SCOTT DOUGLAS – Dispatches from a Public Librarian (ebook)

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First read on new Kindle

I downloaded this one from because it was free on a Creative Commons licence and I’d heard it was an interesting read.  Then I thought I’d better read it before I stopped being able to call myself a librarian as such, and also to remind myself of how I always wanted to work in a public library, but probably wouldn’t have been able to cope in one!  I enjoyed the blog posts about client of the week and lost property, and it was poignant as well as funny.  However, the blog style posts stopped suddenly and we had a few essays which seemed aimed at being satirical, but didn’t interest me as much, and the whole seemed very short indeed – if it’s actually published in book form, is that really short too?

Anyway, it was a good book to be my first Kindle read, and was easy to read and the reader easy to handle and intuitive to operate.

M.C. BEATON – Agatha Raisin and the Deadly Dance

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22 Jan 2011 Borrowed from Ali

This was a good meaty Agatha Raisin with a complex plot that wasn’t, however, too hard to follow!  Agatha has learned a bit about herself and about humility and jealousy too.  I do wonder if Beaton isn’t too keen on the middle-aged woman, however, as they all seem to have complexes and get huge crushes on inappropriate people!

DEBBIE MACOMBER – Falling For Christmas

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22 Jan 2011 via BookCrossing – BookRing from Sorcha

Comprising "A Cedar Cove Christmas" and "Call Me Mrs. Miracle", this is a nice seasonal pairing.

I preferred A Cedar Cove Christmas – we come up to date with the favourite characters from Cedar Cove, and, while the Christmas puns are a bit laboured at times (Mary Jo Wyse’s three brothers run a garage called Three Wyse Men…) it is cheerful, sweet and not overly sentimental, with the dashes of humour and acerbity that Macomber does so well.

Call Me Mrs Miracle has a nice New York setting and more of a classic romance story as the heroine, looking after her nephew for her brother serving in Afghanistan meets a man who’s not quite who she thought he was.  I liked the first Mrs Miracle story I read, but the "angelness" of this series annoys me a bit, I’m afraid, even though it’s done cleverly.

A nice undemanding and cosy read at a time when I needed that!

ISABELLA BIRD – Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (DNF)

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09 Sep 2010 – from Paola on LibraryThing Virago Group

I was excited to ask for this spare copy and receive it, as I loved Bird’s book about travelling in the US South-West and hoped for more of the same.  I got to p. 100.  The descriptions were interesting, but I was beaten down by the unyielding patronising and colonialist descriptions of the Japanese people.  Basically, they are all yellow, ugly "mannikins" who are out to cheat her, or living in disgusting poverty from which they refuse to raise themselves… and she just seems to find them loathsome.  And this spoils the book for me (especially as I was working for a lovely, highly competent and well organised Japanese client for Libro at the time of reading – that made me feel very uncomfortable!).  So I gave up after p. 100 and will be sending it off to another LibraryThinger (I have warned them all!)

WENDY JONES – Grayson Perry: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl

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A short and quick to read biography of Grayson Perry, the artist who won the Turner Prize for his decorated vases, and dresses as his alter-ego, Claire, in little girls’ outfits.  It’s mainly dictated to his friend Wendy, who then edited the book, so it has a freshness and immediacy which is very refreshing and means that the somewhat controversial subject matter isn’t treated pruriently or inappropriately.  It’s fascinating to see Perry’s development as an artist (the book takes him up to age 22), from thinking of art as a day job to attend, to "living" his art, and the insights into transvestism and, particularly, the Beaumont Society, are also fascinating.  A brave and honest person; I’d like to read more about his subsequent life, how he healed the wounds from his upbringing, and his opinions and work now.

IRIS MURDOCH – The Message to the Planet

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Bought 30 Dec 1994

I have to say that this is not my favourite Murdoch.  Like the remaining ones we have to read now, I had only read this once before. I think I recall liking The Green Knight more; I certainly hope so.  Anyway.  With its echos of an Indian novel whose title I can’t remember (it’s not Naipaul’s The Mystic Masseur, but one about a chap who sits under a tree and accidentally becomes a guru), there is a good dollop of clever irony in the book, and I like the collection of Oxford friends, and a couple of the characters, but it doesn’t engage and attract like The Book And The Brotherhood.  There is a whopping great example of one of our group’s Themes, though.  I’ll be interested to see what the others think of it.

CHAIM POTOK – The Promise

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Acquired via BookCrossing 14 Aug 2010 – from Bridget

Sequel to The Chosen, and because I had it, I had to read it right away.  I might not have enjoyed it completely as much as the first volume, but that’s not to say it wasn’t good.  Danny and Reuven are growing in their respective paths, and the choices they have to make, as well as the promises they’ve made to themselves, their fathers, and their faiths, are thrown into sharp relief by their involvement with the Gordon family; Abraham, who writes on Judaism from a more liberal viewpoint and is reviled for it in the post-Holocaust retrenchment into more extreme forms of the religion which is happening at the time, and particularly Michael, his conflicted son.  I learnt a lot about Jewish scholarship, and the textual work described is fascinating – and I loved the way it brought stability, pride and conflict into Reuven’s life.  His relationship with his father was beautifully drawn, and something I will remember for a long time.  You wouldn’t think that the minute details of someone studying to become a rabbi would be such compelling reading, but I found myself drawn into the quiet drama, as the time of reckoning drew nearer and nearer.

The resolution of the plots was satsifying, with more left for the future.  Perhaps the work in the psychiatric hospital would have been more shocking to the contemporary audience; I found this the slightly less interesting part.  But I’d love to know what happened next to Danny, Michael, and particularly Reuven.

I’m very glad I read these two amazing books, which I would not have come across, probably without BookCrossing, and certainly without the friendships I’ve made through BookCrossing!

New books!

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I had an exciting package of books arrive from Amazon yesterday – half for Libro’s reference section and half for ME (spending some of my vouchers I’d been saving up).  Some people have expressed an interest in what’s arrived, so…

Malcolm Gladwell – Outliers: The Story of Success – this is about how genius is mainly hard work (I think). Belongs to M and I as we both plan to read it and we used some of his parents’ Christmas money on it.

Anne Tyler – Noah’s Compass – her newest one, in paperback at last.  I have all her previous books, a real favourite. This is a bout an older man who has something of an epiphany.

Chris Mullin – Decline and Fall: Diaries 2005-2010 – I loved his first volume, covering his time as a junior minister but with quite a lot of access to Blair, up to 2005. This takes us up to the last election.  I loved the first one because he’s a decent, family man who honestly seems to want to serve the people and democracy, and he also has a way of writing that’s both clear and acerbic at times.  When I found it in the sale for £5, I couldn’t resist

Simon Garfield – Just My Type: A Book About Fonts – the history and development of fonts, by the popular historian who wrote those great WWII books based on Mass Observation Diaries.

And the Libro ones? Well, I don’t like to waste the opportunity for a blog post

DIANA PULLEIN-THOMPSON – Three Ponies and Shannan

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Acquired via BookCrossing 28 Aug 2010 – passed to me by Sorcha

A bit of an odd pony book, in that the heroine is the one who’s spoilt, with expensive ponies; when she’s bought a dog, she has to insist on being allowed to groom and feed it, and she is always immaculately turned out. Normally this character is an associate of the grubby, pony-obsessed heroine with the milk cart pony lovingly restored to glossy health, so it was an interesting concept – and she doesn’t really change through the book, although learning a bit about herself and pony care as she goes along.  This makes for an interesting but not hugely engaing read.

CHAIM POTOK – The Chosen

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Acquired via BookCrossing 10 Aug 2010 – at a KGC mini-meet

So this came recommended by Bridget and previously owned by Ali’s Dad, which was a good set of recommendations to have! 

I loved it – really could not put it down.  As previously mentioned, the central theme of the book is the conflict between different forms of Jewish observance.  The two boys at the centre of the book, Reuven and Danny, both have fathers who are powerful and well known (in different ways) both within their communities and within the wider community.  Their paths take a different turn to how people expect, and their relationships with their fathers, and each other, are vitally important.  I learnt an awful lot about the attitudes of American Jews in the last days of WWII and about the background to the founding of the state of Israel; but while this book has a didactic purpose, it also works as a work of literature, both exploring large and complex themes and being eminently readable.  I can’t wait to go on to The Promise; in fact, I’m already reading it.

Note: I am trying to press this on Matthew, too (we’re trying to read some Great Unread (by us) works of 20th Century Fiction), so I’ll work out if he or Gill has it next.

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