Monday, 27 May 2013

What I've been reading

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Who Needs Mr Darcy?
by Jean Burnett
"Mr Wickham turned out to be a disappointing husband in many ways, the most notable being his early demise on the battlefields of Waterloo. And so Lydia Wickham, nee Bennet, still not twenty and ever-full of an enterprising spirit, must make her fortune independently."
Well, they were free, and I wasn't expecting classic literature, but my 12 Books of Christmas are proving to be a great disappointment. This is number seven, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, and it just isn't very good. Hard to say why, but there's no depth to the characters, and some of the situations are simply unrealistic and hardly credible. And the story doesn't finish with the end of the book, so there was no satisfaction there either. Five more of these books to go, and I'll be most pleasantly surprised if any of them turns out to be any good.

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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat
by Oliver Sacks
"These are case studies of people who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; who are no longer able to recognize people or common objects; whose limbs have become alien. In Dr Sacks’s splendid and sympathetic telling, each tale is a unique and deeply human study of life struggling against incredible adversity."
This is an old favourite book that I started because the book above was so bad that I couldn't read more than two chapters at a time, and needed something good to read at the same time. The two couldn't be more different, especially in the quality of writing. A book about neurological conditions written in 1985 for the general rather than specialist reader was, I think, somewhat unusual. The proliferation of books about the brain has increased along with our knowledge and insight, although I find it fascinating that we are on the brink of creating quantum computers and describing the origins of the universe, but we actually know so very little about the meat that is inside our own heads, let alone how to fix it when it goes wrong.

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Stranger in a Strange Land
by Robert A. Heinlein

narrated by Christopher Hurt
"Many years in the future, Valentine Michael Smith's upbringing is exceptional. Orphan child to two astronauts killed in space, he is raised on Mars. Twenty-five years later he is rescued and brought back to earth."
I remember reading books by this author when I was young, along with Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and other science fiction writers of the day. None of those books was as allegorical as this one, at least if they were, it didn't impact on my young teenage consciousness. The man from Mars arrives as a young adult, has supernatural powers, attracts a devoted following, and sacrifices himself to the mob in order to save the others - sound familiar? Still, it was well narrated and much more interesting than the free books - another one of those on the way...

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Avenger's Angel
by Heather Killough-Walden
"Four thousand years ago, four archangels were cast down to Earth in human form. God's favourites, they came to find their mates, the other half of their souls made only for them. But after centuries of fruitless searching, the archangels - and their enemy - have all but given up hope."
Eighth of my 12 Books of Christmas, another supernatural thriller, including not one but two vampires and a set of good and bad angels. The story runs at such a pace that there's hardly time to breathe - the whole thing takes place over about a week and there are at least two crises every day, making it rather tiring to read. At least it isn't badly written, and only a very little bit too much sex.

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