Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Books I Read in January, February & March

Total: 18 books
(3 in January, 4 in February, 11 in March)

The Household Guide to Dying (Debra Adelaide)
The Gift (Cecelia Ahern)
I Was Told There'd Be Cake (Sloane Crosley)
Isabel's World: Autism and the Making of a Modern Epidemic (Roy Richard Grinker)
Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul (John and Stasi Eldredge)
The Story of Forgetting (Stefan Merrill Block)
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (Devid Sedaris)
Petite Anglaise (Catherine Sanderson)
Rachel's Tears (Beth Nimmo & Darrell Scott)
Reaper Man (Terry Pratchett)
A Short History of Nearly Everything (Bill Bryson)
Drowning Ruth (Christina Schwarz)
Slammerkin (Emma Donoghue)
Leaping Beauty (Gregory Maguire)
Testament (Alis Hawkins)
Change of Heart (Jodi Picoult)
Staring at the Sun (Julian Barnes)
Moving Pictures (Terry Pratchett)

Another trashy library read but a slight improvement on The Gift. The Household Guide to Dying (27/03) has nothing special going for it but is an easy, not-unpleasant read.

I don't know why I continue to read Cecelia Ahern's books because I always come to the same conclusion - The Gift (26/03) is naff, feel good with an element of fancy. Library read.

I Was Told There'd Be Cake (25/03) has a great title but got off to a bad start when the covers made comparisons to David Sedaris. As the book progressed (or didn't) it seemed these comparisons were well made. I liked this book slightly more than his Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, but not much. The lack of progression annoys me without the twists and cunning of a short story collection. Also irritating is the general grumpiness of so many of the anecdotes - more happy thoughts please! On Bookmooch.

Isabel's World: Autism and the Making of a Modern Epidemic (22/03) combines two of my favoured subjects for a non-fiction book - autism and anthropology. A not-too-demanding read which amongst other things 1) considers the seemingly increased prevalence of autism over recent years and the use of the word epidemic to describe the changes 2) compares the recognition and treatment of autism across a range of cultures, both those occurring across spatial borders (e.g. the differences between autism diagnosis in a variety of US states, in Korea or South Africa) and also those occurring accross temporal borders (e.g. the differences between an autism diagnosis in the 21st Century and one in the the 1990s, or earlier periods). An interesting book if a little too US focussed. A temporary keeper I think.

Finishing off a slower read, I've begun Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman's Soul (18/03) once before, shortly after I bought it but never really progressed with it. This time I managed to reach the end, and I think there discovered the most interesting and useful bit. Whilst most of the book failed to really 'get' me spiritually (I just didn't find it quite resounded with me in the way its many recommenders had suggested - which isn't to say I disagreed with what it said, it made a lot of sense), the prayers at the end were a definite exception and for me carried far more than any of the rest of book.

Again from my Waterstones' binge: The Story of Forgetting (18/03) has a beautiful front cover if nothing else. Fortunately, it's also a lovely book. This book seems to have a nice division in the story-telling (it doesn't always work so well as it does in this novel) with the plots coming together through the course of the book. Gone to Melisa (USA) via BookMooch. Think you might like this book? Read my teaser for The Story of Forgetting, here.

Another from my big Waterstones' buy, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (17/03) was a bit of a disappointment. The book is a collection of short 'chapters' or recollections from the author's experiences. Reviews and comments from the cover suggested that these memories and observations were 'extremely funny'... I remain to be convinced. Initially I roughly enjoyed the book. It's not poorly written and the lightness of the prose made it a pleasant enough read, but it just didn't capture me. The nature of the book means that the stories didn't progress or draw me in and instead the whole thing began to feel repetitive and slightly grating. I've put it onto BookMooch where it is on a number of wishlists - I hope they rate it more highly than I did! ''Humorist par excellence' or not, I won't be looking out for other books by this author.

One of nine books resulting from my first Waterstones' binge in a little while, Petite Anglaise (16/03) is a very enjoyable, chick lit novel with a little more substance than most. I like the way this book talks round the blog, a nice feature when thrown up against other blogging-related novels like Belle de Jour. Will now have to read up Catherine Sanderson's more recent adventures on Petite's blog! Mooched almost immediately by Janelle (Canada)

I mooched Rachel's Tears from Rachel (UK) during my visit to the US having spotted it in Borders in Santa Cruz. A quick, afternoon read for a relaxing Sunday (15/03). An interesting one-off read - I wish I could find that kind of intimacy with God. Will probably put this back on BookMooch for another reader. This book also has a BookCrossing ID.

Another plane read designed to reduce my aging TBRs, A Short History of Nearly Everything (02/03) is a book I worked hard to acquire and then quickly overlooked. More sciencey than some of my usual non-fiction reads I found this book almost perfectly pitched. The content was interesting without being too challenging and I didn't feel the need to skim chunks because they were going over my head. All in all, a great read. Will put my copy on BookMooch safe in the knowledge that Hobnob has a copy if I fancy a reread.

Mooched from Alexis Housego-Woolgar (UK) on Christmas Eve 2007, a trip to the West Coast of the US seemed like a good opportunity to clear my bookshelf of a couple of those long-standing TBRs. So, starting on the flight out of Amsterdam and finishing up somewhere rather closer to San Francisco, Drowning Ruth (22/02) was actually an enjoyable read once I got my teeth into it. A nice ending that was safely hidden from me until I got to read it (but that also fitted nicely with everything that came before) I was pleased that this book was one that kept you guessing. I'll put this one back onto BookMooch but may well look out for others by the author.

Having treated myself to a few brand new books in Testament and Change of Heart, Slammerkin (21/02) was the first of a bid to reduce the number of books that had sat on my shelves for what seems like forever. I think this book was picked up from a charity shop sometime last year (if not before) and it's sat on my shelf since then, passed over each time I browsed the shelf for something to read. That said, as I progressed through this book, I increasingly had the feeling that I have read this before. But undecided about my verdict for this book, I both liked it and disliked it. Probably wouldn't read it again and it's gone to lunacat (UK) via BookMooch.

Long on my wishlist, I finally caved in and ordered Leaping Beauty from Amazon. Used to the long, descriptive novels Maguire has produced in Wicked and Son of a Witch, it wasn't quite what I'd anticipated but was enjoyable nonetheless. A lovely book of short stories suitable for anyone from around 8 years up (as demonstrated when my much younger sister borrowed the book to read twice - if only due to lack of options - when she came up to visit for a few days).

Yet another of these Dan Brown-esque novels (I'm probably pressing huge insult onto these writers to pigeonhole them in this way - they probably existed before his it's just I never noticed). Testament (06/02) breaks the plot mould slightly by avoiding all this stuff about Holy Grails and the like. Like most of these novels this is a nice easy read with plenty of pages to keep you occupied for a while. Also, as an eternal student I did like the university setting of the story :)

Bought in Sainsbury's Lancaster and started (and finished) almost immediately, Change of Heart (27/01) carries a similar review to probably every other Picoult novel. Easy to read, with a captivating story, I enjoyed this book. Gone to Leanna (Ireland) via BookMooch. Think you might like this book? Read my teaser for Change of Heart, here.

Staring at the Sun must have been a January read because it seems like an age ago now. Mooched in January 2008 from Bella (UK), it's taken a while to get round to. Originally acquired in response to enjoyment of another of his books (and I can't for the life of me think which, but I suspect it may have been the still unfinished Arthur and George), I've a few of Julian Barnes' novels sat on my TBR pile. In my head I tie this book to Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman but I think I preferred this by some way. The book seemed slightly disjointed - It almost felt like two books given the major shift in emphasis around halfway through. Short and reasonably sweet, I've passed this on to Nellerance (UK) via BookMooch. Think you might like this book? Read my teaser for Staring at the Sun, here.

A bit behind with my Terry Pratchett's now (and also my book blogging) I read Moving Pictures and Reaper Man sometime between January and March. I think Moving Pictures was probably finished very early in the new year whilst Reaper Man was probably early March. I agree with Hobnob when he says that he sometimes completely loses the plot of these Discworld novels just at the end. I enjoyed most of Moving Pictures but absolutely lost track of the ending; Reaper Man was possibly less good in places but I could follow it even towards the end so probably preferred it of the two.

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