sea_thoughts: (Bookworm - smercy)
In Praise of Older Women – Stephen Vinzinczey
Broken Homes – Ben Aaronovitch
Marina – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
From a Distance – Raffaella Barker
Singled Out – Virginia Nicholson
Findings – Kathleen Jamie (nf)
Half Bad – Sally Green
The Silver Star – Jeannette Walls
A Song for Ella Gray – David Almond
Bone Jack – Sara Crowe
The Year of the Rat – Clare Furniss
We Were Liars – E. Lockhart
Foxglove Summer – Ben Aaronovitch
The Prince’s Boy – Paul Bailey
The Lost Books of the Odyssey – Zachary Mason
Dust’n’Bones – Chris Mould
The Mercy of Thin Air – Romlyn Domingue
The Old Ways – Robert Macfarlane (nf)
Meet the Austins – Madeleine L’Engle
The Moon At Night – Madeleine L’Engle
Twenty-Four Days of Christmas – Madeleine L’Engle
And Both Were Young – Madeleine L’Engle
A Ring of Endless Light – Madeleine L’Engle
The Green Road Into The Trees – Hugh Thompson (nf)
Girl Friday – Jane Green
Summer Falls and Other Stories – Amelia Williams
Five Children on the Western Front – Kate Saunders
The Wolf Princess – Cathryn Constable
H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald
Twilight – William Gay
Instrumental – James Rhodes (nf)
The Arm of the Starfish – Madeleine L’Engle
Mr Mac and Me – Esther Freud
Lucky Us – Amy Bloom
Trigger Warning – Neil Gaiman
Absolute Pandemonium – Brian Blessed (nf)

(bold = book from the library and nf = non-fiction) I read a lot more this year than last year, probably due to the fact it wasn't half as stressful (despite becoming an aunt for the first time).

The Theory of Everything
The Imitation Game

All This Mayhem
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

My Old Lady
Big Eyes

The Eichmann Show
Big Hero 6
Shaun the Sheep Movie

The Book of Life
Penguins of Madagascar
Jupiter Ascending
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Maxine Peake as Hamlet

Love Is Strange
Still Alice

Lost River

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Legend of Princess Kaguya
Far From The Madding Crowd

Cobain: Montage of Heck
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Mad Max: Fury Road

Testament of Youth
Pitch Perfect
Jurassic World
Mr Holmes
Terminator Genisys
Inside Out
Song of the Sea
The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson

Woman in Gold
The Water Diviner
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
The Man from UNCLE
45 Years

John Wick
The Martian
Danny Collins

Crimson Peak
The Lobster
Mockingjay Part II
The Lady in the Van
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

(bold = rented from TV or ITunes, italic = seen in cinema, no style means I saw it on the TV)
sea_thoughts: (Bookworm - smercy)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman
Whispers Underground – Ben Aaronvitch
Holloway – Robert MacFarlane
Between the Lines – Tammara Webber
Black Diamonds – Catherine Bailey
The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling
Tinder – Sally Gardner
When To Walk – Rebecca Gower
Fortunately, The Milk… - Neil Gaiman
The Fault In Our Stars – John Green
The Arrivals – Melissa Marr
Otter Country – Miriam Darlington
Through The Woods – Emily Carroll
Red as Blood – Tanith Lee
Scarlet – Melissa Meyer
The Silent Stars Go By – Dan Abnett
First Aid – Janet Davey
Hollow City – Ransom Riggs
You Say Potato – Ben Crystal and David Crystal

(bold = book from the library)

Unfortunately I didn't read as many books as I did in 2013. I will try to read more books in 2015.

The Heat
Troll Hunter
Deliver Us From Evil (documentary)
Saving Mr Banks
Blue Jasmine

White Elephant
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

Any Day Now
12 Years A Slave
August: Osage County

Promised Land
The Client
The Butler
Captain Phillips

The Selfish Giant
Inside Llewyn Davies

In A World…
The Lego Movie
Ginger and Rosa
Monuments Men
Le Week-End

Captain America: The Winter Soldier
How I Live Now
The Invisible War
Stories We Tell

American Hustle
The Invisible Woman

Enough Said
Blue is the Warmest Colour
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Sea
Hot Coffee

The Amazing Spider-Man 2
All Is Lost

Muppets Most Wanted
The Lunchbox

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
The Angels’ Share
Dallas Buyers’ Club

X-Men: Days of Future Past
The Two Faces of January

Beautiful Creatures
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Cuban Fury
The Past
20 Feet From Stardom
The Wolf of Wall Street

Guardians of the Galaxy
The Fault In Our Stars
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Begin Again
Jersey Boys

Chico & Rita

The Hundred-Foot Journey
Cycling with Moliere
Thank You For Sharing

Before I Go To Sleep
What We Did On Our Holiday
The Night of the Demon

Mr Turner
Gone Girl
The Boxtrolls
Effie Gray
St Vincent
The Possibilities Are Endless
Mockingjay Part I
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

(bold = rented from TV or ITunes, italic = seen in cinema, no style means I saw it on the TV)
sea_thoughts: (Autumn - sunlitdays)
September kind of sucked until the end. The third weekend I went to stay with Grace in her new townhouse in Bristol so we could see First Aid Kit. The date change from Sunday to Friday led to a lot of grief with my shifts being changed without me being told but the concert was worth it. They went off mic two times and sang by themselves, which was so intimate that it brought tears to my eyes. The second time was when they did Emmylou and invited the audience to sing along. Magic! Grace's townhouse is smart but the parking is terrible. I like it but I am not sure if it's worth the rent they ask, which they only ask because it's in Clifton, the posh part of Bristol.

I went on holiday to Canterbury with the family for my birthday. It was wonderful being back in Kent again. We stayed in a house in Whitstable which had three double bedrooms (one of which had a dormer roof so that was mine) and an enormous kitchen. Mum, Dad and I ate fish and chips on Friday evening (since sister and brother-in-law weren't going to arrive until 9pm) after happily wandering around Canterbury for the afternoon. Then we all wandered around Canterbury again on Saturday and actually found a restaurant in Whitstable that could seat us that evening. H and D had been recommended a restaurant by someone who came from Whitstable but they had not informed us of this until we were actually there, so of course, we didn't end up eating there as the restaurant was fully booked. And then we went to The Sportsman on Sunday, of course. I had been especially looking forward to D's reaction and he was very pleased (if D had enough money and capital, he would be a chef).

Cheltenham Literary Festival Part One )

Monday, I didn't have anything so I just relaxed and went into Gloucester to sell some DVDs and donate some books to charity. I'm trying to declutter. It's not easy as I get very attached to possessions but I did make nearly £20 off the DVDs so that's something.

Cheltenham Literary Festival Day Two )

Days three and four coming soon!
sea_thoughts: (Bookworm - smercy)
Here we are again. Please find below a list of the books I read in 2012 :)

Bold means a library book, italics mean I really liked it. Nf means non-fiction.

Read more... )
sea_thoughts: (Bookworm - smercy)
Here is the list of the books I read in 2011 (not including re-reads)

Bold = library book (one of the silent resolutions I made last year was to use the library more)

L = liked it

L! = loved it

nf = non-fiction (another silent resolution was to read more non-fiction books)

Crown of Acorns - Catherine Fisher (L)
The Dark Lord of Derkholm & The Year of the Griffin - Diana Wynne Jones (L)
Wild Dogs - Helen Humphries
Gingerbread, Shrimp, Cupcake -Rachel Cohn (L!)
WHite Rose Rebel - Janet Paisley
God's Own Country - Ross Raisin
Eurydice Street & Red Princess - Sofka Zinovieff (both nf)
Thornyhold - Mary Stewart (L!)
Just Kids - Patti Smith (L!) (nf)
On Her Majesty's Secret Service - Ian Fleming
The String of Pearls - Thomas Preskett Prest (the original Sweeney Todd)
I Shall Wear Midnight & Witches Abroad - Terry Pratchett (L!)
The News Where You Are - Catherine O'Flynn (L)
The Crossing of Ingo - Helen Dunmore
Across The Universe - Beth Revis (L)
The Bill From My Father - Bernard Cooper (nf)
Poe: A Life Cut Short & London Under - Peter Ackroyd (both nf)
Leadville - Edward Platt (nf)
The Junior Officers' Reading Club - Patrick Hennessy (nf)
The Fry Years - Stephen Fry (nf)
The Way Through The Woods - Una McCormack (L)
Another Part of the Wood - Beryl Bainbridge
Empty Cradles - Margaret Humphries (nf)
Blink & What The Dog Saw - Malcolm Gladwell (both nf) (L!)
Clever Girl - Brian Thompson (nf)
The Fire Gospel - Michel Faber
The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ - Philip Pullman
Pegasus - Robin McKinley (L!)
Un Lun Dun - China Mieville (L)
When You Come To Me - Rebecca Stead
The Bride That Time Forgot - Paul Magrs
The Welsh Girl - Peter Ho Davies
Cobbler's Dream, Dora At Follyfoot, The Horses of Follyfoot, Stranger At Follyfoot - Monica Dickens (L)
Cannery Row - John Steinbeck (L)
The Haunting of Hill House - Shirley Jackson (L!)
Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley & Me - E.L. Konigsburg
Dark Matter - Michelle Paver (L)
Alice In Sunderland - Bryan Talbot (L!)
Matched - Ally Condie
The Elf-King's Daughter - Lord Dunsany
The Splendour Falls (L), Texas Gothic - Rosemary Clement-Moore
The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins (L)
The Prince of Mist - Carlos Ruiz Zafón (I continue to be disappointed by him)
The House of Lost Souls - F.G. Cottam
When God Was A Rabbit - Sarah Winman
The Good, The Bad & The Multiplex - Mark Kermode (nf)
Rosebush - Michele Jaffe
The Luminous Life of Lilly Nelly Aphrodite - Beatrice Colin
The Bride's Farewell - Meg Rosoff
London's Lost Rivers - Paul Talling (nf)
Wild Horse Diaries - Lizzie Spencer (nf)
Jack The Giant-Killer - Charles de Lint
sea_thoughts: (Thoughtful - helensheep)
A few weeks ago, I had a debate with one of my friends on Twitter. It involved comparing the Austen heroines with the Charlotte Bronte heroines, specifically Jane Eyre. My friend said he preferred the Austen heroines because they never complained about their upbringing or whined about how unfair their lives were.

I was floored by this. I didn't think you could compare Jane to an Austen heroine. It would be like comparing an apple to an orange. I pointed out that Jane grows up with relatives who hate her and take every opportunity to make her life a misery (why hello there, Harry Potter, same upbringing and same anger management issues!) and gets dumped in a school where humiliation is part of daily life and then wakes up to find that her only friend has DIED in the night. While he conceded this point, my friend's statement made me think about Austen's heroines. Just how easy do they have it?

All of Austen's major heroines grow up with at least ONE parent alive, even if that parent is not actually much of an authority figure. Most of her heroines grow up in families that can at least provide for their basic needs: food, clothes, a certain level of education. The one exception to this is Fanny Price, also Austen's least popular heroine. Although both Fanny's parents are alive, her father was released from the navy due to an unspecified disability. Therefore he never made any money from his commission and the only money he receives is half pay from the navy, most of which is spent on drink. There are eight other children in the household. As the eldest girl, Fanny's lot would normally be to care for her younger siblings i.e. become the household drudge as her mother was never taught how to take care of a house and doesn't have the energy or will to make the best of her situation. It's unlikely Fanny would get much education, so Mansfield Park really is her salvation. Nevertheless she pays a price for this rescue: constantly humiliated by her aunt, Mrs Norris (hey there, Harry), made to feel small and insignificant by three out of her four cousins, ignored by her uncle and constantly ordered around by her other aunt. When she is sent back to her family over ten years later, it's a rude shock. Fanny's family live on if not below the poverty line and she no longer fits in there (if she ever really did). Fanny takes a few leaps up the social ladder with her own marriage. She will be comfortable and never have to worry about going hungry as she would have done in her original home.

Above the Prices, I'd place the Morlands from Northanger Abbey. Catherine Morland is probably the luckiest Austen heroine in that both her parents are alive and they're both sensible, decent people. Okay, her father is a vicar on a modest income and they have had 10 children, which isn't exactly prudent, but they make do. They're certainly competent enough that in order for Catherine to get into scrapes, Austen has to send her heroine to Bath with Mrs Allen, who might possibly beat both the two younger Bennetts and Charlotte Palmer for sheer lack of brains. Catherine definitely has enough money to have a good time in Bath and there's enough to send her oldest brother to Oxford, though her sheltered background means that she's easily taken in by the way the Thorpes flash their money and General Tilney's carefully acquired stately home. But neither of them are rich enough for the Thorpes and Catherine certainly isn't rich enough for Henry Tilney. It's only when Eleanor Tilney marries a man with enough money that Henry and Catherine are 'forgiven'. Catherine definitely moves up the social ladder a notch or two (not that she even cares about that kind of thing).

I think the Dashwoods come next. Although they were once richer than the Bennett family, the entailment of their father's estate and the manoeuvrings of the evil daughter-in-law mean that the first part of the novel is about the women coming to terms with genteel poverty (or not, in the case of Mrs Dashwood). Thanks to Elinor, they do have a roof over their heads, they aren't completely outcast and they're more sophisticated than the Morlands, even if circumstances have laid them low. They are often invited to the big house, which the Morlands wouldn't be, and are able to go and stay with Mrs Jennings for a season in London. However, the death of their father leaves Elinor and Marianne without a formal protector; Elinor takes over the role of the family manager, as her mother finds it hard to accept the change in their circumstances. Elinor ends up marrying a clergyman with a steady living and Marianne marries a colonel. Neither of them will ever want for anything.

After the Dashwoods, the Bennetts. They live in Longbourn, a house with a few acres, which none of them can inherit because they're girls. The older girls seem to have been given a decent standard of education, even if they weren't made to practise their 'accomplishments' as strictly as if they'd had a governess. They are a respected family in the local area but are easily lumped in with the local bumpkins by newcomers. Both Jane and Lizzie are bright and beautiful, but the behaviour of other family members (especially their sisters and mother) constantly hinders their matrimonial chances. Nevertheless, they both make very good matches and end up in lovely stately homes with adoring husbands.

Next is Emma Woodhouse. The Woodhouses are definitely one of the richest families in the area. Emma is queen of all she surveys. She has been mistress of the household since she was young. Her mother died when she was little and her father is a hypochondriac. As such, her only authority figure is Mr Knightley (poor Mr Knightley!). Despite her personal flaws, Emma makes a good housekeeper, and always knows what to do and how to do it, even when she would much rather not. Her marriage keeps local society balanced.

Finally, we have Anne Elliot. Socially, Anne is the highest of all Austen's heroines as her father is a baronet and entitled to be called 'Sir' Walter Elliott. Unfortunately, all the family's problems stem from this title and the enormous pride that it engenders in Sir Walter. Nevertheless, a family that has to 'rent out' its ancestral pile and then take a large flat in Bath is hardly doing badly for itself, whatever Sir Walter might think.

Interested to know what my literary friends have to say about this scale. Do you agree? Or do you think some families need switching around?
sea_thoughts: (Forget Growing Up - enhancedminds)
I've recently finished reading three books and I realise they all have the same theme: loss (whether temporary or permanent) of a child. But before I get into those, a quick word about KareKano.

I first encountered this series in 2001 in my first year at uni. I saw all the anime and then started collecting the manga. Every time I was in London, I would go to Blackwells on Charing Cross Road and buy another volume. Then they disappeared so I had to buy them off Amazon. I just finished reading the last volume. I'm so sad because it feels like the end of my adolescence. I can't believe it's finally over. I'm really happy that we found out what happened to all the characters, even though the story seemed to run out of steam once Arima's family problems were resolved. I honestly think the Arimas may give the Sohmas a run for their money as Manga's Most Dysfunctional Family. Not joking.


Nine years and I've finally finished. No more Kare Kano. No more Fruits Basket. Anybody got a good manga series to recommend?

The Wake by Jeremy Page. "You remember the things you save. You cannot forget the things you lose." Guy lives on a Dutch houseboat. Every evening he writes his diary. But it is not a diary of his current life. It is a diary of his life as it should be: with his wife by his side and his child alive and well. The exotic journey he imagines for himself in the USA contrasts strongly with his cold, salty day-to-day existence as he sails beside East Anglia, but how long can this double life continue? Tantalised by the possibility of a future with Marta, haunted by his past (and maybe his daughter), Guy must find a way to come to terms with his grief. This book is beautifully written. It is excellent at how grief pervades all corners of life and how some people cling to grief because it is all they know.

Dance With The Devil by David Bagby. Non-fiction (oh, you'll wish it were fiction before the end). If you have seen the film A Letter To Zachary, this is essential reading. For those who have not yet seen this film, this book is about a truly mindboggling real life miscarriage of justice. It is about Andrew Bagby, a promising doctor and a decent man, who was shot in cold blood. The prime suspect, his ex-girlfriend Shirley Turner, fled the USA and returned to her home in Newfoundland. Andrew's parents, barely functioning through the shock and grief of losing their only son in this way, were then confronted with the news that Shirley was pregnant with Andrew's son. They packed up their entire lives and moved to Newfoundland in order to make sure the only remaining piece of Andrew left in the world was not left alone when (surely 'when') Shirley went to jail. But the process of extradition was agonisingly slow. Shirley was set free on bail and the Bagbys were then locked into a sickening process of having to share custody of their only grandchild with the woman who had, in all probability, murdered their son. The Canadian social services did not seem to see this as wrong or dangerous, despite the fact that Shirley was wanted in the USA for pre-mediated murder. For a while, this warped arrangement worked, as the Bagbys suppressed their revulsion for the sake of Zachary and cherished every moment they spent with him. And then the unthinkable happened: Shirley drowned Zachary and herself. Out of this horrible tragedy came the film and this book, which puts a clear and unarguable case for the change of law regarding bail of suspects accused of murder.

Doreen by Barbara Noble. 1941. London is being bombed every night by the Luftwaffe. It is becoming clear to Mrs Rawlings that she cannot in all good conscience let her daughter, Doreen, keep living with her. Forced to admit that the child would be safer in the countryside, she arranges a private evacuation with Helen Osborne, who works in the office that she cleans every morning. Doreen is sent to stay with Helen's brother and sister-in-law. Unable to have children of their own, Geoffrey and Frances are keen to help. Doreen's arrival in the household is a turning point in both her life and theirs. Accustomed to a dingy flat and the urban landscape of East London, Doreen blossoms in the countryside, becoming more and more attached to the Osbornes and their middle-class life, to her mother's dismay. But what is really best for Doreeen? Noble examines each character with clarity and sensitivity. Nobody is a villain or a hero and that there are no simple answers.
sea_thoughts: (Thoughtful - helensheep)
I had a great Christmas! I got my preferred perfume - L'Ombre dans l'eau by Diptyque - as well as Mika's new album, Doctor Who Series 4 and two books (one of which I managed to lose before the holiday was out, go me). The other one, which I still have is Home by Marilynne Robinson. I've already read Gilead, which is the companion volume. I love Robinson's writing. I will return later this week with review of the Merlin finale, The End of Time: Part Two (oh what a mess) and some thoughts on the first two episodes of Glee.

*runs off to bed*
sea_thoughts: (Laughter - fizzlingwhizbee)
Everybody on my flist needs to read this. I have read my share of Mills & Boon novels. I have read Virginia Andrews. But nothing - NOTHING - I have read in my life compares to the quality of this prose, which is so bad that it has inverted the space-time continuum and come out 'good'. When I say 'good', I mean it's hilarious. If you thought Stephenie Meyer was bad... this is worse i.e. even funnier. And I honestly didn't think that was possible.

Read it and weep... with laughter
sea_thoughts: (DWDonna Searching - 04nbod)
Phew, that was close. My laptop was refusing to start again today and I thought Oh God, here we go again... Another week without the damn thing, losing more money as PC World attempt to repair it. But no, after repairing it with the Operating System CD, it managed to start up properly, yay!

Trrying to finish three writing projects at once... maybe a bit too much, methinks. But who said I did things the easy way? Actually, that's a theme of my life, doing things the hard way because doing things the easy way feels like a cop out. Am beginning to think that maybe I'm my own worst enemy and starting out at the shallow end is not cheating or being cowardly.

Bought books on Japan and Prague today. Figure that if I'm going to visit at least one of them this lifetime, I ought to start researching them.

Archangels )

Reviews )

Now I should go and make myself some dinner.
sea_thoughts: (HPLuna's Sanity - dark_branwen)
From [ profile] dogstar101

* Comment on this post.
* I will give you a letter.
* Think of 5 fictional characters and post their names and your comments on these characters in your LJ

I got L.

1. Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter)
Introduced very late in the series, Luna nevertheless has a profound impact on Harry. Most importantly she acts as the "anti-Hermione", injecting some much needed faith into the proceedings. I liked her from the first, especially because I recognised a lot of myself in here (especially the way her contributions to the conversation tend to kill it stone dead). She's quite lonely but self-pity never even enters her head. I like the idea that in the end, she does meet someone who understands her and has a happy family, because it's obvious she missed that.

2. Lily Evans (Harry Potter)
I don't get why some people think Lily is a Mary-Sue. She has never seemed perfect to me (except in Harry's mind, maybe). She was hot-tempered, she jumped to conclusions, but she was compassionate and she was one of only two people who ever reached out to Severus Snape in his entire life (the other was Dumbledore, but his reasons weren't entirely selfless). She gave her life to protect Harry, and in doing so gave him the power to eventually defeat Voldemort once and for all. So I think she's awesome.

3. Lucy Pevensie (Chronicles of Narnia)
Apart from Luna, one of the few blonde females in literature who's actually nice. That's right, everyone, Lucy is blonde, it says so in the last pages of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: "but as for Lucy, she was always gay and golden-haired". Susan has long black hair. Lucy isn't perfect, she's stubborn and she can be resentful (though not as much as Edmund). I always identified with her preferring to play with the boys rather than be refined like Susan. Poor Lucy, being stuck in 1940s England, tomboys were not looked upon favourably.

4. Lilly Kane (Veronica Mars)
Should have her picture next to the definition of 'wild child' in the dictionary. I sort of wonder about Lilly: there are a lot of hints that she acted out because her parents "made" her into what she was. Sadly, it often happens that one child gets painted as "the bad seed" while the other one is held up to be a paragon. Maybe Celeste had post-natal depression with Lilly, which meant that Jake was cut adrift and ended up in Lianne's arms again. She would not bond with her daughter, but she would definitely bond with her next baby, the 'proof' of Jake's love for her. I tend to agree with Kihin on Lilly: she was a shooting star and they burn out sooner or later. I almost laughed at Veronica's dream in the second season: there's no way Lilly would have gone off tamely to Vassar, she would have been tabloid property. And she would probably have enjoyed it.

5. "Laurie" Laurence (Little Women)
Okay, so I'm cheating a bit here because his name is actually Theodore, but! He's always called Laurie! So there! :P Who doesn't love Laurie? He's mischievous, vulnerable, loves music, half-Italian, he plays the piano... *sigh* I was a little disappointed when Jo said no to him, but I do agree that they would have ended up having an awful marriage, and I love Professor Bhaer, so... Plus, Laurie and Amy are good for each other: they point out each other's mistakes and have a really sweet relationship. I love you, Laurie!
sea_thoughts: (Facepalm - miss_jaffacake)
Oh dear God. They are making a movie of The Little White Horse. Except it's not called that, it's called The Secret of Moonacre.

link for plot synopsis

This rant will mean nothing to you if you have not read the book )
sea_thoughts: (Embankment - sunlitdays)

Did anyone miss me? Anyone?

First of all, belated birthday wishes to [ profile] ada_kensington for September 24 and [ profile] dogstar101 for September 30. I hope both my fellow Librans had happy birthdays, though I know you were travelling on yours, Jo. How's the course coming along? Are you feeling better? Will there ever be an end to my questions?

For those of you who missed my previous entry, I was in Cyprus for nearly two weeks. It was around 29/30 centigrade almost the whole time (except for the two days it rained, and even then, it cleared up in the afternoon). I spent most of the time reading, and here is a list of the books I read:

A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson
Most of Ibbotson's YA books follow the same basic pattern: young intelligent girl goes to a foreign country, falls in love with mysterious man, is separated from him by misunderstanding and misfortune, but reunited with him at the last for blissfully happy life. But she's a good writer and the stories have different settings and very colourful secondary characters, so I'm happy to keep reading. This particular book focuses on Harriet Morton, who has a miserable home life with her father, a bigoted Professor of Classics at Oxford University, and her maiden aunt, who is a miser and hated Harriet's mother, so doesn't treat her with any warmth. Harriet is eighteen and her only escape from her loveless, constricted life is her ballet classes, until a Russian master arrives, seeking dancers for his corps de ballet, soon to head to the Amazon. This is the titular "company of swans". Desperate to escape her family and her potential suitor, Harriet runs away to join them. I recommend it for those who like romance and exotic locations. THIS is how you write about sex in YA novels, SMeyer: acknowledge it but don't go into detail. Don't just SKIP the whole thing.

Holes by Louis Sachar
Fabulous little book for those aged 8 and upwards. Stanley Yelnats is unlucky, and he comes from an unlucky family. He is not surprised when he gets sent to Camp Green Lake through a miscarriage of justice. The Warden and Mr Sir make the boys dig holes each day "to build character", but what are they really looking for? A prison story for children, with more twists than a rollercoaster.

The Fourth Bear - Jasper Fforde
DCI Jack Spratt is head of the NCD - the Nursery Crime Divison. Any crime involving nursery or literary characters is automatically given to him and Reading, Berkshire is the epicentre of nursery crime. The Gingerbreadman, notorious mass murderer, has escaped from his not-very-high security prison; Goldilocks has disappeared, last seen by three bears; and Punch & Judy are the new next door neighbours. Along with DS Mary Mary and Ashley (the token alien), Jack tries to solve all these problems, often at once. Sequel to The Big Over-Easy. Absolutely hilarious. Read it. And if you're wondering about Jack's surname, yes, you're right.

Zorro - Isabel Allende
I don't usually like Allende's books very much, I don't know why. I think it might be a translation problem: all the third person "and this happened and that happened" is totally against the grain of most English novels, which have much more character interaction, but this is a rollicking good read. You don't even have to know very much about Zorro. All swashes are duly buckled, lots of drama and a bit of romance, plus racial tension and the dissolution of the Spanish empire. What more could you ask for?

Burning Bright - Tracy Chevalier
Forget Girl With a Pearl Earring, this is so much better, mainly because it's actually got some HUMOUR in it. The Kellaways have recently come to London, fleeing from a family tragedy. Jem Kellaway becomes best friends with Maggie Butterfield, who has lived in London all her life. They both do their best to survive adolescence in Georgian London, which is becoming increasingly paranoid about the French Revolution, and find out more about Jem's strange neighbour, William Blake. And there's a circus, too. Family drama, social injustice, romance, illusion and reality all combine in a sterling historical novel.

Sisters by a River - Barbara Comyns
One of the most eccentric upper-class families you'll ever encounter, so autobiographical that it should be called a memoir. For HP fans, read this and you'll see just where Jo could have got the model for the Black family (though I don't think it was this particular one, this is a perfect example of just how messed up aristo families get). It's very honest and written with all her spelling mistakes (she didn't have a very good education) so it isn't just written from the point of view of a little girl but with authentic spelling, too!

Away - Amy Bloom
Complete opposite to previous book, all about a young woman who comes to the USA after most of her family is murdered in a pogrom, only to be told by her cousin that her daughter may still be alive. She sets off on a journey across America, intending to cross the Bering Strait and get to Siberia, where she thinks her daughter may now be living. The effect and consequences of her journey on the people she meets are also examined and detailed. Bloom is one of the most compassionate writers I've read, she never judges any of her characters for what they do (or don't do). I think this book would have a special meaning for people whose families came from Eastern Europe and Russia in order to escape persecution but I don't have that background and I still found it very moving. Also, despite everything, it has a mainly happy ending.

A quarter of the way through The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which I know is going to be heartbreaking but still reading anyway.

It was my birthday on September 28, thank you to all those who posted either entries or comments to wish me Happy Birthday, I really appreciated that. :) Sorry I couldn't reply until now, as stated in previous entry, I had no internet. It was lovely and sunny, but Dad had volunteered both me and Mum to a hash meal, so we didn't go anywhere that I wanted to go or do anything that I wanted to do. Which probably sounds whiny as hell, but I don't care. I got a nice book from my sister, a couple of cards, and my parents bought me some cycling things today, so it wasn't a complete loss.

Comment and tell me what you're up to!


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