ANNE K. EDWARDS (ed.) – How I Wrote My First Novel

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Kindle (free)

A set of essays, not by any authors I’d actually heard of, and there was a fair bit of genre fiction, which I don’t tend to read, involved.  It was interesting to read their stories, and the value of having a good editor was stressed reasonably often!

JANE AIKEN HODGE – The Private World of Georgette Heyer

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Borrowed from Heather

A nice, proper, old-fashioned biography of the popular writer of Regency novels.  We all know that a lot of work goes into something that’s deceptively light, and Heyer’s notebooks were amazing.  The author clearly loves her subject and her novels, respecting rather than being in awe of this formidable lady, and giving a fair as well as a fascinating portrayal.  Makes me want to go back to all the books, as a good literary biography will!


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Acquired via BookCrossing – from Connected shop May 2011

Aimed at busy women (who seemingly don’t know about the internet), this is a month by month guide to variuous things like packing and holidays or dinner parties, interspersed with reminders of what to wear for various figures.  Big web section at the back will date, but is useful for those who need it.  I wonder if anyone ever uses a copy of this and fills in all the information and phone numbers to keep, or if everyone just flicks through it then passes it on.

ANON – Laxdaela Saga

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Read on Kindle, from

The classic Icelandic Saga of the men of Salmon-River-Dale, although actually this should probably be renamed Gudruns Saga, as this fiesty lady with her fate of four husbands is the central character and lively heroine.  An older translation, but very well done, with the evocative shifts in tenses handled nicely.  Against a rich background of power and patronage, blood-price, revenge and law, sorcery and grudges, many of the scenes are so human and timeless, giving this work an interest and relevance that certainly extends to the present day.

PATRICK BARKHAM – The Butterfly Isles

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04 Jan 2011 – Waterstones

In which the author attempts to see all of the UK butterfly species in one season – and to get over his irrational fear of being seen in public with binoculars and identfiying himself as a butterfly watcher (or "Aurelian").  A lovely book, full of love for his Dad and their old expeditions and admiration for the experts he meets, as well as real love for the British countryside and its butterflies.  I was a little annoyed by an early discrete/discreet mix-up but otherwise beautifully, lyrically written, and well-illustrated too.  I learned a lot too.


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From library.

More dull than I’d imagined – I didn’t need something silly, but this was very uninspiring and I gave up quickly.

MICHAEL WOOD – The Story of England

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04 Jan 2011 – Waterstones

A clever telling of English history through the history of one village in Leicestershire, Kibworth, which handily has a lot of archaeological and documentary evidence associated with it, showing how it has been affected by the sweep of history.  Great on the early times, and not as much speculation as I’d feared – but it skips rather after the 1600s, and I’d have loved a round-up of the "Big Dig" findings that inspired the TV series.  Suffered from a lack of commas and general copy-editing, but good maps and illustrations and in general a good read.

JAMES HINTON – Nine Wartime Lives

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From library

The author takes nine WWII Mass Observation diarists and examines how a sense of self is created / maintained at war time, and how the common myths of community in wartime experiences hold up against the actual experiences of these very different individuals.  It makes a clear point that you can’t generalise from these individuals, but light is particularly thrown on women’s and pacifists’ stories, which is interesting. Useful and interesting in itself.

EVA IBBOTSON – A Company of Swans

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Acquired via BookCrossing Nov 2010

The last of the books passed to me by a colleague for the BookCrossing Zone at the University, and quite a good one.  Avoiding too much War stuff, for once, this is the story of Harriet and her wish for a career in the ballet.  Like "Journey to the River Sea", we have a lot of the plot set in Manaus, which is lovely, although it is a fairly standard love story with a bit of romance for the teen readers, and as usual the author loves her principal characters too much – this should be shown rather than told!  A diverting and engaging read, anyway.