June Books

Jul. 2nd, 2010 05:50 pm
slemslempike: (Default)
[personal profile] slemslempike
Ngaio Marsh - Death in Ecstacy
Sara Paretsky - Guardian Angel
Lee Child - Echo Burning
Keith Waterhouse - Mrs Pooter's Diary
Norma Klein - Going Backwards
Charles Butler - Calypso Dreaming
June Oldham - Enter Tom
Julian Barnes - England, England
Sylvia Edwards - Sally Baxter, Girl Reporter in Underwater Adventure
The Two Ronnies - But First: the news
Anthony Buckeridge - Jennings' Little Hut
Antonia Forest - Attic Term
KM Peyton - A Pattern of Roses
William Honey - Travel Courier in Spain
John Dos Passos - Manhattan Transfer
Armistead Maupin - Babycakes
Roddy Doyle - A Star Called Henry
Jane Duncan - My Friends the Hungry Generation
Beverly Cleary - Ramona Quimby, Age 8
Margaret Atwood - The Robber Bride
Lois McMaster Bujold - Shards of Honor
Lois McMaster Bujold - Barrayar
Paul Gallico - Mrs Harris Goes to New York
Beverly Cleary - Beezus and Ramona
Paul Gallico - Mrs Harris MP
Paul Gallico - Mrs Harris Goes to Russia
Paula Danziger - United Tates of America
Tessa Duder - Mercury Beach
Elizabeth Beresford - Diana in Television
Joe Bennett - A Land of Two Halves
Antonia Forest - Falconer's Lure

Death in Ecstacy has two very flamboyantly camp acolytes for this sort of cult thing who provide plenty of opportunity for homophobia. There is a woman in a congregation who dies after someone puts things in the chalice that they're passing around. Also there are drug habits and sexual misdoings.

Guardian Angel was interesting, but not overly taxing. I did like that I could pick up little bits of the georgraphy from having been to Chicago, and I liked her rubbish ex-husband, but I won't seek any more of the books particualrly.

Echo Burning is set in hot, hot Texas, but Reacher prevails even so. I liked this particularly because the person he's trying to help gave him a clue in a statement when she was being forced to do something, but he didn't pick up on it, so he's not infallible. JUST AWESOME.

A few years ago, while visiting [livejournal.com profile] chiasmata in Oxford I saw a copy of Mrs Pooter's Diary in a case in a bookshop. It was only £10, but when I decided against buying it the shopowner sneered that I'd probably found it out of my price-range. WHICH IT WASN'T. So ever since then I've been vaguely trying to find one for less money so as to show a man I will never meet again that he was wrong. And in a shop in New Zealand I found it for about £4, so WELL DONE ME. The book was also very good, I wish I'd read it closer to Diary of a Nobody, because I think that there are subtler things that I missed. However, overall it was lovely to see Carrie's side of the story.

Going Backwards is about a teenage boy trying to get his grades up and his weight down, and the difficulty of pressure from his parents and also the trouble of living with his grandmother who has alzheimer's.

Calypso Dreaming was really creepy, with an excellently disturbing ending. I shall look out for more books by the author.

June Oldham wrote a teen book I really liked about a girl who goes to her local sixth form college and revolutionises the whole place. So I was looking forward to Enter Tom, which did not disappoint, though nor did it reach the previous heights. Tom is in the sixth form, and rather drastically in love with one of the new teachers. One of his female friends becomes pregnant, and he gallantly offers to marry her, but she turns out not to be pregnant but does really like him. But they don't get married, sensibly.

After liking Julian Barnes' collected New Yorker articles, I thought I'd try some of his fiction. England, England was really interesting, about a businessman who turns the Isle of Wight into a miniature England with all the important tourist bits on so that people can see them all together rather than having to travel around. And there is lots of philosophicalish bits about reality, integrity and performance that I liked.

Sally Baxter is a great girl! Always on the look-out for a story, but with firm ethics to protect people from other, unscrupulous, journalists. In Underwater Adventure Sally goes on holiday to the south of France and discovers a mystery about two orphan children who are trying to find treasure from a sunken ship, partly to get money and partly to save their dead father's honour.

I think partly it's that I've never seen much of The Two Ronnies, so I couldn't quite hear the voices for the sketches, but But First: the news didn't really work for me all written down. Which is not terribly surprising.

I really want a little hut of my own. I love the descriptions of all the boys' huts in Jennings' Little Hut, with the inventions to make each one special, and overlooking all the major flaws of living in swamp.

I picked up a copy of Attic Term in a charity shop in Rotorua, and read it as a nice change from random books I picked up in hostels. I increasingly dislike Patrick the more I read it. Falconer's Lure as a lovely reread. Although its one of my favourite Forests, this time I found it more depressing than on previous reads. Rowan seemed very spiky, and Nicola trying to raise the money to keep Sprog as it gets more and more unlikely and her despair grows.

I much prefer KM Peyton's modern books to the historicals, and Pattern of Roses is a mixture of the two. Peyton is odd, in that I find most of her characters rather unpleasant, but still engaging. There were two teenagers who are at odds with their parents one way or another. The boy leaves school and becomes a blacksmiths apprentice.

Travel Courier in Spain is, unsurprisingly, a book by a travel courier about travelling around Spain in the 1950s. The dustjacket promised hilarity, which was in no way delivered. He discussed how he didn't like bullfighting, and had arrived at this conclusion by visiting no fewer than five times, just to make sure.

The title of Manhattan Transfer rang a vague bell, but I hadn't heard of John Dos Passos before. It was a wonderfully connected and disjointed tale of Manhattan, where the characters are largely secondary to the context of the city that made them possible.

I hadn't read any of the Tales of the City for a few years, but it all came flooding back when I read Babycakes, and I really enjoyed Michael's stay in London and the adventures of finding out what was going on with Mona. Mary-Anne's plot was dastardly and I'm glad it didn't come off, and the surprise baby anyway at the end was a bit much.

A Star Called Henry was thoroughly depressing, but I was quite pleased to see how much I understood of things based on my miniscule knowledge of Irish history. (I am positive that even more flew straight over my head.)

My Friends the Hungry Generation had two pages missing in my copy, but fortunately they did not appear to be at a crucial juncture. I found the children largely infuriating, but in an interesting and somewhat sympathetic way. I'm looking forward to reading more Jane Duncan.

I love Ramona. I think most of us do, probably. I decided to pick them up cheaply in Dallas secondhand bookshops (accidentally buying two copies of Beezus and Ramona), and of course I loved them. I was so sorry for Ramona thinking that her teacher had said she was a nuisance, and proud of her for dealing with Yard Ape. And then I was sympathetic towards Beezus when Ramona ruined her birthday cakes, and astounded with Ramona's cleverness at organising herself a party.

I took The Robber Bride with me for the plane to Hong Kong, and I was determined not to bring it back unread. I finally achieved my aim in Dallas, and actually I thought it was very good. I liked the looks back and forth at the three women's lives, and how they suffered and supported each other.

I had seen people talking about the Vorkosigan saga for a while, and it seemed like something I might enjoy. I did, sort of, though the snippet of Miles at the end of the book I found rather unbearable. Also a bit too much of discovering things about male characters through rape for my liking. I think my conclusion is that I will probably read the others if they happen to fall into my lap with something approaching enjoyment, but I won't be seeking them out. Though I am going to read Ankaret's fic.

I read Mrs Harris Goes to Paris when I was visiting Kate in Dallas over New Year, and started Mrs Harris Goes to New York which I got to finish while I was there again in June. I did like New York, but I thought that MP and Russia tailed off rather. Mrs Harris and her friend baffling the Russian secret services was quite good though.

I thought that United Tates of America was an odd book - it didn't seem to be a complete story. It was short, but it wasn't just that, it seemed to really just stop in the middle of telling a tale. Skate Tate was pretty cool, and although the scrapbooking bits were a bit saccharine I liked the idea of it.

Mercury Beach was lovely, and has a fat heroine who is not trying to lose weight particularly. Mercury Beach is a place that's got a mix of permanent residents and a large amount of holiday homers. The town is trying to build a new centre, and have a queen contest to raise money. The children realise that this is being incredibly badly organised, and set themselves up as PR agents to make sure it actually works.

I like the 50sish career novels for girls. They follow a very similar path, at least the ones I've read, where the girl not only gets a career but a boyfriend, so as to show that heterosexuality is not under threat from a working woman. Diana in Television starts with Diana moving from working for the BBC at Broadcasting House (the radio arm) to Television Centre. In both places she is a secretary, but the story gives lots of information on how you can go from being a secretary to a production assitant and up to producer if you are so minded (though this is only presented as an option for women, so I don't know if the men's route is supposed to be different). Diana also ends by starting to write a screenplay, having learned about wardrobe, make-up, editing and outside broadcasting.

a Land of Two Halves was lent to me by my sister with the recommendation that it was like Bill Bryson, only a bit more depressing, and about New Zealand. It was not very like Bill Bryson, whose writing I rather like. I think that this was a group of newspaper columns strung together into a slightly dull book. For a book about New Zealand, it was surprising how much I learned about the author's feelings towards fat Americans.

Date: 2010-07-02 05:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stellanova.livejournal.com
Death in Ecstasy was so homophobic that I actually couldn't read any more Ngaio Marsh after I read it. The homophobia was so much more extreme even than the usual standards of the time that it was really disturbing and horrible.

Date: 2010-07-02 06:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sabethea.livejournal.com
Eee, I can believe that easily. I haven't read that one, but the homophobia in others unnerves me quite enough.

Date: 2010-07-02 07:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slemslempike.livejournal.com
Yes, it's certainly put me off seeking out more of her work. The violent disgust at the acolytes was out of all proportion.

Date: 2010-07-02 08:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nineveh-uk.livejournal.com
I would not personally reject all Marsh for Death in Ecstasy, not least because she is dead and you can get her easily second-hand and help Oxfam without financially supporting her views. (I've given up David Roberts because he is alive, and I can't feel comfortable about giving him money because I find his political and "moral" views so vile.) Death in Ecstasy is early and demented and atypically schlocky, and Marsh's views are not always enlightened and sometimes far from it (I recommend staying far, far away from Singing in the Shrouds). On the other hand, she can be really fascinating about women and I love the Troy/Alleyn romance and the way that she has Alleyn completely accepting that Troy is brilliant and far more famous and worthy than him, and that Troy remains skittish about the whole romance thing years after they've married. But then, I tend to think that we all have a supply of clothespegs for our noses, and can wear them for some authors and not for others. If Marsh isn't for you, well, she isn't so brilliant that you're missing something unbearable to miss.

I cannot stand Patrick Merrick!

Date: 2010-07-02 09:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slemslempike.livejournal.com
Can you recommend some of the ones you prefer? Then I can have a go if I see one rather than taking pot luck.

I used to adore him so!

Date: 2010-07-03 10:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] callmemadam.livejournal.com
This is interesting. I've just re-read Death at the Bar and certainly didn't notice any homophobia. Now I must read Death in Ecstasy again and see what people mean. I'm surprised because, moving in theatrical circles, you'd expect NM to know plenty of gay people.

Date: 2010-07-02 09:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] the_antichris.livejournal.com
I hate Joe Bennett. Not at all as funny as Bill Bryson, but thinks he is, and he is always horrible about left-wing politics and feminists and ESPECIALLY Helen Clark.

If you don't like Miles at the end of Barrayar, you will probably continue to dislike him until he grows up a bit, which happens when he's about 30. (Memory, which unfortunately doesn't make sense unless you have at least a vague recollection of his other books.)

Date: 2010-07-02 10:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slemslempike.livejournal.com
I thought he seemed like the kind of writer who would do the opposite of grow on you the more you read.

I may try more Miles if I come across the books. There were elements I really liked.

Date: 2010-07-03 09:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katlinel.livejournal.com
I've read Four British Fantasists by Charles Butler which is an excellent work of criticism on Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper and Diana Wynne Jones, if you're interested in those authors. Butler clearly enjoys all their work but isn't afraid to tackle some of the problematic issues in them (e.g. colonialism) and acknowledging others issues that there isn't room in the book to tackle.

I never really understood in Falconer's Lure why it mattered so much to Rowan that Ginty took part in the Festival events as well.

I do like Bujold's books very much, and I find Miles engaging, but to read the books I like the most in the series (Memory, Komarr and A Civil Campaign) you do need to have read some of the others. The person who introduced me to the them started with Brothers in Arms and Mirror Dance.

I would like to read Mrs Pooter's Diary - I'll keep a lookout for it secondhand. (Yay for bargains and I am glad you showed that man!) The Julian Barnes sounds good too - I've read a couple of his books but not that one.

Date: 2010-07-03 12:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slemslempike.livejournal.com
I have only read about one book by each of the authors, but I've heard that Four British Fantasists is great.

I think it's sort of that she is partly disgusted by Ginty's Unityness, and partly worried about her, so wants to cure it by making her take part in the Festival events. Also exerting her lost Games Captaincy?

You're very welcome to borrow Mrs Pooter's Diary if you'd like - I can brin it when I move to Edinburgh.

Date: 2010-07-03 02:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katlinel.livejournal.com
Thank you for the offer to loan me Mrs Pooter's Diary. It'll be on my September list of books to read!

BTW, IIRC Ankaret's Bujold fanfic includes an HP/Vorkosigan crossover which features Ekaterin who doesn't appear in the Bujold books till Komarr.

I suppose that does explain's Rowan's actions and she's clever enough to frame it in a way that suggests Ginty will be shamed by public opinion, although I wouldn't have thought all that many people would notice, but in general I think that they're all being somewhat unfair to Ginty post The Marlows and the Traitor. Admittedly, Rowan doesn't know why and Nicola's almost as blind as Lawrie when it comes to other people's traumas, at least in expressing sympathy. At least Ginty gets Catkin out of it all, which seems to be slightly more helpful to her, even if it's coming from the same place as Rowan is in with regards to Ginty's feelings.

Date: 2010-07-03 12:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] antisoppist.livejournal.com
I loved Shards of Honor and Barrayar but was extremely put off by annoying bouncy Miles in The Warrior's Apprentice so I don't recommend reading that next. Then I found Komarr in a charity shop, gave them another go, and loved that and A Civil Campaign. Though I still want to slap Miles fairly often. I'm now trying to go back and fill in the gaps.

My problem with Patrick Merrick was initially only having the school stories and not getting hold of Peter's Room until I was 20, so quite how he switched from Nicola to Ginty was never clear. As a child, I liked him in End of Term, thought he was hard done by in Attic Term and just ignored all the soppy stuff with Ginty and Claudie, which was probably just as well.

Re. Ngaio Marsh. Death in a White Tie has the most Alleyn & Troy and Artists in Crime is the one in which they meet. I'm relieved it was those two I found in my parents' bookcases first and that I only unearthed Death in Ecstasy a couple of Christmasses ago or I probably wouldn't have read any more.

Date: 2010-07-03 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] slemslempike.livejournal.com
Komarr and A Civil Campaign seem to be the ones to go for.

I can't remember the order I read them all in, but I think I just accepted the Nicola/Ginty switch as "one of those things", though it was annoying. No, I must have read Peter's Room before The Attic Term, because I don't remember being confused about Rosina. (I really hate the Rosina stuff.)


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