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mjtwo

mjtwo

Joined June 2020

Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks - Dr Seuss
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Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
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Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
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mjtwo
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Pickpick

Not exactly a book review, but we are getting a new puppy and wondered whether anyone here could propose a literary male name of a lovely character. Our current dog is Gilbert, after Gilbert Blythe, who I have loved completely since I was 8. My current list is Pip, Huckleberry, Jem, Wilbur, Westley or Samwise. Any other suggestions?

nanuska_153 If you like the Neverending Story there's a good few lovable characters there, I like the name Atreyu or Bastian, but there's also Artax. Of the ones that you said Pip is a great option, and any LoTR is great, I see that you picked Sam, but may I say, if you were to plan for the future, you could call one Arathorn, and when he has puppies you call one Aragon and you can tell people HE IS ARAGORN SON OF ARATHORN YOU OWE HIM YOUR ALLIANCE 😑😂 2d
mjtwo 😂😂Thanks @nanuska_153 . We do love LOTR. My husband is keen on Pippin - and if I call him Pip, I cover Dickens too. Neverending Story is a good suggestion also - I read it to my oldest child but have forgotten to read it to the younger. 2d
dabbe Joe is my all-time favorite character from GREAT EX and perhaps all of literature. I also love Wart (soon to be Arthur) in THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. The other choices are excellent, too. And you just can't go wrong with Pip. Then you could be Joe and say to him, “Ever the best of friends, Pip!“ 🤩🤩🤩 1d
13 likes3 comments
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mjtwo
Cleopatra: A Life | Stacy Schiff
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25-7 Nov 23 (audiobook)
A weak pick. Schmidt admits there are few historical, and barely any contemporary, sources for her biography of Cleopatra and perhaps that is the problem. I am not sure I finished with a great deal more information than I began with: Cleopatra was a beloved queen of Egypt who had two great affairs, with Caesar and Mark Antony respectively, and ultimately killed herself by asp bite. Apparently that last fact is doubtful.

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mjtwo
Trespasses | Louise Kennedy
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14-26 Nov 2023
Belfast 1975. A young Catholic school teacher who works shifts in her family pub embarks on an affair with a married, middle aged and Protestant barrister. It is intimated at the outset that he becomes another victim of the Troubles.
All of which might make it seem this book is predictable and routine. But somehow it is not. The writing is wonderful and Cushla is a flawed but fully rendered protagonist, as are many other characters.

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mjtwo
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21-4 Nov 23 (audiobook)
Faux history documenting the early punk duo of Opal (a fiercely original Black woman from Detroit) and Nev (a red-haired British misfit). Despite the title, the central characters are actually Opal and SarahLena, a Black journalist with a personal connection to the story.
Similar in style to Daisy Jones but tackles issues such as misogyny and racism in the music industry, Black Lives Matter and the integrity of journalism.

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mjtwo
Ten Steps to Nanette | Hannah Gadsby
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16-20 Nov 23 (audiobook)
A free audiobook for the month which was well worth listening to. Gadsby is very funny at times but is also just very interesting and insightful. Listening to her life, the way she learned and came to terms with her diagnoses, and her descriptions of her family were enlightening for me. Again has me questioning whether we should be seeking an ASD diagnosis for my older daughter.

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mjtwo
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1 Oct-20 Nov 23 (audiobook)
I have loved sharing the LOTR trilogy with Trix and do think that given the length the audiobook worked really well for us. Andy Serkis is fantastic although I must admit I can‘t read or listen to the text now without imagining Peter Jackson‘s characters and settings. We are both looking forward to watching the third film as soon as the new TV arrives.
Such a great trilogy and a lovely, bittersweet ending.

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mjtwo
Great Expectations | Charles Dickens
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8-15 Nov 23 (audiobook)
Great Expectations is possibly my favourite book and Magwitch and Joe Gargery two of my favourite literary characters. No surprise, given my love of Dickens. I will admit however, that women do not come off well, even if Miss Havisham does find redemption in the end. Except for the lovely Biddy. I intend to watch some film adaptations after this re-read - I do not think I ever have.
How do I convince my teen to read this?

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mjtwo
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4-13 Nov 23
Easy to read but well written novel set in the world of ballet. Carlisle is the daughter of two ballet professionals and aspires to be a dancer but is prevented by her height. The focus is, however, family and betrayal. The protagonist is frustratingly selfish and dishonest but I am not sure her actions or any action of a child warranted such a long estrangement.

CarolynM Nice review! I loved this one🙂 (edited) 2w
14 likes1 comment
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mjtwo
The World We Make | N. K. Jemisin
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4-7 Nov 23 (audiobook)
A soft pick as the novelty of the first book wore off for me. I am not sure this stood up in itself, but it did resolve some of the pending storyline‘s from the first. I did enjoy some of the personifications of other old cities, such as Paris and London.

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mjtwo
Black Butterflies | Priscilla Morris
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31 Oct-3 Nov 23
Wonderful novel which recounts the harrowing early days of the siege of Sarajevo and the Bosnian war through the eyes of the middle-aged artist, Zora. It portrays the confusion, hardship and fear in what had previously been a city of mixed ethnicity. I recall a friend who had fled Sarajevo explaining their bewilderment that this could be happening in their city.
Not surprised this currently has 100% positive response.

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mjtwo
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31 Oct-3 Nov 23 (audiobook)
Interesting non-fiction. I was drawn to this being one who had been guilty of confusing the two Naomis. I still find it difficult to believe that the woman who wrote The Beauty Myth has gone on to become a prominent anti-vaxxer who makes regular appearances on Steve Bannon‘s channels.
Klein does jump about to address a myriad of issues though. Interesting in light of the current Gaza/Israel conflict but bit disjointed.

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mjtwo
The City We Became | N.K. Jemisin
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29-30 Oct 23 (audiobook)
First book in a fantasy series about the ‘birth‘ of New York as a living city. I enjoyed this concept - five boroughs of New York (and many old cities of the world) were embodied in quite different characters. At times I lost track a little, particularly when the woman in white appeared. Poor Staten Island - I did feel for her ignorance, anxiety and bigotism and wondered how Staten natives would feel.

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mjtwo
Intimacies | Katie Kitamura
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26-30 Oct 23
I cannot recall what led me to purchase this short novel about truth told by a young interpreter at the International Court in The Hague. It is sparse and restrained, highlighting the brutal work of the court and necessary dissociation and loneliness of those working there. The unnamed narrator appears to have few relationships outside of her current lover and Jana, both of whom subject her to periods of non-contact and ambiguity.

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mjtwo
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26-28 Oct 23 (audiobook)
Having loved Hamnet, I expected to also love The Marriage Portrait, and I wasn‘t disappointed.
Based on the scant details known about Lucrezia de Medici, who was given to the Duke of Ferrara in marriage at a young age, it is a tale of paranoia, loneliness and the peculiar perspective of the artist. I found Lucrezia both sympathetic and frustrating, but at all times I enjoyed the glimpse of her world O‘Farrell had created.

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mjtwo
Trespasses | Louise Kennedy
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Just starting to really enjoy this when I found my hardcover version goes from page 54 back to 23! (It then proceeds to page 54 again before skipping to 87). Has this happened to others? Very tempted to keep reading or to start the audio but am going to try to be patient and start something else whilst waiting the 5+ weeks for the bookseller to send another version.

Soubhiville Oh no! I‘ve had something similar happen, it‘s so frustrating. 1mo
11 likes1 comment
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mjtwo
Mexican Gothic | Silvia Moreno-Garcia
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22-25 Oct 23 (audiobook)
Decided to get into the spirit and this was in the audible spooky sale. I should have recalled my undergrad frustration with those novels read in Peter Otto‘s Gothic Fiction.
The premise was truly bizarre - set in 1950s Mexico, our feisty young heiress is sent on a mission to rescue her cousin trapped in a haunted mansion from ghosts - real or imagined.
If you like gothic novels, you would probably love this. Not for me.

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mjtwo
Still Life | Sarah Winman
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26 Sep-23 Oct 23
Sometimes when there has been so much hype about a book and I am late to the party, it inevitably disappoints. This was not one of those times. Impossible to summarise - an oddball mix of friends in London and Florence from 1940s to 1970s, with flashbacks thrown in? Wonderful characters, setting and writing. I absolutely loved Ulysses, Cress, Evelyn, Massimo, Alys and, of course, Claude. Heartwarming, joyful and poignant.

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mjtwo
Crime and Punishment | Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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18-21 Oct 23 (audiobook)
Another book I read as a uni student, at which time, I recall, I wanted Raskolnikov to get away with his crime and was frustrated by his descent into madness and paranoia. I felt differently upon listening to it thirty years later and had little sympathy for Raskolnikov.
Dostoevsky is, however, a master and his story remains compelling with many interesting characters and philosophies, particularly regarding the great man.

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mjtwo
Cloud Atlas | David Mitchell
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12-7 Oct 2023 (audiobook)
Six stories progressively set from late 1800s to a post-apocalyptic world, with each subsequently becoming a text in the next. The structure is contrived but it does add interest as each story cuts off at a salient point, to be resolved as the novel reverses back through from the midpoint.
Each story deals with the battle between selfishness and altruism, morality and sacrifice.
Difficult to review but interesting read.

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mjtwo
The Covenant of Water | Abraham Verghese
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24 Sep-11 Oct 23 (audiobook)
A really good example of why narration is often best left to the professionals - autobiographies excepted . Verghese‘s narration is saved by the fact that it is a good story. Just.
This book spans several generations in Kerala and raises questions about fate, inheritance, vocation and what makes a family. The characters, particularly the women, are strong and their motivation and passions very real.
But the narration..

lynneamch I actually enjoyed the narration once I increased the speed to 1.5. My biggest issue was that it seemed way too long. While the medical/surgical detail was informative, it seemed unnecessary in moving the story forward. I did end up reading some of it in print. 3d
mjtwo I should have tried that @lynneamch ! 3d
18 likes1 stack add2 comments
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mjtwo
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17 Aug-30 Sep 23 (audiobook)
Probably the weakest of the three books of the trilogy, although I do love the ents. It is just that I find Sam and Frodo‘s story drags once they leave the fellowship.
Looking forward to completing Return of the King and sharing all of the films with Trix.

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mjtwo
Rodham | Curtis Sittenfeld
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22-4 Sep 23 (audiobook)
Listening to this whilst suffering from an awful virus was a little surreal but thoroughly enjoyable.
Sittenfeld creates a convincing alternative world where Hilary despite being in love with Bill walks away when confronted with allegations of his predatory behaviour. She raises questions of what kind of woman will be elected first POTUS and the sacrifices women make in marriage and motherhood. Most amusing was Trump.

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mjtwo
The Visitors | Jane Harrison
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24 Sep 23
A compelling and important story for Australians to consider right now. Harrison imagines the conversation between representatives of the 7 local First Nations clans upon the arrival of Phillip‘s fleet of 11 sailing ships to Pt Jackson in 1788.
The ensuing dialogue is funny and poignant as the men decide whether to attack or assist and welcome the foreigners struggling in this new environment.
What will we do now positions are reversed?

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mjtwo
Hello Beautiful | Ann Napolitano
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14-22 Sep 23 (audiobook)
A heartwarming novel about family and what it takes to live a good life. Napolitano tells the story of the four Padvano sisters - a tight knit family Italian American family growing up in Chicago. Like Little Women, each sister is given a distinct role to play - until events beyond their control turn everything upside down.
Focusing on being less like Julia and Rose and more like Charlie. A good life can be small.

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mjtwo
Tom Lake: A Novel | Ann Patchett
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12-3 Sep 23 (audiobook)
I had been patiently awaiting my hard copy of this novel to arrive but then saw that Meryl Streep had narrated the audiobook and I caved. And it was wonderful.
I loved The Dutch House but this was such a delight. The mother‘s love for her daughters, the cherry orchard, her husband, the bittersweetness of the pandemic, whilst carrying a nostalgic torch for the past, was poignant and perfect.
Just beautiful.

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mjtwo
Little Dorrit (Revised) | Charles Dickens
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31 Aug-13 Sep 23 (audiobook)
A new book to add to my list of favourite Dickens. I loved this. Fanny and Mr Dorritt made me laugh; the Meagles were just lovely; and I felt that all characters received a satisfying ending. And Dickens manages to convey the absurdity of the debtors‘ prison and the sheer luck of wealth.
Juliet Stevenson is a wonderful narrator. Thoroughly recommend.

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mjtwo
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28 July-13 Sep 23
Relieved to have finally finished this so I can move on to something better. Recommended by a former colleague but found it lacked the lightness and humour of the musical (yes I probably should have expected that) and I just could not reconcile the two. It seemed to go forever and I felt Maguire was too busy being clever for me to actually understand what was happening.
I need to learn to bail.

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mjtwo
All the Pretty Horses | Cormac McCarthy
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28-30 Aug 23 (audiobook)
McCarthy‘s prose is sparse but beautiful. And the narration was well matched.
This was certainly a great book but I did not love it as I do The Road. I expected the brutality and harshness. My main criticism is that I found the age of the boys difficult to believe. Perhaps that comes from having my own, rather pampered (almost) 15 year old. Maybe it was just a different time and place.
Still enjoyable.

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mjtwo
The Power | Naomi Alderman
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26-8 Aug 23 (audiobook)
That my daughter is reading this for Yr 9 English makes me a little uncomfortable (some graphic sexual abuse scenes) but given they have all read the entire CoHo back catalogue, probably nothing not already encountered. And hopefully thought-provoking.
I enjoyed the author‘s exploration of the gender reversals that came with the Power - and how society reacted to men being exposed to the realities that all women live with.

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mjtwo
Moby-Dick | Herman Melville
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15-25 Aug 23 (audiobook)
I do wonder how I managed to read so many of these long, somewhat tedious classics in my teen years. Maybe Moby Dick needs to be read in text format rather than listened to? I am not sure why I persisted to the end really. Old habits. Not so much a story as a treatise on whaling and a list of every time a whale is ever mentioned anywhere.
I do at least appreciate the anti-whaling and environmental sentiment.

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mjtwo
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26 Jul-16 Aug 23 (audiobook)
I love this book and am glad Beatrix is enjoying it just as much. We debated whether to get the Rivendell Lego for her birthday (but settled on Diagonal Alley and Grimmauld Place).
Andy Serkis is marvellous, far better than me. LOTR is a book that works well on audio - listening on the daily commute keeps the story moving in a way that is more difficult with bedtime reading. Works well for us for long, complex books.

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mjtwo
Hard Times | Charles Dickens
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6-14 Aug 23 (audiobook)
It‘s Dickens, so I am reluctant to pan as the language is wonderful and there were a few memorable characters, but definitely not my favourite. I felt there was not enough going on to be classic Dickens. Hard not to like Stephen and feel sorry for his ending and despise Thomas and rue his escape.

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mjtwo
Fleishman Is in Trouble: A Novel | Taffy Brodesser-Akner
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2-5 Aug 23 (audiobook)
Funny but a little depressing. Toby‘s app experiences made me laugh but the reality that the wage of a medical specialist was not enough to live in NY and Toby‘s self-obsessiveness troubled me. I could understand Rachel‘s frustrations with him and her breakdown but found it difficult to understand how she could abandon her children.
An interesting book that provokes much thought about some deeply flawed characters.

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mjtwo
The Color Purple | Alice Walker
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31 Jul-1 Aug 23 (audiobook)
Not what I expected. Because it was written 40 years ago and on the US school curriculum, I assumed this would be similar in tone to To Kill a Mockingbird. So I was (uncharacteristically) shocked by the language and brutality of those first few pages.
But it is an incredible book with female characters who experience significant growth during its course and I appreciated the authenticity of Walker‘s voice.

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mjtwo
Ghost Empire | Richard Fidler
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26-30 Jul 23 (audiobook)
Not sure why I chose this, but it was well-researched, if a little repetitive, and Richard Fidler is an amicable guide (who I was previously only familiar with as one of the DAAS) through this period of history. I knew little of the Byzantine empire and do feel more informed at the end. Not a period I could imagine reading up on further - there seemed to be a lot of palace intrigue, war and blood.

CarolynM Fidler‘s become a radio presenter on the ABC doing serious interviews on a program called Conversations. I believe it‘s available as a podcast, if you‘re interested. (edited) 4mo
mjtwo @CarolynM I might. He comes across as a lovely person (and a very good father). 4mo
13 likes2 comments
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mjtwo
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Mehso-so

15-28 Jul 23
A pregnant woman husband and young son attempt to flee post-war Vietnam but the husband is somehow left behind. The woman raises her two sons, struggling with cultural differences, poverty and prejudice only to discover her husband intentionally remained in Vietnam.
I found the jumping timeline distracting. I do not understand why the woman remained in New Orleans or why her husband chose at the last moment to remain in Vietnam.

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mjtwo
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23 May-28 Jul 23
A well—written detective tale for middle aged readers set on board a luxury ocean liner during the golden age of sea travel.
I worked with Nicki a long time ago before writing was her full-time career. Perhaps a little of the lawyer lingers - clearly there is so much research behind the setting of the stories.
Looking forward to reading the next two in the series with Beatrix.

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mjtwo
The Water Dancer: A Novel | Ta-Nehisi Coates
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23-6 Jul 23 (audiobook)
A soft pick. Whilst certainly interesting and well written, I struggled with the magic realism. I similarly struggled with Colson Whitehead‘s The Underground Railroad. I appreciate the desire to mythologise Harriet Tubman and the railroad agents - they were clearly heroic. I expect my views are impacted by the fact that I have only limited knowledge of their stories and perhaps should read a non-fiction account.

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mjtwo
Echo | Pam Munoz Ryan
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26 Jun-25 Jul 23 (audiobook)
A good choice for audiobook as music is integral.

The story of three children in different parts of the world during the years before and during World War II. Their stories are tied together by a harmonica and love of music.

A gentle story to introduce children to the realities of the rise of fascism and WWII, including the persecution of the Jews and minorities in Germany and internment of Japanese in the US.

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mjtwo
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21-3 Jul (audiobook)
I wish I had listened to this or watched his shows when Bourdain was alive. He is such an appealing character. Yes, there is foul language and some very problematic treatment of women and I would probably not have survived an hour in his kitchen but I love to imagine an alternative life where I tried. If only for the music.
This was so entertaining. I particularly loved his chapter about what not to order. Such a likeable man.

fredthemoose One of my favorites! 4mo
12 likes1 comment
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mjtwo
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25 Jun-20 Jul 23 (audiobook)
I first read this wonderful book on the recommendation of Cummings J, my ethics lecturer, shortly before starting my legal career. Fitting to revisit it as I finally exit. I would like to think the legal profession has improved, but there have been times during my 22 years when I was not so sure.
I agree with too many of Dickens‘ views to continue any longer. And so much happier to be out.
Beautifully read by Margolyes

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mjtwo
Foster | Claire Keegan
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12-5 Jul 23
Sitting next to the cash register at my local bookstore last week and I could not resist (despite having a TBR bookcase). And it was as lovely as expected.
A gentle story of a young girl sent to live with relations for an indeterminate time whilst yet another baby is born. Despite her initial trepidation, she comes to cherish her time as an only child receiving full attention and love.
Keegan evokes so much emotion with few words.

CBee I finished this one yesterday and agree 100% with your review 💚 4mo
19 likes1 comment
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mjtwo
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1-12 Jul 23
This was one of no more than five fiction books available for sale at the Denpasar airport and I was desperate. Admittedly, one of the other books was Sorrow and Bliss, which I loved. But still a pretty poor showing.
Anyway, I would not have picked it up under other circumstances but I found I thoroughly enjoyed it. The characters were very funny and it was a lovely read. I will be returning to the first.

rwmg Oh dear. Last time I went through Denpasar airport (admittedly pre-pandemic) there was quite a large, reasonably well-stocked branch of Smiths. 4mo
18 likes1 comment
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mjtwo
Yellowface | R F Kuang
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29 Jun-1 Jul 23
A book that made me squirm but also kept me reading. Kuang deals with female frenemies, cultural appropriation, the terrors of social media and cancel culture. She also makes an indictment of the current state of the publishing industry, where being ‘hot‘ or topical seems more important than the quality of the text, at least in determining the size of the advance.

Very readable and thought-provoking. A good holiday read.

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mjtwo
Romantic Comedy | Curtis Sittenfeld
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28-9 Jun 23
A fun, easy read by the pool. Sally is a long-standing writer on a TV show remarkably like SNL; her romantic interest is a good-looking, musician and the basic premise is that whilst funny men often seem to date women way out of their league, this does not happen if the genders are reversed. Has Sittenfeld not seen Celeste Barber‘s Hot Husband?
Being Sittenfeld, this was well-written and Sally‘s self-doubt is very relatable.

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mjtwo
Birnam Wood | Eleanor Catton
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9-28 Jun 23
Took a while to get into, but I flew through the last two thirds. Helps to have finished work and be relaxing by a pool in Bali.
None of the characters were likeable but they were well-written and interesting, and I enjoyed their many flaws. Everyone has their price.
If it had been otherwise, I would have been hoping for an alternate ending. I have read some reviews suggesting it was a tragedy but I saw the ending as more of a farce.

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mjtwo
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11 May-25 Jun 23 (audiobook)
And we are through! This was a long haul but we enjoyed it and the audio format does make it easier to keep up momentum, particularly when school and most activities are a 30 minute commute away.
I was satisfied with the way Paolini finished the series, although I can understand why some readers were disappointed. It was interesting to listen to the interview at the end - he was so young when he commenced writing.

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mjtwo
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Mehso-so

22-24 Jun 23 (audiobook)
This kept me awake on the late night drive up to Mansfield to collect Polly, when I was dubious whether Bleak House would do the trick.
Again, it was not bad. I just found its messages about social media and the internet and the impact they have on our relationships a bit laboured. Those messages are, unfortunately, probably all too true. I do consider myself lucky to have escaped dating in the age of social media.

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mjtwo
Mr. Rochester | Sarah Shoemaker
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Mehso-so

19-20 Jun 23 (audiobook)
Jane Eyre told from the perspective of Mr Rochester, from his childhood, progressing through his difficult relationships with his father and brother and marriage to Bertha, and then the well-known story.
It isn‘t terrible but it did feel a little like fan fiction. And I don‘t like the fact that having read it, in future I will probably be confused as to what is actually in the Brontë text. Yep - I am a literary snob.

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mjtwo
Jane Eyre | Charlotte Bront
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15-22 Jun 23 (Audible)
I had not read this since I was a teen. It is sometimes difficult to read these books without overlaying today‘s social mores and attitudes. Jane is just so young. And whilst Rochester is nowhere near the worst of the heroes of these novels, I did not like the way he teased her and threw his relationship with other women in her face.
I listened to this as a prelude to re-reading Wide Sargasso Sea, which I previously loved.