Did anyone miss me? Anyone?
First of all, belated birthday wishes to ada_kensington for September 24 and jo_blogs 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!