DANIEL HAHN – The Tower Menagerie

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Acquired via BookCrossing 20 Jul 2010 – Mozfest stall

Engaging and well-researched book about the menagerie that was kept at the Tower of London from medieval times up until Victoria’s reign.  It was quite a quick and light read – although it did touch on serious issues and had some great overviews and details of the sources, there was quite a lot of light-hearted stuff which puts it near to that end of the popularizing history/science spectrum. But a good read for the bus and I enjoyed the illustrations.

EVA IBBOTSON – Magic Flutes

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Acquired via BookCrossing Nov 2010 – donated to the Univ OBCZ by Pete

My third Ibbotson and a sweet fairy tale about a princess who refutes her origins to work in the theatre, and the rather odd chap who meets her there.  Some lovely characters in the theatre side of things and also the aristocracy.  Not so many copy-editing errors in this one and it was an enjoyable read, however the author does have a tendency to make her lead characters perfect, and I miss the "edge" given to characters like Sara Crewe in The Secret Garden, with all her faults there to be ironed out.  But still a good, escapist read, and I’m going to continue with this author.

RUBY FERGUSON – Rosettes for JIll

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Acquired via BookCrossing 29 Aug 2010 – batch from Sorcha

One of the two Jill books I didn’t have in my collection, so this will stay with me for a while until I find a copy for myself.

In which the terrible sisters, Melly and Linda, and their prize-winning dogs, come to stay for the summer as they are the daughters of Jill’s mother’s friend.  Jill has to put up with their terrible ways and ridiculous questions about her beloved ponies, and then to add insult to injury, they get the riding bug and are bought a very expensive pony to ride themselves.  Poor Jill has to behave in exemplary fashion while secretly loathing them!  Very good read as ever.

LAUREN BROOKE – After the Storm (Heartland series)

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Acquired via BookCrossing 07 Nov 2010 – bought for BC from Connected charity shop

As we know by now, I read a lot of older (1950s-1980s) pony books – so when I found a couple of more contemporary ones in a charity shop, I picked them up to have a try.  This was quite traditional, in that there is a teenage girl, horses, and a plot working around difficulties and always centering around the horses and their relationship with the people.  The setting was obviously a bit more contemporary, as well as American, with a merchant banker sister and her boyfriend, and there was some slightly odd horse-whispering type stuff, which I think was based on horse psychology but not entirely sure.  But a readable and engaging book; I would read others in the series and recommend it to other pony book lovers, young and old.

ANGELA DRAKAKIS-SMITH – Home Game: The English Experience of Living in North West Wales

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From library

I picked this one up because I did nearly move to Wales once, although that was S Wales and this is north.  It looked at people who had moved (back) to Wales over a couple of decades, how they felt about and integrated into their communities etc, although the conclusions drawn were quite basic and general (people get as much out of their communities as they put in; some locals are resistant, some welcoming, etc.).  It was interesting, although in tiny tiny print, basically an academic study written up for an academic market.

STEPHEN KNIGHT – Merlin: Knowledge and Power Through the Ages

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From library

A scholarly book on the story of Merlin as presented in literature from early mediaeval times onward.  This was reasonably accessible although it helped if you had an idea of the basics of the myth (I love, and was attracted by the discussion of, T.H. White’s "The Once and Future King").  It took us through various time periods and countries, up to the modern day, which is where it got a bit weird, comparing the death of David Kelly in the forest to a Merlin like scene. Not sure about that, but up to that point a very interesting, if niche-market, read.

EVA IBBOTSON – The Secret Countess

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Acquired via BookCrossing Nov 2010 – from donation bag from a friend

I’d previously read and loved Ibbotson’s children’s book "Journey to the River Sea" so was excited to find a pile of her books for slightly older teens in a donation bag via a friend’s mum.  I don’t think they are a series, but I put them in date order just in case.

This is the absorbing story of Anna, exiled from Russia and having to turn her hand to domestic service in order to survive.  With the classic Big House setting and possible romance with the son of the house, this is a much better version of what Kate thingy who wrote House at Riverton tries to do.  Even though there were some outstandingly bad copy-editing errors, and even though you could tell what was going to happen in the end, this was a riveting and absorbing read that I couldn’t put down.

FFYONA CAMPBELL – On Foot Through Africa

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Acquired via BookCrossing 23 Jun 2010 – from a donation bag

I do like a travel/adventure book and had heard of Campbell’s epic walks but not read about one of them, so picked this out of a donation to BC to read.

It was actually a bit of a dispiriting read.  While it probably did reflect the tone and experiences of the walk accurately, the squabbles, paranoia and flaring love/hate relationships between the support team and Campbell were at times tedious and at many other times annoying.  It’s a hard thing to do, but it seemed spoilt by these relationships, often between people who’d had no chance of assessing one another before meeting and conducting the journey.  Campbell acknowledges that she can be selfish, and I have no problem with her assertion that a journey like this can be just for the person doing it, but she does seem ungrateful and difficult, and I note that her previous journeys have been dogged by controversy, so maybe there’s a bit of defensiveness in there.

Anyway, it’s read and done, it was interesting, and off it’ll go to pastures new…

M.C.BEATON – Agatha Raisin and the Day The Floods Came

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Borrowed from Ali

Next AR installment and a very welcome light read in quite a stressful time.  I enjoyed this one, although James and Charles were missing, there was an intriguing new man in the village and a change of scene to an Atlantic island, and also Mrs Bloxby (my favourite character) was a bit cheeky for once in her life!