“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.


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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!

Birmingham Half-Marathon 2010

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Very tired but wanted to get this down…

The night before I suddenly realised I was actually going to have to run this on little training and a taped-together knee.  Gulp! I was determined to give it a go and get a lift back to the start if I fell apart.  So I was very pleased and a little surprised to say I did it!

Start was a farce – too crowded and took ages to get to the right bit.  So so cold, too. Walked to and THROUGH the start! Saw Matthew on the left as we ran down towards the markets.  I started with Anna but could see she would be faster than me so sent her off as arranged at about mile 1.  Didn’t see mile 1 marker but at 2 I was at 23 minutes so pleased with that, and at 3 I was at 35 minutes, carried on with 12 min miles to mile 8 so really pleased about that.  Past the Scottish pipers – there was music all round the course, much appreciated!  Down Pershore Road and we saw the fast people coming back – also saw Blind Dave at this point which was a bonus, and saw LUCIA friends and then a little later the banner; knowing I would see them on the way back up was a real bonus.  I was pointing at my logo on my shirt the whole way round and encouraging people to shout "Lucia!" – really helped me on.   The loop at 5-6 had some steep bits and some downhills and then there was LUCIA again – I managed to coincide with one of the other girls running for the charity and we had photos taken and video as we ran along – most fun!  Annika appeared at the cricket ground – hooray!  Had a chat with a couple of nice people from Kings Heath Running Club and I’ll be joining that when I’ve got my leg all OK again, I think.

Miles 8-9 in Cannon Hill park I found hard but teamed up with a lovely chap called Mark who was then with me to the end, thanking me for dragging him through it! Saw Annika again as she’d cycled round, then 9-10 in Balsall Heath were amazing – kids and grannies out with orange squash and jelly babies, lots of cheering.  And I saw Sarah from the gym who shouted LIZ rather than Lucia!  2 hours 2 at 10 miles – better than my last training run, but sloooooowwww from then on in. 

10-12 were quite hard – a bit of Middleway under lots of concrete bridges only a Brummie who loved Bham even more than me could love! but firemen blaring their fire engine horn and cars beeping cheered us.  Two lots of Dhol Drummers were a real boost at this stage.  Up and up and up through Edgbaston – doing Action of Running now, v slow, and hips aching (but knee ok!).  Annika, Paul and the chap they had been cheering on appeared near Five Ways – amazing! and then on to Five Ways, under the underpass and I felt GREAT on the last mile in! Head up, big BIG smile (look for those films and photos on the website!) and running well.

I did it in 2:45:23 which I was very pleased with under the circumstances.  Matthew and Jen, plus Anna with her creditable time of 2:31:08 were there at the end.  A hot cross bun, got my lovely medal and bag, then a pizza at Pizza Express.  Back home and popped in the gym to say thank you as they really got me round (Phil the Physio did 1:34!).  Shower, and bed.

Thanks to all who encouraged me; I am more proud of myself this time than any of the others!


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In September, I attended my first Iris Murdoch Conference in Kingston.  Under the cut is a summary of my three days of IM related fun!

All the detail here…

IRIS MURDOCH – The Good Apprentice

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Bought 1990s?

Can’t believe I forgot to review this one – it was still on my bedside table, not in my Reviewing Pile!

In this marvellous fable about families, fatherhood and How To Be Good, Murdoch is working at the height of her powers.  This is where the Murdoch A Month project really comes into its own, as a re-reading is deepened by our knowledge of the themes and structures she has been playing with in her career up to now.  Crucially, in this novel the common themes and interests are woven completely into the plot and characterisation of the book, working to deepen and intensify the myth of place and person rather than being separate elements to pick out.  We have a pair of "brothers", Stuart, who is trying to be good on a rather uninvolved and theoretical level, and Edward, who has done something so bad that he fears he will never escape unless he dies.  Both need to do something practical in order to redeem themselves, and both do so rather accidentally.  Some marvellous set pieces and Murdochian convoluted relationships, but it doesn’t seem contrived and is deeply satisfying.  One lovely touch, which I might not have noticed without one of the sessions I attended at the IM conference, was the way in which Edward starts to really "see" the landscape around him, picking out birds and plants, whereas at the beginning all he can see is Trees and Water.

One of my favourites. I do love the Later Novels (and I’m looking forward to a book coming out about them at some point in the next couple of years!)

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