lists of trees etc, which could be useful, but because there’s no context or in fact INDEX, it would not be the first resource I’d turn to if I was wanting to check a word or even, to be honest, delve into the French language.  And I’m a reasonable French speaker with a strong interest in word formation, common language roots etc.  What a novice learner would make of this, I’m not sure.  Maybe I was expecting too much.

Anyway, I leafed through it; I’m not going to even count it as a book read this month in fact.  Rather disappointed as the work and knowledge is obviously there, and so much more could have been made of it than this, which remains a throwaway skim read, really.

VARIOUS – Ox-Tales Earth

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16 Jun 2010 – gift from friend Helen/Nice-cup-of-tea

I’m not normally the biggest fan of the short story as I like a longer form, maybe because I read quickly.  But this was sent to me as a gift, chosen for me, and there was a lot to like.  In particular, Rose Tremain’s story about the death of Tolstoy was beautifully written as if it was itself by a master Russian writer, and Kate Atkinson’s "Lucky We Live Now", about a woman’s possessions going back to their original form in an age of austerity (I particularly liked the kangaroo) was quite disturbing but ever so well done.  Lots of different types of writer made it a very interesting collection and enjoyable to read.

I’m trying to be rigorous about not keeping too much, so as this has already travelled, may I BookCross it?

DIANA WYNNE JONES – The Ogre Downstairs

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No date! Recent months though

Now you can use Amazon vouchers on Amazon Marketplace books I’ve been going a bit mad with second hand books, and once I’d remembered the title of this much-loved DWJ I had to pick up a copy.  Just as good as I remember it!  The trials of a newly-blended stepfamily, squashed into a too-small house and trying to get on with each other, are heightened and then smoothed by the introduction of some magical chemistry sets.  Lessons *are* learned, but in a non-preachy way, it’s really funny and has the marvellous child/teenage characters DWJ does so well.  Excellent – indeed magical – reading.

ELIZABETH GILBERT – Eat, Pray, Love

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13 May 2010 – acquired from The Story Exchange in exchange for… a story

So, the way I got this book was more interesting than the book itself!  An artist in Birmingham runs something called The Story Exchange, an informal, occasional event where you go and type out a story on an old-fashioned typewriter, give it in to the Story Exchange and get a free book in return (yes, I told her about BookCrossing, and she now labels all the books with BookCrossing IDs too!).  Anyway, I’d been curious about this book about a journalist who decides to cure herself of… herself by exploring the world and what it has to offer in terms of material and spiritual goods and balance, so decided to pick it up.

Unfortunately, although many, many people loved this book, I found it empty and hollow.  It all seemed so self-indulgent, and the fact that she could afford to undertake this journey because of getting a book deal to describe it made it a bit fake for me.  She didn’t really try to gain wisdom and peace from helping other people, said she wasn’t going to describe her marriage then went a bit too much into it, and I just didn’t like it.  Oh – it reminded me of Julie & Julia, another "quest" book by a New York journalist – maybe I just don’t like New York journalists (sorry). I didn’t like Sex & the City either!

Anyway, I did persist with this and I did enjoy some of the descriptions, but I realised I was reading it a) because I read quickly and b) because it was handy for my handbag and I’m a bit unbalanced of TBR in favour of large hardbacks at the moment.  Which don’t seem compelling reasons to recommend it.

Will be registered on BookCrossing and passed along!

ANDREW RAWNSLEY – Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour

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28 Mar 2010 – passed to me by Bridget

This was a very interesting book, but the subtitle had misled me rather, as I was looking forward to finding out how they came up with the concept of New Labour, the background of the main protagonists’ rise to power etc, and really it was a blow by blow account going from election night 1997 till just after the 2001 re-election.  Still, the level of detail he managed to obtain was amazing and it was very interesting – useful to see figures such as the Millibands and Ed Balls rising up through the ranks at this stage and what exactly happened to Mandelson.  I still think there’s more to come out after the 30 years rule and I was basically left wanting to read more – I’m certainly going to read the Blair autobiog at some stage and also the newer Chris Mullin diaries.

Think I’ll be bookcrossing this one…

PAUL JENNINGS – The Living Village

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27 Feb 2010 Methodist book sale

A little gem, this.  I love books like Akenfield and other tales of rural life, so was charmed to read this account of the changing ways of village life, gleaned from scrapbooks various WI groups put together in 1965 to celebrate their Golden Jubilee.  Of course, things have changed so much more by now, but it’s a lovely read about a moment in time, with lots of different kinds of extracts and entries by all sorts of people, roughly grouped into themes and with the editor’s experience of tracking down and reading the scrapbooks interspersed between the entries.  A book that I was very happy to happen upon!

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