I'm already well under-way, so I'll just do a brief one-line review of what I've read so far.
I've started a book exchange community - book_x_change, if anyone's interested in joining and swapping out their read and idle copies of books they wouldn't want to read again.
ETA: One line, riiiight. Couldn't contain myself.
Unimagined: A Muslim Boy meets the West – Imran Ahmad
Imran tells the story of his childhood through quick, cleverly drawn moments, events and scenes - it's almost a photographic account, in text, of his young life. A very readable, entertaining, enlightening and topically interesting autobiography. Some issues seem slightly too trivialised, but the humour is more often a very useful tool though which to view the ritual unpleasantness he was made to endure.
Winter Stories – Tove Jansson
Hated all but two of these. Autobiographical in style, aimed for subtle and atmospheric, just came across as being about/by someone I wouldn't want to know.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Long Way Home – Joss Whedon (graphic novel)
*luffs* Well rendered and retaining all the season 1-7 whackiness, without the small made-for-tv budget limitations.
The Arrival – Shaun Tan (children’s illustrated)
The arrival is beautifully drawn – not just the pages, but the emotions and the surreal, intuited understanding of the unfolding tale. It’s a story about immigration and separation and it works on many levels. The ‘reader’ is in a strange country; there is no text, no language except a new visual landscape, which, for our delight, is full of small mascot-like pets and the intriguing artefacts of this charming and evocative new world. I don't really want to write a review of this book: I want to draw you a picture
The Stranger – Chris Van Allsburg (children’s, illustrated)
Great children's book.
Northern Lights – Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife – Philip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman
I swung from enjoying these greatly, and finding them somehow unsatisfying. I think I need more time to mull them over; I'm wrestling with the richness of the content versus the slightly sparse telling, and the sometimes slap-dash approach to character development/introduction, and what to make of the polemic approach to storytelling; refreshing, yes, but I was also left with a sense of an attempt at anti-allegory that hadn't quite worked.. maybe because of the inevitable 'Narnia' comparison.
Whistling for the Elephants – Sandi Toksvig
I thought this was brilliant. ‘Whistling’ is competent enough to be compared to Fannie Flagg's writing; the array of astonishing characters are all convincing and none leaving the reader unsatisfied, there's humour within tragedy, the banal and the fantastic sit happily side by side, the setting is fabulous, and the series of events spirals out of everyone’s control but the author’s.
It is autobiographical in style (though not substance), told from the point of view of a ten year old British girl trying to define herself in a new country, the themes of feminism and – more importantly – the ability of women to stand out both in history and in the lives of those around them are dealt with charmingly and without bitterness.
There is history and back-story to be discovered; we are not pandered to – everything that transpires, then and now, is laced with a streak of imperfection, sadness, and the sense of deep wounds dealt – and yet Toksvig’s strength is in getting us to respond to these characters anyway, to yearn for them as the young narrator does.
The Bill Slider Omnibus:
I've just started the Second Bill Slider Omnibus - I love Cynthia Harrod-Eagles' way with words; she has a knack of calm, unpretentious punning and a genuine relish for the English language that comes across via her characters very nicely. Bill Slider is an ordinary, unassuming bloke doing a thankless task, and yet Harrod-Eagles manages not to let him slip into crime-fiction detective obscurity.