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Bag of Nails "tootling about the west country" (West Country, England)

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Wish You Were Here
Wish You Were Here
Price: £4.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Or read it as a rather sweet, more complicated satirical literary novel, 26 Feb. 2016
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You can read this book two ways. You can read it on the surface as a rocky, uncomfortable piece of chick lit narrated by an unlikeable, embittered woman. Or read it as a rather sweet, more complicated satirical literary novel.

I'm never sure how much I am supposed to identify with Alliott's main female characters or read her books. Are they supposed to be goofy chick lit heroines? Or is there some kind of incisive satire going on? Are we supposed to feel bad for them? Or is it a tongue-in-cheek exposure of their hypocrisy, which they are then forgiven for? I like to read Alliott as if she means to be a little bit satirical, because it's more appealing that way.

The book is narrated by Flora shallow, snobbish, cowardly, dissatisfied - who cheers herself up by observing that everyone else seems to be even more shallow/snobbish/cowardly/dissatisfied. If you read it as chick lit, she's very hard to like. She tells one thing and shows another - for example, her inner voice constantly criticizes her elder daughter for Flora's own demonstrated traits - and I think that if you read her as an unreliable narrator, slightly tongue-in-cheek, she is much more forgivable and compelling. Flora is a terribly sad character, painfully alone and lacking in identity, completely defined by the people around her, who behave utterly hatefully to her and each other. By the end of the book Flora has somehow cured most of these negative traits and found a new identity, through a series of improbable events.

The thing is, as you read the book from outside of Flora's perspective, you realize that YOU, the reader, are Flora's only friend. Nobody else has any idea what is going on in her head; nobody listens to her and recognizes her loneliness and emptiness. During one event in the book Flora gets herself into a state of great distress and has an anxiety attack. Everyone around her gaslights her and mocks her for it, even the "kindest" characters isolating her completely - you as the reader are the only person who realizes how utterly cut off she is, how the only connection she has is you, how you are the only person who takes her in good faith. She doesn't have anyone to validate her, and it feels like the narrative is punishing her for being lonely, rather than for her actual flaws (chief of which is that she is a little unkind). But this really is what it feels like when one is lonely. This makes the novel extremely sweet and sad and witty. When Flora eventually triumphs, by finding a source of pleasure and reward outside of herself, you are really really glad for her. You feel like she'll be all right now. And that makes this a very successful book, even if it is a slightly annoying/draining read in terms of chick lit.


The Very First Damned Thing - A Chronicles of St Mary Short Story
The Very First Damned Thing - A Chronicles of St Mary Short Story
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I do really enjoy these books, 26 Feb. 2016
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I do really enjoy these books, and it looks like they're being published by traditional press now. It will be interesting for everyone to discover this witty and educational series.


All Aboard: A perfect feel good romance (The Canal Boat Café, Book 1)
All Aboard: A perfect feel good romance (The Canal Boat Café, Book 1)
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bland and plain but cute enough, 26 Feb. 2016
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A very quick read that cuts off abruptly, good for a 45-minute train ride though. Plotless and predictable, but cute enough.


Murder and Mendelssohn: Phryne Fisher's Murder Mysteries 20
Murder and Mendelssohn: Phryne Fisher's Murder Mysteries 20
Price: £3.32

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Cute BBC Sherlock fanfic but not really my flavor, 16 Sept. 2015
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Amusingly, the Americans on Amazon.com caught on before the .co.uk crowd - this is a BBC Sherlock fanfiction. If you were wondering why Phryne Fisher's story has suddenly been derailed by a male British couple, it's because Greenwood appears to have a bit of a thing (quite against her will, because she knows it's trashy!) for Moffat's detective. (And it's not Conan Doyle's languid Holmes, here - it's Moffat-and-Cumberbatch's Sherlock, all sulks and dramatic cheekbones and temper tantrums.)

"Rupert" is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, with alarmingly lavish descriptions of silver/violet eyes, alabaster skin, and deep voice. The cunningly named "Dr John Wilson," played by the attractively weathered Martin Freeman, limps adoringly after him. Greenwood "ships" John/Sherlock - or is emotionally invested in the romantic connection between them.

There's no shame in it - lots of published authors are actively involved in the Sherlock fandom, and some of the fic is higher-quality than published books - but I rolled my eyes a bit at this particular pastiche. It's still cute, but I'm not really in the fandom. I did appreciate that Phryne sees the problems with shipping John and Sherlock as a couple - mostly that Cumberbatch's Sherlock is not that attractive as a romantic partner - and points them out in a very funny way.


Village Books
Village Books
Price: £3.03

3.0 out of 5 stars Chick lit for men! By a man! (Bro fic? Manlit? Roosterlit?), 8 Sept. 2015
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This review is from: Village Books (Kindle Edition)
While making my way through the first third of this book I found it rather tiresome. I adore chick lit and women's fiction precisely because I find it rather boring to occupy generic men's thoughts all the time - yes, we know, there are many pretty ladies; yes, we know, some of them sleep with you and some of them don't; yes, we know, their reasons for doing so seem totally crazy, and airplane food is pretty bad. Oh, dear, are you the only man you know who reads books anymore? Big thick intellectual books? Gosh. At this point in the conversation one is fiddling with the breadsticks and mentally playing Nice Guy Bingo in one's head, wondering at what point he's going to start frothing about "women never want Nice Guys!" and talking about Ayn Rand and his "crazy exes," so that one has completed a row and can bolt from the room.

But I didn't. Actually, I kind of liked the narrator. Then I suddenly realized what this book is.

It's chick lit. Written for men. By a man. It puts you off with the usual worn trimmings of the Great Canadian Novel in which a tortured masculine soul, the disinherited monarch in a kingdom of sadder losers, staggers to his rightful throne despite the whining masses and claims his pliant, supple-lipped woman - but actually? This book is chick lit! It "tackles the issues of modern (person)hood in a lighthearted and humorous way." It differs from a romance novel because the hero's job and personal relationships offer him support and growth. The narrator struggles in his job and romantic life and is trying to grow up. It's Shopaholic, but written by a guy, in a bookstore. It's meant to comfort, cheer, and tie up in a happy ending. His dreams are actually very charmingly small. He just wants the Most Beautiful Woman In The World. He just wants to get by. He'll happily settle for a little creative career while his partner supports him and he has a nice little baby. And that's...

That's actually sweet. It's nice. It's readable. It's cute. Yes, the narrator rather puts one in mind of That One Guy In Your English Class, but five years on, having developed a bit more perspective and personality. Everyone deserves a chance, everyone deserves a little space to grow up. And the power of chick lit and women's fiction is that it is a relief - at the end of the book, people have slightly better jobs and are secured to prosperous partners, and can finally afford to have children, and things are going to be a little bit all right for them. This is 2015 and our dreams are small. We need these books; they fly off the shelves. We need a bit of hope. And men - well, men aren't a different species from women; despite society's perceptions, men need these things too. If their perceptions of masculinity prevent them from buying women's fiction, they'll probably still pick up this book, and get that same little crumb of hope and happy-ending.

(Do... do Canadians really think imported Scrumpy Jack is the Nectar of the Gods? Oh dear. Christ, I'm American, I'll drink Pumpkin Spice flavored Woodchuck Hard Cider in my season, I've done shots of laboratory ethanol, I've had melt-your-face Somerset scrumpy made from stolen apples, I'm not a cider snob. But gracious. Waxing rhapsodic on Scrumpy Jack? What a refreshingly new perspective.)


The Attenbury Emeralds (Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane series Book 3)
The Attenbury Emeralds (Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane series Book 3)
Price: £5.99

2.0 out of 5 stars If it comes free in a box of other books, entertaining enough, 8 Sept. 2015
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I'm a huge fan of Wimsey, and to be completely fair, Paton Walsh did her absolute best. I've never liked this book - it just doesn't press any Wimsey buttons for me and the missed notes are too jarring to make for a pleasant reading experience. The Wimsey mysteries are a lovely combination of madcap, tongue-in-cheek Golden Age romping mixed with pretentious academic reflection and second-wave feminist meditation. It's saved from utter snobbery by being self-reflective and suddenly disarming; Peter is saved from being a titled snot because he's, well, the beloved Peter and we forgive him. He's sweeter and cleverer than he makes himself out to be, and just when he annoys you by being TOO pompous and privileged, he'll suddenly twist in your hands with some lost-little-boy old-man smile and you'll go "oh, fine then" and love him again. Harriet, too, can be read as catty and snide on the surface, and I think that's why many people (including, famously, JRR Tolkien) dislike her - but she is obviously deeper than that, and generations of young women have identified with her with a unique passion. There aren't a lot of fictional characters out there like Harriet, and there are an awful lot of real-life women like her, so we cleave to her very loyally. Harriet might actually be a harder character to write than Peter, actually.

Not an easy mix to strike, and I think it helped that Sayers was writing IN the Golden Age, WITH a background that made the fusion seamless and palatable, and she had decades to work out how to grow up (with) her Peter. When Paton Walsh decided to write somebody elses's series "in the style of," it was always going to be a difficult row to hoe. She did her absolute best with a difficult job, but I felt that this book lacked that mercurial, forgivable spirit. Walsh's Peter and Harriet are all gleaming surfaces - you don't forgive them or read into them. It's very conservative, lacking that sly societal commentary on class and wealth that makes it forgivable - Peter inherits the great big dukey mansion and suddenly we all have to cheer along the Tories, or something. Since I think Sayers' Peter got MORE sensitive and subversive with age and experience, this transition into a crashing British bore is pretty saddening.

"Attenbury Emeralds" is simply fanfiction written by somebody who didn't have a team of beta readers, which is totally fine. I really adore Wimsey fanfiction and read it by the kilogram - but I don't usually spend £7 on it, especially for something that's this far out of character. (Incidentally, there are a lot of Attenbury Emeralds fanfics that are older than this book, and some are really good! Actually, there's a Phryne Fisher story about the Attenbury Emeralds? Wimsey sneaks into a lot of books...) So I was frustrated to see that this particular fanfiction, which I bought and got rid of years ago, sneaked its way into a cheap Wimsey Kindle package, that I bought because I was missing some short stories.

Upon reading it again I had lower expectations and enjoyed it more. It's just a mystery story. It works best - in fact it works pretty well - if you cast different characters in your head - if they're just characters that HAPPEN to be called Peter and Harriet, and there just happens to be a mystery. The mystery isn't that bad and Paton Walsh did a tremendous amount of research into her setting. The world is very believable and the book moves briskly through its paces.

Two stars - not bad. I suppose it really wants to live on my Kindle. And I suppose I don't begrudge it the room.


Ginger Ray Reuseable Chalkboard Sticker Labels X 12 with Chalk - Jam Jar Blackboard
Ginger Ray Reuseable Chalkboard Sticker Labels X 12 with Chalk - Jam Jar Blackboard
Offered by Katie's Little Kingdom4
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Can't comment on whether they hold up to wash and wear - probably better for dry goods and containers that don't get washed, 8 Sept. 2015
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Very cute, bought them for spice jars and kitchen tidying. Can't comment on whether they hold up to wash and wear - probably better for dry goods and containers that don't get washed. Probably more of a wedding/decoration thing than home goods.


Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong and What You Really Need to Know
Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong and What You Really Need to Know
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars This was very good, very clear, 2 Dec. 2014
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This was very good, very clear, and very appealing. I was researching pregnancy/healthcare information for women, and found this to be the best resource. My absolute favorite part was the analysis of the connection between coffee and miscarriage - a wonderful example of how even medical professionals will seize a piece of superstition and insist that it's "SCIENCE!"

I'm not currently trying for a baby, but in the event that I am, I'll flick through this again.


Song of Sorcery
Song of Sorcery
Price: £2.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The book was recommended to me in all innocence by a friend, 2 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Song of Sorcery (Kindle Edition)
It seems a bit mean to leave a two-star review for such an elderly book, but it's very rare that I return Kindle ebooks, and I thought I would explain why.

I returned this book about 95% of the way through it, because I just couldn't get past the characterizations of the ~magical exotic~ "g*psy people" without doing a sort of whole-body cringe. There are some people who can sail blithely past this kind of thing. I am not one of them, and this book is not for me.

The book was recommended to me in all innocence by a friend, who hadn't noticed anything wrong with it until I admitted that I couldn't finish the thing. (Then she was embarrassed and upset - but like I say, it's something that we're trained not to notice.) I believe that authors can grow and change, and Scarborough's style does have charm, so I'd try something by the author again.


10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters
10 Secrets of the Laidback Knitters
by Vicki Stiefel, Lisa Souza
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Would love to have it on ebook!, 4 April 2014
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I bought this book for a specific pattern that I fell in love with on Ravelry, and was expecting that the rest of it wouldn't be very useful. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the nice layout and sweet writing style; it's a lot more friendly and accessible than other pattern books.

There are some patterns that I'll never knit up - a "necklace/scarf" knitted from a specific yarn that contains stainless steel wire is a cool idea, but the yarn is as readily findable as hen's teeth. But there's other cute gems, like folk rhymes for remembering how to knit and purl, adorable reminders to check gauge, a useful chapter about different/unusual fibres and what to do with them, and a good chapter about knitting patternless that I found pretty affirming as someone who often goes wildly off-pattern.

It's hard to find this book in the UK, and an ebook version would make it more accessible. As it is, the price tag, age and low visibility of the book means that nobody is really making up these patterns, preferring stuff you can get easily on Ravelry. I've suggested it to Amazon - maybe you want to, too!


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