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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
review
mjtwo
Lifespan: Why We Ageand Why We Don't Have To | Matthew D. LaPlante, David A. Sinclair
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9-17 Jan 2022 (audiobook)
Audible BOTM - I would probably not have otherwise come across it. Reading science is my husband‘s thing so I have instructed him to read this and formulate a plan. A medical degree and natural cynicism will hopefully help!
Despite the density of science and medical facts, I gained some understanding of Sinclair‘s work and found it both fascinating and inspiring. Who wouldn‘t want to live to a healthy 150?

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mjtwo
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Pickpick

26 Dec 2021-15 Jan 2022 (audiobook)
My most enjoyable reading of Huck and Jim‘s story. Elijah Wood is fabulous - he is much better at the southern accent than me. Beatrix found it difficult to understand in parts but really enjoyed others. I did try to explain Huck‘s attitude towards slavery and freedom and his concerns about helping Jim to freedom, but not sure how much was understood. Difficult concepts for a 6 year old.

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mjtwo
Dune | Frank Herbert
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26 Dec 2021-9 Jan 2022 (audiobook)
Dune has long been one of my husband‘s favourite books and I can see why. The plot is similar to Star Wars - people struggling to live on desert planets, a fatherless boy with special powers living in hiding, and a deceitful emperor.
I am not sure that audiobook was the best format - it can be difficult to keep track of complex worlds and peoples - but I have so many books to read and wanted to watch the movie!

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mjtwo
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Pickpick

5 Dec 20-6 Jan 2021 (audiobook)
This was a fun audiobook for Trix and me. A simple story: a girl is accepted into an elite school and feels as though she does not fit in or deserve to be there but eventually, with the help of a new friend, reluctant roommate and friendly ghost, learns her own value.
What made this great was the music. Magic in this world is created through music, a concept brought to life more easily through audio than on a page.

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mjtwo
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Mehso-so

21-25 Dec 2021 (audiobook)
A family rents a home in remote Long Island for a chance to enjoy the other half‘s life. In the night, an older black couple knock on the door, re-claiming their house having fled the city because something is happening. Unusual activities follow - animal migration, unexplained illness, and disconnection.
An eery, disconcerting novel which reflects on the Other, human bonds formed in catastrophe and our fragility.

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mjtwo
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1 Nov-20 Dec 2021 (audiobook)
Harry really is very grumpy for most of this but I don‘t blame him. Dumbledore was foolish to think Harry could not handle the truth. Particularly when the alternative was to be ignored. The loss of Sirius hit me hard as always; the discussion between Harry and Luna about the veil is always emotional. And the sadistic Umbrage is despicable. Looking forward to watching Imelda Staunton in the film - an amazing cast.

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mjtwo
On Juneteenth | Annette Gordon-Reed
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Mehso-so

18-20 Dec 2021 (audiobook)
This book suffered from immediately following How the Word is Passed. Comparisons are inevitable: both selected as NYT Books top 10 books of 2021 and both use charismatic narrators to tell the history of slavery. This is, however, a much smaller book - in scope and length. It is more a personal exploration of Juneteenth and the experiences of BIPOC in Texas which did not have a particularly profound impact on me.

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mjtwo
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13-18 Dec 2021 (audiobook)
Such a moving, educating and challenging book. It thoroughly deserves its position on so many best of 2021 lists.
Difficult to describe: the author journeys to sites in the US and Senegal significant to the history of slavery and uses his experiences to prompt the reader to question their assumptions and education about slavery.
Beautifully written and read in an almost poetic style, I would confidently recommend.

11 likes1 stack add
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mjtwo
A Passage North: A Novel | Anuk Arudpragasam
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Mehso-so

10 Nov-12 Dec 2021
Booker longlist 8
Set in the aftermath of the long Sri Lankan civil war, the narrative follows a young Tamil man named Krishan as he journeys north to the funeral of his grandmother‘s carer, also a Tamil, who lost her sons to the war.
I know little about the Tamil Tigers or about Sri Lanka to be honest. Whilst this novel may prompt me to read the Wikipedia entry, I did not learn a great deal from it. It was long and plodding.

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mjtwo
The Ruin | Dervla McTiernan
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9-12 Dec 2021 (audiobook)
Audible book of the month: crime fiction set in Ireland.
Well-written and easy to listen to with a few twists along the way.

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mjtwo
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Bailedbailed

8 Dec 2021 (audiobook)
First book I have bailed on in a long time. Not actually a reflection on Joyce‘s stories, which I have read before as an undergrad lit student and enjoyed, but on listening to short stories or perhaps to the works of James Joyce which rely on a close reading and an appreciation of the writing. I did not seem to be able to focus sufficiently to gain that appreciation through audio.

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mjtwo
The Great Gatsby | F. Scott Fitzgerald
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7-8 Dec 2021 (audiobook)
It has been many years since I read The Great Gatsby, and the wonderful biography of Zelda by Nancy Milford, and I was motivated by its inclusion in the Audible Plus category, but I really enjoyed Jake Gyllenhaal‘s reading. Yes there is certainly elitism, sexism and racism but I do believe this holds its place as a great novel depicting a decadent time and class and makes an interesting statement about The American Dream.

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mjtwo
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Pickpick

28 Nov-7 Dec 2021 (audiobook)
Beautifully written but somewhat haunting autobiography by a renowned Danish writer. This is very much a book in three parts: Tove‘s childhood was poor and depressing; her youth relatively uneventful; and then the period of her dependency quite mind-boggling. I am not sure how she, or her three young children, survived those five miserable years of drug-induced stupor.

10 likes1 stack add
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mjtwo
Heidi | Johanna Spyri
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14 Nov-4 Dec 2021 (audiobook)
A classic story that stands the test of time (if you do not overthink the practicalities of a wealthy invalid girl living in the alps with only an old man and a child). Beatrix was very emotional when Heidi was tricked into leaving Grandfather and concerned she may never return. Heidi‘s homesickness and deteriorating health are heartbreaking. Clara‘s journey to the mountains and recuperation pleased her greatly.

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mjtwo
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24–27 Nov 2021 (audiobook)
Towards the end, Billy explains that he never thought he would write a book about himself. He thought he would repeat himself and muddle up the timeline. And he does. His anecdotes are not always in chronological or even logical order. But he is endearing. He made me want to take more risks in my own life - to be more windswept and interesting. Although his story was not always pleasant or funny, he is warm and honest.

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mjtwo
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15-23 Nov 2021 (audiobook)
It has taken a while for my outrage to subside after finishing this book. Ostensibly about the role of pharmaceutical companies in the opioid crisis, it is about greed. Most particularly the greed of the Sackler family. They are almost psychopathic in their failure to consider the impact their actions have on wider society focusing only on increasing their profits and immortalising the Sackler name. Infuriating!

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mjtwo
Crazy Rich Asians | Kevin Kwan
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11-14 Nov 2021 (audiobook)
A fun, easy listen which the film followed very closely right up until the last reveal.
Rachel accompanies Nick to his best friend‘s wedding in Singapore where she discovers he is the crazy rich heir to one of Singapore‘s oldest, most secretive and most unwelcoming families. I concurred with Michael - at times the extreme wealth was obscene and the behaviour of its holders deplorable. But it was still fun.

12 likes1 stack add
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mjtwo
Anne of the Island | L.M. Montgomery
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31 Oct-13 Nov 2021 (audiobook)
Finally, Anne agrees to marry Gilbert and Trix and I can be happy and read the rest of the series when she is a little older. Being a helpless romantic, she was convinced from the moment Gilbert appeared that Anne would marry him, but Roy Gardiner did have her scared for a little while. Davey, as always, provided some comic relief.

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mjtwo
Fahrenheit 451 | Ray Bradbury
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25 Sep-10 Nov 2021
Short but dense read aloud for Polly, 12.
In an alternate future after WWII, we follow Montag, a fireman. Rather than extinguishing fires, firemen are now charged with burning contraband, being books. Millie, his vacuous wife, sits in the parlour, watching ‘the family‘ on their wall-sized screens. Until one day Montag meets a new neighbour and decides there must be more.
Polly enjoyed but found it difficult to follow at times.

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mjtwo
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Pickpick

5-10 Nov 2021 (audiobook)
Grohl expresses so much gratitude in this collection of anecdotes it is quite contagious. He does not have a negative word to say about anyone, except his father (Courtney and Dave‘s first wife are simply not mentioned). And he has many positive words to say about a vast cast of others. His depiction of Kurt Cobain and the transformative impact he had on his life are of course amongst the most interesting and generous.

fredthemoose I loved this! 2mo
rachelk He was definitely putting to use the old motherly advice, “if you don‘t have anything nice to say, don‘t say anything at all”. :) 2mo
12 likes2 comments
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mjtwo
Bewilderment | Richard Powers
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15 Oct-9 Nov 2021
Booker longlist 7
A novel of its time: infectious disease, a mad president refusing to concede the election, and the increasingly irreversible destruction of the environment.
Theo‘s work is to look for signs of life in the universe and parenting his son, Robbie, after the death of his activist wife. After receiving experimental neurofeedback treatment, Robbie seems to improve but the Flowers for Algernon has forbode a tragic end

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mjtwo
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3-5 Nov 2021 (audiobook)
The compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary told via Esme, who from the age of 3 sat in the Scriptorium with her single father, a lexicographer. Although Esme is fictional, many other characters are not. Williams chooses to focus on the role of women in this Herculean task, the words and meanings necessarily left out due to the bias of the male, middle-class editors and the contemporaneous story of women‘s suffrage.

mjtwo An interesting companion to The Surgeon of Crowthorne (which I loved many years ago). I find the dictionary a fascinating endeavour - and marvel that it could ever really be finished. Language is ever changing, which is perhaps why I find the dictionary so fascinating. (edited) 2mo
7 likes1 comment
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mjtwo
Anne of Avonlea | L.M. Montgomery
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3-30 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
I thought this may be the last in the series Beatrix and I would listen to but she is as much of a romantic as I am so we have to continue until Anne marries Gilbert, apparently.
Trix was shocked that after one year of college, Anne could then be teaching at 15 - times have obviously changed a great deal.
Davey amused Beatrix greatly - I had forgotten what a funny little character he is.

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mjtwo
The Beekeeper of Aleppo | Christy Lefteri
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28 Oct-2 Nov 2021 (audiobook)
The story of Nuri, the titular beekeeper, and his wife‘s flight from Syria after their son is killed by a bomb.
Well-written and well-meaning, but I was not as enamoured as many other readers. I disliked the disappearance and abuse of children in the refugee camps - such depictions often seem somewhat exploitative. The issue of who has a right to tell these stories and whose voice is authentic is quite problematic.

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mjtwo
Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf | Catherine Storr, Ben Cort, Julia Eccleshare
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5-30 Oct 2021
A fun read with Beatrix. This is a quaint collection of stories of the wolf trying to capture and eat Polly, who continues to outsmart him. It draws on many traditional wolf fairy tales and is a good choice for a child with a fear of wolves. Beatrix laughed quite a lot.

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mjtwo
Persuasion | Jane Austen
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27-8 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
Finishing the Austen marathon with the one I had not previously read. A captivating story, but lacking the humour of Emma or Pride and Prejudice.
Anne is considerably older than most Austen heroines, having previously chosen familial duty over an unfavourable match. The story takes place a decade later - she has lost her youthful bloom and the man in question gained a fortune. An interesting contrast to her other novels.

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mjtwo
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Pickpick

27 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
Another in the Jane Austen collection narrated by Emma Thompson. Thompson‘s narration irritated me a little in the sections when Catherine‘s imagination ran away with her.
I studied this, together with many of the novels it satirises, in Gothic Fictions at uni. I do enjoy the gentle ridicule of the young heroine‘s gothic imaginings and her naivety of social conventions in Elizabethan England. She is refreshingly frank.

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mjtwo
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Pickpick

10-27 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
Wonderfully narrated and captured both girls‘ interest. I have enjoyed all of The Jungle Book stories but it is the Mowgli stories that correspond most closely to the Disney movie, of course, and that seem to interest children. This collection was very well done.

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mjtwo
Emma | Jane Austin
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25-6 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
Narrated by Emma Thompson.
I cannot help but picture Gwyneth when listening to or reading Emma. They seem to have many similarities - spouting a lot of well-meaning but potentially harmful rubbish, failing to appreciate their own privilege and being a little snide but remaining somewhat endearing in spite of all.
I do like Knightley. I appreciate him censuring Emma‘s behaviour towards Miss Bates and his kindness to all.

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mjtwo
Mansfield Park | Jane Austen
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24-5 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
Listening to Billie Piper‘s narration of Mansfield Park has encouraged me to watch her as Fanny Price. Fanny is not, however, a favourite. Why is she so sickly? She does not seem to be able to walk for more than 10 minutes! As a heroine, I much prefer Lizzie Bennett‘s strength and athleticism. I also deplore Fanny‘s passivity and her inability to express her needs or attempt to change her situation.

mjtwo On this reading, I actually wondered whether there is an insinuation of abuse by her uncle. Their confrontation after Fanny rejects Henry Crawford was quite violent and gave an impression of earlier violence in her attic room. Similarly his attitude towards his pretty niece on his return from Antigua seemed a little off kilter. (edited) 3mo
8 likes1 stack add1 comment
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mjtwo
Pride and Prejudice | Jane Austen
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23-24 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
There is no book I love more than Pride and Prejudice. Mr Bennett is the greatest comical character of all time. And Mrs Bennett and Lydia‘s lack of tact and humility are both astounding and very easy to recognise in one‘s own relations.
And I for one have no issue with the taciturn Darcy.

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mjtwo
Sense and Sensibility | Jane Austen
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22-23 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
Although not my favourite Austen, there is a lot to recommend this novel, particularly in the full cast audiobook production narrated by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Marianne is too highly strung for my liking, but Elinir is a sympathetic character although I do wish she would break the bonds of duty now and then. I found the fate of both Elizas, and Elinor‘s resignation to that fate and continued sympathy for Willoughby, difficult.

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mjtwo
The Queen's Gambit | Walter Tevis
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18-20 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
A young orphan enters the world of competitive chess during the Cold War era but battles with self doubt and substance abuse.
Despite only a rudimentary knowledge (and interest) in chess and disliking the narrator, I found this riveting. Beth was fundamentally a flawed character - obsessive, self-centred, non-communicative, and incapable of empathy. Yet I did wish her success.
Time to watch the Netflix series now.

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mjtwo
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Pickpick

13-17 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
An American Chinese family quest for gold in the American west.
I enjoyed the first two parts (the blend of myth and history, two young orphans trying to find a place to belong and Ba‘s retelling) but found the third problematic. Perhaps there were few options for girls like Lucy in the Wild West, but I did not welcome her ending. I would have preferred her to continue to reject Ma‘s lesson that beauty is its own weapon.

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mjtwo
The Promise | Damon Galgut
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4 Oct-14 Oct 2021
Booker longlist 6
Reading this book felt like watching a movie where you are never quite sure which character the camera is going to follow next. I loved it - the narrative style and the particular insight it gave into South Africa. I did not empathise with any of the members of the family, but that did not detract from the experience. Of the longlisted books I have read to date, this would be my choice to win. It was stunning.

Brimful I agree. I think it‘s a classic in the making! 3mo
JamieArc I‘m rooting for this one to win too 3mo
17 likes2 comments
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mjtwo
The Count of Monte-Cristo | Alexandre Dumas
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12 Sep-13 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
A well-deserved classic not previously read (although I loved The Three Musketeers). Easy to dismiss such stories as cliched until you recall this was written 200 years ago. It was the trailblazer! Such books have remained popular for good reason - interesting characters, epic plots and beautiful writing.
This narrator was soothing - had to rewind several times as his voice was a successful cure for my insomnia.

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mjtwo
A Little Princess | Frances Hodgson Burnett
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23 Sep-9 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
Having watched various film versions, but not having read the book, I was a bit taken aback when Capt Crewe died. Sarah‘s trauma and ill treatment at the hand of Miss Minchin was far more severe and prolonged in the book version, I felt. We subsequently watched the 1995 film and Beatrix became extremely emotional at the captain‘s amnesia and Sarah‘s near arrest. A case where both the film and book have their merits.

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mjtwo
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Pickpick

30 Aug-4 Oct 2021
A motherless girl and adopted dog find friendship in small town Florida. We own many DiCamillo books but this may be my favourite, perhaps as we are currently caring for a large, smelly, old lab who also smiles with all his teeth. The cast of characters is wonderful. Trix believes books pose a problem, then solve it - of course the mother would return - but was content when Opal‘s loneliness was assuaged by her new friendships.

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mjtwo
Great Circle | Maggie Shipstead
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7 Sep-3 Oct 2021
Booker Longlist 5
A very readable novel. It juxtaposes two storylines: Marian, her twin, Jamie, and childhood friend, Caleb, from children in Montana to adulthood in World War II; and modern day Hadley, a teen actress destined to play Marian in a biopic. The sections recounting the lives and stories of early female pilots and their role in WWII were the highlight; Hadley‘s story was less interesting and a little vacuous.

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mjtwo
Anne of Green Gables | L.M. Montgomery
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5 Sep-2 Oct 2021 (audiobook)
Working through the classic children‘s books in the Audible Plus catalogue with the girls. Alas Beatrix was not as in love with Gilbert as I was/am. She enjoyed hearing about Anne, Marilla and Matthew best - probably reflective of her age and our current lockdown times when family and home really are paramount. Disappointed that I cannot find the 1985 miniseries to watch with both girls - is it not available anywhere?

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mjtwo
Watership Down | Richard Adams
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12 Mar-23 Sep 2021
A beautiful edition of this wonderful book. Not exactly a children‘s book but perfect to share with my (almost) teen daughter. The characterisation of the rabbits was lovely and, at least in the case of General Woundwort, quite frightening. Hazel is a fine example of an exceptional leader - not the strongest or the cleverest rabbit, but always brave and able to promote and employ the attributes of others for the benefit of all.

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mjtwo
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17 Aug-22 Sep 2021 (audiobook)
The death of Cedric marks a change in the tone of the Harry Potter series. Voldemort‘s corporeality means he is now a very real threat and beloved characters will die before the battle is over. It is all a little too dark for a 6 year old! But once you start, it is difficult if not impossible to stop. Particularly when that 6 year old is now quite obsessed. As much as I love HP, I do dread the inevitable nightmares.

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mjtwo
A Town Called Solace | Mary Lawson
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10-6 Sep 21
Booker Longlist 4
Not a typical Booker, but it drew me in quickly. A 15 year old runs away from small town Ontario in 1970s. Three narrators tell their stories: the younger sister, a stranger and an elderly neighbour. I dreaded the end - scared to know what had happened to Rose.
This raised questions about motherhood for me - what is a good mother? And who has the right to judge? It also highlighted a child‘s need for love and trust.

Cathythoughts Nice review! I liked this one 4mo
17 likes1 comment
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mjtwo
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Pickpick

5-11 Sep 2021 (audiobook)
There were a number of threads to this book, which perhaps required a little more concentration than I was prepared to give. I found myself having to rewind a number of times to figure out what I missed. It was a satisfying ending and the series a welcome distraction. I enjoyed the mythological aspects and the world building. And the narrator‘s Czech accent. But ready to move on to something a bit weightier this week.

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mjtwo
No One Is Talking about This | Patricia Lockwood
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Mehso-so

30 Aug-9 Sep 2021
Booker Longlist 3
I was hoping to make up some time with this short, sparsely printed book but kept falling to sleep! I would have panned it most of the way through but found the sections detailing the narrator‘s experiences with her baby niece strangely touching. References to the portal and the dictator were neither cryptic nor clever, just annoying. Was that the point?
Hoping to enjoy something on the Booker Longlist soon!

11 likes1 stack add
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mjtwo
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Pickpick

1-4 Sep 2021 (audiobook)
Quite addictive. It is an interesting world built by Laini Taylor. I particularly enjoyed the foreshadowing of the apocalypse (angel v monster) to come in the final instalment of the trilogy.

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mjtwo
The Penderwicks at Last | Jeanne Birdsall
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15 Aug-4 Sep 2021 (audiobook)
And we are done. Not much really happened in this last instalment: two weddings, more dogs, and maybe Batty (is she really supposed to be Amy?) will one day marry Jeffrey (her Laurie). I hope so. Batty was by far my favourite and really nothing like the detestable Amy. I am glad the series is over and we can move on to something new and maybe a little more exciting.

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mjtwo
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28-30 Aug 2021 (audiobook)
Kind of fun and easy to listen to. Not really my genre but sometimes YA fantasy is a pleasant change and this is quite well written. Will probably continue listening to the series for the next few days.

15 likes1 stack add
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mjtwo
Second Place: A Novel | Rachel Cusk
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Mehso-so

20-29 Aug 2021
Booker Longlist 2
M, the self-obsessed narrator, invites L, a snarling, misogynistic artist, to occupy the ‘Second Place‘ on the property she shares with her long-suffering husband, Tony. In return for this patronage M seems to expect some kind of reward - sexual attention ? A flattering portrait? Gratitude? I continued to read in the hope of finding out but alas the characters‘ motives remained muddy. Not a winner for me.

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mjtwo
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14 Jul-28 Aug 2021
A lovely, easy chapter book to read with Beatrix. Most of the time she will elect Luke as her nighttime reader so I try to keep the books we read quite short and simple - it can be a long time between sessions. This fit the bill nicely, although I personally prefer the realism of Ramona. The magical elements of a talking mouse riding a motorcycle around a hotel appealed to Trix.