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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
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Pickpick

1-21 Jan 23
A fantastic debut about Amari, a clever, Black girl from the Projects who fails to follow in the hallowed footsteps of her elder brother at the elite private school she attends by scholarship. When that brother disappears, the police assume he has gone the way of most Black youths in their neighbourhood but Amari knows otherwise. And one night she receives a ‘Waking Dream‘ from Quentin which introduces her to the supernatural world.

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mjtwo
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Pickpick

30 Oct 22-16 Jan 23 (audiobook)
Unfortunately our US trip and summer holidays interrupted the flow a little - Trix and I had about 20 minutes to go before we left and then struggled to regain the narrative thread when we did many to finish 6 weeks later. It is a good fantasy series, however, in the vein of Tolkien but slightly less complex. Eragon and Safira are interesting heroes and I look forward to seeing how their saga plays out.

10 likes1 stack add
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mjtwo
Love and Virtue | Diana Reid
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12-3 Jan 2023
I loved and devoured this book in a 24 hour period, but also found it provocative. As a former resident of Melbourne Uni‘s sandstone colleges, the story was alarmingly authentic and I again grapple with how to feel about the toxic, privileged and misogynistic culture that pervaded an institution I loved and where I met my husband, made many close friends and had some wonderful fun. Michaela‘s ambivalence very much reflected my own.

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mjtwo
A Sport and a Pastime | James Salter
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27 Dec-11 Jan 23
Well-written prose depicting the sexual relationship between a rich, white American college student and a French shopgirl during his sojourn in provincial France. His privilege and her somewhat naive complicity did disturb me a little as the story moved to its inevitable ending. Salter‘s writing is crisp and beautiful, however, and this is more of an exercise in writing lovely (1960s era) erotica than a fully fleshed out novel.

CloakNQuill I‘ve been meaning to pick this up. Really enjoy Salters writing. 3w
mjtwo @CloakNQuill it is beautifully written. I think I will dig out some of his other work. 3w
11 likes2 comments
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mjtwo
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7-9 Jan 23 (audiobook)
YA fantasy seems to be my guilty reading pleasure. Not that I feel that guilty about it.
All the usual tropes - orphan who doesn‘t know she has power; dark love interest; choice between power and saving the world or domesticity.
Bought this for Polly a while ago thinking we could then watch the series but don‘t think she ever started it. I am now kind of hooked - moved straight on to the second.

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mjtwo
Trust | Hernan Diaz
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14 Dec-6 Jan 23 (audiobook)
#Bookerlonglist 7
A story of the marriage of a wealthy couple living in New York during the early 20th century. On first appearance he appears to be a Wall Street tycoon and she is an enthusiast of the arts and a philanthropist, but the structure of Diaz‘s text causes us to question what we can truly know of public figures. Not a wholly original proposition but well executed and a compelling story.

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mjtwo
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3-13 Dec 22
Trix and I started this together but she finished it herself during the initial periods of jet-lag (and failing to sleep before 10.30pm) at Disneyworld.
My first time reading one of Judy Blume‘s books for younger readers. It was good, but I prefer the books I grew up with (such as Deenie and Are You There God, It‘s Me Margaret). Fudge would have been a nightmare as a child or a brother. Crazy name though, so who could really blame him?

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mjtwo
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10-26 Dec 22
Another New York read, this tells of a short lived and seemingly doomed marriage between two characters who are quite lost really. Separately they battle addiction, abandonment and depression without ever seeming to really connect or effectively communicate. Perhaps the problem is they are too alike and neither can begin to heal whilst they are together?
An enjoyable read, and much easier than this review probably suggests.

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mjtwo
The Book Thief | Markus Zusak
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Mehso-so

27 Nov-12 Dec 22 (audiobook)
Set in Germany during WWII with the protagonist being a moderately anti-Nazi, teenage girl. Perhaps this did not translate well to audio - I dreaded the piano accordion between chapters - but I did not love this the way many seem to. I did not feel Liesl was a strong character. Perhaps this was true of many at the time - even those who did not agree with what was going on were unable to take strong action.

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mjtwo
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1 Nov-2 Dec 22
Good book to read with Trix prior to our trip to New York. I loved the fact that the siblings ran away to the Met and it was fun to walk through a few of the rooms whilst we were there and speculate whether they contained the beds slept in. I love reading books and watching movies set in locations we intend to visit and I do think it helps children get excited about vacations.

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mjtwo
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida | Shehan Karunatilaka
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Panpan

1 Nov-9 Dec 22
#Bookerlonglist 6
Disappointed this won the Booker as I found it a real slog. I quite like magic realism but this was tedious and I found it difficult to decipher what was going on. Possibly did not help that I knew so little about the Sri Lankan civil war. None of the characters interested me and the plot went nowhere.

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mjtwo
Pachinko | Min Jin Lee
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19-26 Nov 22 (audiobook)
This novel depicts the lives of several generations of a Korean family living in Japan. It shows the systemic racism and discrimination they suffer and the difficulties faced by displaced people everywhere. Japan does not come off well, but I expect the same would be seen in many parts of the world.
I knew little about pachinko or Korea, except they had a thriving film industry when I was more informed about such things.

15 likes1 stack add
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mjtwo
The Dry | Jane Harper
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17-8 Nov 22 (audiobook)
Not sure what you call an audio pageturner?

The above image made me picture Eric Bana as Falk, although my sister pointed out that he was probably miscast as Falk was supposed to be visibly at odds with his drought-stricken hometown in the Australian outback, having been a red-head who had never played football or cricket. Nevertheless, looking forward to the film.

A good example of outback noir. Apparently it‘s a thing.

CarolynM I thought Bana was horribly miscast and the film didn‘t do the book justice. Oh well😒 Outback noir is definitely a thing. There are some good ones out there. 2mo
19 likes1 comment
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mjtwo
Normal People | Sally Rooney
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14-5 Nov 22 (audiobook)
Wow - that was quick! I had not realised how faithful the TV show was to the book. Much of the dialogue seemed familiar and it was difficult not to picture the two lead actors as Connell and Marianne.
Very much in the vein of a classic love story with its miscommunication and flawed characters. I do truly hope they finally come together and live happily ever after. I am sure the book also has its flaws but I loved it.

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mjtwo
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Mehso-so

9-13 Nov 22 (audiobook)
Another of Obama‘s 2022 recommendations. Mounk provides a brief description and history of ‘diverse democracies‘, a description which applies to an increasing number of democratic countries. He discusses fear, prejudice and our tendency to favour people the same as us, even where the categories we divide into are completely arbitrary. And he offers some solutions and rules for making these work. But none of this felt new.

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mjtwo
Lessons: A Novel | Ian McEwan
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1-8 Nov 22 (audiobook)
Thought-provoking, poignant and a little disarming. I am a McEwan fan - pretty sure I even enjoyed Nutshell - so it is probably a given that I rate this highly. The chapter featuring the visit to the piano teacher during the Cuban missile crisis was published a few months ago in The New Yorker, so it was interesting to read what preceded that incident and the lengthy aftermath.

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mjtwo
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23-31 Oct 22 (audiobook)
I have had this on my shelf since publication but was only inspired to read it after watching the first few episodes of House of the Dragon.
I enjoy the worlds Martin creates - he writes strong women, nuanced characters and is sympathetic to the role of mother, queen and wife. He also writes a great deal of sexual and physical violence.
I found this, like the Game of Thrones books, entertaining and a little addictive

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mjtwo
The One and Only Bob | Katherine Applegate
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4-29 Oct 22 (audiobook)
Another great audiobook. Danny Devito is an inspired choice to voice Bob, the disgruntled but loyal and loving chihuahua cross from The One and Only Ivan. There are some heartbreaking moments in this story - how could anyone throw a box of puppies out a truck window - but it is also heartwarming of course.

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mjtwo
The Hobbit | J.R.R. Tolkien
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6-28 Oct 22 (audiobook)
I do love this book. And Andy Serkis is simply the best.
I was first introduced to it when my aunt bought an illustrated copy from The Little Bookroom. Beatrix was equally bewitched. She has insisted on proceeding straight to The Lord of the Rings against my better judgment - too scary (the Black Riders terrify me) and too complex. But I could not resist. Trialling it as family audiobook with Polly and will see how it goes.

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mjtwo
Black Cake | Charmaine Wilkerson
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9-22 Oct 22 (audiobook)
Family secrets told to an estranged brother and sister posthumously through the reading of their mother‘s will. Twists and turns but ultimately this fulfilled the hopeless romantic in me, although it is definitely not a romance.
Not sure whether the narrative voice or just the narrator‘s voice rang through with the cadences of the Caribbean, but that was the highlight for me.
A good story from Obama‘s recommendations.

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mjtwo
Lucy by the Sea: A Novel | Elizabeth Strout
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12-8 Oct 22 (audiobook)
After finding the first book a bit lacklustre, I am now a thorough convert to Lucy Barton. This instalment was particularly good, as Lucy and William flee NYC just before the height of the pandemic for a new life in Maine. It focuses on family - Lucy‘s relationship with William, her daughters and David.
It did make me a little nervous about heading to NYC in a couple of months as the death toll for COVID in the US hit home.

BkClubCare 🥰 3mo
15 likes1 comment
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mjtwo
Mouth to Mouth: A Novel | Antoine Wilson
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9-11 Oct 22 (audiobook)
Obama recommendation.
Listening to this reminded me of The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Odd, because I barely remember it and am not sure they had much in common. Maybe the form - the narrator recalls a story he is told by a past acquaintance whilst sitting in an airport lounge waiting for their flight to be rescheduled.
I enjoyed the small twist and turns in the rags to riches plot; and the idea of history repeating itself.

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mjtwo
Velvet Was the Night | Silvia Moreno-Garcia
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6-9 Oct 22 (audiobook)
The note from the author at the end referred to this novel as ‘pulp fiction‘, which did make me revise my view. It was of its genre - focused on organised crime, violence and corruption. But the heroine was shallow and stupid, with few redeeming features. Elvis was somewhat better in that he had few choices. Less forgivable for me was the stodgy writing and stilted dialogue. An Obama recommendation I did not enjoy.

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mjtwo
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27 Sep-5 Oct 22 (audiobook)
Always loved and a fun book to share with Beatrix on our commutes. I had forgotten how closely the film stuck to the text - most of the dialogue is lifted straight from Goldman. A gem of a story and film.

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mjtwo
The Family Chao | Lan Samantha Chang
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2-6 Oct 22 (audiobook)
Once finished, I read this is a reworking of a Dostoevsky novel. I have not read the original but can see his style in this. Well-written and seemingly authentic tale of the immigrant experience in small town USA, which is probably not so different from small town Australia. Racism and stereotypical tropes boil close to the surface, surfacing as soon as there is a hint of something amiss.
Another Obama recommendation.

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mjtwo
The One and Only Ivan | Katherine Applegate
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21 Sep-3 Oct 22 (audiobook)
Ivan and Stella have spent most of the past three decades in what is described as a mall zoo. I did not know there were such horrific places. Looking to a day when animals are recognised as having rights to comfortable shelter and compassionate treatment and private zoos or ownership of exotic animals is illegal.
A well told story which hopefully starts children thinking about such issues.

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mjtwo
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25 Sep-2 Oct 22 (audiobook)
I found Cheryl‘s story inspiring, as I often do when people achieve a great physical feat. Perhaps if something happened to my family, I would do something similar. The idea of hiking for that amount of time, much of it solo, seemed somewhat blissful, despite the lost toenails.
Could not help but picture Reese throughout (why I prefer to read the book first).

ShyBookOwl I have a similar pet peeve. I hate buying the book once the movie is out because all the book covers get changed for movie posters. It's SO HARD to find the original book cover after that and I will not settle! 4mo
14 likes1 comment
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mjtwo
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Mehso-so

25 Jan-27 Sep 22
Whilst I do enjoy the writing, this series drags a little and it is not often Beatrix‘s book of choice at bedtime (admittedly for the first half of the year it was competing with her dad reading Harry Potter). Reminds me a great deal of Lemony Snicket.
I enjoy the characters and the TV series but the books are just a bit long for reading at bedtime once or twice a week. Tried to find the third instalment on audible but no luck.

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mjtwo
The Railway Children | Harriet Castor
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1-26 Sep 22 (audiobook)
An old-fashioned, Blytonesque tale of three children whose lives change from one of almost fairytale privilege to an impoverished life in the country with their father having mysteriously disappeared. Predictable, in the way of many children‘s stories, but still enjoyable. I did note an article on Nesbit in this week‘s The New Yorker coincidentally which I am keen to read when the print edition arrives

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mjtwo
The Trees: A Novel | Percival Everett
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11-22 Sep 22
#Bookerlonglist 5
Racist rednecks keep turning up murdered and mutilated. At each crime scene a small black body beaten has beyond recognition appears. And disappears.
Everett addresses the history of lynching and pervasive racism. Yet there is humour in the various law enforcement characters and macabre crime scenes.
The ending didn‘t live up to the incredible first half, but still an amazing book and my pick for the prize (so far).

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mjtwo
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15-21 Sep 22 (audiobook)
Another from the Obama list.
Frieda has a ‘bad day‘ and finds herself at the school for good mothers - a correctional facility for mothers, guilty of some minor and a few fairly major infractions.
This raises interesting questions: when should the state interfere in parenting issues, do we believe in redemption, how do you balance child protection and parental rights, are there double standards for fathers and mothers?

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mjtwo
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15 Aug-20 Sep 22 (audiobook)
Quirky, sometimes macabre, entertaining short story collection. Many of the stories were quite short which made this a good choice for Polly, Beatrix and I listen to in the car. Luke joined for a few and thought it truly bizarre.

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mjtwo
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10-14 Sep 22 (audiobook)
Entertaining, rather violent, modern Western with a great narrator. Recommendation from Obama‘s summer reading list.
The homophobic fathers of a murdered gay couple join forces to find their killers and claim vengeance. Characters are well-developed and though the outcome is quite predictable it did hold my interest.

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mjtwo
Nightcrawling: A novel | Leila Mottley
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27 Aug-10 Sep 22
#Bookerlonglist 4
An impressive debut with interesting, albeit frustrating, characters and strong writing.
Kiara and her brother are struggling to keep afloat having lost both parents (one to prison) and dropped out of school. With her brother increasingly absent, Kiara stumbles into streetwalking and sexually exploited by the Oakland police department.
Uncomfortable to read and a bit uneven, this nonetheless leaves an impression.

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mjtwo
To Paradise | Hanya Yanagihara
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31 Aug-9 Sep 22 (audiobook)
Consisting of three only loosely connected narratives set 100 years apart in versions of Manhattan. Character names, themes of illness, family and freedom, and a house bordering Washington Square Park reappear. And all are unresolved.
The third part is the most compelling and frightening, set in a future ravaged by pandemic and climate change. It would be unbelievable if we had not all lived through the past few years.

BookwormM Yep section 3 is scary as hell 5mo
11 likes1 comment
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mjtwo
Ms. Rapscott's Girls | Elise Primavera
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7-31 Aug 22 (audiobook)
Silly and fun, this is a story of Ms Rapscott, the headmistress of a school for children with very busy parents, and her five (or really four) new charges. We found it amusing and the narrator, although a little off putting at first, really grew on me.

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mjtwo
The Candy House | Jennifer Egan
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25-30 Aug 22 (audiobook)
Egan tells a somewhat convoluted narrative of technology and spyware and family dynamics through a multitude of voices over several decades. I may not have realised all the connections or have always followed the greater narrative arc but (like Goon Squad) I enjoyed it. Some chapters succeeded more than others but most were interesting.
The audiobook with each character/chapter voiced by a different actor was fantastic.

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mjtwo
Small Things Like These | Claire Keegan
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21-25 Aug 22
#Bookerlonglist 3
Set in 1980s Ireland, this is the story of William Furlong, a coal merchant, who in making a delivery to a convent at Christmas time discovers it is actually a home for unwed mothers, many of whom appear to be traumatised and perhaps abused.
It is very short - I read it in three nights - but quite powerfully raises the question of what is risked by a person who stands up to an institution like the Catholic Church.

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mjtwo
Why We're Polarized | Ezra Klein
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20-25 Aug 22 (audiobook)
An examination of the increasingly polarised state of US politics. Klein had some interesting ideas as to how this had arisen, some of which probably also apply to Australian politics. Not so sure about his solutions.
I did find his narration difficult at times - very fast and not a lot of consonants!

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mjtwo
Oh William!: A Novel | Elizabeth Strout
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8-20 Aug 22
#Bookerlonglist 2
Third in the Lucy Barton series and I am a Strout convert. This focuses more on Lucy‘s relationship with William. Set in the present day, many years after the end of their marriage, but Lucy‘s many recollections also provide the incite into how they met, we‘d and then split which the earlier books skipped over. William‘s family story also features heavily.
I would be surprised if it wins, but I really enjoyed it.

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mjtwo
Silverview | John le Carre
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Mehso-so

14-19 Aug 22 (audiobook)
I remember reading some Le Carre as a teenager - Dad was a fan, being in the demographic. This posthumous publication seemed not bad, but simply a little less. I was not certain what was happening at times. The relationship between Lily and Julian seems to come out of nowhere. But it did remind me that I enjoyed le Carre and to dig out some of his earlier books.
I usually find Obama‘s lists flawless so was disappointed.

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mjtwo
The Best of Me | David Sedaris
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10-13 Aug 22 (audiobook)
It took a little while - this starts with some early writing which had dated somewhat - but I now understand completely why Sedaris is so loved. I played some favourites (You Can‘t Kill the Rooster, Laugh Kookaburra, Six to Eight Black Men, Standing By) for Polly and Luke on our journey to Timbertop and they too enjoyed it. Recommend for a road trip with teens (but language warning and maybe skip the taxi driver!)

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mjtwo
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3-9 Aug 22 (audiobook)
#Bookerlonglist 1
A soft pick. May have been better to read than listen.
I did appreciate the concept of the cancer having its own increasingly strong voice and the depictions of teenage Agnes and Lia - dealing with emerging independence and grief.
I expect aspects of this book will stay with me for a while but I did not love it.

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mjtwo
Counterfeit | Kirstin Chen
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Mehso-so

29 Jul-7 Aug 22
Rather lightweight but enjoyable and quick to read.
The story of two women who one way or another find themselves importing counterfeit designer bags from China and employing young shoppers to dupe department stores into accepting these bags as authentic returns.
It did cause me to question why I value designer goods and why counterfeits appeal to some but not others. Maybe if I were a handbag person this would have appealed more.

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mjtwo
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26 Jul-6 Aug (audiobook)
One cannot listen to this without recalling Saving Mr Banks and PL Travers‘ reaction to the Disneyfied film. I do love both but they are so very different.
This is a far less saccharine version and it is quite difficult to see why the children loved Mary Poppins so much. Beatrix could not work it out - she continued to wait for her to become nicer.

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mjtwo
Anything is Possible | Elizabeth Strout
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1-2 Aug 22 (audiobook)
This is really a companion, rather than sequel, to My Name is Lucy Barton. Many of the stories recounted by Lucy and her mother are fleshed out here from their protagonist‘s viewpoint. Much still goes unsaid but here I enjoyed the implied and innuendo rather than became frustrated by it. Still very little about William though - I am quite looking forward to reading the next instalment.

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mjtwo
My Name is Lucy Barton | Elizabeth Strout
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Mehso-so

31 Jul 22 (audiobook)
My initial reaction to this was quite lukewarm. I decided to listen to it in preparation for Oh William, which is on this year‘s Booker longlist. I found the stories frustrating - most seemed to be only half-told or a bit dubious. I did not understand Lucy‘s relationship with her mother. Or why the writer constantly repeated this was not the story of her marriage.
Now listening to Anything is Possible and finally understand.

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mjtwo
Project Hail Mary | Andy Weir
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25-30 Jul 22 (audiobook)
Possibly my favourite free audiobook of the month ever.
I do have a penchant for the occasional science fiction novel - possibly influenced by my husband who reads little else.
The premise of this book was interesting, particularly the way Weir imagined the meeting of two alien species, their differences and similarities and their growing methods of communication. Quite thought provoking material.

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mjtwo
China Room | Sunjeev Sahota
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22-28 Jul 22 #Booker longlist 13
Didn‘t finish before this year‘s announcement, but I did make it before this year‘s list started arriving.
I found this, set in Punjab in 1929 and in 1999, one of the most compelling. The writing was simple and the two primary characters - Mehar, the 15 yo sent off to an arranged marriage, and her young grandson, a recovering heroin addict - were interesting. The ending of Mehar‘s story was, however, unsatisfying.

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mjtwo
Ribsy | Beverly Cleary
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10-25 Jul 22 (audiobook)
I am never quite sure it is worth spending an audible credit on a relatively short children‘s book, but Ribsy, being a Beverley Cleary story told from the perspective of Henry Huggins‘ much loved dog, was a fairly safe bet. Enjoyable and somewhat wholesome reminder of simpler, if not always better, times.